Majority Rules! — Fact or Fiction? (part 2)

In part 1, we began examining the claim that the KJV is supported by the majority of the textual witnesses.  We exposed the fact that the TR, disagrees with the majority of Greek manuscripts as represented by the published Majority Text  over 1800 times.  This is 1/3 of the level of difference seen between the TR and the WH text.  Assuming however, that occasionally the majority witness is split so the TR has as good a claim as the MT to reflect it, and assuming the TR generally is more true to the majority than the WH or the modern critical texts (CT) are, does this majority rule the day?  Does majority rule when it comes to the text debate?

The following factors will greatly influence how we are to look at this supposed maxim. Majority, it turns out, is in the eye of the beholder.

Majority of all texts and versions

When KJV onlyists say majority they are referring to the majority of the 5,600 or so Greek manuscripts. Yet KJV onlyists will also claim that God used the Latin textual tradition to preserve important textual readings such as 1 John 5:7 and other readings noted in part 1 (for instance E.F. Hills claims this, among many others). That being said, should not the entirety of ancient versions of the New Testament be included in any discussions of “the majority”? There are over 10,000 Latin manuscripts of the Vulgate, for instance, and the Vulgate’s text is closer to the modern critical text than the TR. If we include just the Latin manuscripts, we find the majority of all the manuscripts do not support the KJV! For most other ancient languages, their respective majority witness also supports the critical text.

You really can’t have it both ways. You can’t depend on Latin support for some NT readings, and Greek (LXX) support for some OT readings (Ps. 22:16 for instance) and then turn around and discount this when tallying up your “majority”. This leads us to another point.

The Majority of One

With Ps. 22:16 above, many astute KJV (or TR) Onlyists will point out that there are a couple Hebrew manuscripts which have the KJV reading (pierced my hands and my feet). For 1 John 5:7, they’ll point to 1 mention in a pre Nicene commentary and up to 4 Greek MSS and 4 marginal notes in Greek MSS. With other readings, they are satisfied with 1 MSS. I used to think like this. I’d be happy to find there was 1 or 2 Greek MSS that had the reading in question. I’d then stop questioning the reading and be content with the KJV reading. At the same time I would claim the majority of Greek MSS support the KJV! Anyone else see the contradiction? How can a majority of 1 (or 2 or 3), be a majority? If the majority rules line of argumentation were to be consistently applied, KJV Onlyists would have to support the Majority Text instead of the TR and disagree with hundreds of readings in the KJV.

We’ll look at one more important factor before concluding this series in my next post.

Majority Rules! — Fact or Fiction? (part 1)

Majority Rules!

The KJV onlyists claim that since the text underlying the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, then the KJV is to be favored. This claim carries a lot of weight in the textual debate. Many an unsuspecting person is absorbed by the KJV only movement upon hearing this “fact”. But let us ask the question: Fact or Fiction? Does majority rule in this case?

When KJV onlyists emphasize the “fact” that the KJV is based on the majority of the manuscripts, they usually ignore three vitally important considerations. We will look at each of these considerations and then find ourselves in a better position to answer our question.  Today’s post will focus on the first point.

Majority of Greek texts versus the TR

KJV onlyists assume that the Greek Textus Receptus (TR), which the King James is based on, represents the majority of the Greek Manuscripts. This is not accurate. The TR was actually based on seven Greek manuscripts as well as Erasmus’ copious textual notes on the Greek text [1]. Most KJV onlyists use the “pie-in-the-sky”, wishful thinking view at this point, glibly assuming that the TR in fact really does represent the best of the majority of the manuscripts and that Erasmus’ textual notes and considerable knowledge of the Greek text offsets the use of only seven manuscripts. This hopeful hypothesis is made all the more doubtful by the consideration that Erasmus had not planned on producing his Greek text at the time he did: he was pressured to produce the text in a very short time by his printer. This forced him to use the locally available manuscripts rather than others he may have preferred to use [2]. Incredibly high demand forced subsequent editions to be produced by Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, Elzevirs, and others without any wholesale revision of the text. Small revisions and corrections were made here and there, but printers’ errors and other errors introduced in Erasmus’ first Greek text remain in the TR down to this day [3].

