Why I Preach from the Received Text is an anthology of personal testimonies more than it is a collection of careful arguments. It is not intended to be academic, and I see nothing necessarily wrong with that. But it does make countless properly academic claims, and these are fit subjects for review.
I’ve wondered how I can fairly describe a book that has more than two dozen authors. There is, indeed, a spectrum of views represented here. The contributions do not all perfectly cohere.
So I think I’ll describe the poles, which I take to be the contributions of Mahlen and Myers. And then I’ll examine what they said about the main issue at stake in the debate over the KJV: the current intelligibility of Elizabethan English.
A biblical worldview
When I read a book such as this one, one that announces its agenda on the front cover, I am always on the lookout for the authors to demonstrate their awareness of three of the very simplest of truths in a biblical worldview, namely that 1) there is created goodness in my opponents, who are made in God’s image; 2) the fall affects my tribe, too; and 3) Christ’s redemptive power is strong enough to save both of our tribes.
When Christian people forget or ignore or even deny these simple truths, they fall into tribalism, into canonizing their friends and demonizing their opponents. And they lack both humility and charity. When the other side is only ever wrong and our side is only ever right, there is pride and every evil work.
Brett Mahlen was the one author who, I felt, showed the most evident grasp of the simple creation-fall-redemption Christian worldview. He tells the encouraging personal story of his conversion, and then of his growth in grace under the influence of certain men, including especially James White. In one key comment, Mahlen reflects with humility the way God’s world really works. He both pushes back against his own and sees good in his opponents:
Some TR advocates like to insult James White, but I do not find that helpful. I do believe Dr. Riddle defeated Dr. White in the two debates of October 2020, however, just because I disagree with Dr. White or believe he lost a debate does not make him my enemy. I still benefit from his books and his debates against Romanists, cultists, and Muslims. I appreciate his stand against wokeism. All men have feet of clay, and I learn from a wide variety of men with whom I may disagree on some issues.
Philip Gardiner strikes a similar tone:
There are godly men who have embraced the modern Critical Text who solidly declare the doctrine of the Trinity, who uphold the deity of Christ, and strongly believe in praising God in prayer, “ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him” (WSC, 107). It is true that their rejection of the Received Text has not caused them to deny the truth of orthodox doctrine or the reality of Christian living.
Christopher Sheffield, too, is “confident that there are sincere brethren who uphold … foundational truths [such as the Trinity and deity of Christ] while advocating for the Critical Text.”
These notes of unity and humility are appreciated.
But then comes the other pole in the book, the piece by Christopher Myers. Myers almost literally demonizes his opponents. He spins a grand narrative in which there have always been “two Bibles”:
(1) Satan’s Bible with gnostic heretics writing false scriptures and twisting the true scriptures, and (2) the received and preserved Word of God.
This “two-streams hypothesis” is very common outside of Confessional Bibliology; it is found, too, in all forms of KJV defense, especially in the extreme brand of KJV-Onlyism known as Ruckmanism (after Peter Ruckman, who called these two streams the Antiochene and Alexandrian streams).
Here is Myers again:
There are two main codices, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which modern textual critics regard as supremely trustworthy. However, Sinaiticus had uninspired writings attached to it. Vaticanus contained the Apocrypha and its provenance was unknown before coming into the possession of the Vatican by AD 1475. The Protestant churches knew about Vaticanus and had rejected it due to its corruptions. Once again, we see Satan setting up his own Bible against the true one. This battle continues.
(Is Myers aware that the 1611 KJV contained the Apocrypha?)
Myers makes it clear that when he refers to Satan’s Bible, he is not speaking of the sectarian New World Translation or the Book of Mormon, but to the Bible that I carried to church this very day as I write (the ESV), and to the one my pastor preached from (the NASB), and, by a small extension, to the Bible I preached from in our Spanish ministry (the NVI, related to the NIV). Here is Myers:
Modern translations based on Satan’s Bible, that omit some of the Word of God, include the New American Standard Bible, New International Version, English Standard Version, and many others.
Let me stop and register this again: according to Myers, this very day I carried, heard, and preached from translations based on Satan’s Bible. The Bibles I read—that are extremely similar to his—are part of a corrupt stream deriving somehow from gnostic heretics. I respond to a great many arguments from KJV/TR defenders, and I ask the Lord for patience in this work. But Myers’ words are utter and complete foolishness unworthy of response; they are almost impossibly divisive; they are sin.
Effectively everything in this book—minus appeals to the Reformed tradition and its confessions—I heard growing up in my Independent Fundamental Baptist, KJV-Only church. I am not saying that Confessional Bibliology and KJV-Onylism are identical positions. But they do use the same prooftexts and basic arguments. And I offer the same reply to both: 1 Corinthians 14 teaches that edification requires intelligibility, and it is wrong to bind other Christians’ consciences to use a 400-year-old Bible translation whose English is no longer fully intelligible.
