KJVParallelBible.org Launches!

I’ve been so busy with the launch of Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, I failed to announce the soft launch of KJVParallelBible.org to either of my blog readers! The launch is “soft” because it’s a strong proof-of-concept, not a full New Testament. But a lot of the work is done; I just have to get a few more volunteers and a bit more time for me to process the completed work of other volunteers and put it up on the site.

The project is supposed to show intuitively that the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text (CT) are so minor—and the similarities so overwhelming—that the TR-Only (who are almost always also KJV-Only) would be forced to acknowledge, “Boy, this is what we’ve been fighting over?”

So I was disappointed, though not surprised, when the first email I got through the contact form looked like it came from an ardent KJV-Only partisan who was finding a conspiracy to advance the perpetual virginity of Mary in Matt 1:25 (which would mean he looked at the very first page on the site, but possibly no others…).

Nonetheless, I followed up with the guy, and it turns out I misjudged him. He seems to me to be a genuine searcher, not a partisan. And he isn’t KJV-Only. I ended up writing the following in our exchange, an exchange I found instructive and edifying. I was glad to have read him wrong initially, and glad he had the grace to explain himself.

* * *

Yes, the TR, by calling Jesus Mary’s “firstborn,” makes it difficult to hold to Mary’s perpetual virginity. And yes, the Critical Text (CT) leaves that possibility open by calling Jesus only “a son” of Mary.

But I think you’re reading the motivation of a person or persons that are very, very remote from you. I also think that to read intention into one difference commits you to finding a pattern: you have to look at hundreds of differences and discern unified theological purposes behind them. I think you’ll find that rather difficult…

I also think, to be fair, you need to try to come up with an alternate story for every difference. Indeed, why wouldn’t it work the other way? The indefinite article—”a son”—doesn’t require the perpetual virginity view, it just leaves it open. So what’s to stop a zealous, orthodox scribe from “clarifying” that Jesus was only her firstborn? Why not say that the TR “added” to the New Testament rather than that the CT “removed” text or “changed” it?

It’s a lot easier to view the differences as something far less exciting than a conspiracy to alter God’s word.

But… If you aren’t insisting on exclusive use of the KJV, then my disagreement with you over textual criticism matters comparatively little. I care about vernacular translation far above right textual critical views.

I prefer the CT, yes. But since the point of my KJVParallelBible.org project is to highlight the similarities between the CT and TR and show how minor are the differences, I just don’t find a lot of energy in my heart to push me to disabuse you of textual critical notions I disagree with. I’m not saying, “You’re not worth my time”; not at all. I’m saying that as long as you accept the need for a vernacular Bible, I’m completely happy if you still prefer the TR.

I suppose, if I had to read between the lines in your response and offer one response of my own, it would be that every attempt to “throw out” the “bad” manuscripts seems to find itself attached to a narrative about who allegedly tampered with them. I look at the TR vs. the CT—the historical heirs of each supposed major line of manuscripts (Byzantine and Alexandrian)—and I just have a hard time building such a narrative. There are so, so many outliers for any story you could tell. And so many differences for which I just can’t find a story to tell in the first place. Is it that the star “came to rest” over baby Jesus or “came and stood” over him? What doctrinal motivation, what narrative, can you build to explain that difference?

I think one of the things that this project has done for me is shown me the sheer number of non-doctrinal statements there are in the New Testament. Don’t get me wrong, it all adds up to sound doctrine. And I want to incorporate every word. But I’m hard-pressed to find a doctrinal difference between…

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

…and…

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity.

And that’s actually one of the more substantive differences out there. (I got this one from 1 Tim 4, a passage I picked at random.)

Most differences seem to me to be even less significant than that one. Like this:

Requiting one’s parents is “good and acceptable before God” or it’s merely “acceptable before God.” (This is from 1 Tim 5.)

What’s the difference here? I don’t see one. (If there’s a problem for understanding the verse, it’s not in the inclusion or non-inclusion of the word “good.” It’s in the “false friend” in the KJV, the word “acceptable” is a “false friend.” In 1611 [or perhaps in British English? I’m a bit unclear on this one] it had a more positive ring that isn’t available to us now. For them it meant “pleasing”—four out of five stars. For us it means two stars: “The performances varied from excellent to acceptable” [see Merriam-Webster].)

And in both 1 Tim 4 and 1 Tim 5, the two texts are nearly identical. Any manuscript tossed out as “bad” is likely to agree 99% with the “good” ones—so why call them “bad”? I want people to use this site and conclude, “Why are we fighting about this!?”

I often feel like the TR side wants to tell stories that could easily be countered with different stories that would work just as well. The fact is we don’t know what was motivating long-dead scribes. I think they’d laugh uproariously at some of our guesses. And then I think the TR side wants to find one plausible story and run with it around the globe—without being willing to come up with a story that actually includes all the evidence.

I take that back, sort of. They do have a story that includes all the evidence: the meaningless variants were placed there to throw us off the scent, I’ve heard them say. They’re supposed to fool us into accepting the meaningful ones. That sounds like classic conspiracy-theory thinking to me, especially when you consider what it takes to change a text that exists in multiple locales in a world without planes.

So when the TR view tells contestable stories about meaningful variants, when it resorts to conspiracy theories to explain the non-meaningful ones, and when the TR position in my experience is used to support the KJV 99% of the time (am I wrong?), I find it hard to accept. If they all move to the NKJV or MEV, I’ll take note. Then we’ll talk.

Because I can still respect someone who takes a TR position (or a Majority Text position)—as long as they support vernacular translation. Give me a contemporary, intelligible translation of a “bad” Greek New Testament any day over an archaic, sometimes unintelligible translation (unintelligible because of language change, not because of bad translating) of a “good” Greek New Testament.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

6 thoughts on “KJVParallelBible.org Launches!”

