Westcott & Hort Versus the Textus Receptus: Which is Superior? (Part 3)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Returning to the specific texts, Westcott-Hort vs. the textus receptus: in truth, both texts necessarily fall short of presenting the true original. Obviously, those readings in the textus receptus which are without any Greek manuscript support cannot possibly be original. Additionally, in a number of places, the textus receptus reading is found in a limited number of late manuscripts, with little or no support from ancient translations.

One of these readings is the famous I John 5:7. Such readings as these are also presumptively not original. And if one holds to the “majority rules” theory of textual criticism, i.e., whatever the reading found in a numerical majority of surviving Greek manuscripts is to be accepted as original, then the textus receptus falls short in the 1,838 readings where it does not follow the majority text.

Besides these shortcomings, others also apparently occur in a number of places where a perceived difficulty in the original reading was altered by scribes in the manuscript copying process. Probable examples of this include Mark 1:2 (changing “Isaiah the prophet” to “the prophets,” a change motivated by the fact that the quote which follows in 1:3 is from both Malachi and Isaiah), I Corinthians 6:20 (where the phrase “and in your Spirit which are God’s” seems to have been added after the original “in your body,” which is the subject under consideration in the preceding verses), Luke 2:33 (changing “his father and his mother” into “Joseph and his mother” to ‘safeguard’ the doctrine of the virgin birth), Romans 8:1, end (borrowing from verse 4, in two stages, the phrase “who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit”), Romans 13:9 (the insertion of one of the Ten Commandments to complete the listing), Colossians 1:14 (the borrowing of the phrase “through his blood” from Ephesians 1:7), etc.1

On the other hand, the defects of the Westcott-Hort text are also generally recognized, particularly its excessive reliance on manuscript B (Vaticanus), and to a lesser extent, Aleph (Sinaiticus). Hort declared the combined testimony of these two manuscripts to be all but a guarantee that a reading was original.2 All scholars today recognize this as being an extreme and unwarranted point of view. Manuscript B shows the same kinds of scribal errors found in all manuscripts, a fact to be recognized and such singular readings to be rejected, as in fact they sometimes were rejected by Westcott and Hort (e.g., at Matthew 6:33).

What shall we say then? Which text shall we choose as superior? We shall choose neither the Westcott-Hort text (or its modern kinsmen) nor the textus receptus (or the majority text) as our standard text, our text of last appeal. All these printed texts are compiled or edited texts, formed on the basis of the informed (or not-so-well-informed) opinions of fallible editors. Neither Erasmus nor Westcott and Hort (nor, need we say, any other text editor or group of editors) is omniscient or perfect in reasoning and judgment. Therefore, we refuse to be enslaved to the textual criticism opinions of either Erasmus or Westcott and Hort or for that matter any other scholars, whether Nestle, Aland, Metzger, Burgon, Hodges and Farstad, or anyone else.

Rather, it is better to evaluate all variants in the text of the Greek New Testament on a reading-by-reading basis, that is, in those places where there are divergences in the manuscripts and between printed texts, the evidence for and against each reading should be thoroughly and carefully examined and weighed, and the arguments of the various schools of thought considered, and only then a judgment made. (Years of doing this very thing have led me to conclude that the critical texts are very much closer to the precise original wording of the Greek New Testament than either the textus receptus, or the “majority text,” though with exceptions in readings here and there).

We do, or should do, this very thing in reading commentaries and theology books. We hear the evidence, consider the arguments, weigh the options, and then arrive at what we believe to be the honest truth. Can one be faulted for doing the same regarding the variants in the Greek New Testament? Our aim is to know precisely what the Apostles originally did write—this and nothing more, this and nothing else. And, frankly, just as there are times when we must honestly say, “I simply do not know for certain what this Bible verse or passage means,” there will be (and are) places in the Greek New Testament where the evidence is not clear cut,3 and the arguments of the various schools of thought do not distinctly favor one reading over another.

This means there will at times be a measure of uncertainty in defining precisely the exact wording of the Greek New Testament (just as there is in the interpretation of specific verses and passages), but this does not mean that there is uncertainty in the theology of the New Testament. Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg has well-stated the theological limits of the manuscript variations in the New Testament,

Although the Scriptures were originally penned under the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit, it does not follow, that a continued miracle has been wrought to preserve them from all error in transcribing. On the contrary, we know that manuscripts differ from each other; and where readings are various, but one of them can be correct. A miracle was needed in the original production of the Scriptures; and, accordingly, a miracle was wrought; but the preservation of the inspired word, in as much perfection as was necessary to answer the purpose for which it was given, did not require a miracle, and accordingly it was committed to the providence of God. Yet the providence which has preserved the divine oracles, has been special and remarkable…. The consequence is, that, although the various readings found in the existing manuscripts, are numerous, we are able, in every case, to determine the correct reading, so far as is necessary for the establishment of our faith, or the direction of our practice in every important particular. So little, after all, do the copies differ from each other, that these minute differences, when viewed in contrast with their general agreement, render the fact of that agreement the more impressive, and may be said to serve, practically, rather to increase, than impair our confidence in their general correctness. Their utmost deviations do not change the direction of the line of truth; and if it seems in some points to widen the line a very little, the path that lies between their widest boundaries, is too narrow to permit us to stray.4

