Jan 13, 2020
Welcome to this first podcast in a series that I am calling the Every Word Podcast. This is a podcast series for those who enjoy studying details found in God’s Word. In every episode I will read from Dr. Wilbur Pickering’s fresh-sounding translation of the New Testament. The 2016 2nd edition of this NT was published with the name, “The Sovereign God Has Spoken.” It is available for a free download for the Kindle bool reading app. In today’s episode, I will read and comment on Pickering’s translation of Mark 1:1-28.
This is the kind of podcast where it might be better to look at the episode notes while listening. If you are flying down the freeway right now, just bear it in mind that you may want to check this out later. The full text that I will read is attached, but the attachment can only be found at dailybiblereading.info, not in podcast apps. (Click on the PDF download icon to get the attachment. For Android users, if you use our dedicated Daily Bible Reading app, you can get the PDF by clicking the gift icon.) The prettiest way to read Pickering’s NT is via the Kindle app using a tablet, and it is a free download.
Dr. Pickering’s translation is based on the Majority Text of the Greek New Testament, which is also called the Byzantine Text. I consider the Majority Text to be superior to the Eclectic Greek Text which was used as the basis of most of the translations of the last century. The shift in the Greek text used for our Bible translations began around 1881, with the publication of Wescott and Hort’s Greek New Testament, which was based on an extremely small sampling of manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text Type*— that is from Egypt.
*Footnote: The two are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These are dated at 330-360 AD and 300-325 respectively. At the time Wescott and Hort were working, it was anticipated that research into newly discovered ancient New manuscripts from Egypt would reveal a coherent textual stream that would point to the authentic initial form of the Greek text. Now, over a century later, those ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscripts have been analyzed, but they do not reveal a coherent textual stream that can be followed. Instead the papyri manuscripts reveal that Egyptian scribes very freely edited the texts they copied. In contrast, the Majority Text of the New Testament was made by copyists who lived in the same places as the original recipients of the apostles’ writings. Individual scribal errors have been weeded out, since this text type is based on the majority reading of thousands of Greek manuscripts.
The Majority Text has been stable over the centuries and is the best academically defendable text of the Greek New Testament that we have today. In this podcast, I am trying in a small way to undo the damage caused by Wescott and Hort’s Greek New Testament, which passed a legacy of mistakes down to all succeeding editions of the Eclectic/Critical Greek Text.** The damage I speak of can be found in almost all of the English Bible translations of the last century, starting with the ASV (1901), and including RSV, NASB, NIV, GNT, NLT, NET, and ESV.
**Footnote: The Eclectic Text is also called the Critical Text, the Nestle-Aland text, and the United Bible Societies (UBS) Text. The succeeding editions of the Eclectic Text have primarily followed Wescott and Hort, but the apparatus (or footnotes) dealing with textual variations has detailed the other variants found among Alexandrian manuscripts.
I realize that all this stuff I have just tried to explain may ‘sound like Greek to you’. But I promise that the examples I give will be interesting, and you won’t need to know any Greek to understand them. It will be helpful to your understanding if as you listen you are able to see Pickering’s translation beside your own Bible translation while listening to this podcast.
See the attached PDF for all the readings.
1 A beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God!
Pickering makes a footnote for many of the textual variants. The Eclectic Text does not include ‘Son of God’, and the Lexham Bible (published by Logos) doesn’t translate ‘Son of God’. But most of the last century’s translations follow the 1901 ASV, including those words with a footnote saying, “Some manuscripts do not include the Son of God.” Actually, it is only one Alexandrian manuscript that doesn’t have the three words. 98.4% of manuscripts have it. Another 0.4 percent have it slightly shortened. Only Codex Sinaiticus doesn’t have it, but it was one of Wescott and Hort’s favorites. So that one manuscript dropping the words has caused a footnote in many of today’s translations. Such footnotes have the unintended effect of causing people to question the accuracy of God’s Word.***
***Footnote: I take all percentage information from Pickering’s footnotes in his Greek NT.
What might have guided Wescott and Hort to have left out ‘Son of God’?
