Lesson Twelve: Deliberating the Arguments
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)
The foundations of mankind are philosophies, traditions (Col. 2:8), and science (1 Tim. 6:20). The reality, however, is that our very bedrock lies with the blessed Hope and His bountiful word (Heb. 11:1-3). What and how we think is not as important as what God says. How we view our world is not how God views it (Isa. 55:8). Therefore, if we are to know the truth of a matter, we must consider the words of God. Our duty, as pronounced by Christ, is to “search the scriptures.” The believers of Berea searched “the scriptures daily” to see if what was told them was so (Acts 17:11). It is with this duty in mind that we conclude our study regarding Biblical preservation and the Authorized Version. These are the closing arguments placed before us. However, in the final conclusion it will not be us who judge the word of God; but the word of God which judges us (Heb. 4:12-13).
The arguments for the Authorized Version as the preserved word of God for the English- speaking people will be considered later in this lesson. First, however, let us consider the arguments favoring modern textual criticism and weigh the attestations in light of the evidence and sacred Scripture itself. The majority of the arguments fall under the heading of textual evidences, or rationalizations concerning the manuscripts. Secondly, we find the arguments concerning translational simplicity and accuracy and the need, so it is avowed, for an easier or clearer translation.
The criteria for choosing which reading is original can be found in Burce Metzger’s book The Text of the New Testament. Metzger categorizes them as 1) External Evidence, and 2) Internal Evidence (Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968, pp. 209-210). External evidences relate to the date of the manuscript, its geographical distribution, and its relationship with other textual families. Internal evidences consider what the original writer was most likely to have written while taking into account his style and vocabulary, the context, and the passage’s harmony with other passages by the same writer. Additionally, textual critics will also consider, as internal evidences, the Aramaic background of the time of Christ, the emphasis placed on Mark’s gospel believing it to be the first, and the influence of the Church regarding the transmission of a certain passage. To consider every argument would be exhaustive. Nevertheless, we shall consider those which are more commonly used in the promotion of modern translations.
Sadly, none of what is proclaimed by textual critics considers the Sovereign hand of the Almighty God preserving His inerrant word or the sinister influence of a literal Devil seeking to pervert sacred Scripture. Without these considerations, we are doomed to view the word of God naturalistically and thus remove Divine influence upon the Holy Bible. We must also realize that the roots of higher criticism have their foundations in lower criticism.
OLDER AND BETTER MANUSCRIPTS
These two arguments often run together in the footnotes of many modern versions. They are not the same thing. Older is not always better, and the better are not the older. This must be the case for the modern textual critic or else once a text is determined to be the oldest his task of reconstructing the New Testament would cease. Further, as will be seen by example later, some of the older manuscripts reflect a mixed reading of textual families, consequently diminishing the overall emphasis placed on the Alexandrian textual line. For these and other reasons, scholarship must not claim that older is always better. Still, we find that the two do go hand-in-hand in justifying the rejection of the Traditional Text and the English Authorized Version.
Often the supporters of modern translations will point to the very old papyrus manuscripts. Defiantly as one reads Kurt Aland or Bruce Metzger the patronage for the readings found in the papyrus is apparent. Aland notes that since the 1930’s with the number of papyrus manuscripts found they have, “held an almost magical charm, not only for the general public but for New Testament scholars as well, though with no real justification.” (Kurt and Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987, p. 84.) The early papyrus were discovered in Egypt, south of the Delta region, from such places as Oxyrhynchos, Atfih (Aphroditopolis), and Heracleopolis, off the Nile River. It is also rather ironic that these great papyrus were located in rubbish heaps. (Eldon Jay Epp, “A Dynamic View of Textual Transmission,” in Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism, eds. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993, p. 279.) This causes us to wonder if they were discarded because they were worn by use, or because they were considered corrupted. In either case, these are the oldest known manuscripts we have to date.
Although most of these papyri are fragmentary, others contain large sections of Scripture and have been given very early dates by paleographers. For example, p75 (containing part of Luke and John) dates from 175 to 225 AD, p66 (containing part of John) dates to about 200 AD, p46 (containing part of Romans and the Pauline epistles) likewise dates to about 200 AD, and p52 (a small fragment containing only John 18:31-33 and 37-38) is considered the oldest manuscript dating to 125 AD. Added to this are Alexandrian uncials of the late third and early fourth centuries (such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus). Further, modern textual critics will point out that Byzantine manuscripts (or the Traditional Greek Text) are not found until about the fourth century with the vast majority of their manuscripts not dating until the ninth century and onward. (Ibid., 82. Also, this chart of Aland’s has been reproduced in James White’s book, The King James Only Controversy, Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995, p. 188.) The argument seems to be a very good one. After all, if we have manuscripts which date closer to the original writings it would seem logical that they are closer in content as well. There is, however, more to be considered.
The four papyri mentioned above are very old indeed. The fact that these manuscripts seem to have originated in Egypt, or at least survived there, and as with other Alexandrian manuscripts were not used by the majority of believers throughout the existence of the Church does not carry much weight with textual scholars. Nor does the fact that these manuscripts are not in agreement. In fact, the early papyrus although considered Alexandrian in nature, really reflect a mixed text with many Byzantine and Western readings within them. Consequently, Aland has labeled p46 and p66 as “free,” (Aland, p. 99-100.) and Metzger simply calls p66 “mixed.” (Metzger, p. 254.) In his introduction to the Chester Beatty Papryi (which contains p46), Sir Frederic Kenyon likewise observes the mixed nature of the early papryi. Speaking of them, Kenyon notes, “On the one hand, it is not an out-and- out supporter of the ‘Neutral’ or Vatican type of text; but neither is it, on the other hand, an out-and-out supporter of the ‘Western’ type.” (Sir. Frederic G. Kenyon, The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri:Fasciculus I, London: Emory Walker, 1933, p. 16.)
In fact, Dr. Eldon Epp has said the study of the papyri, “is largely an exercise in historical-critical imagination.” (Epp, p. 274.) Notwithstanding, while debating the originality of this or that text, modern scholars will often cite these papyri manuscripts and their age as proof of their arguments when these papyri support their point of view.
This is illustrated by Professor James White in his support of the Alexandrian reading found in John 1:18. As the reader recalls from lesson eleven, this verse concerns the differences in the phrases, “only begotten Son” (Gk: monogenes huios), and “only begotten God” (Gk: monogenes theos). White argues:
Suffice it to say that the most ancient texts, including the oldest existing copies of the book of John, p66 and p75, as well as a number of the early fathers of the church, refer to Christ as the “only-begotten God,” or more accurately, the “unique God.” (White, pp. 199-200.)
In truth, the majority of the early Church Fathers used the phrase “only begotten Son” in regard to John 1:18. Our point here, however, is that White supports his preference for the reading “monogenes theos” because “the oldest existing copies of the book of John” have this reading. Yet, their age gives way when these papyri manuscripts agree with the Traditional Text against those found in the Alexandrian Text.
For example, in John 4:1 the Alexandrian manuscripts of Sinaiticus (4th century), Bezae (Codex D, 6th century) and Q (9th century) have the reading “Iesous” (Jesus) while the Traditional Text reads, “kurios” (Lord). The vast majority of all Greek manuscripts agree with the reading found in the Authorized Version. Further, we find the reading “kurios” in Vaticanus (4th century), Alexandrinus (5th century), Codex C (5th century), and the majority of uncial manuscripts. Thus it is no surprise to find both p66 and p75 with the reading “kurios.” Nevertheless, this reading is rejected in the United Bible Societies Greek Text in favor of the reading found in Sinaiticus. Consequently, modern translations such as the NIV and NRSV forsake the early manuscripts in favor of Sinaiticus. There are, of course, many other examples of this sort.
There are also many places where p66 and p75 differ with each other. In such cases, p66 is sometimes chosen, while at other times p75 is cited. The point being that there are several places where these papyri manuscripts agree with the Traditional Text as presented in our English King James Bible over the readings found in the Alexandrian Text and its reflective modern English versions.
