Book Review - The Doctrine of Scripture

Image of The Doctrine of Scripture: As it relates to the transmission and preservation of the text
by Jason Harris
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 2013
Paperback 182

The Doctrine of Scripture: As It Relates to the Transmission and Preservation of the Text by Jason Harris is published by InFocus Ministries in Australia. I’m excited to recommend this new book to our readers here in the United States as I believe this book can go a long way toward helping those confused or entangled by King James Onlyism. Jason is a long-time SI member, and that is one reason why I am enthusiastic about this book. Another reason is more selfish: I was privileged to write the foreword to this book.

For the record, I am even more pleased with the final product than the pre-published copy I first read several months ago. I stand by my statements in the foreword (included below) and share additional thoughts on the book in the review below.

My foreword

Another book on the King James Only debate? Much ink has been spilled and many passions expended in what may be the ugliest intramural debate plaguing conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and charismatic—all have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by those arguing for or against the King James or New King James Versions of the Bible. With each new book it seems the debate becomes more and more caustic, each group castigating the other in ever more forceful terminology.

Jason Harris enters the fray with the right blend of humility and tenacity, and turns the attention of all to the true center of the debate: the doctrine of Scripture. What makes this debate so passionate is that it centers on the very nature of Scripture. Rather than focus on technical facts and ancient manuscript copying practices, Harris takes us back to what Scripture says about itself: its inspiration, preservation and accessibility. In doing so, he demonstrates how those upholding the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus behind it, base their position not on sound exegesis of the Scripture, but on tenuous assumptions read into the text.

Harris’s pen is lucid and his grasp of the King James Only debate as a whole is masterful. He focuses his work on TR-only position which represents the very best of King James Only reasoning. He interacts with the exegesis of key TR-only proponents and marshals compelling evidence demonstrating their failure to measure up to Scripture’s own teaching about itself. And after explicating the doctrine of Scripture, Harris draws important conclusions which should protect the reader from making simplistic assumptions in a quest for textual certainty that goes beyond what Scripture teaches we should expect.

Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles. He wants such confidence to be rooted to a Scriptural understanding of the Doctrine of Scripture rather than in the “supernatural-guidance” of a group of sixteenth-Century translators. Assuming that such a group of men made no mistakes is to expect something Scripture doesn’t teach, and ignore what it does. Harris is to be commended for such a clear, lucid defense of the historic doctrine of Scripture. I hope his book is received well and helps laymen and pastors everywhere to begin to rethink the basis for why they think as they do when it comes to the King James Only debate. [pp. 9-10]

Additional thoughts

After re-reading this book and seeing the published version, I am more optimistic than ever about its promise to provide clarity to the King James Only debate. Jason Harris’s book has a few characteristics which together make it a unique contribution to this debate.

First, his book focuses on the alleged doctrine of the verbal, plenary accessibility of Scripture. This is where the root of the KJV and TR preference lies for many people. The argument is not so much based on texts and manuscripts as it is on what allegedly the Bible teaches—that the very words of Scripture (all of them down to the letters) would be generally accessible to believers down through the ages. Harris spends most of his time marshalling a Scriptural rebuttal to these claims and also demonstrates the difficulties such a position has when it comes to the history of the text as we know it.

Second, this volume carefully builds a theology of the transmission and preservation of Scripture. Such a careful, exegetically-based explication of the doctrine of Scripture has been lacking in this debate. And such a gap has often been used by KJV-only proponents to their advantage. It is KJV-only books which start with a Scriptural position and then look at the evidence, with the “anti-KJV” books starting with history and evidence and then moving to the Scriptural arguments. This book is different and starts where the debate starts for most of the sincere beleivers who get swept up into it—it starts on Scripture’s teaching about the very nature and preservation of Scripture.

Finally, Harris keeps a very irenic tone throughout. He is careful not to overstate his case and exaggerate the claims of his opponents. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to this heated debate, but Jason pulls this off well. Additionally, he backs up his book with the inclusion of a vast array of footnotes documenting the claims he is arguing against. I appreciate how he does not direct his argument toward the Riplingers and Ruckmans of this debate. He focuses on the TR-only position and the more careful wing of KJV-onlyism, men like David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Charles Surret, and the like. Harris has read widely in the KJV only literature, and his treatment avoids broadbrushing and generalizations that tend to give KJV-only propoents an easy out. It’s easy to dismiss a book as not being directed to their particular position, or to claim the author makes egregious errors and lumps their position in with that of heretical views. Harris’s book is not open to such charges. He directs his case against the very best arguments of KJV-onlyism.