Here I quote from Pickering’s article entitled The Root Cause of the continuous defection from Biblical Infallibility:
F.J.A. Hort, a quintessential 'son of the disobedience'. Hort did not believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, nor in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Since he embraced the Darwinian theory as soon as it appeared, he presumably did not believe in God.2 His theory of NT textual criticism, published in 1881,3 was based squarely on the presuppositions that the NT was not inspired, that no special care was afforded it in the early decades, and that in consequence the original wording was lost—lost beyond recovery, at least by objective means. His theory swept the academic world and continues to dominate the discipline to this day.1
For documentation of all this, and a good deal more besides, in Hort's own words, please see the biography written by his son. A.F. Hort, Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort (2 vols.; London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1896). The son made heavy use of the father's plentiful correspondence, whom he admired. (In those days a two-volume 'Life', as opposed to a one-volume 'Biography', was a posthumous status symbol, albeit of little consequence to the departed.) Many of my readers were taught, as was I, that one must not question/judge someone else's motives. But wait just a minute; where did such an idea come from? It certainly did not come from God, who expects the spiritual person to evaluate everything (1 Corinthians 2:15). Since there are only two spiritual kingdoms in this world (Matthew 6:24, 12:30; Luke 11:23, 16:13), then the idea comes from the other side. By eliminating motive, one also eliminates presupposition, which is something that God would never do, since presupposition governs interpretation (Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24). Which is why we should always expect a true scholar to state his presuppositions. I have repeatedly stated mine, but here they are again: 1) The Sovereign Creator of the universe exists; 2) He delivered a written revelation to the human race; 3) He has preserved that revelation intact to this day.
2 As it is written in the prophets4—
4 Around 3.3% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘Isaiah the prophet’ instead of ‘the prophets’ (to be followed by NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.). The 96.7% are correct.
ESV ‘As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,’
Here the Majority Text is right with plural ‘prophets’, because two quotes that follow are by two different prophets, Malachi and Isaiah. (Mal. 3:1; Is. 40:3) There are a number of inaccuracies like this that have been introduced in our Bibles because of following the Eclectic Text, and this is a good example of one of them.
10 And immediately upon coming up from11 the water He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him.
11 Perhaps 3% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘out of’ instead of ‘from’ (to be followed by NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.).
This is my own comment, not Pickering’s: The difference here amounts to a difference of two prepositions. The Majority Text has ‘apo’ and the Eclectic Text has ‘ek’. Someone is going to try to use the difference here to show the method of baptism used by John the Baptist. Don’t base any doctrine on Greek prepositions. They have a very wide range of meaning. Neither preposition can be used to prove the depth of the water where Jesus was baptized.
13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days being tested1 by Satan,
1 Our ‘test’ and ‘tempt’ are translations of a single Greek word, the context determining the choice. To tempt is to test in the area of morals. In this context I consider that ‘tempt’ is too limited, but it is included in the wider meaning of 'test'. Note that the Spirit impelled Him, which means that this was a necessary part of the Plan. The three specific tests recorded by Matthew and Luke presumably happened near the end of the forty days.
Pickering here gives an interesting translational note. This is not about a textual difference. I think it interesting and probably right that Satan was doing more than merely tempting Jesus. He was testing Who he was up against.
1:14 Now after John was put in prison,4 Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom5 of God,
5 Some 2% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, omit ‘of the Kingdom’ (to be followed by NIV, NASB, LB, TEV, etc.).
ESV ‘gospel of God’
My comment: In the very next verse, Jesus said, “The time has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has approached. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The phrase ‘gospel of God’ (meaning that God owns or sponsors the Gospel) does occur in the Pauline epistles and in 1st Peter, but not in any of the Gospels or Acts. To me, especially because of verse 15, it seems much more fitting for Jesus to specify, ‘Gospel of (or about) the Kingdom of God’.