Dr. Wilbur Pickering cites the studies of textual scholars Ernest Colwell, Eldon Epp, and Albertus Klijn noting where the papyri agree with the Textus Receptus (TR) against the Alexandrian Text. By using portions in John 10 and 11 where p45, p66 and p75 agree and where Vaticanus and Sinaiticus differ (a total of 43 places), Klijn found the following: 32 times p45 agrees with the TR, 24 times it agrees with Vaticanus, and only 19 does it agree with Sinaiticus. 33 times p66 agrees with the TR, 29 times with Vaticanus, and only 14 times does it agree with Sinaiticus. While p75 agrees with the TR 29 times, Vaticanus 33 times, and Sinaiticus 9 times. (Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977, pp. 54-56.) It should therefore become painfully clear that those who resort to the age of a manuscript to correct the King James Bible are not consistent in using the older manuscripts.
To the above, we may add the study completed by Dr. Gordon D. Fee concerning Codex Sinaiticus and how it relates to other manuscripts and Greek texts. (Gordon D. Fee, “Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A contribution to methodology in establishing textual relationships,” in Studies In The Theory And Method Of New Testament Textual Criticism, pp. 221- 243.) In his study, Dr. Fee notes several passages in the Gospel of John where Codex Sinaiticus agrees or disagrees with p66, p75, the TR, and some other witnesses. In John chapter four, for example, Fee notes that out of 61 possible textual variations, the TR agrees with p66 a total of 37 times, or 60.6% of the time. Interestingly, p66 agrees with Codex Sinaiticus only 21 times or 34.4% of the time, illustrating that the TR is closer to p66 in this chapter than is Sinaiticus. It is also interesting to note that p75 showed a stronger relationship with the Traditional Text than it did with Codex Sinaiticus; however, its strongest relationship is clearly with Codex Vaticanus. The agreement with p75 among these texts is as follows: TR=32 times or 52.5%. Sinaiticus=19 times or 31.05. Vaticanus=52 times or 85.2%. (Ibid., p. 228.)
Dr. Fee then broadens the study to cover John chapters 1 through 8, with a total of 320 possible textual variations. The statistics show a strong relation between the Traditional Text and the very old manuscripts of p66. In fact, the TR and p66 agree 50.9% of the time when there are textual variations. Comparing p66 with Sinaiticus we find they agree only 43.7% of the time. (Ibid., p. 233.)
All of this information shows that within the very old manuscripts we find variants which occur in the Traditional Text long before the establishing of the Byzantine Text in the fourth century. Dr. Fee, who supports modern textual criticism, has in fact stated that in the oldest manuscripts we have Byzantine readings. He admits to this in a different article refuting Dr. Wilbur Pickering:
Pickering regularly talks about Byzantine readings as being earlier than Chrysostom–and he is right. That is, readings that eventually become the text of the majority can often be shown to have existed as early as the second century. . . p66, for example, is said to have Byzantine readings. In a sense this is correct in that p66 –and even p75 on rare occasions–is now the earliest evidence for a variant away from the Egyptian text-type that is later to be found in the Majority text. But in comparison with places where p66 reads with the Egyptians against the Byzantines, these “Byzantine” readings are of little consequence; and above all else they do not render p66 a Majority text MS.” (Ibid., “The Majority Text and the Original Text of the NT”, p. 201.)
Our point here is not that the papyri manuscripts are Majority texts manuscripts, but only that one can find textual support for variant readings within these very old manuscripts which support the readings found in the Traditional Text. Further, this allows the student to cite these manuscripts with just as much fervor when these manuscripts support the readings found in the King James Bible. Finally, we can also see that these old papyri manuscripts are not hard-line support for the Alexandrian text, because we find them varying from that family in a number of places. Therefore, when one argues from the perspective of “older manuscripts” the consistency is often lacking.
Before moving on, one additional note should be made at this juncture. Dr. Pickering has made a marvelous observation concerning the prejudice of modern textual scholars regarding their views of textual criticism. He writes:
Whenever an early witness surfaces it is declared to be “Alexandrian” or “Western” or “Caesarean” and thereupon those “Syrian” (i.e. Byzantine) readings which it contains cease to be “pure Syrian” and are no longer allowed as evidence. Such a procedure is evidently useful to defenders of Hort’s theory, but is it right?” (Pickering, p. 71.)
The “logic” of modern textual scholars is this: There are no Byzantine manuscripts before the fourth century when Lucian of Syria conflated the various readings and produced what became the Byzantine or Traditional Text. We know this is true because we have no Byzantine readings before the middle of the fourth century, but we do have Alexandrian and Western readings. Therefore, any second century reading which supports the third or fourth century readings of the Alexandrian line are considered important and are offered as proof that these textual lines are more original than the Byzantine line. However, if a reading is found in these very same manuscripts which agrees with the fourth century Byzantine reading, it is considered unimportant and unconsequential. The bigotry against the Traditional Text is clearly seen.
The student of textual criticism will notice that there is a unanimous disregard for the Byzantine text. This is noted by supporters of modern translations and their related Greek texts. Dr. Frederik Wisse writes: “(Kurt) Aland also is not interested in the Byzantine text as such, but only in MSS which significantly diverge from the Byzantine text.” (Frederik Wisse, The Profile Method For Classifying And Evaluating Manuscript Evidence, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982, p. 21.) The point is that among such textual scholars the Alexandrian family of manuscripts is considered closer to the original and therefore better. The Byzantine or Traditional Text is considered a conflation (i.e. a mixing or joining) of the Alexandrian and Western texts in the fourth century by Lucian at Antioch in Syria.
This Lucian Recension is considered as much of a fact as evolution is among humanists. However, both are nothing more than theories. The truth is, apart from the promise of Scripture, we simply do not know which text is original and which one is corrupt. Theoretically, it is just as scholastically valid to argue that despite the absence of early Byzantine manuscripts it still reflects the original autographs much better than the Alexandrian line does. Since the Scriptures were meant to be used and read, we would expect these texts to ware out sooner than texts which were considered corrupt and therefore not used by the majority of Christians during the first three hundred years of the existence of the Church. Further, considering the arid conditions of Egypt we would expect these not as often used manuscripts to last longer. Arguing against this, Dr. Donald A. Carson states:
This ingenious theory is quite untenable for at least the following reasons: (1) Although it may explain why the autographs disappeared, it cannot explain why there are no extant copies of manuscripts with Byzantine text- type from before the fourth century. If such manuscripts were handled and copied so much that they wore out, then many copies must have been made. Why have none of them survived? (2) The ante-Nicene father unambiguously cited every text-type except the Byzantine. Therefore defenders of the “worn-out manuscripts” hypothesis must not only base this hypothesis on an argument from silence (there are no early manuscripts with Byzantine text-type), but also pit it against the hard data that the early fathers never unambiguously cited from it. Is it not eminently more reasonable to conclude that manuscripts with Byzantine text simply did not exist for the first 250-300 years of the church’s life? (3) If they did exist, who was wearing them out? If the fathers did not cite the Byzantine text-type, who then was handling these alleged manuscripts so frequently and thoughtlessly that they wore out? (D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism , Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, p. 47.)
Dr. Carson’s arguments reflect the thoughts of modern textual scholars. His arguments, however, are mistaken.
Carson’s first point is that the Traditional Text could not have existed before the fourth century because we have none, and that if there were a great many produced by the Church why have none survived instead of being worn out? To begin with, we have citations from the Church Fathers and from other early translations which contain Byzantine readings. Further, we have already seen where the early papyri reflect a mixed line themselves with Byzantine readings in them. There is also something else to consider. Carson asks, “If such manuscripts were handled and copied so much that they wore out, then many copies must have been made. Why have none of them survived?” Of course, the opposite would also be true, would it not? If the Alexandrian text is original, or closer to the original, and it were multiplied greatly among the early Church, why is it that only a few copies have survived? Where are the abundance of second century manuscripts supporting the Alexandrian line found outside of Egypt? Or, as we have already noted, why is it that the second century papyri of Egypt are not pure Alexandrian?
Carson’s second point that the ante-Nicene fathers did not cite the Byzantine text but did every other text is ambiguous and somewhat absurd. Early in our studies we showed that Ignatius (d. 107 AD) cited 1 Timothy 3:16 as it stands in the Traditional Text. Polycarp (d. 155 AD) cites 1 John 4:3 as we have it in the Byzantine line and the Authorized Version. Also, his citations of Romans 14:10 and Galatians 4:26 do not reflect the Alexandrian readings, but the readings found in the Byzantine manuscripts of the ninth century and onward. Additionally, the early Church Father’s preferred the reading “only begotten Son” instead of “only begotten God” in John 1:18, again agreeing with the Traditional Text.
