A Clear Exposition of Psalm 12 as a Whole

1 Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth;
For the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour:
With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4 Who have said, “With our tongue will we prevail;
Our lips are our own: who is lord over us?”

5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy,
Now will I arise,” saith the Lord;
“I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words:
As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord,
Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
8 The wicked walk on every side,
When the vilest men are exalted. (Psalm 12, KJV)

Why do an exegesis of this Psalm?

The King James Version Only camp loves to quote verses 6-7 of this chapter as a proof text for their position. Despite the fact that countless commentaries and even the marginal notes of the translational ancestors of the KJV like the Geneva Bible contradict them, KJVO believers insist that the “them” in verse 7 is “the words of the LORD” in verse 6 and that this indicates the need for, as one pundit puts it, “a 100% pure version of the Bible.”

This passage has been cited this way so many times in various forums, that it led me to do an expositional study of the passage. My hope and prayer is that by understanding these verses in their proper (and immediate) context, our brothers and sisters will be encouraged by the content of the psalm rather than continuing to apply a poor hermeneutic to it.

The Structure of the Psalm

The psalm is composed of four distinct sections or stanzas.

1. The call for assistance (1-2)
2. Accusation against the wicked (3-4)
3. YHWH’s response (5-6)
4. Response to YHWH (7-8)

The Call for Assistance (1–2)

Clearly, the psalm is meant to reflect a period of oppression or attack. The author, traditionally King David, is really struggling. He declares that he is on the verge of collapse. (Ceaseth is Hebrew גמר. See perfect in Psalm 138:8.) This is a personal feeling but it is also felt in the entire faith community. Both “the godly man” and “the faithful” (plural) are under duress.

The particular issue in view appears to be lies and false witness against the people of God. Vanity (שוא) implies emptiness. The imagery also seems to indicate manipulation of others through flattery (חלק) and deceit.

The Accusation Against the Wicked (3-4)

The prideful attitude of these accusers becomes clear. The psalmist quotes their bravado and empty words of self-confidence before YHWH. They proclaim that they will overcome and bow to no authority but themselves (v 4).

YHWH’s Response (5-6)

This blasphemy of self-worship frames YHWH’s response. The psalmist picks up the motif of the poor and oppressed crying out. This motif looks back as far as Abel’s innocent blood (Genesis 4), mingling it with imagery that appears in the opening of Exodus and is repeated in Judges.

YHWH hears the cries of those these self-worshipers are destroying, and he says, “I will arise.” This concept is picked up by the prophets Isaiah (14:22) and Amos (7:9).

Because the psalmist attributes this statement to YHWH himself, we have every reason to believe this declaration is meant to be taken as a declaration of YHWH’s will, and as mentioned before, it conforms with his character as demonstrated in both Genesis and Exodus.

God himself is speaking, and His words are actions. This is a statement of great importance. It is a response to prayer, and a declaration of action from YHWH himself.

It is immediately on the heels of this declaration that the psalmist declares, “The words of the Lord are pure words: As silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

Response to YHWH (7-8)

Notice that there is an immediate shift in the object of the Psalmist’s words. He now speaks directly back to YHWH. Verse 6 is not a direct address to YHWH, but rather an affirmation of the words spoken by YHWH. In liturgical use, verse 6 may have been a refrain that was meant for the assembled believers to recite. (It is important to remember that the psalms were meant for public recitation by the faith community, not personal reading.)

But verse 7 addresses YHWH directly. It is a response to YHWH’s declaration in verse 5. The psalmist responds to YHWH in thanks that he will preserve and keep. But what will he preserve and keep? It is the “godly man” and “the faithful” in verse 1. The psalm is not a declaration of the Word. It is a call for help, a prayer for intervention. And YHWH answered the Psalmist’s prayer.

And if it weren’t completely clear, the statement is immediately followed by a clarifying statement in verse 8 addressing the justice to be dispensed against the wicked. These wicked people surround the “them” of verse 7. This again looks back to verse 1.

Conclusions

A clear, simple reading of this psalm as a liturgical song of prayer and divine response indicates that this passage is misread when one applies the affirmation of verse 7 to the statement of verse 6. Verse 6 is a communal affirmation while verse 7 is the answer of prayer.

This passage makes no guarantee of a “100%” preservation of the Scriptures as “the words of the Lord” which requires a single translation of the texts.

It does, however, encourage those who are facing opposition, persecution and false witness that YHWH does not abandon his people and he will “arise”.

