By Will Kinney
The Fickle Nature of the “Science” of Textual Criticism
Revelation 13:10 “He that LEADETH into captivity, SHALL GO INTO CAPTIVITY; HE THAT KILLETH WITH THE SWORD, must be killed with the sword.”
The Majority text actually reads: “If any HAS CAPTIVITY, HE GOES. IF ANY BY SWORD, he must be killed.” The Majority omits the verb “leadeth” and omits “into captivity”. Then it also omits “He that killeth with the sword”. No Bible version follows the Majority text here.
Another instance of fickle change and disagreement among the modern versions is found in Revelation 13:10. There we read: “…HE THAT KILLETH with the sword must be killed with the sword…” The phrase: “He that killeth” is in the active voice, that is, he is the one doing the killing. This is the reading found in the Textus Receptus, Sinaiticus and manuscript C. It also USED to read this way in the previous Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland Greek texts.
The Nestle-Aland, UBS (United Bible Society) texts, upon which most modern versions are based, are continually changing every few years. The Nestle text used to read the same as the King James Bible Textus Receptus – “HE THAT KILLETH with the sword must be killed with the sword.” So read Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Douay-Rheims 1582, the Geneva Bible 1587, Wesley’s translation 1755, the Revised Version 1881, Darby, Youngs, the American Standard Version 1901, Weymouth 1902, Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902, Lamsa, Etheridge and Murdocks three different translations of the Syriac Peshitta, Williams N.T. 1937, Goodspeed 1943, J.B. Phillips N.T. 1962, the World English Bible, the New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, the New English Bible 1970, the NKJV 1982, the Amplified Bible 1987, the NASB 1960-1995, the RSV 1952 – “if any one slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain.” the NRSV 1989, Green’s literal 2000, the Third Millenium Bible 1998 and even the 2002 paraphrase called the Message.
However, later on, they once again changed the Nestle-Aland (UBS) Greek text and they decided to follow the reading of ONE manuscript, (according to the UBS Greek text 4th edition,) that is, Alexandrinus. This single manuscript changes the reading from “he that killeth” to “he that is to be killed.” (passive voice, that is, he is the one being killed by another). The NIV 1977-1984 , the 2001 ESV, the 2003 Holman Standard, Dan Wallace’s NET version and the 2011 Common English Version have now adopted this variant reading based on one manuscript, and they now read: “IF ANYONE IS TO BE KILLED with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.”
Westcott and Hort themselves as well as Tischendorf and the previous Nestle critical Greek texts (I have a copy of the Nestle 4th edition 1934 and the Nestle 21st edition 1975) all read εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτενεῖ, δεῖ αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι. = If any by the sword KILLS, HE MUST be killed by the sword.” Just like the KJB has it. But then later on, the Nestle 27th edition has changed their text and it now reads: εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι. = if any IS TO BE KILLED, with the sword HE IS to be killed.” The latest, ever changing critical Greek Vatican text has now changed an present active indicative verb (kills=ἀποκτενεῖ) to a passive infinitive (to be killed =ἀποκτανθῆναι) and they omitted to previous word “ought to” or “it is necessary” = δεῖ
Notice that the RSV and NRSV both followed the King James reading, but now the new ESV (a revision of the old RSV, NRSV) has now “scientifically” decided to go along with the NIV and follow a different text based on just one manuscript.
Actually, if you stop and think about it, the variant textual reading now adopted by the latest UBS, Nestle-Aland critical texts and several of the latest modern versions is the stupidest reading possible. The whole parallel idea of righteous retribution is lost (you reap what you sow) and the painfully obvious is stated twice. The KJB says: “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: and he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.” = just retribution for ones actions. However versions like the ESV, NIV, NET and Holman now read: “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword he must be slain.” Well, Duh!
Among the Catholic versions we see the same typical confusion. The 1582 Douay-Rheims as well as the 1950 Douay read like the Traditional Greek text and the KJB with “he that shall kill by the sword must be killed by the sword.” Then the Catholic St. Joseph NAB changed their Greek text and reads like the ESV, NIV, NET, Holman versions with “if anyone is destined to be slain by the sword, by the sword he will be slain.” BUT now the 2009 Catholic Public Domain version has come out and it has gone back to the previous reading of “he that shall kill with the sword must be killed by the sword.” This is how the scholars’ game is played.
We might point out to Mr. James White that not only do his recommended “reliable and trustworthy versions” fail to follow the Majority reading here, but can’t seem to agree among themselves as to which Greek text to follow either. The RV, ASV, NKJV, NASB go one way and the ESV, NIV another.
“My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and MEDDLE NOT WITH THEM THAT ARE GIVEN TO CHANGE.” Proverbs 24:21