Mark Ward the Conspiracy Theorist


Mark Ward recently published a pamphlet in November 2020 called, Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. I’m going to do a full analysis on my YouTube channel in the coming weeks, but I ran across something too good not to comment on here. If you’re familiar with Ward’s work, you know that above all else he values that people be “nice” when disagreeing with him and people he likes. He re-emphasizes this on pages 65 and 66 when commenting on Crossway’s “Permanent Edition.”

“This means that when Crossway put out a Permanent Text Edition of their popular and excellent translation, the English Standard Version, promising no more revisions, Christian people should have complained on social media (nicely) and written into Crossway to object (nicely).”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 65-66.

Now it is comical that Mark Ward simultaneously lauds the ESV as an “excellent translation” while also stating that it is not excellent enough in its current state to be settled. I have said this often, but it’s entertaining to note that modern scholars praise their modern versions while at the same time commenting on the fact that they aren’t good enough to stay the same for more than a decade or good enough to be read in isolation. If it was such an “excellent” translation, why does it go through revisions so often or need to be supplemented with other “imperfect” translations? I imagine Crossway wouldn’t sell a lot of Bibles if they released a marketing campaign around Ward’s idea of “An imperfect Bible for an imperfect church!” Getting back to my point, we see here that Ward values the first commandment of evangelical scholarship so much he included it twice.

It is ironic that Ward very loudly and repeatedly states how much he needs people to be nice while simultaneously offering the harshest and most uncharitable critiques of people who disagree with him. He slaps people with the same hand he offers fellowship, but it’s fine as long as he does it with a soft voice and plenty silly, quirky, quips and analogies. If you don’t believe me, he literally compares the transmission of the Bible to the germs left on a cookie that one of his kids licked from top to bottom and put back in the cookie jar. In this article, I am going to demonstrate that Ward seems to have an extremely conspiratorial view of what he calls “KJV Onlyists.”

Wide Eyed Conspiracy Theories

On page 67, Ward offers the most honest definition of “KJV Onlyism” employed by Critical Text advocates.

“KJV-Onlyists insist that the KJV is the only truly trustworthy translation of Scripture. It is, they say, the best translation of the best texts.”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 67.

I have been saying for a long time that men like Ward and James White define “KJV Onlyists” as anybody who reads a KJV, but here he says it clearly. What my reader needs to recognize is that when people use the term “KJV Onlyist,” they are not talking about the views of people who graduated from Ward’s Alma Mater. They are talking about anybody who reads a KJV.

After defining “KJV Onlyism,” Ward continues to produce one of the most unhinged takes I have ever seen on page 68.

“It must be pointed out that most KJV-Only Christians believe that the vast majority of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew are stupid, crazy, or evil (rather than simply wrong) – dupes, dummies, or devils involved in a plot to undermine the Bible’s teaching about Christ’s deity. KJV-Onlyism is, in other words, a conspiracy theory.”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 68.

In a remarkably matter-of-fact statement made by Ward, he actually alleges that “most KJV-Only Christians” believe in a vast conspiracy propagated by “stupid, crazy, or evil” Christians. He shockingly insinuates that people who read the KJV believe that “vast majority of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew” are “dupes, dummies, or devils involved in a plot to undermine the Bible’s teaching about Christ’s deity.” This is by far the most absurd thing I have read in a very long time. There is a difference between somebody saying, “This textual variant teaches something different about the divinity of Christ” and “There is a vast conspiracy to take Christ’s divinity out of Scripture.” Ironically, there are many people in Ward’s camp who allege that a conspiracy took place in the early church to add Christ’s divinity into the text, and that is pretty mainstream!

I will do my best to pick through Ward’s wild ideas. In the first place, the number of Christians who can read Greek and Hebrew is astonishingly small. Secondly, this statement demonstrates that the foremost recognized “KJV Scholar” hasn’t the slightest clue who actually reads the KJV. I suspect this could be due to the fact that he believes nobody can actually read the KJV. It seems that in order to make sense of why people read the KJV, Ward has concocted a world in which there is a massive group of conspiracy theorists in the church. This must be the only reason somebody would read a KJV! Instead of charitably stating that people who read the KJV simply disagree with the conclusions of modern textual scholarship, he sends his reader off the deep end into a ridiculous conspiracy theory that KJV readers are unhinged conspiracy theorists. Even though Ward states that “They say” that it is because the KJV is the best translation of the best texts, Ward posits that the true reason is a rampant conspiracy theory plaguing the church.


It’s funny how Critical Text advocates cannot write a book about their theology without talking poorly about the KJV and those who read it. In Ward’s case, it seems he got done watching CNN and realized that the “QAnon” strategy could also work in the realm of the Bible translation debate. Here’s the strategy:

  1. Find a conspiracy theory
  2. Misrepresent the conspiracy theory
  3. Paint all people from the group you don’t like as the same as those conspiracy theorists

There are certainly people that believe as Ward has described above, just like there were/are people who believe things on anonymous message boards. The same way that CNN paints “most conservatives” as “QAnon,” Ward paints “most KJV Onlyists” as conspiracy theorists. This is honestly embarrassing and I’m not sure who signed off on actually publishing these statements. It is such a bad take, in fact, that it is a conspiracy theory in itself. If Ward truly values being nice and charitable so much, it makes zero sense to call most of the 55% of people who read a Bible conspiracy theorists.

Overall, I found Ward’s take highly entertaining. He would rather believe that most KJV readers are conspiracy theorists than actually look at the arguments and interact with them. If anything, this should be encouraging to my readers who are TR advocates because the Critical Text guys have resorted to CNN arguments in their attempts to justify their text. When it comes down to it, Critical Text advocates have openly admitted that they have no ultimate standard by which they judge texts (James White), and that they don’t have a text today (Dan Wallace). I’ll leave my reader with four quotes, which are mostly for Mark Ward, because I know that he reads my blog.

“It is found again in the words of Jesus, who said, ‘The Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35).”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 30.

“Even if the text of the Gospels could be fixed – and, when viewed at the level of object and material artifact, this goal has never been achieved”

Knust & Wasserman. To Cast the First Stone. 15.

“Think about this: if we need the testimony of a professional historian to testify that the testimony of Luke the Apostle is reliable, then who’s going to testify that the professional historian is reliable?”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 42.

“At some point, we’re just going to have to trust someone – why not let it be God?”

Mark Ward. Bibliology for Beginners: What Does the Bible Say About the Bible?. 42.

The Absurdity of Anti-KJV Rhetoric


There are a number of reasons people choose a Bible translation. For those in the Modern Critical Text crowd, it’s often the same logic that caused many people to vote for Joe Biden – because he wasn’t the other guy. In the same way, the modern axiom seems to be, “So as long as it’s not the KJV it’s fine.” In fact, this is exactly the logic found in mainstream, “Reformed” New Testament exegesis textbooks such as How to Understand and Apply the New Testament authored by Andrew Naselli. All translations are permissible, even the Message, so as long as it’s not the KJV. The Living Bible even has more to offer than the King James, according to Naselli!

This, in my opinion, is astronomically stupid. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the King James is the best available translation without believing that the English of the King James was re-inspired. This is true, even if the modern scholars and armchair warriors disagree. In this article, I will examine two common arguments made by anti-KJV Christians to see if what they say actually makes any sense.

Reading One Bible Version is Bad

This is a rather common complaint from the Modern Critical Text crowd. They suppose that being an “onlyist” is a bad thing. Yet when we look at this claim simply, it doesn’t make all that much sense. There are plenty of people who read the NIV and only the NIV. Same goes with the ESV and the NASB. They do this because they prefer one translation over another. Despite this being quite common, I’ve never seen a Gospel Coalition article condemning people for preferring the ESV or people writing books about people who only read the ESV. What this reveals is that the issue, at least when considered broadly, is not with people only reading one translation, the problem is with the KJV itself. So when somebody says, “I just have an issue with people who only read the KJV because they believe all of the other translations are bad,” they are really saying that they just don’t like that people read the KJV. It’s okay if somebody only reads the ESV, just not the KJV.