Coffee With Sam: What’s the Big Deal about the KJV?

A new website has launched called BigDealKJV.com, in which (according to the video creator) 8-10 video episodes will eventually be published. In this first episode, KJVO advocate Sam Gipp sits down over coffee with a student to explain to his confused mind why the KJV is the final authority.

In this well-produced short video, Gipp offers many of the same arguments and presuppositions posited by KJV advocates. While Gipp has said things that place him in the Ruckmanite category, he comes off here as a humble and wise professor seeking to take the complex issue of biblical transmission and make it fit into a simple construct with contemporary analogies. Here are some arguments given:

1. The Bible(s) we have today have to be exactly the same as that given by inspiration in order to be authoritative. 

Gipp makes this point in the very beginning when he declares the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, and then clarifies that he’s “not talking about an imaginary book” but “a book that I’m holding in my hand right now.”  He proceeds to point to the Bible in his hand as the final authority.

This idea has been propagated in numerous ways across the spectrum of King James Onlyism. What this concept does is it provides a basis to later declare all modern versions as less than authoritative because they do not all equally match each other. The KJVO advocate may deny it, but if he uses this argumentation, he really is looking for a photocopy of the originals, albeit in English.

2. There are only two Bibles, the Egyptian and the Antiochan.

Over coffee, Gipp tells his suspicious catechumen that despite the hundreds of Bible translations in the bookstores, all Bibles come from just one of two lines of manuscripts: those that come from Alexandria, Egypt, and those that come from Antioch in Syria. From this simplistic categorization of text types, Gipp then uses the guilt-by-association tactic to prove the superiority of the KJV because of its affiliation with Antiochian manuscripts.

Never mind that the Bible provides no precedent to use a distinction between Egypt and Antioch for a basis of judging translations, or that the Son of God was called out of Egypt, or that Athanasius, the champion of trinitarian orthodoxy, came from Alexandria. Because the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch and Egypt is generally spoken of negatively in the scriptures, the issue is presented very matter-of-fact by Gipp that the KJV descends from the Antiochian line, and is therefore superior.

3. The Textus Receptus is the Antiochian line of manuscripts

Gipp says the TR “is the Greek that comes out of Antioch.” So, the line of reasoning is as follows: Inspiration in Antioch > copies and publishing in Antioch > Textus Receptus > KJV.

Unfortunately for Gipp’s argumentation, the transmission of the text is not that simple.

4. The Critical Text is bad because it’s called the Critical Text

I chuckled at the statement, “Just the fact that it’s ‘critical’ should tell you there’s a problem.” All the while he’s promoting the TR, which is a Greek text. A text, by its very nature, is critical. Variant readings from manuscripts have to be compared in order to produce a finished product. In this way, Erasmus’ TR editions are critical, although worked from far fewer manuscripts and with less of a science of textual criticism.

5. Modern translations cannot help a Christian grow in the same way the KJV can.

Thankfully, Gipp admits that people can come to the knowledge of the gospel and be saved through reading versions other than the KJV. However, only the KJV is incorruptible, and corrupt modern versions are not appropriate for the Christian’s growth. No evidence is given here, but at this point, the episode is coming to a close, so I suspect we’ll get more details in the future.

The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8 by C.L. Bolt

This article isn’t brand new, but I believe it is a worthwhile contribution to our blog. I came across this essay as its author, C.L. Bolt, and I interacted on a mutual friend’s comment thread on Facebook. Mr. Bolt was happy to have me re-post it here. Be sure to check out his website, Choosing Hats, an excellent resource of presuppositional apologetics.

The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8

by C.L. BOLT on DECEMBER 31, 2010

The Comma Johanneum as a Textual Problem

Introduction

The phrase “Comma Johanneum” is the name given to a short clause of a sentence found in 1 John 5.7-8 which has become a famous problem in textual criticism. The word “comma” as it is used here just means a short clause of a sentence and “Johanneum” refers to the writings of the Apostle John.[i] The phrase “Comma Johanneum” thus refers to a short clause of a sentence (comma) which has some relevance to the writings of John (Johanneum). The Comma Johanneum can be found in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)[ii]

Continue reading

“The Superiority of the Majority Text” by Brian Schwertley

Recently, a reader sent me a link to the following lecture by Presbyterian pastor Brain Schwertley. It was forwarded to me under the heading of “Challenging Sermon from a TR-only Perspective.” I appreciate that forward; it gives us something to talk about. In listening to the sermon, I found it to be wanting: he used typical arguments, he confused terminology, and he does not answer each objections as well as he says he does. On the positive note, I found it refreshing to hear a sermon from a TR supporter that is not full of conspiracy theories and ad-hominem attack. Granted, he isn’t thrilled with those who support modern versions, but his passion seems sincere. What do you think?

