The Absurdity of Anti-KJV Rhetoric

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

Introduction

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?

Conclusion

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.

The Skepticism of the TR Position

Introduction

Recently James White made the claim that he was astonished at the skepticism of the TR position, comparing it to that of Bart Ehrman. What men like James White do not seem to understand is that this skepticism is not a skepticism of the Scriptures, it is in the modern critical text, which isn’t even finished. What is actually astonishing is the lack of skepticism from people who know this system inside and out. It demonstrates a complete lack of discernment and a troubling adherence to the axioms of modern textual criticism. Now, I can see White now, reading the first four sentences of this article and talking about how wrong I am (with props and all!), but for the discerning reader, I want to present my case as to why it’s not astonishing at all to be extremely skeptical of the Modern Critical Text.

Three Reasons Christians Should Practice Discernment When Approaching the Critical Text

1 – Modern Critical Text Advocates and Bart Ehrman Agree in Almost Everything

While White loves to level the claim that TR advocates are the real skeptics by comparing them to Bart Ehrman, he fails to highlight the fact that him and Bart Ehrman essentially agree on everything. Here is a video of Bart Ehrman saying as much. The only thing that these two men disagree upon is the conclusion that God has anything to do with the Bible. So when White comments that TR advocates are skeptical like Bart Ehrman, he’s really just saying that TR advocates are better students than he is.

We listen to what the scholars have to say about the critical text, and believe them, because they created it. It should not be surprising that Reformed Christians who take church history seriously might reject something new to the church from the 20th century and on. What is really going on when White and others make this argument is that they are distracting from the reality that it is actually their system that agrees with Bart Ehrman.

Not only does the textbook that the critical text advocates use have Ehrman’s name on the front, the main academic book series that is putting out the latest scholarly writing on the topic also has his name on it! In fact, pretty much any book you want to read that represents the critical text position has Bart Ehrman’s name on it or in it. As White loves to point out, this is a clear, and intentional, confusion of categories. TR advocates are skeptical of the critical text, not the Scriptures which they have received. Even if none of this was reality, in order to make this argument consistently, critical text apologists should first retract any claims that those in the TR camp are adhering to blind faith fundamentalism. The fact is that the TR methodology is fundamentally not skeptical, which is a common critique of the position.

2 – What Is Said About the Critical Text is Often Not True of the Critical Text

This is probably the biggest grievance I have with those that advocate for the critical text – they either are ignorant of what the critical text is, or are simply misrepresenting what it is they are advocating for. The critical text is not a Bible in the way that most people think it is. It is a lot of bibles packaged together or perhaps a compendium of manuscript readings. Scholars that produce these texts do not advertise them as “the very Word of God.” These printed volumes simply represent a reconstructed snapshot of the transmitted text at a certain point in time in the transmission history of the New Testament. The readings in each of these texts are simply the editors’ opinions on which reading is the earliest. In the case of the Modern Critical Text, all versions of it represent closely one or two manuscripts from a single geographical location dated around the fourth century. There is not a single scholar or apologist for the Critical Text that would say that any Bible translation is translated from the full record of the original, inspired text. James White touched on this in his recent debate with Pastor Jeff Riddle when being questioned about the authenticity of the ending of Mark, which just confirms he lines up with Dan Wallace and the rest of the intelligentsia on the topic.

“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. Quote Dan Wallace.

I recognize that people have different perspectives on a wide array of theological topics, but it would be nice for the men who advocate for the Modern Critical Text to at least be straight forward about what their text actually is. TR advocates are skeptical of this text because the scholars that created it are skeptical of it. There is no wide spread conspiracy theory, because the scholars themselves believe what the TR advocates are saying.

3 – Modern Critical Text Advocates Pretend That A Healthy Dose of Skepticism is Outlandish

No matter how loudly somebody denies this reality, there is a good reason people are skeptical of the Modern Critical Text(s). In the first place, it’s not finished. In the second place, the goal of Modern Textual Criticism isn’t to find the autographic readings, it’s to find the earliest possible readings. In the third place, the scholars themselves admit that their text is not verifiable. If you aren’t skeptical of this, you probably should be.

