Quickly Dismissing the Septuagint(s)

Introduction

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.

Theology

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.

Text

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.

Translation

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.

Conclusion

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

Introduction

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. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2020/10/why-textus-receptus-cannot-be-accepted.html. 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. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2020/10/why-textus-receptus-cannot-be-accepted.html. 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.

The Practical Theology of the Two Textual Positions

Introduction

I have been a Calvinist for about as long as I have been a Christian. At that time, I did not know about Reformed Theology, nor did I call myself Reformed. When I entered the “Reformed” space on the internet via the Reformed Pub, I was introduced to a number of Theological debates. The first two years of my time as a “Reformed” Christian was spent debating various topics that internet Reformedom deems most important. This debate culture led me to believe that being Reformed was mostly an exercise of having a fully developed Theological menu. In essence, you picked out your stance on a list of ten issues, and then debated them online.

This of course is an unfortunate meme of Reformed Theology. When I began reading the English and Dutch Puritans, I realized that the way the divines of old discussed Theology was entirely different than the way modern Reformed Christians discussed Theology. In the first place, many of the pet issues of Internet Reformedom were not even a concern for the post-Reformation and Puritan divines, such as Theonomy. As I got off the internet and onto the writings of the Reformed, I realized one important emphasis that I had completely neglected – practical Theology. In this article, I will be discussing the practical Theology of the Critical Text and Traditional Text. It is important to clarify that I am not talking about the text itself, but the Theology of each text.

The Purpose of Scripture and Theology

Theology is the study of living unto God. In 2 Timothy 3:15-16, God tells His people exactly what Scripture is to be purposed for, “to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ” and to be “profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” He finishes this thought by saying that this is so “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” In other words, the study of doctrine is to have direct application in every way to practical Christianity. Every line of Theology in the brain of a Christian should also have a place in the heart.

This is the greatest difference between Internet Reformedom and actual Reformed Christianity. Internet Reformedom almost never discusses practical, experiential Christianity. It never emphasizes the practical impact and use of believing various doctrines. According to Internet Reformedom, doctrine is something to be debated and that’s it. This is the case in the discussion of textual criticism as well. Christians spend hours upon hours debating variants without considering what it means to reject a variant. The reality is that the practical application of the Critical Text dogma to the common Christian is absolutely detrimental to Christian practice.

The practice of the Critical Text doctrine diminishes Christian experiential religion in every way imaginable. In private devotion, it teaches that Christians ought to question the text underneath what is written in their translation. It encourages its users to “go back to the Greek” to determine what the Bible “really says.” The English translation must be flawed, and it is up to the reader to find out what the translators “really should have said.” It teaches that somebody who does not know anything about the original languages of the Bible can actually correct those who do know the languages by simply using an online tool. In Theological study, it teaches Christians that textual criticism is the first step to understanding God’s Word. In order to exegete the text you have to decide what the text says first. Christians have to stand over God’s Word first in order to sit under it. This leads to every Christian having a different text, and those that are really learned to have no text at all. In Evangelism, it teaches that Christians must learn textual criticism to have an apologetic to the unbeliever rather than just preaching the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). In Ecclesiology, it teaches that every Christian should rejoice in using a different Bible than the person next to them in the pew. Churches are to dance in the chaos that is produced by the “embarrassment of riches” that is our modern Bible situation. Practically, it misdirects and distracts Christians from every aspect of practical, experiential, religion.

The Theology of the Traditional Text is much different than that of the Critical Text. It teaches believers that they can trust what is on the page of their Bible, which is what you would expect from a book that is said to be the “very Word of God.” Learning Greek and Hebrew is not a requirement for the layperson because the languages can and have been translated accurately. It encourages its readers to sit under the Word as a student rather than over it as a critic. It is not up to the person who doesn’t know Greek and Hebrew to determine what the words “really mean” because they couldn’t do it even if they tried. It assumes that a Christian does not need to learn, or pretend to know the original languages in order to access the Scriptures. It allows for churches to share a common Theological vocabulary because they all have the same text. In matters of controversy within the church, the discussion of “which Bible is correct” isn’t relevant because the church is unified on that matter. In Evangelism, there is no call to convince the mind of man that the Bible is the Word of God, because that is not the requirement of Scripture, and is impossible for the unregenerate man in the first place. In preaching the Gospel, the Gospel is preached without any other requirement, as the Scriptures say. The Word of God is accessible, easy to use, and straight forward. The point of reading it is to be taught and refined. The point of studying is not to judge the text, but to be judged by the text. In short, it teaches Christians to trust their Bible, not question it. In every single place, the Traditional Text brings harmony to a church, whereas the Critical Text brings chaos, confusion, and division.

