Have you ever compared the wording of Psalm 14 in English translations of the Old Testament with how the apostle Paul cites it in the New?
Paul was of course thoroughly familiar with the Jewish scriptures, referring to them frequently and revealing the truth of Christ’s life within. In his letter to the Romans, before claiming that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world, Paul first underlines the depths of our sin. He references Psalm 14, showing that sinfulness has been a problem for a very long time.
In the table below, I’ve compared Psalm 14:3 across the King James Version (KJV), the New International Version (NIV), and the Orthodox Study Bible (OSB):1
|KJV – They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.||NIV – All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.||OSB – All turned aside and were altogether corrupted; There was not even one doing good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; They deal deceptively with their tongues; The poison of serpents is under their lips, Whose mouth is full of curses and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood; Affliction and suffering are in their ways, And the way of peace they have not known; There is no fear of God before their eyes.|
It’s easy to see that these translations are different.
The KJV and NIV readings are shorter, while the OSB reading (based on the Septuagint) is considerably longer. But which reading is correct? Have the KJV and NIV removed words from this Psalm, or has the OSB added to it?
One way of answering this question is by simply turning to the pages of the New Testament. As mentioned already, in the third chapter of Romans (3:10–18) the apostle Paul quotes from this same Psalm:
|KJV – As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.||NIV – As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.||OSB – As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.|
In Romans 3:10, St. Paul writes, “It is written,” a common indicator in biblical literature that the scriptures are being referenced. Then, in verses ten through eighteen, he offers an extended quotation from the Psalm.
And yet, in both the KJV and NIV—the two most popular English translations of scripture in the world today—this entire passage cannot be found in Psalm 14.
Every manuscript of the New Testament agrees, however, that the Septuagint (including the OSB, cited above) contains the full and correct reading of this Psalm—at least according to the apostle Paul.
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Adapted from Which Bible is Better?