A Pillar Text and a Slick Website for King James Onlyism
Many websites on the Internet feature garish graphic design: a profusion of fonts and colors, ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, corny animated gifs. Conspiracy theory sites (like this one arguing that George W. Bush is responsible for the 9/11 attacks) tend to fall into this category. Because King James Onlyism is a conspiracy theory (translators of the modern versions have conspired to take away God’s Word), its sites often look similar. There are exceptions: West Coast Baptist College has always had very nice looking materials. Somebody in leadership over there cares about graphic design. Ambassador’s website is nice. But search for “KJV 1611” and you’ll see that well-made KJVO sites are the exception.
This brand new, very slick KJVO site featuring multiple high-quality webisodes therefore came as a shock. I have never seen anything like it. It scares me, frankly, because good design lends credibility to KJVOism’s schismatic ideas. But the writer and star of these webisodes is not new, nor are any of his arguments; he’s a familiar name in KJVO circles: Sam Gipp.
I hesitate to draw anyone’s attention to these videos, but they give me an opportunity to write a post about perhaps the most important Bible passage used by the KJVO side. In the four episodes currently available—yes, I sat through them all—this passage is the only one Gipp leans any weight on.*
Gipp’s Strongest Scriptural Argument
That Bible passage is Psalm 12:6–7. Here’s what it says in the KJV:
“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”
For Gipp, this means that God will preserve His words from David’s time onward to eternity. Simple.
Now, my conscience is captive to God’s Word, and if that verse said what Gipp says it says, he would indeed have a powerful argument. But the verse simply is not speaking of God’s preservation of the Bible. Read the whole psalm:
To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.
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.
The psalm is about God’s protection of the poor and needy in a time when oppression is rife and godly men are scarce. But as Sam Gipp (and other KJVOs) read it, David abruptly switches topics in verse 6; he takes a break from the main theme and mentions an unrelated issue: God will preserve an unbroken line of perfect biblical manuscript copies. Then in verse 8 David suddenly switches back to the original theme of the psalm. Ohio is an important swing state in American elections, and I’m not sure if cheese turns green over time. But this isn’t the way normal discourses work. The verses Gipp refers to are insisting that God will keep His promise in verse 5 to “set him [the poor] in safety from him that puffeth at him.” (Did you catch that abrupt Ohio and cheese topic shift? That’s what Gipp sees in this psalm.)
Let’s Check the Hebrew
The argument from context is, in my mind, decisive. But the Hebrew puts the matter beyond doubt. “Words” simply cannot be the antecedent for the two pronouns (“them”) in verse 7. The two instances of “them” in verse 7—the people he promises to “keep” and “preserve”—are masculine, but “words” in v.6 is feminine. The “them” refers most naturally, then, to the (masculine) “poor” and “needy” of v.5.** Because English doesn’t grammaticalize gender in plural pronouns like Hebrew does (we distinguish “he” and “she,” but “them” can speak of men or women or both), the meaning is somewhat ambiguous in English. But the Hebrew is perfectly clear. Gipp got the most important passage in his argument wrong.
Even if Gipp were right about this passage, his argument would not be airtight, because the verse still doesn’t name which line(s) of manuscripts preserve God’s word. Neither this passage nor any other ever mentions the Alexandrian or Antiochan manuscript families that Gipp distinguishes so carefully in one of the videos. As I’ve just argued, in fact, Psalm 12:6–7 has nothing to do with bibliology (the doctrine of Scripture). If God promises to preserve His words perfectly, Gipp will have to establish that from another passage.
*Gipp does have other arguments, but they don’t tend to be from Scripture so much as about it. For example, he argues that deride, odious, bemoan, paramour, and the “k” in trafficked are “archaic,” and yet, he points out, they appear in modern translations. So, he says, King James Bible deniers aren’t “sincere” when they complain that the KJV has archaic words—because their translations have them, too. However, none of the words Gipp mentions are archaic (I looked them all up in standard dictionaries to confirm my supposition), and there is still a “k” in trafficked. Even if Gipp were to find archaic words (words no longer commonly used) in modern translations, there are far more in the KJV—not to mention archaic grammatical constructions. And worse, there are many words in the KJV that are themselves not archaic but are no longer used the way the KJV translators used them. They are, in other words, misleading. For example, “He that now letteth will let.” “How long halt ye between two opinions?”
**The second “them” is actually singular—”him” in Hebrew. This is somewhat of a difficulty, but it probably refers to an individual poor or needy person. And, in any case, it’s still masculine, so it can’t refer to the “words.”