The Consequences of Rejecting Material Preservation


Since the late 20th century, the doctrine of Scripture has been reformulated to say several things, most explicitly in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement articulates several things about the doctrine and nature of Scripture : 

  1. The original manuscripts (autographs) of the New Testament were without error
  2. The Scriptures as we have them now can be discerned to be original with great accuracy, but not without error
  3. The Scriptures as we have them now are without error in what they teach (sense), but not without error in the words (matter)

Within this modern formulation, there are also rules which anticipate certain critiques: 

  1. The Bible is not a witness to divine revelation
  2. The Bible does not derive its authority from church, tradition, or human source
  3. Inerrancy is not affected by lack of autographic texts

While this statement affirms many important things, it has a major flaw, which has resulted in many modern errors today. This is due to the fact that the Chicago Statement denies that the material of the New Testament has been preserved in the copies (apographs). This is a new development from the historical Protestant doctrine of Scripture, which affirms that God had providentially kept the material “pure in all ages.” The original texts in the possession of our great fathers in the faith were considered as the 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). 

This modern update is an attempt to resolve the issues of higher criticism and neo-orthodoxy which were introduced after the time of the Reformers and High Orthodox. While the statement itself affirms against these errors, it does not explain how a text can retain its infallibility and inerrancy while the material has not been preserved. Perhaps at the time, the assumption that the material was preserved to the degree of “great accuracy” was enough to give the people of God great confidence in the Word of God. The error of this formulation is that the mechanism which determines such accuracy is completely authoritative in determining which of the extant material is “accurate” to the original. This seemingly contradicts the doctrinal formulation within the Chicago Statement itself, though I imagine that the reach of textual scholars into the church was not then what it is now.

Infallibility, Inerrancy, and Greatly Accurate Texts

The contradiction of the Chicago Statement is that it affirms against human mechanisms of bestowing the Scripture authority, while itself being founded entirely upon these human mechanisms. In the modern formulation of the doctrine of Scripture, it assumes that the extant material is “greatly accurate” as it relates to the lost original. This level of accuracy, according to this formulation, is enough to know that the material is without error in what it teaches. The problem with this is in how we determine that level of accuracy. Since “great accuracy” is a vague metric, it allows for the amount of material that is considered “accurate” to fluctuate with the methods that determine that level of accuracy. It assumes that any change made by this mechanism cannot possibly change what that material teaches. That means that no matter the material shape of the text, it should be considered inerrant, because changes to the material shape “do not effect doctrine.”

Yet the very mechanism entrusted with this task has no ability to determine that the material it has produced represents what the original said, so the evaluation of “great accuracy” is not only vague, it is arbitrary. There is no meaningful standard to measure the material against to even determine how accurate it is, so any descriptions produced of that level of accuracy is based purely on the assumption that the texts produced by the chosen mechanism are as accurate as advertised. That is to say that the mechanism itself has the sole power of determining accuracy and yes, the authority of such a text. When this mechanism deems a passage, or verse, as not being accurate to the original, pastors simply do not preach that text any longer, and laypeople no longer read it. There are countless examples of the people of God appealing to this mechanism as the mechanism which gives the Scriptures authority. 

This is evident whenever a textual dispute arises in the text. All it takes is one manuscript to introduce such a dispute. What happens when such a dispute occurs? Christians appeal to the authority of the mechanism. In its very axioms, the Chicago Statement forces the people of God to submit to an external authority to validate the canonicity of a passage. Since it rejects magisterial, historical critical, and neo-orthodox models (rightly so), the only model acceptable to “authorize” a text by the modern doctrine of Scripture is lower criticism (not rightly so). Now, if lower criticism is defined simply as a process of comparing manuscripts to determine the original, this is not necessarily a problem. Many manuscripts were created by comparing multiple sources. So in that sense, lower-criticism has been practiced by the Christian church since the first time a copy of the Scriptures was made using multiple exemplar manuscripts. 

The problem occurs when that lower-critical function extends beyond the simple definition. The lower-critical mechanism elected by the modern doctrine of Scripture has reached far beyond such a definition. Rather than being a function which receives the original by comparison, it is a function which assumes that it is responsible for reconstructing a lost text. Further, that same mechanism not only assumes it is responsible for reconstructing, it is responsible for determining how the material was corrupted by reconstructing the history of the text. In other words, asserting its authority over the transmission of the text itself.

According to this mechanism, the Scripture did not come down to us safely, it actually developed away from its original form. The narrative of preservation from the Reformed and High Orthodox needed to be deconstructed so that another narrative could be developed. The sources of this material needed to be re-examined because there is no way that Mark, or John, or Paul wrote what the church thought they did. The text did not come down pure, it came down both textually and from tradition, and some of those pericopes made it into the Biblical text.  Textual variants, most commonly arose from scribal errors, but sometimes speak to the story of the religious communities who were trying to defend the orthodox structure of the Christian faith as it had developed in the traditions of the church. All of these are functions of the text-critical system that determines the “great accuracy” set forth by modern doctrinal statements. It is hard to responsibly say that this is a “lower” critical function. 

Practical Implications to Doctrine

The obvious issue here is that the foundation mechanism of the modern doctrinal statements are not restrained by the doctrinal statement itself. The most clear example of this is that the methods used to determine the “great accuracy” of the extant material as it relates to the original, do not even need to assume that an original ever existed in any meaningful way. This is plainly evidenced by the textual scholar DC Parker, who is the team lead for the Gospel of John in the ECM.   

“The New Testament is a collection of books which has come into being as a result of technological developments and the new ideas which both prompted and were inspired by them”

(Parker, Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament, 3) 

 “We can all applaud when Bowers says that ‘we have no means of knowing what ideal form of a play took in Shakespeare’s mind before he wrote it down’, simply substituting gospel or epistle for play and St John or St Paul for Shakespeare”

(Ibid. 8)

 “The New Testament is – and always has been – the result of a fusion of technology of whatever kind is in vogue and its accompanying theory. The theological concept of a canon of authoritative texts comes after”

(Ibid. 12)

Even if evangelical scholars, pastors, and professors do not agree with DC Parker here in his words, they submit to his theology in practice. The texts which modern Bibles are built on are created according to various critical principles, and then the church theologizes them and calls them authoritative after the fact. Christians work with what they have, and what they have is susceptible to change based on models that do not recognize inspiration, preservation, or the Holy Spirit. Many scholars, pastors, professors, apologists, and even lay people then take that product and make individual determinations on that produced text as to its accuracy to the original. That means that the process of determining the text that is “greatly accurate” has gone through a three-form authentication before even being read. First, it is authenticated by the textual scholars and then printed using their preferred methods. Then it is authenticated by a translation committee, who makes determinations upon those determinations based on their preferred methods which may differ from the determinations of the previous committee. Then it is authenticated by the user of that text, who makes determinations based on their preferred methods, which may be different from the both of the previous two committees! 

This of course is necessary in a model which rejects material preservation and exposure of that material in its axioms. Some other mechanism must be introduced to give the text authority. This being the case, it is rather interesting that the modern articulation of the doctrine of Scripture rejects other mechanisms that bestow the text authority. What is wrong with a magisterium – that it is a function of the church? What is wrong with neo-orthodoxy? A similar process is taking place in the “lower-criticism” of the textual scholars, the simple difference is that it is approved by the people of God who use the product of that mechanism!  


The necessary practical conclusion of the modern articulation of the doctrine of Scripture is that Christians must place their trust in some other mechanism to give the Scriptures authority. These doctrinal statements rely upon the “great accuracy” of the text, so they necessarily rely upon the mechanisms that deem various texts “greatly accurate.” Since this modern doctrine says that God has not materially preserved His Word, a void is created that needs to be filled. There needs to be some mechanism that can determine the level of accuracy of the text that we do have left. The modern church has largely chosen “lower-criticism” as it is employed by those that create Greek texts and translations. Some have chosen neo-orthodoxy. Others have flocked to the Roman or Eastern magisterium.

The fruit of this doctrinal articulation is evident. Verses that were once considered “greatly accurate” to the original are now being called into question daily by Christians everywhere. Passages that have always enjoyed a comfy place in the English canon are ejected by whatever textual theory is in vogue. What is considered “greatly accurate” today may just as easily be considered a scribal interpolation tomorrow. Passages in John that have never been called into question may be discovered to contain “non-Johannine” vocabulary tomorrow based on the opinion of an up and coming scholar. A manuscript may be discovered that alters the form of the text in a number of places. All it takes is one early manuscript to unsettle the whole of Scripture, as we have seen with Codex B. 

Think of it this way. If you read a passage as authoritative five years ago, and no longer consider that passage as “greatly accurate” to the original, what changed? Can you point to a newly discovered manuscript that changed your mind? Was it your doctrine? Was it the opinion of a scholar or pastor or apologist you listen to? These are important questions to answer. When I went through my own textual crisis, I realized that I was the final judge over the text of Scripture. If an early manuscript emerged without John 3:16 in it, I would have thrown it out, especially if that was the opinion of my favorite scholar. I was pricked in my conscience that I had adopted such a frivolous approach to the Holy Scriptures, and it did not take long for me to seek out other doctrinal positions on the text. 

The mechanism that is most consistent, and approved by the Scriptures themselves, is God Himself. I asked myself, “what did God actually do in time to preserve His Word?” If the text did not fall away, certainly I could look around and see that to be the case. I found that there was indeed a textual position which affirmed this reality, and a text that had been vindicated in time. A text that the people of God used during the greatest Christian revival in history. The same text that was used to develop all of the doctrines I hold to. The same text which survived successfully against the Papist arguments that are not much different to the ones used today. So why would I abandon that text, and the theology of the men who used it? Adopting the critical text is not a matter of adherence to a “greatly accurate” text, it is a matter of departure from the historical text. The question of “which text should I use?” is quite simple, actually. The answer is: The text that God used in history and vindicated by His providence in time. The text that united the church, not divided it. The text that the majority of Bible readers still use today. I praise God for the Received Text, and the all of the faithful translations made from it. 

Before you ask, “What makes those readings vindicated?” Think to yourself which methods you are going to use to evaluate those readings. Do they involve deconstructing the narrative that God kept His Word pure in all ages? Do they include the belief that faith communities corrupted the text over time and introduced beloved pericopes from tradition? Do they rest upon the theory that Codex B represents the “earliest and best” text? If so, I would appeal to the Chicago Statement, which says, “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship”

Absolute Certainty, The Received Text, and Matthew 23:13-14


Recently, Reverend Christopher Myers of Phoenix Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) tagged me in on a Facebook post to address the topic of absolute certainty and the Received Text. Dr. Peter Gurry playfully chimed in with a test passage (Matthew 23:13-14). In this article I will be interacting with Dr. Gurry’s article. Any disagreements I have with his article do not represent what I think about him as a person. He is a brother in Christ and I no reason to think otherwise.

The question that must be answered is, “How can one have absolute certainty that the Scriptures they read are the Divine Original?” What first must be defined is the operational definition of “absolute” as it pertains to certainty. Of course I would never argue a definition of “absolute certainty” that means “omniscience.” Humans are creatures, and therefore do not know things absolutely in that sense. Yet, in a different, practical, experiential sense, Christians can be absolutely certain that God exists, that He has saved them, and that He has spoken by virtue of His own operation. So the certainty we do have as Christians is not by virtue of our self-perceived omniscience, but by virtue of God’s power in us. This is the clear testimony of Scripture.  

“The holy scriptures, which are wise to make thee wise unto salvation.”

(2 Timothy 3:15)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable”

(2 Timothy 3:16)

“The Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you unto all truth…He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

(John 16:13,14)

“My sheep hear my voice”

(John 10:27)

That is to say that certainty in the Scriptures comes not from man, but from God, and therefore is not from a man. Of ourselves, we can never have certainty in the Scriptures, or any spiritual thing for that matter.

“But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep”

(John 10:26)

People do not believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God because of manuscript evidence, they believe the Scriptures are the Word of God because:

“our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”

(LBCF, WCF 1.5)

It is firmly the Protestant position that men can have “full persuasion and assurance” in the Scriptures not by virtue of their own knowledge, but because of the “inward work of the Holy Spirit” which bears witness to that “infallible truth, and divine authority,” the Scriptures, in the regenerated heart of the believer. That being said, the matter of certainty is not properly a text-critical category, it is a faith category. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” No matter which text one reads, it is definitely the case that text-critical evidence is not the reason for certainty, because God says that is Him who gives certainty. Even if every single manuscript were to read the same exact way in every single verse, this would still be true. That is why I continue to advocate that the text we receive should be derived from a method of faith, not science.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh”

(Romans 8:5)

For a moment, let’s set aside the idea that there is any warrant to believe that text-critical evidence is the reason we believe a verse to be Holy Scripture, because the Scriptures teach that this is not the case. The Scriptures give abundant cause for experiential certainty by virtue of the inner working of the Holy Spirit. 