Consider the following examples from the four gospels. In each case the reading is Byzantine and is not found in the early Greek texts before the fourth century nor in the reading used in the critical Greek texts. Yet, each reading has its support in either Apostolic or ante-Nicene times with more than one early church source.
“They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.” (KJV)
“They gave him wine to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted it, he would not drink.” (ASV)
“Pierces all round; and to the tree Himself Is fixed; wine drugged with myrrh, is drunk, and gall Is mixt with vinegar; parted His robe, And in it lots are cast; what for himself Each one hath seized he keeps; in murky gloom,” (Tertullian–220 AD, General Reply To Sundry of Marcion’s Heresies, p. 230. Likewise, this is so cited by Irenaeus, Celsus, Origen, Eusebius, the Gospel of Peter and the Epistle of Barnabas.)
“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (KJV)
“Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way.” (ASV)
“Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, . . .’ Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; ” (Irenaeus –202 AD, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book III: Chapt. 10:5. This is likewise cited by Origen, Porphyry, Eusebius, and Titus of Bostra.)
“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” (KJV)
“And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee.” (ASV)
“I recognize, too, the angel Gabriel as having been sent to ‘a virgin.’ But when he is blessing her, it is ‘among women,’ not among virgins, that he ranks her: ‘Blessed (be) thou among women.’ The angel withal knew that even a virgin is called a woman.” (Tertullian–220 AD, On The Veiling of Virgins, Chapter 6. Also cited by Africanus, Eusebius, Ephraem, and in the Diatessaron).
“For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” (KJV)
This verse is omitted in modern versions.
“And there were laid in them much people of the sick, and blind, and lame, and paralysed, waiting for the moving of the water. And the angel from time to time went down into the place of bathing, and moved the water; and the first that went down after the moving of the water, every pain that he had was healed. And a man was there who had a disease for thirty-eight years.” (Tatian’s Diatessaron, Section 22: 12-14. 2nd century. Additionally, this is also cited by Tertullian, Ambrose, Didymus, and Chrysostom).
When confronted with such evidence, there are usually two responses. First, it will be noted that the readings which agree with the Traditional Text are not purely Byzantine. However, it is hard to find a Church Father who was purely Western or Alexandrian. Origen, for example, has been shown to use Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine texts throughout his writings. Dr. Edward Hills has noted this in reference to the first fourteen chapters of St. John:
Hence, contrary to the assertions of the naturalistic critics, the distinctive readings of the Traditional (Byzantine) Text were known to Origen, who sometimes adopted them, though perhaps not usually. Anyone can verify this by scanning the apparatus of Tischendorf . . . out of 52 instances in which the Traditional Text stands alone Origen agrees with the Traditional Text 20 times and disagrees with it 32 times. These results make the position of the critics that Origen knew nothing of the Traditional Text difficult indeed to maintain. (Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, 1956; reprint, Des Moines: The Christian Research Press, 1984, pp. 171-172.)
Secondly, the response by textual critics will often state that the editions of the Church Fathers has been altered throughout time in order to correspond with the Traditional Text. In regard to Patristic quotations, Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote:
. . . even when the earliest manuscripts of an author have been consulted, we cannot always be sure that we have his Scriptural quotations in their original form. In no part of his text is corruption so likely to creep in as here. A scribe who recognized a quotation from its first words would be only too likely to write it down from memory, without looking too closely at the MS. before him, and so would give it in the form in which it was current in his own day, instead of in that which his author actually used. Or, supposing he noticed that the form of the quotation was unfamiliar, he might very probably alter it into what he believed to be the true form. (Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament, London: Macmillan and Co., 1926, p. 244.)
Thus, with such argumentation built on supposition, citations of the early Church Fathers which match the Traditional Text are dismissed. However, the argument does not stand in the light of evidence. Again, referring to Origen’s use of the Traditional Text, Hills notes:
In these chapters (John 1-14) 7 out of 20 “distinctively” Traditional readings which occur in Origen occur also in Papyrus 66 and/or in Papyrus 75. These 7 readings at least must have been Origen’s own readings, not those of the scribes who copied Origen’s works, and what is true of these 7 readings is probably true of the other 13, or at least of most of them. Thus it can hardly be denied that the Traditional Text was known to Origen and that it influenced the wording of his New Testament quotations. (Hills, p. 172.)
Nor does Kenyon’s prejudice against the Traditional Text explain the following example. Saint Hippolytus (235 AD) quotes all of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. His citation shows a mixture of both Alexandrian and Byzantine readings. We find Hippolytus using Alexandrian phrases such as, “the day of the Lord is at hand” instead of the Traditional Text, “the day of Christ is at hand.” We also find the reading, “so that he sitteth in the temple of God” instead of “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God” (KJV). These readings would cause one to claim that Hippolytus was citing the Alexandrian Text. However, we also have Byzantine readings. For example, he speaks of, “the son of perdition” (Gk: amartias) instead of the Alexandrian, “man of lawlessness” (Gk: anomias). He also uses the future tense in stating, “God shall send” (Gk: pemyei) instead of the present, “God sends” (Gk: pempei). What is even more interesting is a mixture of both lines in one phrase. The Alexandrian Text reads, “whom the Lord Jesus will slay.” The Traditional Text reads, “whom the Lord shall consume.” Hippolytus writes, “whom the Lord Jesus shall consume.” If a scribe were changing the text, why did he use such a mixed reading?
Finally, Dr. Carson’s third point loses much of his argument. He asks, “If they (i.e. Byzantine Texts before the fourth century) did exist, who was wearing them out?” The answer is apparent; the believers who used them wore them out. Carson further asks, “If the fathers did not cite the Byzantine text-type, who then was handling these alleged manuscripts so frequently and thoughtlessly that they wore out?” The fathers were using them as were the early believers. However, simply because they wore out does not reflect thoughtlessness. I personally have worn out leather bound Bibles printed on high quality paper. When you use something, it tends to wear faster than things not used.
Immediately before stating his three objections to the idea that used manuscripts tend to wear out faster than unused manuscripts, Carson argues against the use of a Byzantine exemplar before the fourth century. An exemplar was the master copy used by scribes to reproduce the text they are working on. However, our study of Old Testament textual criticism shows that it is not at all hard to believe. In fact, it is not only possible but is very likely. The Jewish scribes who copied the Masoretic Text used an exemplar and then destroyed the exemplar once it had served its purpose. He did this out of respect for the text, much as a dedicated serviceman would bury an old and worn flag.
Further, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we see that it is possible for a textual line to have no evidence of existence for almost one-thousand years and yet remain faithful to its textual family. After all, until we discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and the manuscripts found at Wadi Murabbaat in 1951, all we had of the Masoretic family came from the middle ages. Even if we did not have citations from the early Church Fathers or early translations of Scripture reflecting the Traditional Text, it is not impossible to believe in a two-hundred-fifty year gap in light of a thousand-year one.
The Need For Simplicity
The objection which is often proclaimed is that the King James Bible is difficult to read. Therefore, we must have a translation written for today’s reader in order to expound the Word of God to our generation. In fact, this objection is so well established that it is hardly questioned; and those who do question it are ridiculed for even suggesting that the Authorized Version is not as difficult as some would have us believe. This is illustrated by James White and his comments concerning the changes in the English language. He writes:
The fact that languages change over time is one of the strongest arguments for either the revision of older translations of the Bible, or for completely new translations. It is difficult to understand how KJV Only advocates can resist the logic of the reality that the KJV is written in a form of English that is not readily understandable to people today. It is amazing to listen to people honestly asserting that they think the KJV is “easier to read” than the modern versions. Surely they must realize that this is so for them only because of their familiarity with the AV, not because it is, in fact, easier to read! But no, it is actually asserted that the KJV is the simplest, easiest to read version of the Bible. (White, p. 234.)