The problem is not with the “Onlyist” part of KJVO, it’s the “KJV” part of KJVO. Ironically, when I was in the critical text crowd, I constantly saw people bickering, especially on behalf of the NASB, about how their choice translation is the BEST translation. This may be news for some people, but it’s okay to have an opinion about which translation is best. It demonstrates that somebody cares about the words on the page of their Bible. It’s actually more concerning, in my opinion, when people give so little concern about the words in their Bible that they actually think all Bibles are made equal. This is drawn to its absurd end when respectable scholars such as Andrew Naselli defend the MSG in a textbook marketed to Reformed Christians. If somebody says it is more profitable to read the MSG than the KJV, what would you say the real issue is? If Naselli and the critical text advocate’s only issue is “Onlyism,” I’d like to see a chapter dedicated in the next “Reformed” textbook about why “ESV Onlyism” is heresy. Of course they won’t because the issue isn’t with “Onlyism,” it’s with the KJV.

KJV Onlyism is Bad Because it Rejects Modern Translations

The premise of this argument assumes that modern translations are not bad, or that somebody is not allowed to believe that modern translations are bad. This again, is absurd. The scholars who claim to specialize in this topic, such as Mark Ward and Dan Wallace, admit as much when they say there are no perfectly accurate modern translations. They write this off as the inevitability of sinners having produced them, but secular scholars accurately translate things all the time. Modern Scholars talk about modern translations like a mother talks lovingly about her child who got held back two years in grade school. “He’s gets the answers wrong a lot, but he has a huge heart and has a lot to offer in other areas.”

If the modern Bible translations, by admission of the scholars, get it wrong a lot, why is it so absurd when people choose something else? If the top scholars tell Christians that reading all modern translations is profitable because none of them get it 100% right, is it possible that the “KJVO” crowd might be onto something? Who am I kidding though, it might pain a modern critical text advocate to be overly charitable to people who read the KJV or admit that a gap-toothed KJVO might be correct about something. This again highlights that the real issue that the modern critical text advocate has is with the KJV and nothing else.

Further, people that don’t read the KJV reject modern translations all the time. There is a reason John MacArthur made his own translation rather than subjecting himself to the NASB 2020. Is John MacArthur now a Legacy Bible onlyist? Should somebody write treatises against him too? I’d like to see Mark Ward issue a “sincere” offer to John MacArthur like he did to Trinitarian Bible Society to convince him to change his ways. Since rejecting translations is common in the modern critical text crowd, it seems reasonable to say that rejecting Bible translations isn’t the unforgiveable sin of somebody who reads the KJV. As one would expect, reading the KJV is the unforgiveable sin of the person who reads the KJV.


Whenever I interact with people who think they doing the world a service by eradicating “KJV Onlyists” from the face of the earth, it always comes to light that they aren’t actually talking about “KJV Onlyism.” I run a somewhat-popular blog in the “KJV Only” world and I have only ever had one person in support of Peter Ruckman comment on my blog or YouTube. Ultimately, the term “KJVO” is just another tool for people to bludgeon people on the internet. If you actually make somebody define what they mean by “KJVO,” they are simply talking about people who read the King James. The great sin of only reading one translation, despite being something that many people do, is only wrong when that one translation is the KJV.

I have pointed this out before on this blog, but the “KJV Onlyists” seem to be the only people that are actually paying attention to what the scholars are saying. Scholars are praised for saying the same exact thing that “King James Onlyists” are saying. The “KJV Onlyist” will say that all modern translations have error, and that is why they read the KJV. Dan Wallace will say the same thing and he gets invited to speak in your churches and seminaries. So what makes the “KJV Onlyist” different than Dan Wallace? Dan Wallace doesn’t read the KJV. The problem that modern critical text advocates have is not with “KJV Onlyism,” it is with the KJV.

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

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

The real problem is when somebody believes that the theology behind the above Dan Wallace quote is less dangerous than believing than God has preserved His Word and the KJV is an accurate translation of it. Perhaps we will see some scholars writing treatises about that in the future, but I won’t hold my breath.

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

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


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

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

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

Gurry & Hixson. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

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

A Case-study In Reconstruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctrine IS Affected

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Critical Text Is Never Finished: Why You Should Not Support Textual Criticism


There are few facts that should cause Christians to be as skeptical of the critical text as the fact that it will never be finished. In a recent article written by Dr. Jan Krans, he plainly states that this is the case.

“An immediate consequence of this position is that in principle the text-critical task is never finished. Methods can be refined and fresh manuscripts finds can be made. Readers of the New Testament – just as for instance readers of Plato’s works – will have to live with a degree of uncertainty, even more so since there are cases that the available evidence does not allow for firm conclusions.”

I want to make three observations from this quote above which should cause my reader to sincerely question the validity of the effort of modern New Testament textual criticism.

Three Observations

Those in the TR camp have been called many names and have been misrepresented greatly for saying exactly what this Evangelical textual scholar has said in this article, posted October 22, 2020. I have written before that TR advocates listen to the scholars much more closely than those in the critical text camp, because if those in the critical text camp were actually listening, they might be raising the alarm along side of the TR advocates.

If you take the time to listen to the textual scholars, you will realize that they do not have the ability to scrutinize the TR because they do not believe that their methods are even capable of allowing for “firm conclusions” on the text. If their methods cannot do this for their espoused text, why would their methods be able to do so for any other text, such as the TR? The reality is, these scholars can have no more certainty in their conclusions on the readings of the TR as they have for the readings of the critical texts. And it is abundantly clear that they do not have the level of certainty in their own text as they have against the TR.

The first thing to note is that the effort of creating critical texts “will never be finished.” Dr. Krans states that this is the case because “methods can be refined and fresh manuscript finds can be made.” What this means is that the critical text is subject to change based on updated methodologies and new manuscript finds. Pastor Jeff Riddle asked this very question to James White in a recent debate, and White proceeded to insinuate that Riddle was mischaracterizing and misunderstanding the discussion entirely.

The second note is that Dr. Krans compares the work of textual criticism of the New Testament to Plato. TR advocates have been saying that the work of Evangelical text criticism is no different than text criticism of any other ancient body of work for years.

“Textual criticism of the New Testament does not fundamentally differ from that of any other text from Antiquity.”

For those of us that believe in God’s providence and sovereignty over the text of Holy Scripture, this is clearly problematic. The Bible is not the same as any ancient text, and should be treated as such. This is a clear admission that modern textual scholars are not engaging in the same effort as Beza, because Beza treated the effort of textual criticism within the bounds of his Christianity and Theology.

The third and final note is that Dr. Krans states plainly that “the evidence does not allow for firm conclusions.” Once again, those in the TR camp have been saying this for years, and have been met with ridicule and scorn. I have written on this topic at length. Similar to the first two notes, this claim made by TR advocates has been repeatedly and aggressively dismissed by critical text adherents for as long as the claim has been made. Yet here we have it being plainly stated by an Evangelical textual scholar. How many scholars need to say this before Christians wake up to the dangers of this ongoing effort? Here is Dan Wallace stating the same thing, in no uncertain terms.

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

Gurry & Hixson. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

How long will conservative Christians, who claim to stand on the doctrine of inerrancy, settle for this incredibly low view of Scripture?


The critical text is not finished, and never will be. It is subject to the ebbs and flows of modern critical methods as well as new manuscript finds. It is created by methods that do not treat the Bible any differently than any other ancient text. The methods these scholars employ are not capable of arriving at any “firm conclusion” in any place. These facts simply cannot be disputed at this point. The question is, are you comfortable having an unfinished Bible in your hands? Does this align with your view of Scripture? What would it take for you to admit that this is an incredibly dangerous and volatile view God’s Word? Most importantly, is this what the Bible teaches about itself?

If you consider yourself to have a high view of Scripture, it is time that you start listening to the Evangelical textual scholars. Scholars will continue to say that you should not be worried about the reality of modern text-criticism and that the uncertainties they have about Scripture shouldn’t concern you. What every Christian needs to realize is that their uncertainty does not need to be your uncertainty. You do not need to adopt this incredibly skeptical view of the Bible. This is clearly not a “high view” of Scripture. It is not noble. These scholars are not doing what Tyndale or Beza did. As James White often says, studying church history will protect you against a number of errors. This is probably the most clear example of our time. I will say this again, my dear reader, listen to the scholars.