Conclusion

The difference between the practical Theology of the Critical Text and Traditional Text could not be more dramatic. The Critical Text methodology trains skeptics and puffs up the individual while the Traditional Text encourages humility and a teachable spirit. The average Christian does not know Greek and Hebrew, and finding an online lexicon does not change that or give a Christian the ability to provide a “correct” translation. In every case I have a seen a layperson “go back to the Greek,” they are horribly mistaken as to what the Greek actually says and further, incredibly ignorant as to how language works in general. They confuse the text of the Bible rather than providing clarity.

Despite the fact that Critical Text apologists are desperately trying to reframe the modern Bible embarrassment as an “embarrassment of riches,” it constantly causes division. If you’ve ever been in a small group with somebody who reads the NASB you know exactly what I’m talking about. Christians who have actually gone out and preached the Gospel on the street know that the massive number of Bible translations is a common reason people do not trust the Bible. If you’ve ever carried a KJV into a New Calvinist church you know that you will not leave that church without being told to watch the Dividing Line and to buy an ESV. Carrying a KJV into a modern “Reformed” church is as taboo as wearing a Trump hat onto a college campus. Scholars and apologists have made textual criticism a requirement for the average Christian without actually equipping them to answer the difficult questions. They leave them with the apologetic of Dan Wallace, which is to agree with Bart Ehrman and then say, “But that’s not a good reason to be skeptical!”

When a scholar or a pastor imposes the Critical Text methodology on the layperson, they are really just peddling skepticism and chaos. When a scholar or pastor argues against the Traditional text, they are arguing against unity and putting the believer on the same ground as the unbeliever. Every flaw that Critical Text apologists offer as a critique to the Traditional Text is actually a deficiency of the Critical Text. There is no practical application to Christian life and practice within the Critical Text methodology. The scholars admit that they approach the text agnostically, without the input of their Christianity. This is how they teach Christians to approach the Bible as well. Yet, we are supposed to be unabashedly Christian in how we read our Bible. I have spent many words discussing the Theological problems with the Critical Text on this blog, but it is also important to highlight the practical problems as well. Any methodology that teaches Christians to be “scientific” about how they read their Bible has unequivocally missed the mark. As with any area of Theological study, there must be practical application. The practical application of the Critical Text and Traditional Text could not be more different. One methodology teaches Christians to be critics of the Bible, and the other teaches Christians to be students.

20 Articles That Refute Modern Textual Criticism

Introduction

Every time I write an article, my blog becomes increasingly difficult to navigate. I probably need to revamp how the site is organized, but until then I thought I’d put together an article that serves as a glossary to some helpful articles that respond to common claims made by Critical Text apologists.

I have heard it said that in the refutation of the Critical Text, TR advocates are being unnecessarily negative and critical without offering any solutions. This is not true, because the TR position has a rich doctrinal structure, furnished with historical and Scriptural support. If you want to read a summary of the argument in support of the TR, see this article. If you want to read a number of articles I have written on the topic, see this category here.