To this may be added the testimony of Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, the pre-eminent British authority on New Testament manuscripts at the beginning of the twentieth century. In discussing the differences between the traditional and the Alexandrian text-types, in the light of God’s providential preservation of His word, he writes,

We may indeed believe that He would not allow His Word to be seriously corrupted, or any part of it essential to man’s salvation to be lost or obscured; but the differences between the rival types of text is not one of doctrine. No fundamental point of doctrine rests upon a disputed reading: and the truths of Christianity are as certainly expressed in the text of Westcott and Hort as in that of Stephanus5

Even advocates and defenders of the supremacy of the textus receptus over the Alexandrian text agree in this assessment. One such writer was 19th century American Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert L. Dabney. He wrote,

This received text contains undoubtedly all the essential facts and doctrines intended to be set down by the inspired writers; for if it were corrected with the severest hand, by the light of the most divergent various readings found in any ancient MS. or version, not a single doctrine of Christianity, nor a single cardinal fact would be thereby expunged…. If all the debated readings were surrendered by us, no fact or doctrine of Christianity would thereby be invalidated, and least of all would the doctrine of Christ’s proper divinity be deprived of adequate scriptural support. Hence the interests of orthodoxy are entirely secure from and above the reach of all movements of modern criticism of the text whether made in a correct or incorrect method, and all such discussions in future are to the church of subordinate importance.6

These sober and sensible judgments stand in marked contrast to the almost manic hysteria found in the writings of some detractors of critical texts who write as though those texts were a Pandora’s Box of heresy. In truth, all text families are doctrinally orthodox. A dispassionate evaluation of evidence is very much to be preferred to the emotionally charged tirades that characterize much of the current discussion.

Note on additional resources

I have written and published research studies addressing specific questions regarding the effect of variations between printed Greek New Testaments and the issue of the doctrinal content of the New Testament. I affirm in each of these that in no respect is the doctrinal content of the New Testament altered, whether one follows the textus receptus, Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland or Hodges-Farstad. These include:

  • “Do ‘Critical’ New Testament Greek Texts Subvert the Doctrine of Blood Atonement?” As I See It, 5:8, August 2002
  • “Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth,” As I See It, 7:3, March 2004
  • “Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth Once Again,” As I See It, 7:9, September 2004
  • “I John 5:7: An Outline Study of the Evidence,” As I See It, 13:1, January 2010

Notes

1 Analysis of these and many other variant readings are thoroughly treated in Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971).

2 he New Testament in the Original Greek (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1881), vol. I, p. 557.

3 Even following rigidly the textual theory that “the majority rules” leaves a fair measure of doubt in a number of passages (especially in Revelation) where there is no numerical majority reading, the manuscripts exhibiting three or more variants, with none represented by 50% plus one (or more) of surviving witnesses. See the apparatus of Hodges & Farstad. And fleeing to the position, “I’ll just stick to the textus receptus,” doesn’t settle the matter, since the various t.r. editions differ widely among themselves—the Complutensian text—the first printed Greek New Testament—differing from the first Elzevir edition in 2,777 places, by Scrivener’s count (A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, first edition, p. 293), and in more than 2,300 from Stephanus’ 1550 edition (p. 300); Stephanus’ 1550 edition in turn differs from the Elzevir 1633 edition (these two have long been considered the standard textus receptus editions) in 286 places (p.304).

4 J. L. Dagg, A Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, Va.: Gano, 1982 reprint of 1857 edition), pp. 24, 25.

5 Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: MacMillan and Co., 1901), p.271.

6 Robert L. Dabney, “The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek,” in Discussions by Robert L. Dabney: Theological and Evangelical, vol. I, edited by G. R. Vaughn (Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle, 1982 reprint of 1890 edition), pp. 351, 389. I quote Dabney, not because he is a recognized authority on this subject—indeed, this article, and the other in the same volume, “The Revised Version of the New Testament,” (pp. 391-9) are marred by astonishingly (even for that day) incomplete knowledge of the subject matter, as well as very defective logic and argumentation—but because he is sometimes quoted in the literature as a defender of the traditional text, as indeed he was.

Douglas K. Kutilek Bio


Doug Kutilek is the editor of www.kjvonly.org, which opposes KJVOism. He has been researching and writing in the area of Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a BA in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO), an MA in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College and a ThM in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). His writings have appeared in numerous publications.

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Bert Perry's picture

.....a discussion of probably the central historically testable premiss of the KJVO movement;that other manuscripts were deliberately corrupted.  That is, did anyone back in the apostolic/early church era ever write "so-and-so has been heavily editing the Gospel of John to remove the deity of Christ" and so on?

I've read a few KJVO books (Sorenson, Chick), and have yet to see such an argument.  Ironically, the arguments presented (beyond being ad hominem) are mostly a kindergarten level version of the very textual criticism they claim to disparage. 

Which is a long way of saying, I guess, that sometimes those who understand the manuscript evidence are handling KJVO advocates with kid gloves, much to the harm of people who are led astray by their nonsense arguments.  It's time to ask people flat out Are there any documents dating from the fifth century or before indicating that Origen or any of his followers deliberately altered New Testament manuscripts, or for that matter that they did any copy work at all?

If the answer is no, their argument can only be described as the "textual criticism" they disparage so heartily.  

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig's picture

"...led astray..."  All of the KJV people I know believe in God, creation,  the Godhead, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and sinless life of Christ, his sacrificial death, burial and resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, the blessed hope and the second coming of Christ and many other truths. How are they led astray?