Link to Sermon

Where Do We Stand?

Last week’s post generated plenty of conversation. I hope to highlight one of the points brought to light in a future post; namely, I will post on Tischendorf’s discovery of Sinaiticus and how the story is portrayed in the KJVO debate on all sides.

What got me thinking, though, is more along the lines of our personal backgrounds. I realize some of our regular guests have shared their own story, but I’m not sure that I even know where everyone stands on the issue. I see we have folks who regularly comment in support of the TR or MT but are not necessarily KJVO. We have others who are very critical of the CT but again, not KJVO. Then we have some who are indeed KJVO. I am also very interested in your theological leanings, as we’ve had people here who are not Christian at all. It helps to know who we’re talking to.

I’m wondering if those of you who regularly comment here (or who have in the past) would mind providing a little theological background and insight into your current thoughts on the Bible version issue. My fellow contributors are welcome to chime in as always. Even though we’ve given short bios on the authors page, and even though we all come from the IFB KJVO position, we have not all given our full position on this topic and I’m sure we even differ among ourselves.

To keep the commentary to the point, would you please follow these guidelines and answer these questions:

Guidelines: Please keep it brief yet specific. Please refrain from replying to a comment unless it addresses a specific point made (perhaps for an elaboration or clarification rather than an argument).

Questions:

1. What kind of church do you attend, if any?
2. What is your role in ministry, if any?
3. Has your position on the Bible version issue changed? If so, how?
4. How would you describe your current perspective on the TR, MT, and CT?
5. How important is this issue to you and how significant is it to your theology as a whole? (for example, do you practice separation if someone does not agree, etc)
6. What English Bibles do you recommend and use?
7. What resources have helped you, and which would you urge people to stay away from?
8. Finally, to keep things friendly, share with us what your favorite food is.

The above do not necessarily all have to be answered, or answered in order, but if you could frame your comments around these topics that would help us keep things clear and concise.

James White vs. Will Kinney

Will Kinney may not be a household name, but  those who have debated the King James Only issue on the Internet are very likely to have come across Kinney’s articles one way or another. I have personally exchanged arguments with him in the past. I do think he has a better handle of some of the issues than many drive-by commentators on the web (so much so that on a message board, a bunch of folks I’ve debated could not respond to my arguments so one member of the message board threatened to “get Will Kinney over here” to refute me, and the exchange began), but he does not hold back from the typical ad-hominem attacks of many extreme KJV Onlysists. His tone unfortunately takes away from the force of any of his legitimate arguments.

Anyway, in typical KJVO fashion, Kinney has gone on the attack against James White (who has possibly been attacked more by fellow Christians holding to the KJVO view than he has by Muslims and atheists) complete with insults and wide-eyed accusations. One video in which he does this is here, and you can follow related links to others:

On a recent episode of the Dividing Line, White responds to some charges:

Will Kinney calls into the program about 15 minutes in, and the two argue for about 12 minutes. The exchange is rather annoying, as both men are talking past each other and basically saying, “No, you answer the question” back and forth. Kinney is bold; James white is bold. Kinney is on the attack and White does not seem as though he will let these insults fly without response. Knowing Kinney’s pattern, he will not let this go. So unless James White, out of frustration, decides not to pursue the matter any further, I would expect a drawn-out back-and-forth over the next few weeks or so.

 

50 Copies for the Whole Empire

I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. (Constantine the Great, writing to Eusebius of Caesarea, Vita Constantini IV.36)

The above lines are order for the first Authorized Version of the Scriptures. Constantine realized that because Christianity had always been a lower class, urban movement, there were not a lot of copies of the Scriptures around.

We need to know a few things about Constantine. He was born in what is today the Balkans, but he traveled extensively as a young man in the court of Diocletian. Diocletian made his father, Constantius Chlorus Augustus of the West in 293 CE, and Constantine accompanied him to Britain. When Constantius died in 306 CE, his troops acclaimed Constantine as Augustus. Diocletian had abdicated in 305, and Constantine shortly marched on Italy. At the Battle of Milvian Bridge (312 CE), Constantine claimed divine protection in defeating Maxentius. This is the famous ‘conversion’ moment. The following year (313 CE), Constantine made a peace with the only remaining Augustus, Licinius, and as part of the peace declared the end of Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians.