Examining the Test Case 

Since we are talking certainty here, let us first examine the two models proposed: methodologies which evaluate textual evidence, and the inner working of the Holy Spirit of the individual and the church catholic throughout the ages. Models which evaluate textual evidence are quite fragile. For example, in the article posted for examination by Dr. Gurry, he appeals to the NA27 and the Byzantine tradition to question the passage as it is found in the KJV. He also notes that the passage also occurs differently within the TR corpus. What is interesting, is that his major point is that the passage is not a majority reading, and that’s why it allegedly should be rejected, though he doesn’t make a case either way. If it is the case that a reading should be accepted or rejected based on the criteria provided in the article, I’d love to see an NA29 without any doubt cast upon Mark 16:9-20. The article does not really make a significant point at all regarding the text itself, just that Erasmus made a textual decision using his “limited resources.” Note that Gurry doesn’t make any statement at all regarding the authenticity of the reading, or inform the reader of what he thinks of the passage. Such is the modus operandi of textual scholars. In between the lines of the article is an obvious attempt to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Traditional reading, but on what grounds does he do so? There are three identifiable grounds that I could identify:

  1. It’s not the majority reading
  2. Erasmus had limited resources
  3. We don’t know where Erasmus got the reading

I suspect that is why he didn’t make an actual conclusion in his article, because the reasons he gives aren’t exactly arguments for or against the text itself. If they are, I fail to see how. There is only one text-critical camp that takes reason one as a valid text-critical criteria, and neither myself nor Peter Gurry hold to that position. Erasmus may have had “limited” resources, but how much more “resources” were used to make the general shape of the modern critical text in 1881? Aleph, B, and a smattering of readings from several other choice manuscripts? The shape of the NA27 is not leaps and bounds different from Hort’s text, despite having access to the Papyri, more Uncials, minuscules, and lectionaries.

“None of the popular hand-editions of the Greek NT takes us beyond Westcott-Hort in any substantive way as far as textual character is concerned”

Eldon J. Epp, The Twentieth Century Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism. 1974. Aland cites 558 variants between the 1881 Westcott-Hort text and the 25th edition of the Nestle-Aland Text (NA25, 1963). The text of the NA27 is not significantly different from that of the NA25.

The sheer volume of additional data is not anything to be astounded by, because what actually matters is how that data has influenced the text. It doesn’t matter if we enter in 10,000 new manuscripts into evidence today, if that evidence introduces no new readings, and only supports the readings we have proportionately. Further, it especially doesn’t matter how much data we have if we only look at a small subset of that data.

Point three doesn’t actually matter because the reading ended up in his edition, and there are manuscripts that have that reading, which were available in the time of Erasmus. Dr. Gurry even lists them in his article. So unless we want to say that Erasmus made up the readings and those readings happened to match a Greek manuscript, I fail to see what the point is here. 

The interesting thing that this article has shown, is that the standard Dr. Gurry sets forth to evaluate the TR is a standard that he probably wouldn’t try against his NA27. There are many minority readings within that text. Further, do we know where the readings of Aleph and B came from? If we take Erasmus’ opinion of Codex B, he alleges the same thing about it that Gurry does Erasmus’ text – that parts of it were following the Latin. It is quite strange that Erasmus, having such a strong opinion against the Vulgate, would follow Latin readings so often! The difference between Gurry’s claim and Erasmus, is that Erasmus’ text is supported by Greek witnesses, and many, many readings from Codex B are supported by virtually no other Greek manuscript.

This brings me to my final question – what sort of grounds does one stand on to evaluate a text from a modern critical perspective? The modern critical methodology cannot say much about the original text of Scripture with any kind of authority. It is a text that is based on a localized smattering of idiosyncratic manuscripts that have no pedigree and that disappear from the history of textual transmission. I understand why a majority text appeal is made, but a majority text appeal from a modern critical text perspective is more confusing than anything, because there are many majority readings that those in the modern critical text camp reject. It is an interesting article, but the article mostly just demonstrates that modern critical text advocates like going after Erasmus as if that defeats the validity of the Greek Received Text.

Now to the Question of Certainty at Matthew 23:13-14

Now that we have seen that Dr. Gurry didn’t actually make an argument against the reading at Matthew 23:13-14 within the TR tradition, I think it will be helpful to explain why Christians should have certainty that the underlying Greek text of the KJV is the original reading. 

  1. It is the reading that was used, commented on, translated, and received by the people of God in the age of the printing press
  2. It fits in the passage and is theologically correct
  3. It exists in Greek manuscripts (even Byzantine ones)
  4. It was translated into ancient versions
  5. John Chrysostom preached it (Homily LXXIII)
  6. Calvin commented on it (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelist, Matthew 23:13-15; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:42, 20:47)
  7. It does not contradict other Biblical accounts

I have absolutely no reason to doubt that this verse should be there. The only reason I would have for questioning its authenticity is if I was trying to find errors with God’s Word. A reading being omitted by, as Metzger puts it in his textual commentary, “earliest and best authorities,” is not exactly a strange occurrence. If I recall, these “earliest and best authorities” are known for such qualities. What is more likely, that a scribe made a mistake in a verse that starts exactly the same as the verse above and below it, or that somebody intentionally harmonized the text with another gospel before the time of Chrysostom (4th century)?

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

A New Approach to Textual Criticism, Wasserman & Gurry, 98

If we’re after the simplest solution, what is stopping us from believing a scribe made a common slip-of-the-eye error, and many faithful scribes followed in his steps? Are we going to believe in the meddling scribes theory or the faithful scribes theory? At what point are we going to admit that we are more interested in scrutinizing the text rather than believing it? 

Yet, despite all of the good evidential reasons to believe that the TR reading at Matthew 23:13-14 is the original reading, that is not why I believe it to be God’s Word. I believe it to be God’s Word because the Holy Spirit bears witness to it in my heart. I know, not very text critical of me. 


Matthew 23:13-14 is a great test case to examine the various doctrines of Scripture available in today’s conservative church. On one hand, there is the critical camp, which rejects that we can be certain in the text of Holy Scripture, that relies upon critical analysis of evidence to derive varying levels of confidence. On the other hand, there is the Received Text camp, who recognizes God’s providence as a meaningful metric for recognizing the text of Scripture. Instead of assuming that we have lost the text of Holy Scripture, Christians should believe that he has preserved it, and receive the text he preserved. We shouldn’t be looking for reasons to prove the text of the Protestant Reformation wrong. If the final textual product of the Protestant Reformation is woefully corrupt, then it doesn’t seem that providence had anything to do with the transmission of the text of the New Testament. Further, if the text of the Reformation is corrupt, then we do not have now, and have never had, a stable text of Holy Scripture.

Christians can have certainty in the text of the Holy Scriptures, because God says He provides that certainty. Certainty isn’t derived from our acquisition of knowledge, but rather the internal witness of the Holy Spirit with the Word of God. No amount of text-critical analysis can offer certainty in God’s Word, because there is nothing particular about text-critical methods that can offer certainty in God’s Word. Take, for example, DC Parker, an authority in the discipline, and the team lead for the Gospel of John in the ECM:

“The text is changing. Every time that I make an edition of the Greek New Testament, or anybody does, we change the wording. We are maybe trying to get back to the oldest possible form but, paradoxically, we are creating a new one. Every translation is different, every reading is different, and although there’s been a tradition in parts of Protestant Christianity to say there is a definitive single form of the text, the fact is you can never find it. There is never ever a final form of the text.”

Certainty is a category of faith, not knowledge. If we examine the fruit of the modern critical text machine on the doctrine of Scripture, this is plainly the case. Text critical methods have only produced doubt. So we can talk about Erasmus all we want, but that’s not going to make the New Testament autographs appear. Christians must hold fast to the Scriptures, and derive their certainty from the only infallible hope, our God and Savior Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is an objective standard Christians can look at to prove this, God’s providential preservation in time.

“We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any of translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it.” – Dan Wallace

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

Six Reasons Why I Do Not Want a Revised KJV


I am in the camp of Christians who believe that Bibles should be translated into every vulgar tongue from the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Text of the Reformation. I have not always been so particular over which Hebrew and Greek texts I prefer my Bibles to be translated from, however. Over the years I have made it through the NIV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, and the HCSB (CSB now). I have been reading the King James Bible now for almost a year, and have found it to be my favorite translation, regardless of the issue of textual criticism. I have spent the time in the past year becoming familiar with the KJV, so I may have some valuable insight to this discussion. I’m a person who hasn’t been reading the KJV for long, and I am also a person who thinks the archaic words are not a good reason for a revision.

Since I wasn’t raised on the King James, or any Bible for that matter, I fall into the category of people who have to learn some new words every now and then as I read my Bible. This process isn’t unfamiliar to me, because it is the same thing I had to do when I read all of my other Bibles for the first time as well. It should come to no surprise to anybody when I say this, but the Bible contains words, in every translation, that do not occur often, if at all, in our daily vernacular. There are many reasons that make the effort of learning archaic words worthwhile. The King James Bible is not going to change like other Bible versions, because it is based on a stable text platform, and no publishing houses own the copyright, so nobody can profit on making light revisions every five years. It is a standardized English text that congregations can memorize together throughout their whole life. It is the text of the Protestant church from which much of our theological grammar is based on. It is the text many historical commentaries and theological works worth reading are built on. Before I really cared about textual criticism, and which Bible I read, I was actually encouraged to read the KJV at least once by my Co-Pastor Dane Johannsson, because it is the language of the Puritans, and I wanted to read the Puritans. There is a wealth of reasons to read the KJV, regardless of where you fall on the discussion of textual criticism.  

So as somebody that is open to other translations into English from the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Received Text, why am I not gung-ho about a revision to the KJV? In this article, I will provide six reasons why a revision is not a great idea, and then I will end the article with ten reasons why somebody might want a revision right now. 

1.A Revision of the KJV Will Just Add Another Translation to the Pile

In the first place, there is a multitude of English Bible translations already available, including Bibles that use the same base text as the King James Version, such as the MEV and NKJV. Most of these Bibles were not created because the KJV was too hard to read, and some of them were made exclusively because somebody didn’t want to pay money for the rights to another publishing house. The amount of Bibles available to the English speaking Christian world has split the Biblical language of the people of God in English similar to the people at the tower of Babel. In fact, it is not only common, but likely, that you have Scripture memorized in different translations, and no two Christians sound exactly the same when quoting Scripture in this day and age as a result of our modern problem. English speaking Christians are divided at the most fundamental level due to the fact that there are at least five different Bible versions that are acceptable among the conservative Christian church. This is the first reason I do not think a revision of the KJV, or perhaps a fresh translation employing the same principles is a good idea. It splits the theological language of the people of God. Further, Christians who have been reading and memorizing the KJV their whole lives will now have to make a decision whether they are going to adopt this new Bible. It is likely, if not inevitable, that this revision would simply cause further division among churches that otherwise agree on the doctrine of Scripture, introducing problems where there weren’t before. This problem already exists in churches that adopt modern Bibles, and introducing it to churches that use one text is definitely not a good change.

2.A Revision of the King James Creates More Problems Than Solutions

Even if a great revision of the KJV was accomplished, it would not be adopted immediately. Those that are familiar with their Bible will want to test it, and ensure that no liberties have been taken in translation. This is the chief problem that many people have with the NKJV and MEV. They are fine with the underlying original text, it is the translation methodology that they find problematic. Even among the modern critical text translations, not all Bibles are created equal. It is concerning that some people cannot understand this because it seems that they simply don’t read a Bible enough to know that translation methodology is important. There is a reason that people prefer the ESV over the NIV or the NASB. People are perfectly warranted in taking issue with translation methodology, even if they are okay with the text that it is translated from. It is the Bible we are talking about here, not the Iliad. It should surprise nobody that people who read their Bible daily actually care about how it was translated.

Further, let’s just say the translation was the best it could possibly be, it would take at least a generation for the change to take within churches that currently use the KJV. That is a generation of time in which churches will struggle internally over adopting this new text. The pastoral benefits of having a congregation on the same translation are immense, and surrendering unity in translation is naturally a difficult sell. In short, introducing a new translation into the marketplace will initially introduce problems that weren’t there before, and that tension of transition is something that could take years. It introduces the same problem that many churches have resolved by moving to the KJV in the first place. 

3. A Revision of the King James is Unnecessary Because of the Cost/Benefit

The only translation society suited for this task would be the Trinitarian Bible Society. They are the only organization dedicated to the “Confessional Bibliology” position as well as the conservative translation methodology of the King James. Undergoing a revision effort is completely unnecessary because there are people who still do not have a decent Bible in their mother tongue. Rather than being spoiled Americans demanding a new English Bible, it is better to support such an organization in doing the work of actually getting the Bible into every vulgar tongue. The cost of labor and time simply does not justify the alleged benefits of the effort. There are more important things to accomplish, especially since KJV readers aren’t exactly asking for an update.

