Article: 1 Samuel 6:19-50,070 or 70?; John 19:39 NIV by Will Kinney

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50,070 men slain or only 70?

1 Samuel 6:19 presents us with a prime example of how the modern scholars presume to alter the text of the King James Bible. These “good, godly, evangelical scholars” reveal their unbelief, and their willingness to “correct” the inspired text.

The first six chapters of 1 Samuel relate the events surrounding a series of battles between the children of Israel and the Philistines, the capture and subsequent return of the ark of the covenant, and the LORD’S slaying of 50,070 people.

The King James Bible reads at 1 Samuel 6:19: “And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.”

Many modern commentaries cast doubt on the accuracy of the Hebrew reading here, and display their cavalier attitude of unbelief. This is best exemplified by Gleason Archer, one of the translators of both the NASB and the NIV. In his book, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, on page 169, Mr. Archers says: “But there is strong evidence to indicate that the original text of 1 Samuel 6:19 read a much lower number”...”a very justified suspicion that the text was inadvertently garbled in the course of transmission.”

Mr. Archer’s book is full of statements like this concerning many passages of Scripture. He says things like “these transmissional errors, as we believe them to be”, “quite possible to commit an error in textual transmission”, “has undoubtedly undergone multiplication by ten because of an obscurity or misunderstanding” and “the alleged desire to embellish the record and exaggerate the glory of the past must have been a very modest one on the Chronicler’s part.” This book by Gleason Archer, of the NIV, NASB translation committees, is a Trojan horse of faith destroying scholarship that is so highly recommended by Hank Hannegraf.

This blatant unbelief is not just limited to commentaries about the Bible, but is also found in the text and footnotes of some blble versions themselves. The Scofield NIV bible has this reading and footnote regarding 1 Samuel 6:19 - "But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting SEVENTY of them to death, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.”

The NIV then footnotes: “A few Hebrew manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint 50,070. This number is generally considered to be a scribal error. Some discrepant statements concerning numbers are found in the extant Hebrew manuscripts. Error by scribes in transmission of Hebrew numbers was easy, whereas preservation of numerical accuracy was difficult. Inspiration extends only to the inerrancy of the original autographs.”

This blasphemous view of preservation is that held by most of today’s “Christian scholars” and it is stated in black and white right there in the NIV.

In a note on 1 Chronicles 11:11 the NIV has this statement: “Many disagreements between numbers in Samuel and Kings, and those in Chronicles, are alleged. Actually, out of the approximately 150 instances of parallel numbers in these books, fewer than one-sixth disagree. God gave us a Bible free from error in the original manuscripts. In its preservation through many generations of recopying, He providentially kept it from serious error, although He permitted a few scribal mistakes.”

There you have it. This is the view of all modern Bible translators. “Only the originals were inspired, text garbled, error in transmission, desire to embellish the record, no serious error, a few scribal mistakes”. Mr. Archer does not dispute the Hebrew reading of 50,070, but he says it is an error, and thus the reading of "70 of them" in the NIV. This also is the reading of the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NEB, Darby and the Living Bible. The absurd paraphrase called The Message says simply: "Seventy died."

Lamsa’s 1933 translation from the Syriac, (the NIV, NASB, RSV and ESV frequently follow the Syriac versions and reject the Hebrew texts - but not this time) says: “ he smote 5000 and 70 men”, while Young’s "literal" translation reads: “He smiteth among the people seventy men - fifty chief men”. The NKJV reads the same as the KJB in the text, but it has a ridiculous footnote that reads “OR, He struck SEVENTY men of the people AND FIFTY OXEN OF A MAN.”!

But wait. The modern scholars are not done yet. The brand new 2004 Holman Christian Standard Bible has now come out, and guess what. They have come up with a reading that is different from them all. The HCSB now says: "He struck down 70 men out of 50,000 men."

The Bible versions that correctly read that God struck down 50,070 men are the King James Bible, the NASB 1977, 1995, Revised Version 1881, American Standard Version 1901 , Webster’s 1833 translation, Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, Bishop's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible of 1599, the Spanish Reina Valera of 1909 and 1960, the Italian Diodati, modern Italian, Modern Greek bible, the Portuguese, French and Rumanian bibles, the World English Bible, both the 1917 and 1936 Hebrew-English translations from the Masoretic text, the 1998 Complete Jewish Bible, the Hebrew Names Version as well as the Third Millenium Bible and the 21st Century KJB. These versions translate what the preserved Hebrew texts actually read - 50,070.

