Faith Seeking Understanding

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

Introduction

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

What is the Appeal of the TR?

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

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evangelical or neo-Calvinist church, you have likely heard for years that the Traditional text has added verses or is outdated for a modern context.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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

The Diversity Within the TR Camp

Introduction

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

The Two Kinds of TR Adherents

The Corpus TR View

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

The KJV as a TR View

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

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

Critiques

The Corpus TR View

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

The KJV as a TR View

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Having Discernment in the Age of Unreason

Introduction

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

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

Discernment in the Age of Unreason

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

The Big Lie of Critical Bibliology

The United States, and many other countries, are seeing the fruit of critical scholarship. Statues are coming down, cities are being vandalized and burnt, and people are being assaulted and even killed in what the media is reporting as “mostly peaceful protests”. Many of us are wise to what’s actually going on – the Frankfurt school had children and those children are living out their revolutionary fantasies. What we are seeing right now is the epitome of what critical theories are designed to do, deconstruct and rebuild.

Critical theories begin with the premise that there is something inherently wrong with whatever was formerly considered “traditional”. Scholars then come along assuming this premise and attempt to deconstruct the traditional perspective and reform the narrative in a way that aligns with whatever the academic orthodoxy is at the time. This deconstructing/reconstructing dynamic is done by assuming that all things must be described through psychological, cultural, and social constructs. It is axiomatically and necessarily godless. The world cannot be explained by what can be learned from divine revelation, it must be explained by way of the experience of individuals and communities.

All forms of critical scholarship share these fundamentals. It is deeply dogmatic, and ironically, a form of fundamentalism. Scripture describes the first principle of critical theories in 2 Timothy 3:

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of truth”

2 Timothy 3:6

Conservative Christians are seeing the fruit of critical ideology in its extreme form right now, yet many are reluctant to admit that critical textual scholarship does the same exact thing as the ideology that invented “White Fragility”. Students, professors, and pastors have weaponized terms like “fundamentalist” towards “textual traditionalists” just like they weaponized the term against those that believed in inspiration and inerrancy in the 20th century. These same people engage in what can only be called “the big lie” of Bibliology.

The Big Lie of Bibliology is that Higher and Lower criticism are agnostic towards each other. Yet, as we have so plainly seen, the higher and lower critics have been engaged in a ritual dance for decades. Behind every discussion of textual data is a story of how that textual data came to be. A textual variant “came into the text” by way of a sentimental, well meaning scribe, or something like that. Stories and passages were omitted or added depending on the perspective of the communities that copied manuscripts. The history of the text is described not by way of divine revelation, but rather in a manner that adopts the axiomatic foundation of every other critical school.

Big Lies are fundamental to critical ideologies, because they challenge the narrative that has always been told. These ideologies are necessarily destructive, and if you don’t believe me, turn on the news. The traditional narrative must be usurped or critical methodologies die. So what can we learn from what we are seeing on the news right now? Look at the streets of Seattle, Portland, and New York, and look at your modern Bible. They are the same picture, produced by the same kind of ideology.

In the 21st century, Christians must reject critical theories and methodologies of all kinds. They are godless and destructive no matter which discipline they touch.

Authorized Review – Decidedly Different: An Admission That Doctrine is Affected

Introduction

In this review of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, I want to demonstrate a critical error in Ward’s thinking as it pertains to the use of multiple translations. Ward claims that there are no major doctrines affected between the KJV and modern translations. 

“No major doctrines are affected. But I want to get the little stuff and the big stuff when I read God’s word, and I think you do too.”

119

Despite saying this, he goes on to say that there are translational differences between modern versions that are “decidedly different.” 

“I agree with a commenter on one of my blog posts: “I highly recommend changing versions once in a while. Nothing catches your attention more than seeing a verse you have known for a long time, and it’s translated decidedly different in your new version. There is some material for a study project.… God’s Word is awesome!””

135

In this article, I want to look at what exactly it means to be giddy about translations being “decidedly different” as well as how “bible” is being defined here. 