I’m well aware that this book’s stated topic is the Textus Receptus. But I don’t mind if pastors preach from the Received Text—as long as they don’t cause division over the topic, and as long as they use a translation of the TR that is made into fully intelligible contemporary English. So I will not be discussing the topic of New Testament textual criticism in my review. I’ll leave that important and relevant topic aside. I want to explore a different question: What does this new book say about the readability of the KJV? I’ll summarize in eight headings:
1. KJV readability is not a real problem.
Gavin Beers writes:
I wish to address one of the more common criticisms of the King James Version of the Bible: that its archaic language is not fitted for use in the twenty-first century, as it poses a hindrance to our presentation of the gospel. I have heard this many times and watched as churches have changed to Bible translations based on the modern eclectic text. In over two decades as a Christian and fifteen years in the ministry, however, I have found this to be much more of a projected than real problem. I was a child of the late twentieth century, science-minded, and certainly not literary in my tastes. I was the kind of person for whom the Church is supposed to have to change her Bible version. Yet, contrary to popular myth, the use of the King James Bible posed no problem to me. I have found the same in my ministry working among the old and young, the educated and the uneducated, those inside the Church and those outside the Church. The use of the King James Bible has never posed a problem.
I hear this constantly from KJV defenders. I felt the same way myself for many years. But are the “dead words” of the KJV “no problem”? What are “chambering and wantonness” (Rom 13:13)? It is not difficult to look them up—but these words are not “no problem.” They are static in the public Scripture reading. They are unnecessarily archaic. These archaic words meant “sexual immorality” and “sensuality”—which is exactly what the ESV says. So what is wrong with using the ESV here?
And are the “false friends” in the KJV “no problem”? I rather think not. They were a problem in Noah Webster’s day 200 years ago. They are a worse problem today. They are not, perhaps, insurmountable. With some training from my Fifty False Friends in the KJV series and with access to the Oxford English Dictionary, many people are learning to read these false friends. But they do pose a problem.
2. KJV English is not colloquial.
Poul de Gier writes:
It was these convictions that led our church to use the Received Text. The leadership spent a winter studying the New King James Version for potential use in the pulpit but felt retaining the KJV was more beneficial. … Has maintaining this position always been easy? No. It is not a majority position, and the KJV is not colloquial English. Have some misunderstood our church because of our position? Probably. Some might even think we are “King James Only”, but we consider that a dangerous position to hold.
I’ve heard this many times, too: “the KJV is not colloquial English.” But this is a category mistake. The challenge made against continued (exclusive) use of the KJV is on the diachronic axis, not the literary one. In other words, I argue that KJV English is unnecessarily confusing and opaque today because it is unnecessarily old. I did not say and do not say that the fault with the KJV is that it is too formal or literary; that is a different axis. I like literary translations. I use one, the ESV. It, too, is not colloquial. What de Gier should have said is that the KJV is not contemporary English. By saying it is not colloquial, he is changing the subject.
(I also find it interesting that he disclaims all relation to KJV-Onlyism. But I heard exactly his arguments in my IFB KJV-Only church in high school.)
3. Contemporary versions do not make difficult passages of Scripture easier to understand.
I was delighted when I received my first copy of the NIV, but was soon disappointed when reading the book of Job. Simply having a modern translation did not make that book any easier to understand!
In a sense, I don’t disagree here: Job is “hard to be understood” (2 Pet 3:16) no matter what translation you read it in. But can I be a bit picky? A modern translation didn’t make it “any easier”?
Here’s a verse in Job from the KJV, chosen nearly at random. It’s Job 35:8, part of a speech of Elihu:
Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art;
And thy righteousness may profit ithe son of man.
I stumbled over this a bit. Your wickedness would hurt a man like you? Is that what it’s saying?
But here is the NIV at the same verse:
Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
This is a perfect example of the kind of thing that the NIV has done for me since I finally won the right in my conscience to read it. It took the same interpretation as the KJV but put it in words I could understand. At least, I think that’s what the KJV translators were trying to say in their English. I find that first verset rather difficult, even after getting some help from the NIV.
Contemporary translations have helped me understand God’s word over and over and over—in countless places that have utterly nothing to do with textual criticism or preservation. The underlying Hebrew text in Job 35:8 is the same in every translation.
4. The KJV was purposefully archaic, even in its day—so there is no problem with archaism.
Trevor Kirkland writes:
Our preference for a translation of the TR is the AV. We are not claiming perfection for the AV. Granted, it does have some blemishes and imperfections; however, the translators were not interested in being “contemporary.” Ironically, this has become a common criticism (i.e., that it uses “archaic” language) when, in fact, some of its language was already archaic in 1611!
I’ve never understood why this argument, which I have also heard many times, is appealing to KJV defenders. Given that the KJV was a revision of the 1568 Bishop’s Bible and not a fresh translation, I think it did preserve some archaisms. Thee and ye had pretty well fallen out of use by 1611, I have read. But the fact that the KJV translators retained some archaic English elements from past translations doesn’t mean we ought to do the same today.
5. Uneducated people can read the KJV with adequate understanding.
Brett Mahlen works in prison ministry, a ministry that is dear to my heart, because for many years I served basically the same demographic (though outside prison walls):
When I finally began using the KJV in my prison ministry, I felt like I had caught up to the inmates. Most of them read the KJV with understanding even though many came from poorly-run urban schools with historically poor test scores. These men in prison actually had dictionaries, and used them!
I deny Brett’s experience as he may perhaps deny mine. KJV English bewildered the low-income folks to whom I ministered. So did the NASB, for that matter. In my ministry we used the New International Reader’s Version and loved it.
I’m tempted to call a draw here: our respective experiences cancel each other out. But I’ve done the lexical work. I’ve scurried around through the citations in the OED hundreds of times; I’ve dug into linguistic corpuses. I believe I have shown evidence that people who read the KJV today don’t understand it as well as they think they do. I refer readers to my work elsewhere.
