Recently I was asked what I thought of DA Carson’s The King James Version Debate in a comment on my blog. I have not read it, so I thought I would purchase a copy and do a chapter by chapter review like I did for Mark Ward’s Authorized. The reason I initially did not read this small book was largely due to the fact that it was written in 1978 and in many ways cannot represent the current thought of New Testament Textual Criticism. Despite this reality, this book is still used as a resource and many people’s understanding of the conversation is comprised of the material in this book. For that reason, this series should serve not only as an analysis, but also demonstrate to my reader the ways that trends in New Testament Textual Criticism have changed in 40 years. All quotations in this series will be taken from the Kindle edition. In this introductory article I will be giving an overview of the occasion, audience, goal, and organization of The King James Version Debate.
Occasion for Writing This Volume
Carson begins his work by explaining the occasion for his writing it.
“This little book is not the sort of thing I like to write. Yet for a variety of reasons I have been called upon again and again to say something about English versions of the Bible; and it has therefore been impressed on me repeatedly that a short volume on the subject, written at an easy level, was sorely needed.”Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 7). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The purpose of this volume is to address growing concerns over modern Bible versions, specifically in the context of the “sizable and vocal body of opinion that defends the King James Version (KJV) as the best English version now extant” (9).
Scope and Audience of This Volume
According to Carson, this book is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise on textual criticism, but rather an accessible look at the discussion at large.
“The present slender volume is not an exhaustive treatise. It is not even a rapid survey of modern English translations of the Bible. That sort of book has already been written. Rather, these pages are given over to an easy introduction to two things: biblical textual criticism, that branch of biblical study which examines and correlates the manuscripts from which our English Bibles are translated; and some of the principles upon which translations are made. Moreover, with the possible exception of the appendix, this book aims at being minimally technical.”Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 10). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This volume should be treated as an entry point into the discussion aimed at Christians who perhaps haven’t had any exposure to textual criticism or the Bible version discussion.
Stated Goal of This Work
After identifying his intended audience, Carson goes on to state his goal for writing The King James Version Debate.
“It is designed for students, pastors, and laymen who have no personal knowledge of the primary literature, but who find themselves influenced by the writings of the Trinitarian Bible Society and parallel groups, and do not know where to turn to find a popular rebuttal.”Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 10). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
So then we can take this book to be an a) entry level look at textual criticism and translation methodology b) aimed at students, pastors, and laymen who haven’t studied textual criticism c) with the goal of providing a popular rebuttal to groups such as the Trinitarian Bible Society.
Organization of This Work
Carson organizes this work into two parts made up of 9 chapters which I will list below.
- The Early Circulation of the New Testament
- Kinds of Errors in the New Testament Manuscripts
- Some Criteria for Making Textual Choices
- Origins of the Textus Receptus
- Modern Defense of the Byzantine Text-Type
- Fourteen Theses
8. Preliminary Considerations
9. Some Thoughts on Translating Scripture
I have not provided any analysis of Carson’s book in this introductory article because I will be doing a chapter-by-chapter review in the upcoming days. Initially, I can say that much of what Carson says in this work is dated and likely should not be used today. That being said, his approach is far more respectable than that of James White and Mark Ward and I look forward to handling Carson’s work in the same manner that he handles the subject. DA Carson is a well respected scholar within conservative Evangelicalism, which means there are many out there who still understand the topic in the same way as he did at the time of writing this book. Overall, it may not be worth the time to do such an in depth review of a book that is over 40 years old, but it is still sold in Church book stores, so I’m sure somebody will benefit from it.