Common Claims Made by Critical Text Apologists Answered

  1. TR Advocates are more skeptical than Bart Ehrman
  2. Treating Text and Canon the same is a category error
  3. P75 proves that Vaticanus is early and reliable
  4. Beza was doing the same thing as modern textual critics
  5. The CBGM can get us to 125AD
  6. There is a “fatal flaw” in TR argumentation
  7. The CBGM is going to give us a Bible more accurate than before
  8. The CBGM is “God’s gift to the church”
  9. The TR position offers no meaningful apologetic to Bart Ehrman
  10. The TR position is “anachronistic”
  11. The TR position starts with the TR and is circular
  12. Adopting the critical text is consistent with presuppositional apologetics
  13. There is no doctrine affected between the TR and CT
  14. The TR position is “textual mythology”
  15. Learning textual criticism is necessary for apologetics
  16. The burden of proof is on the TR advocates
  17. The Bible does not teach providential preservation
  18. There is no difference between Critical Bibliology and Reformed Bibliology
  19. It is possible to reconstruct the original autographs with extant evidence
  20. The TR position is just fundamentalism, emotionalism, and traditionalism

The Issue of Certainty

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

Introduction

A common discussion point within the textual discussion is the issue of certainty. How much certainty is allowable when it comes to our Bible? When we say, “I believe I am reading the very Word of God when I open my Bible”, what exactly does that mean? The average Christian understands that doctrine to mean that what is on the page is a translation of what God had written down. The critical text platform does not affirm this without disqualifying nuance. The TR platform affirms this wholeheartedly, without reservation.

One major critique of the critical text methodology is that it demands, to one degree or another, a level of analysis prior to reading the Bible. Those that educate the Christian church practically encourage this by advising readers to inspect the critical footnotes in their Bible to understand the textual data provided on the page. The average Christian does not know what to do with this information, and those that do often do not realize that the sparse critical footnotes never tell the entire story of the text-critical discussion as it pertains to one passage or another. This is an exhausting practice for the average Christian because this reading methodology requires the reader to add an additional, non-Biblical step in order to access God’s Word. More importantly, it requires that the Christian approaches their bible with a certain level of scrutiny.

How Do We Read Our Bible?

From a critical perspective, the Christian is advised to read multiple translations in order to understand the Bible. This is particularly complicated, because each Bible may use different texts to translate from, and even render words inaccurately or imprecisely. This forces the reader to use some sort of lexicon dictionary just to read their bible(s). Since most Christians do not understand translation methodology or have the training to use a lexicon responsibly, this method leads people into wild word studies which often obfuscate the text. Further, it teaches Christians to be decoders, not receivers.

Now, the larger issue here is the reason why many Christians are flocking to Rome, Greek Orthodox, Neo-Orthodoxy, and Word of Faith movements. Since the foundation of critical methodology is empirical, and that empirical standard doesn’t claim to have produced the original text at any given place, the question of certainty is at the forefront of this discussion. It isn’t just the fundies who recognize that the foundation offered by the various critical methodologies is three feet off the ground. Now, if the espoused method of the critical texts doesn’t claim to offer certainty, yet all Christians are required to use it just to read their bible, the effect is that many people flock to a system that offers what the critical texts do not.

Take Their Word for It

Modern scholars recognize this issue of certainty and foundation and have presented a view that Christians are not to have absolute certainty that what they are reading is God’s Word, but they also should not have radical skepticism over each passage. This is essentially Dan Wallace’s response to the issue of an ever-changing, never settled text. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this an adequate theological framework that explains how we should read our Bible?” Most Christians become so enamored with the humility, niceness, and scholarliness of the critical text presentation that they don’t stop and think what exactly is being said.

What is actually being said here, is that there is no reason to believe that we have the original in our modern texts, and despite this, it should not concern us. It is reasonable to be skeptical, and it is reasonable to be relatively certain in reference to that skepticism, but it is not reasonable to be absolutely certain or absolutely skeptical. Practically, this tells men like Bart Ehrman that he is wrong for being so skeptical, and it tells Christians that they are wrong for being so certain. Christians, according to modern scholars, are to compromise somewhere in the middle and be grateful that we have as much as we do.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that this view is problematic. It isn’t just the fundamental emotionalists who take issue with this framework. That is because there is a logical reason to challenge this balance between skepticism and certainty. See, if we do not have exactly the original today, and even if we did we wouldn’t really know that we did, there is no reason to have any level of certainty at all in the available bibles. The modern evangelical scholars scoff at this, but without cause. The argument that men like Dan Wallace sets forth is easily defeated by men like DC Parker and other scholars. The Living Text view is quite compatible with this spectrum between radical skepticism and absolute certainty.

