Fox News claims that President Obama misquoted the Bible. This is in keeping with their claim that he is not really a Christian at all but a Muslim. What “real” Christian could misquote the Bible? (try not to laugh, please, this is serious):
President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint,” the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.
But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
But of course, President Obama did not misquote the passage: the King James Bible is to blame, and FOX News for pretending it is the only translation of the Bible in existence. And the KJV is wrong about many things.
Here is the scoop on the much-loved King James Bible. Its antecedents was the first published edition of the Greek New Testament by Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus in 1515.
You see, old Erasmus tried but he didn’t have a complete New Testament in Greek to go by. He had “just one” twelfth century manuscript for the Gospels and another (from the same period) for Acts and the Epistles. He had the Book of Revelation borrowed from a friend but this was almost impossible to read in places and missing the last page – and as a result in some places “Erasmus simply took the Latin Vulgate and translated its text back into Greek, thereby creating some textual readings found today in no surviving Greek manuscript” (Bart Ehrman Misquoting Jesus, 2005:78 emphasis added).
Think about it: If you take Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi in German and translate it back into English, you’re not going to have the same text as the original English version, are you? No.
So as you can imagine it’s not a pretty picture. None of the oldest and superior manuscripts in existence have the last twelve verses of Mark, for example (they all end at Mark 16:4-8 – with the women fleeing and saying nothing “for they were afraid”), or what is called the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8), which exists only in the Latin Vulgate . In the Greek, there is no “Father, Word, and Spirit” but only the “Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one.” Not the trinity we’ve come to expect.
This Trinitarian verse then did not appear in Erasmus’ original translation because he could not find it in the Greek. Theologians were outraged at the missing trinity so Erasmus promised if they could find it in a Greek manuscript he would include it. A scribe at Oxford duly manufactured the required manuscript (codex 61, now in Dublin) by translating the Vulgate into Greek in 1520 and provided it to Erasmus, who then kept his promise and included it in his next edition. Of the Greek manuscripts which do have the Trinitarian formula, none are older than the sixteenth century.
And that is the inerrant word of God: a forgery. It’s only fair to point out that this seems an odd sort of perfection. But we are dealing with the crooked thought-works of FOX News.
If that doesn’t sound promising, it wasn’t. And that’s not all.
Remember what I said about Erasmus’ copy of Revelation? Revelation 1:11 in the King James Bible offers us, “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and…” but this is not found in the original Greek texts (Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, United Bible Societies, New York NY, (1993). Simply repeating these mistakes in every subsequent edition of the KJV isn’t going to make them accurate.
Why is the KJV so messed up?
The King James Version is a product of the Church of England, completed in 1611. New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman points out that,
The King James Version is filled with places in which the translators rendered a Greek text derives ultimately from Erasmus’s edition, which was based on a single twelfth-century manuscript that is one of the worst of the manuscripts that we now have available to us! It’s no wonder that modern translations often differ from the King James, and no wonder that some Bible-believing Christians prefer to pretend there’s never been a problem, since God inspired the King James Bible instead of the original Greek! (As the old saw goes, if the King James was good enough for Saint Paul, it’s good enough for me).
Yeah, because the King James Bible is how it was originally written? No, not so much. The original books of the New Testament were written in Greek, not English. Yet somehow, the English translation, to which there have been more than 100,000 changes made since it’s first publication, is supposed to be more accurate than the originals from shortly after the time of Jesus? How does that work, exactly?
But as Ehrman says, “Reality is never that neat, however, and in this case we need to face up to the facts. The King James was not given by God but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early seventeenth century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text.”
And that’s where FOX News and its conservative Christian audience go wrong. They don’t understand that we not only have access to better copies of the Greek New Testament but we have access to more of them than did Erasmus, allowing us to make comparisons when the text is unclear.
“Later translators based their translations on Greek texts that were better, but not perfect. Even the translation you hold in your hands is affected by these textual problems…whether you are a ready of the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New King James, the Jerusalem Bible, the Good News Bible, or something else. They are all based on texts that have been changed in places” (Ehrman 2005:209).
President Obama, by the way, was quoting from the New International Version. Which, as Ehrman says, is better but still not perfect. But better is the key. Not only is the King James not the best translation, it is not the only one, a fact of which FOX News seems determined to remain unaware (For the record, Professor Ehrman recommends the New Revised Standard Version).
We have to assume they’re not really that ignorant, so they must be calculating instead of stupid, leaving out facts, as they often do, to make an attack seem valid. FOX News knows perfectly well President Obama did not misquote the Bible just as they know perfectly well he is a Christian, and probably a better Christian than his critics.
In the final analysis, President Obama knows the Bible better than FOX News or its viewers. And if knowledge of the Bible makes a real Christian, as they here imply, who is the real Christian?