Mark Ward Proves That Defending Inerrancy Means Nothing

Many Christians believe that it is fundamental to defend the modern doctrine of Inerrancy. This would be true, if the doctrine of Inerrancy actually set forth anything meaningful. According to Mark Ward, Inerrancy means that “The Bible speaks truly in everything it affirms” (Ward. Bibliology for Beginners. 29.) Inerrancy is the doctrine that affirms the inspiration and authority of the Bible, but only in the original texts, which are no longer extant. This effectively makes it an utterly useless doctrine. Despite this fact, Ward gives four Scripture proofs to support this doctrine (I will use Ward’s translation from the book):

  1. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17)
  2. “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19)
  3. “God, who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2)
  4. “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35)

Ward continues his thought by saying something quite interesting.

“It is sin to doubt God’s words, and like all sin it is a slippery slope…But how do we know what we have in our hands is really the Bible?”

(Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible? 33. Ellipses represent a break.)

So here Ward has to answer the most important question possible. If he does not answer this question adequately, the entirety of his book is useless. The answer to this question informs what is actually substantiated by the doctrine of Inerrancy. It is one thing to say that the Bible is inerrant, and another to be able to point to a Bible and say, “This is inerrant.” So how does Ward answer this question? Well, we know, according to Ward, based on “a work called ‘textual criticism'” (49). This is where I need my reader to pay attention. See how he finishes this thought.

“Here’s where I need to say very directly, don’t be alarmed. Yes, there are differences among Greek New Testament manuscripts. Yes, I sometimes wish they weren’t there, that we knew with precise certainty what every last syllable of the Greek New Testament was. It may even seem like that’s what Jesus promised us.”

(Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible? 50.

Ward has used a clever use of words to obfuscate what he is actually saying, so I will translate for you. Surrounding this statement are explanations of the various kinds of scribal errors which do not amount to any serious variants. In this statement, he leads his reader to believe that these are the kinds of variants that we do not know “With precise certainty,” or that we are actually after “every last syllable.” What Ward is actually saying here is that we do not know with precise certainty what the original text said. At that point, whether we are talking about syllables or words does not matter, because there is no amount of granularity that can be determined with his standard. The entire purpose of this chapter is to lower the guard of the Christian’s that read this book. He concludes with this statement:

“The fact is that every available edition of the Greek New Testament gives the same law – and the same grace. They all teach the same Christian faith.”

(Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible? 50.

The first thing my reader should notice is that if this is what Ward actually believes, he has no right to attack the TR. In fact, he has no reason to write this book at all because all bibles are basically the same. The TR falls into the category of “every available edition of the Greek New Testament.” So either Ward doesn’t actually believe what he wrote here, or a good portion of his ministry is folly, according to his own standard. Not only is it folly, it is actually sin, again, according to his standard.

Secondly, my reader should notice that Ward introduces his own standard for how you should view the Bible. This is common among the Critical Text crowd. They almost always avoid exegeting the entirely of 2 Timothy 3:15-16. The Scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation” in addition to being profitable for “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The Bible is not just a bare bones document that is only to be used for bringing people to Christ. It also informs the Christian’s entire life as it pertains to faith and practice. According to Ward, the “textual critics have weeded them (variants) out with a high degree of confidence” (Ibid. 58). That is to say that Ward has a low degree of uncertainty.

So let’s put this all together. According to Ward, “it is sin to doubt God’s words.” According to Ward, “every available edition of the Greek New Testament gives the same law – and the same Grace. They all teach the same Christian faith.” According to Ward, we can have “a high degree of confidence” in our Bible. So not only is Ward in sin for doubting the TR, he is also in sin for not having full confidence in his own Bible. He is further in sin for teaching people to sin by doubting God’s words. Keep in mind that this is all according to Ward’s own standard that he set in his book.

