The Big Lie of Critical Bibliology

The United States, and many other countries, are seeing the fruit of critical scholarship. Statues are coming down, cities are being vandalized and burnt, and people are being assaulted and even killed in what the media is reporting as “mostly peaceful protests”. Many of us are wise to what’s actually going on – the Frankfurt school had children and those children are living out their revolutionary fantasies. What we are seeing right now is the epitome of what critical theories are designed to do, deconstruct and rebuild.

Critical theories begin with the premise that there is something inherently wrong with whatever was formerly considered “traditional”. Scholars then come along assuming this premise and attempt to deconstruct the traditional perspective and reform the narrative in a way that aligns with whatever the academic orthodoxy is at the time. This deconstructing/reconstructing dynamic is done by assuming that all things must be described through psychological, cultural, and social constructs. It is axiomatically and necessarily godless. The world cannot be explained by what can be learned from divine revelation, it must be explained by way of the experience of individuals and communities.

All forms of critical scholarship share these fundamentals. It is deeply dogmatic, and ironically, a form of fundamentalism. Scripture describes the first principle of critical theories in 2 Timothy 3:

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of truth”

2 Timothy 3:6

Conservative Christians are seeing the fruit of critical ideology in its extreme form right now, yet many are reluctant to admit that critical textual scholarship does the same exact thing as the ideology that invented “White Fragility”. Students, professors, and pastors have weaponized terms like “fundamentalist” towards “textual traditionalists” just like they weaponized the term against those that believed in inspiration and inerrancy in the 20th century. These same people engage in what can only be called “the big lie” of Bibliology.

The Big Lie of Bibliology is that Higher and Lower criticism are agnostic towards each other. Yet, as we have so plainly seen, the higher and lower critics have been engaged in a ritual dance for decades. Behind every discussion of textual data is a story of how that textual data came to be. A textual variant “came into the text” by way of a sentimental, well meaning scribe, or something like that. Stories and passages were omitted or added depending on the perspective of the communities that copied manuscripts. The history of the text is described not by way of divine revelation, but rather in a manner that adopts the axiomatic foundation of every other critical school.

Big Lies are fundamental to critical ideologies, because they challenge the narrative that has always been told. These ideologies are necessarily destructive, and if you don’t believe me, turn on the news. The traditional narrative must be usurped or critical methodologies die. So what can we learn from what we are seeing on the news right now? Look at the streets of Seattle, Portland, and New York, and look at your modern Bible. They are the same picture, produced by the same kind of ideology.

In the 21st century, Christians must reject critical theories and methodologies of all kinds. They are godless and destructive no matter which discipline they touch.

Is There Evidence of a “Clean Transmission” from P75 to Codex Vaticanus?

Author’s note: In the first draft of the article, I was responding to the claim that P66 and P75 had a clean transmission to Vaticanus. Dr. Boyce informed me that he was making the claim only about P75. The article has been edited to reflect this correction.

Introduction

In a recent YouTube debate between Dr. Jeff Riddle and Dr. Stephen Boyce, the claim was made that P75 has a clean transmission up to Vaticanus, spanning the “150 year gap” between the two. This occurs around the 24 minute mark in the video which can be found here. In this article I want to present my reader with information regarding this particular claim. In order to frame this discussion, it is important to discuss what it means for a manuscript to have a “clean transmission” to another manuscript. This isn’t defined at all in the debate, but this is a critical component of Dr. Boyce’s presentation. 

A Clean Transmission

The problem with this claim is first that Dr. Boyce does not define what he means for a manuscript to have a clean transmission. Scholars have defined varying levels of agreement between manuscripts, however. A metric used by textual scholars called pregeneological coherence is likely the closest thing we can look at to determine whether or not two manuscripts share a clean transmission from one to the other. This seems to be the best metric that can be used, so I’ll take pregeneological coherence as my baseline for the analysis within this article. Prior to presenting these numbers, it may be valuable for my reader to understand what this metric is actually describing. Pregeneological coherence is defined by Dr. Peter Gurry and Dr. Tommy Wasserman as, 

“The number of shared readings between any two texts constitutes their pregenealogical coherence. This is expressed as a percentage of the number of places where the two witnesses are comparable.”

Gurry & Wasserman, A New Approach to New Testament Textual Criticism, 137

According to Gurry & Wasserman, 78% pregenealogical coherence serves as a sort of baseline, or cut off point in determining whether or not two manuscripts should even be considered as relatives to one another(45). Using this as a basis for my analysis, If two manuscripts have less than 78% coherence, it is very likely that they are not directly related. While this is not an absolute science or definitive, it does give us a lot of information when determining if there is a clean transmission between two manuscripts. Now the challenging component of this discussion is determining where the threshold is for what can be considered a “clean transmission.” Do we say that 85% qualifies as clean, or should we expect closer to 95%? If a scribe generally copies accurately, is a 22% difference evidence of a “clean transmission,” or does it tell us that there is likely another manuscript used that can account for the difference? A new development in modern textual criticism informs us that we should generally trust that scribes copied carefully. 

“1. Scribes typically copy their sources with fidelity so that ancestors and descendants are closely related

2. When scribes diverge from their primary source, it is more often because they have access to another source”

Ibid. 99

Taking into consideration this axiom, it is reasonable to try and make some determinations as to whether P75 and Codex Vaticanus have a “clean transmission” between them. I will be looking at the pregenealogical coherence of P66, P75, and Vaticanus below.

Using the INTF Manuscript Clusters Tool for John, we see that P66 has 59.9% pregenealogical coherence with P75 and 51% with Codex Vaticanus in the places compared. P75 has a 79.1% pregenealogical coherence with Codex Vaticanus in the places compared. This tells us that comparisons between P66 and Codex Vaticanus are not particularly relevant if we are trying to make the case that there is a clean transmission between the two. P75 is better, though if our objective is establishing a “clean transmission” between P75 and 03, we have to say that 79.1% pregenealogical coherence is strong enough to make this judgement. If we take into account that relationships with less than 78% are considered irrelevant for this analysis, the initial data does not bode well for Dr. Boyce’s case. 

Conclusion 

Now, this is where my reader will have to think for themselves. Is Dr. Boyce justified in saying that there is a “clean transmission” between P75 and Codex Vaticanus? We can easily dismiss this claim between P66 and Vaticanus with 51% pregenealogical coherence. These two manuscripts agree in roughly the same places they disagree. In the case of P75, there is a 21% difference in the places compared. If we assume that the scribe of Vaticanus copied carefully, it seems more reasonable to say that he had access to other sources, rather than saying that he made errors in 21% of the places he copied. The simple conclusion is that no, there was not a “clean transmission” between P75 and Vaticanus. In other words, there are pieces missing to this puzzle, and we do not have those pieces. 

Now, to give my reader a picture to put this in perspective, imagine a puzzle that takes up the size of a coffee table. Now imagine that 22% of those pieces are either missing, or belong to another puzzle. It is possible that the scribe of Vaticanus had access to P66 or P75, but our data does not tell us that these were the only two sources used, if they were used at all. It is possible that Vaticanus shares a “clean transmission” with some other manuscript(s), but it is not responsible to say that those manuscripts are P66 or P75. According to Dr. Boyce in his opening presentation, we should be guided by what the evidence says. In this case, it does not appear that the evidence agrees with the claim made by Dr. Boyce in his debate with Dr. Jeff Riddle that P75 has a “clean transmission” up to Codex Vaticanus. There are simply too many pieces unaccounted for to responsibly make this claim. 

Authorized Review – Decidedly Different: An Admission That Doctrine is Affected

Introduction

In this review of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, I want to demonstrate a critical error in Ward’s thinking as it pertains to the use of multiple translations. Ward claims that there are no major doctrines affected between the KJV and modern translations. 

“No major doctrines are affected. But I want to get the little stuff and the big stuff when I read God’s word, and I think you do too.”

119

Despite saying this, he goes on to say that there are translational differences between modern versions that are “decidedly different.” 

“I agree with a commenter on one of my blog posts: “I highly recommend changing versions once in a while. Nothing catches your attention more than seeing a verse you have known for a long time, and it’s translated decidedly different in your new version. There is some material for a study project.… God’s Word is awesome!””

