They Think You’re Stupid

This is the third article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding” .

Do you remember during the reformation when they said, “Ad Fontes, back to the Latin Vulgate?” Yeah, me neither. Yet this is the kind of rhetoric that props up the critical texts. Every convert from the critical text position to the TR position has a moment where they realize that many of the attacks against the TR are simply attacks against the history and theology that they believe in. It’s a very similar experience that many people have when they realize that the mainstream media has been lying to them about almost everything. See this quote from James White just two days ago.

“The reformers and puritans would have used what we have today [the modern critical Greek text, they just did not have it], there is no question about that, and I would simply challenge the whole idea of a singular text of the Reformation. There was a general … uhhh …. 11th to 14th century primarily Byzantine manuscript tradition text that was used in general, but if you really want the text of the reformation, (let’s be honest) it was the Latin Vulgate. I mean, I mean, they, most of the reformers were significantly better in Latin (they spoke and preached and everything else in Latin) than they were in Greek .”

Ironically, this quote could serve as a “red pill” for many people in conservative Christianity. White would have you believe that the text of the Reformation was actually the Latin Vulgate. That the visible church, which, as White often says was captive to the Vulgate for 1,000 years, decided to continue defending the very text that had held them captive. Yes, the very text that the Papists defended, was in fact the text of the Reformation. It’s as if the Reformers had Stockholm syndrome and defended their abuser.

The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that these people genuinely believe that their audience is stupid. They think that you are stupid. If this quote is indeed true, we have to rewrite the entire history of the Reformation, where the Reformers defended the Latin Vulgate and weren’t able to translate ancient works from Greek into Latin without BDAG. This kind of defense of the critical texts is actually a beautiful boon to the church, because anybody with a basic understanding of Reformation history knows that the text of the reformation was not the Latin Vulgate. In fact, the Latin Vulgate was officially the text of the counter reformation, codified at the Council of Trent.

Now, from a very practical perspective, this is the kind of argument that might cause even the most average student of church history to pause. It is actually an argument that breaks out of the text-critical realm and into one that many more people have access to: church history. See, the vast majority of the church is generally unaware of textual scholarship. However, and thanks in large part to James White, a huge chunk of conservative Christians are quite familiar with Reformation history.

It should be apparent to everybody reading this article why mere fundamentalism doesn’t adequately explain the appeal to the TR when defending the critical text involves saying that the text of the Reformation was, unironically, the Latin Vulgate. Most importantly, our theology should be pulled from Scripture. As I noted in the last article in this series, the theology of the critical text is something along the lines of “quasi-preservation”. Instead of dealing with this, many choose to attack the historical account of the Reformation itself. The example in this article is probably the most obtuse that I have seen yet.

This is another reason why many flock to the majority text or TR position – the arguments for the critical text read more like conspiracy theories than an actual theological position. Now, an argument against something is not an argument in favor of another, I recognize that wholeheartedly. This article is not a defense of the TR. Rather, it is yet another reason, other than rabid fundamental emotionalism, why people begin to search outside of the critical text for answers about the bible they read.

The Scholars Don’t Agree With You

This is the second article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

In the last article, I discussed the reality that those in the TR camp tend to take critical scholarship far more seriously than those in the critical text camp itself. Bible believing Christians say their Bible is preserved, and the scholars uniformly say that it is preserved enough. Reasonable Christians take that seriously. In my opinion, this basic reality is enough to definitively end the discussion over which bible is acceptable for use in public and private. If you don’t have the original, and you can’t know if you have the original, you might as well pack up the church and go home. Yet well meaning conservative Christians will state that every word in their bible is Scripture, and in doing that, contradict the scholars they claim to agree with.

Shining a Light Through the Fog

This is one of the most fundamental concepts to understand for those that are genuinely trying to get in the mind of a TR advocate. Despite the common talking point which says that TR Onlyism is a symptom of fundamentalism, emotionalism, or some other “ism”, this is simply not the case for many who read a Traditional bible. Before I continue on in this series, I have to hammer home one very important point:

If you believe that the Bible is preserved and you have it today, every single New Testament scholar fundamentally disagrees with you.