Decidedly Different

What does it mean for a word or passage to be “decidedly different?” It’s difficult to say if different simply means a different word, or if different means that the word is divergent in definition from the other word. It seems Ward is employing this quotation from his friend to mean the latter due to the fact that a “study project” would not be warranted for the former definition. If Ward was simply talking synonyms, his reader may need a dictionary, and that’s about it.

Let’s take Luke 14:2 for example. In the KJV and ESV, the word ὑδρωπικός is translated “dropsy,” commonly called edema today. The NIV translates the same word as “abnormal swelling of his body.” In the same passage, the KJV and ESV translate the word νομικοὺς as “lawyers” where the NIV translates it as “experts in the law.” While the NIV is unfortunately less precise here, it is easy to understand why the translation team chose those words. The five minutes it took me to reference the underlying Greek and three translations was far from what I would consider a “study project.”

So let’s take Ward’s words at face value here and find a word that actually requires a “study project.” In John 1:18, both the TR and the NA28 have the word μονογενής. The KJV translates the word “only begotten” and the ESV has “only.” The NIV translates it “one and only” and the NASB 1995 has “only begotten.” The NASB 2020 will translate it “only” and “only begotten” simultaneously. The word μονογενής is a word that contains two words, μόνος (only) and γένος (descendant). In the ESV and NIV, the translators decide to only translate the word μόνος. In Koine greek, γένος is employed to pertain to generation. Here are some examples:

Ἀγεννής – Low born 

Εὐγενής – High born 

Ὁμογενής – of the same race or family 

Παλιγενής – Born again 

Προγενής – born before 

Προωτογενής – first born 

In no case that I could find does γένος go untranslated or serve as an equivalent to μόνος. In this case, I would say that this qualifies as “decidedly different.” If it is true that Christ is the “only son of God,” what do we do with John 1:12? 



“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” 

Christ is not the “only” son, or “unique” son, he is the only begotten son. The whole doctrine of adoption becomes completely void if the γένος goes untranslated as we see in the NIV. Further, the textual variant in this passage which is selected in modern translations adds more doctrinal confusion to the matter at hand. In the ESV it reads, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side.” It translates μονογενής Θεός (only begotten God) as “the only God.” So, who is this God, that is at the Father’s side? Is the Father not God? 

If we do as Ward says, and conduct a “study project,” we find the reading μονογενής Θεός in the 2nd century gnostic work Excerpts from Theodorus. Dean Burgon notes that the first time that this reading of John 1:18 is quoted in extant literature is in reference to the gnostic arch-heretic, Valentinus. Regardless of the progeny of this textual variant, the translation “only” and “only begotten” are “decidedly different,” and the outcome is two entirely different meanings. The passage becomes infinitely more complicated when “son” is exchanged for “god.”    

What is “the Bible”? 

If it is the case that both of these translations are “the Bible,” then what exactly is “the Bible?” Since the claim has been made by Ward and his peers that “no doctrine is affected,” between the two most different manuscripts, this is an important question to answer. See this statement from The King James Only Controversy.

“The reality is that the amount of variation between the two most extremely different New Testament manuscripts would not fundamentally alter the message of the Scriptures!”

67 

Yet we have seen with one textual variant, and one translational difference, that there are indeed important differences that matter. If the claim is made that these differences do not matter, and that doctrine is not affected, then the definition of “the Bible” being employed by Ward and his peers is not based on the idea that one Bible has been transmitted down from the prophets and apostles. It assumes as its premise that multiple bibles have come down the line, and collectively, all of those different articulations are “the Bible.” James White confirms this in his book.

“In fact, they demonstrated a consistent transmission of a single body of material over time.”

80

Take this line of thinking to its logical end, and we must conclude that even destroyed manuscripts are a part of this “bible,” because all of our extant manuscripts came from other manuscripts, most of which are destroyed or lost to time. So “the Bible” is not a tangible thing if we assume the conclusions of the scholarly guild. It is a collection of things, which we have evidence of, that bear witness to the tangible thing that no longer exists.  The differences in this “consistent transmission” of the whole “manuscript tradition” are simply the result of the scribal process, and the differences “do not affect doctrine.”