4.A Revision of the King James is Unnecessary, Because The King James is Still in the Vulgar Tongue

This is probably the greatest disconnect among people that do not actually read the KJV. Since they haven’t read it cover to cover, or have only looked up word lists of difficult words, they are easily convinced that the KJV is simply unintelligible. If the only exposure to the KJV one has is through an article highlighting all of the difficult words, it is an easy conclusion to make. If the person who says they can’t read the KJV has a doctorate, that’s frankly quite embarrassing. I have heard that the academy is on the decline, but I didn’t realize how bad it had become. Even when I became convinced of the Received Text position of Scripture, I initially switched to the NKJV because I thought the KJV would be too hard to read. When I actually opened up the KJV, I was actually surprised to find how easy it was for me to comprehend. The Bible I read daily has alternative translations in the margin for archaic words and “false friends,” so there has yet to be a time where I’ve gotten “stuck” reading my Bible. Most of the time I do not need to use those marginal helps because the context makes the word clear anyway. This is how we read all books in English. It’s how they teach you to read in grade school. I’m forever grateful to my mom and teachers who taught me how to use “context clues,” even outside my Bible reading. 

Additionally, it’s not like there are archaic words and “false friends” in every verse. Most of the really difficult words you encounter in the text occur once or twice. If you browse many of the articles berating the archaic nature of the KJV, they often capitalize on such words to make the KJV seem harder to read than it really is. Not only is the KJV easier to read than most people might think, especially with the marginal aids, it is still modern English. Try reading Chaucer and this becomes quite clear. Even Shakespeare is more difficult than the KJV by a large margin. 

At this point, I really have to question how people are defining “unintelligible.” Until the KJV becomes as unintelligible to us as middle english, it will remain intelligible to the modern reader. You first have to read it to know that, though. There are also difficult words in every other English translation. One might even say that the difficulties between the KJV and modern versions are that of degree, not of kind.

That brings up another point, that it is unlikely the English language will evolve any time soon. Due to the fact that English is largely standardized in education curriculum and literature, modern English remains standardized in the texts that people use to learn English in school. Textbooks, chapter books, and pretty much any published work all employ the same language. As long as reading is still required in school curriculum, our language will stay mostly the same. Colloquial English and regional vernacular differences will continue as they always have, but the English we learn and read does not bend as easily as spoken language. Since the current trend of English is to devolve to the form that we see on social media (Facebook, text, Twitter, etc.), I’m not sure we’d want a Bible that reads like the average tweet anyway. Since we owe a great debt to the KJV for the formation of modern English, it is more likely that removing the KJV could even cause such a devolution which would require a retranslation in the first place! For those that still believe the KJV is simply too unintelligible to read, try reading it first. 

5.The People Who Want to Update it Right Now Are Not the People That Should Be Left Alone Near Bibles

In the recent conversations that I have seen, those that are actually arguing for a revised KJV are the same people that think the longer ending of Mark isn’t Scripture. They disagree fundamentally with the principles that make the KJV the most read Bible in the English speaking world. In fact, the person that has been most persistent in advocating this cause doesn’t think the KJV should be used at all, except for perhaps privately where nobody can see you doing it.  This alone is really the best and only reason I needed to give in this article. If somebody is going to update the KJV, it certainly shouldn’t be the crowd of scholars who advocate for different textual principles. 

6.A Revision of the KJV Does Not Profit Those That Actually Read It  

Finally, a good question to ask is, “what would be the benefit of a proper retranslation of the KJV?” As TBS has pointed out time and time again, there already exist helps in most printed editions of the KJV for the archaic words. I myself have found such aids perfectly adequate in helping me “stay in the text” as I read. I’ve actually enjoyed learning new words and connecting with the heritage of the language I still speak. It seems that the greatest advocates of such an effort are those who don’t actually have any interest in reading it. I have yet to meet somebody who has chosen to read the King James Version who also wants it revised right now. Typically, those that don’t want to deal with the early modern English simply read the NKJV or the MEV, and are fine doing so. It is because of this phenomenon that I am inclined to believe that those advocating for a revision are possibly not actually advocating in the best interest of those who read the KJV. If those that read the KJV are fine with it, and those that are not simply read another version, what could possibly be the motivation for pushing so hard for a revision? 

The List of Reasons Somebody Might Advocate for a Revision of the KJV

I’ll end this article by providing a list of reasons that might motivate somebody to push for such a revision, and even make other people believe that KJV readers want such a revision (we don’t): 

  1. They don’t want it to be the most read Bible version anymore
  2. They don’t think it’s God’s Word, or that it has errors that newer Bibles don’t have
  3. They are upset that their Bible is changing (misery loves company)
  4. They think that KJV readers are automatically fundamentalists due to the unfortunate antics of online apologists 
  5. They are frustrated that they were able to attain a doctorate and still can’t read the KJV
  6. They have never talked to somebody who has opted into reading the KJV over a modern version
  7. There isn’t a lot of money to be made from a Bible without a copyright
  8. They think that apologetics cannot be done with it (see point 2 and point 4)
  9. They genuinely like the idea of reading the KJV, but have trouble reading it
  10. They are bored or lonely, and need something to talk about


Common sense should tell the average person that in a world with hundreds of Bible translations, there is a reason for people still retaining the KJV, and it’s not because they think it’s going to be updated. If somebody wants a Bible that will be updated as often as the apps on their phone, there are dozens of Bible versions that fit that bill. The KJV is a standardized, stable,text. It does not bend with the trends on modern textual criticism. It does not sway to the culture. The benefits of reading the KJV far outweigh the task of learning some archaic words, or simply buying a Bible that translates the archaic words in the margin. Retranslating, or revising the KJV actually creates far more problems than it solves. In fact, it pretty much introduces a problem that would make the KJV have the same issues as all the other Bibles – it would be a changing text. 

The KJV may need a revision when modern English evolves again, though I think that time is much farther away than people realize. Until then, there are two simple solutions: Learn some vocab, or pick another translation. The problem that creates the need for a retranslation or revision actually has two easily attainable solutions that can be employed immediately by any person who is interested. If you’re in the small camp of people who want to read the KJV, but find it too difficult and therefore want a revision, I highly recommend a Bible with marginal aids. The effort of revision introduces many of the problems that are solved by switching to the KJV in the first place. 

Providential Preservation and the Modern Critical Texts


There are many cases that I have seen where somebody who advocates for the modern critical text uses the theological language, “Providential Preservation.” This is typically due to the person not understanding the current state of modern textual criticism. There have been many developments that have been adopted in the mainstream of textual scholarship that disallow this language from being used responsibly. This problem demonstrates a major fork in the road for those in the confessionally Reformed camp because the confession teaches that the Word of God has been “kept pure in all ages” by God’s “singular care and providence.” This is problematic because the axioms of modern textual criticism do not recognize providence, inspiration, or the Holy Spirit. In fact, the axioms of modern textual criticism assume that the manuscript evidence is no different than any other work of antiquity. Evangelical textual scholars may personally believe that the text has been preserved, but there is nothing in the axioms of their method that even come close to incorporating these truths about Scripture. That means that the modern critical texts have readings that stand against the theological reality that God has preserved His Word providentially. In other words, the modern critical texts have readings that are unique to a smattering of manuscripts, often times just one or two manuscripts, that were rejected by the church through the ages. These readings were rejected by way of fixing them as the manuscripts were copied en masse, excluded from printed editions after the printing press, or directly condemned as corruptions in theological commentary on these readings. 

This is due to the modern critical texts being derived from various textual theories that do not assume a supernatural preservation process, or consider the Holy Spirit speaking to His church in time. The readings used for hundreds of years by the people of God can be wrong, because the axioms of modern textual criticism do not consider the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, or inspiration, or infallibility, or even inerrancy for that matter. These readings are now adopted, not because of providence, but because of textual theories and mythology that overvalue certain manuscripts of suspect origin and low quality. What Christians need to understand, is that these textual theories in some cases have been utterly refuted (like Hort’s theory on Vaticanus), and others (like genealogical models and the initial text), are unproven at best and a fool’s errand at worst. The reality is, if a textual methodology is based on the assumption that the extant manuscripts formerly called the “Alexandrian Family” are standing in any sort of mainstream textual tradition of the church, that textual methodology is flawed and not based on providence. Further, any textual methodology that assumes a reconstruction of the text needs to be done is not based on providence. 

Controversy Surrounding the Continued Use of the Term “Providence”

The Reformed church cannot escape the doctrine of Scripture as set forth in the Puritan era confessions. The language used was written carefully and precisely. This makes reinterpretations of the confessions difficult, though in the case of the modern doctrine of Scripture, this has been done. Fortunately, the authors of the 17th century Puritan confessions were so precise, that this sort of reinterpretation is near impossible without adding new terms and definitions, like inerrancy. What the church needs to know is that the text-critical context of Warfield is much different than the text critical context of today. What Warfield said about Scripture in the 19th and 20th century is out of its scope now, and can no longer be responsibly applied to the current state of affairs in modern textual criticism. The conversation has clearly evolved, and in Warfield’s day, terms like “the original” meant something completely different than they do today. Even doctrinal statements like the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy is outdated due to the introduction of new terms and evolution of old terms. That means that theologians, scholars, and pastors can employ terms like providence, inerrancy, and infallibility while operating on stale definitions and be none the wiser. The problem with this is that somebody can make the same statement regarding Scripture as Warfield or even R.C. Sproul, and that statement will mean something entirely different than it did in their context.

During Warfield’s time, the term “original” was clear. It meant the autographic text. This definition continued to be employed in this way until very recently within the bounds of textual scholarship. The effort of modern textual criticism was geared towards reconstructing this original, and so while the same problems still existed within modern critical methods, it was still based on clear, definite terms. Due to the introduction of the “Initial Text,” the doctrinal formulations of the 20th century are plainly outdated. The reason for this is due to the fact that the Initial Text is not the same, by definition, as the original text or autographs. If we define this conservatively, it is the earliest text within the extant manuscript tradition. If we define this less conservatively, it is a hypothetical text that represents no extant manuscripts from which all manuscripts are derived. The latter definition of the Initial Text is often equated with the “original” text by optimistic scholars, but this is clearly on overreach. The axioms which are producing the Initial Text simply cannot speak to whether it is equitous with the original or autographic text. In short, the effort to find the original text as it has been defined historically has been abandoned. The modern critical methods simply cannot reach back farther than the evidence allows. 

This article is not about the efficacy of genealogical text-critical methods, however, it is about providence. The very use of the term “Initial Text” demonstrates that the modern critical methodologies are not compatible with providence. The need for scholars to shift the goal post from “original” to “initial” demonstrates the vacuous nature of modern text-critical methods. They have not produced the original with text-critical methods because they cannot produce the original with text-critical methods. Since the only way to say that modern textual criticism can produce an original is to first introduce new terms which redefine what “original” means, it should abundantly clear that we are standing on different theological grounds than Warfield and even R.C. Sproul. If they were alive today, they may have agreed with the introduction of such terms, but the fact is, they are not around to reevaluate their doctrinal statements according to these developments. What this practically means is that the doctrinal statements developed in the 20th century are inadequate to speak to the texts that are being produced by modern critical methods as they have developed in the last 10 years. They are stale. This being the case, it is irresponsible to continue using historical protestant language which were formulated upon different definitions. In the light of new developments, these doctrinal statements simply do not mean the same thing any longer. There is a need for those in the modern critical text camp to draft new doctrinal statements, because the old simply do not apply to the developments of their discipline. Interestingly enough, the doctrinal statements that have been produced in the recent literature simply articulate that “God didn’t desire us to have the whole thing.”  

The Modern Critical Text is Not a Providential Text and is Not Justified for Use by the Church

The WCF and LBCF both appeal to God’s providence and apply it to the original texts of Holy Scripture in Greek and Hebrew, stating that they have been “kept pure in all ages.” If a text has been kept pure, it has been kept in such a state that it does not need to be reconstructed. This was the belief of the majority of the Protestant church until the end of the 19th century and even into the 20th century by many. So in order to appeal to providence while talking about the Holy Scriptures, one has to believe that the text has been “kept pure” by providence. That does not mean that one manuscript came down pure through the line of textual transmission. It means that the original text of Holy Scripture came down and was used in faithful churches “in all ages.” In order to recognize providence in this process, one must recognize that this preservation took place in time, by people who used these manuscripts.  

In order to recognize providence as a function of preservation, one has to first believe that despite corruptions entering into manuscripts early on in transmission, the original text maintained its purity through the whole of the textual transmission process. That means that no local corruption could contaminate the transmission process as a whole “in all ages.” We should not be so ignorant to believe that there were no corrupt manuscripts created during this process. The quotations of Augustine and Jerome and other theologians of the church prove as much. If God truly preserved His Word, then all transmission narratives must be within the walls of God’s providential hand guiding the process, and the corruptions of “unfaithful men” should be recognized as corruptions, not adopted into the history of textual transmission.