In admitting that there is no valid means of verification of a given passage, evangelical scholars have quite literally given up the case for an inspired, preserved bible. As much as they argue that the text we have is “good enough”, this isn’t based on any definitive empirical analysis. If it were, Bart Ehrman would likely still be sitting in a pew on Sundays. It’s a faith claim. It is a claim that says, “Yes, we know we don’t have the Bible, but I believe in God, so therefore we have something”. It is a claim that says, “Bart Ehrman is right in his analysis, and wrong in his conclusion”.

The support for this argument is simply to make the case that the amount of evidence is proof of some level of accuracy. That may be true, but there is a significant lapse in the manuscript tradition from the 1st century to the first complete manuscripts, and there is no way of proving that what we have from the 3rd and 4th century represents what existed in the 1st century. Therefore, any claim that proposes such a view extends beyond textual criticism and into the realm of faith.

Conclusion

Again, the discussion of certainty is another topic where those in the TR camp listen to the scholars far more closely than those in the critical text camp. All of the scholars, both evangelical and secular, agree that we do not have the original Bible (yet). Most of them will admit that we will never have the original pending some miraculous discovery. That is to say, that empiricism cannot produce certainty, and never can produce certainty. If you are among the group of Bible believing Christians that say the Bible is the “very Word of God”, the scholars are telling you that you have no reason to actually believe that based on text-critical scholarship. In other words, you must suspend your trust in textual scholarship and take on a “fideist” view of the Scriptures. You have to do the very thing that the critical text camp accuses the TR camp of doing. The only difference is that the critical text camp must do so in spite of their Bibliology, whereas the TR camp does it as a fundamental component of their Bibliology.

Because those in the TR camp listen to the scholars, they recognize that textual data cannot produce the certainty the Bible requires. That is why the TR position isn’t an empirical framework, it is a theological one. It isn’t just blind fundamentalism, it actually takes very seriously the claims of textual scholars. TR advocates recognize that empirical proofs can bolster a theological position, but they cannot “prove” that what we have is original. It is the exact same case for creationism vs. naturalistic origin stories. Because the thing being examined cannot be replicated, scientific methods are an inadequate tool. So why is it the case that people who listen to the scholars, recognize the self-proclaimed flaws in the methodology, and reject the conclusions are portrayed as wide eyed fundamentalists bound to tradition? There is no good reason.

The reason the apologists in the critical text camp must paint people in the TR camp as fundies driven by emotion is because it distracts and diminishes what those in the TR camp are saying. It is the same kind of rhetoric that is used by propaganda media outlets. If you can’t answer the intellectual question, discredit the opposition. When Christians start seeing that this is happening, the TR position becomes attractive simply because propagandist arguments typically indicate that the position itself cannot be defended from a theological or intellectual standpoint.

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser”

Socrates

If you want to understand why people adopt the TR over the critical text, take a look at the core arguments. While it is true that both sides engage in ad hominem, the core methodology of the critical text is often founded on ad hominem. The Reformation scholars didn’t know Greek. They actually loved the Vulgate. They didn’t know they were wrong. Erasmus was a papist. TR folks are fundamentalists, traditionalists, and emotionalists. Those in the TR camp are dangerous, divisive, and combative. All of those things may be true, but none of them defend the critical text or discredit the TR. When Christians start to see this, they begin investigating the TR position more carefully, and often times see that the theological merits of the TR are far more sturdy than that of the critical texts.

“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 – Textual Criticism and the Scholarly Guild

Introduction

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

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

The Confused & Scared Christian

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

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

Ibid., 114

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

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

Ibid., 115

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

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

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

Ibid., 115

The Scholarly Dance goes like this: 

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

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

Notice another example of the Scholarly Dance:



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

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

And another: 

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

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

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


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

Ibid., 116

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

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

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

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

Ibid., 116

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6

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

“Books and the texts they preserve are human products, bound in innumerable ways to the circumstances and communities that produce them. This is also true of the New Testament…Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved.”