Brother White is correct in stating that languages change. However, this does not give us the right to change the text of Scripture or ignore the foundation of our own language in the name of revision. The same goal could be easily reached, and has been, in the number of King James Study Bibles which have footnotes or marginal notes to explain antiquated words or theological terms. Nor is the claim that the KJV is not “readily understandable to people today” entirely truthful. Just as one could point to examples of where an individual has difficulty with the English of the KJV, one could also point to examples where individuals with little or no formal education took to reading the KJV and understood it. After all, although language does change, our English language has not so drastically changed since the 1860’s that we could not understand the literature and communication of that day. Yet it was during this time that the newly freed slaves who had no formal education taught themselves how to read from the pages of the King James Bible. Finally, the point raised by those of us who believe the Authorized Version to be the preserved word of God for the English-speaking people is not that it is easier to read than modern versions, but that it is a spiritual book and cannot be fully understood without the help of the Author.
To illustrate his point, White borrows from Dr. Jack Lewis and provides several examples of difficult readings in the King James Bible. (Ibid., p. 237. Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981, pp. 53-54.) Although Lewis has several other examples, the following are the ones Professor White provides for us as evidence of the difficult readings in the Authorized Version.
“And Mt. Sinai was altogether on a smoke”–Exod. 19:18
“Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing”–Ps. 5:6
“Nevertheless even him [Solomon] did outlandish women cause to sin”–Neh.13:26
“Solomon loved many strange women”–1 Kings 11:1
“The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market”–Ezek. 27:25
“We do you to wit of the grace of God”–2 Cor. 8:1
These are good examples and do show the change in our English language. However, each case could be explained with footnotes or a good English dictionary. Further, there is something else which should be considered – namely the difficult readings in modern versions. Consider the following from the NIV:
“Waheb in Suphah and the ravines,”–Numb. 21:14
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days”–Gen. 6:4
“Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis”–Acts 27:17
“The meeting of the Areopagus”–Acts 17:22
“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium”–Matt. 27:27
“He agreed to pay them a denarius”–Matt. 20:2
Although these examples display names, places, and Greek currency, they are more difficult to understand than their English counterpart found in the Authorized Version. However, in either list there needs to be a greater overview of the translations as a whole and not isolated examples. Once we do this, we find the King James is more difficult than modern translations in its usage of the English language, but it is not so difficult as that it has lost all meaning or comprehension.
This is proven, not by supporters of the KJV but by advocates of modern translations themselves. Dr. John R. Kohlenberger III has provided for us a chart posting the reading level of several English translations. The chart reflects the work of Dr. Linda H. Parrish and Dr. Donna Norton of Texas A & M University. The chart grants the TEV with a 7.29 reading grade level. The NIV received a 7.80 reading grade level, while the NASV received an 11.55 reading grade level. The highest reading grade level was 12.00 and given to the KJV. (John R. Kohlenberger III, All About Bibles, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 12.) This would mean that anyone who graduated from high school should be able to read this “outdated” version.
We must also pause and ask ourselves where we are to draw the line. Do we reject the readability of the KJV and embrace the NASV as easier to read because it is half-grade lower? Do we stop with the NIV’s 7.80 grade readability level? What if someone cannot read at the seventh grade level? Do we lower the standard even more? Do we take the approach which modern educators have been faced with and “dumb-down” our language or do we seek to raise the standard higher? Are we, for example, ready to produce an Ebonics Version of the Bible? If so, do we then produce a version of the Bible for other groups which misuse the English language? These are important questions when it comes to readability. After all, historically the Church has always sought to raise the educational level of the masses, not lower it.
To further this we have a problem with modern means for establishing grade reading levels such as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula. Such a method provides the KJV with a lower readability score than that of 12.00. Using this method, let us put the six chapters provided by White to the test. Although White supplies a portion of a verse from these chapters, we will use the whole chapter in order to provide an overall reading. My computer is fitted with “Grammatik” by WordPerfect. All one need do is insert any passage of literature or writing and Grammatik using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula will provide a grade level of readability. When this is done, we find the following:
Exodus 19:1-25 produced a 3.89 readability level with a complexity level of 52%.
Psalm 5:1-12 produced a 5.92 readability level with a complexity level of 55%.
Nehemiah 13:1-31 produced a 6.89 readability level with a complexity level of 58%.
1 Kings 11:1-43 produced a 6.59 readability level with a complexity level of 57%.
Ezekiel 27:1-36 produced a 5.90 readability level with a complexity level of 55%.
2 Corinthians 8:1-24 produced a 6.29 readability level with a complexity level of 56%.
While modern versions still have a lower readability level on these passages, it is clear that the KJV is very readable, at least according to this method. At any rate, it should be noted that rather the grade reading level is based on vocabulary (Drs. Perrish and Norton) or word count (Flesch- Kincaid) the Authorized Version is not as difficult for the reading public as supporters of modern versions would have us believe.
THE KING JAMES AUTHORIZED VERSION
We must now take up the question as to why we believe the King James Bible is the promised and preserved word of God for the English-speaking world. Although this question has been addressed many times throughout the discourse of our study of the issue, some specifics should be noted as we face the conclusion of our study.
The fundamental reason deals with the pledge of Biblical preservation. Scripture, as we have seen, promises us that God will keep and preserve His words from generation to generation (Psalm 12:6-7). Although the Psalm does not state that the King James Bible is this preserved word, it does provide us the scriptural basis for which we make our claim for Biblical preservation.
Sadly, those of us who believe in the literal fulfillment regarding Biblical preservation are often misstated or misrepresented. Hence allowing the opponents of Biblical preservation to ridicule our stated position. Questions such as, “what about those who do not speak English?”, or “what about Bibles before 1611?”, or “did our knowledge of Biblical languages freeze in the 17th century?” all show either a gross misunderstanding or a deliberate perversion of Biblical preservation. The very definition of this term demands the existence of the perfect word of God long before 1611. Further, it permits any language at any time to have the preserved words without error, for Biblical preservation does not demand the Scriptures remain in the original languages. In fact, it would permit the preserved words of God to be translated into many languages throughout the history of the Church as God raised up those who proclaimed His word. It calls for a belief in the Biblical declaration found in Psalm 12, and sees this promise fulfilled though the ages. Thus it gives to the Church of God the Holy Scriptures as our final authority.
By this doctrine, we proclaim God has kept His words from generation to generation. This statement can be made with full Scriptural authority because this is the proclamation of the Scriptures themselves (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23; Psalm 12:6-7). For those who speak English, the only candidate which presents itself as the fulfillment of these Scriptural promises is the Authorized Version. Further, as we shall see, this was the position of the KJV translators which has been vindicated by history. Nevertheless, anyone is free to believe another translation or text is the fulfillment of this Biblical promise concerning preservation. But their candidate would also need to have the witness of time showing the blessings of the Lord in order to substantiate the claim.
We cannot compromise the doctrine of Biblical preservation by generalizing its truth in stating that this was accomplished by the Bible itself, in that it has existed throughout the history of the Church despite those who would seek to destroy it. Such a statement does not fulfill the promise of Psalm 12, for it is not the “word” which is to be preserved, but the “words”, thereby keeping the Bible as a whole.
Neither can we accept the theory espoused by modern conservatives that the words have been preserved, but are in a variety of manuscripts for scholarship to reconstruct as best as possible. Although this makes the reader of such a proclamation feel secure that they have the best available translation in one or more editions, when tested its fallacy is seen. How can we honestly proclaim that the words have been preserved, even when the manuscripts differ, because the true reading is in one of them and at the same time note examples of where there is no reading at all because the manuscripts have decayed? We have, for example, already noted that in 1 Samuel 13:1 conservative scholars write, “the original numbers in this verse have apparently been lost in transmission.” (Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, Chicago: Moody Press, 1976, p. 432.) Does this not contradict the conservative point of view concerning Biblical preservation? How can the reading be truly preserved in one or more manuscripts, when no known manuscript has the reading?
Nor is the example found in 1 Samuel 13 an isolated incident (however, we would only need one example to disprove this misconception of Biblical preservation). In 1 Samuel 6:19 we are told “fifty thousand and threescore and ten men” which were slain. Dr. Charles Ryrie notes, “The number 50,070 is doubted by conservative scholars and is probably a copyist’s error. The number in the LXX and writings of Josephus is 70.” (Ibid., p. 423.) So do we support the reading by the LXX? If so, we have a problem because Dr. Ryrie is mistaken here. The LXX reads, “and the Lord smote among them seventy men, and fifty thousand men:” which equals 50,070 as we find in the KJV. It is extremely common in Old Testament passages where there is a problem with locations, names, or numbers to find conservative scholars blaming the faulty Hebrew manuscript on copyist error. If in any given place, all Hebrew texts have the same copyist error, does this not remove the false presentation of Biblical preservation promoted by conservative scholarship?
