My understanding of the other side
I hope you will allow me to condense and paraphrase what I understand to be the “critical text”, “non-KJVO” or “anti-KJVO” position. I’m sure that I will somewhat “over simplify” their position and I will no doubt be accused of using a wide brush. These things cannot be helped. I cannot possibly address every issue. So, please take this post for what it is: My understanding of your position with my comments interjected.
Many of the comments I give can be attributed to e-mail conversations I’ve had with Bro. William Kincaid a preacher of the gospel in Mexico. Since we are in basic agreement I present them here.
Critical Text Position:
According to those on the opposing side of the debate, God’s original inspired word existed for a historical moment on the original stone, papyrus, and vellum on which it was written. Inevitably it became impure in its copying through errant copyists, then the originals crumbled to dust. Then copies continued becoming more impure, until the middle text required standardization by a concerted comparison of copies. The middle text being what we now know as the de-facto standard Greek text finally compiled for impression by Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza, etc. Presumably this middle text, having been standardized by imperfect methods, is quite different than the original, meaning according to scholars, “full of errors”. Then, beginning in the 19th century (circa 1850), German scholarship began unraveling the science of modern textual criticism. They began building upon increased data, and over the last century have now finally almost restored something approximating a probable original reading, or at least something within a century of the original. So that now not only do 95% of all Bibles read the same way we can be reasonably sure that the newest ones are “most likely” what God intended to say originally. This is of course the Greek New Testament argument. None of this applies to Hebrew Old Testament for there is little textual argument in Hebrew. The main battleground in the Hebrew Old Testament deals with translation problems. Why is this? Why is there not the same textual argument in the Hebrew Old Testament?
For two reasons:
One, the middle text period, where the copies are standardized in an “errant” form, is exactly the time period when Jesus called those copies of a standardized text “scripture which cannot be broken”. That is, whatever reading existed in Jesus’ day, even though 1500 years removed from the original, it was the “de-facto standard” and was unquestioned by the New Testament authors.
Two, and by far the most influential reason the Old Testament Scriptures do not have any significant controversy, is because of the Masoretes. The Masoretes being a group of Jewish Rabbi’s who were responsible for copying the Hebrew Scriptures since 500 AD gradually standardized all of their sources by the year 1000 AD. This made another STANDARD Hebrew text, incidentally the only surviving one, which is now called the Masoretic text. This text is the only basis extant for all existing translations, because the only “better” (defined by modern critics as “older”) texts around are portions of the Old Testament found near the Dead Sea in the 1950’s, which shed no significant light on any significant “problem” in the Old Testament. In other words, scholars are forced to accept the “de-facto standard” Hebrew text. Even though it was standardized exactly the way the Textus Receptus manuscripts were, i.e. “imperfectly”.
Interesting to say the least. Every Bible in the world depends upon the Hebrew “standard text”, which by every postulate of textual critical theory must be much more corrupt than the standardized Greek New Testament, since the copies used to standardize it were much farther removed from the originals. The Old Testament today depends not upon the “oldest” and not on an “eclectic” reconstruction of a “most likely” approximation of God’s original intent. Every Old Testament in any language is entirely dependant upon an amalgamation of relatively recent (895-1105 AD) Hebrew manuscripts put together and agreed upon by Jewish Diaspora rabbis 2500 years after Moses wrote, 2000 years after Solomon standardized, 1600 years after Hezekiah and Josiah standardized, 1400 years after Ezra standardized, 900 years after the Talmudic standardized, i.e. around 1000 AD. And no one can do anything about it. They have to use a “standardized” Hebrew text!
Now I ask you, is this “standardized” Hebrew text the word of God? Is that standard “Masoretic” text the word of God? I do not ask, nor do I really care, if it is an exact duplication of the original. Remember, the Bible itself records the destruction of several originals and their reconstruction includes additions (Jer. 36.32). The originals were never the issue, not in Moses’ day, not in Jeremiah’s day, not in Jesus’ day, and not in our day. The issue is the scriptural authority of today! Obviously ANY Hebrew authority today is based on a “standardization” of copies of a standardized text of copies 2000 years removed from whatever the originals originally were.