If somebody was trying to sell you a car, and they told you that they weren’t sure if it had all the parts, that they had no way of knowing if it had all the parts, and that another model was coming out soon that also didn’t have all the parts, would you buy that car? Would you let your kids drive it? Probably not, I hope. You would hopefully go and buy a car that at least advertises itself as being a full car. It is time that Modern Critical Text advocates stop pretending that it is absurd for TR advocates to be skeptical of a product that quite literally describes itself as something to be skeptical about.

Conclusion

At this point in the discussion of New Testament Textual Criticism, there is more than enough information available to at least make a determination on whether or not the array of critical texts should be trusted. Shifting the argument and projecting doesn’t change the reality of what textual scholars are actually saying. As it pertains to this argument, you don’t need to know anything about the TR to know that the Critical Text(s) is not what apologists claim that it is. If the claim is that TR advocates are too skeptical, the person making the claim is either misinformed or intentionally conflating categories.

It is revealing that in one breath, a Critical Text apologist can claim that TR advocates have “The same view as Mormons” on Scripture while also asserting that they are “Skeptical like Bart Erhman.” Instead of conflating categories so irresponsibly, it’s important to recognize that when TR advocates are called skeptical, the thing they are skeptical about is the Modern Critical Text. If you aren’t skeptical of the Modern Critical Text, read what the scholars are saying about it before blindly listening to the shock and awe arguments of James White and co. Believe it or not, there are really great reasons to believe that the scholars who created the various Critical Texts are accurate in describing what they created. What the TR advocates are actually setting forth is that Christians have every reason to believe that God has preserved His Word, and that we have that very text today. We simply disagree upon which text that is.

Ever Learning, Never Able

This is the eighth and final article in the series, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.

Introduction

In the last installation of this series, I’d like to highlight possibly the number one reason people seek answers outside of the critical text, which inevitably leads people to either the Majority Text or the Traditional Text. What is likely the number one reason people abandon the critical text is the fact that it is incomplete, and has no function built into it that sets parameters on the scope of the work. In other words, it is not finished, and never will be. This is a challenging reality if you take into consideration even the standard view of Scripture held to by the majority of Bible believing Christians, let alone the Reformed view found in 1.8 of the Westminster and London Baptist confessions of faith.

When a pastor encourages his congregation that they have in their hands the very Word of God, it is objectively a false statement according to the critical text methodology. In the first place, textual scholars wouldn’t have a job if that were true. Secondly, the same scholars wouldn’t be working on new editions of the Greek New Testament if it were true that the church has in the critical text some sort of final product. In fact, the 2016 ESV was marketed initially as the “Permanent Text Edition”, which Crossway rolled back shortly after its release. While this reality is actually exciting for those that work in the field, this is the last thing that the majority of Christians want to hear. Most Christians don’t even know this about the modern critical texts. The changing nature of the modern critical texts can be broken into the categories of text and translation, which I will discuss in the final article of this series.

Text & Translation

There are very few realities other than this that should raise red flags to Christians when it comes to the modern critical texts. The general assumption made by most Christians is that we have over 5,000 manuscript copies of the Bible and those manuscripts give us enough information to know exactly what the Bible contains. This is probably due to the fact that most defenses of the Bible begin with, “We have 5,400 manuscripts!” Anybody who knows anything about textual criticism knows that this argument simply proves that a bible was written, not what that bible actually said. To many secular scholars, the manuscript tradition simply proves that there were multiple bibles that represent multiple Christianities that developed over time. The argument is completely bankrupt and should really not be used – especially to a textual scholar.

That point aside, the most problematic thing about the modern critical texts is that they are not finished and ever changing. Not a single scholar that I am aware of, Evangelical or not, will say that any edition currently available represents the original as it was penned, or that the versions we do have will not be revised in upcoming editions. In fact, the Evangelical scholars say the opposite! Here are several quotes just to give you a general idea of what I am talking about:

“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. Quote Dan Wallace.

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

DC Parker, BBC Radio Program “The Oldest Bible”. Editor of the Gospel of John in the ECM.

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

Gurry, Peter, A New Approach to Textual Criticism, 6. Discussing the changes that will be made by the CBGM.

It is easily established that the scholarly guild believes that the modern text is not finished, and is expected to change. As I stated in previous articles, TR advocates take these words very seriously. That is the first component of the discussion. The second is that modern translations are also changing.