Knust & Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone, 15

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

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

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

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

Introduction

In chapter 5 of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, Ward finally says clearly what has been lurking in between the lines in first four chapters: that the KJV should not be read. The reader would likely be better off if the first four chapters were excluded and the book simply started here. He has contradicted every argument he has presented thus far, and if we take this into consideration, the premise for this chapter has absolutely zero foundation. I would be surprised if the reader wasn’t genuinely confused at the alarming escalation from chapters 1-4 to 5. The only words I can use to describe what takes place in Chapter 5 is “disconnected” or “unraveled.” Ward goes from arguing that the KJV is in some places unintelligible to claiming that the entire thing cannot be understood. See this syllogism he provides on page 79:

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

    2.      The KJV is not in our language.

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

Ibid., 79

He concludes with this, 

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

Ibid., 85

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

This chapter is possibly the most helpful to understanding the goal of Ward’s work thus far. In my opinion, it would have served well as the opening chapter. He reveals most clearly what he has been getting at up to this point, that the KJV as it exists now should not be read any longer. This is persuasive writing, and now the objective has become clear: to convince people not to read the KJV. An important question to ask is this, “Has Ward demonstrated that the KJV is not modern English leading up to chapter 5?” Interestingly enough, the content of Authorized so far has shown that the KJV is actually quite intelligible. Even Ward’s strongest argument of “false friends” are not significant enough to impact doctrine according to him. Many people mistakenly label Ward as a “KJV advocate” or that Ward “loves the KJV,” and this chapter demonstrates clearly why this is simply not true. Ward’s solution to the 55% of the Bible readers is that 1) the KJV should be updated or that they should 2) read a modern translation. He argues that a,

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

Ibid., 75

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

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

How to Understand and Apply the New Testament, 42

Responding to the Vernacular Argument 

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


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

Ibid., 68

Is this the argument then, that the KJV is not English? Are KJV readers bilingual? He seems to be leaning on the first part of the definition, which indicates that the language must be “spoken.” Since people do not speak KJV English, then it apparently qualifies as “a second language.” He continues on, hinting that the KJV cannot be understood and that it is Elizabethan English, which is untrue on both accounts. It is demonstrably different than Elizabethan English, and can be understood, as Ward has admitted all throughout his book. Even if the KJV were as complex as Elizabethan English, American middle schoolers are made to read Shakespeare in English class. This is the first time in my life that I have heard the argument that Shakespearian English is not intelligible. The basic argument seems to be that since we do not use the syntax and exact vocabulary of the KJV in our daily speech, that it is no longer acceptable as a translation. 

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


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

Luke 14:1

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ibid., 79

I don’t think this is very controversial to say, but I don’t think God said anything in English to Adam and Eve. In any case, it appears Ward is taking issue with the difference between “Thou” and “You.” Following Ward’s logic about vernacular speech, the example Ward gives fails his own test. Nobody says, “You shall” do this or that in vernacular English (sorry NIV, ESV, and NASB, you need an update). Notice that Ward says, “The KJV and modern translations are saying precisely the same thing”. I want to further emphasize that English did not exist at the time of the writing of the Bible. If the statements both mean the same thing, and God did not speak originally to the people of God in English, what is Ward even trying to say here? This is arguably one of the most confused statements in the entirety of the whole book so far, and borders on absurd.

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Ibid., 85-86

The messaging in this chapter ranges from “The KJV is not in our language” to “The KJV does not fail to communicate God’s words.” These two thoughts are absolutely contradictory. This speaks to the credibility of his argument in a foundational way. Is the KJV a different language, or can it be understood in countless places? Ward seems to view himself as a modern day Martin Luther who is saving the church from captivity to the KJV, even saying himself “I can want no other.” Ward presents the case to his reader that it is a massive problem that people are reading the KJV. Even though Ward has all of the other modern options, he makes his reader believe that he has no other option for him and his kids, when no such problem exists. At the end of the chapter, Ward hints that the KJV simply needs an update, which Ward “graciously” offered his services to TBS a while back. At this point, Ward’s reader should be skeptical. Why is Ward so motivated to retire the KJV? Up to this point, all he has offered is contradiction after contradiction, as I have catalogued in my review.