This persecution had been unevenly executed. Most of the western Christians had escaped unharmed, but there was a significant effort to wipe out eastern Christians – mostly in Greece and Asia Minor. During this persecution, churches were to be destroyed and Scriptures burned.

It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian’s reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Savior’s Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire, and giving notice that those in places of honor would lose their places, and domestic staff, if they continued to profess Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty. Such was the first edict against us. Soon afterward other decrees arrived in rapid succession, ordering that the presidents of the churches in every place should all be first committed to prison and then coerced by every possible means into offering sacrifice. (Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, VIII.2)

Just how well this was applied on the local level is a matter of some confusion. Eusebius reports that Diocletian rescinded the ban when he was sick, provided that the Christians agreed to pray for him. In reality, it was Diocletian’s co-emperor Galerius who was adamantly anti-Christian. Diocletian certainly was not pro-Christian, but he seems to have been content with threats while Galerius acted on the,.

Constantine brought all of this to an end. Within a few years of his ascension Christianity went from being persecuted to being actively encouraged.

And this brings us to the quote that we began this article with. Constantine recognized that Christianity was growing fast, but there were not enough copies of the Scriptures to teach them from. When Christianity was a small, oral-primary movement, copies of the Scriptures could be rare because the teachers could rely on their memories to present the Gospel and Epistles. Now, Christianity was full of people who knew nothing of the Scriptures.

The remarkable thing was that Constantine called for only 50 copies! At the time, the population of the empire had to be around 10 million people. Even if he was only seeking copies for the Eastern portion of the empire (perhaps to help rebuild the church there), the East was easily the most populated part of the empire. Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Jerusalem and Alexandria were all around 1 million people, and Constantine was building a New Rome that would soon be a metropolis itself.

This little bit of history tells us two important things:

  1. There were Scriptures before Constantine, but there were few of them. The oral-primary culture of urban, lower class Christians did not require many copies.
  2. Constantine’s order for manuscripts was for professional quality work.

At once, Eusebius defuses the primary argument for textual variants – that the manuscripts were being written hastily by amateurs. Since all of the manuscripts we have today are from the era of Constantine and forward, this argument really does not hold a lot of ground. He also explains why we don’t find manuscripts earlier than Constantine.

History itself bears out that we should not expect to find manuscripts earlier than the 4th century CE, and the early manuscripts we might find will be the work of an early imperial edict. That does not guarantee their accuracy (especially in cases where the text might conflict with Roman rule) but it does set some parameters for their existence.

Why the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text is a Good Thing!

A few months back, my father mentioned to me that he had been approached to join the board of The Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text. Just a couple weeks before, I had been actively advocating the abandonment of the current ‘Text Family’ arguments in favor of a holistic approach to the corpus of Greek texts available to us. When I head about the CSPMT, I was hopeful that the project would yield what I was advocating:

  1. The rejection of the 19th century textual family arguments.
  2. The compilation of all known manuscripts (not published texts)
  3. The collation of these manuscripts in a database that would allow parallel views of the originals and transcriptions
  4. The development of the necessary software to make this database available as an online resource

Understanding that such a project would be a truly massive one, I did not expect the CSPMT to undertake it but at the very least to lay a foundation for it. As the CSPMT has begun to take shape, I think that it will be the foundation that is necessary.

Does it bother anyone else that textual criticism is bogged down by arguments between the proponents of the texts used in the 17th century (the Textus Receptus) and those discovered in the 19th (the Critical Text). This is the 21st century. Why can’t we rebuild our understanding of the text from the ground up without relying on the biases of polymath priests (Erasmus), printers (the Elzevir brothers), theological liberals (Westcott and Hort), adventurers (Constantin von Tischendorf), and continental academics (take your pick).

Rather than having to fight with insufferably complex critical apparatuses in one of two or three printed texts, technology would allow us to access as much or as little of the original information as we need. With the proper scanning technology and a well-constructed database, searching and comparison would be no more complicated than using Bibleworks or Logos.

Is it a massive project? Yes. Will it slaughter an awful lot of sacred cows? Yes. Will academics like it? No. (because it will remove their monopoly on information.)

Just a thought.