Not only are the underlying texts from which bibles are translated changing, the translation methodology itself is adapting with the culture of the American church. There is a reason MacArthur has endeavored to adapt the NASB into the Legacy Standard Bible to avoid politically correct translation methodology being applied to his favorite translation. This has been a long standing critique of modern bibles that even the most staunch advocate can recognize is a problem. Most bible believing Christians do not want a their translation to go “woke”. Further, the bible industrial complex is a real thing. There is a lot of money in bible sales. Changing up a few words every few years is good for business. Groups that want to create a study bible do this all the time to avoid paying loyalties to an existing publishing house. The changing nature of the critical text is actually quite good for the companies that make money selling bibles.

Conclusion

The fact that modern bibles are constantly in flux is a major draw to the TR for most people. You don’t need to be a fundamentalist to want to read one translation your whole life. As somebody who has gone from the NIV to the NKJV to the HCSB to the NASB to the ESV to the KJV, I have Scripture memorized in all of these translations and it’s obnoxious. I wish I would have just had one translation from the start. It is especially concerning when three different editions of the same translation differ from each other, like the ESV. You don’t need to know anything about textual criticism to be turned off by this reality.

If you add to this problem the issue of the actual underlying Greek changing every few years, you begin to see how the average Christian might take issue. So this is the final reason I will give in this series why somebody might be drawn to the TR for reasons other than Fundamentalism, Textual Traditionalism, or Emotionalism. A changing and incomplete bible is no bible at all, and most Christians recognize that. The problem is, the vast majority of Christians don’t even know that this is the reality of modern textual criticism, in large part due to irresponsible apologists who give Christians false comfort with poor argumentation.

They Think You’re Stupid

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

Do you remember during the reformation when they said, “Ad Fontes, back to the Latin Vulgate?” Yeah, me neither. Yet this is the kind of rhetoric that props up the critical texts. Every convert from the critical text position to the TR position has a moment where they realize that many of the attacks against the TR are simply attacks against the history and theology that they believe in. It’s a very similar experience that many people have when they realize that the mainstream media has been lying to them about almost everything. See this quote from James White just two days ago.

“The reformers and puritans would have used what we have today [the modern critical Greek text, they just did not have it], there is no question about that, and I would simply challenge the whole idea of a singular text of the Reformation. There was a general … uhhh …. 11th to 14th century primarily Byzantine manuscript tradition text that was used in general, but if you really want the text of the reformation, (let’s be honest) it was the Latin Vulgate. I mean, I mean, they, most of the reformers were significantly better in Latin (they spoke and preached and everything else in Latin) than they were in Greek .”

Ironically, this quote could serve as a “red pill” for many people in conservative Christianity. White would have you believe that the text of the Reformation was actually the Latin Vulgate. That the visible church, which, as White often says was captive to the Vulgate for 1,000 years, decided to continue defending the very text that had held them captive. Yes, the very text that the Papists defended, was in fact the text of the Reformation. It’s as if the Reformers had Stockholm syndrome and defended their abuser.

The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that these people genuinely believe that their audience is stupid. They think that you are stupid. If this quote is indeed true, we have to rewrite the entire history of the Reformation, where the Reformers defended the Latin Vulgate and weren’t able to translate ancient works from Greek into Latin without BDAG. This kind of defense of the critical texts is actually a beautiful boon to the church, because anybody with a basic understanding of Reformation history knows that the text of the reformation was not the Latin Vulgate. In fact, the Latin Vulgate was officially the text of the counter reformation, codified at the Council of Trent.

Now, from a very practical perspective, this is the kind of argument that might cause even the most average student of church history to pause. It is actually an argument that breaks out of the text-critical realm and into one that many more people have access to: church history. See, the vast majority of the church is generally unaware of textual scholarship. However, and thanks in large part to James White, a huge chunk of conservative Christians are quite familiar with Reformation history.

It should be apparent to everybody reading this article why mere fundamentalism doesn’t adequately explain the appeal to the TR when defending the critical text involves saying that the text of the Reformation was, unironically, the Latin Vulgate. Most importantly, our theology should be pulled from Scripture. As I noted in the last article in this series, the theology of the critical text is something along the lines of “quasi-preservation”. Instead of dealing with this, many choose to attack the historical account of the Reformation itself. The example in this article is probably the most obtuse that I have seen yet.