Authorized Review – Chapter 6: Reading the KJV is Sinful


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

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

Ibid., 88

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

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

Ibid., 120-21

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

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

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

Responding to the Gainsayer

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

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

Ibid., 118

He continues, 

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

Ibid., 118

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

Even worse, Ward again continues to conflate an English speaker’s ability to read Latin to their ability to read the KJV, and to compare the Vulgate to the KJV. He actually claims that if the goal is a reverent translation, reading Latin “will accomplish the same goal.” In an attempt to employ rhetoric, Ward is actually arguing that English speakers would do better just to learn an entirely new language, Latin. Apparently it is better to learn an entirely new language than to understand the various “False Friends” found in the KJV. It is somewhat humorous that this is exactly what the scholarly types advocate for as it pertains to Greek and Hebrew. In any case, it appears as though Ward is attempting to convince non-KJV readers that the KJV is literally another language. I say “non-KJV readers” because anybody who has actually spent some time reading the KJV knows it is not in a foreign language. Ward appeals to 1 Corinthians 14, regarding speaking in tongues, to make the appeal that reading the KJV is a violation of the Scriptures. In Ward’s words, the KJV is both intelligible and also an “unknown tongue.”  

Ward argues that, 

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

Ibid., 106-107

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

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

Ibid., 117

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

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

Ibid., 119-120

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

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

Ibid., 120


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

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

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

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

Examining Epistemological Foundations


The most significant element to the discussion of text-criticism and Bible translations is that of epistemology. Christians recognize two forms of revelation, natural and special. In the first place, men and women know things because they are made in the image of God, and can use their reasoning to come to conclusions. This natural reasoning and sense observation is not sufficient to bring anybody to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Secondly, in special revelation, God speaks so that men may know His revealed will. The question we have to ask ourselves as it pertains to the textual discussion is, “Is my epistemological starting point in line with what God has revealed in Scripture?” 

One of the purposes of this blog is to demonstrate that “modern text criticism” begins epistemologically in a different place than the Scriptures. That does not mean that self-identifying Evangelicals who engage in text-criticism necessarily have anti-Scriptural epistemological starting points, just that the various methods, as defined, assume a certain epistemological starting point that is incompatible with Scripture. In other words, one can employ modern text criticism from a Christian epistemological perspective, and still be starting from the wrong place by adopting some or all of the axioms of a method that assumes no such foundation. 

For example, in mainstream textual criticism, the most popular and accepted position is that the Scriptures went through a recension, or editing process, which resulted in what is commonly called the Byzantine text platform. Some say this happened all at once (Lucian), and others say that this happened gradually (Wachtel). The concept of a Scriptural recension is not a historical fact, or a neutral fact, it is an interpretation of data which has an epistemological starting point. That starting point is that the Scriptures were not kept pure in continuous transmission. In order to arrive at this conclusion, one must assert that the Scriptures changed dramatically in their transmission to explain why the majority of the later manuscripts look very different from the early minority of manuscripts. The reason that this is an epistemological problem is because the extant evidence in the 21st century cannot demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, either of these perspectives. 

Evidence or Epistemology? 

There is no way to prove by way of extant data that the original text of Holy Scripture looked like Vaticanus, or P75, or any of the commonly called Alexandrian manuscripts. In the same way, there is no way to prove that family 35, or the TR, or the Tyndale House Greek New Testament exists in exactly the same form as the originals. The same goes for individual readings within the manuscript tradition. Even if we had 1,000 copies of Mark from the fourth century that looked exactly the same, evidence driven models cannot validate that those copies are accurate to the original because we don’t have the original. That does not mean that we cannot know what the original New Testament said, just that the modern text criticism in the 21st century is not a justifiable means to determine the text. So then, in the absence of sufficient building materials for a reconstruction effort, epistemology is without question, the most important component to this discussion. 

If the Scriptures teach that the Word of God will not fall away, and that in every generation, God’s people had access to that pure Word, then such ideas as a recension cannot even be entertained without violating that epistemological principle. On the same premise, any idea that supposes that a small sample of early extant manuscripts represents the scope of the whole of the manuscript tradition, or at least does so in part, also is a violation. In order to adopt an Evangelical epistemology and a modern critical epistemology, one must interpret the conclusions of modern criticism, which violate Christian epistemology, by Christian epistemological foundations. This is perfectly exemplified in the discussion of creation. If Darwin’s premise (or something similar) is adopted as the epistemological starting point, then Christians must make sense of Genesis 1-12 in light of that starting point. Rather than rejecting Darwin and friends, evolutionary theory is adopted as a hermeneutic principle rather than the Scriptures themselves. The result is the rejection of a literal creation, a literal Adam, a literal flood, and so forth. This is yet another issue that is said to be doctrinally “neutral,” I’ll remind you. 

It would be irresponsible to say that adopting any form of theistic evolution is purely based on examination of evidence and making the best determination possible from that evidence. Rather, one must say that from a certain epistemological starting point, the data must be interpreted in this way or that. In the same way, extant manuscript data is not examined neutrally. One is not simply making the “obvious conclusion based on the data” when they reject 1 John 5:7, they are making an “obvious conclusion based on the data” from one particular epistemological starting point. If one wants to make the claim that a lack of evidence for 1 John 5:7 in many manuscripts demonstrates that all manuscripts before those didn’t have it, he is doing so from his epistemology or interpretive lens.

A manuscript says nothing absolute regarding the manuscript it was copied from, unless one makes certain assumptions. If the manuscript is truly the only guide, then the only thing that can be determined is that this manuscript, at this point in time, looked this specific way. The scribe of that manuscript could have easily removed a reading from his exemplar, which was then copied forward. One can make observations of scribal habits of one particular manuscript, but the scribal habits of one manuscript says nothing about the exemplar from which the scribe copied. If there is an extant archetype of that manuscript, more can be said, but in the case of the Scriptures, there is not a continuous line of transmission that can be observed, so any difference form one text to another must be interpreted from an epistemological starting point. Did scribes copy carefully, or did they not? Are the “original” readings longer, or shorter? Do earlier manuscripts contain more errors, or less? Since there is no extant pure line of manuscripts that goes back to the apostles, the amount of “neutral” observations that can be made about a manuscript is extremely limited. Thus, a Christian should be chiefly concerned with whether or not the lens he is examining evidence with is that which comes from the Scriptures. Anything else is a critical perspective of the Christian Scriptures as interpreted by a Christian. 

Epistemology Has Consequences to the Text of Scripture

The reason that those in the Received Text camp perceive modern critical text positions as so “dangerous” is because of the epistemological starting points of modern critical methods, not necessarily the Christians who adopt these methods. These methods, regardless of who uses them, do not assume basic Christian epistemological realities. An example is how evangelicals affirm that the Scriptures were “without error in the original” and also adopt the modern critical perspective that grammatically difficult readings are to be preferred as earlier than grammatically smooth readings. A system which does not comport with Scripture is not something that needs to be “redeemed,” but rejected. 

“Text criticism” itself is not the problem, it is the type of text criticism that is the problem. It was recently said that the Reformation era printed texts, and possibly all copied texts, were simply all “reconstructed texts” from the past. The Received Text position then is no different than modern text criticism other than the selected “reconstructed text” is different. That is to impose an epistemological concept upon the men of the past that simply did not exist prior to the age of reason in any meaningful way within the bounds of orthodoxy. One of the greatest errors of modernity is believing that “we know better” or to impose our modern epistemology upon men of the past. This is especially demonstrated when modern interpreters of historical theologians read their perspective into men of the past. 

It is often the case that the most “powerful” arguments against the Received Text are simply unfounded assertions that can in no way be substantiated in the kind of way that the argument requires. For example, it was recently said that the burden of proof is equally upon somebody to prove a reading original as it is to prove it unoriginal. This assumes that without reconstruction of every line of the text, there simply wouldn’t be a Bible, and that Scripture is guilty until proven innocent. If the belief is that the people of God had the pure Scriptures in every generation, then the burden of proof is demonstrably upon this generation to prove a Scripture not original from the previous generation. When the extant evidence is examined, it does not seem that engaging in such a practice is warranted, or profitable in any way. Can extant evidence demonstrate a reading to be original or unoriginal? Absolutely not. Therefore it is far more important to examine the epistemology from which a claim flows in the textual discussion. Is it the job of Christians today to determine the text of Scripture from evidence, or receive the text of Scripture from the previous generation? These are epistemological questions, not text critical ones. 