No, the promise of Biblical preservation must stand firm. If we are to be Biblical, we must avow that God has kept His words free from error throughout the generations even as He has promised. Since, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6) and we are, “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23), we must believe that God’s words remain error free. Is it too much to believe that God is able to keep and preserve His words without error from the time He gave them until now? If we are to believe this, then we must also be willing to produce a Bible which fulfills the Biblical promise. The supporters of the Authorized Version can do so, but the supporters of modern translations are sadly lacking.
The Fullness Of Time And The Witness Of History
The Scriptures teach that God does things at just the right time. Concerning Jesus Christ, we are told that when, “the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,” (Gal. 4:4). Also, the Scriptures teach all things will be accomplished by Christ, “in the dispensation of the fulness of times” (Eph. 1:10). God does things right on time. There are no coincidences in regard to Christ. He fulfills things according to His purpose and in regard to His timing. What is true of the Living Word is reflected in the written word. The Authorized Version came into being at just the right time. If we are to believe in the Sovereignty of God, we must also believe His hand was in it by providing the world’s most loved translation of the Bible.
Before the late 16th century and the early 17th century, the church in power was the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism forbid the reading of the Bible in any other language but Latin. However, by the late 16th and early 17th century the Protestant Church was a force and the major religious basis in the English-speaking world. At this time, when the King James Bible was translated, the printing press was being refined, England was on the threshold of becoming an Empire to reach to whole world, and the Protestant Reformation was in full force. Additionally, the English language was being developed of which the KJV was to play a major part.
About a hundred and fifty years before the King James Bible was printed, Bibles were all written by hand. The only copies of God’s word available were handwritten. One can begin to imagine the impossible task of reaching out to the world when all Scripture had to be copied in such a fashion. By the 17th century printed books were common and the desire of individual Christians to have their own copy of Scripture was rapidly growing. This is one of the reasons why the Geneva Bible was so popular. It allowed the common Englishman to have a copy of God’s word in his language. However, modern English was just being established and England had yet to gain world power.
At the time of the King James Bible, the English language was moving from Middle English to Modern English. This is something most people do not consider but should. Our English language is divided into three periods. Old English, which dates from about 700 to 1100 AD; Middle English, dating from 1100 to 1500 AD; and Modern English which dates from 1500 to the present. (Marjorie Anderson and Blanche C. Williams, Old English Handbook, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935, pp. 6-7.) Dr. James H. Murray of the Encyclopedia Britannica dates the English language in this fashion: Old English 1100-1200; Early Middle English 1200- 1300; Late Middle English 1300-1400; Transition Middle English 1400-1485; Early Modern English or “Tudor English” 1485-1611; and Modern English 1611 onward.(cited from William Rosenau,Hebraisms In The Authorized Version, Baltimore: The Friedenwald Company, 1903, p. 28.) This would bring the beginning of our modern language at the very time of the King James Bible.
Not only is the KJV by definition a modern English Bible, but it is the only one which helped develop the language we currently speak! It should be noted that all other versions are shaped by our language; however, our language was shaped by the King James Bible. Drs. Fred Craddock and Gene Tucker have noted, “. . . the Authorized Version. . . not only influenced literature, but also shaped the development of (our) language.” (Encrate, Microsoft 1995 ed.) The Compton’s Encyclopedia states, “it is rightly regarded as the most influential book in the history of English civilization. . .” (Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded form America Online, May 26, 1996.) Dr. William Rosenau has written of the KJV that:
It was the most remarkable undertaking in the history of English language. Produced by royal decree, and soon after accepted by the English church, it was bound to make itself felt. It molded new forms and phrases, which, while foreign to the English, became with it flesh and bone.” (Rosenau, p. 31.)
Although its beauty has been compared to the writings of Shakespeare, it is vastly more easily read than Shakespeare and has had equal influence upon our native tongue.
The King James Bible was published in the year Shakespeare began work on his last play, The Tempest. Both the play and the Bible are masterpieces of English, but there is one crucial difference between them. Whereas Shakespeare ransacked the lexicon, the King James Bible employs a bare 8000 words–God’s teaching in homely English for everyman. From that day to this, the Shakespearian cornucopia and the biblical iron rations represent, as it were, the North and South Poles of the language, reference points for writers and speakers throughout the world, from the Sakespearian splendor of a Joyce or a Dickens to the biblical rigor of a Bunyan, or a Hemingway.” (Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, The Story Of English, New York: Viking Penguin Inc, 1986, p. 113. This book is a companion to the PBS television series on the history of the English language.)
For the Believer, this truth of the history and effect the KJV has had on our language not only speaks of its great literary value, but of the Divine hand upon it which shaped not just our language, but our culture and thought.
Nor should it be overlooked that King James himself was used by God not only to permit the work of translation to proceed, but in his own arrogance helped in sending the Pilgrims to the New World. The Mayflower Compact is addressed to King James I of England as these Protestant came to what became the United States of America because of their desire for religious freedom. Although the Puritans loved the Geneva Bible and brought it with them, by 1637 the King James Bible had replaced it throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (editiors), The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, New York: Oxford University Press: 1982, pp. 27-33.) In fact, the KJV was “universally accepted” in the New Word “as the word of God and no question was raised as to its infallibility.” (Oliver Perry Chitwood, A History of Colonial America, New York: Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1961 ed., p. 441.)
The world was ruled by England, and with them the English took the King James Bible. The Greek text of the Protestant Reformation was now placed in the English tongue. Once this was established, history reveals one of the greatest evangelical periods known to the Church. Momentous revivals such as the ones in Wells, Ireland, Scotland, England, and the Great Awakening in the United States were preached by English-speaking pulpiteers proclaiming Biblical truths from the Authorized Version. Various denominations were formed and united in the preaching which derived from this one English translation, something no other translation has ever done. In order to reject the King James Bible as the preserved word of God for the English-speaking people, one would have to divorce the Sovereignty of God and the blessings of the Authorized Version. Truly, all this occurred in the fullness of time.
The Testimony Of The Translators
Next, we should consider the testimony of the translators themselves. Although their testimony is often ignored and even twisted at times, it stands as a unique tribute to their enterprise. Contrary to the thoughts of others, consider for yourself the affirmation of the KJV translators.
In the second paragraph in the original preface, which was entitled The Translators To The Reader, the King James translators make an interesting comparison. In addressing the criticism raised by the Roman Catholic Church for translating the Bible into the native tongue of the people, the translators compare their work to David bringing the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem, and Solomon building the temple of God, both of whom received criticism for their efforts. The preface reads:
David was a worthy prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds, and yet for as worthy an act as ever he did (even for bringing back the ark of God in solemnity) he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife. Solomon was greater than David, though not in virtue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdom he built a temple to the Lord, such a one as was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all? We doubt of it. Otherwise, why do thy lay it in his son’s dish, and call unto him for easing of the burden? . . . So hard a thing it is to please all, even when we please God best, and do seek to approve ourselves to everyone’s conscience. (Miles Smith, The Translators To The Reader, 1611; reprint, London: The Trinitarian Bible Society, 1911, p. 7.)
This is followed in the third paragraph by comparing the criticism for their work on the Authorized Version with the criticism raised against Moses of the Old Testament and Stephen of the New Testament. They state:
. . . that whosoever attempteth anything for the public (specially if it pertain to religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same setteth himself upon a stage to be glouted upon by every evil eye, yea, he casteth himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue. (Ibid., p. 9.)
Although they realized that their efforts would suffer ridicule as they provided the world with the word of God in English, they also made some very interesting and very strong correlation between their labors and the labors of those individuals found in the Holy Scriptures. This monumental comparison should not be overlooked, nor should the lack of any such comparisons by the translators of modern versions. For this reveals to us the mind of the translators and just how spiritual and important they considered their labor to be.