This is another reason why many flock to the majority text or TR position – the arguments for the critical text read more like conspiracy theories than an actual theological position. Now, an argument against something is not an argument in favor of another, I recognize that wholeheartedly. This article is not a defense of the TR. Rather, it is yet another reason, other than rabid fundamental emotionalism, why people begin to search outside of the critical text for answers about the bible they read.

A Review of “Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible”: Introduction

Introduction 

I wrote the first article on the “Young, Textless, and Reformed” blog on September 4, 2019. Since then, I have sought to tackle the theological problems of the Modern Critical Text, the CBGM, the modern doctrine of inspiration, as well as to shine light on many of the positions of the men and women who are actively involved in creating Bibles for the Christian church. I have examined the weaknesses of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and presented the Scriptural and historical theological position of Protestant Christianity. Up until this point, the focus of this blog has been especially to examine the theological implications of the modern critical methods and associated texts. Having said what I have to say regarding that, I want to now turn to reviewing a work by Mark Ward called “Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible.” 

My goal in reviewing this work is manifold. I want to use it as an opportunity to examine the power of rhetoric, to clarify places of misrepresentation or perhaps misunderstanding within the pages of Ward’s work, and to present simple counter arguments to the many claims made by Ward. I want to provide an analysis and in some places, refutation, of the content found within Ward’s work. In this introductory article, I will begin reviewing the introduction by taking a look at three notable components of Ward’s work – rhetoric, anecdotes, and a narrative. 

Rhetoric, Anecdotes, and a Narrative

Rhetoric

Beginning with the cover of Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, the reader is introduced to the whimsical tone of Mark Ward. Starting with the title, the reader can expect to encounter at least two major themes: How the King James Bible (KJV) can be used, and how it can be misused. The introduction gives the reader a good idea of how the rest of the book will feel. Ward weaves facts and quippy commentary together, following this basic formula throughout the work: providing a 1) statistic or statement, followed by 2) some sort of joke or anecdote, and 3) ending with a concluding thought. This pattern is exemplified in the first three sentences of the book. 

“1) Out of every 100 Americans who pulled a Bible off a shelf today, 55 of them pulled down a King James Version. 2) I feel fairly safe in saying that the King James is the only 1611 release still on any bestseller lists. 3) All the same, 55 percent is only slightly more than half, and the trend line is clear—for it started near 100 percent. The English-speaking Christian church, which was once almost completely unified in using the KJV, is no longer unified around a particular Bible translation. Why? Because people say they can no longer understand it.”

Mark Ward, Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Lynnea Fraser, and Danielle Thevenaz (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 1.

The above quote is representative of Ward’s style as an author and exemplifies well-written persuasive writing. To demonstrate this point, note in the quoted passage above. Ward begins with a data point – 55% of Christians who read a Bible read a King James. He inserts a joke, and then provides his opinion that this clearly demonstrates that his interpretation of this number is that King James readership is on the decline. He then offers an explanation for this data point – that people simply cannot understand the KJV any longer. 

This is arguably the most foundational premise of the entire book – that people cannot understand the KJV any longer. Yet this claim is contradicted by the data point he provided in the first sentence of the work, that 55% of Christians who read their Bible, read the King James. That is to say, of the people who read their Bible, most of them can understand the KJV. Further, this explanation leaves the reader wanting for an adequate explanation of this data point. If it is true that people are abandoning the KJV because they can’t understand it, why do most Christians who read a Bible read it? Despite the fact that one of the key textbooks used to train pastors is Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, the KJV captures significant readership. It should also be noted that no other translation even comes close to the 55% readership number that the King James enjoys. 

By presenting part of the whole picture, the reader is introduced to a partial explanation, though it is presented as the whole explanation for why the King James Bible, according to Ward, should be on its way out. In doing this, Ward is able to present the case that the only reason people retain the KJV is due to “habit, conviction, or merely a loyalty and love that we quite naturally attach to things we value.” Ward does not address a fundamental group that retains the KJV – those who do so because the underlying manuscript readings are preserved, and that the translation of those readings is most accurate. So we see how rhetoric is a powerful tool used to funnel the reader down a path that neglects to address a primary reason many people retain the KJV. This is a critical flaw with the premise of the book. If the reason people are abandoning the KJV, assuming they are, is due to its difficult vocabulary and syntax, why is it still the most widely read Bible version in the English speaking world? Is it possible that there is more to this story that the reader is not being told? Abundantly so. 