Revelation 22:18-19 And Perfect Textual Preservation

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Does Revelation 22:18-19 Teach Perfect Textual Preservation?

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. ” (Revelation 22:18–19)

The above verses have been used to argue for the King James Version against other translations of the Bible. Simply stated, the argument is that the original text is preserved in the KJV and that all other translations add to, or take away from the original text.

Our question is this, “Does this passage actually teach said doctrine?” Some say that it does, and others say that it does not. What do the Scriptures say?

Words

First of all, let us ask what words are. That is what we are warned against embellishing or removing. Words are expressions of thought. The form of words change over time so that words become archaic and are replaced by other words that convey the same meaning. One instance of this is that we use the word “let” to mean “to allow”. In the King James Version the word was used to mean “to hinder”. We must ask ourselves, then, whether the use of synonyms is acceptable in Bible translation. We must then ask ourselves whether a sentence in a more recent English translation of the Bible could have more or less words in it than a sentence in the KJV contains and yet still convey the same thought.

In the Scriptures we find that sometimes the very word “word” is used to express the decree, or command of God. One example can be found in Psalm 33:6-9 where we know that it simply means that God spoke the command and the worlds were made. We again see this in Hebrews 1:3 where we find that universe is sustained by the word, or decree of God.

The meaning of “word” does not have to be the lexical form of a word, but can be a word, its synonym, or the command of God.

The Bible does not condemn the use of synonyms or loose quotations of Scripture, as long as the thought of the Scripture is conveyed. Most students of the Bible are aware of the fact that the New Testament writers sometimes quoted the Old Testament in ways that were definitely not verbatim quotations. One interesting instance is found in James’ writing. James said, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5) Have you ever tried to find the instance in the Old Testament where that statement is made? Most of us will admit that there is no place in the Old Testament where one can find this statement verbatim. It will not do for someone to claim that the Bible writers were inspired and could use Scripture in such a fashion, because to do so would be to charge the Bible writers and God the Holy Spirit with inconsistency. After all, if God tells us not to change the form of one single word, we can be sure that He would be inconsistent to command one to do so even if he were inspired.

Jots And Tittles

What, then, of the jots and tittles of Matthew 5:17-18? What is that all about? Simply put, it means that the Scriptures will be perfectly fulfilled. We have a saying today that goes something like this: “He follows the rules to the letter.” What we mean is that a person strictly adheres to the meaning and intent of the rules. So it is with God’s Word. All will come to pass perfectly, just as God has told us.

The words of Jesus concerning jots and tittles cannot teach perfect textual preservation, because the law itself neither teaches, nor is presented as an example of perfect textual preservation. This truth is seen in a comparison of the ten commandments as given in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. When Moses spoke the law to Israel the second time he did not speak it verbatim, but actually added words to what he said previously. We will find, too, that it is this same Moses who said that we are not to add to the words of God.

Revelation 22:18-19

What is meant by the adding to and taking away of Revelation 22:18-19? The answer to that question has to be found by considering the previous places in which we were warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God.

Moses told Israel, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. ” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Why was Israel warned not to add to, or take away from the words of God? So that they would obey God. The issue that is before us is that the message cannot be changed by adding commandments, or taking away commandments. Either one would be sin. Either one would lead people into disobedience. That is why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, because they were adding commandments to God’s Word, and taking away commandments, also. (See Matthew 5:33-35;15:1-10) Furthermore, Moses told Israel, “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. ” (Deuteronomy 5:22) We already saw that Moses did not give a verbatim quotation of the ten commandments here. Now he adds that God gave them no more words. In other words, the law that God gave at Sinai was all the word that they needed at that time. Simply put, “Ye shall not add unto”, or “He added no more” simply means that what they had been given was all that they needed. The message that God had given Israel through Moses was sufficient for them at that time, and was not to be changed so as to make the message say something that God did not say.

In the same vein of thought, we read in the Proverbs, “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. ” (Proverbs 30:5–6) Those who add to the words of God will be shown to be wrong, and demonstrated to be liars. One is not a liar who uses synonyms and yet retains the message accurately. He is a liar who changes the words to the extent that the message is changed. God’s warning is for us to not change the message. This is the foundation of Paul’s anathema in Galatians 1:7-9. The message IS NOT TO BE CHANGED!

Thus it is that Revelation 22:18-19 is the last in a long chain of warnings against changing the message of God, and not a text that supports the doctrine of perfect textual preservation.