6. The KJV follows the inspired Hebrew and Greek word order.
Christian McShaffrey, with whom I have had some profitable and cordial (and even hilarious: the guy is a wit) correspondence, writes:
Sometimes word order is significant, and sometimes it is not, but a translation committee should not make that decision for the reader. It should simply translate the text as God inspired it. Here is an innocuous example from the AV: “Then came to him the disciples of John…” (Matthew 9:14). That translation follows the exact word order of the original Greek. We no longer speak that way, so modern translations often “fix” the archaic sound of it by re-arranging the words: “Then the disciples of John came to him…” (ESV). Again, it is an innocuous example. No major doctrine hangs upon the word order, but the question still stands: Why rearrange words which God himself inspired? What if God intended to emphasize the action rather than the subject?
I do not recall whether or not Christian has studied Hebrew or Greek, but I cannot agree with his point. Every translation into any language I know (and I have at least some familiarity with numerous Indo-European languages) requires some adjustments in word order. The siren song of the perfectly literal translation is just that: an invitation to steer one’s ship into the rocks.
Yes, the KJV often holds on to Hebrew and Greek word order—but unless it does this perfectly, Christian’s point falls. And it certainly does not do this perfectly, because no competent translator would ever do such a thing. To take just one example, chosen at random, here is Col 3:21 in the KJV:
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
This is a fine translation. But it isn’t a perfectly “accurate” one by the standards my brother Christian has set up. Here is a literal translation reflecting the Greek word order:
The fathers, not provoke the children of you, in order that not they lose heart.
One might ask: “Why rearrange words which God himself inspired?” What if God intended to emphasize “not” by placing it first in the main clause? And I know just how the KJV translators would answer: because the result is not a translation; it’s not English.
How often a translator holds to the original word order is a judgment call. And if it’s a judgment call—and unless an “extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit” nudges certain translators the right way and leaves others to their own devices—then different translators are going to make different judgment calls. And some of them must be permitted to notice when “we no longer speak this way,” and then must be permitted to do what they are called to do: to translate the Bible into our English. Word order is an aspect of the language that must be translated; it cannot be carried over perfectly.
7. The KJV contains archaic words, but the modern versions also contain difficult words.
Christian McShaffrey also wrote:
There are archaic words in the AV, but even modern translations like the English Standard Version use words that no modern man has ever spoken in actual conversation (e.g., behold, birthstool, bitumen, lest, satraps, etc.). It is the preacher’s calling to explain the Bible and dealing with occasional archaisms does not make that overly difficult.
Once again, we’re changing axes. No one denies that every good Bible translation will contain words modern men don’t use. That’s because the Bible refers to things we don’t have: mandrakes, birthstools, satraps, etc. Those are good examples he chose (except for “lest,” which is still contemporary, though formal).
The charge made against (exclusive use of) the KJV is on a different axis, the diachronic one, the one that notices that languages change over time. The ESV does not, to my knowledge, contain archaic words or archaic syntax. And if it does, this may be regrettable in individual places, but there is simply no way that these holdovers (the ESV is in the KJV tradition!) happen anywhere near as often as archaisms happen in the KJV.
I have made this point repeatedly in my work. Anyone engaged in public debate is doomed to such Sisyphean tasks.
8. Someday the KJV may need to be revised because of changes in English.
But I get to end on a high note, a point of agreement. I believe I have referenced here every mention of KJV readability and/or Elizabethan English in this book. I went through them in the order in which they appeared. The final comes from D. Scott Meadows:
While English changes and a future revision of the AV may become warranted, at least it translates trustworthy apographs (copies) of the autographs (original manuscripts).
And I ask my brothers again: when? When will such a revision be warranted? We’ve got a pretty good idea of what language change looks like by now, at least in English. Certain words drop out of the language: I call them “dead words.” Other words drop or add senses, or both. Sometimes this causes confusion. I call these words “false friends.” Spelling changes, too. Word order (syntax) changes, too. Punctuation and even typography change over time, too. All of these factors have some bearing on intelligibility. How far does our English have to travel away from 1611—on any or all of these axes—before a revision of the KJV is called for?
Paul called for it already, I think, when he argued in 1 Corinthians 14 that people aren’t edified by words they don’t understand. But I can see why, given the great benefits the KJV brought us over the centuries, brothers of mine might weigh the value of retaining the KJV in pulpit ministry differently than I do. I am prepared to acknowledge that faithful men can make different judgment calls here.
I am not prepared to agree that archaic KJV English poses no problems, that prisoners are doing just fine with the KJV, that archaisms are actually good, or that modern versions aren’t any easier to understand after all.
I share so much doctrinal belief with the men who wrote this book. I, too, am a Calvinist who loves and honors the Puritans. I, too, am an inerrantist who is dismayed by the way some evangelicals treat the Bible. If I ran into (nearly!) any one of the contributors to Why I Preach from the Received Text in the adjoining seat on a plane, I feel certain we could enjoy sweet fellowship until the KJV came up. I think the ultimate impulses of the authors of this book contain a good deal of truth and righteousness. I also think that evangelicals involved in mainstream textual criticism need always to remember—as, in my experience, they do—that they are dealing with divine words. Such reverence for the Word is abundant in the writers of this book, and I praise God for it. I happen to know that certain of these men (I think especially of Pooyan Mehrshahi) are ardent and faithful evangelists. A few are known for their gracious dealings with others on social media. Others are known for their good preaching and faithful pastoring. Again, praise God.