Take for example this quote by John Piper from Desiring God:

Evangelicals believe — indeed most Christians through history have believed — that since the original writings of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew have been faithfully preserved, and the translation faithfully rendered, we hold in our hands the very word of God. It is a breathtaking affirmation, and an infinitely important reality.

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-infinite-worth-of-the-word-of-god


The above quote is readily affirmed by all Bible believing Christians, yet it is incompatible with modern scholarship. This quote, rendered according to the scholarship of Evangelical text critics, might read:

Evangelicals believe – indeed most Christians through history have believed – that since we have good reason to believe that the original writings of the Bible in Greek and Hebrew have been adequately preserved, and the translations faithfully rendered, we may hold in our hands the Word of God.

This is a sore spot for those that identify as “Evangelical text critics” and apologists. I have seen reasonable discussions end in Presbyteries being contacted when this is pointed out. It is for this reason that most arguments for the critical text don’t actually answer any of the important questions. Many “defenses” of the critical texts are simply arguments against Erasmus, the people use a TR translation, or perhaps that a translation is too difficult to read. They attack the scholars of the Reformation, often times using the same arguments the papists did in the 16th century. They rarely offer a comprehensive theological defense of their own text, and when they do, it does not come out sounding like what most Christians believe.

When you actually press an honest scholar (which most scholars are honest, it’s the apologists that tend to bend the rules) or advocate of the critical text who is current on the scholarship, they will respond that their view of preservation is something along the lines of “Quasi-Preservation”. Others will simply lower the bar and state something along the lines of, “We have what we need. If what we have is good enough for the Holy Spirit, it’s good enough for me.” This response is a thinly veiled rejection of preservation. Anybody who simultaneously argues for the critical texts and also that “we have the very word of God” is likely misinformed on the current scholarship.

Conclusion

I would argue that the number one reason people claim the critical texts is due to simply not being informed on the current scholarship. In other cases, Christians focus so much on the rhetorical devices of critical text apologists and don’t realize that points made in a debate don’t adequately answer the important theological questions that are necessary to have a stable view of Scripture. In other words, being able to effectively communicate does not mean that what is being communicated is correct. Often times the arguments of critical text apologists do not even comport with the scholarship that they claim to be advocating for.

Most Christians want to know one thing when it comes to their Bible. They want to know that what they are reading is the original Word of God, or a translation thereof. The scholars do not affirm this without caveats and nuance. Within that nuance you will find a view that says that we do not have the whole bible, just enough of it to get by. Those in the TR camp are not satisfied with that view of Scripture, and that is typically the catalyst that leads people to explore views outside of the academic mainstream. If you find yourself perplexed as to why somebody might turn to the TR, it is vital to understand exactly what the textual scholars are actually saying about the bibles they produce. It may be beneficial for all critical text advocates to turn down the volume on the apologists, and turn up the volume on the scholars.

Faith Seeking Understanding

This is the first article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

I have been thinking a lot recently about what sort of content would be the most helpful to people at this point. There are many hard hitting content creators that engage in the public discussion surrounding Bibliology and textual issues, so I want to do something different than those that are tackling variants or participating in public discussion. This article is the first in a series that I’ve titled, “Faith Seeking Understanding.” The audience of this series is the people who genuinely wish to understand a TR position on Scripture, not those that wish to enter into the debate arena. While many of my articles are quite informal, this series will be especially casual. I hope that it will be a helpful addition to what is already available on this topic. In this introductory article, I will answer the question, “What exactly is the appeal of a TR position?”

What is the Appeal of the TR?

Many people have a misinformed answer to this question due to the well-poisoning that occurs in this discussion. You have probably heard that TR Only/KJVO people are clinging to tradition, or are exchanging truth for safety, or perhaps are simply ignorant of the available text-critical data. The inevitable outcome is that a vast swathe of people have a shallow perception of the people who use translations made from the Masoretic Hebrew and Received Greek Text.

So why do so many people still read the KJV and in some cases the other translations made from the Traditional text? If you are coming from the modern evangelical or neo-Calvinist church, you have likely heard for years that the Traditional text has added verses or is outdated for a modern context. I’m sure you have listened to John MacArthur or John Piper presenting cases against certain passages of Scripture. Many well respected men repeat the same talking points that effectively give the impression that those who still read TR translations are unlearned, unfaithful, unthinking men and women.