16 Then, as He was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother, [the son of] of Simon,7 casting a circular net onto the water,8 for they were fishermen.
7 Some 90% of the Greek manuscripts have ‘his brother, of Simon’—presumably a reference to their father. If Peter was the eldest son, he would have been named for his father.
PCF: I think this is an interesting textual variant. If Simon’s father was also named Simon, this part of the story would match the next part where we hear of Zebedee, the father of James and John. If you are looking at the episode notes, you will note that I made a slight alteration to Pickering’s translation. I added the words ‘the son’ before ‘of Simon’, so that the listener will be able to catch the meaning Pickering intends.
When I make alterations like this, I will mark them with brackets. I think the Greek can be understood in the sense ‘his brother— that is Simon’s’. That seems to be the way the World English Bible takes it. (The WEB is another translation of the Majority Text, and it is freely available in many Bible apps.)
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying: “Hey, what do you want with us, Jesus Natsarene?!13
13 The name of the town in Hebrew is based on the consonants נצר) resh, tsadde, nun), but since Hebrew is read from right to left, for us the order is reversed = n, ts, r. This word root means ‘branch’. Greek has the equivalent for ‘ps’ and ‘ks’, but not for ‘ts’, so the transliteration used a z (zeta) ‘dz’, which is the voiced counterpart of ‘ts’. But when the Greek was transliterated into English it came out as ‘z’! But Hebrew has a ‘z’, ז) zayin), so in transliterating back into Hebrew people assumed the consonants נזר ,replacing the correct tsadde with zayin. Neither ‘Nazareth’ nor ‘Nazarene’, spelled with a zayin, is to be found in the Old Testament, but there is a prophetic reference to Messiah as the Branch, netser—Isaiah 11:1—and several to the related word, tsemach—Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15; Zechariah 3:8, 6:12. So Matthew (2:23) is quite right—the prophets (plural, being at least three) referred to Christ as the Branch. Since Jesus was a man, He would be the ‘Branch-man’, from ‘Branch-town’. Which brings us to the word ‘natsorean’. The familiar ‘Nazarene’ (Nazarhnoj) [Natsarene] occurs in Mark 1:24, 14:67, 16:6 and Luke 4:34, but in Matthew 2:23 and in fourteen other places, including Acts 22:8 where the glorified Jesus calls Himself that, the word is ‘Natsorean’ (Nazwraioj), which is quite different. I have been given to understand that the Natsareth of Jesus’ day had been founded some 100 years before by a Branch family, who called it Branch town; they were very much aware of the prophecies about the Branch and fully expected the Messiah to be born from among them—they called themselves Branch-people (Natsoreans). Of course everyone else thought it was a big joke and tended to look down on them. “Can anything good . . . ?”
PCF: This time Pickering’s note points to a treasure he wants us to understand, not a textual variant. You may have picked up in my pronunciation that Jesus was called the ‘Natsarene’. Pickering’s footnote is long, and I think it would be hard to understand for podcast listeners— who may be going down the freeway at 70 miles an hour. The full footnote, complete with Scripture references, is found in the episode notes. But I will summarize what Pickering is pointing out. In Mark 1:23, the demon called Jesus a ‘Natsarene’, following the spelling in Wilbur Pickering's translation. We all know that Nazarene is normally spelled with a z, but Pickering spells it with ts.
Recall that Matthew (2:23) states, “So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: He (Jesus) will be called a Nazarene.” But the name Nazarene or Nazareth appears nowhere in the Old Testament, so how could this fulfill what plural prophets wrote? Unlike what is often assumed, the name Nazareth has nothing to do with the Old Testament nazarite vow. But in Hebrew, the word meaning ‘branch’ is netser.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah (plural prophets) refer to the Messiah as the Branch or Shoot (which is netser or a related word). Isaiah 11:1 is one of those places:
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot — yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. (NLT Isaiah 11:1)
So we might call the original name for Jesus’ hometown as ‘Netser-place’, or Natsereth. But when Natsereth was translated into Greek, the ts became a z, Nazareth. So the cool thing about this is that before Christ came, someone founded a settlement called Branchville. I don't think this happened by accident. At the very least, they named the town with the intent to remind people that God’s promised a Messiah who was given the title, ‘the Righteous Branch’. So it is significant, and a fulfillment of prophecy, that Jesus is called ‘the man from Branchville’.