135

In this article, I want to look at what exactly it means to be giddy about translations being “decidedly different” as well as how “bible” is being defined here. 

Decidedly Different

What does it mean for a word or passage to be “decidedly different?” It’s difficult to say if different simply means a different word, or if different means that the word is divergent in definition from the other word. It seems Ward is employing this quotation from his friend to mean the latter due to the fact that a “study project” would not be warranted for the former definition. If Ward was simply talking synonyms, his reader may need a dictionary, and that’s about it.

Let’s take Luke 14:2 for example. In the KJV and ESV, the word ὑδρωπικός is translated “dropsy,” commonly called edema today. The NIV translates the same word as “abnormal swelling of his body.” In the same passage, the KJV and ESV translate the word νομικοὺς as “lawyers” where the NIV translates it as “experts in the law.” While the NIV is unfortunately less precise here, it is easy to understand why the translation team chose those words. The five minutes it took me to reference the underlying Greek and three translations was far from what I would consider a “study project.”

So let’s take Ward’s words at face value here and find a word that actually requires a “study project.” In John 1:18, both the TR and the NA28 have the word μονογενής. The KJV translates the word “only begotten” and the ESV has “only.” The NIV translates it “one and only” and the NASB 1995 has “only begotten.” The NASB 2020 will translate it “only” and “only begotten” simultaneously. The word μονογενής is a word that contains two words, μόνος (only) and γένος (descendant). In the ESV and NIV, the translators decide to only translate the word μόνος. In Koine greek, γένος is employed to pertain to generation. Here are some examples:

Ἀγεννής – Low born 

Εὐγενής – High born 

Ὁμογενής – of the same race or family 

Παλιγενής – Born again 

Προγενής – born before 

Προωτογενής – first born 

In no case that I could find does γένος go untranslated or serve as an equivalent to μόνος. In this case, I would say that this qualifies as “decidedly different.” If it is true that Christ is the “only son of God,” what do we do with John 1:12? 



“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” 

Christ is not the “only” son, or “unique” son, he is the only begotten son. The whole doctrine of adoption becomes completely void if the γένος goes untranslated as we see in the NIV. Further, the textual variant in this passage which is selected in modern translations adds more doctrinal confusion to the matter at hand. In the ESV it reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side.” It translates μονογενής Θεός (only begotten God) as “the only God.” So, who is this God, that is at the Father’s side? Is the Father not God? 

If we do as Ward says, and conduct a “study project,” we find the reading μονογενής Θεός in the 2nd century gnostic work Excerpts from Theodorus. Dean Burgon notes that the first time that this reading of John 1:18 is quoted in extant literature is in reference to the gnostic arch-heretic, Valentinus. Regardless of the progeny of this textual variant, the translation “only” and “only begotten” are “decidedly different,” and the outcome is two entirely different meanings. The passage becomes infinitely more complicated when “son” is exchanged for “god.”    

What is “the Bible”? 

If it is the case that both of these translations are “the Bible,” then what exactly is “the Bible?” Since the claim has been made by Ward and his peers that “no doctrine is affected,” between the two most different manuscripts, this is an important question to answer. See this statement from The King James Only Controversy.

“The reality is that the amount of variation between the two most extremely different New Testament manuscripts would not fundamentally alter the message of the Scriptures!”

67 

Yet we have seen with one textual variant, and one translational difference, that there are indeed important differences that matter. If the claim is made that these differences do not matter, and that doctrine is not affected, then the definition of “the Bible” being employed by Ward and his peers is not based on the idea that one Bible has been transmitted down from the prophets and apostles. It assumes as its premise that multiple bibles have come down the line, and collectively, all of those different articulations are “the Bible.” James White confirms this in his book.

“In fact, they demonstrated a consistent transmission of a single body of material over time.”

80

Take this line of thinking to its logical end, and we must conclude that even destroyed manuscripts are a part of this “bible,” because all of our extant manuscripts came from other manuscripts, most of which are destroyed or lost to time. So “the Bible” is not a tangible thing if we assume the conclusions of the scholarly guild. It is a collection of things, which we have evidence of, that bear witness to the tangible thing that no longer exists.  The differences in this “consistent transmission” of the whole “manuscript tradition” are simply the result of the scribal process, and the differences “do not affect doctrine.”

The “manuscript tradition” is really just a testimony to the Word of God (autographs), and when viewed at a level of extant evidence, must be viewed as “the Bible” in order to maintain some semblance to the protestant doctrine of Scripture. In other words, “the Bible” is the “manuscript tradition.,” and we don’t have the whole manuscript tradition. That is why the scholarly guild has taken up the position that “we have enough” of the Bible (Dirk Jongkind & Co.), even though we do not have “exactly what the prophets and apostles wrote” (Dan Wallace). It does not matter what the prophets and apostles wrote, because “the Bible” gives us “good access” to what was originally written. In other words, “the Bible” simply bears witness to the Word of God as it existed originally. 

When we examine the above doctrine against the Chicago Statement, we find that this idea of the “manuscript tradition” being “the Bible” perfectly comports with inerrancy. 

“We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy…We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical Inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”  

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article X

In order for this to not render inerrancy “invalid or irrelevant,” the above definition of “the Bible” must be adopted. “The Bible” is not exactly what the prophets and apostles wrote, it bears witness to what the prophets and apostles wrote, and according to the scholarly guild, we “have a good amount of access” to that object, but not perfect access. Therefore, “the Bible” as defined by Ward and his peers is not what the prophets and apostles wrote, just an echo of what they wrote. Those echoes, the manuscripts, form “the Bible,” which Christians have “good access” to through translation. The Chicago Statement did not defend against higher criticism, it made a way for it to enter into the church. 

Conclusion

If the scholarly guild is correct, then what is being set forth is extremely problematic. It means that Jesus Christ is both the “only God,” distinct from the Father,  and also that he is the “only begotten son” of the Father. If we compare these two theological statements, then Jesus Christ is uniquely God, and was begotten of the Father, who is not uniquely God. Both of these are in “the Bible.”

Ward is excited about this. In fact, according to him, “This is awesome!” It is awesome, apparently, that in order to maintain Trintiarian orthodoxy and the doctrine of adoption, we now have to explain the following:

1. Jesus Christ is the only God (ESV, NASB)

2. The only God is at the Father’s side (ESV)

3. The only God is in the Father’s bosom (NASB)

4. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son (KJV)

5. Jesus Christ is the one and only Son (NIV)

6. Those who believe on Christ become the sons of God (KJV)

In summary, “the Bible” teaches that Jesus Christ is uniquely God, yet he was revealed by the Father, who is not uniquely God. It teaches that Jesus Christ is the only son of God, and yet all that believe are also the sons of God. Yes, this is truly “awesome!” It should not surprise anybody that this kind of thinking allows post-Barthian and higher critical scholars to heavily influence the field of textual scholarship. 

The prominent textual scholars recognize that this doctrine does not comport with one Christian faith, it comports with different Christian faith communities. The only people who do not seem to recognize this problem are the evangelical textual scholars who will go down on the “no doctrine is affected” ship. Yet, if “no doctrine is affected,” then the liberal scholars are correct. As Jennifer Knust and DC Parker believe, there is no “Bible”, just bibles. There is no “Christianity,” there are Christianities. You can believe that Jesus Christ is both the only begotten Son and also “the unique God” and still be a modern protestant Christian.

Since it seems to be the case that “decidedly different” doesn’t just mean “synonym,” the conclusion of Ward’s argument is actually that yes, doctrine is affected. If translations use words that are distinct enough to mean something different, then it seems the only conclusion to Ward’s argument is that doctrine can, and is impacted by translational differences. I believe that I have shown that this is the case in my article.

Authorized Review – Mark Ward’s Compelling Response to Pastor Joel Beeke

Introduction

In this third article examining Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, I want to take a look at Ward’s handling of Pastor Joel Beeke. It is common for opponents to address Pastor Beeke in their attacks on the King James Bible, because he is one of its most stalwart defenders. Fortunately for us, Ward’s arguments will provide us with some good, clean entertainment.

Let’s take a look at some of these high caliber counter arguments. You’ll have to let me know in the comments what you think. 

Five Arguments

Ward begins his response by describing Pastor Beeke’s statement in this way:.