Rather than rehash what I have already covered in over 200,000 words on this blog so far, I will give a more human reason. At the core of conservative Christian Orthodoxy is the belief that God will speak clearly to His people until He returns. The method in which God communicates in the church age is the Holy Spirit working with Scripture in the heart of the believer. When Christians who believe the Bible want to hear God’s voice, they open their Bible and believe that God has something to offer in every line for matters of faith and practice. This is not controversial, and I would bet that those who describe themselves as Bible believing Christians would agree with this basic doctrine.

The appeal to the TR is so strong for the average, conservative, Bible believing, Christian because the scholars who produce the critical text do not offer a product that aligns with the standard, orthodox, doctrine of Scripture. The leading scholars within all corners of the text-criticism community frequently renounce the idea that the Bible is preserved, or that the bibles we have today represent the original text that was inspired in the Hebrew and Greek. So if you are perplexed as to why so many people still read Traditional Text Bibles or have ditched their ESV, perhaps take this reality into more serious consideration. This is not a blind appeal to tradition, or a naive exchange of truth for comfort. It is a reasonable response from folks who listen to what the text-critics are saying, and take them seriously. When prominent scholars, all in unison, say “The Bible we’ve given to you is not entirely original that we know of,” you should probably believe them.

Conclusion

It is easy to believe that the appeal to the TR is only for those not brave enough to weather the scholarly storm. This is a rather shallow reading of what those in the TR camp are actually saying, however. When scholars say very clearly that none of the bibles produced represent the original text, and that the quest for the original is all but impossible, it is quite reasonable to head another direction with your doctrine of Scripture. Many get caught up debating individual variants when, as the scholars admit, the critical methodology cannot be used to make any sort of definitive conclusion on those variants. This is one of the most interesting bits of commentary about those in the TR camp that often goes overlooked – in many cases, those in the TR camp seem to take the critical scholars far more seriously than those that claim the critical methodology for themselves.

When a high-caliber textual scholar like DC Parker argues that the text is changing and will always change, TR folks take his word for it. When well established critics like Tommy Wasserman claim that he does textual criticism as though God does not exist and that he doesn’t want to be put in the box of his white privileged perspective, TR folks take his word for it. When Dan Wallace, a champion of the critical text, claims that we don’t have the original, inerrant Scripture and that we never will have it, TR folks take his word for it. When Peter Gurry, a rising star in the text-critical world, states that the upcoming changes will affect doctrine, theology, commentary, and preaching, TR folks take his word for it.

It does not take rabid fundamentalism to want to distance from this kind of Bibliology, and if you are truly attempting to understand the TR position, you will see that. That is not to say there are not academic and historical defenses of the TR, there are plenty. What I am saying, from the perspective of the average Christian, it is not unreasonable to listen to the scholars, take what they are saying seriously, and find that what they are saying is utterly wanting. This is not fundamentalism, or traditionalism, or emotionalism. It is a perfectly logical conclusion drawn from actually listening to what the scholars are saying in very clear terms about modern bibles.

The Diversity Within the TR Camp

Introduction

Many people are introduced to the TR position through its critics. This is often unhelpful in understanding just exactly what “the” TR position is, and what those that adhere to some form of it actually believe. It may be shocking to men like James White and Mark Ward, but the TR position, while mostly uniform, has subsets of people who differ in various ways. As a point of clarity, I will not be discussing the topic of translation here. In this article, I want to highlight two major camps within “the” TR position as it pertains to the underlying Greek and Hebrew. It may be helpful for those that are new to the discussion, or perhaps to those who want to see an inside perspective that isn’t tainted with the aggressive argumentation of modern apologists.

The Two Kinds of TR Adherents

The Corpus TR View

This is a very common view within the TR community. Due to minor variations between editions of the TR and the translations thereof, those in this camp believe that the TR is the collection of readings contained within Reformation era Greek texts and translations. Some in this camp rightfully argue that Erasmus’ editions do not properly represent what has been come to be known as the TR, and others accept Erasmus with open arms. This group is more open to accepting various readings at certain places like Rev. 16:5. As with all people that fall in the TR camp, they reject the critical text and versions made from it.

