Answering a Plea for Help

help meThe message board FundamentalPreaching.com has sent out an SOS concerning things related to Bible versions and textual criticism. The discussion is particularly geared to our blog here, so we figured we’d give a response to something that was said:

“there are some professing Christians who would have us believe that the only reliable and inerrant Gospel can be found in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. If this was really true, then all witnessing to the unsaved would have to be done in Greek and Hebrew, because the English would contain errors that could potentially lead people astray. In fact, there would be no Bible in the English language that could be rightfully called God’s Word.”

While we understand that emotionalism behind the above statement, we strongly disagree with what is being asserted. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

The statement that was made by this undoubtedly sincere Christian is an obvious straw man. The first question I have for him would be, “who?” What Christians are saying that the “only reliable and inerrant Gospel can be found in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts?” I know this came from a message board, but this is one of those instances in which an example would be really helpful. We aren’t asserting such a thing on this blog. And published authors on this subject, including James White, James Price, Doug Kutilek, Dan Wallace, William Combs, Kevin Bauder and others aren’t saying it either. We find this problem all too often in King James Onlyism: unsubstantiated claims.

If it’s just a matter of fundamental misunderstanding, then let it be clear for the one who wrote this as well as those who believe it: our rejection of King James Onlyism does not mean we think nothing other than the Greek and Hebrew is reliable. In fact, one of the chief claims of our position is that the majority of mainstream Bibles are all reliable! That’s why we’re neither anti-KJV nor NIV-only, ESV-only, NASB-only, or exclusive to one version. The opposite is true for the other position. It is King James Onlysim that has us believe only one version is reliable enough.

Just a word about that last statement. There are various streams of King James Onlyism. Not all would agree with what I’ve said and some would say that there’s enough truth in many other versions to get saved. But there is a more extreme form called King James Regenerationalism (which was espoused by Jack Hyles in his later years; I’ve also heard it from an evangelist named Phil Kid), which says that the KJV of 1611 is the “incorruptible seed” of I Peter 1:23 and therefore no other version can save your soul. Of course, we regard this as heresy. Our position is so far removed from this that it’s a wonder someone would turn the tables on us as if we believed in some sort of Hebrew/Greek regenerationalism.

Though it is a straw man and therefore doesn’t necessarily require a response, I want to point out one more thing. The statement claims that we would say the “English contains errors that could potentially lead people astray.”  This is the domino effect falsely applied. The idea is, if one word or phrase or verse is in question, one must throw the whole thing away. This isn’t how evidence works in anything else, but King James Onlyists typically apply it to the Bible version arena.

In creation science, we believe that God created the world as He said He did in the Bible. We don’t have all the answers, but we trust in the Lord. We look to botany, zoology, biology, and geology to support this position. Some credible creation scientists (whether young earth or old earth) have done some great research into how the evidence we have supports creation. The complexity of the eye, the Grand Canyon, and the strata are among things examined for this cause. Yet, we all admit that there are many unexplainable things out there as well. Can we really explain the vastness of the Universe? To whom do those ape-like bones really belong? There are many unanswered questions that even the Christian struggles with, but would it be fair to say, then, that we can’t believe God is the Creator?

The scriptures also affirm the deity of the Lord Jesus and the deity of the Holy Spirit and the fact that God is One eternally existent being in Three Persons. But, the doctrine of the Trinity is not without its questions. Again, does that mean we must throw the entire doctrine out?

But when it comes to the Bible version issue, the above scenarios carry little significance with the King James Onlysist. He says if you can’t trust one verse, you can’t trust the whole thing. Why is this? I personally believe that it is due to a faulty theological approach and the evidentialist belief that Christianity stands or falls on biblical inerrancy. For more on that, see what I’ve written here, here, and here. Jesus Christ is the foundation, center, and capstone of what we believe and why we believe it. We believe the Bible because of Him, not the other way around. Therefore, Christianity stands or falls on the testimony of Jesus Christ.

So, then, what do we believe about errors and the Gospel? We affirm that, first of all, the Word of God is not always referring to the scriptures themselves. In I Peter 1:25, for example, the inspired apostle equates the Word of the Lord which endures forever (Isaiah 40:8) with the gospel. Generally speaking, the Word is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. The scriptures are included in that (II Timothy 3:16-4:2). Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of that (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:2).