 

Bert Perry's picture

Craig, KJVO people are led astray in a few ways.  First of all, KJVO undermines the first fundamental, the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts.  By arguing more or less that the KJV is a perfect rendition of the originals, you're basically telling 95% of the Christian world that they're not actually reading Scripture in the NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, and the like.  OK, so my Bible says the same thing as the KJV, but mine is evil and yours is good because...the translators used a slightly different text that you have no evidence to prove is flawed?  

They're led astray as well logically and rhetorically.  KJVO advocates have a well-earned bad reputation for personal attacks, guilt by association arguments, hasty generalizations, and other violations of hte rules of logic.  Now consider this; if one argues that Kurt Aland's work is without merit because there are pictures of him smoking (actual argument from David Sorenson, by the way), one might also argue that music with a beat is prohibited because it's associated with nightclubs and the jungle .  Also, ahem, a historic, real argument perpetrated by fundamental "pastors".  So I would argue that a lot of the legalism, rules, and works righteousness that plague too many fundamental churches have their roots in the same denial of the principles of logic that results in KJVO nonsense.

I am tempted to use a stronger word than "nonsense" here.  If I worked as a professor of Logic, I could teach the rules of informal logic from a typical KJVO book--but the students would get sick of the constant ad hominem fallacies.

But let us continue.  If we concede that works righteousness, rules, and legalism are strongly correlated with KJVO churches--and a visit to a few of them reveals that this is pretty much indisputable--then we have the font of illogic that is the source of KJVO leading to an implicit undermining of sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria.  In other words, KJVO can, at the very least in its extreme forms, basically undo the Reformation.

One example of this; KJVO churches are also often Landmark, and those who hold to this position also tend to argue....that Baptists are not Protestants, notwithstanding their origins in the Puritan/Separationist movement of 16th Century England.  Well, with theology like what they've described, I would have to agree.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, I took a look at the table of contents, and what I see appears to indicate that the authors are looking at the differences between the texts--how John 8 is treated, etc..--but there is no indication that the book addresses my central challenge.  Again, if KJVO advocates want to attack the Alexandrian texts as corrupted, they have got to come up with some contemporary (first-fifth century) evidence that not only did Origen and his followers participate in copy work, but used that opportunity to change the texts.

Anything along those lines?  I'm guessing no, which means that what the TR advocates are doing is more or less engaging in the same textual criticism they emphatically reject.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The book focuses on a theological argument from a particular view of the doctrine of preservation...though, if memory serves, much of the content is not relevant as evidence in support of that view. It tends to assume what it needs to prove.

I wrote a series of articles on the book a few years ago. There isn't a series link (yet) but you can pull them up in the search tool with this link:

http://sharperiron.org/search-tool/content?uid=&body_value_op=allwords&b...

I've much appreciated Kutilek's handling of the topic in this short series... mostly for clarity and focus on the facts as opposed to meta-debate (i.e., "debate about the debate").

 

Bert Perry's picture

..... basic principles of translation.  For example, Sorenson uses 2 Corinthians 2:17--we are not like those who corrupt the Word of God--and states that it illustrates the superiority of the TR and KJV in that the NIV uses the word "peddle" instead of "corrupt".  Well, evidently Sorenson didn't use the Greek he should have learned at Central Seminary, because the word used means "peddle", but had the connotation of corrupting things--caveat emptor and all.  Ironically, the NIV is the more literal translation in this case.  

So I would argue that KJVO tends to further de-emphasize the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts because if the KJV is a perfect translation, you don't need to go back to the Greek and Hebrew.  Hence little distinctions like that I just mentioned get lost.

And really, this is part of why I come down hard on advocates of this position; anyone who has ever learned a second language well enough to order dinner in that language knows that there are some things that don't translate well.  For example, esprit in French or Gemuetlichkeit in German do not have easy, one word English translations.  So when someone tells me that the KJV is a "perfect" translation, the only thing I can conclude is that they have never learned a second language well enough to appreciate it, and that includes the beautiful Elizabethan of the KJV and Geneva Bibles.  

Yes, I'm saying that the majority of KJVO pastors do not appear to understand the Bible they claim to be preaching from.  Sorry, I've experienced it a few times.  I love the KJV--I own a 1611 reprint and have read through it at least five times--and I treasure the literal rendition of Hebraisms (e.g. "pisseth against a wall" and such), the spotty distinction between singular and plural you (ye vs. thee), and the rhythm of the text.  

But even with my meager understanding of Hebrew and Greek, I can point out places where it simply isn't a perfect translation, and I can point out examples of how small transcription errors (like the differences in the 32 versions of the TR, the thousands of MT manuscripts, the Alexandrian variants) simply don't matter.  It would be really nice if the KJVO crowd would acknowledge this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

One of the main difficulties in the debate has been the problem of unexamined assumptions. Bert, your example is another case of assuming what needs to be proved, because the underlying reasoning I've seen in the lit. and rhetoric, over and over, is that difference in text is automatically corruption. Then the fact that there is a difference is used as evidence to prove that the text is corrupt. It's corrupt because it's different and it's different because it's corrupt.

There are other arguments as well, fortunately, but these tend to get circular in one way or another as well if you chase down the premises and how they're supported. This is mostly why I've avoided the debate for the last 5 years or so and probably will soon leave it behind again.