Now, those on the critical text side, in spite of being forced to accept the Hebrew standard, still refuse to believe any Greek or English (or any other language as these principles apply in any language) standard text. Interesting, to say the least, because they still depend upon them, especially the English text, enormously. The doctrines they believe depend a great deal on the wording of the Authorized Version, and the wording of the NASB and NIV depend a great deal on the beliefs developed through the wording of the AV. The AV has influenced every Bible printed today in any language. If there ever were a standard translation, in any language, based on standard Greek and Hebrew texts, it IS THE AV. If a man chooses not to believe that the AV IS God’s word then that man is left with nothing on earth that he can call God’s word - truthfully. That is God’s word as defined in ALL translations is: Inspired, perfect, infallible, etc. I can understand their position and can even sympathize with them for taking it. However, I believe the Standard English Bible, translated from the standard Hebrew and Greek compilations IS God’s word TODAY. It isn’t “almost” what God intended to say originally. It IS what God says today. THEREFORE, it is infallible, perfect, inspired, etc.
Our decision, I’ll say my decision of what God says to English speakers today, is not dependent upon exact agreement or disagreement with the “original”. Any translation derived from the standard Greek and Hebrew texts and then accepted as THE STANDARD BIBLE among that language group IS THE WORD OF GOD in that language. My choice of a Bible is a “personal preference” alone if I cannot make a decision based on the recognized standard. If, however, we can see that these things are true – standardized text, or received text – IS GOD’S word today then we’d better not alter it, or dislike any particular reading, we better submit to it. There are of course objections to my argument. The main objection being: “for any translation to be the word of God it must match the original Hebrew and Greek”. How this is possible without the existence of the “original manuscripts” around to make comparisons with is beyond me.
There is no real proof that originals were even written in Greek. There is evidence that some of the New Testament books were written in Aramaic (Hebrew). We assume the original was written in Greek because most scholars say there are MORE Greek manuscripts than any other (which I sincerely doubt – there are probably more LATIN manuscripts – but I have no way to prove my point). More to the point textual scholars are not even examining that possibility. But that is hardly proof. One way or another some portions of the NT were NOT in Greek, for example, Acts 22.1-21. I find it hard to believe that Hebrews, an epistle written to Hebrews was originally written in Greek! But I won’t argue the point here. The fact is Acts 22.1-21 was a TRANSLATION and it was recognized as God’s inspired word even after translation.
The canon, which means – STANDARD, should be considered. There is no Scripture that defines the canon. We know that the canon of God’s word because the standard Bible defined it. Everyone on both sides of the translation debate ardently defend the 66 books of canon – unless of course they are Roman Catholic and then they take the Pope’s word for it. How is this defense brought about, because the “oldest manuscripts” have the canon? The oldest manuscripts obscure the canon by adding and deleting books! Now who believes the canon because they “objectively weighed all the evidence”? Most everyone accepted the standard by faith because the standard Bible that was responsible for bringing him the gospel contained the canon. Then later perhaps evidence was collected to defend that canon, the one already believed. This is not necessarily wrong. The canon depends upon the acknowledgement of God’s true church, such recognition being the deciding factor, as in the comparison of Paul’s declarations of his apostleship – remember part of the evidence gathered to defend the canon is “apostolic authority”.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ...
...by the commandment of God 1 Tim. 1.1
...by the will of God, according to the promise of life 2 Tim. 1.1
...according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth Titus 1.1
True, Paul was an apostle by the commandment of God, but he was also an apostle according to the promise of life, that is, by his own conversion and persuasion of the truth. But once more, he was an apostle according to the faith of God’s elect, and the fact that they acknowledged the truth. Had God not commanded it he would not have been an apostle. Had he not believed the promise he would not have been an apostle. And had the church not accepted him, he would not have been an apostle. Of course, if the first is true the others will follow, but if the others don’t follow, it proves the first is not true. By the same token, the AV is God’s word because it was given by God (not yet proved by some) and is God’s word because of its fruits (their extent not agreed upon by all for some reason) and is God’s word because it was received as the standard Bible for the entire English church. Did God ever give his word in English? We have no way of knowing unless two and three follow it. It is God word because it is the standard; it is the standard because it is God’s word. Perhaps this is circular reasoning, but perhaps not.