Lastly, I want my reader to note that nowhere has Ward actually answered the question, “how do we know that what we have in our hands is really the Bible?” He never identifies a particular text or translation and he never says anything other than that “we have a high degree of confidence” that what we have is a Bible. Which is to say, “we have a low degree of doubt.” Which again, according to Ward, is sin. The most important thing to recognize about this “high degree of confidence,” is that it is entirely arbitrary. There is no metric or component of the critical text methodology that actually allows for such a determination, which is apparent in the fact that Ward doesn’t actually substantiate anything he says in this book regarding his levels of confidence. This is the fatal flaw of the Critical Text, and everybody knows it. Mark Ward wrote an entire book about the Bible, and couldn’t even tell his reader what the Bible was, or that they could be fully confident in said Bible. According to Ward, that makes him “in sin.”

My reader needs to recognize that while this theology is actually foolish, but it is also a blessing. It is a blessing because men like Mark Ward very confidently state that they don’t actually believe in a Bible. They believe in a reconstructed text that bears witness to the Bible with a high degree of confidence. That is not the Protestant view, which allows people like you and me to mark and avoid teachers like Ward, Wallace, and White. It is the dividing line. It is the fight of this generation. People have stopped believing in the Bible and the authority of the Bible, and the aforementioned men are leading the charge to convince conservative Christians to do the same.

Ruckman & the Critical Text: Theological Cousins


When people hear the term “King James Onlyism,” there are a number of definitions that might come to mind. Some think of the version of King James Onlyism which believes that the Bible didn’t exist until 1611 and that the English King James was immediately inspired. This is often called “Ruckmanite” KJVO, or something similar. Others might think of somebody who only reads the KJV due to the lack of quality of modern translations or somebody who simply prefers the KJV. On my blog I rarely address Ruckmanite King James Onlyism because I personally have never talked to somebody who believes after Ruckman or Gipp. If people weren’t constantly bringing him up, I probably would not have even heard of it from anybody in real life.

Recently I was talking to a brother who lives in Tennessee, who told me that it is a pretty serious problem where he lives, which made me realize I’ve never really addressed it. In this article, I’d like to examine the theology of this position and critique it by comparing it theologically to the Critical Text position. One of the major issues with this discussion is that the Modern Critical Text apologists cannot seem to bring themselves to make the proper category distinction between the Traditional Text position and Ruckmanite KJVO, so I will demonstrate in this article that it is actually the Critical Text position and Ruckmanite KJVO that are similar, not the TR position. Perhaps this will even demonstrate to the Ruckmanite that their theology is quite liberal in reality. In this article, I am using the term “Ruckmanite” to describe those who believe that the Bible was re-inspired in the English King James Version (double inspiration) and who reject the authority of the Hebrew and Greek texts over the KJV as a result of that doctrine.

The Similarities between the Modern Critical Text and Ruckmanite KJVO

Interestingly enough, the only thing that Ruckmanite KJVO and Traditional Text advocates share is their use of the King James Bible, and even then, some Traditional Text guys read the NKJV, MEV, or Geneva Bible. The Ruckmanite and the Modern Critical Text (CT) advocate actually have a lot more in common than a Ruckmanite and Traditional Text advocate. I am not saying that the theology of the CT and Ruckman are exactly the same, just that they share a serious overlap in the doctrinal core of their respective positions.

First, both the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite reject that the Bible was providentially preserved in the Hebrew and Greek. The CT proponent says that the Bible has fallen away, or perhaps was stashed in the desert in Egypt and needs to be reconstructed. There is no way to adhere to the WCF or LBCF 1.8 as a Critical Text advocate unless we redefine 1.8 in a Warfieldian way. Alternatively, the Ruckmanite will say that the Bible didn’t officially exist until 1611. While each camp arrives at extremely different conclusions, both accept the premise that the Bible was not handed down perfectly in the original manuscripts. See this quote from Dr. Andrew Naselli in his widely read How to Understand and Apply the New Testament.

“The Bible’s inerrancy does not mean that copies of the original writings or translations of those copies are inerrant. Copies and translations are inerrant only to the extent that they accurately represent the original.”