Secondly, in order to recognize God’s providence in transmission, one has to believe that historical events are a function of that providence. Just like God did not use evolution to create man, he did not use an evolutionary process to create His Word. The text did not develop, it was “kept.” Just like mutations arise in creatures over time, mutations arose in the Biblical manuscripts. Just because mutations occur in humans, that does not mean that those mutations arise in all humans. That means that by the time the printing press was introduced into Europe, the textual tradition was still being “kept pure” by God’s providence, and by God’s providence, that technological innovation allowed the church to collect, compare, and print texts which by God’s providence, had been “kept pure.” A survey of commentary on this Reformation effort reveals a lively discussion about the various printed texts during this time, and the readings they did and did not contain. It was not an effort of one man in a closet, despite what some would have you believe. 

That does not mean that the first editions printed represented that text which had been “kept pure.” It was a process, and by God’s providence, it was a process that occurred in a place where the height of language learning was taking also happening. The humanist renaissance sparked a revival of language learning and a return to studying the original Biblical texts and ancient fathers of the church. Many of the Reformers were humanists, such as Luther, Melanchton, Zwingli, and Calvin. Erasmus, “the smartest man alive,” though not theologically in line with the Reformers, was one of the chief satirists and polemicists against the papacy and one of the most brilliant language scholars alive. There has never been, even to this day, a time where so many scholars, with such an in depth knowledge of Biblical  languages, were in the same place at the same time. Never was there a time in history where the church was so united in pursuing the same cause. Never was there a time in history where the effort of creating an edited Greek text was so pure and theologically united. Never will there be another time in history where the church had the perspective on the manuscripts available, because those manuscripts were still being used in churches. If that is not providential, I dare say that nothing is providential. 


The point is this – if one wants to argue that a text is providential, they must argue for the text that was produced providentially, and completed and used in time. The modern critical text is produced with axioms that scorn God’s providence. These axioms say that the only thing God has providentially done in time is let the Scriptures evolve from their original form, and then let the people of God believe that those evolved Scriptures were the true Biblical text. These axioms are the same that say with confidence that the Reformation text is wrong, but also cannot produce the original text, even with all of the “new and better” data. In fact, these axioms are so ineffective that a new term had to be derived, the “Initial Text,” because these axioms say that the original is so far from being providentially preserved that we simply will never have it. According to the axioms of modern textual criticism, “we simply do not have now what the prophets and apostles wrote, and even if we did, we would not know it.” The question for those that still wish to maintain the doctrine of providential preservation is this: Why are we trusting scholars when they say the Reformation text is not original, when they can’t even determine if their own text is original? Would you trust a mechanic who had never fixed a car? Would you trust a surgeon who had never successfully done surgery? Why are we trusting scholars who say that we cannot know what the New Testament originally said to produce Bibles for the church? 

It is time that Christians stop giving lip service to providential preservation, and actually consider what those words mean together. Providential preservation does not mean that “the Bible has been preserved, it’s just been lost.” The text of the church was not preserved in a barrel or a questionable monastery or the Vatican or the sand – it was preserved by churches that actually used that text “in all ages.” It does not mean that God has ordained a wild goose chase for the last 150 years to recover a lost text. The continued effort of reconstructing the Bible is simply not warranted, if we want to continue using the words “providential” and “preservation” together. Those two words, when put together, mean that God actually preserved the text in time. It is attainable, and we have it. Modern critical textual methods do not consider what God has done in time, because they reject the text that was actually used by the people of God in time. In fact, the axioms of modern textual criticism say the opposite, that the text used in time by the people of God is in error. In other words, they reject providence altogether because they say that all providence has produced is an evolved text. We have to go back and find the original Bible because it has been providentially corrupted. The modern critical text is not justified for use among the people of God for this reason. It is a text foreign to the church in time, and it is produced by axioms that say that “we do not have, and never will have, the text.” 

The Modern Critical Text(s) and Inerrancy


In the new year, I have written a handful of articles demonstrating why the modern critical text should not be used. 

  1. It was conceived in 1881 by rule-breaking (Link)
  2. The reconstruction effort is not  justified (Link)
  3. It is a new text that does not stand in the “classic mainstream” of Tyndale, and therefore the burden of proof is on its advocates to justify its continued use (Link)
  4. The Bible teaches preservation, and the modern critical text shows itself to be a corrupt text (Link)

In this article, I want to comment on how the “new and better” data actually condemns the continued use of the modern critical text(s) by showing how it does not comport with the modern, downgraded doctrine of inerrancy. Again, I’ll remind the reader that the modern critical text is not “a” text, but a collection of texts. It is also important to note that what is “new” to us is not new to the church throughout history. At one point, a manuscript that we are calling “new” had some amount of exposure to people. So when we hear the claim that we have “new data,” we need to remember that it is properly “new to us.” At one point, that data was available to some degree or another, and for whatever reason, it ended up buried, thrown out, or destroyed. 

“New and Better”

A common refrain among those that advocate for the modern critical text is that, “if the Reformed had the data we do now, they would adopt the modern critical text.” The claim itself is something that needs to be examined, because I’ve never actually seen somebody explain what about the new data would convince the historically Reformed to adopt the modern critical text. I want to take a critical look at this argument and attempt first define what is being said when this claim is made. Let’s start by stating that it is true, that if by “new data” we mean “new manuscript discoveries,” we certainly do have new data that the Reformed did not have. That being said, new manuscripts do not necessarily mean new readings. In the case that a manuscript discovery yields new readings, then that is truly “new” data. In the case that a manuscript discovery yields the same readings as other New Testament witnesses, then it is less significant as it serves as a supporting data point. In other words, the manuscript may be new to us, but that doesn’t mean that the new manuscript has provided any new readings. So if somebody truly wants to make this argument, it is more important to discuss whether our “new data” introduces a new reading that the Reformed did not have, and then to make a case for the quality of that reading. I have yet to see any sort of analysis of this kind. 

The real question to ask, is what is so compelling about these “new” data points that would cause the Reformed to adopt a different text platform? Do the standards set forth by the modern critical methods measure up to the standards of the Reformed? 

There are certain quality control measures that are unfortunately set aside when a “new” witness is found and catalogued. Due to the axioms of modern textual criticism, all new pieces of evidence are considered as valuable as the next, because it is not a method that considers orthodox doctrine, faith, providence, or the church. So it does not matter to the modern critical text machine if a witness was found in a trash heap or non-orthodox monastery, contains readings that present heterodox doctrines or remove orthodox doctrines, or contain a multitude of idiosyncratic readings and grammar errors. If a manuscript is found that can be dated in the first 1,000 years of the New Testament church, it is considered more valuable than the manuscripts used after 1,000 AD, regardless of the quality. It is actually built into the axioms of modern textual criticism to prefer readings that are short, abrupt, grammatically difficult or less harmonious. 

Herein lies the greatest problem with evangelicals claiming that this “new” data is better than the vast majority of manuscripts and that the Reformed would adopt this “new” data as authentic if they had access to it. Those making these claims never consider the theology and methods of the Reformed against the theology and methods that produce the modern critical text. Further, those making these claims do not usually consider the theology of modern conservative evangelicalism against the theology and methods that produce the modern critical text. The standard which would make that data “better” is completely ignored, especially if one holds to the doctrine that God has preserved the meaning of the Bible, but not the words. Though the doctrine of inerrancy says nothing in terms of the material text of New Testament witnesses, it still assumes that doctrine hasn’t changed over time. This is necessary if one wants to say the Bible is without error in all that it teaches. If something is without error, then it must not change. Change indicates that something has gotten better or worse, and therefore a changing Bible is one that is either becoming inerrant or was inerrant and no longer is. The nature of preservation from an innerancy perspective is that the change of words hasn’t introduced any doctrinal changes. If this is the case, why is that not factored into the evaluation of “new” data? Yet modern textual scholars openly admit that the “new data” produced by the CBGM could change doctrine, theology, preaching, and so forth. The evaluation of the new data produced by the CBGM actually discredits the doctrine of inerrancy because it admits that the Bible is moving towards an improved form. In fact, any text critical method that has at its foundation a changing, uncertain text necessarily denies an inerrant text. 

What this means is that evangelicals should not be excited about “new” data, even by our low theological standards. If innerancy says that the Bible is without error in all that it teaches, what is the doctrinal support for adopting “new” readings without considering the doctrinal impact? If the doctrines are not without error, and doctrines will likely change, that means that the doctrine of inerrancy must be qualified further than it is now or redefined. It needs to be redefined as “The Bible is without error in much of what it teaches.”  Does inerrancy only apply to certain verses and not others? Further, the doctrine of inerrancy is not properly a doctrine that is identified with the material text itself, just the sense or doctrines. In other words, inerrancy is really just a doctrine of Biblical interpretation. The doctrine of inerrancy is not touched by a changing text because innerancy doesn’t have anything to do with the text – it has to do with how we interpret the text. If the text changes, but our interpretation of the text does not, then a passage can be considered inerrant. 

That is to say, that “new and better” data actually doesn’t even matter in terms of inerrancy or the Bible. It is of no concern that the modern critical text is changing because according to this doctrine of Scripture, the text itself is not the material foundation of doctrine. The continued effort of textual criticism is a complete waste of time, if the Bible is inerrant. If it is inerrant now, give it a rest, we’re done here. This actually must be the case, if we are to say that the material text can change but the doctrines cannot. Since the doctrines can exist in a stable form apart from a changing text, then the appeal is either to innate theological truth from nature, some other form of revelation, or historical theology (tradition). In order to prove that doctrine hasn’t changed as the material has changed, a regression test would need to be done for every iterative change to the text. It is clear that inerrancy is not a function of the text itself, it is a function of interpretation. So either the material text is changing and the Bible is not inerrant, or the material text is not the primary source of doctrine. The only case in which inerrant doctrine is founded upon a changing material text is if those material changes were matters of words meaning the same things – synonyms, word order, spelling, etc. Since the changes in the modern critical text extend beyond this category, then the plain reality is that the material text is not the thing that is inerrant. According to this view of the text, the Bible is inerrant by virtue of our interpretation, not by virtue of the text itself. 


In order for somebody to hold to both inerrancy and a changing material text, they have to admit that Scripture itself is not the material foundation for doctrine. So when somebody appeals to “new and better” data, they are really making a doctrinal statement about the inerrancy of the Scripture. If it is the case that a previous iteration of Scripture was not inerrant, and that the “new and better” data corrects these errors, then they are saying that the Bible can move from being errant and inerrant, or it is becoming inerrant.  If it is the case that the Bible is inerrant no matter which iteration of Scripture you look at, then it does not matter which Bible one uses, as inerrancy is a function of interpretation, not the text itself. 

The argument that the “Reformers would adopt the modern critical text if they had our new and better data” sounds good on paper. It is easy to imagine, because most of the prominent names in conservative evangelicalism have adopted the modern doctrines of Scripture and the text that goes with it. In fact, that is often the next step in the flow of the argument. “If this text is wrong, why do all the top scholars advocate for it?” Set aside the argument from authority for a second and consider the merits of the text itself. Consider the doctrine of inerrancy, if you hold to it, and try to understand how that works with a changing text. What surprises me the most, is that people who hold to both inerrancy and a changing text have any issues with people who advocate for the traditional text. Since inerrancy doesn’t speak to the material text, just the doctrines, what does it matter that their text is different? It doesn’t appear that they actually have any right to be upset, because inerrancy allegedly affirms that the Bible has not changed in doctrine across all iterations.

Yet, they do have a problem with the traditional text, because it is a materially different text than the modern critical text(s). Not only that, it has doctrinal differences. There is no escaping the reality that the modern critical text and its axioms have not been justified. The greatest defense for this text is the fact that a lot of popular preachers use it. I would bet, however, that a lot of these popular preachers are completely unaware of what is going on in the world of textual scholarship. It is easy to say that the “Reformers would adopt the modern critical text” without actually proving it. It is simple to appeal to a favorite authority in textual scholarship and say, “well if they believe this then I’m sure it’s justified.” It is easier yet to simply defame and mischaracterise your opponents to invalidate their position to those that do not with to think critically. It is much more difficult to make an argument for the critical text(s) that actually works with what the Bible says about itself. It is for this reason that the use of modern critical text(s) is not justified. Not only does it violate the principles set forth in Scripture, it doesn’t even work with the downgraded doctrine of inerrancy. 

Are KJV Onlyists Asking the Same Questions as Mark Ward?


In an article posted on the website “By Faith We Stand,” Mark Ward addressed an article published by the Trinitarian Bible Society called, “Five Questions about the Authorised (King James) Version.” If you haven’t read Ward’s article, I recommend reading it before continuing here. I wanted to offer a response to his response in this article. In the opening paragraph, Ward applies the term, “KJV-Only,” to the Trinitarian Bible Society. As a side note, the reason they are charitable is because the people at Trinitarian Bible Society are Christian, not because they are British. I’m sure you can find as many unpleasant Brits as you can Americans. In any case, Trinitarian Bible Society is not a “KJV-Only” organization. In fact, in the “About” section of the website, they list six objectives of the society which demonstrate as much.