Besides the documented history of Erasmus’ production of the TR, another fact flies in the face of the claim that the TR/KJV was based on the majority of the manuscripts. While most KJV onlyists assume that “majority text” is shorthand for the TR, it in fact is not. In 1982 the first edition of the printed Majority Text was published, edited by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad. Other editions have followed as well as a competing Majority Text edited by Pierpont and Robinson (1991). These texts are based on the collation work done so far on the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts. These texts contain over 1,800 differences from the TR [4]. Now it is true this number is less than the estimated 5,600+ differences between the Wescott & Hort 1881 text [5] which is very similar to the critical text editions used today (UBS 4th edition, Nestle-Aland 27th edition). Yet the amount of differences between the TR and the Majority Text reveal that the majority of the Greek manuscripts do not in any sense unequivocally support the TR. In many places they do support the KJV over and against modern versions, but in many other places they do not. In fact, in many of the differences between the TR and the modern critical text, the Majority Text actually supports the critical text and modern versions against the TR.

In passing, I want to just list some important texts contained in the TR which are not contained in the Majority Text. 1 John 5:7, Acts 9:5-6, Acts 8:37, Rev. 22:19 “book of life” are just a few of many instances where the Majority of Greek manuscripts do not support the TR reading.
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Which King James Bible? A Double Standard

It goes without saying that KJV Onlyists make a big deal about differences–any differences– between the KJV and modern versions. I’ve heard some stress that changes even in word order (as in Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ) and spelling (every jot and tittle, remember) are equally important. In many KJV Only materials, the presence or absence of Lord in Jesus’ title (Lord Jesus Christ) is called out as a doctrinal deficiency in the modern versions. Whenever “God” is removed (it depends how you look at it whether it was removed or added in by the KJV), important contextual clues like “my” or “their”, and even when words are have a different number, red flags fly and our suspicions are to rise regarding the doctrinal position of the translators or the editors of the text.

So when it comes to the King James Only position, David Cloud sums things up well when he asserts:

In the N.T. alone there are almost 10,000 word differences between the Textus Receptus and the Westcott-Hort text… It is true that many of these changes are not as significant as others–but ALL ARE real differences. More than 2,800 of the words in the Received Text are omitted in the W-H text underlying the modern versions….  — David Cloud, For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Version and the Received Text from 1800 to Present (WoL 1995), pg. 57.

While they do set up the KJV as the standard by which everything else is judged (which begs the question), I can understand their point.  Differences matter, even small ones.  But when we come to the different editions of the Textus Receptus and the differences between King James Bibles in common use today, the KJV Only tune changes.  Almost in total, KJV Onlyists downplay the differences between the King James Bibles.  They try to pretend they aren’t signifcant differences even as they elevate every minor difference between the KJV and modern versions.

Isn’t this a double standard?  I’m not saying the differences between the KJV editions are as many or as big a deal as the difference between the KJV and modern versions.  But it is an important point for KJV Onlyists to answer.  If small differences are enough to condemn modern versions, think NKJV here too; then small differences of word order and even to God’s name exist within the various KJV editions.  Why is it okay that King James Bibles differ among themselves, but not okay that modern versions differn from King James Bibles?

Consider what some leading KJV Only advocates say about the various editions of the KJV: Continue reading