Andrew Naselli. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament. 43.

The Ruckmanite would agree that the the copies and translations of the copies of the original are not inerrant. They disagree with Naselli in the fact that they believe the KJV is the only inerrant Bible, whereas Naselli believes the Bible is only inerrant where it can be proven to be original (which is the standard view of inerrancy set forth by the Chicago Statement, article X). So both camps say that the copies that were handed down are not providentially preserved, whereas the Traditional Text advocate believes as Turretin did, that the original writings are represented by the apographs, or copies.

“By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, 106.

Second, both the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite are okay with treating translations as authoritative. The CT scholars use the Septuagint as authoritative above the original Hebrew, whereas the Ruckmanite views the KJV to be authoritative over the Hebrew and Greek. Even though the extant versions of the Septuagint cannot be proven to represent the original, these versions are used to correct the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Both, due to the first belief that God did not providentially preserve His Word in the original Greek and Hebrew, are perfectly fine treating a translation as authoritative over the original text.

While the doctrine of inerrancy as set forth by the CT advocate may sound different than the view of Ruckman, it really is quite similar. Since there is no mechanism of textual criticism that can demonstrate an extant copy or translation of a copy to “accurately represent the original,” the only thing that remains is the belief that the translation is more authoritative than the Hebrew original. The CT does this in many places in the Old Testament. If you were to inspect the footnotes of the Old Testament in a 2016 ESV for example, there are readings on nearly every page that are taken from translations such as the Latin, Syriac, and Greek over and above the Hebrew. This again is quite different from the Traditional Text view, which aligns with the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689.

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith. 1.8.

The Traditional Text view is that the authentic Scriptures are the Hebrew and Greek, which have been providentially kept pure in all ages, so the concept of taking a translation over the original does not exist in the TR view. Both the CT proponent and Ruckmanite appeal to translations as authoritative over the original. While the CT advocate may offer lip service to the Reformed doctrine above, they contradict themselves when they take the LXX or any other translation as more authoritative than the Hebrew or even Greek (2 Peter 3:10). The Ruckmanite is simply more transparent about the practice. At face value, the CT advocate and the TR advocate may sound like they are saying the same thing about translations being authoritative insofar as they represent the original, but there isn’t a concept of an available original in the CT position. In order for Article X of the Chicago Statement to actually mean something, there needs to be a defined original that can be used as a final authority. Further, the CT scholars reject this in practice when they place readings in the text over the original languages from other translations such as the Latin, Syriac, and LXX. In this sense, they share far more in common with the Ruckmanite when it comes to Bibliology than the TR proponent.


In both the case of the CT proponent and the Ruckmanite, the core belief is that the Bible was not providentially preserved in the original Greek and Hebrew. The CT advocate applies this doctrine by enthusiastically supporting the ongoing effort to reconstruct the Bible, whereas the Ruckmanite applies the very same doctrine by saying that the Bible was finally inspired in the KJV in 1611. It is the same doctrine with two different conclusions. It is the same problem answered in two very different ways. The tactic that the CT camp employs is to focus on the the fact that both the Ruckmanite and the TR believer read the KJV and not the theological core and practical application of that doctrine. The CT believer looks at the Traditional Text advocate and the Ruckmanite, sees that they both use the KJV, and concludes they are the same. This is a massive blunder.

The important distinction occurs in the doctrinal substance of both positions, and when considered, the CT advocate and the Ruckmanite have much more in common than the Traditional Text proponent. Both the CT supporter and Ruckmanite believe that the inerrant text was not transmitted in the copies. Both the CT supporter and the Ruckmanite believe that translations can be more authoritative than the original language texts as a result of the first belief. The Traditional Text advocate affirms against both. The only similarity between the Ruckmanite and the TR advocate is that they use the KJV, and this isn’t even true in every case as many TR believers read the NKJV, MEV, or perhaps the Geneva Bible.