The KJV as a TR View

This is also a very common view within the TR community. This camp recognizes the variations within the TR corpus, but believes that there is not sufficient evidence to make any ruling on one variant or another based on the extant evidence. This skepticism towards the authority of the available manuscript evidence in 2020 necessitates that this group validates readings by measuring the reception of a reading by the church rather then the preponderance of extant evidence for or against a reading.

The basic argument justifying this view is that, due to how many manuscripts have been lost or destroyed and the lack of documentation detailing which manuscripts were available in the 16th century, there is no way to tell with confidence which manuscripts were available throughout time. A common practice within the modern camp is to simply assume that we know everything there is to know regarding the availability of manuscripts during the 16th century, when we clearly don’t. As a result of recognizing this reality, the editorial decisions made by the KJV translation team using Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and editions effectively becomes a definitive TR, as these readings have been received and used more than any other edition in the last 400 years.

Critiques

The Corpus TR View

One of the major critiques of those in the corpus view group is that they are essentially engaging in the same kind of text criticism as the modern camp, only with a smaller subset of data. The difference is said to be in “number and not in kind”. This group is still faced with the reality that we do not have a clear perspective on the sum total of manuscripts that were available to those producing the TR corpus. Despite this critique, this position more readily recognizes some of the difficulties of the variants that exist within the TR corpus, and leaves some room for discussion as to what exactly is “the” TR.

The KJV as a TR View

The most common critique of this position is that it is no different than Ruckmanite King James Onlyism. This is often set forth by men like Mark Ward and James White. The argument is essentially that, because the basic reality is that this group only reads the KJV, it doesn’t matter how they arrived to this position, as the end result is the same. This is a rather uncharitable interpretation of the position, and unhelpful if you are actually trying to understand what is being set forth. All adherents of this position vehemently deny any association to the methodology of Ruckman or Gipp. A fair reading of this position easily reveals that this group does not view the KJV as “reinspired” or esteem an English translation more highly than the inspired original texts.

The basic objection to this critique is that the position is far more nuanced than a blind adherence to the KJV. Often times, those in this camp begin with the corpus view, and through careful study and application of a faith-based criteria, end up adopting all the readings chosen by the KJV editors. Though this is actually quite common, there are still many people within this camp who adopt the KJV as a TR due to how widely and consistently the church has used the KJV for faith and practice. It is important to remember that the reception of Scripture is a theological issue, not an issue of modern criticism.

Conclusion

While both the Corpus view and the KJV as a TR view are practically the same, there are careful nuances within the two camps that deserve recognition. The TR camp should not be swept into one monolithic tribe, as there are differing opinions that may change how one person approaches the debate compared to the next. For example, somebody in the corpus view may be more willing to discuss manuscript evidence in certain places, whereas somebody in the KJV as a TR group might not due to skepticism about the progeny of the manuscripts being discussed.

In both cases, those within the TR camp recognize the absurdity of making hard claims regarding the early surviving manuscripts, often called “Alexandrian”, which make up the critical text. The TR camp finds unity in understanding that we simply do not know enough about the transmission history of the text until we see relative uniformity in the manuscripts leading up to the Reformation period. In the end, both groups agree that the best text is a TR type, as it is the text that God has providentially and unquestionably used most powerfully since the time Bibles began being mass produced via the printing press.

Having Discernment in the Age of Unreason

Introduction

We live in the age of unreason, where many people are uncertain if this world is real, or simply a simulation. Scholars with the highest level of credentialing are advocating for silly nonsense like “2+2=5”. The 24 hour news cycle is wrong more than it is right, and people’s discernment is at an all time low. You can literally watch a video of a person throwing an explosive into a building and thousands of people will call that “peaceful protesting”. You can blame the schools and universities or perhaps parents failing to bring up their children in nurture and admonition of the Lord and you’d be right on both accounts. If you have ever had an argument with somebody in the last four years, you have likely experienced what I call “The Post-Modern Zeitgeist”.

The Post-Modern Zeitgeist is the inability for somebody to fairly assess an argument or be persuaded from their current position no matter how strong the evidence is against their current position. Instead, those overcome with this spirit of the age will ignore sound reasoning and engage in projection, pejoratives, and ad hominem attacks. They will accuse you of doing exactly what they are doing, and then claim victory after offering character attacks and saying nothing of substance. If you’ve ever talked with somebody who believes they are correct simply because they said their point emphatically and repeatedly without considering any objections, you likely know what I’m talking about. This zeitgeist has infected the minds of Americans in every sphere whether it be politics, medicine, and for the purpose of this blog, Bibliology. This post-modern zeitgeist prevents many well meaning, good-hearted Christians from seeing the legitimate flaws in modern text critical methodology.