Accused of Heresy

One of the common charges against the modern versions coming from the King James Only side is that they are full of heresy, and therefore lead the reader to a heretical position. I don’t intend on being exhaustive in this post, but to bring up a few objections to this charge.
Dr. D. A. Waite says, “The FOUNDATION of ALL DOCTRINE is the BIBLE. Having the RIGHT BIBLE is critically IMPORTANT!!” (emphasis his)
Barry Burton said, “If God has not preserved His Word perfect, but has allowed some errors, then since we don’t have the ‘original autographs’, we must assume that we have been teaching and preaching out of a book that is not completely reliable” (Barry Burton, Let’s Weigh the Evidence).
The fact is, modern translations are based on Greek manuscripts that have been corrupted by those who changed the Word of God to agree with their rejection of the Blood Atonement, the Deity of Christ, the Inspiration of Scripture, and many other major Bible doctrines. Of course the results of translating with such manuscripts are, modern translations that actually water down and attack many fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Modern translations attack the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Infallibility and Inerrancy of the Bible, Salvation by faith alone, the Trinity and more. (The King James Bible: God’s Word for Today, Glen Spencer)
We will answer specific cases later and in more detail. But let’s just look at some of the supposed heresy of the modern versions. 
Rev 1:8 KJV  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Rev 1:8 NIV “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In his book, Defending The King James Bible, D.A. Waite notes that the modern versions omit “the beginning and the ending.” He says, “when they took away the title of the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the Beginning and the Ending,’ they cast doubt on the eternal past of the eternal Son of God. This is certainly a matter of doctrine and theology.
Do they really cast doubt on Christ’s eternality by omitting that phrase? Of course, there’s no mention as to why modern texts may not include the phrase. But from a purely doctrinal standpoint, can one not gather Christ’s eternality by the phrases “Alpha and Omega” (which obviously means “beginning and ending”) and “who is and who was and who is to come”? And what ministry has denied the eternality of Christ based on this reading?
Revelation 16:5 is a very significant, and hardly addressed, reading. There is no Greek manuscript support for the King James reading. It doesn’t read that way in the Textus Receptus, either, until Beza’s 1598 edition. And Beza admittedly put it into the text as a result of conjecture, not evidence. A reading is unique to the KJV and NKJV due to one man’s conjectural emendation to the text in the late 16th century. If that were the case for a critical text reading, imagine the field day King James Only advocates would have! In any case, the differences are seen between the KJV and ESV:
And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus
Rev 16:5 (KJV)
5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
The difference is that the KJV has “shalt be” (NKJV, “is to come”) whereas the ESV and other modern versions have “O Holy One.” Waite says, “Again, the removal of “and shalt be,” puts in doubt the eternal future of the Lord Jesus Christ.”Again, I say, really? Can someone really lose faith in Christ’s eternal future because this verse doesn’t read as the King James? And what about all those living before the time of Beza?
42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the s
Mark 9:41-42 (KJV)
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. (NASB)
The NASB does not have the phrase “in me” as does the KJV. It must be noted that the NIV, ESV, NET, RSV, HCSB, and NLT all have it. Still, Waite singles our the NASB reading (apparently based solely on Aleph) to add to his list of doctrinal defficiencies. He says, “It’s not enough merely to ‘believe,’ but it must be to ‘believe in me.’ He is the only was of salvation!
Of course Jesus is the only way of salvation. But does taking the words “in me” out of this text really leave one to believe on whomever or whatever he wants? I think a little context sheds some light:
Mark 9:36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
37 Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
40 For he who is not against us is for us.
41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as {followers} of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
42 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
It’s clear that Christ is in view. These are only a handful of examples, but it is clear that KJVO proponents have to first, isolate a verse from the rest of the passage. Secondly, assume the King James reading is the correct one, using terms like “change” and “eliminate” about the modern readings. Third, they make no mention of the reasoning behind the differences. Finally, they read a hypothetical interpretation into the different reading that no one actually gets by using the modern version.
And that’s what it is: hypothetical. “If you read it this way, you might come to believe. . .” But where’s the proof of this? And why is it up to King James Onlyists, who are not modern version users to point out all the supposed heresy? I think if their case was true, Holy Spirit-filled Christians would recognize the problem and forsake their modern versions. But this isn’t happening. In fact, the trend is becoming less and less favorable to the King James. Interestingly, some KJVO proponents believe that the church plays a role in deciding the words of God, and since they decided it was the King James in the 17th century, that’s what we should use. Today, the church, by and large, is forsaking the King James, so what does that mean?
The KJVO counter to that would obviously be, “but now is a time of great apostasy”, and try to associate that apostasy with the modern versions. But that would slice both ways. There was apostasy during the times of the King James Version. And today, there’s a conservative resurgence among the younger generation of Christians. This modern reformation is closely tied to Reformed theology, and since many KJVO advocates are also decidedly anti-Calvinistic, they may not see this as a “good thing.” 
But the real question is, how does a Bible version affect theology? We can indeed make sweeping generalities about the modern versions. But it would be unfair to lump paraphrases like the Living Bible and the Message together with the ESV, NASB, NIV, and HCSB. Certainly, there has been some effect. During the times in which the Vulgate was the best accessible Bible, the Greek word for repentance was translated “do penance” into Latin. This affected theology and empowered the Catholic church. When Luther came along and things began to reform.