The Epistemological Foundations of Both Sides

In order to cut directly to the heart of the issue, the most fundamental epistemological starting point of modern text criticism is that there was no continuous line of transmission of the text, that the text was incorrectly identified at the advent of the printing press, and as a result, modern Christans and non-Christians must work together to reconstruct the text as it existed prior to a major recension, or perhaps various gradual recensions. This task is of such a tall order that after nearly 150 years, no method and no scholar has ever achieved success in reconstructing the original, and those still working are increasingly skeptical that that can actually be done. Despite this, the primary purpose of the extant data is still seen as adequate building materials. 

On the other hand, those in the Received Text camp begin by stating that the immediately inspired Word of God has been “kept pure in all ages.” The extant data is not to be used as building materials today, because nothing needs to be built. The purpose of the extant data then serves the people of God in a different way than is assumed by modern critical methods. The task of the church today is not to reconstruct the New Testament, but to receive and defend the text handed down from the previous generation. This is the major disconnect between those in the Received Text camp and modern critical camp. In the modern critical perspective, since the text is assumed to have fallen away such that it needs to be rebuilt, the extant evidence is purposed to demonstrate that the Received Text is not pure, and thus to justify reconstruction. Since the text from the previous generation is deemed impure, extant evidence resembling the text of the TR must also be counted as such, discrediting nearly all of the extant New Testament data. If it could be agreed upon that the responsibility of the church is reception, not reconstruction, then the question of determining “which TR?” would not be one that serves a mere polemic purpose. The church should be rallying around receiving a text, not dividing over which modern reconstruction is the most accurate, and why the Received Text is wrong. 

While it is easy to think that the first assumption of the modern critical perspective is that the TR is in error, it is that God did not continuously preserve the Word in every generation. In other words, it is not a data driven assumption, it is an epistemologically driven assumption. It is an assumption that rests almost entirely on the claim that what is extant today represents what the church had historically. In order to conclude that the TR is in error in the first place, one must assume that the extant data available today is also better than the data available in Europe at the time of the advent of the printing press, and even further that the data available in every generation before that could not have looked like the TR. One has to discount the reality that countless thousands of manuscripts have been destroyed since the 1st century. It is a terribly rash conclusion to make, considering how dangerous the outcome of that conclusion is. 

There is simply no way to responsibly say that the extant data today is “better” than the extant data available during the times when that extant data was being used and copied. So when somebody makes the claim that “the church didn’t read this in the text for the first 1,000 years,” they are doing so from an entirely assumptive and arbitrary place. They are interpreting extant data through an epistemological lens which says, “I know for sure that we know more,” even though that is a lofty claim to make based on the history of the text as it exists in extant manuscripts. Is it not a fair assumption to make that there were more than three manuscripts of Revelation circulating in the third century, and that the people of God knew what was in those manuscripts? And yet the modern critical method says, “Yes, we know more with our three manuscripts about Revelation as it existed in the third century than those who used manuscripts of Revelation in the third century.” Such a perspective is clearly driven by epistemological assumptions. 


In this discussion, I have found that epistemology is rarely addressed. It is easier to focus on extant data rather than discussing the lens by which men are viewing that data. Yet, if the lens that the data is viewed is flawed, then the conclusions made about that data can also be flawed. And if that lens is in opposition to Scripture, it is necessarily flawed. The common justification for approaching the Bible from a reconstructionist perspective is that, “God didn’t keep His Word pure, so we shouldn’t impose that perspective on the text.” Yet, there are a fair number of verses that teach that God’s Word will not pass away. Matthew 5:18 affirms down to the jot and tittle. Jesus connects the fulfillment of His ministry with His words (Matthew 24:25). The Psalms constantly speak of the Law being perfect, pure, and refined. The Scriptures say that “all Scripture” is necessary for matters of faith and practice, not just “some.” 

If we can agree that God did promise to continue speaking in the Scriptures, and that those Scriptures would be preserved until the Last Day, then a meaningful dialogue can take place on how we define the precision of that preservation. This conversation cannot take place currently, however, because those on both sides stand on different epistemological foundations. There is no common ground to be had between a person who says the Word of God is preserved and a person that says that the Word of God is not preserved. If the goal is to give confidence to the people of God in their Bible, it does not follow that we do so by starting with the premise that we have not yet successfully found God’s Word. And if our goal is to approach matters of text criticism faithfully, it does not follow that in our text critical axioms we assume that the earliest texts we have were not grammatically harmonious. The problem is not with “text criticism,” it is with epistemology, and the type of “text criticism” we advocate for and support. 

Substantial Preservation and the Sin of Certainty


In today’s world of Biblical scholarship, a common idea is that Christians should have a good amount of confidence that the sum total of the Bible has been preserved. This means that while Christians should not have any dogmatic ideas of perfect preservation of words, they should have confidence that God has given to His people enough. That is to say that despite the fact that there are challenging passages in the Scriptures, none of these challenges are so great that Christians should lose confidence in their Bible as a whole. This concept of general reliability is agreeable even to some unbelieving textual scholars, which is possibly why it has become a sort of default position within Evangelical textual scholarship. The idea of absolute certainty in every word of the Bible is not considered a viable theological position due to the perspectives of modern textual scholars. According to this view, there is simply no justifiable reason to believe that every word has been kept pure, and to hold to a view like this is unnecessarily dogmatic. This article is not meant to challenge the integrity of the scholars, some of which are genuine brothers in Christ, but rather to put forth a serious problem with the general reliability theory of the New Testament. While I understand the sentiment behind this mediating position between radical skepticism and absolute certainty in the Text of the New Testament, I believe that this perspective, which may be called Substantial Preservation, is not defensible, practical, or Scriptural. 

Substantial Preservation is Not Demonstrable by Evidence

John Brown of Haddington wrote on this very topic in his systematic theology in the 18th century when defending the Scriptures against such a view that certain truths had fallen away. He argued that all Scriptures, while some are less essential than others, are “essentially necessary in their own place.” That is to say, that while many passages discuss matters not pertaining directly to salvation, that does not make those passages any less important is it pertains to the whole of what God is saying to His people. The Scriptures affirm as much in 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Despite some passages which may be considered more or less important by some, the Bible is clear, “all Scripture” is profitable and is to be used for every matter of faith and practice. Brown then comments on the fundamental challenge of dividing the Scriptures into essential and non-essential.

“All attempts to determine which are fundamental, and which not, are calculated to render us deficient and slothful in the study of religious knowledge; – To fix precisely what truths are fundamental and what not, is neither necessary, nor profitable, nor safe, nor possible” (Brown, Systematic Theology, 97). 

When the theological position is taken that says that the “sum total” or the “necessary” or the “important” parts of Scripture have been reliably transmitted, this is what is taking place. An attempt is being made to say that while some or many words have fallen away from the Scriptures, the whole sense of the thing is not lost by certain words falling away or indeterminate. Brown makes an extremely pointed observation here – how would one even come to a determination like that? There is absolutely no way to know if a doctrine is lost, unless of course that person is omniscient, or all knowing, and can determine that those words were not meant to be preserved by God. The weight of the substantial preservation argument rests on a faith claim that God never desired to preserve every word, and that Christians should have a reasonable amount of certainty that the words we can have confidence in are the ones God intended to preserve. 

Since the starting point of this claim is evidential, the conclusions and further claims made from this starting point must be evidential as well. That means that if one is to make the claim that the evidence demonstrates a substantially preserved Bible, one has to demonstrate that the words we do have represent substantially what was originally written. This of course is impossible to demonstrate from evidence. Dan Wallace admits as much, “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” (Gurry & Hixson, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, xii). So in this view, we don’t know exactly what the “authors” of the New Testament wrote, and we have no way of demonstrating what they wrote, even if we did have it. This being the case, there does not seem to be a reason to responsibly make such a determination regarding the general reliability of the New Testament. The claim that the New Testament is generally reliable is not proven by lower criticism, it is simply believed despite the conclusions of textual scholars. Since our earliest extant New Testament manuscripts are dated to well after the authorial event, there is no way of determining, evidentially, how different those manuscripts are from the authorial text. This perspective may have been rejected, even fifty years ago by Evangelicals, but according to Wallace, believing textual scholars are  “far more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty than the previous generations” (Ibid., xii). While many scholars may be comfortable with this view, the millions of Christians around the world who believe in verbal plenary inspiration may not be. 