Because one side is, so far, ultimately circular (or perhaps it's really just a priori - the conclusion has been decided  beforehand and supporting arguments are retro-fitted) and its advocates avoid facing that, debates tend to descend into self-contradictory claims/tenacious clarity-avoidance, or meta-debate.

Until at least two sides of any question are willing to be crystal clear about they believe on the points in dispute, a fruitful debate is simply not possible.

TylerR's picture

Editor

There are so many variations on the KJVO theme that it becomes difficult to know what kind of KJVO-ism a person holds to. So, Bert, many KJVO folks (especially the more sophisticated and learned ones) don't hold the positions you're describing. What you're describing seems to be more of the Ruckman-Riplinger-Gipp flavor. 

A main take-away from Kutilek's piece for me is that any person - whether they hold to (1) the TR, (2) Majority Text, (3) Eclectic, or (4) Critical text - is relying on the work of textual criticism in some form or fashion. 

There is also the issue of the English language gap. I'm only just now finishing my first year of Greek, which means I know just enough to be dangerous and say stupid things. However, even I can see there is a problem with the KJV translation of Eph 5:8, which reads "for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."

  • Unbelievers were only sometimes children of Satan? Did they switch back and forth!?
  • The Greek, however (in both Scrivener's 1881 and the SBL's Greek NT), literally says, "for you were once darkness;" (ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος)
  • There seems to be something wrong with the KJV rendering, perhaps due to a change in the English language I don't understand. Or, I could just be saying something stupid, in which case I'll wait several years before ever saying anything about Greek on SI ever again . . . 

The point is two-fold (1) everybody relies on the work of textual criticism, no matter what text they prefer, and (2) there are some issues with the KJV translation. I say this as a guy who reads and preaches from the KJV every week.  

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?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

That's true. For sake of brevity, I spoke of "one side" of the debate... but that particular side is the one that maintains two things (and even this does lump some folks together who might not want to be together!):

  1. The KJV is the only real Bible
  2. Item 1 is the biblical position (and other views are unbiblical)

We're into meta-debate here but sometimes some framing does help. 

Compare and contrast how Paul Henebury has been handling the doctrine of the rapture. His posture is that belief in pre-trib rapture is the best explanation of the biblical info. So you could characterize his position fairly as "pre-trib rapture preferred" in the sense that he sees this teaching as more certain than the alternatives, though still less than completely certain.

He would not characterize those who disagree as taking an unbiblical position.

Similarly, you have KJV-preferred attitudes that see use of KJV exclusively (or nearly exclusively) as the best position from the biblical data and other data. But they do not claim their view is "THE biblical view" or characterize those who disagree as taking an "unbiblical" (much less, unchristian) position.

To me, there is a fairly major fork there between KJVO and KJVP, and the fork continues in how they engage in supporting their view and interacting with others.

Still, even among some KJVP, you have some circular reasoning, lack of self-consistent premises, etc... and a remarkable amount of dodging when you try to get them clear on particulars. (So in the category of "impossible to have fruitful debate with" you have all of KJVO and some of KJVP)

TylerR's picture

Editor

James White's classic taxonomy of the KJV position may be useful to frame the entire issue for some folks. It progresses in intensity from 1-5:

  1. I like the KJV best
  2. I like the KJV because the texts used in the KJV are better
  3. TR is inspired or providentially preserved
  4. KJV, as an English translation, is inspired and inerrant
  5. The KJV is new revelation from God (e..g the Greek and Hebrew loses when compared to the English KJV)

From James White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009), 23-28. 

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?

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, to use your taxonomy, I'd say #1 and #2 are really KJVP (#2 could become KJVO or "radical KJVP" I guess), #3 is the central position I'm arguing against, and the "second inspiration" you discuss in #4 and #5 is Ruckman's position.

Now Ruckman's position really deserves little but mockery--by what signs and wonders is this miracle in 1611 attested?, and the like.  However, the stronger form of #2 and #3 is what I'm getting at.  That is, to adopt the KJV and exclude other translations, you need to:

1.  Argue for a second inspiration (again, #4 and #5).

2.  Have such a strong personal bias that KJVP becomes KJVO in practice ("radical KJVP").

3.  Argue that the manuscripts and translation strategy for other translations are deficient.

And in my experience, #3 is the core of KJVO.  Most KJVO people will simultaneously tell you that (a) Ruckman is a nut and (b) so were Origen, Westcott, Hort, Nestle, and Aland.  About 95% of the time, they also have the long rules lists I was mentioning, which in turn tends to a de facto downplaying of the Reformation Solas and the first Fundamental.

So in these cases, it's important to ask them what actual, contemporary evidence they have that someone deliberately corrupted all those other Bible manuscripts.  It redirects or ends the conversation really quickly, and might wake people up that what they're preaching is really slander.

Which is, FWIW, another thing where KJVO adherents (again, hard #2 to #3-5) are led astray.  What exactly does casual slander say to people about Christ?  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

A long while back, Dan Wallace was on the John Ankerberg Show discussing the KJV issue with a number of other men. He mentioned then that people really desire absolute certainty, when they ought to be content with confidence. Now, Wallace is certainly far to my left on many issues (he recently blogged that he was considering joining a conservative Anglican church!), but what he said seems worth some discussion. 