I know of two possible explanations for this high number of 50,070 slain. Rather than assuming the Hebrew text is in error, as Mr. Gleason, a host of modern Bible commentators, and the NIV, HCSB committees, let's attempt the novel approach of believing God and His promises to preserve His words, as He has so faithfully done in the King James Bible.

One possibility, suggested by Mr. Peter Ruckman in his book Problem Texts on pages 171-173, is once the ark had been recovered from the Philistines, it became a sort of tourist attraction for the surrounding Israelites. At this time the population of Israel was some 3 million people. There are within 20 miles of the Levitical city of Bethshemesh, the cities of Zanoah, Jarmuth, Gibeah, Zoreah, Kirjath-jearim, Ajalon, Timnah, Libaah, Gedor, Nezib, Chephirah, Gezer, Chesalon and Ekron. Mr. Ruckman suggests that many came from these nearby towns and cities to view the ark and presumptuously looked into it, and so the LORD smote them.

Another possibility is that the number of 50,070 is the total number of all the people, both Israelites and Philistines, that were slain by God from the time the ark was first taken. In 1 Samuel 4:2,3 we read: “And when they joined in battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines?” Notice it was the LORD who smote them.

In verse 10 we read of another battle in which “and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen.” In 5:6,9,11,12 and 6:9 we read of additional men being slain by the LORD. It was God Himself who was behind this great slaughter of both the children of Israel and the Philistines. Four thousand, thirty thousand, and easily a few thousand more in the succeeding battles; thus the figure of 50,070 total men slain by God is quite believable.

Notice the wording of 1 Samuel 6:19 “And he smote of the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.” It is possible to read this with the understanding that God smote the men of Bethshemesh because they looked into the ark, and the total number of people slain, both Jews and Philistines, was 50,070.

Matthew Henry also notes: “ Some think the seventy men were the Beth-shemites that were slain for looking into the ark, and the 50,000 were those that were slain by the ark, in the land of the Philistines.”

The modern bibles are riddled with false statements and unbelief. They are false witnesses to the truth of God, and they are translated by men who do not believe God has been able to preserve His words for us today. I and many other Christians believe God Almighty has preserved His inerrant words and we have them today in the King James Holy Bible.

Marty Shue has written an excellent article dealing with this verse. I highly recommend you read it. He includes a lot more details. It can be found at this KJB defense club.

Will Kinney

John 19:39 - 100 pounds or 75 pounds?

Is the NIV better than the KJB?

At a internet Christian forum I belong to, one of the members objected to my claim that the King James Bible is without proven error. He posted the following example of what he thinks is an error in the KJB. I had not run into this one before, so it gave me something new to consider. After I did some digging around, I found out that his alleged error post actually came from an article done by Gary R. Hudson, a well known anti-KJB only writer, who himself does not believe in an inerrant Bible. Here is the alleged error.

He says: "Consider John 19:39 - The King James Version says: "And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about AN HUNDRED POUND WEIGHT" [John 19:39 KJV]. The New International Version says: "He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, ABOUT SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS." [John 19:39 NIV]

"Well, what was the weight of the spices brought by Nicodemus to anoint the body of the Lord Jesus Christ? The KJV, NKJV, NASB, and RSV all say "100 pounds", but the NIV says it was "75".

First, I thought perhaps there was a difference in the manuscripts at this verse, that the NIV was following some other reading. But the Greek texts read the same here, so that ruled that possibility out. Then, the back of my Greek testament I discovered that a "litra", the word translated "pound" in John 19:39, is only "11.5 ounces" in weight! The word translated "hundred" is the numeral "hekaton", meaning literally "100". This would mean that the actual weight was 71.8 English pounds (Lbs). Rounded off to quarters, "75" is the truer number of pounds for the English reader (and remember it says that it was "about" that much).

The KJV, NKJV, and NASB give a "complete equivalence" here, translating as "a hundred" (hekaton) "pounds" (litras) — but these are Roman pounds. We aren't Romans, we're English-speaking, English-reading Americans! (This should answer the objection commonly raised by the KJV-Only movement against "going to the Greek" when they say, "we're not Greeks!" Well, "we're not Romans either!") For the English reader, "75 pounds" registers more accurately about the actual weight of the spices that the "hundred pounds" used in the KJV, NKJV, and NASB. So the "God-inspired", "inerrant", "pure" and "only 1611 KJV" is in error." (End of post)

Now to address the issue.

"And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about AN HUNDRED POUND weight."