Since the Word of God is God’s speaking to us, it is always perfect. But sometimes God uses means that are less than perfect. A preacher may stumble through a gospel presentation, but it is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63) and uses the Word to bring men to faith (Romans 10:17). No one would charge that the hearers are left unconverted because the vehicle through which the Word was preached had errors in it. The same is true with the Bible. Over and again, textual criticism has proved that the Bible is the most reliable and accurate book of its kind. When we speak of “errors” we are speaking of questions we have about particular readings or translations of readings, not that God somehow got things wrong. The entire testimony of the Bible isn’t at stake with these kinds of things. As long as it’s a faithful rendering of what God has inspired, it is God’s Word, whether it’s the KJV, NKJV, or NASB; whether it’s English, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, or French.

Hope that helps.

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31 thoughts on “Answering a Plea for Help

  1. JasonS July 24, 2009 / 3:46 pm

    Damien,
    Good response.
    Jason

  2. fundyreformed July 24, 2009 / 9:28 pm

    Thanks Damien. You said it well. Before either Wycliffe, Tyndale, or the KJV translators (depending on your particular view), English people would need to hear the word of God in Hebrew or Greek. Or some other language like Latin, because there wasn’t any Bible in their language. And how did the Bible come to the English language? Through Hebrew and Greek. So the English Bible depends on the Hebrew and Greek and is secondary to it. That should be fairly obvious.

    I can understand where these people are coming from, but as you’ve said it isn’t an all or nothing view. As one of your posts on your blog shows well, Scripture’s own use of previous Scripture is not an exact word-for-word parallel. Instead previous Scriptures are quoted loosely or paraphrased, and that paraphrase or loose quote is treated as authoritatively as the original quote. It is the message that is authoritative, and a close distillation of it is adequate. That’s the teaching of Scripture, as I hope to show on this blog in the near future.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Bob

  3. Hebrew Scholar July 25, 2009 / 5:07 am

    I think all that the original quote means to say is that, once you translate the Holy Scriptures from Hebrew or Greek into English, you are potentially open to errors in translation, the bias of the translators, the difficulties of translating in general, etc. Only in the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek do you find an inherent accuracy.

    • JasonS July 25, 2009 / 10:15 am

      Hebrew Scholar,
      Thanks for stopping in. I’m interested in reading on your site, too. Very interesting stuff there.
      I would recommend that you read the original post to which this blog post refers. A little more reading on the KJVO side of the issue would probably be in order, too.
      Why? Because you would be shocked to see that the idea among many of them is that the KJV CORRECTS the Greek and Hebrew! Though some believe that the Received Text is the exemplar for us, others believe that the King James Version is the exemplar for us. Either way, they leave out a vast number of helpful manuscripts.
      This particular group seems to believe that God’s Word ONLY exists in the King James Version…that’s why they spoke of the Hebrew and Greek as they did.
      Shocking, isn’t it?

    • bibleprotector July 25, 2009 / 11:17 pm

      Only some KJBOs might believe that “shocking” way.

      Many believe the KJB is the best form of the Scripture, but is not the only form.

      Others believe the KJB is merely the best English translation of the best Greek and Hebrew.

      While I believe the KJB is “exemplar”, I do not believe that it “corrects” the inspired Hebrew and Greek. This means that I believe that whatever I read in English must be the sense of the originals too, including those examples like “God forbid” which some think is not the sense of the Greek because they are in bondage to the literal words of Greek rather than the actual meaning.

  4. Philip D July 25, 2009 / 11:13 am

    I notice that the word “Christian” is never far from the word “professing” when the gentlemen at the message board speak of the authors of the KJVO debate blog. I have to wonder on what basis they make that implication. Reading that and the stuff about how you can’t get into arguments with people that refuse to interact with the conversation at hand and would rather jump around and move from one argument to the next (maybe by cutting and pasting a bunch of unrelated material?), I am reminded why we do this. Not so much for them, but for the people who find this blog that are honestly questioning or seek to interact with an open mind.

    Browsing around the Fundamental Preaching message board, I notice another interesting quote… “However there was no perfect and inerrant Bible until God brought forth His finished product in the King James Bible.” Found here. I doubt most of the KJVO brothers I have talked to would agree with this, but it is nice to see someone taking the KJVO reasoning to its full conclusion.

  5. fundyreformed July 25, 2009 / 12:03 pm

    Yea, Phil, you make a good point. Hopefully some will find some reasonable and careful treatment of the issue at this site, and will be helped by it. As you said once before, the ones we really will be helping, may not be the ones who bother to comment. But someone always may be reading over our shoulders as we respond to comments, so it is always worthwhile to some degree.

  6. JasonS July 25, 2009 / 12:23 pm

    Not to mention the fact that it helps our own thinking on the issue to be clearer, because of the need to plainly state our case.

