As I understand it there is a difference in meaning in the Greek texts of Mark 1:2. Which leads to a difference in the NASB translation when compared to the KJV translation.

With the NASB translation starting off with "just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:...", and the KJV starting off with "As it is written in the prophets...". I was wondering if anyone knew when the difference in meaning ("written in the prophets" as opposed to specifically being written in Isaiah) first appeared? I assume the NASB text version is earlier, but when did the KJV version appear? Did it appear before the Textus Receptus?

I hope this isn't considered off topic, as it does relate to meaning (as in the meaning of the verse). Thanks in advance for any replies.


Short Answer:

The variant probably pre-dates the 5th century

Long Answer:

This is a variant with a long and interesting pedigree. Although we do not know the exact date of the variant--referring to the prophets instead of to Isaiah--it is indeed found in texts prior to the Textus Receptus.

The 1550 Textus Receptus of Stephanus (see here) references "prophets" rather than Isaiah:

ως γεγραπται εν τοις προφηταις ιδου εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσωπου σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμπροσθεν σου

As noted by Tony Chan, the "Isaiah" reading is generally preferred by textual critics because of its presence in very early Alexandrian manuscripts (e.g. Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, the relevant manuscript page of which can be viewed here).

Codex Alexandrinus is a very early example of the "prophets" variant in the Byzantine text type; showing that the variant existed as early as the 5th Century. Wikipedia has a nice summary of which reading is found in some of the earliest manuscripts.

The Alexandrian vs Byzantine text debate is a bigger issue than I'll try to tackle in this post, but the Textus Receptus relied heavily on Byzantine texts.

I'll cite just one reason--from textual criticism--for favoring the "Isaiah" reading.

It is generally held that scribal emendation--especially a change that sticks--is more likely to smooth out a hard reading than the other way around. We shouldn't use that as a universal generalization (remember that line: "all generalizations are false!" =) ), but it is a frequent and relied-upon tool in the study of ancient manuscripts.

Since the OT quotation is not simply a quotation from Isaiah, but in fact a merger of a quote from Malachi with a quote from Isaiah, a scribe would be more likely to update the reference to Isaiah (because it's quoting multiple prophets, not just Isaiah), than to take a reference to prophets and replace it with Isaiah specifically. So the theory goes that somewhere in the family tree of the Byzantine manuscripts a scribe thought it would be helpful to replace "Isaiah" with "prophets", since both Isaiah and Malachi were quoted.

  • Thank you for your response, that answered my question. – Glenn Apr 13 at 18:58

The difference in the translations is due to different manuscripts.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) In the prophets.—The better MSS. give the more accurate reference, “in Esaias the prophet.”

In https://biblehub.com/mark/1-2.htm, just about all the modern translations after KJV use "Isaiah" in their versions.

https://biblehub.com/multi/mark/1-2.htm list different Greek manuscripts. Some have the name Ἠσαΐᾳ and some don't.

  • Thank you for the response, and the link for the Greek Manuscripts. It seems to me that the listed RP Byzantine Majority Text 2005 does not explicitly mention Isaiah. And clicking the link I see it referred to as the Byzantine Textform 2005. And logos.com/product/1792/… gives the idea that it represents the text vast majority of Byzantine Type Texts use. And that it is referring to manuscripts pre-Textus Receptus. Does it seem that way to you? – Glenn Mar 12 at 16:11
  • Sorry. I do not know. – Tony Chan Mar 12 at 16:51

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