KJV Only? How a Translation Became a Litmus Test for Orthodoxy

Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin July/Aug 2011. All rights reserved. This article is condensed from a paper presented at a Baylor University conference. A full version will be published in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of one of the most important pieces of English literature ever released. Arguably, no other book has had the widespread influence and lasting significance of the King James Version (KJV or AV) of the English Bible. Its American title is derived from King James (Stuart) the First of England (James VI of Scotland). His initial idea was for a new common Bible version, but there is no evidence that he ever authorized it for use in all English churches. Given the prevailing politics, with the Puritans agitating for religious freedom, it is unlikely that he would have attempted a formal declaration. Nevertheless, the new translation became the dominant English version and held that position for most of the next three centuries.

But with its celebrity status comes some interesting history.In the late 19th century, John William Burgon and some of his associates argued for the KJV against the Revised Version—not because the KJV was a superior English translation but because the underlying Greek text was a better Greek text than the RV used (the Westcott and Hort text).

Since the 1960s, some Christians have been debating the continued usefulness of the Authorized Version and the underlying Greek text for regular use in the life of the church. The battle over Bible versions in general, and the battle for the KJV in particular, has been a significant issue within some segments of American Protestantism. At the worst, some have come to regard American Christian fundamentalism as closely associated with the “KJV 1611.” The debate has reached the point where non-fundamentalists think the movement is cultish, and some laypeople within fundamentalism itself think that God is the One Who personally “authorized” the KJV as the Bible for the English-speaking world.

The defense of the KJV takes two approaches. Some argue that the KJV 1611 is the most accurate rendering of the original manuscripts for the English-speaking world, a position still held by some GARBC pastors. Other advocates (called KJV-only in this article) are more dogmatic, with many colorful figures advocating a range of peculiar views, for example, that the KJV is the perfect Word of God, able even to correct Greek and Hebrew manuscripts themselves. Both of these views will be examined in this article.

Early Defenders of the KJV

Because of the populist nature of the KJV-only movement within fundamentalism, it is not entirely easy to determine when this began to surface within the large and rather amorphous movement of self-identified fundamentalists. No single academic institution seems to have initially championed this position. Moreover, when examining older fundamentalist institutions still adhering to that heritage, there is a mixture among the alumni with prominent defenders of the KJV-only position and prominent rejecters of the position. As a matter of history, the KJV-only movement cannot be traced to a particular school.

Doug Kutilek, a historian who opposes the KJV-only movement, suggests that the fountainhead for the modern emphasis on the KJV can be traced to an insignificant publication by a Seventh-day Adventist, Benjamin G. Wilkinson, who wrote Our Authorized Bible Vindicated in 1930, objecting to the Revised Version (RV 1881) and its American cousin, the American Standard Version (ASV 1901). Wilkinson’s book came to the attention of Jasper James Ray, a Baptist Bible teacher in Oregon who took up the defense of the KJV 25 years later in the book God Wrote Only One Bible, which seemed to borrow heavily from Wilkinson.

Jasper Ray soon became aware of a more sophisticated defense of the KJV by a recent Harvard University PhD graduate, Edward Freer Hills, who wrote his dissertation on textual criticism and then produced the first edition of his The King James Version Defended (1956). Hills argued that God has providentially preserved His Word and that, therefore, the Scriptures should be treated in a way quite unlike all other ancient texts. He cited two others who would become well known among KJV advocates, Kirsopp Lake (1872–1946) and John William Burgon (1813–1888). Both suggested reasons why the Byzantine family of manuscripts (consulted by the translators of the ASV) should not be considered as accurate as the Majority Text (used for the KJV).

Ray and Hills were probably motivated by the recent publication of the Revised Standard Version (1952), a serious attempt to challenge the popularity of the KJV by updating the language and reflecting modern textual critical theories in some of the disputed passages. Hills had a great influence on later KJV defenders such as David Otis Fuller (1903–1988) and Peter Sturgis Ruckman (b. 1921).

Connections to the GARBC

David Otis Fuller was converted in a J. Wilbur Chapman meeting in 1916 and was baptized by prominent New York fundamentalist pastor Isaac Massey Haldeman. After graduation from both Wheaton College and Princeton Seminary, he became pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist church, succeeding Oliver W. Van Osdel at the influential Wealthy Street Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Osdel left the Northern Baptist Convention, helped organize the Bible Baptist Union, and then helped organize the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) in 1932. Fuller was the second editor of the Baptist Bulletin (June 1935—May 1938) and would serve on the Council of Fourteen when it was organized in 1938.

A gifted student, Fuller carried on correspondence with the University of Chicago’s Edgar J. Goodspeed (1871–1962), a noted theological liberal who was involved in Bible translation. Fuller quizzed Goodspeed regarding major Christian doctrines—the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the deity of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and His atoning death for sinful humanity. In essence, Fuller wanted to know Goodspeed’s fitness to translate the Scriptures.

In the course of the correspondence, and apparently in response to something Goodspeed had written to Fuller, Fuller indicated that he “preferred” the King James Version, and in later letters suggested to Goodspeed that a scholar who denied the essential claims of Christianity could not render an accurate translation from a doctrinal standpoint.

These early letters give some idea of how Fuller came to embrace a strong KJV position, which he articulated in Which Bible? nearly 40 years later. The resulting book was a compilation of articles from a variety of authors, living and dead, some of which were in print in other places, that attempted to prove Fuller’s views. Using his book to quote Ray (who had cited Benjamin G. Wilkinson) and Edward F. Hills (who had cited Burgon), Fuller wrote that to protect the Scripture for future generations of Christians, “there has been a gracious exercise of Divine providence in its [the Bible’s] preservation and transmission.”