  7. Philip D July 26, 2009 / 6:30 am

    BP: “This means that I believe that whatever I read in English must be the sense of the originals too, including those examples like “God forbid” which some think is not the sense of the Greek because they are in bondage to the literal words of Greek rather than the actual meaning.

    I think you’re on to something, here. In fact, to a certain extent, I agree. You are saying (I’m paraphrasing) that if the literal words say one thing, but some other meaning is suggested, we should translate them in a way that conveys the original intent to the audience in the “receptor language”?

    This is also why we can allow some variation in Greek manuscripts (remember, no two MSS read exactly alike) and yet consider them all the “word of God.” The same goes for variation in English translations.

    • bibleprotector July 26, 2009 / 6:57 am

      Although there are variations in copies, and although different versions have rightly been called “the Word of God”, we still should recognise corruption, and we still should desire a pure standard.

      The issue is concerning whether or not the KJB is the standard.

    • fundyreformed July 26, 2009 / 12:23 pm

      Of course, whether or not the KJB is the standard is totally not addressed in Scripture. Therefore, Christians are at liberty to use what Scriptures they find are best in line with Scriptural teaching on the Word of God. There is no warrant to expect, based on Scripture, that God would lead the church to accept one particular translation in another language as the definitive exemplar of the Scriptures. There is nothing saying God couldn’t do that, but nothing requiring him to do that, either.

      At the end of the day, those who hold up the KJB as the standard, are basing their beliefs on a particular application of Scriptural principles, not on a clear interpretation or teaching of Scripture itself.

      When we elevate our own particular application of Scripture to the level of dogmatic Scriptural teaching, we do disservice to Scripture’s role as our authority, and we run the risk of great error. This is the problem with KJV Onlyism in my view.

    • Philip D August 4, 2009 / 6:33 am

      BP, I agree. Corruption = Bad. No argument there. What I was getting at, though, is that in an earlier comment you say,

      “Therefore, while the message may be sufficiently communicated with variations in the wording, unless there is a final form of Scripture that has the wording exactly, God’s message would then suffer (or would be fallible).”

      This seems to me to contradict what you have posted here,

      “This means that I believe that whatever I read in English must be the sense of the originals too, including those examples like “God forbid” which some think is not the sense of the Greek because they are in bondage to the literal words of Greek rather than the actual meaning.”

      Maybe I misunderstand, but I see these two statements as unquestionably contradictory. Let me pose this more succinctly: What is more important, “exact wording” or “actual meaning”?

    • bibleprotector August 4, 2009 / 7:34 am

      See post no. 8.

      Formations of the original languages into critical editions is subject to interpretation, just as translation is subject to interpretation. (There are plenty examples of subjective and incorrect translations.)

      I do not believe that the “interpretation” of evidence required in the forming of the King James Bible actually changes the Word of God, because I do not think that the King James Bible suffers from human-based (i.e. erroneous) interpretations of the Scripture.

      Believing men can get things right without being inspired. Overall, it is quite rare that men do get things right.

  8. bibleprotector August 4, 2009 / 7:20 am

    Actual meaning (in English) is in practice now greater than the exact wording (of the original languages), because there is no perfect form of the Scripture in the original languages, while the actual meaning is presented perfectly in a perfect form of the Scripture which is a English translation. Therefore the uplifting of the exact wording (of the English) will be the safeguard of the actual meaning (of the originals).

  9. fundyreformed August 4, 2009 / 8:48 pm

    BP,

    You still haven’t defended from Scripture your claim that the KJB is the perfect exemplar. If Scripture doesn’t teach this, why should we believe it so strongly?

    Bob

    • bibleprotector August 5, 2009 / 12:36 am

      There are many doctrines which are taught which are taken from various passages of Scripture, such as water baptism, etc. In the same manner we find that the KJB view is by taking various passages together, and seeing that it is consistent with the teaching and outworking of the Scripture.

      On the other side, there is no verse or doctrine of Scripture which prohibits using the King James Bible only for believers today or future.

    • JasonS August 5, 2009 / 8:51 am

      BP,
      You are avoiding the issue. We did not ask if the use of the KJV was prohibited. We KNOW it is acceptable.
      In fact, it is my primary study Bible, and my exclusive preaching Bible.
      The question we want answered is “Where does Scripture explicitly tell us that the KJV is the exemplar, and all other Bibles are to measure up to it, or be rejected?”
      If you say there is no verse of doctrine that prohibits the use of the KJV only, we can say, “Yes, that is an issue of Christian liberty, and we are at liberty to use any other honest translation, too.”
      Let us not obfuscate and avoid the issue.