Anecdotes 

Ward’s anecdotes demonstrate that I may be onto something with my first point. 

“I grew up reading and hearing the KJV, and I don’t recall having any trouble with the verbiage. I don’t remember ever being baffled by, “We had been as Sodoma” (Rom 9:29) or “Let him that glorieth glory in this” (Jer 9:24). Early on I felt a sufficient mastery of Elizabethan diction not only to read it but to speak it. I even remember as a third grader asking my beloved teacher, Mrs. Page, if we could all use King James English for a day. (She said yes, but it never happened.… Little kids remember these things.) Somehow toddlers managed to learn this style of speech, in a time before not just antibiotics but Sesame Street.”

Ibid., 1

So it seems that Ward, who grew up reading the KJV, even as a child, had no issues reading and even speaking it. He was taught to read the KJV growing up, and therefore he could read the KJV growing up. This anecdote is devastating to the narrative presented as the introduction continues. The point of highlighting this is that the premise of the book is that people simply don’t understand KJV English, which Ward has seemingly debunked in the first few pages of his book. If anything, he is telling his reader that he was able to overcome the greatest challenge of reading the KJV as a child. Keep this in mind as Ward develops his thesis throughout the book.

The Narrative 

The reader has seen two vitally important pieces of information thus far: That most Christians who read their Bible can understand the KJV, and that Ward can understand the KJV. These facts are not highlighted by Ward himself, but he has said both plainly. This seems to work against his premise that people are abandoning the KJV because “they can no longer understand it.” Here is where the reader is presented with a narrative, which essentially goes like this: “Many people cannot understand KJV English, and therefore it is on its way out, and we should allow it to retire.” 

“But there are people, many people, who insist that KJV English is too difficult. Many of them, in turn, have already jettisoned the KJV.”

Ibid., 1,2

A major theme of Ward’s book is detailing the difficulty of the Authorized Version, though he constantly works against his own argument. Ward goes on to point out that the New York Times, hardly a bastion of intellectuals, frequently uses phrases which find their origin in the King James Bible. He even employs a word found in the KJV, “Hitherto” to further his point, which seems to work against the thesis of his book.

While it is true that people find the KJV difficult to read, it seems, based on the data Ward presents the reader with, that most Christians who read their Bible (55%) do not find it so difficult to read that they abandon it. It appears then that the audience for this work are those “who insist that KJV English is too difficult.” So the premise of the book as found in the introduction does not seem to be based  on Ward’s personal experience reading the KJV as a child, or with the data that says most Bible reading Christians can read the KJV, but rather on the “people, many people,” who cannot understand it. 

Conclusion

The introduction of Ward’s book is interesting. He introduces the reader to data and anecdotes which point towards the reality that the KJV is readable, while setting up a narrative which says it’s not. Further, Ward explains how he himself came to understand KJV English, by being taught KJV English growing up. At the end of the introduction, Ward leaves his reader with this interesting thought:

 
“So what do we do with the KJV? Teach people to read it? Revise it? Chuck it? No, no, and no. Read on.” (Ibid., 4.)

Despite being taught KJV English growing up, Ward argues against teaching people to read it. As I finished the introduction, I got the impression that I was missing something. If the KJV is readable, and Ward could read it as a child, what is the dilemma here? What problem is trying to be solved, and what is Ward’s answer?

In the introduction, Ward makes two observations which seem to be far more important than the thesis of his book:

  1. The transition away from the KJV has brought confusion and conflict within the church 
  2. The Christian church, once unified around the KJV, is no longer unified around a Bible translation

These seem to be far more concerning than low reading comprehension in the church, but maybe I’m alone in thinking that. Interestingly enough, Ward’s audience seems to be those that do not read the KJV rather than those that do. Even though his thesis is a persuasive argument advocating for the retirement of the translation, his introduction gives the impression that the KJV can be read, and not only that, is widely enjoyed.

A Disputation on the Modern Doctrine of the Text of Holy Scripture

Introduction

There are many times where a theological position is presented, and it either has to be absolutely correct, or absolutely not correct. There are Scriptural realities that are clear, and there are other areas where external proofs drive an argument outside of the Scriptures. Where a Scriptural teaching is clear, the consequence of that teaching must necessarily conclude obedience in faith and practice.

