Let the Minutiae Speak

I submitted a paper to Sharper Iron’s writing contest a few months back.  They posted it today as one of the three winning entries.  I’ll provide a brief excerpt here and encourage you to go over to SI to read the whole thing.

Let the minutiae speak: The place of genealogies, numbers, and parallel passages in the King James only debate

“Things that are different are not the same.” So says the title of Mickey Carter’s book advocating the exclusive use of the King James Bible. This sentiment is a fair summary of the mindset of most King James only (KJO) advocates. The differences between Bible versions demand a judgment. Which Bible is right?

Troubled by differing Bible versions, many sincere Christians seek for answers. One side affirms that no doctrine is affected by the relatively minor differences between Bible versions. The message is the same, but finer points and particular details may be slightly different. A typical KJO position jumps in and says this can’t be right. Verbal inspiration is useless without the preservation of those very words of God. In fact, we need to know each and every word, in order to live (Matt. 4:4). All differences, even word order and spelling differences, matter (Matt. 5:18). Differing versions cannot both claim to be translations of the perfect, inspired Word of God.

On the face of it, the KJO argument makes sense. When we’re speaking about the Bible, shouldn’t every little difference matter? Some respond with manuscript evidence that calls into question the choice of the King James Bible as a perfect standard. Others have shown that the various proof texts for word perfect preservation don’t actually promise a single, identifiable, word-perfect copy of the Bible. And prior to 1611, where was such a copy to be found, anyway?

In this paper, I want to take us down a road less traveled. Rather than looking for a proof text which directly deals with this controversy, I aim to scour the King James Bible itself for examples of the very differences which are said to matter so much. The minor points of Scripture itself, the minutia, should be allowed to speak to this issue. Genealogies, lists, numbers, and parallel passages all have an important bearing on how we should think about “things that are different.” [read the rest of the entry at Sharper Iron]

The Bible Version Issue and Separation

A quick detour into practical application

I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve enjoyed the discussions we’ve had on the blog lately. Particularly since the posting of the Maurice Robinson interview, the discussion on this site has been lively, engaging, and informative. I’m impressed with how this blog has grown in a short amount of time, and happy to be a part of it.

As I read the recent posts and the ensuing comments, I’m reminded of a principle that took me away from King James Onlyism in the first place: the issue of Bible versions is complicated.  No, I’m not saying the issue is too complicated to study or comprehend, but it is more technical than a simple grasping at one particular version and calling it a day. As former KJV onlyists, we can testify that, for the most part, this doctrine is presented as too simple.  “If it’s good enough for Paul. . .”

Thankfully, we haven’t encountered too much oversimplification in recent days here.  What is obvious is that the task of understanding the history of textual transmission is quite large and quite deep. Some base their conclusions on the church. But what church? Others on the manuscripts. Which ones? How do we know we’re receiving the right information? Who should we trust? The debate is not over.  One of the characteristics of our blog that I love is that we’re not textual critics. We don’t work at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. We’re not from Bible.org or evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com.  While my fellow contributors are widely read and have sharp minds, we all come to the table as analyzers of the facts that have been given, not the producers of those facts. Our practical, lay-centered understanding of the issues offers a perspective one may not find on sites dedicated solely to scholarship.

So what does all this mean? On an applicatory level, the depth of the issue of Bible versions shows that it is unnecessary, and in my opinion, sinful, to separate ecclesiastically from brethren who hold a different view of the text. In fact, debates such as we have will probably be more helpful as Christians with differing views come together to discuss rather than throw stones.

When I forsook my KJV onlyism, it became my opinion that the modern, critical texts were the most consistent and reliable. I am very comfortable in saying that may change. It doesn’t bother me to admit that. I think the majority text perspective, unnecessarily hindered by its unfortunate association with the shrill of King James onlyism, has merits that ought to be more publicized. And I don’t believe that King James Onlyists themselves offer no food for thought; they certainly do. All of this is to say that the issue isn’t completely settled in my mind and perhaps never will be, yet I’m not bothered by it. I wish to study more and watch as more light is shed on the issue over time. I believe that an approach like this, void of dogmatic declarations, conspiracy theories, and assumptions of heresy is the best approach to take on this issue. Those who oversimplify the issue, take hold of the King James, and work backwards from that position aren’t being true to the technicalities of the debate. My plea is for a continuation of good, honest, Christian discussion.