Most believers through out history (at least since the Reformation and undoubtedly long before) believed their standard Bible was God’s perfect word and if that was superstitious faith, glory to God it saved us and changed our lives. If the newer translations have obliterated any chance of a continuing standard now, (a standard that has been continuous since the NT was acknowledged) then I have no choice to go with the OLD standard, till Jesus’ comes. If the AV is wrong, I cannot be wrong by more than 5% according to all scholars, but at least I will have believed that 5%, rather than having doubted 100% of a 99% pure Bible because of uncertainty about 1%.
In summary, I believe that God gives and preserves his word through the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit of God works through the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3.15). The Spirit filled church is that which receives the word of God (John 17.8), and the word of God is that which the Spirit filled church receives (1John 2.19, 1 Th. 2.13, 2co. 13.3-6). Therefore, the text of the Bible, which has been standardized by that church and has remained with it, is God’s word. This demonstrates to my satisfaction that the Textus Receptus is the only basis for any legitimate translation. But the same principle makes me believe the AV is God’s word in English. The Reina Valera is God’s word in Spanish and the Gdansk is God’s word in Polish using the standard or canon principle.
One English Bible did become the standard Bible to the English Church, that Bibles is now God’s word to English speakers. Even though the English Bible cannot be superior to the standard Greek and Hebrew texts technically, it is in every respect superior practically (it can be read by English speakers), and is in no respect inferior, in that it too, like the Greek and Hebrew it came from; bears God’s signature - the faith of God’ elect. There is no need to discover any original documents, or to reconstruct them, for God’s church has his word, and God’s word “abides” in his people (John 15.7, 1 John 2.14 and many more).
The AV is CLEARLY the English speaker’s authority, above even the Greek and Hebrew it was translated from, not because it is in some way closer to the originals, but because it alone is their standard, it is alive to them, and is actually God’s word in English where God’s people speak English. Where study of Greek and Hebrew help understand the English, they are complimentary authority. But where alternate readings are possible, they have no authority, because God already has spoken in English. Faith in the Standard English translation is God’s demand of all English speakers.
I do not believe the AV because of any technical or textual argument. Textual arguments in my opinion can only stalemate each other. I believe the AV because it is THE Bible. It is THE Bible that was BELIEVED by the person that led me to the Lord. It was THE Bible that founded the faith of my fathers. It is THE Bible other versions in English compete with. It is THE Bible that popularized the Bible around the world. It is THE Bible that created 20th century English and American Christianity. It is THE Bible that made Greek and Hebrew studies possible for common men like those on the “critical text” side. Faith in the AV produced the worldwide evangelical movement from the great awakenings to the present day. For me I can believe no other English Bible with different readings (really different, not just re-wording). This standard text principle in my opinion defends the word of God in every language – God has a standard and that standard should be believed and submitted to, not doubted and corrected.
I preach the AV holding it in my hand as the very word of God without mental reservation about “unicorn”, “Easter” or “1 John 5.7”, etc. On the other hand I could never stand in a pulpit and say: “The Bible is the very word of God, it is (not was) inspired by God, it is perfect. Therefore you should believe it, read it, preach it and defend it with all your heart...” while at the same time believing there were “translation errors”, “false readings”, and “errors” in it. My listeners assume when I say “the Bible” I mean the one in my hand, not some lost fragments that crumbled to dust 2000 years ago. I cannot do such a thing and in all sincerity do not understand how some of you can!
This will give you better idea where I am coming from. I’m sure an imperfect argument but an argument that allows me to preach the AV with confidence believing every word of it.
Please do write if you have any questions or comments!