"100 pound" weight is the reading found in Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Mace's N.T. 1729, Wesley's translation 1755, the Revised Version 1881, the American Standard Version 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, Young's, Darby 1870, the Douay version 1950, the NKJV 1982, the RSV 1952, the NRSV 1989, the Living Bible 1981, the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909 and 1960 (cien libras - in Spanish, the word libras means "pounds"), the Amplified Bible, the NASB 1960 - 1995 editions, Today's English Version of 1992, the Third Millenium Bible, Green's Modern KJV 1998, and the brand new International Standard Version.

However such versions as the NIV, ESV, NET version, The Message, and the Holman Standard say it was "75 pounds". In all Greek texts the number 100 is present, followed by the Greek word "litras". The word litras is a Greek rendering of the Roman word libra, which, at that time, meant a pound consisting of about 12 ounces, rather than the pound of 16 ounces. Some argue that the NIV is the better translation, even though it changes the Greek number 100 to 75, because, say they, this is a more accurate number of the weight involved. We then ask: Is this true? And are the NIV, ESV, Message and NET versions being consistent?

Let's look at some definitions. According to all good English dictionaries, the English word "pound" means: 1. A unit of weight varying in different countries and at different times. 2. In Great Britain and the United States, EITHER OF TWO legally fixed units, the avoirdupois pound AND the TROY pound.

The Oxford English Dictionary - "pound - a unit of weight equal to 16 oz avoirdupois, OR 12 oz troy."

The American Heritage Dictionary of 2000 defines pound in the following ways: 1. abbr. lb. a. A unit of weight equal to 16 ounces (453.592 grams). b. A unit of apothecary weight equal to 12 ounces (373.242 grams) 2. A unit of weight differing in various countries and times.

Webster's 1828 dictionary defines the word pound as: "1. A standard weight consisting of twelve ounces troy or sixteen ounces avoirdupois."

Webster's 1999 dictionary tells us the avoirdupois pound consists of 16 ounces, whereas the troy pound is 12 ounces. "The TROY pound is the standard for gold, silver, AND a few other costly articles". (NOTE: In both instances recorded in the New Testament, the pound of spikenard and the 100 pounds mixture of myrrh and aloes were very costly articles.)

In other words, the English word "pound" has TWO meanings of weight, and one of them is equal to the ancient Roman pound.

Even in the modern Greek dictionaries, the way to say "pound" is this same Greek word found in the New Testament - litra.

The NET version also reads "75 pounds" but then footnotes: "The Roman pound (litra) weighed twelve ounces or 325 grams. Thus 100 Roman pounds would be about 32.5 kilograms or 75 pounds."

The fact is, the reading of 100 POUNDS is exactly what all Greek texts say and how it should be translated.

Let's look for a moment at the Greek Lexicons. Liddell and Scott tell us the Greek word litra comes from the Roman word libra, which means a pound consisting of 12 ounces.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of N.T. words says of the Greek word litra: "In the New Testament it is used as a measurement of weight, a pound - John 12:3, 19:39."

Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, 19th printing, Zondervan, page 378 says of the word litra "a pound, a weight of 12 ounces. John 12:3 and John 19:39."

The Greek word is found only two times in the entire New Testament, and both times the King James Bible as well as many other translations, including the NASB and the NKJV, translate it as "pound".

The other place it is found is in John 12:3 where we read: "Then took Mary A POUND of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."

Now, let's see how consistent those versions are like the NIV, ESV, Holman, Message and Wallace's NET version are, shall we?

Instead of "a POUND of spikenard" the NIV reads: "A PINT of pure nard". The word "pint" is a measurement of liquid, not of weight. The Greek word in question measures WEIGHT, not VOLUME. The NIV is wrong, and inconsistent.

Well, how about the ESV, Message, Holman and the NET versions? Remember, they supposedly are sticklers for accuracy, and so they all rendered the 100 pounds found in John 19:39 as "75 pounds".

The ESV and the Holman Standard both say "A POUND" in John 12:3. If they were being consistent, then shouldn't they have said "three-quarters of a pound" instead of "a pound"?

Wallace's NET version actually does this, but then he has to explain what it means. It reads: "Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus."

Then he footnotes: "tn (which means he has emended the text) Greek “a pound” (that is, a Roman pound, about 325 grams or 12 ounces)."

The Message now totally paraphrases the verse and says Mary "took A JAR of very expensive aromatic oil...". The word has nothing at all to do with "a jar".

I suggest that instead of changing the Holy Ghost inspired reading of "100 pounds" to an inconsistent paraphrase like the NIV, if we need to explain the two meanings of the English word "pound" then educate the Lord's people about their own English language. Why toss out the providentially preserved and inerrant words of God as found in the Authorized King James Holy Bible, for an inferior imitation?

Will Kinney

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