The “manuscript tradition” is really just a testimony to the Word of God (autographs), and when viewed at a level of extant evidence, must be viewed as “the Bible” in order to maintain some semblance to the protestant doctrine of Scripture. In other words, “the Bible” is the “manuscript tradition.,” and we don’t have the whole manuscript tradition. That is why the scholarly guild has taken up the position that “we have enough” of the Bible (Dirk Jongkind & Co.), even though we do not have “exactly what the prophets and apostles wrote” (Dan Wallace). It does not matter what the prophets and apostles wrote, because “the Bible” gives us “good access” to what was originally written. In other words, “the Bible” simply bears witness to the Word of God as it existed originally. 

When we examine the above doctrine against the Chicago Statement, we find that this idea of the “manuscript tradition” being “the Bible” perfectly comports with inerrancy. 

“We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy…We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical Inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.”  

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article X

In order for this to not render inerrancy “invalid or irrelevant,” the above definition of “the Bible” must be adopted. “The Bible” is not exactly what the prophets and apostles wrote, it bears witness to what the prophets and apostles wrote, and according to the scholarly guild, we “have a good amount of access” to that object, but not perfect access. Therefore, “the Bible” as defined by Ward and his peers is not what the prophets and apostles wrote, just an echo of what they wrote. Those echoes, the manuscripts, form “the Bible,” which Christians have “good access” to through translation. The Chicago Statement did not defend against higher criticism, it made a way for it to enter into the church. 

Conclusion

If the scholarly guild is correct, then what is being set forth is extremely problematic. It means that Jesus Christ is both the “only God,” distinct from the Father,  and also that he is the “only begotten son” of the Father. If we compare these two theological statements, then Jesus Christ is uniquely God, and was begotten of the Father, who is not uniquely God. Both of these are in “the Bible.”

Ward is excited about this. In fact, according to him, “This is awesome!” It is awesome, apparently, that in order to maintain Trintiarian orthodoxy and the doctrine of adoption, we now have to explain the following:

1. Jesus Christ is the only God (ESV, NASB)

2. The only God is at the Father’s side (ESV)

3. The only God is in the Father’s bosom (NASB)

4. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son (KJV)

5. Jesus Christ is the one and only Son (NIV)

6. Those who believe on Christ become the sons of God (KJV)

In summary, “the Bible” teaches that Jesus Christ is uniquely God, yet he was revealed by the Father, who is not uniquely God. It teaches that Jesus Christ is the only son of God, and yet all that believe are also the sons of God. Yes, this is truly “awesome!” It should not surprise anybody that this kind of thinking allows post-Barthian and higher critical scholars to heavily influence the field of textual scholarship. 

The prominent textual scholars recognize that this doctrine does not comport with one Christian faith, it comports with different Christian faith communities. The only people who do not seem to recognize this problem are the evangelical textual scholars who will go down on the “no doctrine is affected” ship. Yet, if “no doctrine is affected,” then the liberal scholars are correct. As Jennifer Knust and DC Parker believe, there is no “Bible”, just bibles. There is no “Christianity,” there are Christianities. You can believe that Jesus Christ is both the only begotten Son and also “the unique God” and still be a modern protestant Christian.

Since it seems to be the case that “decidedly different” doesn’t just mean “synonym,” the conclusion of Ward’s argument is actually that yes, doctrine is affected. If translations use words that are distinct enough to mean something different, then it seems the only conclusion to Ward’s argument is that doctrine can, and is impacted by translational differences. I believe that I have shown that this is the case in my article.

Authorized Review – Does Authorized Need to Be Updated?

Introduction

In order to respond to the anecdotes of Mark Ward, I’d like to introduce the reader to a story of my own. Growing up I was what you might call a “bookworm.” I spent much of my free time reading and writing. Similar to Ward’s account of his childhood, I aced every spelling test. I always got the prize for reading the most books over the summer. I started learning how to speed read in AP English Literature in high school, mostly so that I could spend more time with my friends instead of doing homework. Despite my brazen laziness, I loved words, and I loved books – just not the British ones I was forced to read in High School. Despite my lack of motivation, as a self-proclaimed word-lover I forced myself to understand why works like A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, and Frankenstein were such important contributions to the available corpus of English literature.  

