Review: The King James Version Discussion – Chapter 7

Introduction

Chapter 7, entitled “Fourteen Theses,” makes up over 25% of the page count in this work, so I will try my best to handle each thesis in as little words as possible. As I commented in a previous article, this chapter would have likely been sufficient as the sum of the whole book to accomplish Carson’s objective. He begins the chapter by stating that he is not going to argue that defenders of the TR are “knaves or fools,” yet all throughout chapter 7 he uses language that is essentially synonymous. He harshly critiques defenders of the Byzantine tradition such as Zane Hodges and Edward F. Hills, and John Burgon, despite all three being a far more careful, studied, and respected scholars than himself, especially on this topic. Keep in mind that Carson is not a text-critic so his hostile analysis of these scholars is rather peculiar, considering he accuses people of blindly following and repeating their claims – which is the exact thing he seems to be doing throughout this work, only with Metzger. In order to keep this article at a manageable length, I will respond with very simple counter-arguments.

Thesis 1: There is no unambiguous evidence that the Byzantine text-type was known before the middle of the fourth century

I’ll just quote Carson in response:

I do not deny that readings found in the Byzantine text-type are found in the ante-Nicene period;

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 44). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He of course follows this statement with a “but,” but that is irrelevant if the claim is that “The Byzantine text-type didn’t exist.” You can’t say, “The Byzantine text didn’t exist, except where it did exist, I just don’t count that.” He further buries himself when he says,

It has not been proved conclusively that the Byzantine text-type did not exist before the fourth century.

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 44). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In his first thesis, Carson has seemingly undone the whole foundation of his argument.

Thesis 2: The argument that defends the Byzantine tradition by appealing to the fact that most extant manuscripts of the Greek New Testament attest to this Byzantine text-type, is logically fallacious and historically naïve

Here Carson demonstrates that he does not understand what the term “logically fallacious” means. The fallaciousness of a statement is determined by the coherence of an argument from premise to conclusion, not by whether or not you have a counter premise. Something can be logically coherent and still false. He could have just offered his counter argument rather than insulting Zane Hodges’ ability to think, but I suspect that Carson knows his argument is not that strong without poisoning the well first. Carson’s actual argument is as follows,

“It is quite possible to conceive that the best manuscripts of the New Testament were removed to some relatively quiet corner of the Mediterranean world while inferior manuscripts dominated in publishing centers.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 48). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So Carson’s response to what he calls “logically fallacious” and “historically naïve” is that God stashed the Bible away for over a thousand years in the Mediterranean rather than preserving it in the transmitted copies of the New Testament. In the rest of the chapter, Carson goes on to argue that “it is not asking to much” to reject that historical tradition of the church based on “the type of text found in B and Aleph” (50), engaging in what appears to be special pleading on behalf of two manuscripts over the majority tradition.

Thesis 3: The Byzantine text-type is demonstrably a secondary text

Carson bases the premise of his next thesis upon conjecture of what scribes may have done. Here is one example:

“One might argue that particularly heterodox scribes might well make a text more complicated.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 52). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He then makes the argument that the Byzantine text is “given to harmonization” (52). I’ve always found this argument rather strange, as it requires the belief that the original New Testament was lacking harmony and “abrupt.” Ultimately, the Scriptures being “given to harmonization” is not an argument against originality unless you are supposing the original text was not harmonious.

Thesis 4: The Alexandrian text-type has better credentials than any other text-type now available

Carson here uses a double standard to support his fourth thesis. In thesis 1, he argues that ante-nicene father quotations and versional evidence are not enough to defend the existence of the text type, yet here he uses it as a primary example of a credential for the Alexandrian text.

“Not only is the Alexandrian text-type found in some biblical quotations by ante-Nicene fathers, but the text-type is also attested by some of the early version witnesses.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 53). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“I do not deny that readings found in the Byzantine text-type are found in the ante-Nicene period; but almost all of these readings are also found in other text-types (mostly Western).”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 44). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One would think that Carson’s own analysis would support an earlier Byzantine text, seeing as it is shared among multiple traditions, as if other traditions adapted the Byzantine text, but he arrives at the opposite conclusion. According to Carson, since there isn’t a complete record of the Byzantine text, the individual witnesses must be discarded. The important point to note here is not my own theory, it is the fact that Carson uses the same standard to reject the Byzantine text as he does to support the “better credentials” of the Alexandrian text. As a side note, I would expect the use of the word “credentials” to mean that we know who created Aleph and B and who used them, which we do not know.