Consider Kutilek's point here:

Rather, it is better to evaluate all variants in the text of the Greek New Testament on a reading-by-reading basis, that is, in those places where there are divergences in the manuscripts and between printed texts, the evidence for and against each reading should be thoroughly and carefully examined and weighed, and the arguments of the various schools of thought considered, and only then a judgment made

This sounds pretty commonsense to me. However, I realize that many KJV guys would vehemently disagree. If God has preserved his word, then where is it? The idea that God would providentially preserve His word in the totality of extant manuscripts is unacceptable to them. This method gives us no settled, definitive standard. It's not the kind of preservation that seems worth much of anything. 

However, just from my own limited work with the Greek text, it seems as if everybody has to wrestle with these issues. I preached from Eph 5:8-12 this past Sunday. Eph 5:9 reads thus; "(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)." Depending on what Greek text you look at, there is a difference:

  • Scrivener's 1881 TR: = ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ Πνεύματος . . .
  • SBL Greek NT = ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς . . .

​Did Paul say "the fruit of the Spirit is . . ." or "the fruit of the light is . . . ?" The Pastor who preaches this text must decide. Even Calvin doubted the reading which kept "Spirit," because he didn't believe it fit the context of Eph 5:8. 

My point isn't to delve into the minutiae of Eph 5:9, but to point out that every Pastor who looks at the Greek faces these issues. Do I really just throw the SBL Greek NT away and keep Scrivener? Kutilek's remark, above, seems pretty reasonable to me. 

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?

Larry Nelson's picture

 

TylerR wrote:

This sounds pretty commonsense to me. However, I realize that many KJV guys would vehemently disagree. If God has preserved his word, then where is it? The idea that God would providentially preserve His word in the totality of extant manuscripts is unacceptable to them. This method gives us no settled, definitive standard. It's not the kind of preservation that seems worth much of anything.

 

Here is Henry Morris' answer:

"But did not God say that He would preserve all His pure words, and do so forever? If so, many would ask, where is it? Where can we read these perfectly preserved words?

Well, God has clearly answered this good question! "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). This great affirmation is surely one of the key verses of the Bible—right at the middle of its longest chapter, that amazing psalm of 176 verses, with its 176 affirmations extolling the Holy Scriptures.

God is undoubtedly keeping all His pure words intact in heaven. Just possibly the original manuscripts—long vanished from the earth—are being kept in the Ark of God's Covenant, like the original tables of the law were kept while the Ark was in the wilderness tabernacle (Hebrews 9:4).

That Ark, incidentally also has—like the autographs—seemingly vanished from the earth. When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomon's Temple, he carried all its treasures away to Babylon, (II Chronicles 36:18), but these evidently did not include its most valuable treasure, the Ark of the Covenant.

I believe that the Ark of God's Covenant (like Elijah) was taken by angels directly to heaven for safekeeping, wherein perhaps the divine originals—if not the earthly transcriptions—could be kept "for ever settled in heaven." When one is a "naïve literalist" like myself, he cannot help but note that John actually saw in the heavenly temple "the ark of His testament" (Revelation 11:19), so perhaps it is really there.

In any case, God's Word is there in heaven preserved in its entirety somewhere. Even though textual scholars may not yet have been able to reproduce all the original autographs word perfect, they have been able to come very close by analyzing the thousands of hand copies left by the copyists here on Earth. Conservative scholars have made a strong case that the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Greek Textus Receptus (or something very similar) are so close to the originals that we can use any literal translation based on them (such as the King James) with confidence that it is essentially the actual written Word of God, while yet allowing the possibility here and there of occasional copyist errors or inadequate translations—which can often be resolved and corrected by further study."

http://www.icr.org/article/preserving-words-god/

 

Craig's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

..... basic principles of translation.  For example, Sorenson uses 2 Corinthians 2:17--we are not like those who corrupt the Word of God--and states that it illustrates the superiority of the TR and KJV in that the NIV uses the word "peddle" instead of "corrupt".  Well, evidently Sorenson didn't use the Greek he should have learned at Central Seminary, because the word used means "peddle", but had the connotation of corrupting things--caveat emptor and all.  Ironically, the NIV is the more literal translation in this case.  

So I would argue that KJVO tends to further de-emphasize the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts because if the KJV is a perfect translation, you don't need to go back to the Greek and Hebrew.  Hence little distinctions like that I just mentioned get lost.

And really, this is part of why I come down hard on advocates of this position; anyone who has ever learned a second language well enough to order dinner in that language knows that there are some things that don't translate well.  For example, esprit in French or Gemuetlichkeit in German do not have easy, one word English translations.  So when someone tells me that the KJV is a "perfect" translation, the only thing I can conclude is that they have never learned a second language well enough to appreciate it, and that includes the beautiful Elizabethan of the KJV and Geneva Bibles.  

Yes, I'm saying that the majority of KJVO pastors do not appear to understand the Bible they claim to be preaching from.  Sorry, I've experienced it a few times.  I love the KJV--I own a 1611 reprint and have read through it at least five times--and I treasure the literal rendition of Hebraisms (e.g. "pisseth against a wall" and such), the spotty distinction between singular and plural you (ye vs. thee), and the rhythm of the text.  

But even with my meager understanding of Hebrew and Greek, I can point out places where it simply isn't a perfect translation, and I can point out examples of how small transcription errors (like the differences in the 32 versions of the TR, the thousands of MT manuscripts, the Alexandrian variants) simply don't matter.  It would be really nice if the KJVO crowd would acknowledge this.