But Fuller did not disclose that Wilkinson was a Seventh-day Adventist (a fact that would have concerned his fundamental Baptist audience), instead describing him as a man “all but unknown to the world of scholarship” who “taught for many years at a small and obscure Eastern college.” Fuller also sought to demonstrate the superiority of the KJV by championing the Textus Receptus and tried to show the deficiencies of the Westcott-Hort theories of textual criticism. These kinds of arguments became standard fare in pro-KJV literature following Fuller, but usually without Fuller’s sophistication.

Discussions in the Baptist Bulletin

Yet for the all rhetoric that Fuller could muster, the GARBC never endorsed his view of the KJV, even though the KJV was the Bible that most GARBC churches regularly used. In 1961, Charles T. Butrin published a series of articles that evaluated modern translations, with various recommendations for their usefulness to GARBC churches (these articles are available at www.Baptistbulletin.org). Butrin believed that “Americans [were] singularly blessed to have so many versions of the Scripture,” which he evaluated for readability as well as faithfulness to the message of the text. The author noted that some of the versions held a liberal bias, but he did not dismiss the use of modern versions out of hand, nor did he show undue deference for the KJV. Butrin’s position continues to be the norm among GARBC churches and Regular Baptist Press, though some individual pastors in the GARBC continue to embrace a position closer to Fuller’s. To be sure, Fuller’s book appears more scholarly and sophisticated than many of the subsequent defenses of the KJV. Fuller had a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, unlike many who came to embrace a KJV-only position. And Fuller attempted to maintain a higher level of Christian civility in his defense of the KJV.

By the mid-1970s the disagreement was openly discussed in the Baptist Bulletin. Editor Merle Hull introduced two opposing articles in the July/August 1974 issue, explaining to readers that the Council of Eighteen publications committee had suggested the idea, and that while the articles “do involve different viewpoints, this is not a debate.” The KJV view was advocated by D. A. Waite, director of The Bible for Today ministry and member of a GARBC church. His article, “In Defense of the New Testament Majority Text,” advocated a position that was falling out of favor among GARBC pastors, but his tone was respectful and scholarly.

The article ran right next to L. Duane Brown’s “Evaluating and Appreciating the King James Bible,” an article that showed appreciation for the KJV but did not advocate an exclusive use of the Majority Text. Brown suggested that several modern translations were helpful to pastors and church members, while other modern translations were dangerous. By this point the GARBC Council of Eighteen had already approved a list of modern translations to be used in materials published by Regular Baptist Press (see sidebar).

Ruckman and KJV-only Proponents

Peter Ruckman began writing about the KJV in the early 1960s. Ruckman was converted to a fundamentalist version of Christianity in 1949 after considering Zen Buddhism and Roman Catholicism. Having already earned his BA from the University of Alabama, he enrolled in Bob Jones University, where he completed requirements for the MA and PhD in four years. Ruckman then started Bible Baptist Church of Pensacola in 1974 with 17 people and remains the pastor today.

In 1965 Ruckman started the Pensacola Bible Institute and began to promote the KJV as the exclusive Bible for the English-speaking world. Eventually he would write several books on the issue and begin a monthly church newspaper the Bible Believer’s Bulletin, from whose pages he would launch fusillades of invective against those who refused to accept the AV as the “infallible living word of the Living God.” His primary target was fundamentalists who refused to adopt his narrow views. Ruckman became so prominent in the Bible translation issue that the movement often carries his name. To be a “Ruckmanite” in some corners of the KJV-only discussion is a rather pejorative term. Some strong advocates of a KJV-only position go out of their way to distance themselves from Ruckman’s views.

Ruckman believes that “the A. V. 1611” sometimes is “superior to any Greek text.” That is, when there is a discrepancy between the KJV and the manuscripts, even the Textus Receptus, then the KJV should be considered authoritative, a position he holds because he believes the KJV was “given by inspiration of God.” It is for reasons like this that many fundamentalist defenders of the KJV distance themselves from the extreme teachings of Peter Ruckman, who is also criticized for his strident language (he calls the NIV the “Nutty Idiot’s Version”). He still pastors in Pensacola and promotes the KJV, but his influence within mainstream fundamentalism has greatly diminished over the years.

Recent Developments

The battle for the KJV has now been raging in fundamentalism for more than 40 years. Despite numerous attempts by more sober-minded and linguistically trained fundamentalists to answer the charges and accusations of some of the most vociferous advocates of the KJV-only movement, there remains a robust, if narrow subculture within fundamentalism that identifies itself with “KJV-onlyism.”

Many readers will recall hearing of the 1996 sermon series Dell Johnson preached at Pensacola Christian College on the superiority of the KJV (the college has no connection with Peter Ruckman). The chapel messages were videotaped and mailed to many pastors, including many in GARBC churches. Additional messages in subsequent years were delivered at Pensacola, also videotaped and mailed around the world. The Pensacola videos were answered by a group of fundamentalist educators who produced a video response, Fundamentalism and the Word of God. On the video were theologians and New Testament scholars from fundamentalist schools like Bob Jones University, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Clearwater Christian College, Northland Baptist Bible College, and Calvary Baptist Seminary. The video sought to present a united response, arguing that the KJV should not be a test of orthodoxy, and that many well-known fundamentalist leaders of the past used modern versions.

One of the most prolific writers and lecturers on KJV-onlyism is a former GARBC pastor, Donald A. Waite, who is currently the president The Dean Burgon Society and The Bible for Today. Waite is among the more educated men in fundamentalism with two earned doctorates, one, a ThD in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1955 and the other, in speech from Purdue in 1961. His position is a more temperate KJV view—similar in many ways to the position of David Otis Fuller. In Waite’s Defending the King James Bible (2nd ed. 1996), he argues that the KJV is superior to modern versions for four reasons: it used a better Greek text (the Textus Receptus); the translators of the KJV were better men than modern translators (in the sense of being devout and orthodox); the translation technique used by the KJV was better (Waite opposes dynamic equivalence); and the theology of the KJV is better than modern versions. Waite argues, for example that the bibliology of the KJV is better because it includes the longer ending of Mark.