Testing the Core Textus Receptus Premise

In all the discussion of the TR-Only position, I think there have been a lot of straw men erected (on both sides of the discussion) and a lot of complimentary schismogenesis. I am going to ask all of you to forget all the anxilliary arguments for a moment. I think the core discussion is being lost in the fog of all the stuff being thrown around.

At the core of the Textus Receptus argument is this simple statement:

God entrusted the Bible to the Church; and the part of the Church that spoke Greek preserved the Greek New Testament.

As a corollary to this primary thesis:

Textual readings that are newly discovered and vary from the living, received text are not to be preferred over the readings that remained in daily, regular use.

This is why the Elzevir brothers termed this manuscript tradition textus receptus and why it was later dubbed majority text.

Now, without getting into any anxillary points, can we look at this thesis and its corollary and find any reason it should not stand.

I am legitimately asking the commenters and contributors to suspend any discussion of the ‘weight’ of variants and those things. I am asking you to focus only on the thesis and its corollary.

This discussion is open to anyone (including even you, Steve), but I warn you that any discussion off-topic will be removed. I want to see if it is even possible for everyone to deal with this premise and this premise alone. If you can’t stay on topic, however, it is probably best not to comment.

There might also be a secondary corollary to this:

The archaic, koine, form of Greek is older than the Attic and Byzantine forms of Greek where the two might diverge in living, received manuscripts.

But that is a topic for another time.

The Definition of Corrupt and the KJVO Issue



1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.

2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.

3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.

4. infected; tainted.

5. decayed; putrid. *

What do the above definitions have to do with the King James Only issue? Much, I think. You see, there is a difference between the definition that is in use by those who are KJVO and those who are not. (This is a blanket statement that is not representative of everyone involved.) The definition is applied to NT manuscripts.

Those who are not KJVO tend to use the definition of corrupt that is seen in number 3. Their view is that many texts have been tainted (thus a little of number 4 enters in) and made inferior. That means that there are some NT manuscripts which are better than others.

Those who are KJVO will tend to use the definition of corrupt that is seen in numbers 1,2,4, and 5. Their idea is that there are manuscripts that are dishonest, depraved, wicked, evil, tainted, and putrid. This means that there are some NT manuscripts that are hopelessly tainted and are to be totally rejected.

The problem with the KJVO stance on this issue is that it is a subtle move from defining corruption as something being made inferior by changes or alterations to defining corruption as something that is absolutely corrupt. It is a move from relative corruption to absolute corruption. It is a move from partial corruption to total corruption. Whether this subtle move is intentional or not, it clouds the issue at hand and makes the debate more difficult.

The other problem with this is that the KJVO believer tends to present the text which is not the Textus Receptus as being totally and hopelessly corrupt. This is a logical fallacy. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Finally, the KJVO believer must demonstrate, then, that those texts outside of the TR are totally and hopelessly corrupt in the sense that they are theologically deviant and depraved to the point that the Word of God is not there in any recognizable form. If not, then we must return to using the word corrupt in the sense of definition number three.

*It might be useful to note as well that when someone writing in Latin (like say Erasmus) would have used the word corruptus as meaning ‘broken into pieces’ rather than the Anglicized definition we now use. So there is a 6th definition as well – broken into pieces. (Erik D.)

Some Follow Up Questions with Dr. DiVietro

Introductory Note:
Bob, the owner of KJVOnlydebate.com had some additional interaction with Dr. DiVietro concerning his TR-Only position. With Dr. DiVietro’s permission, we are reprinting his responses here.

KJV Only Debate:
Do you follow the Scrivener Greek Text or the Cambridge KJV in the few places where they differ? (Or is some other Greek Text available that you would hold to more closely than Scrivener’s?)

Dr. DiVietro:
We know that the actual texts translated by the KJV 1611 translators were lost with their notes in the 1660 fire of London. We also know that Scrivener started with the Bezae 1598 and inserted the readings followed by the 1611 translators wherever they differed from the Bezae text.  He stated that he thought he had listed them all but there was the possibility of inadvertent omissions. Therefore the Scrivener text is not inerrant.