There is a reason some have appropriately labeled the CT position as “Reformed Ruckmanism,” because there is serious overlap in the theology of both positions. The overlap is so significant, that it is perplexing that the CT apologist even takes issue with Ruckmanite KJVO at all. They slam the Ruckmanite for viewing a translation as more authoritative than the original language texts, but they do the very same thing with the Latin, Syriac, and LXX. There is no theological reason for a CT advocate to object to Ruckman. The only place they really disagree is in the severely incorrect answer Ruckman has to their shared problem.

Ultimately, the CT proponent has a playground tier argument against the Ruckmanite. They called “dibs” on correcting the original with a translation, and don’t like that the Ruckmanites aren’t respecting the authority of “dibs.” Ironically, the Traditional Text camp is the only position that consistently critiques both positions, despite being labeled as “KJVO” by CT apologists. As I have noted before on this blog, the Modern Critical Text position has yet to explain how their practices can be consistent theologically with Scripture. That is what happens when you focus on textual data and variants all day and fail to stop for a second to think about doctrine.

Quickly Dismissing the Septuagint(s)


One of the most common places of confusion when it comes to The Textual Discussion as it pertains to the Old Testament is how the Septuagint (LXX) should be viewed. I wrote a lengthy article back in 2019 on the topic, but I thought it would be profitable to scale it down and transform it into a more digestible article. There are really three major categories that need to be addressed when discussing the Septuagint: Theology, Text, and Translation.


The first topic that needs to be addressed as it pertains to the LXX is how it is to be viewed theologically. At the object level, the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew. So the theological implication of using the LXX as an authoritative text is that utilizing translations as authoritative is acceptable. Practically speaking, this means that the Ruckmanite doctrine shouldn’t be particularly offensive to those that believe the Septuagint is authoritative. If the LXX, a translation, can be considered authoritative, then so too can the KJV. Theologically, using the KJV as an authoritative text and using the Septuagint as an authoritative text are categorically the same.

Additionally, in order for the LXX to be viewed as authoritative, one must believe that it is more authoritative than the Hebrew original. The common argument for using the LXX as authoritative is that the New Testament quotes “the LXX”. This is a poor argument, however, because the New Testament is written in Greek, and therefore any quotations of the Hebrew Old Testament would be “the Septuagint”. The basic argument is that since the Apostles quoted it, the text they quoted must be inspired. If that is the case, there are some pagan authors Paul quotes that we should probably sew into our Bibles. The Apostolic use of a text does not make a text inspired, the text is inspired by God. So then the logical conclusion of both of these arguments is that Ruckmanite KJV Onlyism is perfectly acceptable by the Modern Critical Text position and that texts are inspired by virtue of Apostolic use. Both are unorthodox and absurd. The Scriptures were immediately inspired by God in Greek and Hebrew and translations are mediately inspired insofar as they accurately reflect those original, immediately inspired texts.


If we can establish that the theological premise for using the LXX as more authoritative than the Hebrew is unorthodox and inconsistent, then the rest of the discussion is easy. In terms of the text, the LXX is to be viewed as any other translation. Where it translates accurately from the Hebrew original, it is perfectly acceptable to use, just like any other translation. In the places that it departs, the LXX should not be used. One might say that this is an issue, since the Apostles used a text that is seemingly different than the original Hebrew, but when evaluated these differences can be explained by way of translational nuance and loose quotation practices common in the early church.

Ultimately, translations should be used consistently across the board. We must apply the same standard that every Christian uses for evaluating a translation to the LXX, a Greek translation of the Hebrew. I know “consistency” is a fruit of the spirit in some corners of the Reformed world, so this should be especially acceptable to all. One final note on the text of the LXX is that it contains apocryphal books and additional text. If the text is authoritative, should not also be the apocryphal books? Should we take “Bel and the Dragon” into our modern texts at the end of Daniel? If the LXX is authoritative, than I don’t see why not. What argument that states the LXX is authoritative can then reject that all of the LXX must be authoritative? It cannot be done consistently, only arbitrarily. The only way that this conclusion could be avoided would be if there was a master copy of the LXX that could be identified as “The LXX” in addition to the Hebrew text it was translated from. We do not have either.