Substantial Preservation is Not Practical 

If the Bible is preserved in the “sum total” of its material, then Christians must add an additional layer to their Bible reading. Rather than simply reading the words on the page, Christians must first establish that those words are reliable. Since some words cannot be trusted outright, there is no reason to believe that all of the words can be trusted outright. That is due to the fact that the methodology which deems some verses reliable and others not is completely and utterly subjective. In some cases, the majority reading is the deciding principle, in other places, the least harmonious reading is the deciding principle, and in more places, what is considered the earliest reading is the deciding principle. In order to validate these deciding principles, Christians must become text-critics themselves. They must examine the evidence for each verse in the Bible and determine if it meets some threshold of certainty based on the current canons of text-criticism or develop their own. Most Christians are not equipped for this kind of work. 

Since the reality is that the vast majority of Christains are not equipped for this kind of work, this is done for the Christian by the editors of various translations and rogue Christians with some knowledge of the original languages. Christians are told which verses they are to have confidence in by a handful of people. The footnotes tell a Christian what to read, popular opinion tells a Christian what to read, or Christians decide for themselves what they ought to read. Yet, underneath every verse is a mountain of textual variations and a sign that says, “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.” That is to say, that every Christian is held captive by the judgements of textual scholars, translation committees, and the opinions of one or two people with a platform when they read their Bible. What a Christian considers Scripture today could easily be out of vogue tomorrow. This is plainly evident in the transformation of modern Bibles in the last fifty years.  

Even if there is no critical footnote in the margin of a translation, the Christian has to know that every single verse can be questioned with the same amount of uncertainty applied to the verses which do have footnotes. This is due to the fact that the axiom itself produces “radical skepticism.” That is to say, that if a Christian cannot know for sure that the words they are reading are authentic, they must adopt some sort of theological principle which gives them certainty. The common view seems to be, “We don’t know what the original said, yet we are going to read it as though we do anyway.” Yet this view is entirely contingent upon external methods, and produces different results for each Christian. It is perfectly reasonable, for two Christians adhering to this same view of the text to have radically different opinions on each line of Scripture. Since, according to the top scholars, we can’t know who is right, both Christians are equally justified in their decision. There is nothing wrong with one person accepting Luke 23:34 and another rejecting it in this view of the text. On what grounds would one even begin to make a dogmatic statement one way or the other using text-critical methods? In an attempt to combat “absolute certainty,” the people of God are held hostage by the opinions of men. The practical task of reading a Bible has been turned into a task that only the most qualified men and women can execute. The act of reading the Bible is unmistakably transformed into an activity of scrutinizing the text and then reading that text with only a reasonable amount of certainty. The Bible has yet again been taken from the hands of the plowboy. 

Substantial Preservation is Not Scriptural

The Bible is clear that Christians are to have absolute certainty in the Scriptures (Mat. 24:35; Ps. 19:7; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:1-2; Mat. 4:4; Mat. 5:18; Jn.10:27). Absolute certainty in God’s Word is not a bad thing, despite the strange opinions of men and women who say that it is something to be fought off and beat down out of the church. No pastor in his right mind would mount the pulpit and say that we do not know, and have no way of knowing what the original text of the New and Old Testament said. There is no gentle way to put it, this view is dangerous and the proponents of such a view would have been put outside of the camp for saying such a thing all throughout church history. Yet, in this day and age, the view of absolute certainty in the Holy Scriptures is called “dangerous” and is demonized. The visceral reality is, if Christians are not to have absolute certainty in their Bibles, they have no reason to believe it is God’s Word at all. If some of God’s Word is compromised, why should Christians believe that all of it isn’t compromised? That is to say, that if God had the ability to preserve some of the words, He had the ability to preserve them all. There is no reason to believe that God would conveniently preserve the words we, in the 21st century, think are preserved. In order to make a theological claim that God only preserved some words, you must adopt a contradictory view that God is both a) powerful to preserve the words of Scripture and b) not powerful enough to preserve them all. This position is adopted with the guise of humility. Since we “know” that there places where the Scriptures weren’t kept pure, then God must not have preserved all of them! It is actually anachronistic and prideful to think that God preserved every word! Yet, these places where God didn’t keep His Word pure conveniently have aligned with the theories and conclusions of textual scholars for over 200 years. It is rather peculiar that God would think so much like a text-critic.

If Christians are to take a mediating position between radical skepticism and absolute certainty, the process of reading a Bible becomes a burdensome act that few Christians are even capable of doing. 99% of Christians do not know the original languages, and even those who do are not up to date on all of the changes in textual scholarship. That means nearly every Christian is held captive by their preferred scholar or pastor on what their Bible really says. They either have to simply put their head in the sand and go with the flow of every changing edition of their Bible, or get lost in the radical skepticism that is espoused by textual scholars. Do not be mistaken, the idea that we cannot know what the prophets and apostles wrote is absolutely a form of radical skepticism. It may not be the case in intention or heart of these scholars, but in practice I see no way around it. If the Bible is only generally reliable, than each Christian has the responsibility of figuring out the places of general reliability. This view leads to opinions like the one I received on my YouTube channel, where a man said, “The textual apparatus is the lifeblood of the pastor.” This view is so disconnected from any sort of pastoral reality I wanted to scream. No sir, every word that proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God is the lifeblood of the pastor, not the places where God’s Word has been called into question. The act of reading the Bible is not to be an activity of constantly saying, “Yea, hath God said?”


The doctrine of Scripture which says that the words are generally reliable is one that is not defensible, practical, or Scriptural. It is one that is so far disconnected from the people of God that I hope it never succeeds in being forced upon people who actually read their Bible daily. Not only is there no way of determining which passages of Scripture are “important” enough, there is no way to even prove that a passage is reliable if we have no way of validating those passages. This view, as it is articulated now, leaves every single Christian hanging three feet in mid air in the clutches of people who are “qualified” to make judgements on the text of Holy Scripture. The bottom line of this view is that each Christian needs to either a) trust a scholar to tell them what God’s Word says, b) develop their own canons of validating God’s Word by learning Greek and Hebrew and the history of text-criticism, or c) put their head in the sand and ignore the sign post under each verse that says, “this may or may not be God’s Word.” It seems that in an attempt to appease the mockers of God’s Word, scholars have simply given up God’s Word altogether. Yes, this is an all or nothing sort of situation. You cannot say in one breath that the Word of God is reliable, and then in the next say we don’t know what God’s Word originally said. There is no middle ground here. Either we know or we don’t. I think if Evangelical scholars took Bart Ehrman more seriously they may recognize that his fundamental problem is the fundamental problem with modern textual scholarship. It is the problem that the historical protestants defended by standing on the self-authenticating principle of Scripture. 

The false dichotomy of “radical skepticism” and “absolute certainty” misses the point of this discussion entirely. All Christians are commanded to have absolute certainty in the Holy Scriptures. If one rejects absolute certainty, then there is no middle ground between that and radical skepticism. This perhaps would require some scholar producing a work which catalogues all of the verses that are generally reliable and those that are not. Even if that work were produced, it would have an asterisk next to every determination that would read, “I have no way of proving this.” The fruit of such an opinion is evident in the real world. Since the axioms and implementation of modern text-criticism has only produced a data set, and not a text, every single Christian with a bit of knowledge on the topic is encouraged to produce their own text.This is made clear in the fact that this is exactly what Christians are doing. 