I do believe that the 1611 translators did their homework and translated the historic text as they received it in manuscripts, versions, lectionaries and the church fathers.  They did not follow any given TR or MT printed text. They had multiple sources at the table.  Where an absolute difference occurs between the KJV and the Scrivener text I assume that Scrivener inadvertently missed it.

KJV Only Debate:
If you side with Scrivener, would you have a problem saying the KJV has a few errors in places where it doesn’t follow the TR?

Dr. DiVietro:
No, I would not say that. The TR is not a single printed text. That idea is a straw man constantly erected to avoid the genuine issues.  The TR is not any particular edition of Erasmus or Stephanus or Elzivir or Scrivener or anyone else. It is the text you will read if you simply pick up and read the vast majority of NT manuscripts.

There is no such thing as a pure Alexandrian, pure Western, pure Byzantine manuscript.  Yes there is variation between the TR manuscripts but the main stream of the text is clear.  The problem is that people want to lock down the TR to a given manuscript or printed form. It is the RECEIVED text. It is how the text looked when someone received a manuscript.

When I differentiate between the TR and the modern eclectic text it is because there is absolutely NO manuscript that supports the eclectic text. Not even B, Aleph, L or f44 f46 or any of their other allies is followed consistently.  And yes, I have either facsimiles or photographs, as well as the printed text of most of these.

The modern text is created by choosing the most aberrant reading in any given opportunity with the assumption that that it is most original.  The result is a patchwork of readings resulting in an incomplete, often errant theologically, biblically, etc. text.  Read the intrinsic and external sieves for discovering the ‘true’ reading of a manuscript or a text type (Alexandrian, byzantine, etc). These sieves are completely biased against any reading in the Textus Receptus.  Behind the sieves you will find that textual criticism, conservative or liberal, is based on the thesis that the biblical text evolved from the primitive form to the TR (or MT).  The evolutionary theory states that the text at the beginning was rough, incomplete, and inaccurate. Through the years the scribes smoothed it and it evolved into the form known as the received text.  This is contrary to the Bible doctrine of the origin and preservation of the scriptures.

KJV Only Debate:
E.F. Hills was transparent about a few errors in both the TR and the KJV, yet he remained TR-only. Would the admission of a few small errors in the TR materially damage your textual position?

Dr. DiVietro:
Errors or variants?  I have not found a single mistranslation of the Greek (I am not as accomplished in the Hebrew) in 35+ years of studying the King James Bible when I compare it to the Greek texts that I possess.  I rarely preach on a text without checking the underlying Greek or Hebrew.  Hardly a day goes by that I do not read some passage in its original language. This has been my practices since Bible college.  People always make this kind of abstract question but never refer me to a specific passage accompanied by the supposed error and the basis of declaring it an error.
If you have a specific example in mind I’d be glad to consider it.

Do I think that the KJV might have a translational inaccuracy? No, I think they accurately translated whatever they translated.

Do I think it is possible that they might have made a wrong choice of Greek or Hebrew reading? Without any specific in mind I take the same position Dean John Burgon took. If an analysis of ALL the manuscript evidence demonstrates an irrefutable error of judgment then I would consider correction. Until that occurs, and it has not yet been shown to me that it does, I continue to trust the work of almost 100 years of textual and translational attention paid by Tyndale through the 1611 translators.

I would no more trust today’s textual scholars and translators to correct the King James Bible than I would trust the present politicians to rewrite the US Constitution. In my opinion, the scholarship, the knowledge, the dedication and the corporate effort do not exist in today’s academic community.

KJV Only Debate:
Are TR advocates generally willing to admit errors in the TR or do they prefer to speak of either the KJV or the TR as a final authority that is error free?

Dr. DiVietro:
We both realize that we are speaking in the abstract. (And I know that the Riplinger/Ruckman/Coneyite advocates will accusing me of seeking a revision of the KJV.)  I take the same position as Dean Burgon.

I am not willing to admit ERRORS in the Textus Receptus body of preservation. There are variants within the Textus Receptus. The KJV translators dealt with those variants and made definitive judgments. Since I do not have the qualifications nor the body of evidence they used by which to challenge their accuracy I do not.  And as stated above until and  unless someone does a comprehensive examination of all the evidence, not just a select group of mss, or a recount of the same reasoning of the modern critics, I see no reason nor safe process by which to correct the KJV.