  1. To publish and distribute the Holy Scriptures throughout the world in many languages.
  2. To promote Bible translations which are accurate and trustworthy, conforming to the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, and the Greek Textus Receptus of the New Testament, upon which texts the English Authorised Version is based.
  3. To be instrumental in bringing light and life, through the Gospel of Christ, to those who are lost in sin and in the darkness of false religion and unbelief.
  4. To uphold the doctrines of reformed Christianity, bearing witness to the equal and eternal deity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, One God in three Persons.
  5. To uphold the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
  6. For the Glory of God and the Increase of His Kingdom through the circulation of Protestant or uncorrupted versions of the Word of God

It is clear by the first objective listed that “King James Onlyism” is not their purpose. If this were their purpose, point one would read: 

  1. To publish and distribute the Authorised Version throughout the world

The Trinitarian Bible Society does not promote “King James Onlyism” as it is defined by most people. Here is a quote directly from the TBS on the matter:

“The Trinitarian Bible Society does not
believe the Authorised Version to be a
perfect translation, only that it is the best
available translation in the English language”

Cited from the Quarterly Magazine, Q1, 2007, Page 8

In fact, they just completed the task of translating the Bible into Farsi, which is not the King James Bible. The fact that the society uses the same base Hebrew and Greek text as the Authorised Version does not make them King James Onlyists. That would be like a publishing house using the same underlying text as the ESV to make a new translation, and calling that a new translation of the ESV. In fact, most recently published Bibles use a printed edition of the modern critical text as a base text. In any case, it should be clear that a Farsi Bible is not an English Bible. The Reina Valera is not an NKJV. A simple question can be used to demonstrate this category error: 

“Can a King James Onlyist advocate for, sell, and read other versions than the King James and be a King James Onlyist?” 

If the answer is no, than Trinitarian Bible Society is not “KJV-Only.” If you answer yes, then this definition of “KJV-Only” applies to versions other than the Authorised Version, and the term is being employed incorrectly. If somebody wishes to insist on calling people who distribute and read other versions than the King James a “KJV Onlyist,” well, there’s not much we can do about that.

It should be clear that by producing, printing, and distributing other versions of the Bible than the KJV, TBS has proven themselves to be unabashedly not KJVO. In addition to this, the godly men and women at Trinitarian Bible Society do not claim to be King James Only nor advocate that one must be reading a King James to be reading the Bible. I understand that Ward’s ministry is to help retire the use of the AV and apparently all Traditional Text Bibles, but name calling and miscategorization are the signs of a failed argument. It is also important to remember that the Trinitarian Bible Society was founded in part due to certain other Bible Societies allowing Unitarian and Jesuit heretics to be members who sought to produce and distribute corrupt translations, not to advocate for “King James Onlyism.” Such an idea didn’t even exist during that time. 

These miscategorizations and rhetoric employed by Ward should be enough to discredit the article altogether for the discerning reader, but if you want to see a response to some of his points continue reading. Ward’s stated goal in writing his response to TBS seems to be to convince the TBS to revise the AV by trying to demonstrate that people who advocate for the AV have trouble reading it. He does not provide any testimonials or data within his response to support this claim, so it is purely anecdotal. He states that,

“This TBS article’s mere existence is a powerful argument against its viewpoint”

Part of the problem is that we live in a culture that believes the KJV is as confusing as Chaucer or Shakespeare, and won’t open it as a result. I encourage those who think that to go and read some Chaucer and Shakespeare, and then read some passages from the Old and New Testament in the AV. Those same people that do not read the AV then go around and tell people that the AV is unintelligible and should not be read. There is certainly a need for an article like this from the TBS. The people that are the most loud about how difficult the AV is to read, are those that do not read it. I found myself perplexed at this perspective. It seems he is saying that people who read the AV, love the AV, and advocate for others to do the same, cannot understand it. Though the response to the TBS has many mischaracterizations and lacks the data to support Ward’s claim that TBS supporters believe the AV to be incomprehensible, there are some points that I have not addressed on this blog that I think will be valuable to my readers nonetheless. 

Response to Point One

Ward begins by answering TBS on the question:

“Why update other translations and not the KJV?” 

Ward gives a response to the TBS article before saying he’s “not willing to chase down an official answer to that question right now,” so I’ll avoid answering his points until he chases those answers down. He then asks a question that, according to Ward, has gone unanswered. I myself have heard this question answered plenty of times, so it could just be that Ward hasn’t engaged with those who actually read the AV, or he’s simply never heard the conversation take place. The question is: 

“At what point will our English have diverged far enough from Elizabethan English to justify a revision or replacement of the KJV?” 

First, it is important to point out that if the 1769 AV is Elizabethan English, Shakespeare might as well to us be as archaic as Chaucer. While the AV retains some of the prose of Elizabethan English which gives it the majestic feel that Ward claims to enjoy, it is not purely Elizabethan if Shakespeare is our guide – it’s closer to modern English actually. Take this passage of Shakespeare for example: 

You shall find of the king a husband, madam; you, good must of necessity hold his virtue to you; whose sir, a father: he that so generally is at all times worthiness would stir it up where it wanted rather than lack it where there is such abundance.

It is true, that if the 1769 AV was written in Elizabethan English as is found in Shakespeare, it would indeed be quite difficult to understand for many readers. To a modern reader, Shakespearean word order may seem more random than calculated. It seems like figuring out the word order of the AV would be a simple task for somebody who has a basic understanding of the word order of Spanish, and especially easy for those that can diagram sentences in Greek. Children seem to figure it out without issues, anyhow. It also stands to reason that somebody who has taken such an interest in defining many of the “false friends” in the AV would, after some time, have a good handle on the vocabulary of the thing. In any case, the simple fact is that the syntax and vocabulary is in between Elizabethan and modern. Take a look at Psalm 119:86-87.

All thy commandments are faithful: They persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. They had almost consumed me upon earth; But I forsook not thy precepts

It should be evident that while the AV is beautiful, it is not written in the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare, so the identification of the AV as “Elizabethan” English seems to be more of a rhetorical device than anything else. For those that have trouble with the “thou” and “ye,” in English: if it starts with a “T” it’s singular, and if it starts with a “Y” it’s plural. Funny enough, the distinction between singular and plural “you” in the AV is actually quite a great reason to retain it because it adds clarity!

Now I’ll give my not-so-short answer to the question: At what point will the AV need to be retranslated?

If we take the most colloquial version of American English and lowest average reading comprehension level, one could easily make the case that now is the time. Though I imagine the same case would have to be made for the ESV if we apply that standard across the board. If the requirement for a Bible to be adequately intelligible is that it must be perfectly comprehensible at every word at a fourth grade reading level, I suppose we’re all stuck with the NLT. Even the NIV has words like aloes, dappled, filigree, forded, galled, offal, portent, and retinue. Pretty much every English translation of the Bible is off the table at this point. This is one of the challenges of Ward’s claim, that he hasn’t defined how much of the AV is unintelligible compared to other versions. I get the picture from Ward that every verse has a “false friend,” when some of the words he lists only occur once in the whole Bible. Two of the other words are words for livestock. Are there more difficult words in the AV than the ESV? Of course. Are there so many difficult words that it needs to be revised? I think not. 

At what point will the AV need to be retranslated?

I’d like to point out the fact that this question itself is a bit beggy. Tucked away behind the scenes of this question seems to be the assumption that people cannot understand the AV now. This stands against common reason, as many, many people read and enjoy the AV. In fact, the polls show that of those who read their Bible, the AV enjoys a great percentage of these readers. Since Ward has not given us any data to evaluate, we are stuck going on his word that his “KJV Only” friends don’t seem to understand their Bible. This provokes an interesting question. What percentage of words do you need to understand for comprehension? What if somebody falls below that threshold for the ESV? Is it the case that the ESV must be retranslated, or that somebody needs to learn some new words? What is the most simple solution for those that actually desire to read the KJV? If the problem is with difficult words, is it simply not the case that Ward prefers a Bible with a smaller quantity of difficult words? The question also seems to assume that people cannot learn how to read the AV. I grew up in a family of teachers, and from a pedagogical standpoint, it’s sort of a chief blasphemy to tell somebody not to learn. This being the case, it does not stand to reason that the AV is so incomprehensible at this point in time that somebody with an average reading level cannot read it. This seems to be more of an issue with English pedagogy and language learning than an issue of translation. That may be a worthy thought to explore some time. Is the “incomprehensibility” of the AV a matter of an outdated translation, or poor pedagogy, or perhaps people are just unwilling to learn new words?

I get the sense that it may be the last option. In a world where Twitter is a chief means of communication, that really shouldn’t surprise anybody. In any case, I can offer a response that may serve the church well. It is not outlandish to think that even if somebody with an average reading level who has trouble with some of the words in the AV cannot use a dictionary to help them learn as they go. In fact, Ward says that such a solution has worked in his life! Most printed editions of the AV come with an archaic word list, and many even have difficult words rendered more easily in the margin. Most KJV text blocks quite literally have helps on every single verse, where it isn’t even necessary. Ward has actually provided a valuable resource in defining so many “false friends” in the AV in his attempt to prove it incomprehensible. If anything, he has provided an adequate solution to his problem, which requires much less time and effort than revising the AV – learn some vocab. 

Since this doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue with translation as it is with English, humour me for a moment on this tangent. We all learn words in order to speak. We learn words as we go through life. We learn words in our Biology and maths classes in order to graduate school. We learn even more words as we enter the workforce. We even learn words in church,  like “propitiation,” a word found in the ESV. Life is a constant exercise of expanding our vocabulary, and most of the time it’s accidental. I learned as many words working in the kitchen at Chipotle as I did in my psych 101 class at university. This particular jab at the AV could easily be confused for an attack on English pedagogy and even the ability of people to learn new words. 

Just like a lawyer has specialized vocabulary, so does a plumber and a key maker and an insurance adjuster. We learn words all the time, so it should not be a difficult ask that we learn words for the most important aspect of the Christian life – hearing God’s voice. In fact, if you’re reading this article, I’m sure you, at one point, had to learn words like propitiation, justification, sanctification, inspiration, and so forth. These are all words we use frequently in a Christian context, and much of our Christian theological grammar is more complex than the archaisms of the AV. Many people even jump into Latin to better understand theological grammar. No matter which version one reads, he has to learn new words to read it. The real issue here seems to be that Ward finds the difficulty curve too steep for the AV.

The question also completely ignores the demographic of KJV readers the article is apparently pointed to, those that read it daily and raise their kids reading it daily. The simple reality is, that if you read the KJV growing up, you’ll likely learn all the words by the time you hit adolescence. If Ward is actually looking for solutions to this apparent problem, there is a simple one – catechism, not retranslation. That seems to be the straightforward Reformed answer, anyway. At what point are we going to ask the question, “Does Mark Ward have a problem with the AV, or just a problem with people learning English words?” 

To respond to the initial question directly, the answer is simple: the AV will need to be retranslated when we are as approximately far from it linguistically as we are now from Chaucer. The AV wasn’t the colloquial form of English even when it was printed, and the plow boy certainly didn’t mind. Ward may be right that there will never again be a time where the church is united enough to produce a successor to the AV. I suppose that’s just another one of life’s happy accidents (and, yes, surely a plan of providence). In a spell of British humour, it seems Ward has produced an argument from providence in favour for the KJV.

Response to Point Two 

“If it’s okay to put modern words in the margins, why not the text?” 

The argument being made by the TBS is that the AV isn’t archaic enough to need a revision just yet. It is being made by people who know the meaning of, or can find the meaning of, leasing (Psalm 4:2;5:6; deceiving), kine (Deut. 28:18; Cattle), prevent (2 Sam. 22:19; hinder, obstruct, intercept, confront), besom (Isa. 14:23; broom), chambering (Rom 13:13; Sexual immorality; coitas), bewray (Isa. 16:3; uncover, reveal), beeves (Lev. 22:19,21; Num. 31:28-44; plural for beef, or cow), bolled (Ex. 9:31; budded, in bud), and so forth. Listing off archaic words doesn’t exactly speak to how we understand language either (though I suppose it is a decent rhetorical device). Context is just as important as vocabulary, especially in English. Again, this seems to be more of a confusion over how to learn and read words than a problem with the AV. At this point, I’m genuinely having a hard time understanding why somebody who loves the King James Version so dearly and has spent so much time learning all the difficult words wants it changed. 

Ward proceeds to split his response into three sub points.

In sub-point one of Ward’s response, he addresses this question: 

“How do you know what counts as archaic?”

