The Name of God & The Bigger Issue

Introduction

I have argued that the Traditional Text position is much broader than just preferring the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Textus Receptus. It spans across theology, text, and translation. On one side, the Critical Text advocates refuse to admit that the position is more complex than “KJV Onlyism.” According to them, the Traditional Text Position is secluded to translation only or perhaps text and translation only. They ignore the theological mandates that undergird the conclusions. Alternatively, there are many Traditional Text advocates who do not understand the bigger picture and advocate for Critical Text ideas while stating they adhere to the Traditional Text position. The chief example of this are those that believe the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Textus Receptus is the preserved Word of God while simultaneously holding that the Word of God not been completely or accurately translated. Similar to the Critical Text advocates, they narrow the conversation to a matter of text. In the case of the aforementioned Traditional Text advocates, they often advocate for modern constructs such as modern language learning, modern exegesis, modern homiletics, modern translation methodology, and modern Biblical Criticism. In other words, they ignore the theological foundation that support any meaningful conclusions. All of these are paths to Critical Text ideology, and they damage the practical function of holding to the Traditional Text position in the first place. Limiting the Traditional Text Position to simply a matter of textual criticism dilutes the practical theology of it. That is why I continue to argue that the theology of the Traditional Text Position is the most important. If you understand orthodox Bibliology, the pieces fall into place in all the other categories.

The Purpose of the Traditional Text Position

Theology must be practical for it to be useful. It must grow legs and walk. Theology without praxis is useless. It is head knowledge without heart knowledge. Debating the number of angels that can dance on the pin of a needle is an utter waste of time because it has no impact on how we love and worship God. The practical application of the Traditional Text position is that the believer would be able to look at the words on the page of their Bible, read them, and know that those words are what God inspired and gave to His people. All that it takes to know what God says is to learn how to read the Bible or understand it being read to you. In the modern Biblical paradigm, the words of Scripture are subject to criticism and change, which inevitably damages the way a Christian reads their Bible. That is something we have to remember as we advocate for the Traditional Text – it is not about being right about the number of angels that can dance on the pin of a needle, it is about convincing people to trust and believe the words that are Divinely Inspired. It is about recognizing that God changes hearts and minds, and He does so by working in His perfect Word. We do not change hearts, God does.

The Critical Text paradigm has infected some of the most important areas of practical theology, especially homiletics and exegesis. A prime example of this is that pastors are trained in seminary to change words in the text on the fly. They are trained to make their own translations. Laypeople are fooled into thinking that this makes their pastor faithful, wise, and intelligent. While it may make them look smart, it does not make them faithful or wise. The layperson’s response to this practice is usually, “My pastor is so smart, he knows Hebrew and Greek.” Effectively what this means is, “My pastor knows how to read the Bible properly, and I do not. I need my pastor to tell me what is in the Bible.”

While it may appear as though that pastor is equipped to preach and handle the Word of God, it is really embodied hubris. The pastor says in his actions, “I am smarter than the translators of this text, I know Greek and Hebrew better than any saint of the past, and I especially know better than the people in my congregation who would be reading the wrong Bible if it weren’t for me.” If a pastor has to change the text he is preaching from, he should not be advocating that his congregation read it. Now before I continue, I want to make a clarification. In my experience, the pastors who do this aren’t trying to be prideful, and would never dream of it. They are doing what they are trained to do. They are trusting their modern education and the scholars who developed it. The issue is not with intentions, it is with theology. Most God fearing pastors have the best intentions when they approach the pulpit.

If the intention is that the congregation should trust their Bible, changing the text on the fly is stating exactly the opposite. It is saying, “Trust your Bible, except where I say not to. This word in the Old Testament is actually another word based on this Ugaritic text or this LXX reading. Another word should actually have been translated this way and not that way. The translators rendered a word this way, and even though it’s accurate, I’m going to use another. The saints of the past got it wrong, and in 2021, we have got it right.” If this is the approach a Traditional Text pastor takes when handling the Word of God, his adherence to the position is utterly useless. It is a fundamental disconnect from practical theology.