But it takes an elaborate set of contrivances to convince people of something they can’t not know, namely that KJV English is unnecessarily archaic and, at places (due to half a millennium of language change), unintelligible. The writers in this book, for all their appeals to the Reformed tradition, do not represent the historic orthodox or Reformation position on the Bible. They claim a perfection for one edition of the Greek New Testament that is a tiny minority view. They tend to insist on the exclusive use of one translation, something the Reformers certainly did not do. They misuse Bible passages such as Psalm 12:6–7, which (I have shown in a recent paper) have never in the history of the church until the advent of KJV-Onlyism been used the way KJV/TR defenders use this passage. And they divide the church unnecessarily. The editors picked some of the most capable and gracious men of their sect, but at the lay and pastoral levels their views are almost always accompanied by a spirit of arrogance and strife. And the editors of this book included at least one essay in which the English translations used by countless faithful Christians were called Satanic.
I see in this book an effort to marginalize some TR defenders who cannot speak with any of the intelligence and grace (most of) these authors used. But I cannot recommend this book, and I am dismayed that the tiny Confessional Bibliology movement has gathered enough strength to publish it. I pray that its days will be few.
Mark, thanks for taking the time to read and review this work. This topic is head spinning, and frankly discouraging at times. The more I “dip my toes” in the waters, in attempt to form my own opinion, I end up pulling back in confusion and skepticism. (in both directions at varied times). I appreciate your labors of love for the body of Christ.
I must do the same with so many things. I try to develop *some* expertise for the service of others who, like me in so many other things, need the help.
Interesting to read your review of this book. Thanks. I have it on order, but probably won’t receive it for a week or so. “Good to get a sneak preview.” A couple of nit-picky complaints of arrogance and strife are added as well.
Mark: “This “two-streams hypothesis” is…found, too, in all forms of KJV defense…”
I deny this to be true. It may be common, but is not used by all forms of defense of the KJV. Some never used it, and some have successfully extricated themselves from its influence.
Mark: “They misuse Bible passages such as Psalm 12:6–7, which (I have shown in a recent paper) have never in the history of the church until the advent of KJV-Onlyism been used the way KJV/TR defenders use this passage.”
Was W. A. Jarrel a KJVO? I don’t think so. No, in fact, you can read what he wrote about the KJV on pages 45-46 of Baptizo-Dip-Only and know he is not. Yet, he wrote: “Of all the inspired writings, the Psalmist says: ‘The words of the Lord are pure words … Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation’ (Ps. xii. 6)…” [ellipsis original, rlv] “The Bible Verbally Inspired,” W. A. Jarrel, Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 64, 1907, p. 125.
Was Frenchman Louis Gaussen KJVO? Pretty sure not. Yet, he used Psalm 12:6 in reference to preservation of the text of the Bible, writing, “But, thanks to God, it is not so in our sacred books. They contain no errors; all their writings are inspired of God. ‘Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;’ so that none of these words ought to be neglected, and we are called to respect them and to study them even to their least iota and to their least tittle, for these ‘words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, they are perfect.'” Theopneusty; Or, The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, Francios Samuel Robert Louis Gaussen, 1844, pp. 44-45 (written in French, translated by Edward Norris Kirk). He even posited the inspiration requires preservation argument: “What good to give them divinely inspired, unless He transmit them divinely guarded? Why preserve them from all error, if not preserved afterwards from all dangers? He who said, “Every word of God is pure, …. add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee,” will He not keep a jealous eye upon it?” [He gives Psalm 12:6 in the footnote on that last sentence. ellipsis original, rlv] Le Canon des saintes ecritures au double point de vue de la science et de la foi, or, The Canon of the Holy Scriptures from the Double Point of View of Science and Faith; originally written in French, this one apparently translated by Gaussen himself’ p. 432.
Thanks for reading.
You’re a sharp fellow, Robert. These comments appear to be to the point. I will only be upset and embarrassed if I get responses like this *after* I publish the article on Psalm 12:6–7. Give me some time to consider what you have brought forward. I believed I did my due diligence; I’m genuinely in pursuit of truth here, so if KJV defenders can show that I missed some key quotations, I will be pleased. I read the work of multiple KJV/TR defenders for my paper, several of whom spent real time tracking down quotations. These were not among them. I also, of course, looked at dozens (around 60–70) commentaries, and I searched dozens of systematic theologies.
Again, give me a little time here.
I’d LOVE to read your paper on Psalms 12:6-7*. I’ve read and still have your earlier book.
I’ve debated (online) many that “used” it*. Refuted every attempt w/only two grossly ignorant rebuttals that both denied the Hebrew.
I’m rather overwhelmed right now with other work, and I’m looking forward to having time to go through the excellent collection of quotations discovered by my friend Robert Vaughn. I think I will have to revise one key supporting point in the paper, though I don’t think the overall argument will need to be adjusted. Just some of my favorite rhetoric, sigh!
Oh—I forgot to answer what you said about the two-streams view. I believe I am reporting my experience accurately. Every different type of KJV defense that I and the TCC have distinguished (OK—minus the “KJV Defenders” view that, almost by definition, isn’t held by people knowledgeable of the issues) has used some variety of the two-streams hypothesis. I’m not denying that some KJV/TR defenders have abjured it—we brought one up in the podcast, Bryan Ross! I’m just trying to say I hear it all the time from people across the spectrum. And I definitely saw it in Myers’ essay: God’s Bible vs. Satan’s Bible.