The preface then moves on to make a case for the need of providing individuals with the Holy Scriptures in their native tongues and not for the Scriptures to remain only in Latin as the Catholic Church of that day desired. The objections raised by the Catholic Church included questions such as “Was their (i.e. Protestant) translation good before? Why do they now mend it? Was it not good? Why then was it obtruded to the people?” (Ibid., p. 20.) Therefore, in speaking of the earlier English versions, which preceded the Authorized Version, the KJV translators state:
Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfected at the same time, and the later thoughts are thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being holpen by their labours, do endeavour to make that better which they left so good, no man, we are sure, hath cause sure to mislike us; they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us. . . . And this is the Word of God, which we translate. . . . For by this means it cometh to pass, that whatsoever is sound already (and all is sound for substance, in one or other of our editions, and the worst of ours far better than their authentic vulgar) the same will shine as gold more brightly, being rubbed and polished; . . . (Ibid., pp. 21-22.)
From this we see that the translators saw their work on the King James Bible as a completion of the works provided by earlier English translations, such as the Tyndale Bible, Great Bible, Geneva Bible and Bishops’ Bible. To them, the King James Authorized Version was the perfecting of these earlier works. Thus the phrase, “nothing is begun and perfected at the same time.” Further, they believed that what they translated was the very “Word of God.” Finally, they state here that even the worst of their early English versions (King James I considered the Geneva Bible a poor translation because of the many notes against the English crown) was far better than the Latin Roman Catholic Bible. To these translators, theirs was the work of polishing the work of their forerunner and thus perfecting the Word of God.
This last statement is amplified in the following paragraph: Now to the latter we answer, that we do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the Word of God, nay, is the Word of God. (Ibid., p. 23.)
The question then rises, if all the early English versions based on the Traditional Text were considered the Word of God by the KJV translators, why did they alter these early works? This was the question raised by the Catholic Church, one which had already been addressed for they saw their efforts as the perfecting of the earlier English translations. Nonetheless, the translators write:
Yet before we end, we must answer a third cavil and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our translations so oft; wherein truly they deal hardly, and strangely with us. For to whom ever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause? . . . If we will be sons of the Truth we must consider what it speaketh, and trample upon our own credit, yea, and upon other men’s too. (Ibid., p. 25.)
Again, we see in their response what they considered their task. As sons of Truth, they were more concerned with presenting the pure word of God then establishing their own theological beliefs.
The next paragraph establishes for all to see what their goal was in producing the Authorized Version, a goal which history bears testimony to as being accomplished.
Truly, good Christian reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of Sixtus had been true in some sort, that our people had been fed with gall of dragons instead of wine, with whey instead of milk:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark. (Ibid., p. 29.)
Thus, their goal was to produce from the Early English versions, all based on the Traditional Text, one principal English translation. The paragraph ends with their statement of belief as to how such an effort was able to be established. It was done so, “through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see.” (Ibid., p. 31.)
Their final consideration is expressed in their concern for the reader. To them, the Bible was a spiritual book which took God the Holy Spirit as the empowering force in producing the work and His grace in revealing it to the reader.
Many other things we might give thee warning of, gentle reader, if we had not exceeded the measure of the Preface already. It remaineth that we commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of His grace, which is able to build further than we can ask or think. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the vail from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand His Word, enlarging our hearts, yea, correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea, that we may love it to the end. . . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; but a blessed thing it is, and will bring us to everlasting blessedness in the end, when God speaketh unto us, to hearken; when He setteth His Word before us, to read it; when He stretcheth out His hand and calleth, to answer, Here am I; here we are to do thy will, O God. The Lord work a care and conscience in us to know Him and serve Him, that we may be acknowledged of Him at the appearing of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, to whom with the Holy Ghost, be all praise and thanksgiving. Amen. (Ibid., pp. 35-36.)
The Jewish Book
The Bible is a Jewish book; we must never forget this. The Apostle Paul states of the Jews that, “. . . unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Every writer in the Old Testament was Jewish. The Old Testament was written for Jews. If a Gentile wanted to know the truth and live for God he had to come to Israel and become a Jew. Likewise, every writer in the New Testament, with the possible exception of Luke, was Jewish. The central person of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, was born a Jew. And, much concerning the New Testament is based upon that which is Jewish. The Bible most certainly is a Jewish book.
As a Jewish book the Bible uses Jewish terms and expressions. These are called Hebraisms. For a translation to be truly a proper and correct translation, it must reflect its Jewish heritage. This must be accomplished not only in recording the history of the people of Israel, but also by reflecting their thoughts and words as inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to the original writers. English translations which weaken or remove these Jewish Hebraisms weaken our understanding of the people of God and the meaning of Scripture.
More than any other English translation, the King James Bible retains these Hebraisms. In fact, because of the popularity of the King James Bible, many of these Jewish expressions have become our expressions. Dr. William Rosenau has correctly noted,
It (i.e. the King James Bible) molded new forms and phrases, which, while foreign to the English, became with it flesh and bone. The origin of most of these forms and phrases is not difficult to trace. They are like the equivalents of which they were translations—Hebrew in character.” (Rosenau, p, 31.)
Thus we have many common expressions, taken from the Authorized Version, which have their basic understanding in Hebrew expressions. The following are a few examples of what Rosenau calls “Proverbial Biblical” Jewish expressions:
“In the sweat of thy face,”–Gen. 3:19
“Am I my brother’s keeper”–Gen. 4:9
“Unstable as water”–Gen. 49:4
“A stranger in a strange land”–Ex. 2:22
“A land flowing with milk and honey,”–Ex. 3:8
“Sheep which have no shepherd,”–Numb. 27:17
“Man doth not live by bread alone,”–Deut. 8:3
“Whatsoever is right in his own eyes,”–Deut. 12:8
“The apple of his eye,”–Deut. 32:10
“The people arose as one man,”–Judg. 20:8
“A man after his own heart,”–1 Sam. 13:14
“How are the mighty fallen,”–2 Sam. 1:25
“Thou art the man,”–2 Sam. 12:7
“From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head,”–2 Sam. 14:25
“Steal the heart”–2 Sam. 15:6
“Horn of my salvation,”–2 Sam. 22:3
“The sweet psalmist of Israel,”–2 Sam. 23:1
“How long halt ye between two opinions?”–1 Kings 18:21
“A still small voice,”–1 Kings 19:2
“The shadow of death,”–Job 10:21
“With the skin of my teeth,”–Job 19:20
“The land of the living,”–Job. 28:13
“My cup runneth over,”–Ps. 23:5
“The pen of a ready writer,”–Ps. 45:1
“Wings like a dove,”–Ps. 55:6
“From strength to strength,”–Ps. 84:7
“As a tale that is told,”–Ps. 90:9
“At their wit’s end,”–Ps. 107:27
“To dwell together in unity,”–Ps. 133:1
“The way of the transgressor is hard,”–Prov. 13:15
“Heap coals of fire upon his head,”–Prov. 25:22
“Answer a fool according to his folly,”–Prov. 26:5
“Boast not thyself of to-morrow,”–Prov. 27:1
“Iron sharpeneth iron,”–Prov. 27:17
“There is no new thing under the sun,”–Eccl. 1:9
“To every thing there is a season,”–Eccl.3:1
“The race is not to the swift,”–Eccl. 9:11
“A weariness of the flesh,”–Eccl. 12:12
“Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die,”–Isa. 22:13
“As a drop of a bucket,”–Isa. 40:15
Many of these have found their way into modern versions simply because they have become so common in our English expressions. We owe this to the Jewish flavor of the King James Bible. However, there is more. There are certain expressions which are most certainly Jewish and in the KJV, but fail to be reproduced in modern versions such as the NIV. The following are just a few examples from the “a,b,c’s” of the thousands of Jewish Hebraisms noted by Dr. Rosenau. (see Rosenau, pp. 169-283.)