William Grady is a more recent example of a defender of the KJV. Currently the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church of Swartz Creek, Mich., he has self-published two books defending the KJV as the only acceptable English translation. First among his arguments against modern fundamentalist scholarship is that the men who affirmed modern versions were not “soul-winners.” What the connection between evangelism and textual criticism was Grady did not say, nor did he offer evidence that the men in fact were not interested in evangelism.

Many KJV-only fundamentalists have rejected Grady’s extreme views. In 2005, Grady was invited to preach in chapel at Crown College in Powell, Tenn. Grady used the opportunity to call for a renewal of Ruckmanism, criticizing fundamentalists who did not believe enough of the essential doctrinal truths (i.e., according to Grady, the infallibility of the KJV English Bible). Grady’s sermon caused host pastor Clarence Sexton to disinvite him from a later message at the host church. Grady later published another book criticizing the “Pseudo King James Onlyites” whom he defined as those “who promote the KJV in public while accepting the Textus Receptus as the higher authority in private.” Grady often criticized Hyles-Anderson College, where he graduated, and Jack Schaap, son-in-law of the deceased former pastor Jack Hyles (who had endorsed Grady’s first book). Examples such as these remind the reader that it is difficult to keep track of every path in the fragmented KJV-only movement.

Evaluating the KJV-only Movement

The various KJV-only positions are relatively new in fundamental circles, and go well beyond historic tenets of fundamentalism. True, fundamentalism has always been concerned with the Word of God as an authority, but that authority was never vested in a particular Bible translation, though much of fundamentalism has used and appreciated the KJV as a faithful rendering of the Greek and Hebrew in the English. As modern versions proliferated, some called attention to dangerous trends by theological liberals to mute key Bible doctrines but never discounted the value of modern versions themselves. Despite efforts by KJV defenders to find historical antecedents in earlier fundamentalism who appear to champion the KJV, the movement itself began in earnest in the latter half of the 20th century and really did not gain any significant momentum until the mid-1970s.

The KJV-only position is not a unified movement, with nearly as many variations of the position as there are men and women who have written to defend the KJV. The earliest endorsers, Wilkinson and Hills, were in no sense fundamentalists. David Otis Fuller was among the most sophisticated, maintaining that the KJV was the best translation from the best manuscripts. Peter Ruckman and William Grady are among the most extreme, arguing that the KJV is inspired and can be used to correct the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. In the end, the various KJV-only positions are badly divided. Advocates often spend a good deal of energy attacking variations among the positions.

Few people in the KJV-only movement have the academic training to address issues of textual criticism. While Edward Hills, Charles Surrett, and Thomas Strouse make an attempt to ground their arguments in real textual critical issues, most defenses of KJV-only ideas are confusing, poorly written, and weakly argued. These unsophisticated arguments seem to stir up the passions of uninformed Christians who fear that someone will take away their Bible.

The KJV-only position is not likely to die out any time in the near future. The Internet has allowed the most extreme forms of KJV-onlyism to become accessible to a worldwide audience, not simply in printed form, but in the availability of venues like YouTube where sermons can be shared with anyone who has an Internet connection. This may give the illusion to some that the KJV-only influence in fundamentalism is wider than it actually is. To be sure, there are plenty of fundamentalists who strongly prefer the KJV translation. But at the same time, there are serious concerns that the movement is being co-opted by hyper fundamentalism.

(For more information on the GARBC and the translation issue, please read The GARBC and Bible Translations)

[node:bio/jeff-straub body]

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RPittman's picture

Dr. Straub wrote:
The defense of the KJV takes two approaches. Some argue that the KJV 1611 is the most accurate rendering of the original manuscripts for the English-speaking world, a position still held by some GARBC pastors. [emphasis added ] Other advocates (called KJV-only in this article) are more dogmatic, with many colorful figures advocating a range of peculiar views, for example, that the KJV is the perfect Word of God, able even to correct Greek and Hebrew manuscripts themselves.
The real question is not a matter of accuracy, although accuracy is certainly a by-product in the sense that it represents truly what God has said, but it is more a matter of preservation. To argue for the most accurate translation is to say that the translators did a better job than earlier or later English translators. It is a shaky argument to contend for greater skill or accuracy that is based on human factors. To discuss accuracy without the attending idea of preservation behind it is to reduce the argument of the debate to the relative skills of human translators.

Rob Fall's picture

The controversy is rooted in the publishing of the RSV. However, it flowered with the publication of the NASB. The promotional statements made about the NASB could be easily interpreted as casting doubts on the AV 1611. So, you had men who just came out of the battles with Modernists and Liberals hearing the "same" kind of chatter about the NASB.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ron Bean's picture

Thank you, my friend. Good work.

When I was kid in the 50's (1950's!), I recall my pastor making a big deal over the RSV but I recall his concern being over the manuscripts on which it was based. In the years since then, the discussion over manuscripts was abandoned and the acceptance of an English translation became, for some, a fundamental of the faith.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

DavidO's picture

Jim, wrong question.

First he'd have to define a biblical doctrine of preservation.

Jeff Straub's picture

Assuming that something such as this actually exists . . . where does the Bible argue for a modern language version, English or Swahili, being the preserved Word of God? By the way, this is a rhetorical question, with no answer needed, because the answer is obvious. There is NO Bible doctrine of preservation for a modern language version unless you want to argue for a supernatural, aka miraculous, work of God in rendering the Scripture into any modern language. The supernatural work of God with reference to the Word is delimited entirely to its inspiration. When it comes to preservation, we are talking about the providential work of God. If you talk about a miraculous work of God then you come to Ruckmanism.

The article in the BB is a highly abbreviated version of a much longer paper that will appear elsewhere. Meh

JS

Jeff Straub

Don Johnson's picture

Nice summary.

Just thought I'd throw in some kudos, in case you might like to print this comment out and frame it!