    • bibleprotector August 5, 2009 / 11:21 am

      Certainly, there has been a kind of liberty to use whatever good Bible. But I think this does not become a licence to depart from the King James Bible, rather, the liberty is to allow the use of other Bibles until such a time as the use of the King James Bible alone is — dare I say it — expected and mandatory for all true believers.

      Asking for explicit verses on this is the wrong approach. We all know that the Scripture does not explicitly mention the King James Bible. The way the doctrine is constructed is by being consistent with Scripture, and by understanding the inferences of Scripture prophecies.

      Like any doctrine, it seems that the verses which one party uses to teach a certain doctrine, another party says are not validly teaching such a thing. There are numerous Scripture references which are connected with the King James Bible only doctrine.

    • fundyreformed August 5, 2009 / 11:30 am

      BP,

      You are elevating a particular application of Scriptural principles to the level of cardinal doctrine. How could all Christians be expected to use the KJV Bible and have no liberty to depart from it, if 1) they don’t all speak English and 2) there is no Scriptural teaching directly addressing this issue. This kind of use of the Bible is dangerous, and akin to how the cultists operate.

    • bibleprotector August 5, 2009 / 11:40 am

      People should not be “forced” to use the KJB. I certainly understand that many people cannot use the KJB today. If we cannot decide on what Scripture actually is (or at least dispute about whether 0.01% of it) then it is clear that there is a major dispute about interpretation… we could believe the same words are true, yet have two different views. I wish that all true Christians would agree, and that means that I must yet learn and grow more. But it cannot go on and on that some born again people are KJBO, and some are not. Eventually it has to turn out that those on one side are not in Christ. I think this is true of all conflicts that have taken place in Protestantism, that eventually various positions must no longer made of people who are in Christ, because they are wrong. This has clearly happened to some degree on some issues.

    • fundyreformed August 5, 2009 / 1:01 pm

      I don’t follow your conclusions, bibleprotector. It seems to me Rom. 14 and 15 should apply on less than clear issues. We are obligated to major on the clear marks of a Christian and the key points of doctrine. To major on a minor pulls the importance of the true cardinal doctrines of the faith, down.

    • bibleprotector August 6, 2009 / 8:52 am

      When people talk about majoring on minor doctrines, they have designated in their own mind what is or is not a minor doctrine.

      In reality, we should major on all doctrines which are right, that is, the ones which God believes.

      That is why we should question whether or not a form of KJBO really is God’s best plan, and if not, what actually is the right approach…

      I have found Scriptures in favour of a sound KJB view. I have not seen or heard any which are against.

  10. Erik August 6, 2009 / 10:46 am

    I’m sorry. I’m late to this conversation; but Bibleprotector – I just checked out your website.

    The Cambridge Edition of the Authorized Translation is the definitive edition of God’s Word? Everything before that was corrupt and incomplete? Did I get that right?

    • bibleprotector August 7, 2009 / 12:58 am

      Erik, you did not get that right.

      There are many sufficient forms of Scripture, e.g. copies in the original languages, Latin, Protestant translations, etc.

      The KJB is supersuccessionary to them, because the KJB gets the text exactly the same as the Autographs, and the translation fully accurate.

      Everything before the KJB was not “corrupt” nor “incomplete”.

      Also, the KJB needed to be corrected of press errors, so having a standard edition is a logical step.

    • JasonS August 7, 2009 / 8:52 am

      BP,
      “There are many sufficient forms of Scripture, e.g. copies in the original languages, Latin, Protestant translations, etc.”

      So, in reality, you are King James Preferred?

  11. bibleprotector August 7, 2009 / 9:18 am

    There have been many sufficient forms of Scripture. For example, I notice that Tyndale was missing a few verses in the New Testament, besides quite a slab of the Old. Yet Tyndale’s work was still “Scripture”. In like manner, all the varying Textus Receptus editions, and the copies on which they are based, are Scripture, even if there are variations in the copies. Even the Clementine Vulgate or the pre-Origenic LXX were used as Scripture.

    I believe that the KJB is supersuccessionary to all other proper copies/translations/versions which have been used, and those which have been suffered to be used to the present time. I believe that in time the KJB would be the primary Bible used by true believers all over the world.