The modern printed texts are simply a guide as to what one should read as Scripture. Protestantism was founded on the self-authenticating principle of Scripture, Sola Scriptura. This was the foundational doctrine which caused the Reformation to succeed. Christians did not need a magisterium for Scripture to be authenticated, the Scriptures themselves provided the authority. Yet, in the modern period, this has been abandoned. Every Protestant has their own Bible, their own authority, which may or may not be God’s Word. Christians leap into battle with this Bible and try to combat the Muslim or the Roman Catholic, and they do so thinking that they are winning. The fact is, when Christians adopt an uncertain view of the text, they rush into battle with a Nerf sword thinking they have a hardened Claymore, and the opponents of the faith know it. Why do you think these apologists are so eager to broadcast these debates worldwide? 

I can already see people trying to make this conversation about textual variants, because that is all they can do. Yet, I want people to remember, when an Evangelical shouts about variants from a modern critical text position, they are standing on grounds that cannot support any of their claims with any amount of certainty. Absolute certainty is bad, if you recall. Remember this quote the next time somebody tries to say they know what the author originally wrote at Ephesians 3:9 or 1 John 5:7: “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.” Any argument for absolute certainty on a text from a modern critical perspective is built on a foundation that does not claim to know what the original reading said absolutely. There is no consistent methodology that can produce a printed text that represents exactly what the prophets and the apostles wrote, and the honest scholars admit as much. So when somebody says, “I want what Paul wrote!” and then argues for a modern critical methodology, just remember that they have not adopted a methodology that can produce what Paul wrote. 

Even if it could, they would not know it. At the end of the day, they are cold and naked, trusting with blind faith that their autonomous reasoning and critical methodologies have given them at least a middle ground between skepticism and certainty. That is why the war which is waged against those with absolute certainty doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The real argument that is made when somebody asks, “Which TR?” or makes a demonstration from evidence against or for a reading is, “Why are you so certain that this reading is original?” The only thing that is inherently problematic, from a modern critical perspective, is absolute certainty, not the readings themselves. Anybody who says that the readings themselves are wrong is simply being inconsistent, because they have adopted a system that does not pretend to have produced original readings (or at least know they have produced original readings). It is impossible to have any legitimate problems with a particular printed text because these critics aren’t claiming to know what it says themselves! The only appropriate answer from a modern critical perspective to somebody who believes 1 John 5:7 is Scripture is simply, “I don’t have confidence that that is original, but I can’t prove it either way.”

I imagine that many will take issue with this article. They will say that I have misrepresented the perspectives and opinions of those who adopt a form of substantial preservation. To these critics I say, can you produce a list of verses that the people of God should be certain about? Would you be willing to take those verses to Bart Ehrman and DC Parker  and Eldon J. Epp and say that those readings are original? Can you detail the methodology you used to determine which doctrines are important and which are not? Can you prove to me that the verses you deemed unoriginal weren’t in the original text of the prophets and apostles? Did you use a methodology that is consistent and repeatable? The fact is, there is not a single responsible scholar alive who would be willing to produce answers for these questions. Instead, they will instruct Christians to believe that a) we don’t know absolutely what the prophets and apostles said and b) that Christians should believe that the words placed in the printed Greek texts and translations are the words of the prophets and apostles anyway, with a medium amount of certainty. Either that, or they will continue to shout about a particular variant they have researched and ignore the underlying reality that I have presented in this article. 

This is not the ticket, church. The only outcome of this view, ironically, is radical skepticism. Fortunately, God is not tossed to and fro by the opinions of 21st century scholars. He has indeed given His Scriptures to the church, and the church has received them in time. I don’t believe that God is “generally reliable,” I believe He is absolutely reliable. Which means I believe His Word is absolutely reliable, and should be absolutely trusted. If the only grounds we have for believing in Scripture is the conclusions of modern textual scholars, I don’t see any good reasons for any Christian to believe in the Scriptures at all. Yet, the Scriptures are clear. The grounds for believing in Scripture is the fact that God has spoken, and has spoken in His Word. If God has truly spoken in His Word, the Holy Scriptures, then Christians have every reason to believe that they can be absolutely certain about God’s Word.    

A Summary of the Confessional Text Position


In this article, I will provide a shotgun blast summary of the Confessional Text Position, as well as some further commentary which will help those trying to understand the position better. In this short article, I do not expect that I have articulated every nuance of the position perfectly, but I hope that I have communicated it clearly enough for people to understand it as a whole. My goal is the reader can at least see why I adhere to the Traditional Hebrew and Greek text and translations thereof.

In 15 Points

1. God has voluntarily condescended to man by way of speaking to man (Deus Dixit) and making covenants with him (Gen. 2:17; 3:15)

2. In the time of the people of God of old, He spoke by way of the prophets (Heb. 1:1)

3. In these last days, He has spoken to His people by His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1)

4. The way that God has spoken by Jesus Christ is in Scripture through the inspiration of Biblical writers by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is the Word of God, and in these last days, is the way that Christians hear the voice of their Shepherd by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 10:27). The Bible does not contain the Word of God, or become the Word of God, it is the Word of God.

5. The purpose of this speaking is to make man “wise unto salvation” and “furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:15;17; Rom. 1:16; 10:17)

6. Jesus promised that His Word would never fall away, as it is the means of accomplishing His covenant purpose (Mat. 5:18; 24:35)

7. Since God has promised that His words would not fall away, the words of Scripture have been kept pure in all ages, or in every generation (WCF 1.8; Mat. 5:18; 24:35) until the last day

8. Up until the 15th century with the invention of the printing press in Europe, books were hand copied. This hand copying resulted in thousands of manuscripts being circulated and used in churches for all matters of faith and practice. These manuscripts are generally uniform, except for a handful of manuscripts formerly known as the “Alexandrian Text Family”, which were not really copied or circulated. When Constantinople fell in 1453, just 14 years after the invention of the printing press in Europe, Greek Christians fled to Italy, bringing with them their Bibles and language.

9. The printing press was put to use in the creation of printed Bibles, in many different languages, specifically Greek and Latin

10. If it is true that the Bible has been kept pure, it was kept pure up to the 16th century. Thus, the manuscripts that were used in the first effort of creating printed text was the same text used by the people of God up to that point. Text-critics such as Theodore Beza would appeal to the “consent of the church” as a part of his textual methodology, which demonstrates that the reception of readings by the church were an integral part of the compilation of this text

11. The text produced over the course of a century during the Reformation period was universally accepted by the protestants, even to the point of other texts being rejected. It is historically documented that this is the “text received by all” (Received Text), which is abundantly made clear in the commentaries, confessions (see proof texts), translations, and theological works up until the 19th century.

12. This Greek text, along with the Masoretic Hebrew text, remained the main text for translation, commentary, theological works, etc. until the 19th century when Hort’s Greek text, based on Codex Vaticanus was adopted by many. At the time, many believed that Hort’s text was the true original, which caused many people to adopt readings from this text over and above the Received Text. This text was rejected by Erasmus and the Reformers, and has no surviving contemporary ancestor copies, meaning it was simply not copied or used by the church at large.

13. This Greek text was adopted based on Hort’s theory that Vaticanus was “earliest and best” and the text of modern Bibles all generally reflect this text form, even today. Due to the Papyri and the CBGM, Hort’s theory has been rejected by all in the scholarly community. Not to mention Hoskier’s devastating analysis of Codex B (Vaticanus).

14. Thus, the Confessional Text position adopts the Greek and Hebrew text, and translations thereof, that were “received by all” in the age of printed Bibles, and used universally by the orthodox for 300 years practically uncontested, except by Roman Catholics and other heretical groups (Anabaptists, Socinians, etc.).

15. The most popular of these translations, the Authorized Version (KJV), is still used by at least 55% of people who read their Bible daily as of 2014, and at least 6,200 churches. Additionally, Bibles made from these Greek and Hebrew texts into other languages remain widely popular across the world. Other English Bibles are based on this text, such as the MEV, NKJV, GNV, and KJ3, but they are relatively unused compared to the AV.

Further Commentary

The adoption of the Greek Received Text and the Hebrew Masoretic text is one based on what God has done providentially in time. Many assert that the history of the New Testament can only be traced by extant manuscript copies, but those copies do not tell the whole story. The readings in the Bible are vindicated, not on the smattering of early surviving manuscripts, but rather by the people that have used those readings in history (John 10:27), which are preserved in the texts actually used by those people. Since we will never have all of the manuscripts due to war, fire, etc., it is impossible to verify genuine readings by the data available today, as there is no “Master Copy” to compare them against. That is why the current effort of text-criticism is pursuing a hypothetical Initial Text, which relies on constructing a text based on the first 1,000 years of manuscript transmission.