The reason I am telling my reader this story is to show that Mark Ward does not have a monopoly on the label “language nerd.” There are tons of us out here, and as a fellow “language nerd,” I find Ward’s writing style and perspective rather offensive to our dwindling guild. In this article, I want to comment on the writing style of Authorized and show my reader why Ward’s book is so offensive to “language nerds” everywhere.

Giving a Bad Name to “Language Nerds” Everywhere

Most “language nerds” are conservatives when it comes to language. We cherish the moments when we can knock the dust off of bygone words and introduce them afresh to a modern audience. We fear the idea that “Twitter Vernacular” could become the lingua franca some day. “Language nerds” are not scared away by learning new words, we love them. In fact, I signed up for an email list that sends me new words every day, like “avuncular.” Being a language nerd is much more than simply loving vocab words, however. It is about appreciating and learning the evolution and etymology of words. It includes studying the differences in syntax and writing style and genre in literature. Being a “language nerd” is not just being able to use a thesaurus, it is about loving the English language – all of it. 

What is frustrating is that Ward’s writing style seems to contradict the claim that he is a “language nerd.” A “language nerd” would never employ the impetus of The Emperor’s New Clothes in a textbook display of a weak analogy to call the English of the KJV “at some point between natty and nude” (24) A “language nerd” would not insult English by using “erganomock” and “snelbanjaloo” as a point of comparison for the comprehensibility of the KJV (65). Every single “language nerd” I know, even the atheists, have a profound respect and appreciation for the KJV as a literary work. It speaks volumes that Chistopher Hitchins has a higher evaluation of the KJV than Ward (14). 

What is most interesting, is that Ward seems to violate his own principles within the pages of Authorized. Strangely enough, he uses words such as “fastidious” while claiming that the word “commendeth” is too difficult to understand. He is fine employing “reverential” (101) while saying that “and it came to pass” is not vernacular English. He uses the phrase “blessed fluorescence” (67) while saying that “apt” is incomprehensible in the phrase “apt to teach”(44). He casually drops the word “blithely” (26) in a section discussing how he didn’t understand words in the KJV. I could make a list of Ward’s use of uncharacteristically difficult words that he apparently understands better than the much simpler vocabulary of the KJV. How often do you use the words “prodigiously” (14), “erudition” (9), “apropos” (69), or “hapless” (9) in your daily speech? If I were to take Ward’s vernacular argument and apply it to his book, there would be many places that I would recommend an update. 

The paradox within the pages of Authorized is that Ward violates many of his own rules. He unnecessarily (and ironically) employs Latin with the knowledge that his reader likely doesn’t know it. He does this while unabashedly comparing the KJV to the Latin Vulgate. Apparently Ward thinks that his reader can understand actual Latin, but not the KJV, which he compares to the comprehensibility of the Latin Vulgate.  In addition to utilizing Latin, he randomly drops flowery words that his reader will have to look up. If Ward’s argument is that we should understand the words we read, why does he repeatedly beat his reader over the head with Latin phrases and advanced vocabulary? This seems to violate the very principle Ward is setting forth in Authorized

Conclusion

After reading Ward’s book twice, I cannot help but point out the inconsistency of his thesis, and the hypocrisy of his writing style. He has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source for the critiques he issues towards the KJV and KJV readers. He imposes an extreme version of the problem that he claims the KJV imposes to his reader. He slaps KJV readers for making equivocations while constantly equivocating the English of the KJV with Shakespeare, the comprehensibility of the KJV with the Latin Vulgate, and KJV English with Old or Middle English. This is one of those cases where it isn’t wise to throw rocks in glass houses. What Ward seems to miss is that being able to understand words is far more important than those words being in “vernacular English.” As a fellow “language nerd,” I expect more from somebody claiming to be in the dwindling population of people who love the English language. 

Perhaps the reason that Ward’s book resonates with so many is because people simply don’t read anymore. He can get away with this kind of rhetoric because people don’t know how insulting he is being when he implies that his reader simply cannot read all that well. In a world where the average person does their daily reading on Twitter, it does not surprise me that people have forgotten that you occasionally have to look up words when you read. The reality is, learning new words is a part of the joy of reading. Expanding your vocabulary is part of the adventure. Discovering a new, or old use of a word is a part of the rush of being a “language nerd.”

