From What Hebrew Text was the KJV OT Translated?


by James D. Price



[It is commonly claimed by KJVOnly partisans that the KJV OT was translated from, and exclusively translated from, the form of the Masoretic Hebrew text as found in the Second Rabbinic Bible printed by Bomberg in 1524/5. As is commonly the case with such claims by “Onlyites,” the truth lies somewhere else--Editor]


F. H. A. Scrivener, one of the most respected authorities on the history of the King James Version, wrote: “Respecting the Hebrew text which they followed, it would be hard to identify any particular edition, inasmuch as the differences between early printed Bibles are but few. The Complutensian Polyglott, however, which afforded them such important help in the Apocrypha, was of course at hand, and we seem to trace its influence in some places.” [The Cambridge Paragraph Bible of the Authorized English Version (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1873), xxv.]. This statement indicates that the King James translators used several of the existing printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. Of those available, Bomberg’s second edition was the most prominent.

Ernst Würthwein, an authority on the text of the Hebrew Bible, stated: “The Second Rabbinic Bible of Jacob ben Chayyim, published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, 1524/25, is outstanding among the earliest printed Bibles in many respects. It was not the earliest, yet it was the most important of its period, and it remained the standard printed text of the Hebrew Old Testament until the twentieth century.” [The Text of the Old Testament, translated by Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 37].


Emanuel Tov, a Jewish authority on the text of the Hebrew Bible, declared: “The second Rabbinic Bible became the determinative text for all branches of Jewish life and subsequently also for the scholarly world.” [Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 78].


Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Bomberg’s second edition was the principal source for the King James translators. However, the translators did not use that edition exclusively. It is known that they followed other authorities. I have catalogued over 200 places where the KJV departs from Bomberg.


---James D. Price

Former Academic Dean and

Professor of Hebrew and OT,

Temple Baptist Seminary;


Executive Editor and Chairman of the

Executive Review Committee of the