Had I been exposed to such a book I would have been inoculated to the pull of the KJV-only persuasion. As it happened, I was swept up in a TR-only view that made it seem like we had the corner on truth and everyone else was compromising. By God’s grace I came to understand that Scripture does not support such a view of the transmission of the text.

Jason Harris is to be thanked for giving us a tool to recommend to those thinking through this issue from within, and to help the ones who are being pressured to join the KJV-only position. I highly recommend The Doctrine of Scripture and hope it makes its way into the hands of anyone struggling with this issue who will yet be open-minded enough to study out the issue from both sides.

About the author

Jason Harris has a passion for communicating God’s word and has spoken at conferences and retreats throughout Australia and around the world. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, and accounting and is currently a research student and lecturer in the School of Business at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

[node:disclaimer body collapsed]
[node:bio/bob-hayton body]

2825 reads

There are 11 Comments

Charlie's picture

Normally, I would say that the best way to research a field is to gather the resources and then throw out everything that isn't in the top tier of scholarly research. So, that means that normally I would tell people not to read this book, based simply on the lack of scholarly standing of both author and publisher.

The KJVO debate is different, though. It occurs exclusively in regions of Christianity that don't interact with the scholarly sphere. It bypasses scholarly debate entirely and perpetuates itself entirely through self-published books, pamphlets, and websites, as well as (often) self-proclaimed preachers. So, I suppose if you want to enter the debate, you yourself have to forego some scholarly protocols. After all, reputable publishers like Oxford probably don't even know this stuff exists and reputable scholars come from segments of Christianity where this isn't an issue.

I do wonder, though, whether these books do that much. It seems to me that the problem is information control. Extremism is bred in isolation; it is nurtured by homogeneity. If you could somehow just get people to interact more widely, most of the extreme views would disappear on their own.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Bob Hayton's picture

Good thoughts Charlie. There is an innate distrust of scholarship and a conspiracy-theory mindset in people ready to find a Satanic deception with regard to this issue. That factors in as well.

With this book, it approaches the issue from the realm of what Scripture says about itself - and taking that approach will hopefully gain a hearing from some.  But I agree that information control, ignorance, and isolation from scholarship makes this particular issue so difficult to address.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

This needs to be in Kindle format. I'd love to read this, as I also was once in a church that slowly changed from non-KJVO to the TR-only version of KJVO. I've probably read most of the same books on this subject that Bob has. However, I just have no more room for any books. Here's to hoping a Kindle version is on the way.

Dave Barnhart

Joe Whalen's picture

Charlie wrote:

Normally, I would say that the best way to research a field is to gather the resources and then throw out everything that isn't in the top tier of scholarly research. So, that means that normally I would tell people not to read this book, based simply on the lack of scholarly standing of both author and publisher.

The KJVO debate is different, though. It occurs exclusively in regions of Christianity that don't interact with the scholarly sphere. It bypasses scholarly debate entirely and perpetuates itself entirely through self-published books, pamphlets, and websites, as well as (often) self-proclaimed preachers. So, I suppose if you want to enter the debate, you yourself have to forego some scholarly protocols. After all, reputable publishers like Oxford probably don't even know this stuff exists and reputable scholars come from segments of Christianity where this isn't an issue.

I do wonder, though, whether these books do that much. It seems to me that the problem is information control. Extremism is bred in isolation; it is nurtured by homogeneity. If you could somehow just get people to interact more widely, most of the extreme views would disappear on their own.

 

While it is true that many of scholars are not involved in this issue, D. A. Carson wrote a wonderful book on the issue back in 1979 titled, The King James Only Debate: a plea for realism.   It is a helpful book from a godly and gifted teacher.

TylerR's picture

Editor

White's book The King James Only Controversy steered me out of the KJVO camp. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bob Hayton's picture

I liked Carson's book and White's. What really got me thinking was actually E.F. Hills' book The King James Version Defended, he didn't wish away the few errors in the Textus Receptus and the King James, but rather identified them and concluded "maximum certainty" was better than "maximum uncertainty." For me, his book caused deep questions that I eventually followed out of the KJV only movement.

One Bible Only? Examining the Exclusive Claims of the King James Version edited by Kevin Bauder and Roy Beacham (published by Kregel) is probably the best single book on the topic. But the book I reviewed above is unique in that it develops a full orbed doctrine of Scripture and starts with that before looking at evidence and historical/textual matters. His appendix on the doctrine of the deity of Christ in the NIV is really good as well.