The product of this is called the Editio Critica Maior (ECM), and it will not be finished until 2030. The methodology used (CBGM) to construct this text has already introduced uncertainty to the editors of those making Greek texts as to whether or not they can even find the Initial Text, or if they will even find one Initial Text. That is to say, that from the time of Hort’s text in the 19th century, the modern effort of textual criticism has yet to produce a single stable text. The printed editions of the modern critical text contain a great wealth of textual data, but none of these are a stable text that will not change in the next ten years. That is to say, that translations built on these printed editions are merely a representation of what the editors think the best readings are, not necessarily what the best readings are in reality.

Rather than placing hope in the ability of scholars to prove this Initial Text to be original, Christians in the Confessional Text camp look back to the time when hand copied manuscripts were still being used in churches and circulated in the world. The first effort of “textual criticism” if you will, is unique because it is the only effort of textual criticism that took place when hand copied codices were still being used as a part of the church’s practice. That means that the quality and value of such codices could be validated by the “consent of the church”, because the church would have only adopted a text that was familiar to the one they had been using up to that point. This kind of perspective is not achievable to a modern audience. During the time of the first printed editions, the corruption of the Latin Vulgate was exposed, and the printed editions created during that time were in themselves a protest against the Vulgate and the Roman Catholic church, who had in their possession a corrupted translation of the Scriptures. It was during this time, and because of these printed texts, that Protestantism was born.

Any denomination claiming to be protestant has direct ties back to this text, and the theology built upon it. The case for the Confessional Text is really quite simple, when you think about it. God preserved His Word in every generation in hand copied manuscripts until the form of Bibles transitioned to printed texts. Then He preserved His Word in printed Greek texts based on the circulating and approved manuscripts. This method of transmission was much more efficient, cheap, and easily distributed than the former method of hand copying. This text was received, commented on, preached from, and translated for centuries, and is still used by the majority of Bible reading Christians today. The argument for this text is not one based in tradition, it is one based on simply looking back into history and seeing which text the people of God have used in time. Not simply the story that the choice manuscripts of the modern scholars tells.

Any theories on other text forms are typically based on a handful of ancient manuscripts that were not copied or used widely, and the idea that this smattering of early manuscripts represents the original text form is simply speculation. What history tells us is that the text vindicated in time is the text the people of God used, copied, printed, and translated. This does not mean that every Christian at all times has used this text, just the overwhelming testimony of the people of God as a whole. The fact is, that we know very little about the transmission and form of the text in the ancient church in comparison to what we know about the text after the ancient period. The critical text, while generally looking like the Received Text, is different than the historical text of the protestants, which is why those in the Confessional Text camp do not use them. The few Papyri we have even demonstrate that later manuscripts known as the Byzantine text family were circulating in the ancient church.


So why is there a discussion regarding which text is better? Up until this point in history, the alternative text, the critical text, has been thought to be much more stable and certain than it is now. Currently, the modern critical text is unfinished, and will remain that way until at least 2030 when the ECM is finished. Those in the Confessional Text position might ask two very important questions regarding this text: Does a text that represents the text form of a handful of the thousands of manuscripts, a text which is incomplete, sound like a text that is vindicated in time? Does a changing, uncertain, unfinished text speak to a text that has been preserved, or one that has yet to be found? I suppose these questions aren’t answerable until 2030 when it is complete. This alone is a powerful consideration for those investigating the issue earnestly. Most people in the Confessional Text camp do not anathematize those who read Bibles from the critical text, or break fellowship over it, but we do encourage and advocate for the use of Traditional Text Bibles, as it the historical text of the Protestant church.

For More Information on Why I Prefer the Received Text, Click Here

For Interactions with Arguments Against the Received Text, Click Here

Revisiting the Fatal Flaw Argument Against the Traditional Text


One of the primary purposes of this blog is to give people confidence that the Bible they read is God’s inspired Word. Attacks on the Bible of the Protestant Reformation often send people into a spiral of doubt and can damage one’s faith in approaching, reading, praying over, and meditating upon the Holy Scriptures. An argument frequently leveled at the Bible of the Protestant Reformation is what may be called The Fatal Flaw Argument. I initially addressed this argument on the Agros Blog a while back, but since that time I have seen it pop up all over my Facebook feed, so I thought it would be helpful to write a more pointed response than the one I initially crafted. The argument is constructed like this:

  1. The Bible must be able to be reconstructed from extant manuscripts in the event that all printed editions of the Scriptures are wiped off the face of the planet in order to be used, read, preached from, etc. 
  2. If a Bible cannot be reproduced exactly by reconstructive methodologies, than it should not be used, read, preached from, etc. 
  3. The Traditional Text, as it exists in the Textus Receptus cannot be reproduced exactly if a reconstruction effort using a “consistent” methodology was employed in the event of a printed edition extinction event, therefore it should not be used, read, preached from, etc. 

This argument may seem appealing, but it actually undermines the validity of essentially every Bible on the market today, including the ESV, NASB, and NIV. The fatal flaw in this so called Fatal Flaw Argument is that there is not a single Bible available today that could be reconstructed exactly if this hypothetical extinction event occurred. The primary assumption of this argument is that there are a set of canons that could be consistently applied to manuscripts which would, in theory, produce the current form of the Greek New Testament. The obvious issue with this is that the Modern Critical Text, as it exists in the Editio Critica Maior, has yet to even produce a text in the first place. It will be finished in ten years or so down the road, and even when finished, it is more of a dataset of texts than a text itself. The onus of the person making this argument is to first demonstrate that they have a text in the first place.

Prior to beginning my analysis of this argument, it is interesting to point out that it assumes the Received Text and the Modern Critical Text are inherently different, which some do not readily admit. This is true in two ways. The first is that it grants in its premise that the methodologies employed by the textual scholars during the Reformation era were fundamentally different than the methodologies employed today. This is apparent in the reality that modern text-critical methods could not produce the text of the Protestant Reformation with its current canons. The second is that grants that the actual text form is inherently different, as the claim is that the Received Text could not be reproduced, while the Modern Critical Text allegedly could. In any case, in order to make this argument, one has to be willing to apply the argument to all texts, not just the Textus Receptus. In the event that this hypothetical extinction event occurs, a new form of the Bible would emerge, even if the same methods are consistently applied. D.C. Parker, the textual scholar leading the ECM team for the Gospel of John currently, says this: 

“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.” 

I do not employ this quote to disparage Dr. Parker, but rather to demonstrate the reality that even in today’s current text-critical climate, without an absurd hypothetical extinction event of printed editions, the editors of Greek New Testaments would seem to refute the premise of the argument itself by their own words. This further demonstrates that this argument does not only attack the Textus Receptus, but all Bibles. That being said, I do not think this argument is wise to use, no matter which Bible you read. It is an open invitation to attack the validity and authority of every single Bible on the market for the sake of winning a debate against Christians who read a traditional Bible. This is a good reminder that we should be careful not to attack the authority of the Scriptures in our attempts to defend the current Bible we think is best. That being said, there are three reasons I believe this argument should be abandoned. 

The Fatal Flaw Argument Against the Traditional Text Rejects God’s Providence 

The first reason this argument should be abandoned is that it rejects God’s providence in the transmission, preservation, and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The assumption on all sides of this discussion is that when somebody reads a Bible in their native tongue, they are reading God’s inspired Word. This is true for Christians who read the ESV as well as the KJV. If a Christian does not believe that their Bible is inspired, I’m not sure why they are even reading it, as it is simply like any other document produced by humans in history. It may be a valuable book of moral tales, but if the Bible is not inspired, it is not more special than the Iliad or Cicero. 

That being said, this argument assumes that what God has done in time does not matter as it pertains to the transmission of the text and reception of the Bible by the people of God. The only effort that matters is the one that is happening now, which is currently ongoing. In any view of inspiration, whether it be Warfield or Westminster, God’s providence is recognized as the instrument working in the production of Bibles. Warfield believed that the efforts of textual scholars in his day were an act of God’s special providence in giving the Bible back to the people of God. The Westminster Divines affirmed overwhelmingly that by God’s special care and providence, the Scriptures had been kept pure in all ages. 