TBS responds with a perfectly reasonable answer – it’s difficult to determine where the threshold is for archaic. In other words, it’s probably just easier to produce a new translation than revise the old. To see the TBS’ full response to the question, “Why Not Produce a Modern Version for the 21st Century?”, see this link. Ward responds with what seems to be some rather uncharitable jabs at the problems with “KJV Onlyists”, namely that they are ignorant of just about things pertaining to language and translation. He then provides a two links to online dictionaries. This may serve as a gentle reminder to the audience that he is the one saying the KJV is incomprehensible, not the people who, you know, read it. The real question that must be asked is, “Does a translation containing difficult words need to be retired?” I argue that no, this is not a good justification for retranslation. That is not to say that people do not struggle with words in the AV at all, they do. A major disconnect, is that the people who typically struggle with the AV are often times educated people. In other words, this problem of unintelligibility is expressed most loudly by those who are able, but simply unwilling to learn new vocabulary. Pastor Pooyan Mehrshahi, comments on the demographic who struggles most with the language of the AV:

Coming back to something I started with, the problem is not with the young; the problem is with our elders. Have you ever heard a child complain about the complexity of the language of the Authorised Version? They may say they do not understand; and then you explain it and they accept it. An educated Englishman, however, says he does not understand this Elizabethan language and even if you explain it, he still says he does not understand it. The difference is what is happening to a child or a young person: their English, their vocabulary is growing, and they are learning the language. A person coming from another culture, like myself, in learning the language, simply accepts it. I must learn the vocabulary of the Word of God, that is all! So it is that a child does not complain about this book. It is always, in my experience, adults, who are well educated, white, English, men and women, who complain about this book.

Pastor Pooyan Mehrshahi delivered a sermon on the topic of the relevance of the AV in a young and multicultural society, published in the TBS magazine, and is well worth a read.

At this point, I have a really hard time believing that a person who knows what the word bewray means has any trouble reading the AV, but we’ll take Ward’s word for it. If I’ve learned anything, the people he calls KJV Onlyists are people that occupy a very slim demographic – those that aren’t aware of online dictionaries. Ward then offers his services to TBS to help them identify archaic words – an offer that might be received a little bit better if he didn’t spend an entire article miscategorizing them and then linking an online dictionary to help them understand the Bible they read and sell. Keep in mind, this article is addressed to “KJV Onlyists” who read and support the TBS. I think it’s a fair assumption to say that this particular audience can read the AV. Ward hasn’t yet provided any poll data or substantial evidence that they cannot, so let’s let common reason guide us.

In sub-point 2 of Ward’s response, he addresses this statement:

“Updates would be clumsy compared to the KJV”

Ward here seems to assume that the men and women at TBS believe that “God is incapable of speaking in modern English.” The AV is early modern English, if we’re being specific. Perhaps Ward is intending to say, “Modern Colloquial English.” In any case, the question is not whether the KJV is inspired, the question is, “Does it need an update?” The view of myself and TBS, is that no, it does not. Ward again seems to make another assumption in this short paragraph, that the folks at TBS believe that the “KJV is perfect” in the sense that it cannot ever be improved. Again, the question is not, “Is it possible to be improved?” it is “Should it be improved?” To the first question, it is possible, just not necessary. I’d be curious to see what entity could pull off the feat of revising the AV and getting people to adopt it on a massive scale. One of the reasons to retain the AV is that it is a standard English version that churches can memorize together. Introducing another translation simply adds more discord. To the second question, the view of myself and TBS is emphatically, no, not now. Ward and his colleagues seem to often miss the point that those in the “Confessional Bibliology” camp do not believe you have to be reading an AV to be reading God’s Word. The AV is simply, by our standards, the English version that should be used because it is an accurate translation of the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Received text, and the best version in English that meets that criteria. Those are two entirely different discussions than the one being presented in this article by Ward, however. If I remember correctly, the discussion is not over the underlying text or the accuracy of the translation, it is over the intelligibility of the archaisms. Categories are important, dear reader. 

The third and final sub-point under this section is an answer to the question:

“What do you do about spelling?” 

Ward basically talks about how he prefers British spelling because the AV is the product of the crown, and how archaic spellings are “an unmistakable part of the character of the KJV.” It may be wise to point out here that people aren’t interested in the value of the AV as it exists in a museum, as an artifact of history. It is an accurate translation of God’s Word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and is therefore God’s Word – not a museum piece to admire from afar. 

Response to Point Three

“What about other translations of the Masoretic Text/Textus Receptus?” 

In the final leg of Ward’s response, he details the intricacy of the Bible translation process to a Bible translation society. At least Ward seems to have a sound grasp on British humour at this point. I’ll address the only real point made here, that Ward claims TBS falsely calls the NKJV a “Critical Translation.” Ward, in scholarly fashion, employs the rhetorical strategy of saying two things at once – that the TBS told a lie and that they didn’t tell a lie. Ward certainly has a right to disagree with the TBS, but I think he missed the point of what the TBS was saying. What the TBS did not mean is that the NKJV is based on the amoebic blob that is the modern critical text. What they were saying is that it employs modern translation philosophy, different from that of the standards set forth by the TBS.

The NKJV has a critical apparatus which details various readings from different text platforms. This is a question of translation philosophy, and TBS disagrees with the philosophy employed by the NKJV. Somebody reading their Bible should not have to choose a text like an RL Stein Goosebumps novel, especially if the critical notes associated with those variant readings are more befuddling than anything. I agree with Burgon, that these kinds of critical notes in a translation only serve to sow doubt to a reader. If a translator isn’t sure what the text is supposed to be, perhaps it’s wise not to force that uncertainty upon the person who is completely unequipped of making textual decisions with the limited apparatus of an English translation. And if Ward wants to advocate that Bible readers learn to use a critical apparatus to read their Bible, I can think of a more productive way to spend some time – learning a few vocab words. It may be a good conversation for another time to discuss the differences between the kind of notes in the 1611 AV and the NKJV, but perhaps it may be profitable to read some of the articles published by the TBS on the matter. The men and women at the TBS do know a little bit about translation methodology, after all.  


*Incoming Rhetorical Device*

The response article ends with Ward expressing how disheartened he is. Somewhere in the distance I’m sure somebody is playing the world’s smallest violin. He then makes a heartfelt appeal to the TBS, after shamelessly mischaracterizing them, to stop what they are doing. So I will join with Mark Ward. TBS, I’m talking to you. Please stop translating the Bible and distributing it to the world. Please stop selling those beautiful calfskin Westminster Reference Bibles. Instead, rededicate your time to retranslate the AV so that men like Mark Ward can finally sleep easy at night. We need another English Bible! The church cannot spend another minute teaching their children English words and how to read their Bible, it is simply too arduous of a task. It is clear that the KJV is completely unintelligible and needs to be retired to a museum where we can love it properly. I also love the KJV with all my heart, I just cannot understand it! Restore the Word of God to the temple, TBS! 

Are Christians Justified in Adopting the Modern Critical Text?


In my latest series of articles, I have questioned the validity of the “revision” effort of the 1800’s, which has evolved into a full blown reconstruction effort. Since then, scholars have produced Greek text after Greek text, applied methodology after methodology, all to no avail. Those that align with the axioms of modern textual criticism are unfortunately swimming in a sea of texts, and the scholars heading up the effort have voiced their increasing levels of doubt in the text of Holy Scripture. It is no longer accurate to say that the modern critical text is “a” Bible, because it’s not. It is a dataset of variant readings, a timeline of all of the significant extant corruptions produced by scribes in the first millennia of the church. The modern critical text is the anthology of the scribes as they copied manuscripts. 

An intriguing phenomenon is how men will defend this anthology of variants as though it were “a” text, applying historical protestant language to it as if it were one defineable thing. According to the modern doctrine of preservation, the Scriptures may be preserved within the whole manuscript tradition. The thing that is preserved is somewhere in the stack of datapoints, and many scholars agree that some of those data points have been lost to time. Even more concerning is that there are many data points which we know exist, but do not have in our possession for analysis. According to some scholars, there may be as many as 525 manuscripts left to discover (Gurry & Hixson, Myths and Mistakes, 62). That means that the textual criticism being done is not only operating on a data set that has destroyed data points, it is operating on a data set that has missing data points. This is the “text” that people defend when they fight for “the” modern critical text. 

Is Using This Text Justified? 

Take a moment and put aside all that you know about how slapdash Erasmus was, and all of the driftwood that popular apologists toss into the discussion. Forget for a moment all of the scary words like “Traditionalist” and “Fundamentalist” and take a look at what the modern critical text actually is on its own merits. It is a text that was never used until 1881, and didn’t gain real popularity amongst conservatives until the end of the 20th century. It is a text that is hard to define, and the definable printed editions of it are constantly changing. The methodology being used to develop the most popular printed edition of the modern critical text will not be done until at least 2030, and that’s if they can scrounge up all of the materials needed for the job. The Bibles translated from such texts, or adapted from previous translations and amended by this text, are in flux until this is done.Any Bible that claims to use the Nestle-Aland/UBS platform as a base text is as gooey as the modern critical text itself.  

Now inspect that against what you, as a Christian, know about God’s Word. Do you believe God’s Word as enigmatic as the modern critical text? Will you stake your doctrine on a text that can be described like this? 

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

(Wasserman & Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6)

It is well documented that the initial “revision” team of 1881 stepped beyond their function as revisors into the role of creators. The story of the modern text is full of massive changes to the text of Holy Scripture. That might be forgivable if the process ever stopped going in that direction, but it has only gotten worse. Even the scholars have growing uncertainty about their own text,

“There has also been a slight increase in the ECM editors uncertainty about the text, an uncertainty that has been de facto adopted by the editors of the NA/UBS”

(Ibid., 6). 

The evaluation of the levels of uncertainty is slight, however, because a brief survey of the scholars working on the ECM shows that “slight” uncertainty is actually full blown skepticism held together by historical protestant sentiment. Due to this phenomenon, it is important to evaluate the text-critical conclusions made by these scholars in a separate category as the theological statements by these scholars. As text critics, the men and women producing texts have great skepticism, but that skepticism is balanced out by the theological foundations set in the previous generations. Putting aside all arguments against the Traditional Text of Holy Scripture, can you, as a Christian, justify a text that can be described in this way:

“The text is changing. Every time that I make an edition of the Greek New Testament, or anybody does, we change the wording. We are maybe trying to get back to the oldest possible form but, paradoxically, we are creating a new one. Every translation is different, every reading is different, and although there’s been a tradition in parts of Protestant Christianity to say there is a definitive single form of the text, the fact is you can never find it. There is never ever a final form of the text.”

DC Parker


Due to the polemic nature of this discussion, it is easy to get swaddled in arguments against a position without evaluating the merits of your own position. This is overwhelmingly the case when it comes to those who vehemently advocate for the modern critical text. As long as we can shout about how Erasmus was a humanist (so was Calvin, by the way), and how Beza was just like Bruce Metzger, and how those that retain the Traditional Text are just “snowflakes” and “traditionalists,” then everything is fine! That may work on Facebook, but when it comes down to it, those that defend the modern critical text will exchange their Bible for a new one every five years until they die, and with every exchange their Bible will look a little bit different. 

So, is it justified to adopt the modern critical text? You be the judge. Take some time and investigate the axioms of modern textual criticism and the text that those axioms produce. Were the Scriptures originally choppy, abrupt, grammatically difficult, and lacking harmony? Did the Orthodox church corrupt the Scriptures to develop the Christology, add pericopes to retain beloved stories of Christ, and amend the text to contend against heretics? Did God lose the ending of Mark? Or did the text start out harmonious, robust, and theologically complete? Did God keep His Word pure in all ages? Did the men of the Reformation have this preserved text? If they did, why continue arguing for readings they rejected? Why strip out the passages they stood on against Rome? And if they didn’t have the preserved text, what is it we have now? We certainly do not have “a” text, we have an anthology of the scribes.

Yes, the Bible Teaches Preservation


The chasm between the axioms of lower-criticism and historic Protestant Theology grows wider every single day. Yet the two live side by side in the seminary. A student at seminary may go from a systematic theology or foundations class directly to an exegesis or New Testament class, wherein the concepts espoused are completely at odds with each other, and more likely than not, directly from Bart Ehrman. In this article, I want to examine some statements made by Dan Wallace which I believe represent the wider sentiment of many, if not all, conservative evangelical textual scholars. Prior to examining the theological statements made by Dan Wallace, I want to clarify that my analysis of his words is not an attack on the man himself, but the doctrine he is espousing is worth a look. Take for example these three statements: 

“First, the doctrine of preservation was not a doctrine of the ancient church. In fact, it was not stated in any creed until the seventeenth century (in the Westminster Confession of 1646). “

“I have no theological agenda in this matter because I don’t hold to the doctrine of preservation. That doctrine, first formulated in the Westminster Confession (1646), has a poor biblical base. I do not think that the doctrine is defensible –either exegetically or empirically. As Bruce Metzger was fond of saying, it’s neither wise nor safe to hold to doctrines that are not taught in Scripture.”

These quotes found here.