In these practices, the very purpose of the position is undone, and the practical application is the same as it is with the Critical Text. The Critical Text Position pushes the idea that the people of God do not know what their Bible says completely, and that the only way they will is if they trust some scholarly perspective. Since the scholarly perspective changes every year, so will their Bible. The people of God, therefore, will never truly know what their Bible says. The pastor may think, “It’s just this one place, and the scholars today know better here than the saints of old.” But logically, it’s not just one place, it’s infinite places, and all the congregation sees is that their pastor is calling into question the integrity of the Bible they read. He is calling into question the integrity of the text that he told them to read. They think, “If my Bible is wrong here, where else is it wrong?” This question inevitably leads them directly into the modern Bible reading paradigm, and the practical theology of the Traditional Text is made useless. Not only that, but the practical Bibliology of Christian orthodoxy is subverted. It puts a barrier of entry to Bible reading that requires seminary level exegesis, Hebrew, and Greek.

The Divine Name of God and the Traditional Text

One example of this phenomenon that has really been plaguing my soul as of late is the discussion over the name of God. Is it “Yahweh” or Jehovah? One of the biggest issues with the Critical Text position is that it indirectly or directly accuses the people of God through time of being flat out wrong. “We know better in 2021.” The same applies to this discussion. In order to arrive at the conclusion that “Yahweh” is the name of God, you have to begin by thinking that the men of the past got it wrong. These are the same men who could speak conversational Biblical Hebrew while our modern scholars are tied to lexical tools. A pastor will get up to the pulpit, admit that they are rusty in the Biblical languages, and then make the claim that the men of God of old who could speak the Biblical languages were ignorant. Even though there aren’t any known Hebrew manuscripts which testify to the vocalization “Yahweh,” the modern scholars know better.

These scholars claim that the name of God was corrupted in Scripture. These scholars make the same claims regarding the totality of the text. The point is that the same logic that underlies the Critical Text applies here. There are full defenses of Jehovah over “Yahweh,” but for our purpose here the point is that “Yahweh” is a modern invention which borrows the same underlying logic of all Critical Scholarship. The foundational assumptions that force the conclusion that “Yahweh” is the name of God are as flawed as all of the other assumptions of Critical Scholarship. Though I am convinced that Jehovah is the name of God and reject “Yahweh” on the grounds of the arguments, I am equally convinced that “Yahweh” is not the name of God by looking at the assumptions that must be adopted to arrive at this conclusion. The Traditional Text Position is more than adopting certain textual readings, it is about adopting Orthodox theology and principles which lead us to Biblical conclusions and application. If we do not adopt the theological foundations of the Traditional Text Position, we will adopt the theological assumptions of some other position. Since our theology drives our conclusions, adopting other theological systems inevitably leads to inconsistencies in our position. Adopting the assumptions of Critical Scholarship will always result in a watered down doctrine of Scripture.

Missing the Practical Application

I hold the belief that the most important aspect of this discussion is practical. If we miss the practical application of the Traditional Text position, we miss the point of holding the position altogether. Christians should believe and trust their Bible because that is how they hear God’s voice. It is how they are instructed and rebuked and exhorted. It is how we discern truth from error. It is the only sure way to determine what is and what isn’t. If we lose that foundation, we lose all of Christian theology. When a pastor changes the text of Scripture on the fly via modern critical methods, he undermines the Bible in the congregation’s hands. When a pastor re-translates his Bible on the fly, he communicates to his congregation that their Bible has errors and that they cannot read it on their own. In both cases, the authority of Scripture is outsourced to a scholar or a pastor who knows how to “properly” read the Bible. The average person cannot possibly know all the places their translation is wrong because they don’t have the special knowledge their pastor does, and therefore they cannot trust their Bible. They will always be wondering which words are bad and which words are good. They will believe they need help reading the Bible because they don’t know Hebrew and Greek, and will likely start reading their Bible like the Critical Text scholar tells them too. They will use lexicons, word studies, multiple translations, and treat their Bible as something to be decoded. It is an endless cycle of uncertainty.

If a pastor has said, “You can trust your Bible,” and then changes what that Bible says, he is contradicting himself and undermining the claim that the “Bible is the Word of God.” When a pastor does this, he is saying, “The Bible is the Word of God, except for when it’s not.” And where it’s not will change perpetually until the end of time because Critical Scholarship will change until the end of time. Never underestimate a scholar’s ability to discover “new things” about Scripture. The scholar’s job and livelihood depends on his ability to discover “new things” from old data, and so he will always discover “new things.” There will never be a time in this life where a scholar is perfectly happy with the truths of the past. What my audience needs to know is that the Word of God doesn’t change. If your pastor is making the claim that Scripture is a sure Word while simultaneously changing the text, he is not acting or believing consistently.

