1611: The Year Everything in Bible Translation Changed
Many King James Onlyists will refute the above line, stating that we’re confusing their theories with those of Peter Ruckman. But I fully believe that everyone who is convinced that the Christian should be exclusively aligned to the King James Version and no other is saying this very thing. Some believe God re-inspired His Book in 1611. Others believe pre-1611 KJVs existed, but since 1611, there’s only one acceptable Bible. Still others believe in the same underlying premise of preservation, but don’t see all the words coming together in one volume until 1611. No matter what “camp” of King James Onlyism one may find himself in, the fact is he believes in “The 1611 Moment.”
The 1611 Moment is the pivotal time in church history that serves as the basis for revising the rest. It also divides the history of the transmission of the text into two eras. The two eras differ, depending on the particular position held within the KJV category:
Ruckmanite view – Most people will tell you that Ruckmanism means that God re-inspired His Word in 1611. A Bible college professor of mine always quoted Ruckman as saying, “The errors in the King James Version are advanced revelation.” I’ve always known this to be the view, though I’ve also heard that Ruckman himself has denied this charge. Dr. Sam Gipp, who is a Ruckmanite, said that a person who really wants to know the Word of God needs to learn English (John Ankerberg Show). On the same show, he said that what happened in 1611, though he denied it being re-inspiration, was (paraphrasing of course) a bunch of men (the KJV translators) came together and put together the words that God wanted them to put in what became known as the KJV. So let’s say that the Ruckmanite view is that God did something akin to inspiration in 1611.
Before 1611: Doesn’t matter. Sam Gipp actually replied to Dan Wallace’s question of, “Where was the Word of God before 1611” by saying, “I don’t know, I wasn’t there.” Since God did something akin to inspiration in 1611, what happened before is really not important.
Since the 1611 Moment: The KJV, and nothing but the KJV, even for other-language-speaking peoples, is the Word of God alone.
Trail of Blood view – I’m not sure if this sort of view has been pointed out before, but I refer to the “Trail of Blood View of Preservation” as basically the one that I was taught in Bible college. We can also call this the “It’s There Somewhere View.” Obviously, I get the label from J. M. Carroll’s Book, The Trail of Blood, which basically serves as an end-all textbook (though it’s paper-thin) to the question of Baptist origins for many independent Baptists. The basic premise is that independent Baptists like the groups of the 20th century can be found all throughout history if you just look hard enough (and revise along the way). Heretical groups like the Cathari along with questionable groups like the Donatists and Albigenses are listed as forerunners of modern day independent Baptist churches. Though some of them may not have believed the deity of the Lord Jesus, they were opposed to the state church or even practiced anabaptism, so they were included in the lineage. When a reconsideration is brought up against this view, one is quickly reminded that the “winners write the history books” and we must “take by faith” that these groups were all Baptists.
Likewise, the Trial of Blood view of preservation does the same thing. Since the premise of this view is based on biblical passages of preservation, and the conclusion of this view is that the preserved words are in the King James Version of 1611, then logically there must be a version that is just as much the Word of God as the KJV for Christians throughout the ages. However, it doesn’t have to be mainstream. It doesn’t have to be the most widely read or known. It simple has to exist. So it’s not the Vulgate, though the majority of Christians only knew of it for 1100 years. But less popular Bibles like the Italic, Old Latin, the Peshitta, and the Waldensen Bible make the list. Because some psuedo-scholars point out possibly Byzantine readings in these older versions, the Trail of Blood adherents believe they fulfill the requirements for a pre-1611 KJV. Where was the Word of God before 1611? Why, the Italic version of course! It is mainly this view that I am calling into question in this post.
The fact is that these versions do not fully agree with the King James. And this is the double standard. How can we approve of pre-1611 Bibles even though they’re different than the KJV, but whole-heartedly reject modern versions for their differences? In all likelihood, many modern versions are closer to the KJV than any of the Bibles listed on the “good” tree. The Peshitta, for example, omitted entire books from its NT cannon. This means the NIV, ESV, NET Bible and others are closer to the KJV than the Peshitta. Yet, the Peshitta enjoys a place on the “good line of Bibles” in many a King James Only work. From my analysis of Waite:
A number of scholars have refuted the idea that these early versions contained a “received kind of text.” They agree with the Byzatine platform in some cases, but it has been pointed out that it’s mainly the Western text they support, and only mimic the Byzatine when the Byzatine mimics the Western. Secondly, these versions also agree with the other text families and versions, often with a degree far exceeding the agreement with the Byzantine (James D. Price’s Book, King James Onlyism: A New Sect, shows the percentage for some portions. For example, the Italic version, which KJVO advocates claim is a TR prototype, agrees 42.4% of the time with the Latin Vulgate alone in the book of Thessalonians as opposed to 5.6% Byzantine alone.). A big problem is that most of the Bibles he lists do not contain late, secondary Byzantine readings like I John 5:7. Finally, these versions were also diverse and there’s disagreement as to their origins and date. For example, the idea that the Peshitta came from the 2nd century (about 150 AD) has long since been moved to the 4th century, though few KJVO actually bother to recognize this.
Before 1611: Prototypes of the KJV existed in various Bible versions throughout history.
Since the 1611 Moment: The KJV is the culmination of all Bible translations and serves as the only acceptable Word of God to English speaking people (and in many cases, the best basis for translating into other languages).