Mark, thanks for the clarification on the two streams view, regarding a testimony of your personal experience. I do recall your mentioning Bryan Ross, and in fact he commented on that on Facebook. Everyone’s mileage varies.
Re quotes on Psalm 12, here are a few more. If you are interested, I would encourage you to check them out yourself and form your own opinion of them. If I remember correctly, most of them are found in Google Books and/or Archive.org (except my reference to Jarrel’s Baptizo-Dip-Only, which I do not think can be found online, but of which I have a copy). These six below, in my opinion, all show commenters/preachers placing something about Psalm 12:6 and/or 7 in a context with the written Scriptures.
“3. The scriptures have been providentially preserved from all substantial corruptions of the text, so that they answer the original design of their author in remaining a volume (or rather many volumes) of divine inspiration, virtually and wonderfully pure. Psalm 12:6,7.” Quakerism Not Christianity: Or Reasons for Renouncing the Doctrine of Friends, Samuel Hanson Cox (American Presbyterian), 1833, p. 269
“The house of God will stand when all things fail. God’s Book will be the last to go…The continuance of the Bible as the highest and strongest factor in civilisation depends wholly on the pureness of the divine words. Because of their pureness they shall endure for ever.” Joseph Parker (English Congregational minister), The People’s Bible, 1885-95 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jpb/psalms-12.html
Even though he interprets “them” as people in The Treasury of David, in a sermon on Psalm 12:6, Spurgeon relates the words to the Scriptures: “We believe that we have the words of God preserved for us in the Scriptures. We are exceedingly grateful that it is so.” C. H. Spurgeon (English Baptist), The Bible Tried and Proved, Sermon on Psalm 12:6, 1889 http://spurgeongems.org/sermon/chs2084.pdf
English translation from the original Dutch: “The unbeliever has cast God’s Word into the ungodly crucible of his critique, and still does every day. It has been subjected to the most severe experiments that science could devise, and it still boldly continues. And with what outcome? That our precious Bible, after each trial, became more and more manifest, to be the pure, infallible Word of our God. Faith, then, fears not those experiments of infidel criticism; one does not make silver, purified seven times, into tin or lead. They will not be able to take God’s Word from us, they will have to let the Word stand.” De Psalmen Voor de Gemeente Uitgelegd, Vol. 1, J. H. Donner (Netherlands Reformed), 1893, p. 76
In reference to higher criticism and God’s word, Samuel Howard Ford (Baptist, U.S.) wrote, “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 forever.–(Psl. 12:6,7.) ‘The word of the Lord endureth forever.’ S. H. F.” “Higher Criticism Prostrated,” in Ford’s Christian Repository, Volume 67, 1903, p. 352
“9. Psa. 12:6,7. The words of the Lord are pure words . . . Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Notice, the words were to be preserved from that generation.” “The Verbal Inspiration of the Scriptures,” in The Herald of Gospel Liberty, January 16, 1908, Disciples of Christ publication, apparently written by the editor, John Pressley Barrett [ellipsis original, rlv]
I do not have access to James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Psalms, but someone quoted this from Boice, supposedly from Psalm 12, which is in reference to the Scriptures. “God has kept and will keep and preserve His Word. “The French atheist Voltaire…once said, ‘In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.’ He wrote that in fifty years no one would remember Christianity. But in the year he wrote that, the British Museum paid the Russian government five hundred thousand dollars for a Bible manuscript while one of Voltaire’s books was selling in the London book stalls for just eight cents.”” Might be worth checking further.
One other rather explicit reference for now, besides the other six or so I sent, Scottish Presbyterian Ebenezer Ritchie:
“Before passing from this subject, I would advise, in reference to the canon of Scripture, that you meddle not with them that are given to change. We might reason, a priori, from the regard God has to His Word, and the important ends intended by it, as a perfect and infallible record and rule, that it is so much the object of His care and superintending providence that no book of Scripture has perished, and even that no words of God contained it it have been lost. ‘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.’ But the question occurs, were are the original inspired words of Scripture to be found? We answer, In the received Hebrew and Greek texts, with their marginal readings, which are the prototype of our English version, and of almost all vernacular translations of the Scriptures at the present time.”
From The Original Secession Magazine, Rev. E. Ritchie, Address to the Students of Divinity of the United Original Secession Church, Volume VIII, No. XII, November 1868, p. 734 [The United Original Secession Church has nothing to do with secession in America, but was a Scottish Presbyterian denomination that held out from uniting with the Church of Scotland in 1822.]
Re: two streams- how do adherents to this view answer to the fact that history is replete with examples of people attempting to corrupt the text and being promptly identified and excommunicated? I mean, from Marcion to C.T. Russell. If I were satan and I was trying to corrupt the text with gnostic heresies, I would simply remove those books that are effectively polemics against Gnosticism (looking at you Colossians), which is exactly what Marcion did! Seems to me that if the Alexandrian is satan’s attempt at corruption he did a very poor job, because the lordship of Jesus Christ shines in those texts.
Here’s a metrical Psalm rendition of Psalm 12:6-8 from Martin Luther:
The silver seven times tried is pure
From all adulteration; [endure
So, through God’s Word, shall men
Each trial and temptation:
Its worth gleams brighter through the cross.
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.