But, seriously, I do think that you have done an excellent job with this one. It is difficult to summarize all the various permutations, but your article does a good job of bringing some clarity to the issue.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jeff Straub's picture

Don . . . this is getting to be a habit on your part! :bigsmile:

Jeff Straub

RPittman's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
Assuming that something such as this actually exists . . . where does the Bible argue for a modern language version, English or Swahili, being the preserved Word of God?
IMHO, this question is a red herring. Is it necessary for Scripture to specifically state this? Then, what about canonization? What is your Scriptural basis? Is not this Divine preservation or is it a human thing? Please explain.
Quote:
By the way, this is a rhetorical question, with no answer needed, because the answer is obvious.
No, I don't think the answer is obvious when one has not explored and eliminated all the other possibilities. Questions, such as this, can be prejudicial to the answer one is seeking.
Quote:
There is NO Bible doctrine of preservation for a modern language version unless you want to argue for a supernatural, aka miraculous, work of God in rendering the Scripture into any modern language.
Well, how do we confidently know this? The emphasis of your statement seems to fall on "NO Bible doctrine of preservation for a modern language[emphasis added ] version." If so, can you state a case for Biblical preservation in one of the original languages considering the variants?
Quote:
The supernatural work of God with reference to the Word is delimited entirely to its inspiration.

How can one boldly say this? Argument from silence is weak. I would think this position would leave the door open to questions about canonization.

Quote:

When it comes to preservation, we are talking about the providential work of God.

Yes, but we are not saying how it happened or putting limits on it. This lies somewhere, I think, in the enigmatic sovereignty of God. After all, His ways are not our ways and are past finding out. It is strange to me that I have encountered intelligent and educated men who saw the hand of God in the defeat of the Spanish Armada but balked at the idea of God's preservation of His Word.
Quote:

If you talk about a miraculous work of God then you come to Ruckmanism.
Not necessarily. This is more guilty by association than a reasoned conclusion. The rub comes in how "miraculous" is being used here. It needs to be better defined and delimited. I think there is a play on connotation because modern rational man knows miracles are not occurring today. Wink Would you call God's use of circumstances to bring Joseph into Egypt for the saving of his brethren miraculous? If so, then perhaps we can call God's preservation of His Word to be miraculous. Also, is it miraculous when we pray for a sick church member, he or she gets better, and we praise God for answered prayer? Or, do we limit miraculous to the parting of the Red Sea or turning water into wine?
Quote:

The article in the BB is a highly abbreviated version of a much longer paper that will appear elsewhere. Meh

JS

I look forward to reading the full version. BTW, I do think the article was largely fair and well-written, although I do not necessarily agree with your POV.

RPittman's picture

DavidO wrote:
Jim, wrong question.

First he'd have to define a biblical doctrine of preservation.

Wrong! When did I propose a "biblical doctrine of preservation?" Let's do a little exercise. Do you believe in canonization? In other words, do you believe that we have all the books of Scripture and none of the books in the canon are extraneous to Scripture? If so, can you define a "Biblical doctrine of canonization?"

Jeff Straub's picture

Since neither are biblically defined, how can either be considered a "biblical" doctrine?

Moreover, the Bible clearly states that "all Scripture is inspired" but makes no such statement regarding preservation or canonization for that matter.. This is not an argument from silence . . . the Scripture is also silent about any secret codes within the Hebrew text. Am I also arguing from silence here if I assert that because this is true (that no statements exist), then there are no secret codes in the Hebrew?

I actually think that I am arguing from what the text actually says about itself (in this case). And I think that I am safe in drawing some theological conclusions re: preservation as providential rather than as miraculous. Regrettably I have neither the energy nor the inclination to rehearse the conclusions here. Others have done that well elsewhere.

Jeff Straub

RPittman's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
Since neither are biblically defined, how can either be considered a "biblical" doctrine?
This is true, which is precisely my point. However, we may reasonably accept a belief, as most Fundamentalists do with canonization, without it being specifically defined by Scripture. If canonization can be established extra-Biblically, then it is also a legitimate methodology for establishing preservation. In fact, belief in canonization is belief in providential preservation. That's my point. Dr. Bauder at one time argued on SI for the idea of necessary inference and this comes pretty close to it.
Quote:

Moreover, the Bible clearly states that "all Scripture is inspired" but makes no such statement regarding preservation or canonization for that matter..
Again, one cannot argue with your basic assertion but one of the basic proof texts for inspiration (II Timothy 3:15-16) speaks of the Scriptures in hand as inspired. From this, it is simple and reasonable to infer that these texts were copies, they were complete, and they were accurate representations of what God had said. This is all about canonization and preservation. Although these are inferences, they are, IMHO, as sound as the inferences we make about inerrancy, infallibility, etc. from inspiration. Without a firm confidence and belief in Divine preservation, we have nothing better than human rationality and scholarship to support our faith in Scripture. Are we willing to stake our faith on scholarship?
Quote:
This is not an argument from silence . . . the Scripture is also silent about any secret codes within the Hebrew text. Am I also arguing from silence here if I assert that because this is true (that no statements exist), then there are no secret codes in the Hebrew?
I don't follow your argument and logic here. Yes, you are arguing from silence if you say Bible codes don't exist because Scripture doesn't mention them. We don't accept Bible codes because none have ever been credibly demonstrated. Whereas Scripture reveals truth, it is not exhaustive. Thus, we cannot argue that something is NOT true because the Bible doesn't say it (i.e. argument from silence).
Quote:

I actually think that I am arguing from what the text actually says about itself (in this case). And I think that I am safe in drawing some theological conclusions re: preservation as providential rather than as miraculous. Regrettably I have neither the energy nor the inclination to rehearse the conclusions here. Others have done that well elsewhere.
And we're arguing about words to no profit. I understand your distinction between providential and miraculous but the line is too fine for most laity. I don't care to debate the semantics because the difference is pretty insignificant in the whole picture. Actually, I agree with you but the issue hangs on more than an imprecise statement.