    • JasonS August 7, 2009 / 9:49 am

      BP,
      God’s grace was sufficient for Paul. In other words, it fit the bill and was all that Paul needed.
      Being sufficient, there was nothing that would supersede the grace of God.
      In like manner, I do not believe that a sufficient Bible can be surpassed in sufficiency.
      After all, sufficient means that something is enough.
      If Tyndale was enough, why ask for more.
      If, on the other hand, Tyndale was sufficient for doctrinal truth, but could be improved upon; why is it that the KJV cannot be improved upon? I believe that the KJV translators would have stated that it could be improved upon, and probably expected that it would be.
      I’m truly not following you here.

    • bibleprotector August 7, 2009 / 10:42 am

      Grace is a different thing to Bible versions.

      I am sure that you would agree that Tyndale’s Bible was not 100% perfect. But you would agree that it was sufficient, that is, enough to be able to communicate enough of God’s message.

      What we do not agree upon is whether or not the KJB can be improved upon. You speculate that the translators would have allowed improvements. The issue is not merely the expectation of the translators, since they did not know all things. I think they knew enough to make God’s Word aright in English for all the world.

      You might say that limited men cannot be able to make a right Bible in 1611. But we are talking about the providence of God, not just men. The KJB has entirely human processes in its creation. Yet there is something beyond this. It is not inspiration, it is no infallibility of pen and paper… it is the supreme intelligence of God knowing all things, seeing all things, and superintending all things.

      Why expect things to be flawed or imperfect when God has declared the end from the beginning? There is a perfection in events and times, a perfection in God’s works which can easily be missed by an unbelieving approach. People might say that it was just a chance that the French defeated the Papacy in 1798, or whatever, but when you look at historical Bible prophecies, you find they are wonderfully accurate. When it comes to having a perfect Bible, suddenly God’s power is limited by many professing Christians, and all the modern scholars and scribes chorus that “we cannot attain to it”.

      This puts me in mind of that “obscure” passage, Isa. 28:19-21, “From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.”

  12. JasonS August 7, 2009 / 11:56 am

    BP,
    Please do not ascribe to us beliefs that we do not have. The issue is not at all our limiting the power of God.
    We are limiting our declaration of what God has done because of the fact that He has not declared that He would give us His Word only in English, and that being the KJV.
    We love the KJV. We honor the good accomplished through it. We do not elevate it above what God has said, however.
    Please do not ascribe to us beliefs that we do not have.
    At the same time, I was not comparing grace and Bible translations. I was stating that sufficiency is enough. If Tyndale was sufficient, and the NASB is sufficient, why turn around and de facto declare them insufficient by promoting the KJV above them all?

    • bibleprotector August 8, 2009 / 6:19 am

      Someone could accuse both of us, saying, where is your God, if he has all power, let him manifest his perfect Word from Heaven on golden tablets in the hand of an angel right now!

      People can believe that God is all powerful, despite what their views are on the KJB.

      The issue is how much power does God IN PRACTICE manifest through history. The KJBO demands more of the power of God because he argues that God has given His Word completely in one finite version.

      I am not trying to ascribe (false) beliefs to those who are not KJBO. Please regard If you read the post I made above in that light.

      I asked, “Why expect things to be flawed or imperfect when God has declared the end from the beginning?”

      The issue is beyond whether or not the NASV is sufficient. The issue is whether or not people who know rightly about the KJB purposely stay with the NASV, or go back to the old paths.

    • JasonS August 8, 2009 / 10:01 am

      BP,
      Thanks for answering me. I shall respond and leave the rebuttal to you as I have a busy weekend. I appreciate your dialoguing with us. You provoke thought and seek to do so without be uncharitable. I do appreciate that.
      Here is your statement:
      “When it comes to having a perfect Bible, suddenly God’s power is limited by many professing Christians, and all the modern scholars and scribes chorus that “we cannot attain to it”.”
      I know no other way to take it than that you believe that we don’t believe God has what it takes to preserve His Word.
      He has preserved it perfectly and accurately so that the message is not obscured. Verbal perfect, in the sense of having no translation error or printing errors is not something that has been attainted. In fact, back to the LXX, it is obvious that Jesus and the apostles were content with something that did not always perfectly follow the verbal content of the originals while faithfully conveying the message.
      On the issue of God declaring the end from the beginning: That speaks of prophecy, providence, omniscience, and foreknowledge. The KJV simply doesn’t come into that passage. There is no mention of it, no matter how wonderful a translation that it is.
      While respecting the KJV, your use of it shows a need to respect it as God’s Word and allow Him to say what He wishes instead of imposing your own views on it. Your usage is sheer eisogesis.
      In His Grace,
      Jason

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