KJV Only Debate:
What are your thoughts on the NKJV?

Dr. DiVietro:
I attended a pre-publication meeting of the NKJV hosted by a local bible book store. Representative of Bible colleges and many pastors attended the meeting.  I sat next to John Kohlenberger’s brother.  At this meeting, the Thomas Nelson vice-president showed a film strip of the history of the King James Bible.  He then made a statement which etched indelibly into my mind.  Although I may not have it letter perfect I am attempting to recount not paraphrase.  He said something to the effect of:

We are all educated people here. We would never say this to our congregations but we all know that the King James Bible is an inferior translation based on inferior manuscripts.  But every time we have tried to give your people a better more accurate bible they have rejected it.  So we have taken the King James Bible and the texts from which it came and modernized it. We have introduced some minor changes to provide  you a bridge to get your people away from the King James Bible and eventually to a more accurate Bible.

As a result I have never even given the New King James a comprehensive look. From time to time I have compared passages. I have noticed a few grievous errors of translation, (i.e. saying that Jesus drank wine when no place in the KJV or the TR does it say that he did) and find that the original footnotes restored at least 2,000 of the Westcott-Hort alternative readings.  It changes things like everlasting to eternal and vice versa for no other apparent reason than to secure a copyright. No one has shown me a significant correction or clarification that justifies my moving to it.  In general I find it neither scholarly nor significant.

Interview with TR Advocate Dr. Kirk DiVietro, pt 3

Today is the final installment of our interview with Dr. Kirk DiVietro. We asked him some specific questions about the King James Bible as an English translation.

KJVO Debate:
What specifically distinguishes your position from the general KJVO positions?

Dr. DiVietro:
I am not King James Version Only. I am Textus Receptus/Masoretic Text only. As I stated above I believe any time the proper Greek/Hebrew texts are accurately translated we have the words of God in English. I do not believe the King James Bible or any other translation is divinely inspired. I do believe an accurate translation preserves the inspired words into the English language.

KJVO Debate:
Do you believe the Word of God in English exists only in the King James Bible?

Dr. DiVietro:
I answered it above. In addition to that comment I add this caveat. The King James Bible is the only English translation that I trust 100% to accurately translate the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Its process beginning with Tyndale and ending in 1769 with the present revision of the Cambridge King James Bible was careful enough to produce an accurate reliable English Bible.

KJVO Debate:
One of the biggest criticisms of the King James text is that it is unreadable. Share with us how you answer that criticism in a practical way.

Dr. DiVietro:
Again it is nice if you can make a translation both easily readable and accurate. However, that is rarely possible, especially when working with an ancient language. Most of the readability problems in the King James Bible do not come from old English. It does not take a great level of intelligence to understand that thee, thou, and ye mean ‘you.’ The same is true of the -est and -est endings of verbs. The difficulty of the King James Bible is primarily because it attempts to keep the word order and nuanced grammar of the original languages. The translaters were attempting to replicate the full impact of the original language. Some words like propitiation were coined specifically because there was no English word which carried the full impact of the word. It cannot be rendered more ‘readable’ without sacrificing accuracy. There are other such conventions and phenomena.

KJVO Debate:
Some commenters have asked you to comment on the recent works to update the text of the KJB. What are your opinions of the MKJV, AKJV, KJV2000, and LITV?

Dr. DiVietro:
I have not done extensive research into any one of these revisions of the KJB. The English language has not changed enough to make most readers of the KJB uncomfortable and asking for a revision. It is still the most popular form of the Bible. There are not enough changes to legitimately justify a copyright. There are not enough changes that have been recognized by consensus as being necessary.

KJVO Debate:
Given the opportunity, how would you steer an update of the KJB text? Does there need to be an update?

Dr. DiVietro
No, I would not steer an update of the KJB nor do I think there a need for an update. The quality of scholarship both on the committee and in the born again, Bible believing pastors and educators of English speaking people to do a quality job. I would not feel qualified to serve on a revision committee. I would not tamper with the words of God.