  1. You have a typo in paragraph 3: “to advance the perpetual virginity of marriage”

    I’m pretty sure you meant Mary, but you were probably following the wrong scribal text when you typed that one!

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. This is too funny! It’s my new stock illustration for, to use Wallace’s categories, a meaningful but *not* viable textual variant. His is, “We the people of these United States, in order to form a more perfect onion…”

  3. Hello, Mark. I appreciate your site. I am not fighting with anyone and I appreciate your input, even though I don’t agree with some of it. What I find is odd is how some people can be KJV-only when it has silly and sloppy grammar errors. I like and usually prefer the KJV, although I am inot a KJV-only person. For example, how in the world can anyone be KJV-only when there are just silly things like Ezekiel 46:20 that state “utter” court instead of the “outer” court. Really?

  4. I’m prepared to acknowledge Bible translation silliness, I am. And the KJV is decidedly not perfect—no translation is. But a quick check of the OED suggests to me that the matter may not be this simple. Outer comes from utter; I don’t know what the relationship of the two was in 1611, or how either was most commonly spelled. I strongly suspect we’re not dealing with an error here.

  5. Mark,

    Your guessing out loud what TR people are thinking is interesting. You don’t have to guess. You could just ask, if you are going to choose to write about it. I’ll mention why it matters later, so that you won’t have to guess anymore.

    When I talk to people door to door every week, and preach the gospel usually to at least a few people every week, always using the KJV and never having had a problem with their understanding the message (too late to include that in the book), I sometimes explain to people who need to know the monumental amount of textual evidence for scripture and the general agreement, to debunk skepticism based upon lies. However, the textual differences are not nothingburgers like you try to make out in your post here about textual matters, which you have said to me that you don’t want to talk about. I’m happy about agreement that’s there, but the Bible isn’t a book that gets to be just close.

    Jesus argues in the scripture-cannot-be-broken passages that we can count on exact wording. Paul makes theological arguments from letters. Jesus said not a jot or tittle would pass from the law, what John Gill said were the vowels and consonants. The last book of the Bible assumes an established text when it says that you are cursed if you add or take away. That’s why the TR. Presuppositional, theological reasons. I’m still waiting for the debunking of the confessions and historical doctrine of preservation, which includes accessibility or availability, the presuppositions for a critical text.

    The biggest problem I run into with the ploughboys out there is uncertainty because of all the various bibles, so many bibles, what you say is a benefit. This is by far the biggest actual practical problem is the sense from people that we can’t be sure of what the text says, because of the differences and so many different Bibles.

    Two weeks ago, a church member handed me The Pure Word, a new more modern translation of the TR. It seems as though it was done by one man. It’s a vernacular translation of the TR in print. He paid 40 dollars for it. As I looked at it, it was crazy, Mark. The translation was kooky. It was vernacular though. It’s answering your call. Is it helping? One more translation. This is a bigger problem.

  6. Kent, I of course disagree with your TR position, though I acknowledge that you’ve done more careful *theological* work on it than anyone else I know of. I persist in saying, as I do in my book (which I do hope you’ll read and review!), that you are welcome to your TR position. I’m truly happy to agree to disagree. You are welcome to use KJVParallelBible.org as a tool to prove to everyone that you are right, that the differences between the two choices (for NT textual base) on every Christian bookstore shelf represent the right text and the wrong one, a good one and a bad one. Take people through example after example; I truly hope you will.

    I even welcome your help finishing out the NT for the KJVParallelBible.org site. I’m rather busy, and I have a backlog of 150 files that were done by my faithful volunteers (some KJVO, some not) and ready to put up but need some computer grunt work and checking. This offer goes for Thomas Ross as well; and I’ll put your faces on the front page along with Charles Surrett if you’re up for it. Let’s get the facts out there, I say. I have put countless hours into the site, so I get to link to my book on the “About” page. =) That’s the only non-neutral real estate there—and I give Surrett equal time at the top. And the central point of my book *is* neutral on textual criticism, though in it I make it clear that *I* am not neutral.

    You and I have different experiences when it comes to evangelizing with the KJV. I’ve stood on countless porches in Greenville, SC, and I’ve talked to countless “ploughboys” on the street and at VBS and at camps and in weekly outreach ministries of various sorts to various age groups and social classes. It’s true, I did not use the KJV for most of that time. But when I did, I repeatedly found that people weren’t following what I read, or asked them to read. They weren’t missing 100% of it, but they repeatedly stumbled. Particularly when I had them read out loud, I listened to their cadence and could tell that they were not following the archaic syntax. And when I would read a brief passage out loud and ask them questions about what it meant, they often showed to me that they were missing basics of Elizabethan English. The Bible is often difficult for people, even if you use a vernacular translation (2 Pet 3:16). But I don’t want to put unnecessary difficulties in people’s way. In my experience, people struggle with KJV syntax and vocabulary, because English has changed in the last 400 years.

    So either 1) I misunderstood my own experience, or 2) the “ploughboys” in your area of the country are better educated or more gifted, or 3) you have let your allegiance to a translation blind you to the reality that it is no longer a vernacular translation. I wrote a book arguing as graciously as I know how that it’s option 3. I welcome your response.

    I just want you to give people liberty to read the Bible in our language as it exists now, from whatever base text(s) you prefer. Make a new one; use an existing one. I don’t care a great deal. Just use intelligible words instead of unintelligible ones, per 1 Cor 14. My own suggestion for you is that you, one of the most highly educated and capable of the TR guys, would try to put together a coalition of representatives of different institutions to produce a new translation of the MT/TR. I have a feeling that these cats cannot be herded, but if ever they can, I pray my book will be the tool to help them come together.

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