So I don’t deny the possibility and existence of different readings having an affect on theology. No version is perfect, and perhaps each has contributed in some way. But is the KJVO charge that modern versions are full of heresy valid? Do they really lead to apostasy? I think in order to prove the point, some evidence has to be given. And I don’t mean, “the church down the street switched to a new version and now they’re doing all sorts of crazy stuff.” Most of the ‘evidence’ has indeed been guilt-by-association. Of course, that cuts both ways, too. But to the one who would bring up that scenario, you must ask yourself, why is this church doing “crazy stuff”? Why are things watered down? Is it because they switched versions, read a passage differently, and based on the different reading, changed? Or did they already change? I believe that in order to prove the charge, one must give an example of a church, ministry, or individual Christian who changed doctrine into heresy as a direct result of a reading in a modern version that differs from the KJV. Note that the challenge is about heresy. We all continue to tweak our doctrine, and sometimes a different reading of a verse may shed some light. But let’s keep in mind that the charge is about heresy.
If the argumentation of the King James Onlyist is right, it must be applied to the King James, too. Here’s where we encounter another King James Only double standard. The King James has been used by heretics to promote hersey.
Granville Sharp (1735 – 1813) was a British abolitionist and biblical scholar. In the late 1790’s he did some intense work on the Greek New Testament. James White says, “Sharp’s work resulted in a rule of koine Greek that bears his name, a rule that was not fully understood by the King James translators. Because of his work, we are better able to understand how plain is the testimony of the deity of Christ that is found in places such as Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. The KJV translators, through no fault of their own, obscured these passages through less than perfect translation. Modern translations correct their error.” (The King James Only Controvesy)
“The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true: `When the copulative KAI connects two nouns of the same case, if the article HO or any of its cases precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle; i.e., it denotes a further description of the first-named person.'” (A Manual Of The Greek New Testament, Dana & Mantey, p. 147)
“Basically, Granville Sharp’s rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word ‘and,’ and the first noun has the article (‘the’) while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person.” – James White
One of the more discussed instances of the Granville Sharp rule is Titus 2:13. The King James translates it:
KJV: 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ
modern versions
ESV: 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
NIV while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
NASB ooking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
On the John Ankerberg show, Dan Wallace brought up this subject. He quote the KJV’s rendering of Titus 2:13, accidently adding the word “of” but corrected by Sam Gipp. Gipp said that using the word “of” (as in “God and of our Saviour”) made Wallace’s point stronger, to which Wallace replied:
“Our does the same thing [mistranslates the passage]. In fact, does it so strongly, that in 1798, a man by the name of Granville Sharp wrote a little monograph against this translation here as well as in II Peter 1:1 and a few other places, and he said, ‘The King James translation here is wrong because it suggests that there are two persons in view.’ And he said, ‘There’s one in view, it is the Lord Jesus, He is called God here’ is what he argued. Now, what’s interesting was, in that time, in that day, 200 years ago, many people reacted to that. And they were Arians using the King James Bible in defense of their Arianism.”
“Here we have a case where the grammar is clear, the text is clear, and the King James is misleading. As I’ve said, Arians in Granville Sharp’s day used the King James translation. There were books written against Granville Sharp saying the King James translation is right, and it defends Arianism here.”
Now, I would not charge the King James with heresy, even in this case. But if I were using the same argumentation of King James only advocates – that modern versions teach and lead to heresy – I would have a strong point here, because my heretical interpretation is not hypothetical, it’s actual! Real heretics were using and defending the KJV reading, a reading it shares with the Watchtower’s New World Translation.
I believe it’s safest to say that theological error is a result of poor exegesis, faulty hermeneutics, presuppositions, traditions, and/or bad influences. Though all translations have their flaws, the King James Only charge that modern versions are full of and lead to heresy is lacking evidence.

burning bookOne of the common charges against modern Bible versions coming from the King James Only side is that they are full of heresy, and therefore lead the reader to a heretical position. I don’t intend on being exhaustive in this post, but to bring up a few objections to this charge.

Dr. D. A. Waite says, “The FOUNDATION of ALL DOCTRINE is the BIBLE. Having the RIGHT BIBLE is critically IMPORTANT!!” (Defending the King James Bible, emphasis his)

Barry Burton said, “If God has not preserved His Word perfect, but has allowed some errors, then since we don’t have the ‘original autographs’, we must assume that we have been teaching and preaching out of a book that is not completely reliable” (Let’s Weigh the Evidence).

“The fact is, modern translations are based on Greek manuscripts that have been corrupted by those who changed the Word of God to agree with their rejection of the Blood Atonement, the Deity of Christ, the Inspiration of Scripture, and many other major Bible doctrines. Of course the results of translating with such manuscripts are, modern translations that actually water down and attack many fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Modern translations attack the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Infallibility and Inerrancy of the Bible, Salvation by faith alone, the Trinity and more. (The King James Bible: God’s Word for Today, Glen Spencer)

The charges are plenty and forceful. We will answer specific cases later and in more detail. But let’s just look at some of the supposed heresy of the modern versions.

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