There are a number of theological positions where the Scriptures are plainly clear, and yet Christians believe them to be unclear. A great example is the Scriptural proof from 2 Tim. 3:16 which demonstrates the foolishness of continuationist theology. If all Scripture is sufficient for instruction in subjects pertaining to faith and practice, then everything that is not Scripture is not sufficient for faith and practice. The scope of things that are not Scripture include words of knowledge, prophecies, and so on. There is a clear teaching from this Scripture that demands that Scripture and applications thereof, not ongoing revelation, be the only standard for instruction, encouragement, correction. 

The problem is that many Christians, when faced with this Scripture, will ignore it, and provide another unrelated text to justify the continuationist doctrine. This kind of rhetorical misdirect is often the source of much frustration when it comes to the arguments presented in support of the Received Text position. A proof is presented that necessitates the rejection of one position and the adoption of another, and instead of accepting the necessary consequence of that Scriptural proof, another unrelated argument will be presented in a rhetorical attempt to avoid being compelled by a clear Scriptural reality. In this article, I will present such an argument, and reveal that any meaningful defense of preservation must end in the defense or adoption of the Masoretic Hebrew, and Greek Received Text as the providentially preserved and delivered original language Scriptures. 

Framing the Discussion

God immediately inspired the text of Holy Scripture in the Old Testament in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New testament in the Greek language. This is necessary, as the language used to write the Scriptures during the time of the people of God of old was Hebrew, and in some places Aramaic, and the language used to write the Scriptures during the time of the people of God in the church age was Greek. Translations of such languages may be considered mediately inspired insofar as they represent these original texts. 

It is often the case that modern “conservative” Christians refuse to make the distinction between immediately and mediately inspired, and the result is that many Christians believe there is no Bible available today that is perfectly inspired. They say the Bible is inspired, while also saying that there is not a text or translation that contains that text perfectly. This necessitates that a distinction must be made between “The Bible” and the printed versions Christians actually read. “The Bible” is perfect and inspired, we just don’t have it.

The modern doctrine of inspiration teaches that only the original autographs were perfectly inspired, and what is remaining of the manuscripts today are only inspired insofar as we can prove with evidence that these texts are original. Paradoxically, none of the scholars responsible for this task are trying to find the original, or believe they can find the original. They may maintain that the original may be found, but simultaneously affirm that there is no way to verify that the original has been found, even if we actually had it. This in itself is nothing new, but it is clear that most Christians have not considered that the theological foundation of the modern doctrine of inspiration, reflected in the Chicago Statement, is propped up on the assumption that the original can be found by modern textual criticism. The flaw with the modern doctrine of inspiration can be summarized in this statement:

The Bible is inspired insofar as individual texts can be proven original by textual criticism. Textual criticism is not trying to find the original nor can the methods prove that a text original, and therefore the Bible is not inspired. 

Since the mechanism of authenticating the Scriptures in the modern doctrine of inspiration is textual criticism, this must be the case. Until the axioms of modern textual criticism walk back from the language of “initial text” or rewrite the Chicago Statement, it doesn’t actually set forth a meaningful doctrinal position on inspiration. It actually demonstrates that the Bible isn’t inspired, because it cannot prove any text original. 

In order for the Scriptures to be preserved, these original texts must be preserved materially and in substance, and available to the people of God today. This concept of materially and substantially means that every word that comprises every thought is preserved. If any word has fallen away which results in the change or loss of meaning, then the Scriptures have not been preserved. The mainstream, “conservative” view is adequately represented by Daniel Wallace. 

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

(Gurry & Hixson, Myths and Mistakes, xii).

Here is the Big Lie of what is called “Evangelical Textual Criticism”: that the Bible can be inspired and preserved, while at the same time not existing in any original language text or translation. In other words, “The Bible” is inspired and preserved and perfect, we just don’t have it, and never will. This reality is very frequently avoided by employing rhetorical misdirects, ad hominem attacks on Erasmus and Beza, and reinterpretation of historical theology. The majority text and Received Text views on inspiration and preservation are absolutely irrelevant when it comes to resolving the contradictions with the modern view represented by the Chicago Statement. The fact is, the modern critical position on the text of Holy Scripture is untenable, and its logical end is that there is a “Bible,” we just don’t have it. 