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

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

A Symptom of a Larger Problem 

The point of this article is not to slam Dan Wallace, that is not my intention. It is safe to say that these quotations represent the current and past thought in New Testament textual criticism among evangelical textual scholars, and are therefore helpful in addressing the modern doctrinal articulations on Inspiration and Preservation. The common term employed by evangelical New Testament scholars is Quasi-Preservation, which I have labeled partial preservation in previous articles found here and here and here. The fact is, that there is nothing in Scripture that would support a quasi-preservationist view of the Scriptures. This doctrinal position is a response to men like Bart Ehrman, who essentially agrees with Dan Wallace, and not an exegetically derived position. It is also a doctrine developed based on the axioms and text platform that modern textual scholars have produced. It is a doctrine adapted to the scientifically developed text, and not from the text itself. It is a meta-doctrine which is exegeted from the axioms of modern textual criticism. It is a theological position that says, “Well the text is hopelessly corrupt, so therefore God must not have preserved it.” The only way one can arrive at a view that says the Scriptures are not fully preserved is if you first believe the Scriptures are not preserved. 

Wallace, like many of his colleagues, appeals to the historical councils of the church to prove that the doctrine of preservation is a 17th century invention. It is true, that the formulation of such doctrines were codified in the 17th century, because the Protestants were protesting the Papist doctrine of Scripture. Considering that the Protestant Reformation was an Ad Fontes movement, this makes sense. This is a common appeal made by the defenders of the modern text – if a doctrine isn’t codified in a council, it never happened. James White often makes this argument when trying to denigrate the Received Text. The form of the argument is bad, and we shouldn’t be caught up by it. As Protestants, we reject the authority of councils as ultimate. 

Though there aren’t any councils or creeds which affirm the purity of the Scriptures, the doctrinal kernel existed in the early church. We see reference in the ancient church to the perspicuity of the Scriptures. Irenaeus, writing in his work, Against Heresies, says,

“The Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”

(AH 2.28.2)

In any case, a quasi-doctrine of preservation is difficult to even defend historically, because one typically has to say that the Scriptures were corrupted right out of the gate. If this is the case, then any attempt of reconstruction is a well-intentioned goose chase. Yet if we are to use the standard set forth by Wallace and friends, the first time we see his view codified in a creedal statement is in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, adopted in 1986. 

Regardless of what we think of appeals to councils, we are to be discerning Protestants. We admit that the church and councils have erred, and that the sole rule of faith is the Scriptures. Even if the historical consensus of the church in councils is that the Bible has been perfectly preserved, we appeal to the Scriptures themselves as our final authority. Wallace and friends often talk as though they are in the mainstream of protestant thought, believing in quasi-preservation. The fact is, that they are, at this point in time, the minority within conservative theologians, pastors, and laymen. I can’t imagine many reputable pastors would get up to the pulpit and affirm the three quotes that I began this article with. Think of yourself, sitting in the pews of your church, and your pastor opens up his sermon on 2 Timothy 3:16 with the statement, “We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any of translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it.”

I imagine, if the seminaries continue giving these scholars a stage, that too will change, and statements like these may very well ring out from pulpits everywhere. They have already given Bart Ehrman a massive voice in our seminaries by using his approved textbook as the curriculum for textual criticism, so we should not expect this to change on its own. This is one case where the divide between the academy and the church is truly a blessing to the people of God. The real question is, should we take to heart what modern textual scholars think about the preservation of Scripture? I answer no, we shouldn’t. If we do not care what Bart Ehrman thinks about Scripture, then we should too reject the theological axiom that the Scriptures have not been preserved. Think back to the disconnect I mentioned between the lower-criticism of evangelicals and the theology of evangelicals. This disconnect is most clearly demonstrated in these two statements made by Dan Wallace:

“First, I want to affirm with all evangelical Christians that the Bible is the Word of God, inerrant, inspired, and our final authority for faith and life”

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

To this I ask a simple question: How can something be the final authority if we do not know what that something is?

In order to get to the task of exegesis, we must have something to exegete. I’m sure everybody would agree on that point. The place where myself, and modern scholars differ, is the nature of the text. I believe, along with many others, that there is no justification for a reconstruction effort, because I do not believe the Scriptures have fallen away. In order for something to be a rule of faith, or foundational to faith, it cannot be changing. If the something we exegete is changing, it simply cannot be a final authority, just an authority. To the credit of evangelical textual scholars, they are genuinely trying to determine the thing that we must exegete. The problem is the methodology that they have chosen, which cannot, and will not, arrive at a final product.

The modern critical text machine produces bibles, not the Bible. Just as we should be careful not to allow our differences to result in character defamation, we should be more careful not to let the friendliness of these scholars get in the way of our good judgement. Many modern scholars seem to be a genuine Christians, though that does not make their doctrinal positions correct, or immune from critique. Given the multitude of articles all over the internet calling people like me fundamentalists, traditionalists, cultists, and so on, it does not seem that the other side has a problem with issuing critique. We have to remember that niceness is not a fruit of the spirit. In any case, let’s look at one inconsistency in the appeal to church councils for proof that the doctrine of preservation is a new invention of the 17th century. Wallace appeals to councils and creeds when supporting his position that the Scriptures do not claim to be preserved. He appeals to an external standard to defend his position on the text he says is the final authority. 

The appeal to church councils is really just a misdirect that Protestants should brush off, if we are still calling ourselves Protestants. The appeal to councils is not an argument that Jan Huss, or we, modern day Protestants, should find particularly compelling. It is clear that historically the church has believed God had given them His Word. That really shouldn’t be in question. The question that we ought to be asking is, “do the modern texts really not affect doctrine?” The question itself assumes a stable, doctrinal rule to compare against. When somebody says, “No doctrine is affected,” they are really saying, “Our new text doesn’t change doctrine from the historical text.” Even in making such a statement, they are assuming an unchanging rule of faith as a comparison point to their changing rule of faith. More importantly though, if the modern text does not change doctrine, why is it that the doctrine of preservation is changing? What changed from the time of the 17th century until now that has caused such a doctrinal shift? The text. The text has changed, and is changing. Therefore it does not stand to continue believing that the modern text does not change doctrine, because it plainly has. A simple comparison of the WCF to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy demonstrates, that doctrine has changed. It has even changed in the creeds of the church, ironically. 


The church went from believing that the transmission of the Scriptures was guided by providence and preserved in the apographs (copies), to believing that the Scriptures were only perfect in the autographs (originals). It went to believing that the matter (words) and sense (meaning) of the Scriptures are preserved to believing that only the sense is preserved. If it is true that a changing, unstable text is the best we have in the 21st century, it is clear that neither is true. How can something be preserved in meaning if the words that the meaning is derived from are not preserved? Meaning comes from words, and when words change, meaning changes. The claim that “no doctrine is affected” is empty, and this is evidenced in the reality that even the creedal statements of the church have changed with the changing text. If you want proof that doctrine has changed, there it is. 

Christians shouldn’t be as concerned with Wallace and other evangelical textual scholars as they should with the doctrines that they are espousing. The Scriptures tell us to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21), not to “hold fast to that which is unproved.” The modern text is fundamentally unproved, because it is unfinished. The church had a stable text heading into the post-Reformation period. It was the text that caused the greatest Christian revival in the history of the world. It is the text that all of Protestant theology was built upon. All of our theological grammar comes from this text. It still remains the most widely used text by Christians around the world to this day. So when a new text comes onto the scene, one that demonstrates the Bible has not been preserved, that is the thing that must be proved.

Christians forget that the adoption of the modern text is a new thing. Until very recently in English speaking church history, there was one major English translation and one Greek text used as a base text. Today’s church is genuinely experiencing a new thing, and that new thing is the modern text. Rhetoric, polemics, and our desire for “science” has clouded the conversation greatly. Put aside the rhetoric, the name calling, the pejoratives, and test what you, as a Christian, can test – the doctrine. You may know nothing of textual criticism, but you as a Christian are commanded to “try the spirits,” and God has given you the tools to do so. I especially appeal to the consistency of those in the presuppositional camp – if you don’t think you have to learn about geo-rock layers to give a defense for the faith, why do you think you have to learn about genealogical text-critical methods to defend the faith? Demanding that you must learn a scientific discipline to defend the faith is antithetical to presuppositionalism. Those that make such appeals are really just saying that they are evidentialists. Instead of appealing to apologetics, councils, and your favorite scholar, try answering this basic question: Do the Scriptures teach that they will fall away, even partially?


Consider this basic exegesis of Matthew 5:18:

The text expressly sets forth that Jesus came to establish exactly what was said about Him from the Old Testament Scriptures, and the perpetuity of that establishment until all is fulfilled on the Last Day. From good and necessary consequence, we can also establish that the means that He will continue fulfilling that law will also continue in perpetuity until all is fulfilled. In the latter days, the means God uses to “make men wise unto salvation” are His Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-16; Heb. 1:1). So while there is no text that says literally, “The Old and New Testament will be preserved perfectly,” the Old and New Testament are the means God uses to fulfill His purpose, and therefore “shall in no wise pass.” If the means of the fulfillment pass away, so too does the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry. Therefore, this is a legitimate inference from the text of Holy Scripture that is both good and necessary. This being the Scriptural standard, we then can look at passages like Psalm 12:6 -7 and see the nature of preservation:

“The words of the LORD are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever”

This is again affirmed in Matthew 24:35:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Finally, ask yourself this question: Is the Holy Scripture God’s words? 

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16).

It is clear that the Scriptures do teach this doctrine, the problem is that many Christians simply do not believe it. 

Is the Reconstructionist Effort Justified?


It has been about 140 years since the reconstruction efforts began on the text of the New Testament, if we use 1881, the year Westcott and Hort’s new Greek text was published as a starting point. The Traditional Text of Scripture had been well under attack before that point, but this was the first successful effort to unseat it. Since then, scholars have tried their hand testing many theories, all of which have proved completely unproductive. At some point, Christians need to seriously stop and question if this effort is justified now, or was ever justified. See, going into the 19the century, the church had a text. It was the text that sparked the Reformation. It was the text that was used during the high orthodox period. It was the text of the Great Awakening. All of the Reformed confessional standards from the 17th century appeal to this text as the pure and preserved text. 

For just a minute, let’s step into the world of business and apply a lower standard to the text of Holy Scripture than what the church gives lip service to. If you were a financier, and were in charge of funding a construction project, what sort of progress would you expect? At what point would you pull funding? How many years would you give the effort? How many failed attempts would you allow? What level of accountability would you hold the construction manager to? If every five years the construction manager came to you and said, “We made a mistake laying the foundation, we have to start again,” would that make you question the construction team’s methods? This is the case for the textual reconstruction effort, except Christians, instead of holding the scholars to basic standards, they have adopted the incomplete work of the reconstructionist scholars, and have even become apologists for it. They have even convinced themselves that this building is the only way buildings should be built, and that anybody living in a completed structure that hasn’t wavered for 400 years is actually foolish. Let’s stop pretending  for a minute, that Christians hold textual scholars to any sort of meaningful standard. If these scholars were held to a basic secular standard, they’d be out of jobs. 

Further, how would you feel if the people responsible for the construction project did not believe they had all of the materials to erect the structure, did not believe they could even erect the structure, and had not yet succeeded in erecting the structure? Who in their right might would continue hoping, defending, and financing this construction team? Even from a secular standard, that is absurd. Why is it the case that after 140 years, with all of this alleged “new and better” data, scholars still cannot seem to give the church a final product?

Assessing the Materials 

The earliest and best manuscripts are often appealed to in text-criticism discussions. Yet this tagline really deserves a second look. First, these manuscripts are not the earliest, just the earliest that we have today. The earliest complete New Testament manuscript is from the fourth century. The Bible was written in the first century. Therefore, the statement “Earliest and best” is already misleading. Second, these manuscripts are not the best by any reasonable standard. They disagree more than they agree, some are even paraphrastic like Codex D and P45, and they frequently disagree with the vast majority of our extant Greek manuscripts. The manuscripts labeled “earliest and best” are more appropriately titled “earliest extant.” Further, these manuscripts have no pedigree. We do not know who penned them in most cases, and the places where they do depart from the mainstream textual tradition are often conveniently in places which directly target major Christological doctrines. If we are going to call something “best,” we should at least be willing to develop and apply a consistent qualitative standard to them. Scholars like Dr. John Burgon did this extensively in the 19th century. Even when the genealogical method, which is preferred by modern scholars, is applied to these manuscripts, they differ to such a degree that they are not considered a textual family. They stand in no continuous text tradition handed down by the church. These manuscripts should have never even been considered as an option as a textual foundation, and yet almost every modern Bible uses them as such. It would be like laying the foundation of a building with different types and sizes of wood and expecting that building to withstand a storm. These manuscripts should have never been more than the muse of the secular academy, and yet the church has wholeheartedly bought into them. 

So what do we say to these manuscripts, that are of no particular quality worth mentioning, which we do not know where they came from or who used them, and which disagree with the mainstream text in a multitude of places? We reject them. When Codex B is collated against the Traditional Text, at least 2,877 words have been removed from just the Gospels alone. 3,455 words removed from Sinaiticus, and 3,704 from what we have of Codex D (The Revision Revised, 75). It is high time that the church sets aside the well intentioned words of scholars which say that, “They are essentially the same text.” How can two texts be “essentially the same” when they differ in thousands of places? How exactly is the word “essentially” being defined here?  With Burgon we must say, “Will the English church suffer herself to be in this way defrauded of her priceless inheritance, – through the irreverent bungling of well-intentioned, but misguided men?” Will we stand around as, “these eminent Divines undertake to decide which shall be deemed the genuine utterances of the Holy Ghost? – which not?”