|Verse||KJV Hebraisms||NIV English expression|
|1 Kings 5:10||“according to all his desire”||“he wanted”|
|Exodus 8:10||“according to thy word”.||“It will be as you say”|
|Lev. 11:16||“after his kind”||“any kind”|
|Gen. 45:23||“after this manner”||“this is what”|
|Exodus 14:13||“again no more forever”||“will never see again”|
|Exodus 2:23||“and it came to pass”||“During that long period”|
|2 Sam. 1:9||“anguish is come upon me”||“I am in the throes of death”|
|Prov. 14:14||“backslider in heart”||“‘The faithless”|
|Psalm 90:17||“beauty of the Lord”||“favor of the Lord”|
|2 Sam. 12:12||“before the sun”||“in broad daylight”|
|Exodus 32:18||“being overcome”||“defeat”|
|2 Kings 25:26||“both small and great”||“least to the greatest”|
|Prov. 2:7||“buckler to them”||“a shield to those”|
|Numb. 9:23||“by the hand of Moses”||“through Moses”|
|Jer. 7:10||“called by my name”||“bears my Name”|
|Gen. 6:4||“came in unto”||“went to”|
|1 Sam. 2:26||“child Samuel”||“boy Samuel”|
|Ezra 6:16||“children of the captivity”||“the rest of the exiles”|
|2 Sam. 7:10||“children of wickedness”||“Wicked people”|
|Hag. 1:7||“consider your ways”||“Give careful thought”|
|Psalm 2:2||“counsel together”||“gather together”|
|Jon 1:2.||“cry against”||“preach against”|
|Exodus 23:23||“cut them off”||“wipe them out”|
Again, these are but a very few of the thousands of Hebrew expressions found in the King James Authorized Version which have been modernized by contemporary versions, consequently losing some of the Jewish flavor found in the word of God. Even expressions from the twenty-third Psalm such as “I shall not want,” “the valley of the shadow of death,” and “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” are changed. In contemporary “easy-to-read” versions such as the Today’s English Version these beloved Hebrew expressions become, “I have everything I need,” “if I go through the deepest darkness,” and “your house will be my home as long as I live.” English expressions such as these and the ones listed above may be easier for some to understand. However, they have lost their Hebraisms and hence, have produced a non-Jewish Bible.
The Deity Of Jesus Christ
Strangely, one of the arguments conservative scholars use is to assert thatmodern versions, such as the NASV or the NIV, are stronger concerning the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ in places where they differ with the King James Bible. In reality, the opposite is true. This, however, does not prohibit such a pronouncement from being proclaimed. In order to counter the truth that the KJV provides more verses on the deity of Christ than do modern versions, conservative scholars have developed an interesting approach. Both D. A. Carson and James White have produced charts listing several verses on the deity of Christ comparing various versions of the Bible. In these charts, the KJV does not do as well as the NIV. The problem is that these charts have manipulated the evidence in a variety of ways, for the simple truth is that the King James Bible does make a much stronger case for the Deity of Jesus Christ.
First, there is a manipulation of the evidence in the verses which are used. For example, the chart used by White lists twelve verses and looks something like this. (White, p. 197.)
|Phil. 2:5-6||Most clear||Clear||Least clear|
|1 Tim. 3:16||Absent||Absent||Clear|
|2 Pet. 1:1||Clear||Clear||Ambiguous|
Of the twelve verses used, five are in agreement (John 1:1; 20:28; Acts. 20:28; Col. 1:15-17; and Heb. 1:8). Of the remaining seven verses, only one verses is stronger in the KJV (1 Tim. 3:16) according to this chart. This leaves the impression that the NIV takes a stronger stance on the deity of Christ, with the NASV following a close second, and the KJV in last place. This is a wonderful example of “stacking the deck.”
White introduces this chart by claiming that these verses are “key passages” on the deity of Christ. (Ibid., p. 196.) Thus, being allowed to set the definitions of what are key passages and what are not key passages, he can set the evidence in such a fashion as to prove his point. But what happens when we examine the evidence further and provide additional “key passages” on the deity of Christ? Since there are five verses where these three translations agree on the deity of Christ, let us remove them from the chart and replace them with five other passages which prove that Jesus is God (Matt. 19:16-17; Rom. 14:10-12; 1 John 5:7; Rev. 1:6; and Rev. 1:8-11). Once this is done, the chart begins to take on a different look.
Secondly, the premise has been changed. White begins this section asking the question, “Is One Translation ‘Stronger’?” than another. (Ibid.) Although he admits that some versions are stronger and others weaker on the deity of Christ, his chart on the very next page makes it appear as if the version which is weak is the KJV. In order to do this, he has had to change the topic from “strong vs. weak,” to “clear vs. ambiguous.” This, however, is not the topic at hand. Clarity is relative. What is clear to one person, may not be so clear to another. The question at hand is which translation provides the strongest proclamation of the deity of Christ when these translations differ. When we change terms which are subjective and look at the list objectively by using a zero (0) for passages which do not refer to the deity of Christ and a plus (+) for passages which do, we find the list strongly favoring the Authorized Version in places where it and modern versions differ on the deity of Christ.
|1 Tim. 3:16||0||0||+|
|2 Pet. 1:1||+||+||+|
Before moving on to our next argument, let us take a few moments and examine each of these verses regarding the deity of Jesus Christ. First we need to consider the verses which do not support the deity of Christ in the KJV. According to the chart provided by White, there are two; John 1:18 and Romans 9:5. Both of these verses have been discussed in greater detail in our last lesson. As the reader will remember, if we change “only begotten Son” (Jn. 1:18) to “only begotten God” (NASV) we have a verse which reads like the NWT of the Jehovah’s Witnesses supporting the teaching that Christ is a begotten/created god by Jehovah. This is, of course, the doctrine of Gnosticism. Nor can we replace “begotten” with “one and only” (NIV) because this does not agree with the Greek, Latin, other early English Versions, or the majority of the Church Fathers. Additionally, the usage of “one and only God” could lead some to except the false teaching of the “Jesus Only” movement. As for Romans 9:5, it is sufficient to say here that the reading in the NIV removes the subordination of Christ to the Father.
Passages such as Philippians 2:5-6 and Colossians 2:9 strongly and clearly proclaim the deity of Christ in the KJV. Perhaps the very best argument to prove this point is to simply allow the reader to view these passages for themselves.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:”
“For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
However, we find a different argument when it comes to the following two passages. Notice the sight difference between the reading found in the King James Bible and that which is found in the New International Version.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” –KJV
“while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” –NIV
2 Peter 1:1
“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:”–KJV
“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:”–NIV
According to James White both of these passages have been mistranslated in the KJV because of the translators lack of knowing the Grandville Sharpe Rule. (Ibid., pp. 267-270.) The rule as cited by White reads as follows:
When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case if the article o, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the later always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first named person.” (Ibid., p. 269.)
It should be noticed that the Grandville Sharpe Rule does not state where the personal pronoun “our” is to be placed. Nor does it allow for the removal of the definite article “the” as we find the NIV doing in Titus 2:13. The grammatical argument is further weakened because of the Greek phrase “our Saviour” (Gk: soteros emon). This phrase is used six times in the epistle of Titus (1:3,4; 2:10,13; 3:4,6). The KJV correctly translates this phrase all six times as “our Saviour.” The NIV translates the phrase as “our Savior” five of the six times, leaving only Titus 2:13 to stand out as an inconsistent usage of the Greek phrase.
The phrase, “great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” does not denote two personages. Instead, the phrase indicates two aspects of the same person and is a proper point in English grammar. When Christ returns, which is the context of the verse, He will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16), the Mighty God (Isa. 9:6). Rather the world is ready or not, He is coming as everyone’s God; but He is our Saviour. The phrase provides a general statement about Christ and His deity as well as His personal relationship with the saints.
This is seen elsewhere in Scripture as well. Notice how the personal pronoun “our” is used in the following verse, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:” (Gal. 1:4, also see 1 Thess 1:3; 3:11). Notice that the phrase “the will of God and our Father” refers to the same person, God the Father. The same construction can be seen in other verses as well. In 1 Thess. 1:3 we read, “in the sight of God and our Father.” Also, in 1 Thess. 3:11 the passage states, “Now God himself and our Father,” both verses show the “and our” refer to the very same person. In these cases, to God the Father.
This is a point of English grammar. For example, we could say, He was a great war hero and our nation’s first President, George Washington.” Both the phrase “great war hero” and “our nation’s first President” refer to the same person. So it is with the passages in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.
The King James Bible is further attacked by James White concerning Titus 2:13 as he makes the following claim in his book.