Now I’m not Mark Ward, but if I spent so many years learning to read the KJV, I’d be proud of it. I wouldn’t openly brag about my willful ignorance of phrases in the KJV, I’d learn to understand them and teach others how to understand it. In every place Ward gives as an example of a passage he “still cannot understand” in the KJV, many people, including children, can. As a “language nerd,” Ward really missed a big opportunity to get people excited about the English language. Instead, he spent 137 pages talking about how people can’t understand English, and why people shouldn’t read the literary masterpiece that is the KJV. Seems like a pretty big “language nerd” party foul, if you ask me.

Authorized Review – Textual Criticism and the Scholarly Guild

Introduction

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

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

The Confused & Scared Christian

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

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

Ibid., 114

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

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

Ibid., 115

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

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

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

Ibid., 115

The Scholarly Dance goes like this: 

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

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

Notice another example of the Scholarly Dance:



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

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

And another: 

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

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

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


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

Ibid., 116

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

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

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

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

Ibid., 116

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Gurry, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6

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

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

Knust & Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone, 15

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

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

Authorized Review – Chapter 6: Reading the KJV is Sinful

Introduction

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

Conclusion

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.

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

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

Introduction

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

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

    2.      The KJV is not in our language.

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

Ibid., 79

He concludes with this, 

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

Ibid., 85

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

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

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

Ibid., 75

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

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

How to Understand and Apply the New Testament, 42

Responding to the Vernacular Argument 

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


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

Ibid., 68

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

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


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

Luke 14:1

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ibid., 79

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Ibid., 85-86

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

Authorized Review – Chapter 4: Learning Words is Difficult

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

Introduction

Thus far in Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, the reader is being introduced to the idea that the King James Bible is more difficult to read than people may think. The problem with the KJV, according to Ward, is the “False Friends,” which give the illusion to the reader that they understand what they are reading while in reality, they do not. Though he admits that these “False Friends” do not occur that often in comparison to the whole of the KJV, the reader is presented with the reality that they are seriously problematic, despite not affecting doctrine. My reader should get the impression so far that much of Ward’s messaging is conflicting and paradoxical. In Chapter 4, Ward addresses the topic of the comprehensibility of the KJV is as a whole by responding to the claim that many KJV readers make regarding its reading comprehension level. 

This of course needs to be addressed by Ward, because if the Flesch-Kincaid tool is used to assess the KJV’s readability against the ESV’s readability, the KJV apparently wins. Ward argues that the tool is not suited for the English of the KJV, and therefore this line of reasoning is null. I tend to agree with Ward here, though it is fair to point out that the computer tool that assigns reading comprehension level presents the KJV as far more intelligible than Ward has tried to argue. What the reader might take away from this is that Ward has presented another piece of evidence in favor the KJV. Since I agree that computer tools are not an absolute rule for determining readability, I instead want to use this space to again comment on Ward’s rhetorical strategy. 

Rhetoric 

After four chapters, Ward reveals what seems to be a key motivation for writing this book. 

“I do not believe that competent speakers of contemporary English should be required to look up English words in a Bible translation when commonly known equivalents are available.”

Ibid., 55

The problem does not seem to be the KJV, the problem is that Ward takes issue with people needing to look up words while reading their Bible. He goes on to say that computer models should not be used to gauge readability, people should.

“So how can we determine the reading level of the KJV? I suggest that av1611.org passed right over the best measure: people. If reading difficulty is the number one reason people set aside the KJV in favor of modern translations, then perhaps they know better than their computers. In fact, it’s a little odd that some would presume to tell numerous Bible readers, “No, you can read the KJV just fine. My computer says so.””

Ibid., 59

So now the foundational premise of Ward’s argument is again presented as something that must be established upon anecdote and personal experience. Further, he seems to have misunderstood the entire purpose of KJV readers producing a computer based model for the readability of the KJV. It is not to tell KJV readers that it is readable, it is to demonstrate to KJV critics that it is readable. KJV readers already know it is comprehensible because they read it daily. This being the case, Ward relies heavily on anecdotes to support his point, since the data he could appeal to does not work in his favor. The reader is introduced to Ward’s friend who is doing mission work in South America. 