This is not Scriptural. Any theological position that says that we do not have a Bible, is plainly, and clearly, heterodox.  

The Scriptural Case for Scripture

“GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”

(Heb. 1:1)
  1. God has spoken objectively in two ways, first through the fathers and the prophets in the Old Testament, and secondly by Jesus Christ in the last days
  2. This way of speaking was recorded in writing in the Old and New Testament

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 Tim. 3:16-17)
  1. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God
  2. The Scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation
  3. All Scriptures are profitable for all matters of faith and practice 
  4. Thus, all Scripture is given by God, and is purposed for the use of the salvation of men and for the further training of righteousness – all matters of faith and practice

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

(Mat. 5:18)
  1. All is not fulfilled yet because Christ has not returned
  2. One jot or one tittle shall not pass until all is fulfilled
  3. Therefore the mechanism of such fulfillment in the last days, the Scriptures, will not pass away until all be fulfilled (Heb. 1:1)

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

(Mat. 24:35)
  1. Christ’s words will not pass away
  2. Christ’s words are the way that God has spoken to the people of God in the last days
  3. Therefore, the manner of God speaking in the last days, Christ’s words, will not pass away

      “The words of the LORD are pure words:

      As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

      Thou shalt keep them, O LORD,

      Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”

(Ps. 12:6)
  1. The words of the Lord are kept by the Lord, and shall be preserved forever

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

(Jn. 10:27)
  1. God’s people hear his voice
  2. God has spoken in these last days through His Son, Jesus Christ 

There are two necessary conclusions that must be accepted by this argument and the supporting proofs. The first is that Christians must accept the doctrinal statement that the Scriptures are inspired, perfect, preserved, available, and identifiable. That means that any theological position which affirms that a) any part of the Scriptures has fallen away or b) that we do not know what those Scriptures are is a heretical position on the text of Holy Scripture. In the first place, to reject that the text of Scripture is not preserved is to affirm that the Scriptures are fallible, that God has lied. In the second place, to affirm that we do not know what those Scriptures are is to say that the way that God saves and sanctifies men is fallible, and God has failed in His purpose to save and preserve a people in every generation. 

The Disconnect Between the Scriptures and the Big Lie

The disconnect between this argument, the underlying Scriptural proofs, necessary conclusions, and the modern articulation of the doctrine of Scripture is that the modern doctrine affirms that a) parts of Scripture have fallen away, b) that the Scriptures are still preserved, and c) that this does not affect doctrine. Where the disconnect occurs is when both a) parts of Scripture have fallen away and b) that the Scriptures are preserved because c) this does not affect doctrine. C) cannot logically follow if a) and b) are both true. Therefore, those who adopt a), b), and c) adopt such a position in spite of the reality that c) cannot logically follow if both a) and b) are true. 

If it is true that the Word of God is inspired, perfect, and preserved, then it must follow that the preserved Scriptures are in fact available and identifiable to the people of God because the Scriptures are the means that God uses to save and sanctify men. Thus, the Scriptures are inspired, preserved, available, and identifiable. The Scriptures cannot be inspired and preserved and not available or identifiable, or they do not serve the purpose which God gives them, the salvation and sanctification of men. All of these must be true, or none are true. 

Now I will apply this argument that the Scriptures are inspired, preserved, available, and identifiable to the textual reality of manuscripts, printed original language texts, and translations of the Holy Scriptures. I will then demonstrate that the modern doctrine of Scripture is incompatible with this proof. 

The Demonstration

If a Christian believes that the Scriptures are inspired, preserved, available and identifiable, then he cannot hold to a position that affirms the modern doctrine of Scripture, which affirms that, “We do not have now – in our critical Greek texts or any translations – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain” (Myths and Mistakes, xii). 

This doctrinal position is affirmed by all of the top scholars in Evangelical New Testament Textual Criticism including Dan Wallace, Peter Gurry, Elijah Hixson, and Tommy Wasserman, to name a few. This doctrinal position is also affirmed by other scholars in textual criticism, including Bart Ehrman, DC Parker, and Eldon J. Epp. There are no textual scholars, to my knowledge, that would not affirm this theological statement, or affirm it with some additional nuance. 