That is why I say that the Traditional Text position is about more than the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Textus Receptus. Theology is the starting point, and a settled text is the baseline requirement to do theology. Once you have a Bible, you have to actually read it, understand it, and apply it. And if in your application you change the Bible you say is original, you are effectively saying that your foundational claim is incorrect. You are saying that the text which you build your theology on isn’t settled, and therefore your theology isn’t settled. You agree with the Critical Scholars who say there is no Bible, just bibles. There is not Christian theology, there are “christian theologies.” There are no complete translations, there are no complete texts, and the Christian does not have a complete Bible. You are saying that “The Bible is perfect, except in these number of places.” That is in effect to say, “My theology can never be complete because my Bible is never complete.” It is a fundamental contradiction. You can’t preach “The Gospel” to somebody if you can’t prove that “The Gospel” isn’t “one of the gospels.” The Church needs a text. The Church needs complete translations of that text in vulgar tongues. The Church cannot have Orthodoxy without a complete text, it can only have “orthodoxies.”

If the translation you use isn’t complete, you need a new translation, not an authority or tool to fill in the blanks. If you are a pastor, it is your job to faithfully preach the text, not to change the text based on what the scholars say. The scholars will always tell the Church she is wrong, that is the scholar’s job. They attain their credentials by “discovering” new ideas. They get their reward by “proving” that what is historic is wrong. The Critical Text position has this as a basic assumption of the Bible, but the Traditional Text position does not. The Traditional Text position says that God preserved the immediately inspired text perfectly, and that this text can be and has been translated completely. When we discuss orthodoxy through the ages, we assume one orthodox standard. This is the requirement to make the claim that “The Bible is the perfect Word of God.” There are no exceptions to this statement that do not undermine the claim totally.

The KJV as a Practical Application of the Traditional Text Position

That is why I advocate for the King James Version as an application of the Traditional Text Position. I do not advocate for the King James because it is “perfect,” I advocate that it should be used because it is accurate and complete. The claim is not that the church always needed the KJV in order to have orthodoxy, the claim is that we can derive orthodoxy completely from the KJV today. The people of God are abundantly blessed by a complete text. The question is not, “Can we have an easier translation?” Rather, it is, “What complete translations are available?” What the modern Christian gets wrong is that an incomplete translation cannot be “better” than a complete translation. A translation that is changing year after year cannot be “better” than a translation that is settled. Christians unfortunately are willing to sacrifice a complete translation for an incomplete translation that is easier to read.

The KJV is the only translation that meets the criteria for being complete. Most other Bibles such as the ESV, NIV, NASB, and CSB use a text that is in progress, and therefore cannot be complete. The NKJV claims to use a stable text as a starting point, but applies critical translation methodology and has places which require “tinkering” and is therefore incomplete. If you have to tinker with your translation to make it serviceable, you do not have a complete translation, you have a mostly complete, or incomplete translation. A translation must be complete in order to be the Bible as defined by orthodoxy. The KJV is said to have archaic words and “false friends,” but it is complete. Those archaisms and “false friends” can be learned, as Mark Ward has proved time and time again. The only alternative is reading a Bible that is either going to change or is incomplete. This is contradictory if our claim is that the “Bible is the Word of God.” The Christian claim is not, “The Bible is the Word of God, but no translations contain all of the Bible.” This is not an orthodox statement, yet this is the common belief today.

Many Christians, even Traditional Text advocates, will defend the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Textus Receptus and yet concede the argument by saying that there are no translations that adequately translate the text. This defeats the purpose of the position altogether and the critics of the position know it. That is why the apologists for the Critical Text push so hard to call this position “King James Onlyism.” In effect, it is a polemic against the practical application of the position. Even if they cannot defend their text, they can still win the argument by convincing you that you don’t have a complete or accurate translation. In other words, they can get you to practically agree with them, even if you disagree with the textual foundation of their argument. In all this, we have to ask, “Who cares if God preserved the text if it can’t be or hasn’t been completely translated?” And if this is the case that there aren’t any complete or accurate translations, why aren’t pastors teaching their congregation Greek and Hebrew so they can read their Bible? When you compromise the theology of the position, you inevitably adopt countless fundamental contradictions.

