The following article is reprinted with permission from “As I See It”, Volume 13, Number 9, September 2010, a free monthly newsletter published by Doug Kutilek. Subscription information is available here at the author’s website: KJVOnly.Org. Note: our posting of this article does not imply our complete endorsement of all particulars contained therein.
“Purified Seven Times”: A Case of Defective Exegesis and Improper Application
One of the near-universal but untested assumptions of “King James Only”-ites is that Psalm 12:6, 7 has specific reference to God’s perfect preservation of Scripture in the copying and translating process, and that more specifically this refers to the King James Version, and in truth only to the KJV and no other Bible version in English or any other language on earth. This interpretation is both grossly arbitrary and wholly unsound.
That passage reads (KJV, all spelling, punctuation and italics as in original 1611 edition):
The wordes of the LORD are pure wordes: as siluer tried in a fornace of earth purified seuen times.
Thou shalt keepe them, (O LORD,) thou shalt preserue them, from this generation for euer.
We will here mention only in passing one particular misinterpretation by KJVO zealots of this text, to wit, that the promise of preservation in v. 7 refers back to the “words” of v. 6, when in fact it refers (as the Hebrew and the context show) to the persecuted believers of v. 5 (“For the oppression of the poore, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise (saith the LORD,) I will set him in safetie from him that puffeth at him”; for proof of my analysis, see the commentaries of John Gill or Franz Delitzsch on this Psalm; or, more fully, my article “A Careful Investigation of Psalm 12:6, 7,” The Biblical Evangelist, October 14, 1983. That article does need some modification, expansion and revision–which I hope to undertake shortly–but is essentially correct as written).
By remarkable extrapolation, the faulty foundational interpretation imposed on this text by KJVO partisans is alleged to first refer to the written word of God, then to its perfect transmission to posterity, which culminates most particularly and in fact uniquely in the English translation of the Scriptures known as the King James Version. An arbitrary explanation? Completely so. Nothing in the text nor context speaks of the copying or translating process at all, and certainly nothing about any English Bible version, nor indeed a particular one among them. Even so, it is somehow “found” in the text, resulting in an interpretation as exegetically forced as the Mormons finding the combining of the Book of Mormon with the Bible in the two sticks of Ezekiel 37:16-19.
Our attention here will be directed to the “use” made by KJVOers of the simile in v. 6 “as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times” as though it were a reference to seven stages in God’s providing a “pure Bible” to the English-speaking people (and only to the English-speaking people) in the form of the KJV.
(One must ask–if the Word of God was verbally and plenary inspired, as indeed the Bible teaches, and then verbally and plenarily preserved in the copying and transmission process, as the novel doctrine created by KJVOers in the 1990s claims [see “The Error of ‘Verbal Plenary Preservation’,” As I See It, 12:11], why would there be any need to purify the Bible even once, much less “seven times”?)
As far as I can discover, the first writer to abuse Psalm 12:6–“purified seven times”–as though it were actually a promise / prophecy regarding the process of transmission of the Bible from antiquity to the modern era, was Peter S. Ruckman, Sr. A correspondent (whom we leave anonymous at his request, but who has made a systematic study of Ruckman’s published books) wrote to us:
Peter Ruckman seemed to use a form of the “purified seven times” claim in his commentary on the book of Psalms. Commenting on that phrase from Psalm 12:6, Ruckman indicated that the word “went out in seven installments” that included the Hebrew O. T., the Aramaic, the Greek N. T., the old Syriac translation, the Old Latin translation, the German translation of Martin Luther, and the AV of 1611 (I, pp. 70-71; see also his The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship).
We don’t own Ruckman’s commentary on Psalms or otherwise have direct access to it, but do have his The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. Those “seven installments” in which God’s word went out are indeed alleged to be (The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship, p. 125 in 1987 edition; p. 129 in 1988 edition):
1. the Hebrew part of the OT
2. the Aramaic part of the OT
3. the Greek NT
4. an “old Syriac” translation of 1.-3.
5. an “old Latin” translation of 1.-3.
6. a German translation of 1.-3. made during the Reformation
7. the KJV, allegedly “from the end of the Reformation”
Several of these are “problematic,” since number 4., the Peshitta Syriac version (no doubt what Ruckman has reference to) differs in literally thousands of places, all told, from the Masoretic Hebrew text, the textus receptus Greek NT, and the KJV. For example, the Peshitta Syriac does not contain I John 5:7, John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37; and other passages, and in fact did not include Revelation and several other NT books at all!
And number 5. the Old Latin version, in the OT was not made from the Hebrew text but was made from the Greek Septuagint translation, which version is to Ruckman and the whole of the KJVO herd “anathema.” And in the NT, the Old Latin manuscripts differ in many hundreds of details from the textus receptus Greek edition. Examples: all Old Latin manuscripts read “Isaiah the prophet” rather than “the prophets” at Mark 1:2; all read “men of goodwill” like Greek manuscript Vaticanus and the Vulgate, rather than “goodwill toward men” in Luke 2:14; all lack “after the spirit” in Romans 8:1 and lack “and in your spirit which are God’s” at I Corinthians 6:20; etc. (see my article “The Truth About the Waldensian Bible and the Old Latin Version,” Baptist Biblical Heritage 2:2, Summer, 1991)
Number 6. Luther’s German version, does NOT precisely conform to the Masoretic OT, the textus receptus NT, or the KJV. Among other things, it does not have I John 5:7 (see “Ruckman on Luther and I John 5:7: Dolt or Deceiver?” As I See It, 4:8, August 2001).
And there is no definitive edition of the KJV, with even the two editions issued in 1611 differing between themselves in over 2,000 places. Differences between these two and later KJV editions are many times greater.
One is hard-pressed to see a perfect and pristinely pure text in steps 4.-7. since these do not agree precisely or in all details with each other or with 1.-3. (whatever printed editions one may claim as the “true original” of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek)
Somewhat surprisingly, the KJVO acolytes of Ruckman seem not to have followed their chosen “Pied Piper” in his abuse of this text (though they have gone in lock-step with him on many others), but have struck out in a different path of text abuse. It is common place among KJVO authors to find the “purified seven times” phrase limited to seven steps in the purification and perfection of the Bible in English, always culminating in the KJV as the crown of perfection. One problem: there is continual disagreement among authors as to the identity of these supposedly Divinely-foretold steps.