Thank you, Dr. Straub, for your reasonable response.

vancinad's picture

...because the excerpt provided here seems like little more than an extended troll.

This post, to my eye layman's eye, attempts nothing more than the tarring of all KJV-supporters with the same Ruckmanite brush.

Some light to complement the heat and smoke would be nice.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
This post, to my eye layman's eye, attempts nothing more than the tarring of all KJV-supporters with the same Ruckmanite brush.
Didn't Jeff make pretty clear and obvious distinctions between various versions of the KJV supporters (no pun intended)? He even says that some explicitly rejected Grady who was calling for espousing Ruckman's position. He talks of those who try to make well-reasoned arguments about text critical positions.

So rather than tarring them all with Ruckmanite brush, I think he actually points out that there were some who rejected Ruckman.

Greg Long's picture

vancinad wrote:
...because the excerpt provided here seems like little more than an extended troll.

This post, to my eye layman's eye, attempts nothing more than the tarring of all KJV-supporters with the same Ruckmanite brush.

Some light to complement the heat and smoke would be nice.


Can you respond to his arguments rather than just calling him a troll?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

DavidO's picture

RPittman wrote:
Wrong!
Fine. I withdraw the question and await your answer to Jim's original question.

@Jeff Straub: The Bible contains no promises of preservation?

Mike Harding's picture

The reference in 2 Tim 3:16 is to what the original authors of Scripture wrote. "Graphe" (Scripture) is "theopneustos" (God-breathed). Once you apply "theopneustos" directly to a copy or a translation you lose the concept of inerrancy, since no translation has ever been done perfectly. Copies and translations derive their authority from the original text. This new twist on preservation propagated by the KJVO community actually adds a doctrine to the Bible not taught by the Bible. Thus, they are guilty of adding to the WOG. Jesus cited the LXX many times in the Gospels. I personally checked every OT quote in Hebrews when I translated the book and every reference was to the LXX. The LXX and the Masroretic text differ in many places. Yet the human authors of the NT deemed the LXX approximate enough to quote it authoritatively. Most of the current debate on good tranlsations in English is quite foolhardy.

Pastor Mike Harding

Joe Whalen's picture

Dr. Straub’s article concerns the issue of KJVOnly being a test of orthodoxy. His is a study in recent history, not on the canon, inspiration, or even preservation.

His thesis is simple: KJV Only should not be a test for orthodoxy now for two reasons: 1) it was not a test in the past and; 2) it is not unified now. He demonstrates in recent history that KJVOnly was not a test for orthodoxy in the past -- many leaders of the past endorsed, embraced, and used other English translations while being against the idea of a lone English translation for orthodoxy. He then briefly identifies some of the various stripes of KJVOnly, explaining that they are not unified because they disagree among themselves.

Again, he is arguing that KJVOnly is not a test for orthodoxy based upon the recent past history and current events. This article does not deal with inspiration, canonization, preservation. It deals with a test of orthodoxy that he states is 1) recent and 2) not unified.

To for those who are KJVOnly: Is it a test of orthodoxy? Should it be a test of orthodoxy? If it should be a test, why was it not a test in the recent past? Which version of it is the correct one?

MichaelD's picture

Just a quick question unrelated to the conversation going on here. Does anyone know where I could get/watch a copy of the video response spoken of above: "Fundamentalism and the Word of God"?

RPittman's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
This post, to my eye layman's eye, attempts nothing more than the tarring of all KJV-supporters with the same Ruckmanite brush.
Didn't Jeff make pretty clear and obvious distinctions between various versions of the KJV supporters (no pun intended)? He even says that some explicitly rejected Grady who was calling for espousing Ruckman's position. He talks of those who try to make well-reasoned arguments about text critical positions.

So rather than tarring them all with Ruckmanite brush, I think he actually points out that there were some who rejected Ruckman.

The Ruckmanites are actually a very small, although vocal, minority of people in the KJVO camp. Many that you would probably call KJVO would prefer to call themselves Only King James Version (OKJV?) to distance themselves from the Ruckmanites, et. al. I would like to see the discussion here moved to viewing Fuller, Waite, Hills, Strouse, Brandenburg, et. al. as representative of the position instead of Grady and Ruckman. This is more accurate and fair, IMHO. Otherwise, it does seem to be tarring with too broad of a brush even though a sop is thrown out that some (perhaps a few?) reject Ruckman. Ruckman's following is rather small but he attracts attention way out of proportion to the actual numbers.

RPittman's picture

Joe Whalen wrote:
Dr. Straub’s article concerns the issue of KJVOnly being a test of orthodoxy. His is a study in recent history, not on the canon, inspiration, or even preservation.

His thesis is simple: KJV Only should not be a test for orthodoxy now for two reasons: 1) it was not a test in the past and; 2) it is not unified now. He demonstrates in recent history that KJVOnly was not a test for orthodoxy in the past -- many leaders of the past endorsed, embraced, and used other English translations while being against the idea of a lone English translation for orthodoxy. He then briefly identifies some of the various stripes of KJVOnly, explaining that they are not unified because they disagree among themselves.

Again, he is arguing that KJVOnly is not a test for orthodoxy based upon the recent past history and current events. This article does not deal with inspiration, canonization, preservation. It deals with a test of orthodoxy that he states is 1) recent and 2) not unified.

To for those who are KJVOnly: Is it a test of orthodoxy? Should it be a test of orthodoxy? If it should be a test, why was it not a test in the recent past? Which version of it is the correct one?

Ok, I'll give you your points. Even so, these are insufficient reasons for rejecting the KJVO position. On the other hand, I think there runs a much stronger counter argument from history based on the overwhelming acceptance (almost universal acceptance in the Believing Church) in the English-speaking church, the influence of the KJV on the English language to infuse it with theological content, and the whole paradigm of historic Fundamentalism structure around the KJV.