“King James defender Joel Beeke, a scholar who has done valuable work for the church retrieving the works of the English Puritan writers, argues that the KJV’s elevated language was present originally”

94

Let’s examine exactly what Pastor Beeke said:

“More than any other version, the KJV sounds like the Word of God, even to unbelievers. The KJV translators aimed at this very thing. Even in 1611 the KJV sounded old-fashioned, ancient, a voice from the past. This was to command a reverent hearing, and to suggest the timeless and eternal character of God’s Word. The modern unbeliever, if he has any spiritual concern at all, is well aware that the contemporary scene really offers him no hope. He expects the church to speak in a way that is timeless and otherworldly.”

94

I’m not sure I would describe what Beeke said in the same way as Mark Ward, but I’ll let my reader decide. Ward continues by offering three “counter arguments.”

Super Convincing Counter Argument #1

Ward’s first counter argument is that

“Those who desire other-worldly timelessness in church can do little better than to grab a Vulgate and a Roman missal. This will accomplish the same goal…It’s straight Bible. But freeing straight Bible from a dead language is one huge reason we had a Reformation five hundred years ago, and why the Puritans fought to keep ‘Romish’ practices out of the English church.”

94

In other words, “You want to read the KJV because it’s reverent? Might as well just learn Latin and go back to Rome!” I’m not sure if that is a serious suggestion, but that’s all Ward has to offer in his first point. On a side note, it’s definitely a good thing Ward is here to school Pastor Beeke on the Puritans. 

Super-Mega Convincing Counter Argument #2

Ward’s second argument is that the Book of Mormon and Qur’an “both nonetheless adopted the archaic syntactical and grammatical forms used in the KJV. Why? Because the very language sounds dignified, divine, Bible-y.” (96). In other words, “Other books copy the KJV, so we need to stop propping it up!” He says, “I’d like to stop using the Bible to prop up this style of language” (96). We wouldn’t want our Bible to sound, you know, too “Bible-y”! Thankfully, Ward says that we can retain such “Bible-y” language in our poetry, hymns, and “solemn civil ceremony” (96).  After all this is said and done, I’m really grateful that while we won’t be able to preach from the KJV, we can certainly perform a wedding ceremony or a funeral in the King’s English.

Super-Mega-Ultra Convincing Counter Argument #3


Ward brings up a good point in his third argument, that we can’t be so emotional about our Bible.

.
“Some people are pushed away from God by the KJV, some are drawn by it. We can’t make our decision about the KJV based on a statistical survey of how people respond emotionally to Elizabethan verbiage.”

97-98

Apparently that 55% statistic Ward cites at the beginning of his book is actually a survey of “how people respond emotionally” to the KJV. Clearly, this is the only reason those people read the KJV. 

More Super-Mega-Ultra-Uber Covincing Counter Arguments

(4) Ward continues by intimating that Pastor Beeke is misinformed as to why the KJV translators left some of the older vernacular in the text. Pastor Beeke states that the KJV 1611 “sounded old fashioned” when it was written. Ward goes on to say, “The KJV translators specifically contradict the idea that choosing old-fashioned language was their goal.” Ward’s response is that the reason the KJV maintained the “archaic” language because “it may not have felt worth the effort to update every last syllable of it.” (98). According to Ward, the KJV translators were as bad at following their own rules as the team that put the Revised Version together.

Ward provides his own theory as to why the 1611 KJV was not written in the exact vernacular of the day – that the KJV translators just didn’t want to deal with all of the work it would have taken. Yes, apparently 54 premier scholars working over 7 years simply didn’t want to do the work.

(5) Finally, Ward responds to Beeke’s statement that KJV English is translated in such a way that represents the original languages more closely. Ward responds, “But there are multiple ways in which this form of English diverges too far from contemporary speech and writing that I have to question whether this occasional – but undeniable gain is worthwhile” (101). He then goes on to say that the punctuation of the KJV makes it difficult to read as an example.

“And the absence of quotation marks is only one of many unnecessary reading difficulties caused by four hundred years of language change. We must think about all of the factors that contribute to readability.” (101)

I wonder if Ward has trouble with audio Bibles too.  

Conclusion

Ward’s response to Pastor Beeke doesn’t seem to be a joke, but I found it amusing. I especially enjoyed the part where Ward gave Pastor Beeke a lesson on the Puritans. Perhaps it’s possible that the premier Puritan scholar may know what he’s talking about when it comes to the Puritans and their Bible. This may come to a shock to Ward’s audience, but there are sound reasons to read the KJV other than being bound to tradition and emotions. Believe it or not, those that read the King James Bible typically have no affinity for Rome or their Vulgate. The reader should seriously consider the possibility that Ward could be wrong here. That may come as a shock to Ward, but all of those people from his anecdotes who say they can read the KJV may be onto something here.

In summary, Ward provides several arguments against Pastor Beeke:

1. If you want a reverent Bible, just read the Vulgate!

2. The reverent language was copied by Joseph Smith (quite literally actually) and the translator of the Qur’an, therefore we need to stop propping it up!

3. We can’t let emotions get in the way of deciding which Bible to read!

4. The “archaisms” are only in the KJV because it would have taken too much time to remove them!

5. The punctuation of the KJV makes it impossible to read!  

Authorized Review – Does Authorized Need to Be Updated?

Introduction

In order to respond to the anecdotes of Mark Ward, I’d like to introduce the reader to a story of my own. Growing up I was what you might call a “bookworm.” I spent much of my free time reading and writing. Similar to Ward’s account of his childhood, I aced every spelling test. I always got the prize for reading the most books over the summer. I started learning how to speed read in AP English Literature in high school, mostly so that I could spend more time with my friends instead of doing homework. Despite my brazen laziness, I loved words, and I loved books – just not the British ones I was forced to read in High School. Despite my lack of motivation, as a self-proclaimed word-lover I forced myself to understand why works like A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, and Frankenstein were such important contributions to the available corpus of English literature.  

The reason I am telling my reader this story is to show that Mark Ward does not have a monopoly on the label “language nerd.” There are tons of us out here, and as a fellow “language nerd,” I find Ward’s writing style and perspective rather offensive to our dwindling guild. In this article, I want to comment on the writing style of Authorized and show my reader why Ward’s book is so offensive to “language nerds” everywhere.

Giving a Bad Name to “Language Nerds” Everywhere

Most “language nerds” are conservatives when it comes to language. We cherish the moments when we can knock the dust off of bygone words and introduce them afresh to a modern audience. We fear the idea that “Twitter Vernacular” could become the lingua franca some day. “Language nerds” are not scared away by learning new words, we love them. In fact, I signed up for an email list that sends me new words every day, like “avuncular.” Being a language nerd is much more than simply loving vocab words, however. It is about appreciating and learning the evolution and etymology of words. It includes studying the differences in syntax and writing style and genre in literature. Being a “language nerd” is not just being able to use a thesaurus, it is about loving the English language – all of it. 

What is frustrating is that Ward’s writing style seems to contradict the claim that he is a “language nerd.” A “language nerd” would never employ the impetus of The Emperor’s New Clothes in a textbook display of a weak analogy to call the English of the KJV “at some point between natty and nude” (24) A “language nerd” would not insult English by using “erganomock” and “snelbanjaloo” as a point of comparison for the comprehensibility of the KJV (65). Every single “language nerd” I know, even the atheists, have a profound respect and appreciation for the KJV as a literary work. It speaks volumes that Chistopher Hitchins has a higher evaluation of the KJV than Ward (14). 

What is most interesting, is that Ward seems to violate his own principles within the pages of Authorized. Strangely enough, he uses words such as “fastidious” while claiming that the word “commendeth” is too difficult to understand. He is fine employing “reverential” (101) while saying that “and it came to pass” is not vernacular English. He uses the phrase “blessed fluorescence” (67) while saying that “apt” is incomprehensible in the phrase “apt to teach”(44). He casually drops the word “blithely” (26) in a section discussing how he didn’t understand words in the KJV. I could make a list of Ward’s use of uncharacteristically difficult words that he apparently understands better than the much simpler vocabulary of the KJV. How often do you use the words “prodigiously” (14), “erudition” (9), “apropos” (69), or “hapless” (9) in your daily speech? If I were to take Ward’s vernacular argument and apply it to his book, there would be many places that I would recommend an update. 