That means that the Bibles that have been produced matter, because the printed texts are the texts that Christians use for reading, preaching, and evangelism. Even if one believes that a particular Bible is of lesser quality, Christians should find unity in the fact that God uses translations to speak in so far as they represent the original texts. If printed editions and translations do not matter, then all Christians need to quickly learn Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek, as well as gain access to the compendium of extant manuscripts, so they can read a Bible. That means that regardless of the Bible one reads, all Christians believe together that God Himself has delivered it. The Textual Discussion comes down to determining which text God preserved. In proposing this hypothetical, one is simply saying, “It doesn’t matter what God did in time, the only thing that matters is what is going on now.” I don’t know many Christians, let alone any Calvinists, who would ever say that what God did providentially in time does not matter. 

The Fatal Flaw Argument Against the Traditional Text Assumes That All Current Bibles Are Not God’s Word

The fundamental problem with this argument and the second reason it should be abandoned is that it takes away every single Bible from every single believer. If a consistent methodology must be employed to create a single text from the manuscripts, then it seems that nobody has a Bible, or ever will have a Bible. The fact is that different methodologies have been employed since the first effort of creating printed texts in the 16th century. Erasmus employed different methods than Beza, and Beza employed different methods that Hort, and Hort employed different methods than D.C. Parker and the editors of the ECM. Not only that, there are a wealth of different opinions among textual scholars in between, such as Karl Lachmann, Maurice Robinson, H.C. Hoskier, Edward F. Hills, and even among the editors of the ECM there are differences in opinion on the manuscript data. This argument assumes that all of the editors of Greek New Testaments today are unified in their opinions on the text. The reality is, that they are not. 

Further, if a consistent methodology is required, which methodology should be considered the “most consistent”? Which methodology is going to be used in this reconstruction effort after this hypothetical extinction? The CBGM hasn’t been fully implemented and thus hasn’t been fully analyzed. The existence of the CBGM itself demonstrates that Hort and Metzger didn’t have it all right. That is not even taking into consideration the evolution of opinions on scribal habits, “Text Families”, and weighing manuscripts. Did scribes generally copy faithfully or did they tend to smooth out readings and add orthodox doctrines into the text? If all the printed editions were wiped out, I imagine that includes the ECM. Since the ECM is already going to take ten more years to complete, that means that the people of God would simply be without a Bible for at least ten more years. The argument is so incredibly asinine it is hard to believe that people are using it at all. 

The fact is, that all Christians have to look back at history to have confidence in the Bible they read. The current methodology, the CBGM, isn’t fully implemented yet, and won’t be for another ten years. That means that every single Christian is trusting that the text-critical work done already is the method God used in delivering His Word to His people to some degree or another. The difference is in how Christians believe that God accomplished this task. Some believe the Bible was preserved up to the Protestant Reformation, and thus look to the printed texts of that era which have that text form. Some believe that the Bible was preserved in caves, monasteries, and barrels until the 19th century, and look to the printed texts produced in that era. Some even believe differently than either of these two positions. No matter which view of the text one holds, every single Christian looks into history to see God’s providence in their view of the text. Either that or they believe that all the Bibles up to this point aren’t complete or correct Bibles, and are patiently awaiting 2030 when the ECM is finished. In every case, the argument fundamentally assumes that the work done in history does not matter and should not be considered as a valid “methodology”.  

The Fatal Flaw Argument Against the Traditional Text Misleads the People of God 

The final flaw in the Fatal Flaw argument against the Traditional Text and the third reason it should be abandoned is that it is horribly misleading. It makes Christians think that the canons of modern textual criticism are settled and unified. The fact is that scholars are still discussing the proper application of what the CBGM is creating, and how it should be understood. This argument leads people to believe that if all of the ESV Bibles and the printed texts it was translated from were raptured suddenly, that the methods of textual criticism could give them the same exact Bible. Unless somebody has the all of the underlying readings of the ESV memorized, this simply could not be done. Even if somebody were to have all the readings memorized, they wouldn’t be applying any methodology, they would be copying down what they memorized. The reality is that even without a hypothetical extinction of all printed texts, the methods being implemented are not producing the same text time and time again. With each new iteration of the modern methods, new Bibles are being produced. In some cases, these new Bibles have significant changes. That is not my opinion, that is simply what is happening. There is a reason that Crossway removed the title “Permanent Edition” from the prefatory material of the 2016 ESV. 

That is why, in my blog, I focus so heavily on the doctrine of Scripture. The current efforts of textual criticism are not capable of producing a stable text. In fact, a stable or final text is not even the goal. The goal of modern textual criticism as it exists in the effort of the ECM is to construct the history of the surviving texts of the New Testament, not a final authorial text for all time. The only way the modern critical methods could produce a stable text would be to strip out all of the verses that are contested by variation. Even then, new manuscript finds and reevaluation of the data could just as easily cause that text to change. The fact is that every single Christian looks back to history when determining which Bible is best. The one method that every Christian uses to decide which Bible they read is the one method that modern critical methods do not use – the reception of readings by the people of God. Christians will never be able to escape their history, as hard as they may try. In an effort to defend the ongoing effort of modern textual criticism of the New Testament, many Christians have blatantly undermined the authority of the Scriptures as a whole. If the goal is to give Christians a defense for their Bible, this argument is absolutely not it. In fact, this so called Fatal Flaw Argument hands the Bible directly to the critics of the faith.  


At the end of the day, the goal of this conversation is give confidence to Christians that when they read their Bible, they are reading the Word of God. This kind of argument undermines everybody reading a Bible, no matter which version they read. In fact, it is almost identical to the argument that Bart Erhman makes against Christians who adhere to the modern critical text. When we begin taking our cues from Bart Ehrman, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. In any case, there is a consistent methodology that Christians can employ to receive the Bible they read, and it does not involve trusting the ongoing reconstruction effort of the history of the New Testament text. 

The fact is that God has spoken (Deus dixit). God speaking is the means that God has always used to condescend to man, from the time of Adam in the garden. His speaking is the covenant means of communication to His covenant people. God will not fail in His covenant purpose, which means that God will not fail to communicate to His people (Mat. 5:18). Since God has ordained the Scriptures as the means of covenant communication in these last days (Heb. 1:1), then the preservation of His Word is intimately tied with His covenant purpose. Since God has not failed, and cannot fail, then He has not failed in speaking, or preserving the Word He spoke. In every generation, from the time of Adam, God has spoken to His people clearly and without error. The introduction of textual variants in manuscripts did not thwart this effort. In every generation, in faithful copies of manuscripts, God preserved His Word. This preservation did not somehow stop in the fourth century, or even in the 16th century. Which means, that if the Bible is indeed preserved, it was still preserved at the time of the Protestant Reformation. If this is the case, then the manuscripts which were used during the time of the Protestant Reformation were indeed preserved. Which means the text-critical work done during this time was done using preserved copies of the New Testament. The manuscripts did not suddenly become preserved during the 16th century, they were the ones handed down in faithful churches from the time of the Apostles. The alternative seems to be that God stored His word away in barrels, caves, and monasteries lined with skulls.

This Fatal Flaw argument, fundamentally, is simply saying, “We don’t have a Bible, so you can’t either”. This is not the way you defend the text of the New Testament, it is how you destroy the validity of the text of the New Testament. It does not matter which Bible you read, attacking the validity of all Bibles in order to win an argument is not appropriate, or necessary. At the end of the Textual Discussion, Christians still need to have a Bible they feel they can read and use. All Christians employ the same methodology when selecting a Bible at the end of the day. They look back in time, and receive a text based on their understanding of inspiration and preservation. Some receive a text they believe was preserved until the fourth century which has been reconstructed to some degree or another, and others receive a text they believe was preserved up to the Reformation and beyond. Others do not receive any one text, but all of the differing texts. The vast majority of Christians are not textual scholars, do not know the original languages, and thus are at the mercy of various scholarly opinions. The average Christian wants to know, “Can I trust my Bible?” If our efforts are not concentrated in that direction, we have already failed.