John 19:39 - 100 pounds KJB or 75 pounds NIV?
John 19:39 - 100 pounds KJB or 75 pounds NIV?
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 Millennium Bible, Green's Modern KJV 1998, and the brand new International Standard Version 2014.
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: "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?
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