Thy truth thou wilt preserve, O Lord,
From this vile generation;
Make us to lean upon thy Word,
With calm anticipation.
The wicked walk on every side
When, ‘mid thy flock, the vile abide
In power and exaltation.
Source: James Franklin Lambert, Luther’s Hymns (Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1917), 51-52
A beautiful hymn in its own right. I do cover this in my paper. Luther seems to offer multiple interpretations of the key verses here without really landing on one.
Yes, the most sober and godly exegetes avoid dogmatism on ambiguous pericopes. Matthew Poole (1624–1679) serves as an admirable example for all to follow:
“Thou shalt keep them; either,
1. The poor and needy, Psalm 12:5, from the crafts and malice of this crooked and perverse generation of men, and for ever. Or,
2. Thy words or promises last mentioned, Psalm 12:6. These thou wilt observe and keep (as these two verbs commonly signify) both now, and
from this generation for ever,
i.e. Thou wilt not only keep thy promise to me in preserving me, and advancing me to the throne, but also to my posterity from generation to generation.”
I agree. And I see Ps 12:7a as ambiguous. I won’t dogmatize. But I don’t see 12:7b in the Masoretic Text as ambiguous.
What? The distributive use of the singular (as noted in the AV margin) or the gender discordance (as explained Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar)?
I don’t see that distributive use of the singular as ambiguous, no. And I don’t find appeals to Gesenius convincing—not that what he says doesn’t happen; I think it does. I just think we need something definitive in the context pointing us in that direction. In the instances in Ps 119 when this gender discordance happens, there’s no ambiguity about what the antecedent is. Here, too, I think the Hebrew “him” can point only to the poor.
Mark I would definitely push back on you here with the Hebrew of this passage. There is definitely some ambiguity and the Hebrew does NOT definitively preclude understand vs 7a OR 7b from referring to the words of vs 6.
Not only does the interpretation of vs 7 as referring to the words have the weight of proximity in regards to antecedent and this is a weight that should not be dismissed lightly, it also would form a very nice chiasmus that makes v.5 the central point, the climax of the Psalm with v.6-7 are supporting points, but they are paired together and set over against vv. 2-4, answering the words of the oppressor with the words of God. Their words will fail, God’s words will not fail.
I’m also not sure if your understanding the point some are making about the 3rd masculine singular. Hebrew uses the 3rd masculine singular in a sense of “every” “all” or “any” of the subject frequently. For example in Genesis 19:12 the Hebrew word “חָתָן֙” is singular: “a son in law” and yet even the ESV and the NIV translate this as “Sons-in-laws” plural.
Another example is Exodus 32:27 with the phrase “אִישׁ־חַרְבּ֖וֹ” translated literally into English as “a man-his sword” the KJV, CBS, NKJV, NASB, translates this as “every man” and the ESV as “each of you” and the NIV as “each man”, and yet in Hebrew there is not any of the words usually translated as “all” or “every”, but yet that sense can be understood even though “man” is masculine singular. Looking more at this specific verse, a plural sense with the grammatical singular אִ֥ישׁ is found 3 times.
Hebrew often uses the singular in with a plural meaning “any” or “all” of the particular subject and I have personally seen it time and time again in my own translation work in Hebrew for my Master’s in Biblical Languages that I have been working on.
This is why the KJV marginal note says “every one of them” because they understand this as a possible sense.
Thanks for the clarification.
One might argue that the context is definitive due to the repeated emphasis on words: speak (x3), lips (x3), tongue (x2), words (x2), said (x1), saith (x1), sighing (x1), puffeth (x1).
Granted, actual speakers are involved, but it is their words that are thematically emphasized.
Mark, could the God who created the universe, the holy law, and offered His own Son as a perfect sacrifice for all sin, also keep His own words?
God sustains all things by His power. Consider our cells, they reproduce seemingly on their own, our breath continues thanks to an apparent unlimited supply of air, our hearts mercifully go on beating even when they’re the source of iniquity, seeds miraculously bring forth fruit every season, life sustaining water is found everywhere, and we could say more. He keeps these things. He preserves these things.
In like manner, I know I will go to heaven because I have received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. I have been given the power to become a son of God through the new birth. I heard the Gospel preached and believed it in my heart. I was convicted of my sin, I saw who I was before a Holy and Just God, a sinner worthy of Hell, and I repented. I was born again by the spirit. My sins were, are, and will be atoned for by the blood of Christ through faith.
I only know this because God said so. I believed what He said. I know God said it because He left a record. I believe His record is true. I believe God has the power to save souls eternally. I believe God has the power to preserve His words eternally. He is the sovereign omnipotent God.
My friend, I’ve said repeatedly that God could have done this—he could have preserved his words perfectly. In fact, I’m certain he has done so in his own mind; forever those words are settled in heaven. But I refuse to claim that I have a) all his inspired jots and tittles, b) none missing or added, and c) all in the right order until he grants me that authority. He hasn’t done this. He hasn’t told us which scroll/codex of the Hebrew Bible or which manuscripts/editions of the Greek New Testament are perfect. To insist that other Christians pick your preferred GNT and believe it to be perfect is to do what the Catholics have done: it is to add “doctrines” which are not taught in Scripture. It is then to create division in Christ’s body.
Mark, thank you for answering. I agree with you in that, God did not say which texts or manuscripts would be preserved. God gave no specific promise of a physical medium in which God’s words would be kept. He said heaven and earth would pass away, written texts would be included there. God’s promise was simply, His words, and His words only, would never pass away, and that they would be available to His saints through His chosen institutions; first through the Nation of Israel; second through the Church.