Let us conclude with Burgon, “Now, in the present instance, the ‘five old uncials’ cannot be the depositories of a tradition, whether Western or Eastern, – because they render inconsistent testimony in every verse. It must be further admitted (for this is not really a question of opinion, but a plain matter of fact,) that it is unreasonable to place confidence in such documents. What would be thought of in a court of law of five witnesses, called up 47 times for examination, who should be observed to bear contradictory testimony every time?” (31). If we wouldn’t trust building materials of such quality, and we wouldn’t trust the testimony of such witnesses in court, why do we continue to trust such manuscripts as the basis for the Holy Scriptures? No amount of extant Papyri can resolve the inconsistencies within these uncial manuscripts the church has placed her trust in. 

Returning to a Reasonable Position 

It is not traditionalism, or fundamentalism, to reject manuscripts of such low quality. It is not “sacrificing truth for comfort” to look at the last 140 years of Reconstructionist text-criticism and reject it. At this point in history, it is actually illogical to continue hoping in an effort that has not succeeded. If we are to consider God’s providence at all, a plain story can be told about the fruit of each text. One text, the Traditional Text, was defended against the Papists and other heretical movements, and led to the largest Christian revival in the whole of human history. The other text, the Critical Text, based on mostly just two manuscripts of low quality, is adopted and even created by the Papists and cults, and has led to conservative scholars rejecting preservation and adopting and applying the evolutionary theories of the academy. It has led to hundreds of translations, none of which are considered complete or correct. It is anti-Berean to look at the fruit of such an effort, the text of such an effort, and the Theological statements of the men conducting the work, and to say, “Everything is fine.”

I exhort you, Christian, to stop defending a building that cannot stand, that has proven itself unstable. If you’re looking for evidence, look at the fact that the modern text is changing, and will continue to change. That alone is enough to cast doubt on the reconstructionist model. If the manuscripts are of such quality that they should unseat the Traditional Text, why can they not be used to create a stable text? Why don’t the scholars themselves have confidence in them? I encourage you to investigate the theories and theological standards which have produced the modern Greek texts. Are you comfortable aligning with the theological position that says we do not have now, and probably never will have, the text of the Apostles? Investigate the claims of “fundamentalism” and “traditionalism” and see that they are simply smokescreens to distract from the reality that the modern methodology has not produced a text. 

Look at the character attacks and storytelling on Erasmus and see them for what they are, a distraction. Look at the pedantic presentations of critical text apologists that are aimed almost exclusively at the character, credentials, and even age of those who defend the Traditional Text. Study the polemics of the Papists against Beza and see that their arguments are often the same exact arguments employed against the Traditional Text by Reconstructionist text-criticism apologists. If you are hoping that the direction of the modern text is going to slow down, it is not. There will never be a final product, and your modern Bible will continue changing. Compare that with your theology of Scripture and “prove all things.” The reconstruction of the New Testament was never justified, and never necessary, because the Word of God was never lost. It never needed reconstructing, and the fruit of such a reconstruction has shown the folly of ever thinking that that was the case.  

If you want proof of the low quality of the earliest extant texts, look at the doctrinal statements made by those who know them best. Start with the Chicago Statement and see that the only thing that modern theology will defend is the inerrancy of the non-existent autographs. If the earliest manuscripts are our only shot at having a New Testament, then by their own words, we will never know exactly what the New Testament said. By their own testimony, the Bible doesn’t teach that the Scripture would be preserved perfectly. By their own admission, God never desired to preserve His Word perfectly. Is that the stand that the 21st century church wants to take? That the Bible has not been kept pure in all ages? At least they are being consistent. These doctrinal positions are the logical conclusion, if the quality of the earliest texts are considered “best.” 


The reconstructionist effort began with deception. The Revisionists in the 19th century created a new text when they were only authorized to make a small amount of revisions to the AV. They made changes they were not authorized to make, created a Greek text that they were not authorized to create, and justified it by a theory that has been so thoroughly debunked the whole effort should be questioned. If the earliest extant manuscripts aren’t the best, then the reconstruction effort should have never been considered. The only reason it took place initially was due to breaking the rules set for the revision. Further, the foundational theological premise of the continued use of such a “revised” text is that God has not kept His Word pure in all ages. It requires the belief that certain parts of God’s Word have fallen away. It requires the use of theoretical genealogical models which are demonstrably arbitrary to produce a text. It requires that the church adjust their view of Inspiration and Preservation to changing theories that are constantly falling in and out of vogue. If the modern critical text doesn’t affect doctrine, why does doctrine change as the modern text changes? 

The reconstructionist effort should be rejected. Not because the scholars are mean, or malicious, or have poor intentions, but because the effort itself is not justified. The materials being used are not of proper quality or quantity. The methods used are theoretical and devoid of spiritual quality. The product of the effort speaks for itself. The fruit has grown and fallen off the tree. Christians must rally around a stable text if it wants a stable church. Dear Christian, receive your inheritance that the great fathers of our faith fought for. Doubt not that God has preserved His Word, and stop defending theological frameworks that insist that He hasn’t. Have confidence in the Word of God, and God Himself in His ability to prevent His Word from falling away. 

 “The words of the Lord are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them O LORD, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Ps. 12:6-7)

Reconstructionists, The Burden of Proof is On You


A common refrain in the text-criticism discussion is the appeal to “the burden of proof.” The burden of proof is on those who advocate for the traditional text to demonstrate that the readings within the text are original. This appeal is a simple misdirect that should not fool any sound thinking Christian. In making this argument, it draws the attention away from the failure of reconstructionist textual criticism apologists to fulfill any sort of burden of proof themselves. Typically, those in the modern critical text camp do not venture past manuscript evidence to examine the theological, epistemological, and logical implications of approaching the text in the way they do. Due to framing the discussion within the narrow frame of manuscript evidence and textual variants, it is possible to completely avoid the marrow of the discussion. If it is possible to demonstrate that a variant is supported by one manuscript, or a church father, or an ancient version, then it doesn’t matter what the theological implications are of adopting that particular reading. This methodology is appealing because it seems scientific, logical, and conclusive. In the case of evidential reconstructionist textual criticism the reality is that it merely has the form of science, but not any sort of real power. In other words, it is completely, and utterly, arbitrary. Let me explain. 

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that modern reconstructionist textual criticism is consistent in its methodology – which it is plainly not. At one reading, they appeal to one standard, and at another they appeal to entirely different standards. Any claim saying that the axioms of modern textual criticism are consistent is either misleading, or relying upon their audience’s ignorance of the system.  Even if these axioms were consistent, they will never be able to claim any sort of practical certainty on a given reading. Since the goal is reconstruction of the text, the starting principle of the methodology itself is that the text of Holy Scripture has been lost. Since this is the theological and epistemological starting point, all methods that proceed from this point begin the effort of textual criticism standing three feet in mid air, because the earliest manuscripts do not reach back to the time of the Apostles. No matter how you spin this reality, you will never escape the fundamental truth that all reconstructive methodologies are operating entirely from conjecture. The genealogical methods employed to reconstruct the text of the New Testament simply cannot demonstrate a reading original. It may be the case that somebody believes a reading original, but that belief does not originate from reconstructionist principles. They have to borrow that from a system which offers epistemological certainty. The method of reconstruction is arbitrary, and any claim to certainty of any kind is alien to the reconstructionist system. 

The Arbitrary Standard of Reconstructionist Textual Criticism

These methods are arbitrary because of the standard itself. Often times, proponents of reconstructionist textual criticism will appeal to the axioms of other systems to bolster the weaknesses of the system they have chosen. In other words, they borrow capital from the theology of the Protestants to put newspaper over the milk that they spilled. See, if the Bible has been lost to the point that it requires reconstruction, then it has not been preserved. There is no escaping this reality, and this is colorfully highlighted in the fact that the term Initial Text is being employed in place of Original or Autographic Text. Even when the term Original is used, it is employed in an entirely different way than it has been historically in Protestant Theology. No matter how hard one tries to put a Theological spin on this concept, a duck dressed up as a swan is still a duck. Simply calling the theological concept of the Initial Text equitous with the Original text does not make it true, and the methodology used to construct such an Initial Text cannot make any such claim responsibly. The fact remains that our earliest manuscripts are not the earliest manuscripts, patristic quotations are not inspired and often are paraphrastic, and ancient versional evidence faces the same problem as ancient manuscript evidence. The plain truth is that our earliest manuscripts have no pedigree. We don’t know who made them or who used them. The only thing these sources demonstrate is whether or not a reading existed, and has nothing to say about whether that reading was original from the pen of the Apostolic writers or a machination from an early heretic. The simple problem with genealogical reconstructions is that they can just as easily place a late reading in the spot of an early reading without being detected at all. In fact, scholars are quite vocal in admitting this. In addition to the logical flaws with these early manuscripts, the material flaws are overwhelming. There are more places where the darling early Uncials disagree than agree, and if our manuscripts of Shakespeare were of such quality, we would have something like, “The question is, to beat, or not to beat Toby?” We wouldn’t have Shakespeare at all, just an echo of Shakespeare. 

This is what happens when human reconstructionist principles of textual criticism are inscripturated. The educated Christian church has been catechized to believe that these axioms are the only way to determine the text of Holy Scripture, and therefore forcing an arbitrary text onto the church. A text that can present later, unoriginal readings, into the text and pass them off as original without any knowledge of such an event. The major problem with this is that if reconstructionist text critical principles are the only way to determine what is Scripture, then Christians must place their faith in a method that is entirely arbitrary and in no way conclusive. Since the material is not perfectly preserved, the doctrine of inspiration must be refashioned around a text that is not materially pure. 

The Reconstructionists Must Defend Their Thesis 

At the outset, the method admits that the text of Scripture, at least part of it, has been lost and must be reconstructed. The principle axiom of the method looks at the text of Scripture and says, “We don’t know what it says, and we don’t have the whole thing.” The next step should have been, from that point on, figuring out if a reconstruction effort could be done with the materials. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). In fact, this was done by Dr. John Burgon in the 19th century (The Revision Revised), wherein he conclusively demonstrates that the source material for this reconstructed text was utterly devoid of the quality required for such an effort. This was again demonstrated by H.C. Hoskier in the 20th century (Codex B and its Allies). In the 21st century, the answer to whether or not the extant data is sufficient is succinctly answered by 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” (Myths and Mistakes, xii). If the answer wasn’t apparent in the time of Westcott and Hort, it certainly is now. If the theological and epistemological case that I have laid out in this blog over the last few months is not convincing, the fruit of the reconstructionist effort should be. If the data is available, if the text of Scripture is preserved, why can’t the well meaning scholars get back to it? How long is the church going to entertain this project? 

Theologically, the church should reject any method that starts with the premise that any text of Scripture has fallen away (Mat. 5:18; Mat. 24:35). Epistemologically, the church should reject any method that says the Word of God must be authenticated by scientific principles (2 Tim. 3:16). Logically, the church should reject any method that plainly admits they have not, and cannot reconstruct the text (Luke 14:28). Yet reconstructionist textual criticism continues to be the muse of the Christian academy. With each passing year, the incomplete text continues to be propped up and celebrated by Christians all over the world. The conversation of “Which text?” is irrelevant from a reconstructionist textual model because the method itself doesn’t believe that any text is “the text.” Why would somebody entertain the arguments of somebody whose starting point rejects the concept of “the” text of Holy Scripture? That is why it is important to investigate the effort that led to conservative Christian scholars adopting such a theological position. If the effort cannot be justified, and has not borne good fruit, why should the church continue to prop it up? Why should Christians act like the modern critical text is the “better” text, when the scholars producing it and advocating for it are unwilling to call it “the” text? If the so called “new” data has given us so much more insight than our fathers of the faith, why has it produced so much uncertainty? It is one thing to make appeals to “new and better data,” and another to actually prove it. It is foolish to continue to defend such “new” data when the data has overwhelmingly failed in producing anything but uncertainty. 


Christians are called to “Prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:20), and the axioms and text of the reconstructionists is objectively the new thing on the scene that must be proved. It has the burden of proof, not the traditional text. The reconstructionists need to demonstrate that their method can produce a text. The traditional text is not the problem, it is not the newcomer that needs to be proved. Why unseat the text of the Protestant church for a model that has not produced a text, cannot produce a text, and will not produce a text? What reason shall we give for such an illogical departure? It is time that Christians reject the misdirection of the reconstructionists who insist that the burden of proof is on the traditional text advocates, when the method they demand for establishing that proof is insufficient to do so. Since the reconstructionist model has not proved a text, those that advocate for the ongoing effort are literally defending an immaterial text that doesn’t exist. On one hand they say “we do not have the text,” and on the other they say, “But our text is better.” These two principles cannot stand together, and until the reconstructionists demonstrate that their effort is justified, the burden of proof is on them.