Did you really mean to say "the majority of KJVO pastors do not appear to understand the Bible they claim to be preaching from" or "the majority of KJVO pastors that you've heard do not appear to understand the Bible they claim to be preaching from"? How do you know you've heard the majority of pastors who use the KJV?

Craig's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

..... basic principles of translation.  For example, Sorenson uses 2 Corinthians 2:17--we are not like those who corrupt the Word of God--and states that it illustrates the superiority of the TR and KJV in that the NIV uses the word "peddle" instead of "corrupt".  Well, evidently Sorenson didn't use the Greek he should have learned at Central Seminary, because the word used means "peddle", but had the connotation of corrupting things--caveat emptor and all.  Ironically, the NIV is the more literal translation in this case.  

So I would argue that KJVO tends to further de-emphasize the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts because if the KJV is a perfect translation, you don't need to go back to the Greek and Hebrew.  Hence little distinctions like that I just mentioned get lost.

And really, this is part of why I come down hard on advocates of this position; anyone who has ever learned a second language well enough to order dinner in that language knows that there are some things that don't translate well.  For example, esprit in French or Gemuetlichkeit in German do not have easy, one word English translations.  So when someone tells me that the KJV is a "perfect" translation, the only thing I can conclude is that they have never learned a second language well enough to appreciate it, and that includes the beautiful Elizabethan of the KJV and Geneva Bibles.  

Yes, I'm saying that the majority of KJVO pastors do not appear to understand the Bible they claim to be preaching from.  Sorry, I've experienced it a few times.  I love the KJV--I own a 1611 reprint and have read through it at least five times--and I treasure the literal rendition of Hebraisms (e.g. "pisseth against a wall" and such), the spotty distinction between singular and plural you (ye vs. thee), and the rhythm of the text.  

But even with my meager understanding of Hebrew and Greek, I can point out places where it simply isn't a perfect translation, and I can point out examples of how small transcription errors (like the differences in the 32 versions of the TR, the thousands of MT manuscripts, the Alexandrian variants) simply don't matter.  It would be really nice if the KJVO crowd would acknowledge this.

Are you sure the KJV is Elizabethan english?

Craig's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Craig, KJVO people are led astray in a few ways.  First of all, KJVO undermines the first fundamental, the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts.  By arguing more or less that the KJV is a perfect rendition of the originals, you're basically telling 95% of the Christian world that they're not actually reading Scripture in the NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, and the like.  OK, so my Bible says the same thing as the KJV, but mine is evil and yours is good because...the translators used a slightly different text that you have no evidence to prove is flawed?  

They're led astray as well logically and rhetorically.  KJVO advocates have a well-earned bad reputation for personal attacks, guilt by association arguments, hasty generalizations, and other violations of hte rules of logic.  Now consider this; if one argues that Kurt Aland's work is without merit because there are pictures of him smoking (actual argument from David Sorenson, by the way), one might also argue that music with a beat is prohibited because it's associated with nightclubs and the jungle .  Also, ahem, a historic, real argument perpetrated by fundamental "pastors".  So I would argue that a lot of the legalism, rules, and works righteousness that plague too many fundamental churches have their roots in the same denial of the principles of logic that results in KJVO nonsense.

I am tempted to use a stronger word than "nonsense" here.  If I worked as a professor of Logic, I could teach the rules of informal logic from a typical KJVO book--but the students would get sick of the constant ad hominem fallacies.

But let us continue.  If we concede that works righteousness, rules, and legalism are strongly correlated with KJVO churches--and a visit to a few of them reveals that this is pretty much indisputable--then we have the font of illogic that is the source of KJVO leading to an implicit undermining of sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria.  In other words, KJVO can, at the very least in its extreme forms, basically undo the Reformation.

One example of this; KJVO churches are also often Landmark, and those who hold to this position also tend to argue....that Baptists are not Protestants, notwithstanding their origins in the Puritan/Separationist movement of 16th Century England.  Well, with theology like what they've described, I would have to agree. 

Doesn't 2 Timothy 3:16 tell us the inspired scripture is  "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works"?

Craig's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Craig, KJVO people are led astray in a few ways.  First of all, KJVO undermines the first fundamental, the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts.  By arguing more or less that the KJV is a perfect rendition of the originals, you're basically telling 95% of the Christian world that they're not actually reading Scripture in the NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, and the like.  OK, so my Bible says the same thing as the KJV, but mine is evil and yours is good because...the translators used a slightly different text that you have no evidence to prove is flawed?  

They're led astray as well logically and rhetorically.  KJVO advocates have a well-earned bad reputation for personal attacks, guilt by association arguments, hasty generalizations, and other violations of hte rules of logic.  Now consider this; if one argues that Kurt Aland's work is without merit because there are pictures of him smoking (actual argument from David Sorenson, by the way), one might also argue that music with a beat is prohibited because it's associated with nightclubs and the jungle .  Also, ahem, a historic, real argument perpetrated by fundamental "pastors".  So I would argue that a lot of the legalism, rules, and works righteousness that plague too many fundamental churches have their roots in the same denial of the principles of logic that results in KJVO nonsense.

I am tempted to use a stronger word than "nonsense" here.  If I worked as a professor of Logic, I could teach the rules of informal logic from a typical KJVO book--but the students would get sick of the constant ad hominem fallacies.