“And yet a KJV-Only acquaintance of mine who is a missionary in the lone English-speaking country in South America told me, “I have found that people living in the jungles of Guyana are having no problem reading and memorizing passages of the King James Version.” I know my friend is not a liar, but I also have a hard time accepting that what he’s saying is true—not because a computer told me the KJV was harder to read than the NIV, but because I’m a flesh-and-blood reader. I know when something is easy or hard to read, and so do you. I have regular trouble following the KJV. I think you and the jungle dwellers of Guyana do too.”

Ibid., 59-60

At this point the reader has to ask, “Okay Mark Ward, you say that ‘people’ are the best gauge for determining readability, but when a person tells you that people living in jungles can understand it, you don’t believe him?” Ward continues to prop himself up as a “language nerd” and a “flesh-and-blood reader,” but I am beginning to question the reliability of Ward’s self-praise. Even if we place the KJV at a college reading level, which is an exceedingly high evaluation, Ward has a doctorate. How is it that a textbook author, doctor, and self-proclaimed “language nerd” have “regular trouble following” a book that is commonly accepted as being between a 5th and 12th grade reading level? My common refrain holds true, that Ward’s messaging is very confused, and at this point, difficult to believe.

Ward continues his argument by saying that,

“In my judgment, the KJV isn’t at any recognized “reading level.” Not fifth grade, not twelfth grade, not grad school, not age eighty-six. The whole concept of “reading level” assumes that we’re talking about more or less contemporary language.”

Ibid., 60

This is where the chapter utterly unravels. Ward insists that the KJV simply cannot be classified into a reading level because apparently it’s not a contemporary language. If this is the case, what language is Ward proposing that it is? Are those that enjoy the KJV bilingual? I really do not think so. There are pre-existing categories for English which fall into Old, Middle, and Modern. Ward admits in a previous chapter that the KJV is early modern English. If the argument is that the KJV cannot even be classified into a reading level, I’m afraid we’ve ventured into the realm of absurdity. The timeline of this chapter is truly a wild ride. Ward, when faced with computer analysis that disagrees with his assessment, advocates against the tool that disagrees with him by simply saying it’s irrelevant, and then proceeds to argue that the KJV cannot even be assigned a reading comprehension level. It reminds me of somebody who loses a board game, and instead of admitting defeat, flips the table and scatters the pieces all over the floor.

Conclusion

Ward ends the chapter by offering a solution that already exists in many KJV text blocks. 

“I could imagine that footnotes (“halt here means limp”; “commendeth here means showcases”) would allow us to have our KJV and read it too.”

Ibid., 60

There is an important point to note here. Ward indicates in this chapter that the KJV cannot be assigned a reading level because apparently it’s not a “contemporary language.” I have argued that the KJV will need an update when today’s written literature is as far from the KJV as the KJV is from middle English. A quick search of a section of Chaucer will give my reader insight as to just how far that gap must be. The discerning reader should see past the rhetoric of Ward’s argument and recognize how absurd it is to suggest that the KJV is so archaic that it cannot even be assigned a reading level.

The most interesting observation I have about Authorized thus far is that every single one of Ward’s arguments is contradicted by his own words. He says that the KJV is difficult to read, while most people who read a Bible read it. He says that the KJV has “False Friends,” but not very many in comparison to the whole book. He says that “False Friends” deceive the reader, and at the same time do not affect doctrine. He says that the readability of the KJV should be established by what people say, but if they do say it’s readable we shouldn’t believe them. The amount of confused messaging in this book is staggering. 

If it is true that Ward’s issue with the KJV is that people shouldn’t have to look up difficult words when an easier one exists, it should be noted that this problem is solved in many KJV text blocks, most notably the Westminster Reference Bible sold by Trinitarian Bible Society. If this is our approach to the Bible, it is also important to ask the question, “How colloquial do we want our Bible to be?” Even more importantly, I have yet to determine why this book was even written. So far, Ward introduces problems, explains how the problems aren’t actually problems, and then offers a solution which already exists.