Author’s Closing Remarks:

On behalf of the authors of this blog, I want to thank my father for his gracious interview. While the TR-only position is held by a minority of textual scholars, it is not nearly as marginalized as mainstream publications tend to make it. The far more vocal KJVO provocateurs like Peter Ruckman and Gail Riplinger have unfortunately monopolized the spotlight of the KJVO side of the debate. Even if you disagree with at TR-only advocate like Dr. DiVietro, you must admire their desire to have and know the Word of God.

One final note. Dr. DiVietro is not interested in engaging in the debate of this topic. He has expressed that his desire is only to present his position. Others are free to agree or disagree.

Interview with TR Advocate Dr. Kirk DiVietro, pt 2

We continue our conversation with Dr. Kirk DiVietro, pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Franklin, Massachusetts. Today, we provide his answers to some questions about the Greek text of the New Testament.

KJVO Debate:
What, in your opinion, is the single best reason to reject the modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament?

Dr. DiVietro:
The best reason to reject modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament is that they are based on theories and procedures that guarantee a wrong result. The theories were created by non-bible believers who reject divine origin and preservation of the scriptures.

The foundational thesis of modern textual criticism is that the Bible evolved by natural processes. The advocates vary on the origin of the Scriptures. But they agree that once the original scriptures were created God abandoned the preservation process. The scriptures were subject to the same corrupting influences of any piece of literature. This process reached its culmination with the printing press. The printing press froze the text and allowed perfect reproduction.

As the theory goes, the text when frozen by the printing press was the result of 1500 years of evolution. The existing text therefore not be the text when first produced. In the same way that geological and biological evolutionists try to regress the evolutionary process they decided that they would have to regress the evolution of the Scriptures.

A logical seive was created to do the regression. All manuscripts were assembled (in theory) and classified by their readings. An assumption was made that the earlier the manuscript text the more accurate. Since no two manuscripts can be demonstrated to have a direct ancestor-child relationship individual readings were isolated and analyzed. They were organized into ‘families’ by the geological region of their widest circulation. It was then speculated that there were separate distinct texts circulating in specific areas. Although no perfect pure regional manuscript was ever discovered scholars conjecture those texts and build them artificially by isolating geographical readings no matter what manuscript they appear in. (Much like Q is conjectured as a base for the Gospels)

Once they created their archetype texts and families of manuscripts they had to purify their artificial texts. If Alexandrian manuscripts disagree on a reading the true reading has to be determined. How? By picking the most unlikely, obscure, aberrant reading as the original reading, on the assumption that subsequent editors would ‘correct’ obtuse readings, the theorists conjectured ‘earliest’ and ‘oldest’ readings. Becuase the process is weighted against the historic, traditional readings a brand new text arose. This text appears NOWHERE in the physical manuscript evidence. It is completely eclectically created. You cannot pick up ANY NT manuscript and read the modern text although it is most dependent on the Vaticanus Manuscript and its allies.

KJVO Debate:
You have said elsewhere that you have rejected the idea of text families. What motivated that move and what do you suggest in place of that theory?

Dr. DiVietro:
I reject them because they assume the opposite of Bible truth. God said he revealed his word. It was perfect at its revelation. He further says he preserves his word. The concept of families rejects both statements. If the argument of families were used to explain where the aberrant variant readings came from I might accept the premise. Things don’t develope upward without intelligent intervention. According to modern theory the New Testament developed from a text which was grammatically, historically, theologically, biblically inaccurate into a consistent cogent uniform New Testament.

In addition ‘families’ are impossible to discern. The manuscript evidence as it appears today is like the result of a bomb hitting a 2000 year old cemetary. Modern scholars claim they can reassemble the bodies and tell who is related to whom without DNA. They claim bones found next to each other must be from the same individual, and individuals thus assembled found close to each other must be related.

KJVO Debate:
A few years ago, you presented a paper to the DBS – survey on the supposed LXX quotes in the New Testament. Can you share what you discovered?

Dr. DiVietro:
I discovered that in John, Acts and Hebrews, no Old Testament quotation came directly from the Septuagint. Even those who advocate the idea that the New Testament writers used the Septuagint readily admit that if an accurate translation of the Hebrew text varied from the Septuagint the writers translated the Hebrew. Simply stated, if an independent translation of the Hebrew and the Septuagint agree it is assumed that the writer quoted the Septuagint. If they vary he used the Hebrew. Why does that make more sense than assuming that they used the Hebrew text and when the Septuagint agrees it is becaust the translator of the Septuagint got it right?