Moderate/Mainstream view – I don’t know if moderate or mainstream are appropriate terms for this view (I use moderate because the vitriol is significantly less than what is found in the works of Riplinger, Ruckman, and Marrs) , but I am referring to the one held by many in the independent Baptist movement who admit that there is no real prototype or photocopy of the KJV prior to the KJV. Many in the Sword of the Lord camp or Hyles camp probably hold this view, in addition to the Trinitarian Bible Society, David Cloud, Kent Brandenburg, D.A. Waite, and Thomas Strouse. Now, some probably have one foot here and the other in the Trail of Blood view, such as Waite, who would probably affirm this fact even though he still holds to the “line of good Bibles” argument (though instead of the good tree vs. bad tree analogy, he employs the line of “Byzantine text-type Bibles”). Their position is based on the idea that God preserves His words in the original languages.
So even though this group wouldn’t claim that the Peshitta or Italic is a pre-1611 KJV, they would still say they were the Bibles God gave to His people to make good His promise of the accessibility of His words. In other words, they are good Bibles whereas the modern translations are bad ones. Dr. Strouse answered Wallace’s question on the Ankerberg show by saying the Word of God was “in the Textus Receptus and in the Masoretic Text.” Not in one copy or version, but “in” these text streams, as if pre-1611 Christians went to church with a leather bound book that said “Textus Receptus” in hand. Whatever Bible version that may have been, it’s a good one – and the modern ones are bad ones. My question is, what’s the difference? Assuming the Old Latin is 5% different from the KJV and the ESV is 5% different from the KJV, why is the Old Latin suitable for its time whereas the ESV is not?
The double standard in both groups is: Differences in Translations are ok before 1611 but they are not ok after 1611. Though we are the ones often charged with confusing the public because we “don’t have a settled Bible” – the KJVO view has to admit of an unsettled Bible for 1,600 years of the church’s existence, until the 1611 Moment.
This chart was taken from a portion of my analysis of Dr. D.A. Waite’s King James Only seminars. Excuse me, but I use MS Paint to make my graphics. If someone can produce something better, please do!
Kent Brandenburg has repeatedly said on his blog that the Bible promises “general accessibility” of His words, in the original languages, to His people, through His church, to every generation. Yet those words aren’t found in a single volume until 1611, namely because 1) it is after the printing press and 2) the church (in the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions) declare their position on preservation during the reign of the King James. “General accessibility,” though, is rather elusive: how general are we talking? It seems the comma Johanneum, for example, was far from generally accessible until, at the very least, the 14th century. If one says that it is found in the Latin, that would contradict the original language argument. Others produce charts that claim the comma is found here and there, and though I would dispute those claims, is this really general accessibility? Yet, post 1611 (or post- Erasmus-third-edition-of-his-NT-text), the comma becomes much more accessible. After 1611, then, general accessibility turns into specific accessibility in one volume. Something changed in 1611. It is the 1611 Moment.
Before 1611: God’s words, in the original Hebrew and Greek, were preserved somewhere and were “generally accessible” to His church, even though not found in a single volume or family of manuscripts.
Since the 1611 Moment: The church has declared, after 1600 years of existence, that all of those words are perfectly preserved in the Masoretic Text and Textus Receptus which underlie the King James Version, and translations of these two texts are the only acceptable versions of the Bible.
Majority Text view: The view propagating the Byzantine platform, held by men such as the late Art Farstad and Zane Hodges, as well as Maurice Robinson and others, has been referred to as the “counting noses” theory of textual criticism; that is, the majority of manuscripts will lead us to the original reading of the Bible (this is an obviously simplistic definition). This view isn’t the same as the King James Only view, nor is it the same as the Critical Text view; it is somewhere in between. I really don’t have a problem with this view, though I disagree with it. It doesn’t look for a perfect, end-all translation, but is willing to admit textual variation and the need to revise. On the other hand, it is a bit more settled than the Critical Text view seems to be. Farstad has said he switched from the NASB to the KJV when he learned textual issues. Still, he eventually abandoned the KJV for the NKJV, which many consider to be the closest thing to the Majority Text in English. This view doesn’t quite have a 1611 Moment, but I bring it up because some in the KJVO camp confuse it with King James Onlyism, since KJVO literature sometimes says that the KJV NT is attested by 99% – a majority – over and against the 1-2% that is usually given to attest to the Critical Text. However, it is estimated that the difference between New Testaments in the TR and CT is between 2%-7%, which means that 99% also attests to roughly 95% of the Critical Text. Even still, majority isn’t always right – and if one is to follow the majority, he would have to omit minority readings in the KJV, including the comma Johannuem.
Critical Text view: Now let me close in reminding the reader that all of the contributors to this blog have something in common: we were all King James Only and have since rejected the KJVO view. However, we may differ when it comes to how we get there. So I don’t speak for everyone when I make this conclusion, but for myself and anyone who wishes to attach his name to it:
The critical text view is the most consistent in this matter because we can apply it throughout history and up to today. That the Word spread and was copied so fast and variants crept in is no surprise, and that textual criticism was needed, in some fashion, in order to compile manuscripts and make translations was understood. It is still true today. There is no 1611 Moment, nor an 1881 Moment, nor a 2001 Moment. It is the continuing effort to hone the discipline of textual criticism and to arrive at the most accurate version. We don’t have the original nor a particular passage of scripture that tells us when we can finally say, “settled.” Therefore, the only thing that has changed, in the critical text view, is that the science of textual criticism has become more consistent and based on a larger array of evidence. The result is a text that is very likely more close to the original than before. Though every word may not be settled in the text, God’s Word – His message – still stands.
Before 1611: The church, through trial and error, discovers the authenticity of the canon of books and the canon of words which make up the scriptures, sometimes settling too early, but eventually revising, editing, and producing new versions.
Since 1611: The same as above, but becoming more consistent, more streamlined, and more accurate to the original text.