Book Endorsement: The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason Harris

The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason HarrisToday’s book review post is special for two reasons. First, this marks the 150th book review I’ve posted here at Fundamentally Reformed. Second, this review includes the foreword I was privileged to write for this book.

The Doctrine of Scripture: As It Relates to the Transmission and Preservation of the Text by Jason Harris is published by InFocus Ministries in Australia. I’m excited to recommend this new book to my readers here in the United States as I believe this book can go a long way toward helping those confused or entangled by King James Onlyism.

My Foreward

Another book on the King James Only debate? Much ink has been spilled and many passions expended in what may be the ugliest intramural debate plaguing conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and charismatic — all have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by those arguing for or against the King James or New King James Versions of the Bible. With each new book it seems the debate becomes more and more caustic, each group castigating the other in ever more forceful terminology.

Jason Harris enters the fray with the right blend of humility and tenacity, and turns the attention of all to the true center of the debate: the doctrine of Scripture. What makes this debate so passionate is that it centers on the very nature of Scripture. Rather than focus on technical facts and ancient manuscript copying practices, Harris takes us back to what Scripture says about itself: its inspiration, preservation and accessibility. In doing so, he demonstrates how those upholding the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus behind it, base their position not on sound exegesis of the Scripture, but on tenuous assumptions read into the text.

Harris’s pen is lucid and his grasp of the King James Only debate as a whole is masterful. He focuses his work on TR-only position which represents the very best of King James Only reasoning. He interacts with the exegesis of key TR-only proponents and marshals compelling evidence demonstrating their failure to measure up to Scripture’s own teaching about itself. And after explicating the doctrine of Scripture, Harris draws important conclusions which should protect the reader from making simplistic assumptions in a quest for textual certainty that goes beyond what Scripture teaches we should expect.

Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles. He wants such confidence to be rooted to a Scriptural understanding of the Doctrine of Scripture rather than in the “supernatural-guidance” of a group of sixteenth-Century translators. Assuming that such a group of men made no mistakes is to expect something Scripture doesn’t teach, and ignore what it does. Harris is to be commended for such a clear, lucid defense of the historic doctrine of Scripture. I hope his book is received well and helps laymen and pastors everywhere to begin to rethink the basis for why they think as they do when it comes to the King James Only debate.

Bob Hayton
FundamentallyReformed.com
KJVOnlyDebate.com

[pp. 9-10]

Additional Thoughts

After re-reading this book and seeing the published version, I am more optimistic than ever about its promise to provide clarity to the King James Only debate. Jason Harris’s book has a few characteristics which together make it a unique contribution to this debate.

First, his book focuses on the alleged doctrine of the verbal, plenary accessibility of Scripture. This is where the root of the KJV and TR preference lies for many people. The argument is not so much based on texts and manuscripts as it is on what allegedly the Bible teaches – that the very words of Scripture (all of them down to the letters) would be generally accessible to believers down through the ages. Harris spends most of his time marshalling a Scriptural rebuttal to these claims and also demonstrates the difficulties such a position has when it comes to the history of the text as we know it.

Second, this volume carefully builds a theology of the transmission and preservation of Scripture. Such a careful, exegetically-based explication of the doctrine of Scripture has been lacking in this debate. And such a gap has often been used by KJV-only proponents to their advantage. It is KJV-only books which start with a Scriptural position and then look at the evidence, with the “anti-KJV” books starting with history and evidence and then moving to the Scriptural arguments. This book is different and starts where the debate starts for most of the sincere beleivers who get swept up into it — it starts on Scripture’s teaching about the very nature and preservation of Scripture.

Finally, Harris keeps a very irenic tone throughout. He is careful not to overstate his case and exaggerate the claims of his opponents. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to this heated debate, but Jason pulls this off well. Additionally, he backs up his book with the inclusion of a vast array of footnotes documenting the claims he is arguing against. I appreciate how he does not direct his argument toward the Riplingers and Ruckmans of this debate. He focuses on the TR-only position and the more careful wing of KJV-onlyism, men like David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Charles Surret, and the like. Harris has read widely in the KJV only literature, and his treatment avoids broadbrushing and generalizations that tend to give KJV-only propoents an easy out. It’s easy to dismiss a book as not being directed to their particular position, or to claim the author makes egregious errors and lumps their position in with that of heretical views. Harris’s book is not open to such charges. He directs his case against the very best arguments of KJV-onlyism.

Had I been exposed to such a book I would have been inoculated to the pull of the KJV-only persuasion. As it happened, I was swept up in a TR-only view that made it seem like we had the corner on truth and everyone else was compromising. By God’s grace I came to understand that Scripture does not support such a view of the transmission of the text.

Jason Harris is to be thanked for giving us a tool to recommend to those thinking through this issue from within, and to help the ones who are being pressured to join the KJV-only position. I highly recommend The Doctrine of Scripture and hope it makes its way into the hands of anyone struggling with this issue who will yet be open-minded enough to study out the issue from both sides.

You can pick up a copy of The Doctrine of Scripture at Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~ cross posted from FundamentallyReformed.com, the author’s other blog.

