2 Thessalonians 2:13 - “From the Beginning” or “the Firstfruits”? Modern Scholarship At Its Best
KJB - (NASB, NET, Holman) ”But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath FROM THE BEGINNING chosen you to salvation..."
ESV (NIV 2011 edition, ISV 2014) - “ But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you AS THE FIRSTFRUITS to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
"From the beginning" (απ αρχης) is the reading found in the majority of all texts, as well as Sinaiticus, D, K, L, Psi, the Old Latin ar, b, d, e, g, mon, o as well as the Syriac Peshitta, Coptic Sahidic, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic and Ethiopic ancient versions. It is also so quoted by Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theodore, Varimadum, Theodoret, Vigilus and John-Damascus.
However the reading of FIRSTFRUITS (ἀπαρχὴν) is that found in Vaticanus, F, G, P, Old Latin c, dem, div, f, x and z, the Syriac Herclean, the Vulgate and the Coptic Boharic.
So the textual evidence is quite confusing, and so are the bible versions.
Not even the so called “oldest and best manuscripts” agree with each other. Sinaiticus has “from the beginning” and Vaticanus has “the first fruits”.
“FROM THE BEGINNING” (απ αρχης) was the reading of the previous Nestle-Aland Greek editions and that of Westcott & Hort as well.
“FROM THE BEGINNING” is the text of the Nestle Greek text 4th edition 1934. However the Nestle Greek text 21st edition 1975 changed their text to read “THE FIRSTFRUITS”, which comes primarily from the Vatican manuscript.
Even though the Critical Greek texts had changed, many Critical text versions did not follow this “new” reading. And many of them STILL do not, but a few of them DO. The modern versions are nothing if not consistently inconsistent.
For example, the NIV editions of 1973, 1977 and 1984 (I have hard copies of all these) ALL read: “because FROM THE BEGINNING God chose you to be saved”.
BUT the NIV 2011 edition now says “because God chose you AS FIRSTFRUITS to be saved”.
Even though the “new” NIV English version reads “first fruits”, yet the Spanish NIV, Nueva Versión Internacional 1999, still has ‘FROM THE BEGINNING” - “porque DESDE EL PRINCIPIO Dios los escogió para ser salvos”, as well as the NIV Portuguese version, Nova Versão Internacional 2000 - “porque DESDE O PRINCIPIO Deus os escolheu para serem salvos” - “from the beginning”
Likewise the Revised Version 1881, ASV 1901 and the RSVs 1946, 1952 and 1971 editions said: “because God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING to be saved”.
BUT then the revision of the revision, the NRSV of 1989, went with the other reading, as does the ESV and now both read: “because God chose you AS THE FIRSTFRUITS to be saved.”
This textual change is not due to any “newly discovered evidence”. The imminent “scholars” behind these ever changing Critical Text versions just changed their minds.
The Amplified bible 1987 puts BOTH readings into the text and says: “because God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING AS HIS FIRSTFRUITS for salvation.”
The Common English Bible 2011 (Critical text version) also includes BOTH readings in its paraphrase and says: “he chose you FROM THE BEGINNING TO BE THE FIRST CROP OF THE HARVEST. This brought salvation”
There is NO text anywhere on the earth that reads this way, but, Hey, this is how “creative modern scholarship” works today.
Some of the Critical Text modern versions go so far as to paraphrase their corrupt underlying text in such a way as to create a theological contradiction.
For example, the Contemporary English Version 1995 (critical text) has: “God chose you to be THE FIRST ONES TO BE SAVED.”
The New Living Translation 2013 paraphrases as: “God chose you to be AMONG THE FIRST to experience salvation”
These translations are flat out wrong. God had saved many Old Testament saints for hundreds and hundreds of years before the time 2 Thessalonians was written.
Critical text versions that STILL read “FROM THE BEGINNING”, in spite of what their own UBS/Nestle-Aland Critical Text says, are the NIV 1973, 1977, 1984 editions, the NASB 1995-2020, RV, ASV, RSV, Dan Wallace’s NET version 2006, Concordant Version 2006, the Holman Christian Standard 2009, Names of God Bible 2011, The Voice 2012 - “because FROM THE BEGINNING He handpicked you for salvation.” and the Christian Standard Bible 2017.
The Catholic Connection
As usual, the Catholic versions present us with the same ongoing confusion. The early Douay-Rheims of 1582 said “God hath chosen you FIRSTFRUITS unto salvation” and so did the 1950 Douay version.
But then the 1968 Jerusalem bible changed their text and went with “God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING to be saved”.
Then the 1970 St. Joseph New American Bible went back to “you are THE FIRSTFRUITS of those whom God has chosen for salvation”
Then the New Jerusalem bible of 1985 changed the text once again, and went back to “God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING to be saved”.
And finally the Catholics have now come out with the 2009 Sacred Scriptures Public Domain Version and it once again reads: “God has chosen you as FIRST-FRUITS for salvation”
“FROM THE BEGINNING” is the reading found in the Traditional Reformation Bibles in all languages, as well as in many modern versions today - even many that normally follow the ever changing UBS/Nestle-Aland/Vatican Critical Greek texts.
Reading like the KJB with “God HATH FROM THE BEGINNING chosen you to salvation” (ειλετο υμας ο θεος απ αρχης εις σωτηριαν) are Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, The Beza N.T. 1599, Mace N.T. 1729, Wesley N.T. 1755, Darby 1890, Young's 1898, RV 1881, ASV 1901, Rotherham 1902, Weymouth 1912, Lamsa’s 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, RSV, NKJV, NASB 2020, NET 2006, Holman 2009, CBS 2017 and the Names of God Bible 2011.
Other English Bibles that read “FROM THE BEGINNING” are Interlinear Greek N.T. 1997 (Larry Pierce), The Koster Scriptures 1998, The Last Days Bible 1999, The Lawrie N.T. 1998, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005, The Mebust Bible 2007, The Christgenea N.T. 2009, The Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The New European Version 2010, Conservative Bible 2011, World English Bible 2012, The Biblos Interlinear Bible 2013, The Modern Literal N.T. 2014, The Pioneer's N.T. 2014, and The Modern English Version 2014.
And the Modern Greek Bible - ημεις ομως οφειλομεν να ευχαριστωμεν παντοτε τον Θεον δια σας, αδελφοι ηγαπημενοι υπο του Κυριου, οτι σας εξελεξεν ο Θεος απ' αρχης εις σωτηριαν δια του αγιασμου του Πνευματος και της πιστεως της αληθειας = God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING
As well as the Modern Hebrew Bible - אבל אנחנו חיבים להודות לאלהים בכל עת בעבורכם אחי חביבי האדון אשר האלהים בחר בכם מראשית לישועה בקדוש הרוח ובאמונת האמת׃ = God chose you FROM THE BEGINNING
The King James Bible is always right.
“My son, fear thou the LORD and the king; and meddle not with them that are given to change.” Proverbs 24:21
All of grace, believing The Book - the Authorized King James Holy Bible.
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