Thesis 5: The argument to the effect that what the majority of believers in the history of the church have believed is true, is ambiguous at best and theologically dangerous at worst; and as applied to textual criticism, the argument proves nothing very helpful anyway

Here Carson argues that because Christians are fallible, the texts they produced also can be fallible, and therefore the argument is moot. I would argue that Carson has misunderstood the argument, either intentionally or unintentionally. However, if we apply the same argument to his position, could the Byzantine defender not argue that the text of Aleph and B were also subject to the same error as those who produced the Byzantine text? Carson has not yet made any case for the quality of the two flagship manuscripts, other than they meet his arbitrary criteria of being as early as 350AD.

Thesis 6: The argument that defends the Byzantine text by appealing to the providence of God is logically and theologically fallacious

Carson argues that if God has providentially preserved the Byzantine text, he has also preserved the others.

“God, it is argued, has providentially preserved the Byzantine tradition. That is true; but He has also providentially preserved the Western, Caesarean, and Alexandrian traditions.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 56). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Interestingly enough, the Byzantine text is the only former text-type that is considered to be a text group still. He ends this argument by misunderstanding the difference between corruptions and variations, and closes with this statement:

The interpretation of individual passages may well be called in question; but never is a doctrine affected.

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 56). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Here Carson unintentionally refutes the whole point of his book. If the manuscript tradition is all providentially preserved, that includes the Byzantine. And if doctrine is never effected, there is no doctrinal difference between the providentially preserved traditions. Therefore, Carson has no purpose for writing this book, and has refuted himself.

Thesis 7: The argument that appeals to fourth century writing practices to deny the possibility that the Byzantine text is a conflation, is fallacious

Carson’s argument in this thesis is so incredibly misleading that I would go as far to say that he has slandered Edward F. Hills, broken the 9th commandment, and shown himself to be a juvenile scholar not worthy to mention Hills’ name.

“Hills, in his book The King James Version Defended! argues that the Byzantine text could not be a fourth-century compilation from other texts because editors of that period did not have desks to write on.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 57). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The only word I have to describe this interpretation of Hills is “stupid.” DA Carson is stupid for what he has just told his reader. In the first place, this is Hills’ secondary argument, in which he is making the point that no scholar or scribe could have possibly had the resources such as a textual apparatus in a standard printed volume, and yes, a desk and chairs. Hills does this, appealing to Metzger, ironically enough. Hills’ point is that there is no evidence that such a blending of textual traditions could have been possible with the available resources and scribal practices, and thus the traditional text had to have occurred organically.


“Hence, the kind of mixture would be sporadic and unsystematic and not at all of the kind that would be required to produce the Traditional (Byzantine) New Testament text. Thus the theory that the Traditional Text was created by editors breaks down when carefully considered.”

Hills, Edward F. The King James Version Defended. 177.

Thesis 8: Textual arguments that depend on adopting the TR and comparing other text-types with it are guilty, methodologically speaking, of begging the issue; and in any case they present less than the whole truth

DA Carson unashamedly says that TR defenders “present less than the whole truth” after claiming Hills rejects the “recension” theory on the basis of lack of desks. He ends this point by saying that “slanted arguments in these issues ought to be rejected by lovers of truth” (61). At this point, Carson’s argumentation has devolved into misrepresenting other scholars and appealing to the emotions of his reader. In this section, his problem is with using the TR or KJV as a base text for comparison of other texts. This would be a valid point, if he didn’t do the same exact thing with Aleph and B. Rather than starting with the TR, he starts with the Critical Text. His disagreement is not in methodology, it is in the form of the text that is to be used as the standard for comparison.

Thesis 9: The charge that non-Byzantine text-types are theologically aberrant is fallacious

His argument in this thesis is that doctrine cannot be effected by the differences in the manuscript tradition.

However, I would argue that none of the text-types distinguished by contemporary textual criticism is theologically heretical in the way that defenders of the KJV sometimes suggest.

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 62). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This doctrine says that even if a passage is not supposed to be in the text, the doctrine can be found elsewhere. This is standard fare for the “doctrine cannot be effected crowd.” One interesting thing to note is that Carson constantly uses the term “fallacious,” confusing it with the words, “I disagree.”

Therefore the charge that the non-Byzantine text-types are theologically aberrant is fallacious.

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 66). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Again, something being fallacious entirely depends on the structure of an argument. Carson’s structure is that a difference in words in the Bible does not change the meaning of the Bible. According to his premise, the claim he is interacting with is fallacious – but that’s not the premise of the argument he is opposing. The argument that he is opposing goes like this:

The meaning of the Bible is communicated through words. If the words change, then the meaning changes. The words are changed between the traditional and critical text. Therefore, the meaning is different between the traditional and critical text.

Carson has not interacted with that argument other than to disagree with the premise and then call it fallacious, by which he means “I disagree.”