5 Responses to “Book Endorsement: The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason Harris”

  1. It is great to see that the author of the book does distinguish between “KJBO” and “TRO”.

    In looking at the basic doctrines, it appears that the author does not actually lay the foundation of why he is quoting and interpreting Greek words as his starting point. What are the reasons why he is using Greek at all?

    It is evident that he is beginning not from Scripture, but from an external philosophical view of the past. That is, that he has a certain story — not the receiving of Scripture itself — to which he adheres.

    I suspect that the story goes like this: Many intelligent people have said that by comparing the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX) with the Hebrew copies many differences may be discovered.

    Notice that this story is not actually a teaching of Scripture, but based on observation of external phenomena. But, they might object, people looked at copies of the Scripture and dated them and classified them. Notice that this is nothing to do with the meaning of the Scripture itself.

    Beyond that, assuming now that a person is accepting the Scripture as currently available to them in English, there is still anther massive problem. Instead of reading the Scripture as coming to us, they read it as if it must be limited to its original context/contemporary surroundings.

    Basically, they put on a Jewish mindset that uses the Hellenistic idiom and say, what would this mean to the original audience?

    By these three methods, then, the proper King James Bible only view can never be accepted.

    1. That God used Greek to inspire in, so Greek has some higher relative value; that humanly speaking, disparity arises by translation, therefore the Greek language ought to be examined primarily (as occurred in the Reformation); that best witness (either oldest copies or the majority of copies) in the same language must be the best or surest way of knowing the truth.

    All of this rejects using English alone as the source for study.

    2. That since differences between the LXX and the OT Hebrew are said to exist, therefore God must bless imperfect copies, versions and translations, and in no way guarantee an accurate English Bible.

    All of this demotes the KJB to be just one of many Bibles.

    3. That since the Scripture was written many hundreds of years ago, it must primarily relate to that time. And any golden age since, say, the Reformation, has now long elapsed. Anything better in the future is deferred to a far off perfect day. Today we are but unworthy, lowly men.

    All of this disempowers the reading of the KJB to from being living, present, powerful and true. It allows people to read the KJB as long as they wear blinkers.

    The formula appears like this: The Autographs were the Word of God; the KJB is a flawed representation of it.

    The KJBO approach is to begin from the Scripture itself as received and at hand, not locked away in Greek (as the TRO etc. treat it). It is a pity that the author (from reading the excerpts of the book) does not seem to address the basic paradigm, but already begins from the subject with all the assumptions which would negate recognising the perfection of the KJB.

    The proper and sound approach should be:

    1. Receive from the Providence of God the supply of His true Scripture, the KJB, today. Evidently it is in English, being God speaking by His Word today.
    2. Examine the Scripture in English and believe it, and see that it has many verses indicating God’s supply of His Word perfectly, all of which self-authenticates the KJB as being the very Word of God.
    3. Faith arises, seeing the great power and intervention and plan of God in history, and that He is speaking today directly to us by the KJB.

    If someone says that is a circular approach, it is no more circular than the approach of those who are against the perfection of the KJB. (They do not believe in perfection so of course they see all kinds of imperfections in the KJB, it is a self-perpetuating cycle.)

    So, when we read the Scripture in the KJB, we see it as fully true, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). We don’t go to conjecture about the LXX or the mysteries of “theopneustos”.

    De 30:12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
    De 30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
    De 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

  2. John Gardner says:

    “Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles.”

    Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in HIS house (Col 4:15)(KJV).

    Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in HER house (Col 4:15)(ESV).

    His or Her? How can both be accurate?

  3. Rob says:

    John Gardner
    9 mos, 2 wks ago
    “Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles.”

    Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in HIS house (Col 4:15)(KJV).

    Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in HER house (Col 4:15)(ESV).

    His or Her? How can both be accurate?

    It possible that the personal pronoun in Col 4:15 really is feminine “autes” rather than masculine “autos” which would not make the ESV wrong. Go to the Greek and study it carefully. I’m not discretiting KJV but I’m no KJV only person.

  4. John Gardner says:

    Hi Rob,
    How do you know I’m not ESV-only?

    I did look at “the Greek” and they’re different, which is my point. (The RV even tranlates it as a plural (their house!).

    We don’t have “inspired Scripture translated accurately in [ALL] our English Bibles.”

    God inspired one or the other.

  5. Chris says:

    WRONG!!! If Jason Harris and others believe what his book states, they need to read the “Revision Revised by Dean John William Burgon” (read page 513. This has already been dealt with and Burgon lays it all to rest. The Greek manuscripts underlying the modern versions were willing and deceitfully corrupted, so you cannot have “inspired scriptures in all English Bibles. That is a lie or one is ignorant of the facts.
    ” Dr. G. Vance Smith, the Unitarian Minister of S. Saviour’s Gate Chapel, York. That, while engaged in the work of interpreting the everlasting Gospels, you should have knowingly and by choice associated with yourselves one who, not only openly denies the eternal Godhead of our LORD, but in recent publications is the avowed assailant of that fundamental doctrine of the Christian Religion, as well as of the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures itself” Burgone pg.506

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