The Lord told Moses to write His words for a memorial to Israel, but does that specific text that Moses literally wrote still exist today? No one knows, likely not. Throughout the Bible, the Lord commands the Prophets “to write in a book.” God progressively provided His words to man. Holy men of old consistently wrote them and would reference back to older revelations within their new ones. These writings were supernatural, inspired by the Holy Ghost.
There has always been an established scripture with God. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “…ye do err, not knowing the Scripture, nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29); Christ understood there was preserved scripture and it could be understood in error, or in truth.
God’s omnipotent power could allow Him to raise up children unto Abraham from stones, and still be consistent with all His words and promises. This same power, His power, keeps His words. We know man is a liar, we know God can not lie, we know God is sovereign, we know God has all power to do anything He chooses. God said His words will not pass away. He is the one that said it. It’s up to Him to keep them. We have to believe this by faith. I believe it.
I believe His record is true because of the new birth. When you receive the Holy Spirit, you hear His words and follow Him. The God who is before all things, and by which all things consist, exchanges our hearts of stone for a heart of flesh by faith. This God, the great I AM, is truth. He is a quickening Spirit who makes us alive thanks to belief in His eternal unchanging words of life. We must all choose who to follow, the spirit of error, or the Spirit of Truth. If we’re spiritual, we’re charged to judge all things. The Spirit of Truth, through the omnipotent power of God, will lead us to the truth. By this means Churches can know which Bible is the preserved word of God. To this day, in English speaking lands, the King James Bible is that Bible. It’s accurately translated, it’s honestly translated, it’s the most read individually, most used by Churches, and comes from the texts most available to the saints of the past, unlike any of the modern English Bibles. I say this to you in love, with the hope that you would believe the Lord’s report.
My friend, you write kindly—and this I appreciate. But I must ask you to hear your last line through my ears. Anything that is truly “the Lord’s report” is something I am bound to obey. I am Christ’s slave. If he tells me to use the KJV, I must do so! But, brother, he did not say this. And the inferences you draw are not sufficient to get you there. They are most certainly insufficient to bind *my* conscience, even if they now bind yours. Yes, the spiritual must judge all things. But this must not be to the exclusion of Hebrew and Greek; God uses means to inform our spiritual judgment. I’m going to have to guess that you don’t read either language. Am I right? I actually believe the KJV to be a very accurate translation, an excellent one. But I stand with the KJV translators against KJV-Onlyism. The KJV is not perfect, as the KJV translators themselves acknowledged. And it is not the only English Bible translation that carries the truth. The Bible nowhere tells us to look for “the preserved Word of God,” the one translation to rule them all. You have added to Scripture, my friend. I urge you to step back.
And watch my Fifty False Friends in the KJV series. If you’re going to read just the KJV, then I think you’re going to need some help understanding it in places where you don’t currently realize that, because of language change, you’re misunderstanding the KJV. I can help!
Mark, I agree with you in that God both inspired and preserved His word in the original Hebrew and Greek. They will never pass away. No, I do not read them in their original languages. I do consult them through several of the tools available today. I agree with you that the King James Bible is a very accurate translation. I would call it the English Bible free from error. Through a period of about 160 years it went through several editing purifications. Since the last major effort in 1769, that edition, the KJV, seems to have been accepted by God and has been used in His churches ever since, producing much fruit. It can be called the Holy Bible. I feel at liberty to say this because many Churches today who have carried on the faith delivered to them, the Old Time Religion, continue to use the King James Bible and feel no need to revise or edit it. All subsequent revision movements’ post 1769 have all been smaller in acceptance, and none of them have ever been fully accepted.
That is where the problem is. This problem, general access to the texts by Churches and saints since the first century, is one I know you know about. The Critical Texts, have never been available to all the saints until very recently in history, and they have never been accepted by all the saints ever. That is a major problem for someone advocating for them or any translations that consult them. After about 150 years of their major availability, I think it’s reasonable to say, if they were of God they wouldn’t have this problem. They would have been accepted on the same scale as the King James Bible. This has not happened. This is not an ideological position. This is the history. God does get a vote in all this. The Critical Text Bibles are a new movement to historic Christianity, based on forgotten and unused manuscripts. The King James Bible does not have this problem. The original language texts it consults have been available to the saints through the institution God chose to preserve them, the Church, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.
I am not nice because it’s my natural nature. On the contrary, I am a United States Marine Corps veteran. I’ve been to combat. I have been a part of, and witness to, people departing this world prematurely. If I seem nice, it’s only because I am a Christian. I hate no one. I remember Christ first loved me while I was yet a sinner. I remember that God is love and that love is kind; longsuffering. I was born again by the grace of God through faith. Mark, I know you have a PhD, that you’re a Bob Jones graduate, and that you’re a big name in Evangelicalism. I had no expectation you would answer my first comment. May I ask you, have you ever been born again by the Spirit, have you ever received the new birth? If not, please consider it, it only happens by belief in our hearts of the Gospel. A personal belief in that the Lord Jesus Christ died according to the scriptures and was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. What would it be, to know all that you know, but to then die and go to Hell? Is this life worth it? I tell you this because this is the only way into the Kingdom of God. It only happens by faith. I tell you the truth.