The idea that a translation should not be used as authoritative over the original text is extremely uncontroversial, except for in Ruckmanite and Modern Critical Text circles. The easiest appeal to people who think it acceptable to use a translation to override the authority of the original is simply to appeal to the fact that by doing so, they are actually just committing the same error as the people they demonize. What problem does the person who thinks the LXX is more authoritative than the original have with the person that thinks the KJV is more authoritative than the original? At least the Ruckmanite can say he can consistently reject “Bel and the Dragon” as Scripture. The conversation over textual data actually does not matter, because the form of the argument is a Pandora’s box of absurdity and theological error.

So the LXX should be used in the same way that other translations are used – as a way to consult other interpretations of how a text should be translated. Bible translators use other translations all the time in translation, and so too can the LXX be used for such a purpose.


The discussion of the Septuagint is quite simple. It is a translation and should be used in the same way all other translations are used. If somebody wishes to use it as authoritative, then they have no reason to critique the Ruckmanite. There is nothing complex about how we are to understand the Septuagint when we create correct category distinctions and compare those distinctions against our Bibliology. Translations are only authoritative insofar as they agree with the original. If we untether our translations from the original, there isn’t a tether to any objective reality that defines Scripture, only speculation. That is the same view set forth in Westminster as well as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. So unless the LXX enthusiasts wish to allow for the Ruckmanite category of Bibliology into the fold of orthodoxy, the conversation over the LXX is moot. The controversy over the LXX is actually not a controversy at all, when we apply categories and theology consistently.

Quotes That Everybody Should Copy and Paste on Any Post About Textual Criticism


Have you ever wanted to disperse the crowd of Critical Text enthusiasts from a Facebook feed? Here are some quotes that should help you demonstrate to the fool his folly.

The Modern Critical Text is Not the Original, Inspired Text

“We do not have now – in any of our critical Greek texts or in 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.”

Elijah Hixson & Peter Gurry. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii. Quote by Dan Wallace.

“I do not believe that 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.”

Dirk Jongkind. An Introduction to the Greek New Testament. 90.

The CBGM Isn’t Going to Give Us the Original Text

“I do not think the method is of any value for establishing the text of the New Testament”

Bengt Alexanderson. Problems in the New Testament: Old Manuscripts and Papyri, the New Coherence-Based-Genealogical Method (CBGM) and the Editio Critica Maior (ECM). 117.

“The reason is that there is a methodological gap between the start of the textual tradition as we have it and the text of the autograph itself. Any developments between these two points are outside the remit of textual criticism proper. Where there is “no trace [of the original text] in the manuscript tradition” the text critic must, on Mink’s terms, remain silent.” 

Peter Gurry. A Critical Examination of the Coherence based Genealogical Method. 93.

“Many of us would feel that Initial Text – if inadequately defined and therefore open to be understood as the First Text or Starting Text in an absolute sense – suggests greater certainty than our knowledge of transmission warrants.”

Eldon J. Epp. Which Text?. 70.

“In all, there were in the Catholic Letters thirty-two uses of brackets compared to forty-three uses of the diamond and in Acts seventy-eight cases of brackets compared to 155 diamonds. This means that there has been an increase in both the number of places marked as uncertain and an increase in the level of uncertainty being marked. Overall, then, this reflects a slightly greater uncertainty about the earliest text on the part of the editors.”   

Peter Gurry & Tommy Wasserman. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 7.

“At best, pregenealogical coherence [computer] only tells us how likely it is that a variant had multiple sources of origin rather than just one…pregenealogical coherence is only one piece of the text-critical puzzle. The other pieces – knowledge of scribal tendencies, the date and quality of manuscripts, versions, and patristic citations, and the author’s theology and style are still required…As with so much textual criticism, there are no absolute rules here, and experience serves as the best guide

Peter Gurry & Tommy Wasserman. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 56,57. Emphasis mine.