Thesis 10: The KJV was not accepted without a struggle, and some outstanding believers soon wanted to replace it

This argument is rather straight forward, the KJV wasn’t immediately accepted. Defenders of the KJV may have argued that in Carson’s day, but I have not seen that argument before, so I’ll leave it as is. In any case, I don’t think the reception argument hinges on the KJV being immediately adopted by every single Christian in the 17th century.

Thesis 11: The Byzantine text-type must not be thought to be the precise equivalent of the TR

This point is one of clarity that I think everybody is aware of, that the TR isn’t a pure majority text. There are minority readings in it.

Thesis 12: The argument that ties the adoption of the TR to verbal inspiration is logically and theologically fallacious

Carson correctly identifies what Scripture teaches about itself in this thesis.

The argument, briefly, is this: Since God inspired the Scriptures verbally, therefore He must have preserved them even to the details of their words; and these passages presuppose that God has done just that.

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 69). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

His argument is essentially that it is impossible to say that the TR or Byzantine tradition is the verbally inspired text. The Bible doesn’t promise “an infallible text-type” (72). He continues by saying,

“Third, to concede that total inerrancy or verbal inspiration is restricted to the autographs does not mean we have no sure word from God.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 73). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The way he deals with this doctrinal issue is the same way scholars and apologists deal with the problem today.

“In like fashion the vast majority of the New Testament is textually certain. (3) Even where the text is less than certain, high probability of this reading or that exists. (4) No doctrine and no ethical command is affected by the “probability” passages, but only the precise meaning of specific passages. (5) In my judgment the degree of uncertainty raised by textual questions is a great deal less than the degree of uncertainty raised by hermeneutical questions.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 73). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He ends by stating what I wish more Critical Text advocates knew:

“Fourth, the purpose and goal of textual criticism is to get as close to the original text as possible. To fail to recognize this is to misapprehend what textual criticism is all about.”

Carson, D. A.. The King James Version Debate (p. 74). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In short, textual criticism is not about getting to the exact original, it is about getting “as close to the original text as possible.” Carson, while being necessarily constrained by his understanding of text-types, is quite accurate when discussing the purpose and goal of text-criticism.

Thesis 13: Arguments that attempt to draw textual conclusions from a prejudicial selection of not immediately relevant data, or from a slanted use of terms, or by a slurring appeal to guilt by association, or by repeated appeal to false evidence, are not only misleading, but ought to be categorically rejected by Christians, who, above all others, profess to love truth and to love their brothers in Christ

It seems that if Carson was slightly more self aware he might see the glaring problem with this thesis.

Thesis 14: Adoption of the TR should not be made a criterion of orthodoxy

I agree. I would also argue that believing that God gave His people the verbally inspired text, in its words, should be. The issue the TR advocate has with the Critical Text is first one of doctrine, and second that of the actual text. If we can agree that God actually preserved His whole word, we can have a conversation. The fundamental difference is that, as Carson has stated many times, the Critical Text advocate does not believe we have the exact inspired text today, and that the words of our Bibles can change and not effect doctrine. The TR is the logical end of having the correct Bibliology.

Conclusion

This chapter is the substance of this entire work so far. I think it would have been adequate just to publish this chapter. In Carson’s fierce attempt to defend the Critical Text, he refuted many of his own claims in the process. Overall, this chapter is again a rehashing of Metzger with a lot harsher language than the previous chapters. The main take away I will leave my reader with is this:

If the Bible is preserved in the whole manuscript tradition, and doctrine isn’t changed between manuscripts, why this book? Why attempt to discredit a textual tradition that Carson claims is correct doctrinally? This is a question I have not seen answered yet. According to the “no doctrine is affected” doctrine, I would expect Critical Text advocates to actually defend the Byzantine text, which they claim is doctrinally complete.

3 thoughts on “Review: The King James Version Discussion – Chapter 7

  1. ‘Here Carson demonstrates that he does not understand what the term “logically fallacious” means. The fallaciousness of a statement is determined by the coherence of an argument from premise to conclusion, not by whether or not you have a counter premise. Something can be logically coherent and still false.’

    Great point. I marvel at how few these days know how to argue. People often label their opponent’s argument as ‘fallacious’, when what they really mean is that it operates on a different premise from theirs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The inability of modern scholars to reason coherently is appalling, all the more so when used in an attempt to lead the people of God away from His pure and preserved words. Your article adeptly demonstrates that Carson is guilty of the kind of argumentation that would have gotten a failing mark on an elementary exam in logic/rhetoric a few hundred years ago by applicants to university. Yet he is regarded by most as a premier example of modern evangelical scholarship. How far we have fallen.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “God stashed the Bible away for over a thousand years in the Mediterranean” I am simply lost for words that any professing Christian could believe this, yet here we are.

    Liked by 1 person

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