But let us continue.  If we concede that works righteousness, rules, and legalism are strongly correlated with KJVO churches--and a visit to a few of them reveals that this is pretty much indisputable--then we have the font of illogic that is the source of KJVO leading to an implicit undermining of sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria.  In other words, KJVO can, at the very least in its extreme forms, basically undo the Reformation.

One example of this; KJVO churches are also often Landmark, and those who hold to this position also tend to argue....that Baptists are not Protestants, notwithstanding their origins in the Puritan/Separationist movement of 16th Century England.  Well, with theology like what they've described, I would have to agree.

I would say more KJV churches are not Landmark than are. Most KJV churches do not require the members to use the KJV unless you are in a preaching or teaching position. At what point in church history has it ever been detrimental to the gospel to use the KJV? What doctrines of the person of God, the Lord Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, creationism, the second coming ... etc have been corrupted by a person who uses the KJV. You talk about "the inerrancy of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts" like you have access to them right now when only a very few in church history has in fact ever seen them.

Bert Perry's picture

Craig, first things first; one could quibble over whether the AV is Elizabethan, older than Elizabethan, or Jacobian, but the point of the matter is that it's a language over four centuries old and thus is not the modern American vernacular.  As anyone who has ever struggled through Shakespeare would tell you, it's a different dialect.  Many say that it was archaic language even in 1611, a conclusion supported by reference to the Bard.

Regarding 2 Tim. 3:16, yes, the inspired Scripture--that is, the autographs or original copies in Greek and Hebrew--does tell us this.  But your quote tells us nothing about the AV.

Now to the fun question; of course I haven't heard every KJVO preacher out there.  That's not the point. However, I am very proficient in German and have learned a bit of Latin and Hebrew, and one thing I have learned is that anyone who talks about a "perfect" translation is full of prunes--languages simply do not consistently match up word for word, and the proper translation for Chaucer's English will differ from that for James' and for ours.  For that matter, there are UK and U.S. versions of modern English translations for this very reason.

Given that the modern pastor in the U.S. speaks a regional dialect of North American English, and James' English is quite different from that of today, then we have to conclude that the pastor who believes KJVO doctrine also does not understand his own Bible.  It's an ugly fact, but a fact nonetheless.  That's why many KJVO advocates include a glossary of terms to help, and it's also why the "1611" most people read is actually a 1769.  With interchangeable i and j, u and v, and widely varying spellings of many words, most KJVO pastors would have serious trouble reading my 1611.

And what's the harm of this?   Beyond what I mentioned above--legalism and works righteousness, downgrade of authority of Scripture, Landmarkism and the like--you've got a pastor reading a book he doesn't understand to a congregation that doesn't understand what he's saying a fair amount of the time.  It is, more or less, the same basic thing that the Catholics did when they insisted on using only a Latin Bible long after most people stopped speaking the language.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Craig, unless I seriously missed something here I don't believe Bert or anyone else is saying that a person using the KJV is undermining the gospel. Can you show us where anyone has said that? They are saying that KJVOism is error. Those two things are worlds apart.

Bert Perry's picture

Let it be abundantly clear; I am not against using the AV at all, as I do so most days personally.  I am nearly KJVP.....well, except for my love of the 1599 Geneva, Luther's translation, Biblia Hebraica, and other renditions of God's Word.

What I am against completely is the idea that the AV ought to be used exclusively for pseudo-textual reasons--Tyler's taxonomies 3-5.  To adopt these positions pretty much requires a wholesale abandonment of logic and honest Bibliology, and will have corollary effects that are really, really nasty.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert, that pretty much describes my position as well.  My church uses ESV, and I read along in the pew on my iPhone KJV.  I love the translation personally, even though I realize it's hard for younger and newer Christians to understand.

Dave Barnhart

Ron Bean's picture

I thought the OP was about the TR and W & H views of what constituted the original manuscripts. How did this come to a discussion of translations? Not all KJVO people hold to the TR view.

Personally, I believe both the TR and W & H theories have their problems.

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

Bert Perry's picture

Ron, in response to your question, exactly who do you think the original author is referring to with this quote?

These sober and sensible judgments stand in marked contrast to the almost manic hysteria found in the writings of some detractors of critical texts who write as though those texts were a Pandora’s Box of heresy. In truth, all text families are doctrinally orthodox. A dispassionate evaluation of evidence is very much to be preferred to the emotionally charged tirades that characterize much of the current discussion.

The only people I'm aware of who make a big deal of flaws in the eclectic/Alexandrian texts are Tyler's groups #3-5.  Agreed that theories backing TR, W&H, N-A, and more have their strengths and weaknesses, of course.  It's just that in the context of Brother Kutilek's article here--and his own involvement in kjvonly.org--the obvious target is Tyler's taxonomies 3-5, especially #3.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig's picture

josh p wrote:

Craig, unless I seriously missed something here I don't believe Bert or anyone else is saying that a person using the KJV is undermining the gospel. Can you show us where anyone has said that? They are saying that KJVOism is error. Those two things are worlds apart.

In two previous posts it was said KJVOists were said to be leading people astray. How can a person be led astray by using the KJV or even adopting the KJVO position? Wasn't it the main Bible used by churches in the 1700s,1800s and early 1900s?