Articles on the CBGM

The Initial Text is Not the Authorial or Original Text

“The New Testament philologist’s task is not to recover an original authorial text, not only because we cannot at present know on philological grounds what the original text might have been, nor even because there may have been several forms to the tradition, but because philology is not able to make a pronouncement as to whether or not there was such an authorial text”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 27.

“But we need not then believe that the Initial Text is an authorial text, or a definitive text, or the only form in which the works once circulated”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 29.

What Textual Scholars Believe About Scripture

“In practice New Testament textual critics today tend to be Christians themselves, but not always. It does not matter, for the quality of their work does not depend on their faith but on their adherence to academic standards.”

Jan Krans. October 22, 2020.

“I should add a word of warning, that in the case of biblical research and bibliography will inevitably find theology dragged into it at some point. Where a text is revered by some people as divinely inspired, in some cases as verbally precise pronouncement by an all-powerful God, or even at its least dramatic when it is viewed as a helpful guide for daily life, the findings of the bibliographer may be of particular importance. And in case we get too carried away with the importance of penmanship and of the texts by which it is preserved, let us remember that our codices are not all in all, and may be no more than a byproduct of our lives”

DC Parker. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. 30,31.

“We are trying to piece together a puzzle with only some of the pieces.”

Peter Gurry. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence Based Genealogical Method. 112.

The Textus Receptus Was the Text of the Protestant Reformation

“Historically speaking, the Textus Receptus was the Greek New Testament of the Reformation.”

Jan Krans. October 22, 2020.

“Beza acquired a very high status in Protestant and especially Calvinist circles during his lifetime and in the first generations after him. His Greek text was not contested but faithfully reprinted; through the Elzevir editions it was elevated to the status of ‘received text’, textus receptus. ”

Jan Krans. Beyond What is Written. 197.

Article: No, Beza Was Not Doing Modern Textual Criticism

The Reformed Did Not Believe, As Modern Scholars Do, That “The Original” Meant the Lost Autographs

“By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit”

Francis Turretin. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, 106.

Hopefully this gives you some helpful ammunition when dealing with people who reject that God has given His Word to His people.

Guest Article: Pastor Dane Johannsson Addresses Spurious Claims About Doctrine Not Being Affected

I invited Pastor Dane Johannsson to write an article for my blog as an appendix to this article that I wrote about 1 John 5:7 and unbelief. He demonstrates not only that doctrine is affected, but that all texts of Scripture are fair game for revision and removal.


Greetings and felicitations in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to thank Taylor for allowing me to write a guest post on his blog. After reading his article, titled, “1 John 5:7 And Unbelief”, a striking example was brought to my mind which demonstrates the veracity of what Taylor puts forward in that article. Confessional Text advocates have long pointed out that the views of both the men who are compiling the new editions of the critical text (the completed volumes of the ECM and their corresponding handbooks, most recently the NA28) as well as the “conservative evangelical” men working in the field (Dr. Wallace, Dr. Gurry, Dr. Hixson etc.) do not match the views of the vast majority of reformed and evangelical Christians and pastors who utilize either translations of the handbooks or the handbooks themselves.

The average reformed/evangelical pastor who may consult an NA28, and the average Christian sitting in their pews with an ESV or NASB, do not share the theology of the men who gave them their New Testament texts. In most cases, they are completely unaware of what those men believe. For instance, as has been cited by Taylor himself on this blog countless times, “evangelical” scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace, who professes to hold to both the inspiration of the Bible and its inerrancy, in the introduction to Drs. Peter Gurry and Elijah Hixon’s book, “Myths and Mistakes”, writes,

“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.

