The Missing Minstrel

Joseph Francis Alward
January 10, 1997

The book Psalm, sometimes called the Psalms of David, contains some of the most beautiful passages in English literature, many of them believed to be written by King David. Some of the men who would help David spread the word of God through song and prophecy are listed in the book of Chronicles. Unfortunately, different versions of the Bible disagree about who these men were.

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In the following, we will first show the translation that appears in the New International Version of the Bible, then compare it to the older King James version which apparently omitted one name from the list of minstrel ministers.

The New International Version

David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service: ....As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the LORD. 1 Chronicles 25:1-3

The NIV editors include a footnote which tells us that they included Shimei, even though most Hebrew manuscripts don't show it, and only "some" of the Septuagint manuscripts list it.

The King James Version

Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was:....Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD. 1 Chronicles 25:1-3

Evidently, the Septuagint manuscript [1] used by the King James translators either did not include "Shimei", or the translators overlooked the name, because "Shimei" does not appear above in King James list of sons of Jeduthun. Only five sons of Jeduthan are listed, but the author says there are six. Imaginative King James apologists can't argue that the author includes the father with the five sons to make the group of "six" because the author is clearly listing the number of sons who are supervised by their father.

Thus, the King James translators are wrong because they inadvertently left "Shimei" off the list, or wrong because they wrote "six" when it should have written "five". Either way, this is strong evidence against the inerrancy of the King James Bible.  If a Bible can be wrong on one page, it can be wrong on any page, including the pages which tell believers that they will live in an afterlife in the loving arms of a god.

[1]  A Greek translation of the Old Testament made in the third century B.C.