Discernment in the Age of Unreason

There are certain arguments, realities, or facts that are so compelling that they can discredit the validity of an argument simply by being true. 2 + 2 cannot be 5, because it is 4. These kinds of arguments should be able to at least get you to question whether your view is incomplete, or perhaps needs work. For example, in the text critical world, otherwise faithful men continue to defend the modern critical text, despite its methodology being completely empty and devoid of anything sound enough to adopt its various theories. Most people who adopt a modern bible assume that they have the word of God. They defend their bible assuming this same premise, despite having absolutely no ground to do so. It is not the case that the Word of God isn’t preserved and available, it is that the scholars who produce these modern texts literally say that the bible isn’t perfectly preserved or available in any of their texts. This is what one of the most trusted authorities, Dan Wallace, has to say regarding the authenticity and originality of modern bibles:



“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

This quote is contained within one of the newest works in Evangelical Textual Criticism. This view, espoused by Wallace, is lock-step with the greater Evangelical community as it pertains to Bibliology. This quote is important, because it says plainly what I have been saying on this blog since I started it last year – the methods of textual criticism are not adequate to arrive at a final product, and are not adequate to claim any amount of certainty in a given passage. This is not some theory of mine, these scholars and advocates readily admit it. Let me explain by breaking down this quote:

We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote.”

This is an admission that there is no product that the modern Evangelical community believes to be the original Word of God. Even if some people within this camp are willing to say they are certain enough in their bible to read it, if pressed on which passages they believe to be original, they will not answer directly. This is a necessary conclusion of the methodology. Wallace continues:

“Even if we did, we would not know it.”

This is an admission that there is no text-critical methodology that can validate the product of any current text-critical effort. In other words, even if modern textual critics produced something final, they could not say, “This is the original bible” according to the methods they used to produce it. Because modern textual criticism is completely empirical, it can never arrive at a final answer because we do not have the required empirical data to validate the end product. Dan Wallace admits it along with all of his peers.

Conclusion

The necessary conclusion and argument I want to present now is this: The modern critical text does not represent the original Word of God, and the scholars that produced it and advocate for it do not claim that it does represent the original Word of God. Therefore, any and all claims that those who advocate for the originality of a verse by way of this methodology do so erroneously. Further, any claims made regarding other texts not produced by this method are likewise hollow because the evidence is evaluated by the same methodology that does not claim to have a way to know if a text is original. Thus, any and all claims made by a method which says, “Even if we did, we would not know it”, is bound to the methodological fact that it does not have any authority to make claims regarding the originality of any text.

The plain reality of this argument is that those that defend the modern critical text do so on shifting sand. Apologists may make compelling arguments for one text or against another, but these apologists are bound to the axiomatic reality that their method cannot make such claims responsibly. It is the same paradox that a moral relativist encounters when he is outraged at a perceived injustice. No matter how angry this injustice makes him, he does not have the proper framework to argue for the logical coherence of his anger. In the same way, the advocate of the modern critical text(s) has no basis by which they can responsibly make any claims regarding the authenticity, or lack of authenticity of a given text. Like the moral relativist, his defense or attack is simply arbitrary. To say that the modern critical text(s) is the original Word of God, you are saying that 2 + 2 = 5. You must ignore what all of the scholars are saying along with what the methodology and theology they are using to produce such texts. Such argumentation should be marked and avoided. If you claim that your view aligns with Dan Wallace as some popular internet apologists claim, or any of these other evangelical scholars, you must necessarily reject WCF 1.8, LBCF 1.8, and any idea of a preserved and available bible.