The paradox within the pages of Authorized is that Ward violates many of his own rules. He unnecessarily (and ironically) employs Latin with the knowledge that his reader likely doesn’t know it. He does this while unabashedly comparing the KJV to the Latin Vulgate. Apparently Ward thinks that his reader can understand actual Latin, but not the KJV, which he compares to the comprehensibility of the Latin Vulgate.  In addition to utilizing Latin, he randomly drops flowery words that his reader will have to look up. If Ward’s argument is that we should understand the words we read, why does he repeatedly beat his reader over the head with Latin phrases and advanced vocabulary? This seems to violate the very principle Ward is setting forth in Authorized

Conclusion

After reading Ward’s book twice, I cannot help but point out the inconsistency of his thesis, and the hypocrisy of his writing style. He has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source for the critiques he issues towards the KJV and KJV readers. He imposes an extreme version of the problem that he claims the KJV imposes to his reader. He slaps KJV readers for making equivocations while constantly equivocating the English of the KJV with Shakespeare, the comprehensibility of the KJV with the Latin Vulgate, and KJV English with Old or Middle English. This is one of those cases where it isn’t wise to throw rocks in glass houses. What Ward seems to miss is that being able to understand words is far more important than those words being in “vernacular English.” As a fellow “language nerd,” I expect more from somebody claiming to be in the dwindling population of people who love the English language. 

Perhaps the reason that Ward’s book resonates with so many is because people simply don’t read anymore. He can get away with this kind of rhetoric because people don’t know how insulting he is being when he implies that his reader simply cannot read all that well. In a world where the average person does their daily reading on Twitter, it does not surprise me that people have forgotten that you occasionally have to look up words when you read. The reality is, learning new words is a part of the joy of reading. Expanding your vocabulary is part of the adventure. Discovering a new, or old use of a word is a part of the rush of being a “language nerd.”

Now I’m not Mark Ward, but if I spent so many years learning to read the KJV, I’d be proud of it. I wouldn’t openly brag about my willful ignorance of phrases in the KJV, I’d learn to understand them and teach others how to understand it. In every place Ward gives as an example of a passage he “still cannot understand” in the KJV, many people, including children, can. As a “language nerd,” Ward really missed a big opportunity to get people excited about the English language. Instead, he spent 137 pages talking about how people can’t understand English, and why people shouldn’t read the literary masterpiece that is the KJV. Seems like a pretty big “language nerd” party foul, if you ask me.

Authorized Review – Textual Criticism and the Scholarly Guild

Introduction

This article is the first in a series of articles inspecting several important topics not covered in my Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible review. The first subject I want to cover, that I tried to avoid addressing in my 9 article series is the issue of textual criticism. In Chapter 6 of Ward’s book, he includes a section responding to the claim that modern Bibles are “Based on Inferior Greek and Hebrew Texts.” 

In this article, I will review Ward’s perspective on textual criticism. 

The Confused & Scared Christian

Ward begins this section by painting Christians who encounter variants as confused and scared, and then appealing to a Greek professor known for his sentence diagramming that is not an active scholar working in the field of textual criticism. 

“Nonetheless, these variants confuse and even frighten many Christians, and I understand that fear. So let me offer a few thoughts from someone I trust, thoughts that were edifying to me.”

Ibid., 114

Ward demonstrates either a) that he does not know much about textual criticism or b) that he isn’t willing to give his reader an accurate picture of textual criticism. In the first place, he paints the picture that manuscripts and manuscript families are the driving source for translations. This is simply not true. All modern versions are revisions of previous translations which were made based on printed Greek texts, not manuscripts. The critical printed editions are based on manuscript evidence, but nobody is doing translation work from a literal papyri or uncial. Ward makes the argument that manuscripts must not be all that different from each other, or we would see denominations preferring one over the other.

“If there were massive, theologically significant differences between Greek manuscripts, different parties would claim the texts that advanced their theological viewpoints. But that simply hasn’t happened.”

Ibid., 115

This point is actually irrelevant, and incorrect. Many denominations do prefer specific text platforms. The Catholic Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses for example use translations made from the text platform mostly based on Codex Vaticanus (NA/UBS) or the Latin Vulgate. The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) made its own “translation” loosely based on the NA27. Calvary Chapel uses the NKJV which is based on the Traditional Text with Majority Text footnotes. Independent Fundamentalist Baptists use the KJV, which is based on the Masoretic/TR platform. Many denominations and individual churches care deeply about the translation they read, and the underlying text platform. One of the many reasons people take a stand on translation is specifically due to doctrinal differences between the texts. 

Further, Ward and the professor he references employ what I like to call “The Scholarly Dance” to minimize the importance of textual criticism in this discussion.  

“Leedy observes, “My own weaknesses as a reader expose me to far more significant misunderstanding than the manuscript differences do, so by far the greatest problems that God must overcome in order to talk to me are within me, not within the transmission process.””

Ibid., 115

The Scholarly Dance goes like this: 

  1. Highlight or imply a supposed weakness in yourself 
  2. Implicate God and His desires as a part of your theological understanding 
  3. Make an important theological point based on a display of “humility” and “God’s desires”

According to Leedy and Ward, their “weakness as a reader” is the real problem. This is the problem that “God must overcome.” Therefore, the real problem isn’t with textual criticism, manuscripts, or the transmission process, it is with the Christian. The Scholarly Dance is a great rhetorical tool to say, “If you have a problem with textual criticism, it is a humility problem and a problem with what ‘God has done’, not a problem with the conclusions of textual criticism.” In other words, if you challenge the scholarly narrative, you are in sin, and need to humble yourself. 

Notice another example of the Scholarly Dance:



“I do not believe God is under any obligation to preserve every detail of Scripture for us, even though he granted us good access to the text of the New Testament…I believe God, in his grace, preserved his Word for us but also that there is no apparent external reason to believe that the textus Receptus is in some way special or set apart from the rest of the manuscript tradition…God does not perform a special miracle to protect our collective reading and understanding of his Word from error, and likewise, he has not done so for the transmission of Scripture. There are limits to our knowledge.”

Dirk Jongkind, Introduction to the Greek New Testament, 90…103 (Quotation spliced together from two pages)

And another: 

“We do indeed have ‘access’ to these words, if not with miraculous perfection, then with an extremely high level of accuracy and certainty. And God has done this. What is good enough for the Holy Spirit is good enough for me.”

Brash, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to How God Preserved the Bible, 64

All of this scholarly posturing is to defend the narrative that the Bible has not actually been kept pure, it’s been kept “Quasi-Pure.” The purpose of it is to tell the reader that if they have a problem with an impure Bible, they really have a problem with God, and a pride issue. The scholarly narrative goes like this:


“The Nestle-Aland text, on the other hand, relies on older manuscripts that were discovered after the King James Version was released.”

Ibid., 116

If you have followed this blog, you know that the above statement is misleading, and even incorrect. Codex Vaticanus was discovered prior to the creation of the KJV and parts of it were even referenced in the making of Erasmus’ Greek text. He considered this manuscript to be a failed attempt to join the Greek with the Latin. Vaticanus was published to a modern audience in the 19th century, but it was not first discovered in the 19th century. People knew of the Vatican Codex for a long time.

Further, the NA text is based on the earliest extant manuscripts. There is absolutely no warrant for calling these manuscripts “earliest” overall, just the earliest that have survived 2000 years after the fact. The first Greek New Testament was not made in the 4th century, and there is no way to determine if the manuscripts surviving from the 4th century in any way represent the original text. 

Ward continues by saying that if you are not an expert in Greek or textual criticism, you should not have an opinion of your own. Christians should simply trust the scholars!

“Textual criticism is complicated. I think scholars should continue to debate their viewpoints, but I don’t think it’s wise for non-specialists to have strong opinions about the topic (Prov 18:13). At the very least, Christians who cannot read Greek should humbly acknowledge that their opinions about textual criticism are formed second- or even fifth-hand—that they are based ultimately on authority. It’s impossible to reach resolution in a debate when the participants think it’s about the relative merits of ancient Greek manuscripts but it’s actually about which authorities to trust.”