Granted, Dr. Wallace also flat out denies the doctrine of preservation (specifically as articulated in the Westminster Confession 1.8, that the Scriptures were “kept pure in all ages” by God’s “singular care and providence”). But most Pastors and Christians who appeal to Dr. Wallace, as any kind of an authority, are completely unaware of this. Hence the problem. If you survey the average evangelical/reformed Christian or pastor, they will likely say that they agree with the statement, “We know with great certainty that at least 99.9% of the text of the New Testament is certain and settled.” They would reject as problematic and unorthodox the assertion, “We do not have certainty that any of our Greek texts or translations thereof, exactly represent what the original authors of the New Testament wrote. We simply cannot know if any reading is original. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.” Most Christians would reject such a doctrine, and they should.

A Case-study In Reconstruction

Many Christians who trust modern evangelical textual scholarship and translations, even when shown that this is the doctrinal beliefs of those who are creating the text and translation of their Bibles, tend to dismiss it as a non-issue. For them, at the end of the day, it is not really that big of a problem. This is where Taylor’s article becomes particularly helpful. He writes,

Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.

“Surely this must be an exaggeration”, respond some, “This is a mere emotional response! You cannot actually be implying that literally any text of Scripture could be called into question or changed, that is just a conspiracy theorist mindset!” I wish I was making it up, but this is the exact response that I myself have had from many Christians. A great litmus test (or could I say, “litmus text”) to demonstrate a Christian’s experiential awareness of the self-authentication of the Scripture, that they do indeed hear the Shepherd’s voice in His Word, in its relation to text criticism, is to take them to John 3:16.

I have sometimes asked Christians, “If there were to be some massive discovery of ancient manuscripts, and 100 complete copies of the gospel of John from 150A.D. were found, but they were all missing John 3:16, and the leading evangelical scholars determined, based upon this evidence, that John 3:16 should be removed from the Bible, would you be okay with it?” The vast majority of people I have asked have responded with a resounding, “NO”.

“This is an interesting point of argument, Pastor Dane”, someone might say, “but the this is only hypothetical, no one is actually removing or changing John 3:16. The differences between the critical text and the received text do not affect doctrine or beloved passages like John 3:16.” For the sake of argument, let’s just ignore the fact that it can be demonstrably proven that the changes in the modern critical texts do affect doctrine. What if I were to tell you that beloved passages, key doctrinal passages, one’s which contain the very gospel itself, like John 3:16, actually are affected by changes in the modern critical texts? What if I were to tell you that Taylor’s assertion (“Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question”) can be proven by looking at John 3:16 in the NA28, the most trusted and widely used modern critical Greek text, from which the most popular modern Bible translations are made?

The Authorised Version, representing the reading of the Textus Receptus and the overwhelming majority of Greek manuscripts, reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16, KJV)  In the ESV it reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16, ESV) All the major modern translations read the same way, and most of them claim to be based off of the NA28 critical text. 

What we want to look at is not the lack of “eth” on the verbs, or the difference in translation between, “only begotten Son”, and, “only Son”, but the pronoun, “his”, in the first clause, “his only begotten Son”. There is something alarming in the NA28 Greek text, which is said to underlie the translation of the ESV 2016. It demonstrates both Taylor’s assertion and how practically problematic the theological underpinnings of men like Dr. Wallace are. In the NA28 the pronoun, “his”, is not in the text. If one were to translate the first clause of John 3:16 as it stands in the main text of the NA28, it might read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave the one and only/unique son.” (For those of you who read Greek, “οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν” ; I have rendered τὸν μονογενῆ as, “one and only, or, unique”, to be consistent with the “scholarly consensus” found in the ESV and the NET, even though I agree with the KJV’s rendering, “only begotten”).

Doctrine IS Affected

It should also be noted that this is not new information. The NA27, the UBS 4th edition corrected, the Tyndale House GNT, the Zondervan Reader’s GNT, and the UBS 5th also do not contain the pronoun, “his”, in John 3:16. I also checked the NA25 and it too was missing “αὐτοῦ” from the text. Thus, we can conclude, from at least 1962, the modern critical text, from which modern “evangelical” Bible translations are made, has not contained the pronoun, “αὐτοῦ”, in the main printed text of John 3:16. We must therefore ask, If this is the case, that the text from which modern Bible translations are made does not have, “his”, in the text, then why does it appear in all editions of the NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT and even all editions of the RSV and NRSV?