“KJV Onlyism” is a Christian Virtue

Introduction

There is a common line of thinking that says that the KJV is a fine translation, but it should not be read in exclusivity. Those that do are foolish or ignorant, according to many. Such has become the default layperson’s opinion within what might be considered “conservative” evangelicalism. The scholars who contribute to this discussion are typically more extreme, often times advocating that the KJV should not be read by anybody (See Andrew Naselli). Such opinions are extremely uncharitable, and quite frankly, ignorant. The two common threads that run through those in the critical text crowd is that they refuse to hear any legitimate critiques of their own position on the text, and they refuse to see the virtues of the positions that are in conflict with their own. Instead, they focus only on the critiques of “KJV Onlyism”, which is defined as anybody who simply reads the KJV. As a former critical text die hard, I tried to see the virtues in the critical text, and found none.

“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him”

Proverbs 18:13

The KJV Only Boogeyman

When people talk about KJV Onlyism as a “heresy” or “foolishness”, one might think they are referring to Ruckman or Gipp and those who follow in that school. While this would be charitable to assume, this is almost never the case. When people use the phrase “KJV Onlyism”, they are referring to people who do not choose to make use of the modern critical translations of the Bible. The reasons do not matter. This is not only the case at a popular level, but also the case within available academic literature (See Naselli). That is to say, that if you as a 21st century Christian do not read a 21st century Bible, you are a “fool” or in Naselli’s words, “ignorant”.

What many people who advocate against “KJV Onlyism” fail to see is the growing list of criticisms of their own position that have caused many, many people to return to the King James Bible. Since most “defenses” of the critical text involve attacking the TR, it’s near impossible to find an actual presentation as to why one should read a modern critical bible other than “You don’t want to be a kooky KJVO”. In fact, when critical scholars attempt to defend their bibles, they end up advocating against historical protestant orthodoxy. The best that modern scholars can do at this point is to say, “We know we don’t have every word that was originally written, but what we have is good enough for me”. I have yet to see a single argument at the scholarly or popular level that can explain how the Bible can be pure, and also be changing and uncertain without abandoning the historic protestant view of the Scriptures.

In order to justify the use of critical bibles, critical apologists must reinterpret historical theology to say, “They were actually saying what we’re saying”. Most Christians who use this line have no idea what it is that modern scholars are actually saying, unfortunately. You would think that somebody who is calling other Christians “ignorant”, “foolish”, and “cult-like”would know a little bit about the position they are saying is the better position, but most of the time they have no idea. Nine times out of ten they are woefully ignorant on the state of modern textual criticism. So let’s take a look at what the modern scholars all agree upon from the mouth of Dan Wallace.

“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, xii. Quote Dan Wallace.

Now, if the average Christian were to just evaluate this quote, which represents the doctrinal core of the modern critical text, they likely would not find themselves in full agreement. In fact, it might even cause them to question their undying support of the bibles that are produced with this theological core in mind. Yet, the mind of modern Christian is seldom convinced of a new position, because the modern Christian is trained to believe their favorite authority. Even if their favorite authority is dead wrong.

Conclusion

What many Christians who vehemently defend modern bibles fail to recognize is that there is nothing tangible that they are actually defending when they take up the cause of modern bibles. There is no “modern critical text”. There is no “modern bible”. There are only modern critical texts, and modern critical bibles. If you listen carefully to the scholars, notice how they will not ever defend the notion of a single bible. All bibles are good in their own way, and they all should be read and used, even if they disagree in text and translation – and they do. This is because modern Bibliology does not believe there is a single bible. If you don’t believe me, ask a scholar or proponent of critical bibles to identify one.

So when a defender of the modern critical text calls “KJV Onlyism” “foolish” and “ignorant”, they are actually saying that it is foolish and ignorant to believe that there could possibly be one text of the New Testament. In other words, it is foolish to believe that God kept His Word pure in all ages. You may believe that Erasmus was a papist idiot, or that Beza copied from the Vulgate, but at the end of the day, “KJV Onlyists” believe that God preserved His Word, and that it’s available today. This is doctrinally accurate and virtuous, not “foolish”. Before you scoff at the conclusion of the “KJV Onlyists”, think of what you have to affirm to do so. You have to affirm that there is no bible, and that God did not preserve and deliver His Word in the 21st century. Even if He did accomplish such a feat, you wouldn’t know it. What we have is “good enough” and you just need to deal with it. So before you go calling your brother in Christ a fool for reading the KJV, realize that many who read the KJV have adequate reasons for doing so. It may be wise to hear them out, and attempt to understand why men like Joel Beeke are among those who you call a “KJV Onlyist” and a “fool”.

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!