Ibid., 116

This is called gatekeeping, and Ward and the evangelical textual scholars engage in it all the time. If you are not in the “guild,” you cannot have your own opinion. You are not allowed to survey and study all of the subject matter on your own and form an opinion, because you are not a specialist. This is the same form of argument that is made when people  say, “You’re not a woman, you can’t have an opinion on abortion,” or “You’re not a pharmacist, you cannot have an opinion on medication.” You are not allowed to question the scholarly narrative because you are not a scholar.

Ward presents the case that the reason to abandon the KJV is due to it not being in our “vernacular” English while completely diminishing the very real concerns people have regarding the conclusions of textual scholars. If you disagree, you are in violation of Proverbs 18:13. Again, Ward makes disagreeing with him and his peers a sin issue, while at the same time presenting the information in a misleading and deceptive way. 

Conclusion

The problems of textual criticism as they pertain to Bible translation are much more important than Ward would have his reader believe. His main argument is, “There are no denominational differences between text platforms, therefore there are no doctrinal differences!” Not only is this argument irrelevant, it is simply not true. The IFB is a perfect example of a denomination that has a text platform and translation as a doctrinal distinctive. In fact, Ward and many of his colleagues have in their doctrinal distinctives that a translation (KJV) and the underlying text (MT/TR) should not be used for preaching and memorization. While Ward focuses his attention on this argument, he seems to be utterly oblivious to why people actually have concerns over text platforms and textual criticism, writing them off as “confusion” and “fear.” 

Rather than simply trusting the opinions of haughty scholars, I encourage my reader to take Scripture as the final authority. 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Every Christian has the tools to evaluate spiritual matters, and the Bible is a spiritual matter. When somebody says that the Bible has not been preserved, or that changes in the words of the Bible “do not affect doctrine,” you absolutely have the right to challenge this position. God has given His people His Word, and if Ward actually believed that, he wouldn’t be telling Christians to sit down and be quiet. You do not need a degree from Cambridge to know that this theological statement is not Biblical:

“We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain”

Gurry & Hixson, Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, xii (Dan Wallace)

You do not need to know all of the nuances about the CBGM to know that this statement regarding its effect on the text is not Biblical:

“Clearly, these changes will affect not only modern Bible translations and commentaries but possibly even theology and preaching”

Peter Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6

You do not need to have a thorough understanding of manuscripts or Greek to know that this statement regarding the Bible by a textual scholar is not Biblical:

“Books and the texts they preserve are human products, bound in innumerable ways to the circumstances and communities that produce them. This is also true of the New Testament…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

Christian, you absolutely have the right to question what these scholars are saying, and in fact, you should. 

Edit: I have changed “Scholarly Handshake” to “Scholarly Dance“. The Scholarly Handshake is the introduction ritual that includes praising your opponent prior to doing the Scholarly Dance.

Authorized Review – Chapter 7: Don’t Be a Berean!

Introduction

In Chapter 7 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward ends his book far more clearly than when he started. He finally reveals his solution to the problem of KJV readability – simply read all translations. In fact, he even makes valuing all translations a qualification for being loving the Bible. 

“But I believe the tribalism—the belief that a group’s chosen translation is one of many marks of its superiority over other groups—needs to stop. All Bible-loving-and-reading Christians need to learn to see the value in all good Bible translations.”

Ibid., 124

Not only should the KJV be cast to the side as one’s primary translation, all Bibles should be cast aside for this purpose. According to Ward, Christians should not try to determine which translation is best, because none of them are. Apparently the qualification for being a Bible lover is to set aside what makes a Bible good and love them all, despite any inaccuracies or poor translation choices.

“English speakers are looking for the wrong thing when we look for best.”

Ibid., 127

Christians should desire to give God glory, and enjoy Him forever, which involves doing everything the best we possibly can. In this review, I will examine Ward’s claim that Christian’s shouldn’t take a stand on a translation, and offer commentary. 

Stop Taking the Bible So Seriously!

“We shouldn’t let our preferred translation become a symbol, a rallying cry, or a boundary marker separating us from other groups within the body of Christ.”

Ibid., 128

Here Ward introduces his reader to the modern zeitgeist, that there are no sufficient translations. He gives his reader the impression that there is no translation that is adequate for all aspects of ministry and Christian living. In order to be a “good Christian,” one must spread their time across multiple translations and use them in different ways. Despite having propped himself up as an expert in the topic, Ward continues to demonstrate to the reader that he simply isn’t a great reader, or interpreter, of the Bible. Apparently, neither are the people he hangs out with, if these anecdotal people actually exist. See yet another example of Ward admitting he cannot understand an English passage(Psalm 16:6), despite claiming to read other languages fluently. 

“I can read Hebrew, and I can tell you that none of these translations is “wrong” in any way I can figure. But I read this poetic statement many, many times and never understood it. What are the “lines”? I asked another long-time reader of the KJV, and he guessed that David is talking about lines of genealogy. He was a step ahead of me because at least he had a guess. To my shame, I can’t say I ever even stopped to ask, or noticed that I wasn’t getting it. I think I always assumed that it was just a very obscure way of saying that things were going well for David. (Don’t we all like it when lines are, um, falling just right?)”

Ibid., 129

I apologize for Ward’s inappropriate and irreverent attitude towards the inspired text of Holy Scripture. In a rather funny coincidence, I learned what this passage meant from my 22 year old Young Life leader in high school, who had absolutely zero Bible training. He didn’t even own a commentary.

Ward’s basic argument at the end of his book is essentially that the differences in Bible Translations “are really not that great,” and therefore read them all because “the Bible is awesome!” He continues to appeal only to personal experience and anecdotes to support his arguments. 

“In my own personal study of the Bible over the years, using multiple translations and commentaries along the way, I have formed a definite impression: the major evangelical English Bible translations are all essentially conservative—and the tradition they’re conserving is the KJV tradition.”

Ibid., 133

This unfortunate perspective downplays the real concerns people have regarding translation methodology and underlying original text, and parrots the misconception that the ESV stands in the line of Tyndale. The ESV, and other modern critical translations, stand in the line of the Westcott & Hort and the Revised Version, not Tyndale and the KJV. Ward’s line of thinking shuts down the voices of men and women who are actually concerned with what their Bible says. Unlike Ward, people do care about which texts are in or out of their Bible, and if the Greek word “men” should be translated as “men and women.” Instead of addressing these very real concerns, Ward instead chooses to call those who care about the accuracy of their translation as “tribalistic.” His use of this pejorative and continued implication that those that do see one translation as being “best” a sin demonstrates the massive disconnect between Ward and the average Christian. 

Most people care far more deeply than Ward does about the words that are on the page of their Bible. And if you actually take Ward’s advice and read a slew of translations, you will quickly find out that not only are their translational differences that affect doctrine, there are a healthy number of verses that are completely different between translations at the underlying text level. Not only are there thousands of textual differences between the underlying texts of traditional Bibles and modern Bibles, there are translational choices that completely change the sense of a passage. To say that “no doctrine affected” is a shocking claim.

That being said, there is some value in what Ward has to offer in this chapter, though his crusade against the KJV completely overshadowed it. Referencing other translations and/or the original languages can certainly be a helpful tool, but not in the way Ward has suggested. Instead of his solution, which is to throw out the idea of reading one translation, it is extremely helpful to only read one translation and use others as tools. Reviewing the translation choices of one Bible against another can give valuable insight at the quality of a translation. There is value in a church having a common theological language. There is value in the pastor preaching from the same translation that the people in the pews have. There is value to the unbeliever when Christians are unified in the Scripture they quote. There is value in Christians rallying upon one text. 

Ward openly admits that his perspective is different than the majority of Christians today. 

“I want to change the paradigm we’ve all been assuming. Stop looking for the “best” English Bible. It doesn’t exist. God never said it would. Take up the embarrassment of riches we now have.”

Ibid., 137

In other words, “lower your standards and accept that this is the way it is now.” 

Conclusion

In this concluding chapter of Authorized, Ward offers the most limp-wristed “paradigm shift” to the serious topic of Bible translation – stop being so picky and read them all! Having one preferred translation is actually bad! They are essentially the same! Like the evangelical textual scholars, Ward speaks for God when he says, “Stop looking for the “best” English Bible. It doesn’t exist. God never said it would.” Should this be our mindset towards the Word of God? Should we take such a casual approach to the Holy Scriptures that we do not demand the very best from our Bible translators? Does Ward have the right to tell the average Christian that they cannot have a problem with a translation or decide that one is better than the other? No, no, and no. 