The 400-year dominance and uniqueness of the KJV argue better from history than the spurious points of recent development and unity. These are explained simply and easily in that various issues rise at different. There are periods of church history when the Trinity or Christology was the debate. During times of intense debate, it is expected that new arguments arise with enlightened understanding and there's no immediate consensus. I'm sure that you can find these trends even you only have a passing knowledge of church history. So, the KJV is a recent point of contention. I would expect the same pattern as with other issues hotly debated in the past. So, where are the two persuasive points?

Furthermore, I am not sure that you have correctly distilled Dr. Straub's two theses. If so, I would like to hear him verify it.

RPittman's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
The reference in 2 Tim 3:16 is to what the original authors of Scripture wrote. "Graphe" (Scripture) is "theopneustos" (God-breathed). Once you apply "theopneustos" directly to a copy or a translation you lose the concept of inerrancy, since no translation has ever been done perfectly. Copies and translations derive their authority from the original text. This new twist on preservation propagated by the KJVO community actually adds a doctrine to the Bible not taught by the Bible. Thus, they are guilty of adding to the WOG. Jesus cited the LXX many times in the Gospels. I personally checked every OT quote in Hebrews when I translated the book and every reference was to the LXX. The LXX and the Masroretic text differ in many places. Yet the human authors of the NT deemed the LXX approximate enough to quote it authoritatively. Most of the current debate on good tranlsations in English is quite foolhardy.
So, is the Scripture (γράμμα) in verse fifteen that is able to make Timothy wise unto salvation something different from the Scripture (γραφή) in verse sixteen that teaches, corrects, rebukes, and equips him for Christian service?

Mike, your argument presupposes a static semantic content that differentiates between the two words. I think not. You're creating an artifact that doesn't exist in the sense and intentional meaning of this passage. After all, context drives semantics. The flow of the argument and sense of the meaning here demands that the two words refer to the same thing, the Scriptures. There is an obvious parallelism here. Paul does not differentiate between the Scriptures that bring one to salvation and those that equip him for service. It is absolutely fanciful and misguided to suppose that Paul is indicating a difference.

RPittman's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
The reference in 2 Tim 3:16 is to what the original authors of Scripture wrote.
Now, wait a minute, Mike. I'm losing something here in the translation. 2 Timothy 3:16 indicates that these Scriptures, which you say refers only to the originals, is profitable to Timothy for correction, rebuke, doctrine, and equipping him for service. Right? Then kindly explain to a poor slow learner how Timothy would have access to them? He obviously did not have the original writings of Moses and the prophets. There seems some disconnect between the theoretical and the practical. And all this is based on an esoteric understanding of Greek semantics? I find your argument to be the accepted standard seminary pabulum but it falls short of being persuasive.

Go figure, Mike. You stated that your own study verified that Hebrews made extensive use of a translation, the LXX.

Mike, I quite frankly don't believe the original autograph theory. Whereas there is no explicit Scriptural support, it is an extra-Biblical idea. Because it is a rational product of man's mind, it is subject to refutation by the same. To say that no copy is inspired can be reasonably refuted, I think. Of course, it cannot be proven because an universal negative cannot be proven. On the other hand, it can be refuted if one exception is shown.

First, what is the quality that makes something inspired? the ink? the paper? the touch of an Apostle's hand? No, it has to do with what it says. If we had photocopies of the original autographs, would they be inspired? Let's suppose we had a perfect (i.e. completely accurate) handwritten copy of Jude. Would it be inspired? It is reasonable to assume that a careful scribe could perfectly copy Philemon, Jude, III John, et. al. without error. I think I could. Could you? In fact, it is more reasonable to assume that someone made a perfect copy of an original somewhere than to assume one was never made. So, if a perfect copy was written, was it also inspired?

Joe Whalen's picture

[quote=RPittman ]Even so, these are insufficient reasons for rejecting the KJVO position. [quote] (emphasis added)

Which KJVO position do you propose as "the" KJVO position? According to Dr. Straub's article, those who claim to be KJVOnly are not agreed on what they mean by "KJVOnly."

The issue Dr. Straub raised is not orthodoxy's "rejecting" KJVO. The issue is: Should KJVO be a litmus test for orthodoxy? Those making KJVOnly a test must demonstrate why it should be a litmus test when, as Dr. Straub as written, it is both 1) new and 2) not unified.

So, why should it be a litmus test of orthodoxy when it was not even 50 years ago and those who claim to be KJVOnly disagree on what they mean?

Mike Harding's picture

Whatever God immediately creates must of necessity be without error factually, theologically, morally, historically, and scientifically. The infinite perfections of God’s very being demand inerrancy and infallibility. God will not lie (1 Sam 15:20), cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18), and did not lie when He “breathed out” or “ex-spired” the sixty-six books of the Bible. The Spirit of truth (1 John 5:6) authored the Scriptures through human instrumentality, protecting the writings of the original authors from all error. Christ said, “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest to me” (John 17:8). The perfect God by the necessary demands of His own being communicates without error. The miracle of inspiration guarantees an inerrant recording of that revelation. To suggest that God can breathe error strikes at the center of the Christian faith. People who deny the inerrancy of the autographs are implicitly denying the Gospel, because they are denying the truthfulness of the only means by which they can know the Gospel. They are sawing off the limb on which they sit.

Erasmus, the Roman Catholic editor and initial compiler of the textual base underlying the KJV, was sharply attacked for some of his comments in his Annotationes. Erasmus was justly criticized because of his heretical view of inspiration. During the time he assembled his Greek text to parallel his Latin translation, he believed that inspiration protected the biblical writers in matters of faith only, and not in matters of history, science, or factual accuracy. In Acts 10, for example, Erasmus states in his notes that the original words of the apostle were in error, reasoning that divine inspiration extended only to their thoughts, and not to their words: “It was not necessary to ascribe everything in the apostles to a miracle. They were men, they were ignorant of some things, and they erred in a few places” (Erika Rummel, “An Open Letter to Boorish Critics: Erasmus’ Capita argumentorum contra morosos quosdam ac indoctos,” Journal of Theological Studies 39 [October 1988 ]: 454).

When Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” he refers directly to what the biblical authors wrote, not necessarily to what someone copied or translated. The Scriptures recognize the vital distinction between what the original writer wrote and subsequent copies or translations made by others (Deut 17:18; Neh 8:8). Several Old Testament passages indicate that the human authors of the autographs were conscious that they themselves were writing God’s words: David said, “The Spirit of Jehovah [Yahweh ] spake by me” (2 Sam 23:2); Isaiah said, “Seek ye out . . . this book of Jehovah [Yahweh ], and read” (Isa 34:16); Jeremiah said, “[God’s ] words . . . even all that is written in this book” (Jer 25:13). In similar fashion, Paul knew that the directly inspired text consisted of “The things which I write unto you . . . [they ] are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37 cf. 2:13; Acts 4:25).

The autographs have primal authority; copies and translations derive their authority from the original text rather than from an additional miraculous act of inspiration. The New Testament testifies to the necessary distinction between the autographs and copies. Jesus preached from accepted copies and translations of the text such as the Septuagint, and He accepted them as authoritative Scripture (Luke 4:16–21). He regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the original manuscripts (which no one possessed) that He appealed to those copies as authoritative (Matt 19:4–7 cf. Gen 2:24).

The criteria for all textual reproduction and examination is exemplified in Exodus 32:15–16. God wrote the first tablets of the Law, which later were destroyed. The second copy of the Law was written according to the first writing (Deut 10:2, 4). There is no promise in God’s Word for a miraculous, immediate, divine working in the copyists or translators. Such a promise would necessitate continuous miracles each time the Bible was copied or translated. Claiming such a promise would be adding a new doctrine to God’s Word. A biblically defined miracle is the direct application of God’s power into the universe. A work of providence, however, is indirect, as opposed to miraculous intervention. God has promised to preserve His Word through secondary causation (Ps 119:152 "Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever."), but not through a miraculous transmission of the text.

The teaching of preservation logically flows from the doctrine of inspiration; that is, it is a necessary corollary of inspiration. The corollary says that there is no real purpose or value in inspiring a document that is not preserved. The original text, including its message, has been preserved in the totality of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts. On the other hand, no particular translation, manuscript, codex, text type, or family of manuscripts can scripturally claim to be the exclusive domain of the providentially preserved text.

Why is it necessary to make a distinction between the copies and originals in this regard? An error in a copy or translation reflects on a scribe, copyist, translator, or printer. An error in the original text, however, reflects on the author. Therefore, God commands His people to carefully preserve His inscripturated words, and He reserves divine judgment for those who intentionally corrupt the text either through addition, subtraction, or misrepresentation (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Prov 30:5–6; Dan 12:4; Rev 22:18–19). The safeguarding, preserving, and transmission of God’s Word is one of the most serious and demanding responsibilities that God has given to His people, and it requires our utmost effort.

Equally contemptible in God’s eyes as adding or subtracting from the original words of Scripture are attempts to corrupt the message of the Scriptures. The religious leaders of Christ’s day set aside the commandments of God in order to keep their traditions (Mark 7:9). In so doing, they invalidated the Word of God (Mark 7:12). The Jewish leaders of Christ’s day held superstitious attitudes toward the text of the OT; yet they intentionally circumvented the message of the text and thereby effectively corrupted the text itself. Disobeying the message or refusing to accept its truth as part of one’s belief system equals “adulterating” the Word of God (2 Cor 4:2; 2 Thess 2:2; 3:14). Many who have held a Bible in hand have hated God in their hearts. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39–40, NASB).

Pastor Mike Harding

RPittman's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
Whatever God immediately creates must of necessity be without error factually, theologically, morally, historically, and scientifically. The infinite perfections of God’s very being demand inerrancy and infallibility. God will not lie (1 Sam 15:20), cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18), and did not lie when He “breathed out” or “ex-spired” the sixty-six books of the Bible. The Spirit of truth (1 John 5:6) authored the Scriptures through human instrumentality, protecting the writings of the original authors from all error. Christ said, “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest to me” (John 17:8). The perfect God by the necessary demands of His own being communicates without error. The miracle of inspiration guarantees an inerrant recording of that revelation. To suggest that God can breathe error strikes at the center of the Christian faith. People who deny the inerrancy of the autographs are implicitly denying the Gospel, because they are denying the truthfulness of the only means by which they can know the Gospel. They are sawing off the limb on which they sit.
I am at loss why you wrote this. We're not talking about anyone denying inspiration or inerrancy. How does this relate to the issue at hand? It almost has the appearance of a smoke-screen.
Quote:

Erasmus, the Roman Catholic editor and initial compiler of the textual base underlying the KJV, was sharply attacked for some of his comments in his Annotationes. Erasmus was justly criticized because of his heretical view of inspiration. During the time he assembled his Greek text to parallel his Latin translation, he believed that inspiration protected the biblical writers in matters of faith only, and not in matters of history, science, or factual accuracy. In Acts 10, for example, Erasmus states in his notes that the original words of the apostle were in error, reasoning that divine inspiration extended only to their thoughts, and not to their words: “It was not necessary to ascribe everything in the apostles to a miracle. They were men, they were ignorant of some things, and they erred in a few places” (Erika Rummel, “An Open Letter to Boorish Critics: Erasmus’ Capita argumentorum contra morosos quosdam ac indoctos,” Journal of Theological Studies 39 [October 1988 ]: 454).
So what? How is this relevant?
Quote:

When Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” he refers directly to what the biblical authors wrote, not necessarily to what someone copied or translated.

