Sep 292006

I recently ran across a “King James Only” sort who complained that one example of the evil of modern translations was the removal of the words “without cause” from Matthew 5:22. In doing so (this individual thought) these translators were trying to deprive us of our right to be righteously angry.

[img_assist|nid=125|title=Anger Management|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=83]Purely as an illustration for others, and not because I think this person will actually pay attention to a word I say, let me comment on Matt:5:22, which reads in part (in the King James)

Mt 5:22 "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”

Before getting into the texts, let’s notice how very UN-helpful this bit of advice is. Was there ever a violent, angry, abusive person who didn’t think they had a very good CAUSE for being angry? Many of them even manage to get their victims to enable their anger by brainwashing them into believing that they somehow had it coming – that they DESERVED the abuse. Speaking as a formally trained theologian Wink let me simply remark… this is cow dung.

Interestingly, many of the newer versions of the Bible, the ones to which some of the idolitors of the King James so angrily object Wink – word it as follows:

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (NASB)

“But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial.” (CEV)

“But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial” (TEV)

“But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (RSV)

“But, I, say unto you, that, every one who is angry with his brother, shall be, liable, to judgment” (Rotherham)

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[a]will be subject to judgment” (NIV)

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be in danger of being judged” (BBE)

 “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Holman)

“But I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment” (ASV)

 “But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Douay)

None of these, you will notice, uses that phrase “without cause”. Some of these, by the way, are hardly new. The Douay is almost as old as the King James. The RSV has my personal endorsement as being generally the most precisely translated version. There are a few slightly newer version which follow the KJV text on this one, such as Youngs, Darby, and versions of the KJV such as the NKJV.

Why do so many modern versions omit this phrase? Is it because they are satanically perverting the Word of God. Please…. It’s because a lot of the earliest and best manuscripts of the New Testament don’t’ have this phrase. The phrase wasn’t taken out by satanic conspirators. It was added in by scribes who just couldn’t imagine not having an excuse to get angry. This particular issue is not a new one at all. Scholars have been aware of the alternate reading for centuries. For example:

 "The Greek manuscripts do not contain sine causa.[without cause]" (Augustine of Hippo – Retractions i.19.4)

“Some codices add without cause. However, in the genuine codices the sentence is unqualified, and anger is forbidden altogether.” (Jerome on Matthew)

 Erasmus, the very scholar who PRODUCED the compiled Greek edition that the King James scholars used for their translation, noted that we must continually improve our scholarship by using the best manuscripts:

"You cry out that it is a crime to correct the gospels. This is a speech worthier of a coachman than of a theologian. You think it is all very well if a clumsy scribe makes a mistake in transcription and then you deem it a crime to put it right. The only way to determine the true text is to examine the early codices."

Yes, isn’t it ironic that Erasmus and the scholars who produced the King James were accused of doing the very same kind of tampering with scripture that current idolators of the King James accuse modern translators of doing.

There are, of course, hundreds of manuscripts of the New Testament. Many of the later manuscripts are grouped into regional “families” of texts, which tend to agree with one and other. In this case, the text family known as “Byzantine” as well as two famous codexes Bezae and Washingtonienus, include the phrase “without cause”. The two codexes are 4th to 5th century, and most of the Byzantine texts are much later.

By contrast, omitting the phrase is supported by the texts of codex Sinaitucus and Vaticanus (of the Alexandrian family), dated to the 4th century. This is supported by the remarkably early papayrus fragment P67, which dates to 200 CE and contains Matthew 3:9, 15; 5:20-22, 25-28.

In this case, removing “without cause” seems justified because the earliest manuscripts (in one case dramatically early) support removing it. It was very likely NOT in the original manuscript, and by retaining it, we would only perpetuate a scribal error or insertion. However, nearly every manuscript that omits the words has a footnote indicating that some manuscripts include “without cause”.

Jesus didn’t say it folks. Are you going to adjust your thinking to conform with what Jesus said, or adjust what Jesus said to conform with how you’d prefer to behave?

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