Further I found there is no direct evidence of a Septuagint (except for the possible translaqtion of the Pentateuch) in the pre-christian era. The Septuagint as we know it appears first in the writings of Origen near the end of the 2nd century AD. The modern text ASSUMES the Septuagint origin of the OT quotes and whenever it finds a variant that agrees with the Septuagint elevates it above the historic reading.

KJVO Debate:
Is there an extant, perfect manuscript copy of the TR? If so, which? If not, could you explain briefly why you believe the TR tradition to be superior to the texts used in the Critical Text?

No. There is not a perfect manuscript copy of the TR. No intelligent student of the manuscripts would say there is. Every manuscript is handwritten. In that volume of work it is impossible for any one copyist not to make some inadvertant error. However, if you pick up any TR manuscript (about 95% of the manuscript evidence) you will find a clear mainstream. Any given manuscript will have an eddy of error from time to time but when compared against the stream it is easily identified as an aberration.

In contrast, the modern text cannot be found in any manuscript. Its manuscript evidence resides primarily in 2-5% of the evidence. It requires the ‘scholar’ to arbitrarily adopt a given reading from any given manuscript to create or ‘restore’ the text.

The Textus Receptus tradition comes from the eastern churches which continued to use Greek as their primary active language into the 15th century. The manuscripts are not museum pieces. They are the Bibles they were using. They come from an area of the world which is not especially condusive to preserving biological materials. As manuscripts deteriorated from use they were disposed of lest they give rise to bad readings. This area of the world was the area to which the documents of the New Testament were originally addressed. The churches of this area would most likely have been the depository of the most accurate copies of the New Testament making restoration after persecution possible.

Many of the modern readings are consistent with the dialect of Alexandria preferring classical greek grammar rather than koine greek.

There are just too many factors which weigh against the accuracy of modern textual conclusions.

KJVO Debate:
In discussing things with me (Erik), you made an excellent point about the reason we should trust the Byzantine texts and the faulty reasons why Westcott and Hort rejected them. Could you explain that to us?

I’m not exactly what observations Erik has mentioned to you. I have partially explained it above. I will summarize here.

  1. The Byzantine text has been demonstrated to be at least contemporary with Codex B/Aleph. (See The Byzantine Text-type by Bruce Sturz)
  2. The B/Aleph group of manuscripts is not consistent in its source texts. There is no one manuscript which is 100% “Alexandrian” in its readings. There are many that are TR.
  3. The B/Aleph group of manuscripts shows signs of being edited to a more classical Greek from a Koine source.
  4. Westcott-Hort and the other textual critics were trained in classical Greek. Their assessment of the TR was that it was terribly corrupted is a result of their training. The idea that Koine Greek was a defined dialect would not come into existence until after their work.
  5. Manuscript B (Vaticanus) was traced over three times. The original readings are obscured below the latest retracing. The authority of the edited text of Vaticanus is questionable.
  6. The modern critical theory denies the doctrine of divine preservation and some of the advocates deny the divine origin of the Scriptures. Their logical grid for determining original readings is biased toward the obtuse.
  7. Westcott and Hort as well as Gladstone wanted to remerge the English church with Rome. They knew that the authority of the King James Bible had to be broken before that would be possible.
  8. Several members of the 1881 Revision committee were unsaved. Several were unitarians.

KJVO Debate:
What are your thoughts on the Byzantine/Majority Text Platform? How does it differ from the TR?

Dr. DiVietro:
As I read the introduction of the Majority Text I was lead to believe that it was not what it claimed to be, a text created by simply counting manuscripts and choosing the majority supported reading. Instead there was a formula which accepted the Von Soden classifications of readings. This was not a simple majority method. As a result about 4-5000 of the W-H readings were rejected leaving 2000+ variants from the Textus Receptus. The Majority Text advocates still are based on the assumption that original text was lost and needed to be restored by the work of its editors. When the smoke clears the best that can be said is that Majority Text is as close to the original as manuscript evidence allows.