If you’re reading this, be assured that you have every right to care which translation is best. You have every right to have a problem with liberal translation methodology and underlying original texts. You, in fact, have an obligation to care about these things because the Holy Scriptures are the means that God is speaking today (1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-2). To say that translation isn’t really that important is to say that what God has to say isn’t all that important. Ward himself says that the Bible is the “words of God.” If this is truly the case, as Christians believe, Ward’s approach to treating Bible translations like a multi-tool pocket knife is completely inappropriate.

On the final lines of his book, Ward finally tells his reader why he wrote Authorized:

“But it is a misuse of the KJV to ask it to do today what it did in 1611, namely, to serve as a vernacular English translation. For public preaching ministry, for evangelism, for discipleship materials, indeed for most situations outside individual study, using the KJV violates Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14. The value of vernacular translation is so great that we must fight to protect it—even if that means letting that trend line from 100 percent to 55 percent continue. Even if it means helping that trend line along. We need God’s word in our language, not in someone else’s.”

Ibid., 137-138

There you have it, folks. I will be writing several more articles on this book in the upcoming weeks, but for now, that is all.

Authorized Review – Chapter 6: Reading the KJV is Sinful

Introduction

In chapter 6 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Mark Ward responds to 10 common objections to abandoning the KJV. Ward opens by stating that “The major theme of this book” is,

“How changes in English over the last four hundred years make it nobody’s fault that contemporary readers miss more than we realize when all we read is the KJV.”

Ibid., 88

He then claims that his intention in writing this book is “not in a quarrelsome spirit but in a spirit of servanthood.” He takes on the mantle of being the man to “burrow deep inside English” to report “what’s there.” While I can appreciate Ward’s stated intentions, the reader should be wise to what Ward is advocating for, and assess for themselves whether or not his mission is truly as upstanding as he describes. He makes this appeal at the end of the chapter, 

“I appeal directly to the 55 percent: Because you love the Lord, seek all the tools you can to understand his words, including contemporary English Bible translations. And because you love others, don’t stand in their way when they want to use those tools themselves.”

Ibid., 120-21

The reader should note that the above statement is “loaded.” Ward is implying that loving the Lord is connected to seeking “all the tools you can” which includes reading “contemporary English Bible translations.” Further, loving the Lord is connected to not standing in the way of others “when they want to use those tools themselves.” According to Ward, reading the KJV or advocating that others do the same is an issue for those that “love the Lord.”

The discerning reader may do well to ask, “Am I not loving the Lord if I read the KJV and advocate that others read it too?” The evidence for this is strong, considering he compares reading the KJV to a “stumbling block” and that it “adds difficulty” to reading God’s Word. If it is the case that Ward is saying this, then he is being extremely quarrelsome, even divisive. Despite saying, “I’m not doing what 1 Timothy 6:4 is talking about,” that is exactly what he is doing. The whole premise of his book so far is quarreling about words. 

In my review of chapter 6, I will make note of Ward’s primary arguments and respond to them. 

Responding to the Gainsayer

The difficulty with clearly offering a response to Ward is his constant use of anecdotes and conflicted messaging to support his arguments. If you strip out the anecdotes, there is not a whole lot of substance to his case against the KJV. He states that the KJV is deceitful due to the outdated language, and yet continues to emphasize that,


“The KJV is not unintelligible overall. As I said earlier, the fact that 55 percent of today’s Bible readers are reading the KJV suggests that the KJV is not impossibly foreign and ancient.”

Ibid., 118

He continues, 

“First, I say gently that it’s not clear to me that everyone who reads words they don’t understand notices that they’re not understanding. That’s why I told the story of the 10,000 people who memorized “fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” I would suggest that until exclusive readers of the KJV read a contemporary English Bible translation like the ESV all the way through, and until they study in depth some individual passages, they won’t realize how much they’ve been misunderstanding. In my own experience, it took me many years of such reading to realize how much I had been missing.”

Ibid., 118

According to Ward, people believe that the KJV is intelligible because they simply do not know that it is not. He again appeals to his summer camp anecdote to support this point. He then makes an interesting claim when he says that the only people who do know that they cannot understand the KJV, are those that have read a modern version. I have personally seen this point parroted by others. What the reader should take note of is that Ward frequently pads his sentences by inserting, “I say gently” or that he has a “spirit of servanthood” while essentially telling his reader that they are too dense to read the KJV. This is why KJV readers have trouble trusting what Ward says about anything pertaining to the KJV and those that read it. An insult is still an insult even if you claim to be saying it “gently.” 

Even worse, Ward again continues to conflate an English speaker’s ability to read Latin to their ability to read the KJV, and to compare the Vulgate to the KJV. He actually claims that if the goal is a reverent translation, reading Latin “will accomplish the same goal.” In an attempt to employ rhetoric, Ward is actually arguing that English speakers would do better just to learn an entirely new language, Latin. Apparently it is better to learn an entirely new language than to understand the various “False Friends” found in the KJV. It appears as though Ward is attempting to convince non-KJV readers that the KJV is literally another language. Ward appeals to 1 Corinthians 14, regarding speaking in tongues, to make the appeal that reading the KJV is a violation of the Scriptures. In Ward’s words, the KJV is both intelligible and also an “unknown tongue.”  

Ward argues that, 

“And literary peak or no literary peak, at some point English will have changed so much that the KJV will be entirely unintelligible. At what point between now and then should we revise or replace it? Even if our English is inferior (an if I don’t grant), the Bible ought to be brought out of someone else’s English and into ours.”

Ibid., 106-107

I do not agree with Ward, that such terms as “Apropo” and “snelbanjaloo” which he employs in his book are superior to the language found in the KJV. It is true that there will come a time when modern English is as far from the KJV as the KJV is from Middle English. That time is not now, and will not likely happen for some time unless English professors allow the grammatical conventions of Twitter to score A’s. In Ward’s typical manner of presenting two conflicted messages at once, he says initially that what he is advocating for has not been done, “The Bible ought to be brought out of someone else’s English and into ours.” He then goes on to say that, 

“This has, in fact, been done in the New King James Version. It uses precisely the same Greek New Testament text as the KJV, but it uses contemporary English. (The same is true for the KJV 2000, the World English Bible, and the Modern English Version, among others.)”

Ibid., 117

Despite the fact that other translations are available, Ward again makes reading the KJV a sin issue when he says, 

“Third, even if you do understand the KJV just fine, it’s not in vernacular English—and that means something for how you treat others, not just yourself. Don’t stop Cody and Javante and Jiménez (real names of precious teens I served in outreach ministry for many years) from hearing the Bible in words they can immediately understand. Don’t make them memorize “you hath he quickened”—even if you take time to explain quickened, which not all youth workers do—when they could memorize “he made you alive” (Col 2:13 CSB). Don’t step in the way of your own children or grandchildren inheriting what is their birthright as Protestants—no, as Christians: the unadulterated words of God translated into the vernacular. You have liberty to read whatever translation you want and, as far as I can tell, no ecclesiastical authority has the power to stop you. I certainly don’t. But I urge you to set aside your privileges for others’ sake when it comes to Bible teaching and other discipleship work (1 Cor 9:1–12). Children and new converts should not be given copies of the KJV. Paul said no to that option when he tied intelligible words to edification in 1 Corinthians 14.”

Ibid., 119-120

This statement is the rhetorical equivalent of a temper tantrum. After spending several chapters trying to convince people that they cannot read the KJV and that it is literally another language, he says to those that disagree with him, “I don’t care if you say you can understand it, other people cannot, and therefore you are sinning.” This kind of exegesis is the foundation for spiritual abuse. Ward is arguing that the continued use of the KJV is a stumbling block and a violation of Scripture itself, and therefore using the KJV is a direct violation of Scripture. He says this plainly in his own words, 

“You may wish to put a stumbling block in your own path in order to increase your resilience and skill—like linguistic resistance training. But we have a direct biblical command that is relevant here: don’t put stumbling blocks in someone else’s way (Rom 14:13)…I appeal directly to the 55 percent: Because you love the Lord, seek all the tools you can to understand his words, including contemporary English Bible translations. And because you love others, don’t stand in their way when they want to use those tools themselves.”