 

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Dave Gilbert's picture

I find the whole "debate" about which translation to trust to be very important, when all is said and done... but one I've finished having with anyone since I'm satisfied with my conclusions. As a believer, I really don't have the time to spend wondering if God really said something, or whether I'll have to spend years trying to gather enough of a consensus to determine what was said. Yes, this is what comes to mind whenever I see yet another article about this subject, or another book trying to redefine it.

 

Truthfully ( and this may seem harsh ), I sometimes tend to view people on either side of this debate as one of two different groups: Those that don't care so much about what He said, and those whose very eternal lives rest on the solid foundation of His word. Perhaps I'm wrong about what I just typed, and I am willing to admit it.  But when I pick up a copy of the "King James" ( the only surviving Reformation-era Bible currently still in print today ) and carefully compare it to many of the popular translations that have been done in the last 100 years, I see problems. You see, something "sticks in my craw" and I'll be blunt...God cannot say two different things at once. Therefore, if He said something one way ( and it was translated a certain way 400 years ago ) then it should read exactly the same today, no matter which language it's translated into and no matter which translation committee does the work...or it's a lie ( then or now, make a choice ). Sure, there should be allowances for words that are no longer being used, but by and large it should read the same way. But they don't, and in some very glaring ways at times. So who got it wrong, and who's getting it right ( or vice versa )?

 

Now, I did well in English Comprehension in school...I feel that I can read something, no matter what is said, and understand it even if it's said with different words ( that's called, by mankind's definition, Dynamic Equivalency ). The problem I'm running into is, I pick up certain translations that are supposed to be "God's word", and they literally contradict what I read in the "KJV". The very first question I had, when I started investigating this phenomenon, was, " What's going on here?". 

 

It was then that I ran into this thing that's apparently been around since about the late 1800's, called, "Textual Criticism". I guess I don't understand. I thought we had a good translation with the Authorized, despite the Elizabethan English ( which, I'm happy to say, I understand quite well except for a few words ), so, what's the problem? Why so many translations? What's been discovered since the AV was finished that demands constant "adjustment" to the tune of several dozen new translations just in the last century?

 

For those who are on that side, It begs the question, "Will I as a believer ever get to the point where I can confidently point at a translation that I can read and understand, and say, " That is God's word " and then read it, memorize it and quote from it with some modicum of non-doubt? " Perhaps some of you believe it's OK to always wonder exactly what God said ( without even delving into what He means ), but I don't have time to waste...I'm 47, and I'm burning daylight here. Will someone please hand me a translation and absolutely assure me that the very words in it are what the Lord Himself actually said? Please?

 

Now that I'm done with my request and the background behind it, to me, this appears to be just another book ( in a long list of books ) that's trying very hard to justify a position I've never agreed with: That of continually going back to the manuscripts to see how many ways mankind can do what's already been done ages ago; Put the word of God into one's own language. How many times is it going to take before it's done right? People like James White appear to be saying, "It can never stop, because of the nature of sinful men and their penchant for making mistakes" ( which assumes that God doesn't have a hand in presenting Bibles to His children that they can read and understand in their own languages ). I don't agree with him on this subject, and I never will. So the mistakes ( and correcting them ) go on? What is this, some sort of Textual Continuous Improvement program? I'm beginning to see something very odd here.

 

Moving on: One section I'd like to quote from the OP: " Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles." To this I ask the question...which English Bibles? What if verses literally contradict each other say, from the NASB to the NIV to the NKJV ( for example )...what then? Where's the accuracy? To make such a broad statement like this when faced with the inaccuracies that abound between and among the many current translations seems a bit...irresponsible, IMO. So which English Bibles are translated accurately?

 

Just to be clear, I use the "KJV" exclusively. I don't subscribe to Riplinger nor Ruckman or anyone else who believes that God inspired the words of a translation.  To be flat honest, I side with D.A. Waite and others like the Dean Burgeon Society who appear to believe that God used the Reformation and its most scholarly work to pass on His word to His English-speaking children for all generations. That said, I wouldn't even read this book from Mr. Harris, no matter who is recommending it. Why? Because he "takes us back to what Scripture says about itself." <------ Would that be referring to the Hebrew and Greek ( which Hebrew: The Ben Chayyim or the other one? Which Greek? Westcott and Hort's? Nestle / Aland's many efforts? USB's many efforts? ) or to one or many of the various translations that we currently have?  Perhaps Scripture ( which Scripture, again? ) does not support such a view of the text  as what some of the KJVO's are saying, but that doesn't discount the fact that when I read the "KJV" and put it right next to the NASB, something doesn't add up... and in many places.

