Mark Ward recently published a pamphlet in November 2020 called, Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. I’m going to do a full analysis on my YouTube channel in the coming weeks, but I ran across something too good not to comment on here. If you’re familiar with Ward’s work, you know that above all else he values that people be “nice” when disagreeing with him and people he likes. He re-emphasizes this on pages 65 and 66 when commenting on Crossway’s “Permanent Edition.”
Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 65-66.
“This means that when Crossway put out a Permanent Text Edition of their popular and excellent translation, the English Standard Version, promising no more revisions, Christian people should have complained on social media (nicely) and written into Crossway to object (nicely).”
Now it is comical that Mark Ward simultaneously lauds the ESV as an “excellent translation” while also stating that it is not excellent enough in its current state to be settled. I have said this often, but it’s entertaining to note that modern scholars praise their modern versions while at the same time commenting on the fact that they aren’t good enough to stay the same for more than a decade or good enough to be read in isolation. If it was such an “excellent” translation, why does it go through revisions so often or need to be supplemented with other “imperfect” translations? I imagine Crossway wouldn’t sell a lot of Bibles if they released a marketing campaign around Ward’s idea of “An imperfect Bible for an imperfect church!” Getting back to my point, we see here that Ward values the first commandment of evangelical scholarship so much he included it twice.
It is ironic that Ward very loudly and repeatedly states how much he needs people to be nice while simultaneously offering the harshest and most uncharitable critiques of people who disagree with him. He slaps people with the same hand he offers fellowship, but it’s fine as long as he does it with a soft voice and plenty silly, quirky, quips and analogies. If you don’t believe me, he literally compares the transmission of the Bible to the germs left on a cookie that one of his kids licked from top to bottom and put back in the cookie jar. In this article, I am going to demonstrate that Ward seems to have an extremely conspiratorial view of what he calls “KJV Onlyists.”
Wide Eyed Conspiracy Theories
On page 67, Ward offers the most honest definition of “KJV Onlyism” employed by Critical Text advocates.
“KJV-Onlyists insist that the KJV is the only truly trustworthy translation of Scripture. It is, they say, the best translation of the best texts.”Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 67.
I have been saying for a long time that men like Ward and James White define “KJV Onlyists” as anybody who reads a KJV, but here he says it clearly. What my reader needs to recognize is that when people use the term “KJV Onlyist,” they are not talking about the views of people who graduated from Ward’s Alma Mater. They are talking about anybody who reads a KJV.
After defining “KJV Onlyism,” Ward continues to produce one of the most unhinged takes I have ever seen on page 68.
“It must be pointed out that most KJV-Only Christians believe that the vast majority of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew are stupid, crazy, or evil (rather than simply wrong) – dupes, dummies, or devils involved in a plot to undermine the Bible’s teaching about Christ’s deity. KJV-Onlyism is, in other words, a conspiracy theory.”Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 68.
In a remarkably matter-of-fact statement made by Ward, he actually alleges that “most KJV-Only Christians” believe in a vast conspiracy propagated by “stupid, crazy, or evil” Christians. He shockingly insinuates that people who read the KJV believe that “vast majority of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew” are “dupes, dummies, or devils involved in a plot to undermine the Bible’s teaching about Christ’s deity.” This is by far the most absurd thing I have read in a very long time. There is a difference between somebody saying, “This textual variant teaches something different about the divinity of Christ” and “There is a vast conspiracy to take Christ’s divinity out of Scripture.” Ironically, there are many people in Ward’s camp who allege that a conspiracy took place in the early church to add Christ’s divinity into the text, and that is pretty mainstream!
I will do my best to pick through Ward’s wild ideas. In the first place, the number of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew is astonishingly small. Secondly, this statement demonstrates that the foremost recognized “KJV Scholar” hasn’t the slightest clue who actually reads the KJV. I suspect this could be due to the fact that he believes nobody can actually read the KJV. It seems that in order to make sense of why people read the KJV, Ward has concocted a world in which there is a massive group of conspiracy theorists in the church. This must be the only reason somebody would read a KJV! Instead of charitably stating that people who read the KJV simply disagree with the conclusions of modern textual scholarship, he sends his reader off the deep end into a ridiculous conspiracy theory that KJV readers are unhinged conspiracy theorists. Even though Ward states that “They say” that it is because the KJV is the best translation of the best texts, Ward posits that the true reason is a rampant conspiracy theory plaguing the church.
It’s funny how Critical Text advocates cannot write a book about their theology without talking poorly about the KJV and those who read it. In Ward’s case, it seems he got done watching CNN and realized that the “QAnon” strategy could also work in the realm of the Bible translation debate. Here’s the strategy:
- Find a conspiracy theory
- Misrepresent the conspiracy theory
- Paint all people from the group you don’t like as the same as those conspiracy theorists
There are certainly people that believe as Ward has described above, just like there were/are people who believe things on anonymous message boards. The same way that CNN paints “most conservatives” as “QAnon,” Ward paints “most KJV Onlyists” as conspiracy theorists. This is honestly embarrassing and I’m not sure who signed off on actually publishing these statements. It is such a bad take, in fact, that it is a conspiracy theory in itself. If Ward truly values being nice and charitable so much, it makes zero sense to call most of the 55% of people who read a Bible conspiracy theorists.
Overall, I found Ward’s take highly entertaining. He would rather believe that most KJV readers are conspiracy theorists than actually look at the arguments and interact with them. If anything, this should be encouraging to my readers who are TR advocates because the Critical Text guys have resorted to CNN arguments in their attempts to justify their text. When it comes down to it, Critical Text advocates have openly admitted that they have no ultimate standard by which they judge texts (James White), and that they don’t have a text today (Dan Wallace). I’ll leave my reader with four quotes, which are mostly for Mark Ward, because I know that he reads my blog.
“It is found again in the words of Jesus, who said, ‘The Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35).”Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 30.
“Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved”Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15.
“Think about this: if we need the testimony of a professional historian to testify that the testimony of Luke the Apostle is reliable, then who’s going to testify that the professional historian is reliable?”Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 42.
“At some point, we’re just going to have to trust someone – why not let it be God?”Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 42.