The Manuscript Evidence Supporting the King James Bible – the Majority Text

The reason for choosing the King James Version in the Christian faith is the manuscript evidence supporting it, which we will cover in this study.

What is the majority text?

In the Nestle Aland text, 𝔓 represents “majority text.” Nestle Aland has been named after its most influential editors, Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland. This is where the King James Bible comes from.

“Majority text” means that most manuscripts support the vast majority of the King James Bible text. Logically speaking, the Bible that has the most manuscript evidence should be chosen, which is why Bible believers choose the KJV as their Bible.

Modern Bibles, however, do not come from “majority text” but from the Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Bezae (D), and the Papyrus 75 (P75).

*P75 is the oldest manuscript, given that papyrus material is well preserved.

Despite coming from four of the five manuscript groups, majority text advocates find that manuscript evidence supporting modern versions is very small compared to the manuscript evidence in favor of the KJV.

Comparing the Textual Evidence for Modern Bibles

Famous Oxford scholar, Dean Burgon, criticized the manuscripts that were used to make the first modern Bible by Westcott & Hort and said:

“All four are discovered on careful scrutiny to differ essentially not only from the 99 out of the 100 of the whole body of extent manuscripts but even from each other”. (The Revision Revised, Dean Burgon p.12)

According to Dean Burgon, only 1 percent of the manuscript evidence supports modern versions, and 99 percent (which is attributed to the majority text) supports the KJV.

Seeing this makes it clear what Bible to choose. Scholars, however, do not think so. They make it seem as if the KJV does not come from the majority of manuscripts. Despite this, even the Nestle Aland text, an anti-KJV text which is respected as the authority by manuscript scholars, admits that the majority text (𝔓) is:

“the majority of all manuscripts” and a “reading supported by the majority of all manuscripts”. They also call it “majority” numerous times. (Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th Edition p.46,51,55)

Another argument critics use to defend modern Bibles is that modern Bibles are derived from ancient manuscripts while the KJV comes from late manuscripts (newer). However, the KJV also came out of some ancient manuscripts, much like the 1 percent modern translations use.

90% of manuscripts agree with the KJV

The KJV has 90% of biblical evidence pointing towards it. If we are going to be fair, the LOWEST number attributed to the King James Bible is 80%. Modern Bibles have only 1% of biblical manuscripts supporting them. So, how could the detractors possibly claim that modern Bibles have better manuscript evidence than the King James Bible? We’ll look at their mindset and see clearly why it is false. 

Dr Floyd Nolan Jones (Paleontologist and geophysicist) says

“Despite all the variations, nearly all the of the words of the New Testament enjoy over 99% attestation, about 2% have less than 95% support and fewer than 1% of the words have less than 80% and most of these differ only slightly.”

Wilbur Pickering who got his Masters in Greek exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD in linguistics from the University of Toronto, also agreed on this.
“One may reasonably speak of the 90% of the extent manuscripts belonging to the majority text type. The remaining 10 to 20% do not represent a single competing form. The minority manuscripts disagree as much or more among themselves as they do with the majority.”

The critics attack the KJV, claiming Erasmus started it and that it was a hurried process with only a few manuscripts. They argue that modern Bibles are better because we have more manuscripts today. It sounds good when you put it that way, but those educated in rhetoric can make anything sound right. When one digs in and looks at the new manuscript evidence over the year, they also point to the credibility of the King James Version and NOT the modern Bibles!

The five uncials (New Testament) support KJV

The new manuscripts are testaments to the accuracy of the KJV. Let’s look at what is known as the five uncials. The five uncials are some of the oldest and most famous manuscripts. These are ancient sources, and they support the King James Version by a large majority.

  • 2 to 1 from the four Gospels to Acts
  • 10 to 7 from Romans to Jude

The finding and study of such manuscripts only go to prove further the King James (Authorized Version) purity, not the other way around. 

Old manuscripts still support KJV (Authorized Version)

Some of the ancient manuscripts that support the KJV are presented below:

  • Syriac Peshitta (2nd Century) – 237 for KJV and 74 for NIV which is the representation of modern Bibles.
  • Vitus Latina (2nd to 3rd Century) – also known as Old Latin which has 2,344 traditional text vs 1,252 in Sinaitus and Vaticanus.
  • Vitus Syra (2nd to 4th Century)
  • Magdalen Papyrus (1st to 2nd Century) *contradicts modern bibles
  • Writings of the Church Fathers (1st to 5th Century) *quote verses similar to KJV – The United Bible Society (critics of the KJV) also reports evidence that the church fathers’ manuscripts are true to the KJV text. In their report, 969 traditional text of KJV to 733 of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
  • Papyri Manuscripts (most ancient)

Although 1 John 5:7 was not found in the Greek manuscripts, it was found in one of the ancient manuscripts, meaning that most verses from the KJV will come from the majority text while the remaining percentage comes from the ancient texts.

If we’re talking about choosing a Bible with the most manuscript evidence, the King James Bible is the clear winner.

For further reading,

Byzantine manuscripts vs Alexandrian manuscripts

Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus are the earliest manuscripts?