Conclusion

In order for something to be called a Bible, it must be complete. This is inescapable. If the fundamental claim of the Traditional Text Position is that the Bible has been perfectly preserved and is available today, it must exist in a format that is available. The only translation that exists today that meets this criteria is the King James. The fact that it contains archaisms and “false friends” does not negate the fact that it is complete and accurate. All arguments that are generally summed up as “The KJV is too hard to read” are irrelevant because “hard to read” does not mean “incomplete.” Other Bibles cannot make the same claim. This is where Mark Ward is wrong. The chief criteria for whether we should read a Bible does not depend on our reading comprehension, it depends on whether or not that Bible is completely and accurately translated from the Providentially Preserved text.

If the Bible is at a 12th grade reading level, that should be the Christian standard for reading comprehension, not the arbitrary standards set by the state which have resulted in an average reading level somewhere between the fourth and eighth grade. Yet Christians accept state standards for their children and demand that our Bibles be adjusted accordingly. If we teach our children and our peers that the Bible has been providentially preserved and is available today, we should also teach our children and peers that they should be able to read it. If the Bible is as important to us practically as it is theologically, then we should be consistent. Instead, Christians have elected Pastors and scholars to be the mediator between us and our Bibles. Only the men who studied Greek for 2 semesters can inform us what our Bibles say. Only the men who went off to Cambridge can really know what God said. What we really need to ask is, “What can I learn at seminary in two years that Lancelot Andrews failed to understand in a lifetime?” Are we really so arrogant to believe that a Western Seminary can imbue us with more knowledge in a couple of semesters than the polyglots of the past who dedicated their life to language? Ultimately, we need to believe that God preserved His Word and that He has given it to us. If our position on Scripture stands in conflict with this theological truth, we are in error and need to return to a more simple, faithful Christianity.

5 thoughts on “The Name of God & The Bigger Issue

  1. Taylor, Jehovah bless thee. As soon as I hear someone who I otherwise agree with about much say “Yahweh”, it makes me double back and check because they are obviously compromised (and arrogant thinking they are wiser and more clever than the men of God of previous generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The modern Yahweh thing drives me crazy. It is a modern invention by theological apostates. I studied Latin for four years. Not saying I’m fluent in Latin, but I certainly learned how to pronounce the language. The chief god of the Roman pantheon was Jove, pronounced in Classical Latin as yah-weh. That should disturb a Christian. 😳

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  3. “You are saying that the text which you build your theology on isn’t settled, and therefore your theology isn’t settled. You agree with the Critical Scholars who say there is no Bible, just bibles. There is not Christian theology, there are “christian theologies.” ”

    I think this is spot on and one reason why there is so much disagreement in theology nowadays. Everyone seems to do what is right in his own eyes with the Bible. There is no final authority if you have an ever shifting text and thus we have endless disputes.

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  4. Taylor, thank you for another great article. I agree wholeheartedly (especially with the Jehovah vs Yahweh thing).

    I did have an interesting difficulty recently, though, in preaching James 5:12-20. In verse 13, I actually made kind of a big deal about how we ought to learn to sing psalms so that we can be obedient to texts like this and Colossians 3:16. It was pointed out later, though, that most other versions don’t say “sing Psalms”, and when you look at the Greek, it’s not there. So is that a place where looking at the Greek can actually change how you would preach it – i.e. not going purely off the KJV wording?

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    1. ψαλλετω – means to sing praise or to praise. Psalms is just another word for song. I don’t see an issue with the translation. The argument for singing psalms isn’t made from this passage alone. You would build it out from a more robust look at all of Scripture.

      Calvin makes the passage less about psalmody and more about joy:

      We ought, then, to keep within due bounds, so that the joy, which usually makes us to forget God, may induce us to set forth the goodness of God, and that our sorrow may teach us to pray. For he has set the singing of psalms in opposition to profane and unbridled joy; and thus they express their joy who are led, as they ought to be, by prosperity to God.

      John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 355.

      Hopefully that helps

      Liked by 1 person

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