Ben, when confronted with a Christian belief that you disagree with, I recommend your first instinct not be to disbelieve the salvation of the holder of that belief. This is not refuting the substance of the belief, but attacking the character of the person who believes it.
I agree w/your sentiment to Ben.
I give Ben credit for a smokescreen of nicely attacking Mark’s* character suggesting he* isn’t a believer. That incredibly rude and arrogant simply because Mark does not agree w/Ben “to the sixth decimal place.”
We put our belief in Jesus, the perfect Savior, through His death on the Cross makes us perfect. That relieves us of the otherwise would-be burden of obtaining the impossible perfect translation.
My salvation is questioned repeatedly by KJV/TR defenders. It is an example of the divisiveness to which the view gives rise among laypeople. It isn’t usually pastors, I think, who are doing this. But tell laypeople that the NASB is “based on Satan’s Bible,” and how else can they regard people like me who are discouraging pulpit/institutional use of the KJV and encouraging NASB/NIV/ESV use?
But if Confessional Bibliology and KJV/TR defense more generally can back off of absolutist claims and can mainly cheer for their team rather than calling the other team Satanic, perhaps Confessional Bibliology vs. Critical Text Defense can become something more like paedobaptism vs. credobaptism: accepted differences among Christians that don’t cause mutual anathematizations except on the fringes.
Tony, my conduct is not a smokescreen. Mark himself said I write kindly. Asking Mark a question isn’t unkind. Consider what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul gives this imperative to Christians he presupposes are already saved. It’s a good thing to know and share our salvation testimonies with fellow believers and to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith according to the scriptures.
Mark, interesting characterization. I know you’re generalizing, but you have grouped me into a category that you have defined. Readers here can judge. The three core thrusts I argued are these:
1. The CT manuscripts accessibility to churches historically does not compare to the TR manuscripts. The texts Christians have historically used are generally the ones God accepts, because it’s God who promised to provide His words to the saints, through His chosen institutions (Israel and the Church). God inspired and preserved His words in their original languages and has made them available to the saints.
2. None of the CT Bibles have achieved the same acceptance as the TR based King James Bible among English speaking Churches. The CT Bibles have had about the same amount of time as the King James did during its editing phase (1611-1769) which culminated in the modern KJV (1769 Blayney Edition). To this day, 250 years later, the King James Bible still remains the most used English Bible. Many Churches full of true believers see no need to change, and many more Churches see the spiritual danger of changing. This is a supernatural testimony. The Churches accepted the KJV and still accept the KJV.
3. There is a supernatural element to knowing God’s words. The Spirit of God who permanently indwells true believers will witness the truth. This is why primarily, many of the non-scholarly, unassuming Christians, doggedly keep to the King James Bible. It is a true mystery and irony, that a book apparently outdated and hard to read, is so revered among the simple. They might not understand the textual arguments behind the why, but they do understand the spiritual angle, because many of them are born again; have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; giving them access to the mind of Christ. “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
My position therefore, are these three basic points together. I could say more, but I think this is enough. Hell is very real. It is not my position “if you don’t agree with me you are lost.” It is something we must all reconcile within ourselves. Do we believe the Gospel according to the Scriptures? I do. Jesus Christ is my Lord. Hell is not worth anything in this world. Before I was saved, I was a lost religious hypocrite and I would have called myself a Christian, but it wasn’t true – and I knew it. This sermon helped me understand saving faith. If you have the mind or the time, give it a listen.
Dr. Riddle, I’ll post the same reply here that I posted on your blog and YouTube video:
1. I read every word of the book—every chapter, and all front and back matter. I dedicated time to reading it quickly because I wanted to make sure to represent you accurately in lectures I was set to deliver mere days after the book’s release.
2. I love the King James Version and am not opposed to it.
These are the only responses I will give. I am content to let fellow Christians read my review, read your book, and come to their own conclusions.
For those who’ve been following the conversation on book reviews, accuracy, and charity, here is my 2019 review from the BLQ of Mark Ward’s Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the KJB:
It will be interesting to see if Mark Ward will post my comments here to his blog, since I have always freely posted all of his comments made to my blog and have never disapproved, blocked, or deleted a single comment made by him to my blog.
For those who’ve been following the conversation on book reviews, accuracy, and charity, they might be interested in reading my 2019 review from the Bible League Quarterly of Mark Ward’s Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the KJB:
I also did an audio version of the review in WM 116: http://www.jeffriddle.net/2019/01/wm-116-review-mark-ward-authorized-use.html
I think one can see that I tried in my review fairly to present the content of MW’s book while also stating my disagreements with it in a clear and careful manner without attempting to demonize the author. At no place, for example, did I declare the author or his argument to be “foolishness unworthy of response,” “impossibly divisive,” or in “sin.”
I think it will be a helpful study in comparison for thoughtful readers to place Mark Ward’s review of my book alongside my review of his book.
Hi Brother Mark,
I don’t deny your experience, but I do deny your denial of mine. I know the thesis of my chapter may be devastating to much of what you have been doing over the last few years. Sure, there are some places in the KJV that are not as clear as others, and there are some words that have changed meanings and you have helped us to see that there are some false friends and you have clarified those for us, but in my experience the inmates did understand the AV; when they had a question, they used a dictionary. If there is a time when there are a few harder words in the same chapter, I will use the NKJV. I am a latecomer to the KJV/AV and many of the men in prison were using it before I did; they have impressed me in many ways.
I hope we can talk sometime soon.