 

I confess, I'm confused, Big time.

 

I already know I'm outnumbered regarding this subject on the forums, but I'm getting used to it. Besides, thinking about all this is giving me a headache again, so I'll stop typing.  Sad

 

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Dave:

If you're happy with the KJV, then continue using it and God bless. It is a fine translation. I don't believe this should be a burning issue in our churches, unless you have to answer the "God re-inspired the KJV" folks. No need to make this issue so divisive.

My Pastor would side with you on this one. I personally prefer the ESV, but preach from the KJV in church because that is our translation. It isn't a big deal to me. It shouldn't be a do or die proposition for other Christians either. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Dave Gilbert wrote:

the "King James" ( the only surviving Reformation-era Bible currently still in print today )

Clearly you mean "in English."  A quick look at Amazon.de shows plenty of Luther Bibles available.

I speak both languages and have compared Luther with the KJV and find they often say things a little differently from one another as well, and for your information, the Luther predates the KJV.

Just something else for you to think about.

I love and use the KJV as my main Bible as well, but to think it's the standard where all others aren't, well, I can't agree.

Dave Barnhart

Dave Gilbert's picture

dcbii wrote:

Dave Gilbert wrote:

the "King James" ( the only surviving Reformation-era Bible currently still in print today )

Clearly you mean "in English."  A quick look at Amazon.de shows plenty of Luther Bibles available.

I speak both languages and have compared Luther with the KJV and find they often say things a little differently from one another as well, and for your information, the Luther predates the KJV.

Just something else for you to think about.

I love and use the KJV as my main Bible as well, but to think it's the standard where all others aren't, well, I can't agree.

 

Yes, "in English"...;)

Bob Hayton's picture

Dave Gilbert, 

The Geneva Bible 1560 is still in print, I have a copy of it. I also have a Matthew's 1537 reprint (still in print) and a Tyndale 1535 New Testmament (still in print).  All of these are available at christianbook.com / Hendrickson Publishers.

None of them are exactly the same - and you could hardly read Matthew's or Tyndale's due to how much English has change in its orthography (print and spelling) since that time.

The Dutch Estates-General translation is still available and that was really the crowning achievement of the Reformation coming at 1637 toward it's end. 

The Luther Bible doesn't have 1 John 5:7, by the way. And the Geneva Bible is quite different at Rev. 16:5 from the King James Version.  The KJV itself is quite different now, compared to 1611. The one you use is either from a textual stream originating in 1762 or 1769 - there are two basic streams of KJVs today with multitudes of variations among them. Small inconsistencies and minor differences, but different and thus contradictory nonetheless.

What did people do before 1611? They had several English Bibles available, and after 1611 it took about 80 years or so before the KJV took pride of place away from the Geneva Bible which fizzled for lack of sales and government civil wars and what have you (big fire in London too).

The American Baptists in the 1800s printed at least two of their own revisions. Noah Webster also created a Bible in the 1800s. There were editions and revisions, but none very popular. Then in the mid-late 1800s, there was a romantic movement that looked at previous eras as "golden ages" and this directly influenced how people began to think about the Elizabethan English in the KJV and they put it on a pedestal - even as scholars saw and knew all along that there were real deficiencies.

All this being said, I don't defend many of the translations available today. But holding onto the revered KJV for so long is partly to blame for this mess. Resisting a new universal translation led to everyone trying to put forth a usable translation. 

A lot of what you have said amounts to a wishful-thinking view of history. I wish it was all settled in 1611 too. And then we could get on with it. But it wasn't settled, and the KJV has real deficiencies and hence we have this debate still today. 

A question would be what do you expect people who speak other languages to use for God's Word? And what about those areas that have no translation in their language at all?

The KJV is a good translation, but so are other modern translations. The variance in the Greek manuscripts has been preserved by God.  We can pretend it doesn't exist, sweep it under the rug, blame it on the devil and pretend like we have a definitive, settled-on, English Bible, or we can be people of the truth, and grapple with the evidence we have.

In 1789, Dr. John Symonds said the following: "But is error ever so valuable an inheritance that it ought never to be relinquished?" I think it is pertinent to this debate. Yes we were given a literary masterpiece and a beautiful translation in the KJV - but do we need to continue to perpetuate its flaws, just because by doing so we can have a "standard"?

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.