27 And all were astounded, so that they questioned among themselves, saying: “What is this? What can this new [teaching//doctrine] be?3 Because with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him!”
3 Instead of ‘what can this new [teaching//doctrine] be’, perhaps 0.5% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, have ‘a new doctrine’ (as in NIV, NASB, LB, etc.).
ESV And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
The word ‘Because’ is also part of the textual variant. The ESV follows the Eclectic Text, and connects the rather disjointed text so that it makes sense. ESV has an incomplete sentence, ‘A new teaching with authority!’ But the Majority Text includes the verb ‘be’, and a logical connector, ‘for/because’ which renders a much smoother text with complete sentences and good logical flow.
The episode notes for all of the Every Word podcasts will include references to articles that will give further documentation about all of my claims about the Majority Text, the Eclectic Text, and about different Bible translations.
All of Dr. Wilbur Pickering’s works are available at PRUNCH.net. Additionally, his second edition (2016) NT translation is available for a free download via the Kindle app. It is also freely available as a module in the MyBible program for Android and Apple devices. Dr. Pickering named his NT, “The Sovereign Creator Has Spoken.” I have not found where Pickering has explained why he gave his NT translation that title. From the forward, I think that it relates to his opinion that God sovereignly protected the original wording of the New Testament through the best line of Greek manuscripts.*
*Footnote: As will be explained in further podcasts, Pickering has chosen a more narrow line of transmission, as found in the F35 family of manuscripts. This is slightly different from the Majority/Byzantine Text Type as published by Robinson and Peerpoint, 2018.
I note further that the title, “The Sovereign Creator Has Spoken,” contains three concepts that were not believed by Wescott and Hort. In their age Darwinism had invaded the church. They did not believe that our Creator created humans as described in Genesis. They did not believe in the sovereignty of God, and nor did they believe that God had actively inspired every word of Scripture and was making sure that every word would be preserved.
One of my favorite verses is in Jeremiah 1:11-12:
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.
12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching* to see that my word is fulfilled.”
*The footnote says, “The Hebrew for watching sounds like the Hebrew for almond tree.”
God will carry out his threats and his promises.
If God is watching his word to fulfill it like that, it is logical to believe that He also was careful to preserve his Word for us. For the New Testament, God blessed the Majority line of Greek texts so that they predominate and the text has remained unchanged through the centuries. I think it is a good goal to hope for better translations in this century which will preserve every word that should be in the Greek text, and that every word should be translated in a way that fits the English language.
As Moses and Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by Every Word of God.” (Deut. 8:3; Luk. 4:4)
Let’s pray: Lord, my listener and I want to know You better through your Word, that we may be transformed to obey you from the heart. We thank You for sending the Righteous Branch, Jesus, to be our King, just like the prophets foretold.
Playing Follow the Leader in Bible Translation, 2019, by Phil Fields. See the Resources list in that article for many more helpful articles on the superiority of the Majority Greek Text.
Although the title of this four-page paper refers to translating for Muslims, the principles and summary is widely applicable.
I suggest reading this paper before reading Friberg’s other articles listed below.
Layman’s Guide — A modest explanation for the layman of ideas related to determining the text of the Greek New Testament, 2019.
What is what? — Differences between the Traditional Text and the Bible Society Text of the Greek New Testament. Some data for the reader to weigh, 2019.
New Translation of the New Testament: The Sovereign Creator has Spoken
Greek Text of the New Testament based on Family 35
Articles and other major works:
Robinson, Maurice: The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, 1991, 2005, 2018.
This is available in free digital form in the MyBible Bible app, and in other ways.