The 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.