Ok, now you're getting somewhere. How do you know?
Quote:
The Scriptures recognize the vital distinction between what the original writer wrote and subsequent copies or translations made by others (Deut 17:18; Neh 8:8).
Wow, that's stretching it by any imagination. There's no "vital distinction" here; it is just an incidental statement of fact. In fact, one could argue the opposite from Nehemiah 8:8.
Quote:
Several Old Testament passages indicate that the human authors of the autographs were conscious that they themselves were writing God’s words: David said, “The Spirit of Jehovah [Yahweh ] spake by me” (2 Sam 23:2); Isaiah said, “Seek ye out . . . this book of Jehovah [Yahweh ], and read” (Isa 34:16); Jeremiah said, “[God’s ] words . . . even all that is written in this book” (Jer 25:13). In similar fashion, Paul knew that the directly inspired text consisted of “The things which I write unto you . . . [they ] are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37 cf. 2:13; Acts 4:25).
Again, there's not disagreement here but we've off course. It doesn't speak to the question at all.
Quote:

The autographs have primal authority; copies and translations derive their authority from the original text rather than from an additional miraculous act of inspiration.

How do you know? Rational inference? There's no Scripture that says this. Furthermore, I've made it clear, Mike, that I am not arguing for "an additional miraculous act of inspiration" beyond the providential preservation of God, which you appear to accept.
Quote:
The New Testament testifies to the necessary distinction between the autographs and copies.
Where?
Quote:
Jesus preached from accepted copies and translations of the text such as the Septuagint, and He accepted them as authoritative Scripture (Luke 4:16–21).
Of course He did but where did Christ make a distinction between the autographs and copies?
Quote:
He regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the original manuscripts (which no one possessed) that He appealed to those copies as authoritative (Matt 19:4–7 cf. Gen 2:24).
How do you know that He did not consider them inspired?

RPittman's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

The criteria for all textual reproduction and examination is exemplified in Exodus 32:15–16. God wrote the first tablets of the Law, which later were destroyed.

Yes, but the majority of the Scriptures are NOT written this way because God chose to inspire men to actually do the writing. So, what's the significance?
Quote:
The second copy of the Law was written according to the first writing (Deut 10:2, 4).
Of course. Would we expect God to write something different. Also, I think you are making too much out of being "written according to the first writing." All this means is that God wrote the same thing, not the He had to piece together the original tables and copy from them. Smile
Quote:
There is no promise in God’s Word for a miraculous, immediate, divine working in the copyists or translators.
Again, you are misusing connotation to put your opponents in a negative light. Let's use your term and call it providential preservation, which you seem to accept.
Quote:
Such a promise would necessitate continuous miracles each time the Bible was copied or translated.
How do you know? Either God preserves His Word or He doesn't. Let's not quibble about how to no profit.
Quote:
Claiming such a promise would be adding a new doctrine to God’s Word. A biblically defined miracle is the direct application of God’s power into the universe.
I have never defined or used it in this way. The Oxford Dictionaries online define miracle as "an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency." It does not differentiate between direct and indirect intervention. (My OED basically agrees with the online version placing the emphasis on its derivation from the concept of wonder.) Also, wikipedia seems to allow some latitude in the definition. This was how I used miraculous. I hardly think you can win the point by redefining and restricting to your personal view.
Quote:
A work of providence, however, is indirect, as opposed to miraculous intervention. God has promised to preserve His Word through secondary causation (Ps 119:152 "Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever."), but not through a miraculous transmission of the text.
Well, you have summed up my assertion. I do believe that God through secondary means of causation has preserved His Word. And it is not necessarily through the intentional efforts of scholarship.
Quote:

The teaching of preservation logically flows from the doctrine of inspiration; that is, it is a necessary corollary of inspiration. The corollary says that there is no real purpose or value in inspiring a document that is not preserved.

Amen! Agreed!
Quote:
The original text, including its message, has been preserved in the totality of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts. On the other hand, no particular translation, manuscript, codex, text type, or family of manuscripts can scripturally claim to be the exclusive domain of the providentially preserved text.
Now, here is the rub? How do you know? This is a rationalization to preserve the rational paradigm. The problem with this view is that there is no one text that one can say, "This is the Word of God." It is, IMHO, more reasonable to believe God has preserved His Word through secondary causation in a line of manuscripts. In the English language, it is the KJV as attested by the testimony of the Believing Church for four hundred years.
Quote:

Why is it necessary to make a distinction between the copies and originals in this regard? An error in a copy or translation reflects on a scribe, copyist, translator, or printer. An error in the original text, however, reflects on the author. Therefore, God commands His people to carefully preserve His inscripturated words, and He reserves divine judgment for those who intentionally corrupt the text either through addition, subtraction, or misrepresentation (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Prov 30:5–6; Dan 12:4; Rev 22:18–19). The safeguarding, preserving, and transmission of God’s Word is one of the most serious and demanding responsibilities that God has given to His people, and it requires our utmost effort.

First of all, you are not talking about Biblical teaching but a rationally derived doctrine. Secondly, although God may use His people, the preservation of His Word depends on Him, not human effort or intellect.
Quote:

Equally contemptible in God’s eyes as adding or subtracting from the original words of Scripture are attempts to corrupt the message of the Scriptures. The religious leaders of Christ’s day set aside the commandments of God in order to keep their traditions (Mark 7:9). In so doing, they invalidated the Word of God (Mark 7:12). The Jewish leaders of Christ’s day held superstitious attitudes toward the text of the OT; yet they intentionally circumvented the message of the text and thereby effectively corrupted the text itself. Disobeying the message or refusing to accept its truth as part of one’s belief system equals “adulterating” the Word of God (2 Cor 4:2; 2 Thess 2:2; 3:14). Many who have held a Bible in hand have hated God in their hearts. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39–40, NASB).

OK? What's your point? No problem.

DavidO's picture

Roland,

Do you believe the God has preserved His Word?

Is yours a Biblical teaching or a rationally derived doctrine?

What is the mechanism of preservation you believe in?

Eagerly awaiting to hear why these questions shouldn't be answered.

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