I can think of a few reasons, the most important of which is that if they were to translate the clause as it reads in the text (“For God so loved the world that he gave the one and only son”) they would open the flood gates for a host of theological problems and difficulties, specifically in the realm of Christology. Is Jesus Christ God’s Son, is Jesus Christ “his” Son, or is Jesus Christ “the” Son? Was Jesus given to the world as a divine messenger, a created being (even the most glorious created being), “the” son through Mary, or is He the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Triune God, incarnate to save His people from their sins? Could not an Arian, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, and many other heretics use the reading, “God gave the unique son”, to discredit the sonship and the deity of Jesus Christ? Is not the sonship, and thus the deity, of Jesus Christ, if not under direct attack, at least compromised and complicated by such a reading? I think an orthodox, conservative, evangelical, reformed protestant would be hard-pressed to deny it.

Someone might respond, “Ah, but even with the reading, we can still conclude that ‘the son’ is God’s Son. The doctrine of Christ’s divine sonship is taught in many other places in Scripture, so even if someone tried to twist this passage to say that Jesus Christ is not God’s eternal Son, we can still point them to many other places that prove it. Even with this reading, Pastor Dane, no doctrine is affected.” If we look at the entire picture I do not think such a response has any legs to stand upon. We are not dealing with a problem in only this one verse, but problems in the seeming vast majority of key Christological verses.

Assuming that one could still argue that the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ can still be demonstrated with the NA28 reading, what happens when we add in the rest of the problematic readings in key Christological verses? To serve as a small sampling, consider, John 1:18 in the critical text, which reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”(ESV), compared to the received text, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”(KJV) Or what about when we add in 1Timothy 3:16 in the critical text, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh”(ESV), compared with the received text, “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”(KJV) Still further, what shall we conclude when 1John 5:7 is also considered, which teaches that the Word (that is, Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son) is one with God, being contained in the received text and completely absent from the critical text? The KJV in this place reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” In the ESV it reads … well, nothing … because it is not present in the text. We simply do not have time to look at every problematic reading in the critical text concerning Christology, but there are many more.

When we zoom out and see that a great many of the key Christological passages that teach the eternal sonship of Christ and the divinity of Christ have problematic readings in the critical text, the reading now before us in John 3:16 cannot simply be brushed aside as unimportant or said to have no effect on doctrine. I believe this is the main reason that all the major modern Bible translations completely deviate from the text they are translating and retain the reading, “his only son”, found in the received text and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts. To translate the text in front of them would cause serious theological problems and sully the most beloved verse in the Bible.


 Whether it is due to ignorance, self-preservation, or a willingness to burry one’s head in the sand and hide from the dire reality of the situation, most Christians and pastors who use the critical text and translations of them do not acknowledge the truth of Taylor’s statement, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.” If you want a tangible test of the veracity of this claim, I propose the following steps:

  1. If you can read Greek, open up your NA28, UBS5, or Tyndale GNT to John 3:16 and simply read it as it stands in the text, you will immediately notice that the Bible no longer says, “God gave his only begotten son”, as you have so long quoted. If you do not know Greek, grab a black sharpie, open up your ESV, NASB, NET or NIV and fix the translators’ error by returning the text back to the form accepted by the scholars who printed the Greek text your translation is from, cross out the word, “his”, in John 3:16.
  2. As you look down at the page, echo aloud the words of Dr. Dan Wallace, “I do not have now exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if I did, I would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”
  3. If you follow these steps, I assure you that you will not be able to so quickly dismiss Taylor’s assertion, “Once you accept the premise that the Bible has fallen into such disarray that it must be reconstructed, there is not a single passage of Scripture that cannot be called into question.