And yet, KJV Only advocates continue to defend a rendering that is shared by such Arian translations as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, and that solely because of their presupposition that “if it is in the KJV, it must be right.” (Ibid., p. 267.) This statement simply is untrue. The reading of the KJV and the NWT are not alike at all. One can see by examining the two translations together that the NWT does violate the Grandville Sharpe Rule by making the verse refer to two personages. Further, the NWT adds the genitive of and the article the before the Saviour.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”–KJV
“While we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of [the] Savior of us, Christ Jesus.”–NWT
The six remaining verses all support the deity of Christ and are absent in their proclamation of this blessed truth in both the NASV and the NIV.
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
1 Timothy 3:16
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
1 John 5:7
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
Of these verses, most are self explanatory. The last verse may need a little explanation. The first time we have the phrase, “I am Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:8) it is the Lord God who is speaking. The second time the phrase is used (Rev. 1:11) it is Christ who is speaking according to the context of the passage (Rev. 1:12-18), thus proving that Christ is the Lord God Almighty. This second phrase found in verse eleven is absent from most modern versions.
The Preeminence Of Christ
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:18). If Christ is to have the preeminence in all things, this would include Bible translations. Just as one can use a modern version to prove the deity of Christ, although it is not as strong in them as it is in the KJV, so modern versions proclaim the person of Jesus Christ. However, names referring to Christ are not as strongly proclaimed in these modern versions as they are in the Authorized Version. For example, in the NIV we find that the name “Jesus” has been removed 38 times as compared to the KJV. The title “Lord” is removed 35 times, the name “Christ” is removed 43 times, the person of “God” is removed 31 times, and other sacred names are omitted 26 times. Thus we find that divine names are used 173 less times in the NIV. The same is true of the NASV in which we find the total number raising to 210 times, while the RSV has a total of 213 times. True, most of these do not change any point of doctrine. But this is not our point. Since in all things Christ is to have “preeminence” we find that in the KJV Christ’s names are more predominate.
Additionally, we find other doctrines regarding the person of Christ in better standing in the KJV then in many modern versions. Again, all these doctrines can be proved in modern versions. But they are stronger in the KJV and thus again provide Christ with the preeminence. For example, the doctrine of the virgin birth can be proved in almost any translation. However it is weakened in the RSV and the NRSV in Isaiah 7:14. Here these modern versions read, “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” This has a different meaning than the KJV rendering of “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
In like manner the same is true of Luke 2:33 and 43. In both of these verses the KJV reads, “Joseph and his mother” regarding the step-father of Christ and the virgin Mary. However, modern versions read, “his father and mother” or “his parents,” consequently weakening to some degree the doctrine of the virgin birth.
Nor has the doctrine of the blood atonement remained untouched by modern versions. In Colossians 1:14 the KJV reads, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” However, the NIV reads, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” thereby omitting the phrase, “through his blood.” Some point to other passages such as Ephesians 1:7 where the phrase “through his blood” is found in modern versions as a defense, but this is not the point at all. Since in all things Christ is to be preeminent, the doctrine of his atoning death must not be diminished. In comparison, we find the KJV providing a stronger statement on the blood atonement, at least in Colossians 1:14.
Another example is 1 Peter 2:2. Here the KJV reads, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” However, the NRSV reads, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation.” This gives the impression that there is something we can do to gain or grow into salvation, which is contrary to the Biblical teaching of salvation and the blood atonement. The Today’s English Version is even bolder in stating, “Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved.” This plainly teaches salvation by works.
Also, we find in Titus 2:11 the KJV stating, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” But the NRSV reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.” This is teaching universal salvation, and therefore eliminates the need for personal salvation. Again, when the doctrine of Biblical salvation is weakened, the person of Christ is not preeminent.
In The Bible Companion, Dr. Andrew Graham, who supported modern versions, thoughtfully stated, “. . . the Authorized Version has probably sent more souls to heaven than its more accurate successors.” (Andrew Graham, “The English Bible,” in The Bible Companion, ed. William Neil, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960, p. 430.) While we might take exception to the phrase, “its more accurate successors” we must note the truth of his statement that the KJV has been and still is a soul-winning Bible. One reason, as illustrated with the above examples, is that Christ is preeminent in his deity, his person, his birth, and his atonement. If for no other reason than these, the question begs to be asked, why would I want to use any translation where Christ is not as preeminent? At the very least, what better tribute to the word of God in English than to see it as the Bible which wins souls.
The Nature Of God
Akin to the above points, we find the KJV to be the preserved word of God for the English- speaking people because of the nature of God. The Bibleproclaims that God is truth (John 4:24). This is something accepted by those of us who believe in Biblical preservation, and those who prefer modern versions. Without this fact, the whole Bible is a lie as well as all of Christianity. We know and affirm that God is truth. So, we must look for the Bible which reflects what God is, since the Bible is His word. Therefore, a translation which is untrue, is not trustworthy.
There are several places where the KJV makes declarations of truth, where the modern versions make statements which are untrue. For example, in 2 Samuel 21:19 we read:
“And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”
This is a truthful statement which is supported in both 1 Samuel 17 which records the story of David killing the giant Goliath, and 1 Chronicles 20:5 where we are told the name of Goliath’s brother (which is Lahmi). Unfortunately, modern versions distort the truth in 2 Samuel 21:19 and omit the phrase “the brother of”. Therefore they inform us that Elhanan killed Goliath, which is untrue.
In Isaiah 14:12 the KJV reads, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Here we have the only place where the name of the Satan is given as Lucifer. The verse is changed in modern versions to read, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!” (NIV). Our point here is not one of Satanic cover-up as some have regarded this verse. Rather, it is a simple question of truth. Is the one who fell from heaven “Lucifer” or “morning star”? The problem is compounded when we read in the New Testament that Jesus Christ is the morning star (Rev. 22:16). One may wish to argue the Latin meaning of the name Lucifer; however, the point still remains. The one who fell was not Jesus Christ. Yet this is the conclusion one can draw from modern renderings of this verse. The one who fell was most certainly the Devil. Therefore, the version which is more truthful is the King James Bible.
Again, we find the truthfulness of the statement found in Daniel 3:25 standing in the KJV. “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The fourth man in the fire was most certainly the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we have a truthful statement. However, modern versions change this to read, “a son of the gods,” providing us with an untruthful statement.
We have seen the verses in Mark 1:2-3. The passage quotes two prophets and begins with the statement, “as it is written in the prophets” in the KJV. This is a truthful statement. Modern versions read, “as it is written in the prophet Isaiah” and then cites two prophets, Malachi and Isaiah. The truthful statement is found in the KJV, not in modern versions here. In Matthew 5:22 the KJV reads, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement.” Modern versions omit the phrase, “without a cause.” Therefore, according to modern versions if one is angry they are sinning. Since Christ was angry and chased the money changers out of the temple, he would be guilty of sinning if the modern versions are correct. But we know that Christ did not sin, so the more truthful statement is found in the KJV.
There are other examples, but these are given to serve our point. If God is truth, then we would expect nothing less from His pure word. The English Bible which is most truthful, as seen in these examples, is the Authorized Version.
But perhaps one of the strongest evidences for the King James Bible is subjective. If it is truly a spiritual book as we believe it is, than a great deal must rest upon faith. For without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith and the Holy Scriptures are interwoven (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:1-3). One cannot prove the King James Bible conclusively anymore than one can prove the doctrine of Bibliology as a whole. Some things must be taken on faith. However, our faith in Biblical preservation does have evidence (Hebrews 11:1). We have an infallible Bible which can be put to the test, not one which was lost two thousand years ago. But before we can test it, we must believe it. Faith is always the starting point, derived from the Scriptures themselves. Perhaps the best evidence is to ask the Author of our Salvation if these things are so, and then test them according to the word of God. Perhaps the best starting point is to open the Holy Scriptures to Psalm 12:6-7 and by faith accept that God has done even as He has proclaimed He would do. By faith accept that we have today, from generation to generation, the preserved word of God without error. In so doing, we may find ourselves proclaiming with the Psalmist of Israel:
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2)
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Dr. Thomas Holland
“Commendo vos dilectioni Dei, et odio papatus et superstitionis.”