Ibid., 120

Conclusion

In chapter 6 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward presents one way to use the KJV, and offers what he believes to be “misuses” of the KJV. The only use Ward has offered so far in this work is to be used as a reference to determine the difference between the singular and plural “you.” According to Ward, the misuse of the KJV includes reading it as a primary translation and using it to teach and evangelize.

He has stated that while most Bible readers read the KJV, that the real problem is that these people simply do not know that they cannot understand it. His solution is an updated KJV, which according to his own words, has already been done in the NKJV, KJV 2000, and MEV. This being the case, an updated KJV is not what Ward is arguing for, he is arguing that people who read the KJV must stop. He appeals to Scripture to state that those who do read the KJV are in violation of Scripture’s teaching, and that they are causing themselves, and others, to stumble by reading it. 

It is becoming more and more clear that what I have identified as “conflicted messaging” is really a subtle rhetorical strategy to communicate his actual point – that practically speaking, there are only “misuses” of the KJV. Ward says that the KJV is intelligible, but not actually. He says that he loves the KJV, but those that use it are sinning by doing so. He says that all he wants is an updated KJV, but also that that has already been done. He establishes his primary argument, that people don’t actually know how to read the KJV, based on his own personal difficulty reading it and other anecdotes. He tells his reader that if they do not know Greek, they should “humbly acknowledge that their opinions about textual criticism” essentially do not matter. 

Ward does in this chapter what many Christians are growing weary of – speaking down from the scholarly high tower. He is the expert, not you. If you disagree with Ward, then you are literally sinning. If you, a “non-specialist,” have an opinion on textual criticism that goes against the academic meta, it isn’t wise to comment in the discussion. He then advises those of his readers to subvert the authority of their KJV reading pastors by instructing them to ask their pastor to recommend a Bible “In their own language.” Not only is this divisive, it is misinformed, and offensive, especially to myself, who recognizes the KJV as a beautiful articulation of the English language. We’ll see what else Ward has to offer in the upcoming chapters. 

Authorized Review – Chapter 5: The KJV as a Second Language

This article is the sixth in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.

Introduction

In chapter 5 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward finally says clearly what has been lurking in between the lines in first four chapters: that the KJV should not be read. See this syllogism he provides on page 79:

    1.      We should read the Scripture in our own language.

    2.      The KJV is not in our language.

    3.      Therefore we should update the KJV to be in our language, or we should read vernacular translations.

Ibid., 79

He concludes with this, 

“I therefore do not think the KJV is sufficiently readable to be relied upon as a person’s only or main translation, or as a church’s or Christian school’s only or main translation.”

Ibid., 85

Ward arrives at this conclusion by building a case that the KJV is “no longer a vernacular translation,” and makes use of Glen G. Scorgie to seemingly say that the KJV is not “really a translation” (85). He, like many opponents of the KJV, makes comparisons between the KJV and the Latin Vulgate (62) and notes that the translators of the KJV “were not KJV-Only” (83). It shouldn’t need to be said, but I want to remind my reader that the difference between Latin and the vernacular tongue of the people during the time of the Vulgate is not even comparable to the difference between KJV English and modern vernacular English. It is also unfortunate that Ward, and many apologists for modern Bible versions, continue to compare their assault on the KJV to what happened during the Reformation. More importantly, Ward’s reader should be noticing the ramped up rhetoric of this chapter. He employs many of the Anti-KJV arguments such as the “KJV translators wouldn’t believe what you do” argument.

This chapter is possibly the most helpful to understanding the goal of Ward’s work thus far. In my opinion, it would have served well as the opening chapter. He reveals most clearly what he has been getting at up to this point, that the KJV as it exists now should not be read any longer. This is persuasive writing, and now the objective has become clear: to convince people not to read the KJV. Many people mistakenly label Ward as a “KJV advocate” or that Ward “loves the KJV,” and this chapter demonstrates clearly why this is simply not true. Ward’s solution to the 55% of the Bible readers is that 1) the KJV should be updated or that they should 2) read a modern translation. He argues that a,

“KJV with tons of footnotes offering contemporary equivalents of archaic words is not enough.”

Ibid., 75

Interestingly, Ward argues in this chapter that the KJV is not written in the same language as contemporary vernacular English. Now, I agree with Ward that the KJV is not written in our colloquial way of speaking, I don’t think anybody would argue that it is. The confusing part of this logic is how you go from the KJV being different from our vernacular English and the KJV being an entirely different language. Typically it is recognized that literary English and vernacular English are different. The argument that the KJV is literally a different language mimics the thought of Dr. Andrew Naselli, who says,

“I was raised on the King James Version, so I’m bilingual: I can speak KJV…the KJV was an outstanding translation for its time, but today – over four hundred years after it first released in 1611 – I think it belongs in a museum.”  

How to Understand and Apply the New Testament, 42

Responding to the Vernacular Argument 

In chapter 5, Ward presents what seems to be the purpose of writing Authorized, and primarily builds his argument upon the claim that the KJV is no longer vernacular English, and therefore should not be read. He provides a definition of “vernacular” from the New Oxford American Dictionary as a starting point for his argument.


“It refers to language ‘spoken as one’s mother tongue; not learned or imposed as a second language’”

Ibid., 68

Is this the argument then, that the KJV is not English? Are KJV readers bilingual? He seems to be leaning on the first part of the definition, which indicates that the language must be “spoken.” Since people do not speak KJV English, then it apparently qualifies as “a second language.” He continues on, hinting that the KJV cannot be understood and that it is Elizabethan English, which is untrue on both accounts. It is demonstrably different than Elizabethan English, and can be understood, as Ward has admitted all throughout his book. The basic argument seems to be that since we do not use the syntax and exact vocabulary of the KJV in our daily speech, that it is no longer acceptable as a translation. 

This is a fundamental flaw in Ward’s argument. Simply because modern English speakers do not speak in the King’s English, does not mean they cannot understand the King’s English. He uses Luke 14 to demonstrate that the KJV is written in a way that we do not speak any longer. Yet I fail to see how this is relevant at all. Let’s take a look at verse 1:


“And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.”

Luke 14:1

It is true that we do not say “and it came to pass” in our daily speech, but does that mean we cannot understand what that means? We don’t use the term “eat bread” to mean “mealtime,” but we do say “break bread” to mean the same thing. The question that needs to be answered is not, “Is the KJV vernacular English,” it is, “Can the English of the KJV be understood?” More importantly, Ward fails to comment on the fact that our daily speech is not typically narrative, it is conversational. Most of what we say is not structured like the genres found in the Bible in any translation. The genre of Luke is not conversational, it is narrative. The phrase “and it came to pass” is found in all sorts of modern literature, including writings by J.R.R Tolkein. 

Ward is actually arguing that if a Bible translation is not written in our conversational English, it must be updated or retired. The ESV does not pass this test either. Take for example Matthew 12:44.

“I will return to my house from which I came”

Nobody talks like that in normal conversation, yet we do not say it is unintelligible. The point is that written English is different from spoken English. 

Ward adds another strange layer to his argument by saying that God didn’t originally speak in KJV English, but he did speak in modern version English.


“God did not say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”; he said, “You shall not commit adultery.” He didn’t say, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat”; he said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” The KJV and modern translations are saying precisely the same thing, of course, but they’re speaking to different audiences. And only one of those audiences is still living.”

Ibid., 79

Setting aside the fact that nobody says, “You shall” do this or that in vernacular English (sorry NIV, ESV, and NASB, you need an update), notice that Ward says, “The KJV and modern translations are saying precisely the same thing”. I want to further emphasize that English did not exist at the time of the writing of the Bible. If the statements both mean the same thing, and God did not speak originally to the people of God in English, what is Ward even trying to say here? This is arguably one of the most confused statements in the entirety of the whole book so far. 