Craig's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

I thought the OP was about the TR and W & H views of what constituted the original manuscripts. How did this come to a discussion of translations? Not all KJVO people hold to the TR view.

Personally, I believe both the TR and W & H theories have their problems.

People don't read and study Hebrew and Greek texts nor should they have to. They read and study Bible translations. I understand the importance of the study of Greek texts, manuscript evidence and such, but ultimately people have to be able to hold a book in their hands in their language and believe it is the word of God or else how can it be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works?

Bert Perry's picture

Craig wrote:

josh p wrote:

Craig, unless I seriously missed something here I don't believe Bert or anyone else is saying that a person using the KJV is undermining the gospel. Can you show us where anyone has said that? They are saying that KJVOism is error. Those two things are worlds apart.

 

In two previous posts it was said KJVOists were said to be leading people astray. How can a person be led astray by using the KJV or even adopting the KJVO position? Wasn't it the main Bible used by churches in the 1700s,1800s and early 1900s?

Craig, you're confusing use of the AV, which I endorse, with excluding other translations, which I emphatically reject.  And the reason I reject the latter is because the logical process necessary to exclude other translations contains so many basic logical fallacies that a typical KJVO document could be used as an example of what not to do in an informal logic class.  And if your pastor is enthusiastically using those basic logical fallacies in his selection of the church's official Bible, he's going to use them in all phases of his ministry.  Most hyper-fundamentalist rules considering clothing and music, for example, are the same guilt by association used by type 3 KJVO activists against the Alexandrian manuscripts.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

I understand the importance of the study of Greek texts, manuscript evidence and such, but ultimately people have to be able to hold a book in their hands in their language and believe it is the word of God or else how can it be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works?

My post here addresses my own concerns with your point. It explains why I don't believe we ought to be tied to a particular English translation. What would you say to this? I understand where you're coming from!  

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?

Craig's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Craig, first things first; one could quibble over whether the AV is Elizabethan, older than Elizabethan, or Jacobian, but the point of the matter is that it's a language over four centuries old and thus is not the modern American vernacular.  As anyone who has ever struggled through Shakespeare would tell you, it's a different dialect.  Many say that it was archaic language even in 1611, a conclusion supported by reference to the Bard.

Regarding 2 Tim. 3:16, yes, the inspired Scripture--that is, the autographs or original copies in Greek and Hebrew--does tell us this.  But your quote tells us nothing about the AV.

Now to the fun question; of course I haven't heard every KJVO preacher out there.  That's not the point. However, I am very proficient in German and have learned a bit of Latin and Hebrew, and one thing I have learned is that anyone who talks about a "perfect" translation is full of prunes--languages simply do not consistently match up word for word, and the proper translation for Chaucer's English will differ from that for James' and for ours.  For that matter, there are UK and U.S. versions of modern English translations for this very reason.

Given that the modern pastor in the U.S. speaks a regional dialect of North American English, and James' English is quite different from that of today, then we have to conclude that the pastor who believes KJVO doctrine also does not understand his own Bible.  It's an ugly fact, but a fact nonetheless.  That's why many KJVO advocates include a glossary of terms to help, and it's also why the "1611" most people read is actually a 1769.  With interchangeable i and j, u and v, and widely varying spellings of many words, most KJVO pastors would have serious trouble reading my 1611.

And what's the harm of this?   Beyond what I mentioned above--legalism and works righteousness, downgrade of authority of Scripture, Landmarkism and the like--you've got a pastor reading a book he doesn't understand to a congregation that doesn't understand what he's saying a fair amount of the time.  It is, more or less, the same basic thing that the Catholics did when they insisted on using only a Latin Bible long after most people stopped speaking the language.

All I'm saying is 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us all scripture is given by inspiration of God and that this inspired scripture is profitable to me right now. How can the inspired scripture be profitable if it is not availabe to me right now. In the previous verse Timothy is said to have known the holy scriptures. Was he or a scribe or priest reading the original writings?

Okay you've added another layer to this discussion. Typically you hear that only the originals are inspired, but you classify both the autographs and original copies as inspired?

The "language problem" of the KJV is a smokescreen. The real issue is how can one version leave out words, phrases, and whole verses that's in another version.

The reason I bring up the issue about whether you've heard the majority of KJV preachers is that there are many who are KJVO who never enter the Bible version debate arena. You don't hear much about these men as they go about preaching and teaching in their duties as pastors and preachers. To imply that most of these men don't understand the Bible they are preaching is quite a statement.

KJVOism would you lead you the opposite direction from Catholicism. The Catholic church teaches that the church member can't even understand scripture. They need "the church" to interpret if for them Most didn't even have a Bible. The KJVOist says each person can have a Bible in their hands and read and study if for themselves. I think today like the Catholic church too many believers depend on theologians to interpret scripture for them since they "know the Greek and Hebrew".

josh p's picture

Craig wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

Craig, unless I seriously missed something here I don't believe Bert or anyone else is saying that a person using the KJV is undermining the gospel. Can you show us where anyone has said that? They are saying that KJVOism is error. Those two things are worlds apart.

 

In two previous posts it was said KJVOists were said to be leading people astray. How can a person be led astray by using the KJV or even adopting the KJVO position? Wasn't it the main Bible used by churches in the 1700s,1800s and early 1900s?

There is a difference of enormous magnitude between using the KJV and being KJVONLY. You seem to acknowledge some difference now. Glad to see it.

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