This directly applies to manuscripts, printed original texts, and translations because it demonstrates the reality that modern evangelical scholars do not believe that the text of Holy Scripture is available or identifiable. If the Scriptures are not available or identifiable, they are not preserved. And if the Scriptures are not preserved, then they are necessarily not inspired, as the argument and proofs above demonstrate. Therefore, the modern doctrine of Scripture, as articulated by the evangelical textual scholars and associated apologists, is incompatible with Scripture. This being the case, it is clear that the text that these scholars and apologists argue as “best”, is necessarily not inspired, preserved, available, or identifiable. Thus, any Christian who adheres to such a doctrine and text must a) adopt the reality that “The Bible” is not preserved or b) argue that it is preserved despite the underlying theological position that it is not preserved. 

This is how this theological position is justified. In the modern doctrine of Scripture, “The Bible” is simply the pile of extant manuscripts, not one particular text. Since the differences between the manuscripts “do not affect doctrine,” this must be the case. 

The necessary conclusion of this position is that not only is a) the modern critical text(s) inspired and preserved, but b) that the Received Text is inspired and preserved. If the text of Holy Scripture is preserved but not totally available, and the texts that are available “Do not affect doctrine” between the two most different manuscripts, then one cannot both affirm that a) the text of Holy Scripture is inspired and b) the Received Text is not inspired. Theologically, Christians adhering to this position must defend the TR as inspired if they wish to defend the critical text as inspired. Since the entire critical text position is founded in the Received Text being fallible, those in the critical text camp cannot logically affirm both a) the critical text is inspired and b) the Received Text is inspired, or they have fundamentally undermined their own position and must admit that the Bible is not inspired, preserved, available, or identifiable.  

The major dilemma then, is that those in the critical text camp must paradoxically contend against a text that they must theologically affirm as inspired. Ironically, by affirming against the Received Text, critical text advocates are actually rejecting the inspiration of their own text. By continuing to argue against the Received Text while advocating for the critical text, one must admit that doctrine is changed, or the case for the critical text falls apart. The entire substance of the critical text argument is that the underlying manuscripts of the critical text are better. If these manuscripts are better, they must be better in material and substance. They must be better in meaning, or they are not better. The act of arguing for the supremacy of the critical text is an open admission that doctrine has been changed and that the Bible is not inspired, preserved, available, or identifiable.

If the critical text is based off of better manuscripts, a better doctrinal foundation, it must follow that the doctrine of inspiration and preservation must be rejected. The text of the church was flawed, now it’s better. In other words, God failed formerly, but is in the process of fixing His mistake over the last 200 years, and is not finished yet. 

Conclusion

The Scriptural and logical realities of adopting the Critical Text are severe for the modern church. It means that a great multitude of Christians have rejected inspiration by necessity of adopting the critical text while also rejecting the Received Text. Most Christians have done this simply because they trust the word of their favorite critical scholar or apologist. The reality of this modern doctrine is that one cannot Scripturally adhere to inspiration while also rejecting the Received Text. In other words, to reject the TR is to reject inspiration. In order to logically adopt inspiration and the critical text, one must also adopt the Received Text as equal to the critical text, or admit that doctrine has been changed, and thus admitting that the Bible is not inspired or preserved. Some side step this argument by saying, “The Received Text is inspired where it can be proven to be original”. This is not a logical response because the method of authentication that is being appealed to is not capable of identifying the original, nor does it claim to.

“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 and Mistakes, xii).

The practical reality is that there is no justification for this doctrine, nor is there a justification to attack the Received Text. In fact, when critical text advocates attack the Received Text, they are attacking their own doctrinal foundation for the text of Scripture. Critical text advocates can attack Erasmus, they can use the term “fundamentalist” and “KJV Onlyist” pejoratively, but these are not cogent arguments, they are rhetorical devices. Current articulations of the critical position on the text of Scripture cannot justify using the terms “original”, “inspired”, or “preserved” without redefining those words. 

This being the reality, modern scholars, apologists, and advocates will continue using the words “original”, “inspired”, and “preserved”, despite not having a theological framework that actually supports the use of such terms. This is the fundamental problem that needs to be solved. The problem with the critical text is not Erasmus, nor is it “fundamentalists”, nor is it “KJV Onlyists”. The problem is with the critical text theology itself.