Ward presents his argument convincingly enough, but it fails the test of common sense. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of phrases in every translation that are written in a way that we do not speak in our daily vernacular. We do not say, “You shall not,” or “To you it has been given.” The simple response to Ward’s entire argument is this – does anybody actually expect the Bible to sound exactly like our vernacular speech? Does anybody want the Bible to sound exactly like their daily speech? The argument that the KJV is an entirely different language is nothing but rhetoric, and it should even be apparent to the reader that Ward has disproved that in the pages of his own book. 

Conclusion

One of the most challenging parts of reviewing this chapter of Authorized is the slew of disconnected thoughts and arguments. His reader has been told so far that the KJV is readable, that the “False Friends” don’t affect doctrine, and that most people read the KJV. Now, we are finally presented with Ward’s actual argument, that because we don’t talk in KJV English, it is not a suitable translation. An important reality that Ward seems to miss here is that written language and spoken language evolve separately, and are used differently. In writing, there are genres that employ different syntax and vocabulary than the syntax and vocabulary of our spoken language. In fact, Vernacular English is often categorized into its own genre distinct from literary English. In other words, we talk differently than we write. 

While Ward’s demand for Bibles to be written in our daily vernacular is strange and misguided, he also uses this chapter to take quick jabs at the KJV by referencing non-related issues such as textual criticism and modern translation methodology. He even takes some time to address the “KJV Only” crowd. He ends the chapter with conflicted messaging once again. 

“In countless places, the KJV does not fail to communicate God’s words to modern readers; I’m eager to acknowledge this fact, because I grew up on the KJV and it was God’s tool to bring me new life. But in countless places, it does fail—through no fault of the KJV translators or of us. It’s somewhere between Beowulf and the English of today. I therefore do not think the KJV is sufficiently readable to be relied upon as a person’s only or main translation, or as a church’s or Christian school’s only or main translation.Thankfully, we don’t have to give up everything we valued in the KJV in order to gain the readability benefits of newer translations. The best way to honor the translation and revision work of the KJV translators is to allow it to continue.”

Ibid., 85-86

Ward seems to view himself as a modern day Martin Luther who is saving the church from captivity to the KJV, even saying himself “I can want no other.” Ward presents the case to his reader that it is a massive problem that people are reading the KJV. Even though Ward has all of the other modern options, he makes his reader believe that he has no other option for him and his kids, when no such problem exists. At the end of the chapter, Ward hints that the KJV simply needs an update, which Ward “graciously” offered his services to TBS a while back. At this point, Ward’s reader should be skeptical. Why is Ward so motivated to retire the KJV? What is really going on here? 

Authorized Review – Chapter 4: Learning Words is Difficult

This article is the fifth in a series reviewing Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.

Introduction

Thus far in Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, the reader is being introduced to the idea that the King James Bible is more difficult to read than people may think. The problem with the KJV, according to Ward, is the “False Friends,” which give the illusion to the reader that they understand what they are reading while in reality, they do not. Though he admits that these “False Friends” do not occur that often in comparison to the whole of the KJV, the reader is presented with the reality that they are seriously problematic, despite not affecting doctrine. In Chapter 4, Ward addresses the topic of how readable the KJV is as a whole by responding to the claim that many KJV readers make regarding its reading level. 

This of course needs to be addressed by Ward, because if the Flesch-Kincaid tool is used to assess the KJV’s readability against the ESV’s readability, the KJV apparently wins. Ward argues that the tool is not suited for the English of the KJV, and therefore this line of reasoning is null. If you read the previous article in this series, you should know that I agree with Ward here – counting syllables and words is not a sufficient gauge to determine readability. Since I agree that computer tools are not an absolute rule for determining readability, I instead want to use this space to again comment on Ward’s rhetorical strategy. 

Rhetoric 

After four chapters, Ward reveals what seems to be a key motivation for writing this book. 

“I do not believe that competent speakers of contemporary English should be required to look up English words in a Bible translation when commonly known equivalents are available.”

Ibid., 55

The problem does not seem to be the KJV, the problem is that Ward takes issue with people needing to look up words while reading their Bible. He goes on to say that computer models should not be used to gauge readability, people should.

“So how can we determine the reading level of the KJV? I suggest that av1611.org passed right over the best measure: people. If reading difficulty is the number one reason people set aside the KJV in favor of modern translations, then perhaps they know better than their computers. In fact, it’s a little odd that some would presume to tell numerous Bible readers, “No, you can read the KJV just fine. My computer says so.””

Ibid., 59

So now the foundational premise of Ward’s argument is again presented as something that must be established upon anecdote. Further, he seems to have misunderstood the entire purpose of KJV readers producing a computer based model for the readability of the KJV. It is not to tell KJV readers that it is readable, it is to demonstrate to KJV critics that it is readable. Further down in the chapter, the reader is introduced to more confused messaging when Ward appeals to an anecdote of his friend who is doing mission work in South America. 

“And yet a KJV-Only acquaintance of mine who is a missionary in the lone English-speaking country in South America told me, “I have found that people living in the jungles of Guyana are having no problem reading and memorizing passages of the King James Version.” I know my friend is not a liar, but I also have a hard time accepting that what he’s saying is true—not because a computer told me the KJV was harder to read than the NIV, but because I’m a flesh-and-blood reader. I know when something is easy or hard to read, and so do you. I have regular trouble following the KJV. I think you and the jungle dwellers of Guyana do too.”

Ibid., 59-60

At this point the reader has to ask, “Okay Mark Ward, you say that ‘people’ are the best gauge for determining readability, but when a person tells you that people living in jungles can understand it, you don’t believe him?” Ward continues to prop himself up as a “language nerd” and a “flesh-and-blood reader,” but I am beginning to question the reliability of Ward’s self-praise. Even if we place the KJV at a college reading level, which is an exceedingly high evaluation, Ward has a doctorate. How is it that a textbook author, doctor, and self-proclaimed “language nerd” have “regular trouble following” a book that is commonly accepted as being between a 5th and 12th grade reading level? Am I really supposed to buy this? Does his reader actually believe this? 

Ward continues his argument by saying that,

“In my judgment, the KJV isn’t at any recognized “reading level.” Not fifth grade, not twelfth grade, not grad school, not age eighty-six. The whole concept of “reading level” assumes that we’re talking about more or less contemporary language.”

Ibid., 60

Am I, as a reader of the KJV, actually to believe that the KJV simply cannot be categorized into a reading level? If this is the case, what exactly is going on when I’m reading it? Am I a master decoder? I really do not think so. If the argument is that the KJV cannot even be classified into a reading level, I’m afraid we’ve ventured into the realm of absurdity. It is for this reason that Ward’s tone is rather insulting to the KJV reader, and further demonstrates that Ward’s audience is people that read another translation. 

Conclusion

Ward ends the chapter by offering a solution that already exists in many KJV text blocks. 

“I could imagine that footnotes (“halt here means limp”; “commendeth here means showcases”) would allow us to have our KJV and read it too.”

Ibid., 60

There is an important point to note here. Ward indicates in this chapter that the KJV cannot be assigned a reading level because apparently it’s not a “contemporary language.” I have argued that the KJV will need an update when today’s written literature is as far from the KJV as the KJV is from middle English. If you have ever read a page of Chaucer, you know that this is not the case. The discerning reader should see past the rhetoric of Ward’s argument and recognize how absurd it is to suggest that the KJV is so archaic that it cannot even be assigned a reading level.

The most interesting observation I have about Authorized thus far is that every single one of Ward’s arguments is contradicted by his own words. He says that the KJV is difficult to read, while most people who read a Bible read it. He says that the KJV has “False Friends,” but not very many in comparison to the whole book. He says that “False Friends” deceive the reader, and at the same time do not affect doctrine. He says that the readability of the KJV should be established by what people say, but if they do say it’s readable we shouldn’t believe them. The amount of confused messaging in this book is staggering. 

If it is true that Ward’s issue with the KJV is that people shouldn’t have to look up difficult words when an easier one exists, it should be noted that this problem is solved in many KJV text blocks, most notably the Westminster Reference Bible sold by Trinitarian Bible Society. If this is our approach to the Bible, it is also important to ask the question, “How colloquial do we want our Bible to be?” Even more importantly, I have yet to determine why this book was even written. So far, Ward introduces problems, explains how the problems aren’t actually problems (except for him and people who don’t read the KJV), and then offers a solution which already exists. Again I have to ask, is there more going on here? I hope we will find out in the upcoming chapters.