The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays supporting the ratification of the United States Constitution, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Madison himself is commonly known as the Father of the Constitution. Federal judges, when interpreting the Constitution, frequently appeal to the Federalist Papers as a contemporary account of the intentions of the authors.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Peter Berkowitz observes:
Most astonishing and most revealing is the neglect of The Federalist by graduate schools and law schools. The political science departments at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Berkeley—which set the tone for higher education throughout the nation and train many of the next generation’s professors—do not require candidates for the Ph.D. to study The Federalist.
I think there may be a parallel with the Preface to the King James Version, The Translators to the Reader. If one wishes to understand the KJV, the purposes and intents of the translators themselves, the Preface is the authoritative source. And what it reveals is the exact opposite of the claims made for the KJV by those in the KJV-only movement. The KJV-only position argues that only the KJV is the perfect Word of God without any error. It is no wonder, then, that KJV-only advocates purposely avoid the Preface since it is an embarrassment to their false claims.
Some have taken exception to my use of the word embarrassment in my previous posts concerning the Preface. But surely it’s embarrassing to claim something about a document that the very words of the document itself contradict. Some who have commented on my posts have argued that I should not use the word because I can’t point to any KJV-only advocate who admits being embarrassed by the Preface. Well, naturally, what do you expect? To admit that they are embarrassed by the words of the Preface would be in effect to admit that they are wrong about their KJV-only position.
Some try to get around the statements in the Preface by asserting that they themselves are not arguing for the infallibility of the translators, but the product of their work—the KJV itself. They seek to draw a parallel between the translators and the authors of Scripture, arguing that just as the authors of Scripture were flawed men, yet produced an infallible product, so the translators of the KJV. But this will not do. The only way the KJV, or any edition of it, could be infallible and inerrant is if the persons who produced it were under the same superintending ministry of the Holy Spirit as the authors of Scripture. And anyone who makes such an assertion is not just wrong but spouting heresy.
But even if one argues that the translators of the KJV were superintended by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the original authors, there is still a huge problem. The authors of Scripture, though fallible humans, argued that when writing Scripture they were infallible spokesman for God. About his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Cor 2:13). And later he adds, “If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command (1 Cor 14:37).” But, of course, the exact opposite claim is made by the translators of the KJV. They clearly distinguish the work of translators like themselves from the authors of Scripture: “For whatever was perfect under the sun, where Apostles or apostolick men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?”
So, admittedly, no KJV-only advocate is going to admit that the Preface is an embarrassment to their position, but what else can one say about a view of the KJV that is utterly and thoroughly contradicted by the very words of those who produced it?
Bill Combs serves as Academic Dean as well as Professor of New Testament at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has been teaching since 1983. He earned his BA at Tennessee Temple University, and his MDive and ThM degrees at Temple Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a ThD from Grace Theological Seminary. Dr. Combs has also served in pastoral ministry. He and his wife Pansy are members of Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, MI.