The Theological Illusions of King James Onlyism by Kevin Bauder (part 4)

One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible may just be the best book on the King James Only debate, period. The posts in this series are tracing the arguments of Kevin Bauder, in his conclusion to the book: “An Appeal to Scripture”. He explains several theological arguments that KJV Onlyists resort to, in an effort to continue propagating their belief against a mass of contrary evidence. Bauder shows that these arguments are really illusions that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Part 1 set the stage, and part 2 dealt with “the appeal to faith”. Part 3, covered “the appeal to reason”. Now we’re picking it back up at “the appeal to evidence”.

For this argument, I’m going to quote Kevin Bauder at length and then chime in some of my own thoughts.

The third illusion that attends the King James-Only position involves the evaluation of the actual evidence. King James-Only advocates are extremely reluctant to allow the empirical evidence to stand on its own merits. On the one hand, they are fond of insisting that “the majority rules” in textual matters. On the other hand, they are very careful about what they allow to count as a majority. For example, if all manuscripts of the ancient translations of the New Testament are counted, then manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus form a distinct minority. Moreover, according to the actual manuscript evidence, the manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus are not in the majority even of Greek manuscripts until the fourth century or even later. If the theory that “the majority rules” is correct, then the next two questions are, Majority of what? and, Majority from when?

The King James-Only movement can survive only by deploying a highly prejudicial definition of the word majority. Its defenders insist that very late Greek manuscripts be included in this majority but that very early translations be excluded from it. They revise history to explain the paucity of manuscripts that support the Textus Receptus before the fourth century. In fact, historical revisionism is a mainstay of the King James-Only argument. Their carefully reworked history is filled with heretics who deliberately miscopied the Scriptures; churches that rejected Alexandrian manuscripts; ecumenical councils that endorsed the Byzantine tradition; secret plots of Jesuits, Masons, Nazis, and Communists; and a variety of other irresponsible speculations, none of which can be shown to have happened. (pg. 160)

I’ve previously made similar points about the nebulous idea of “majority”. In my Majority Rules: Fact or Fiction? series I delved into this. Also, the Greek support for the TR wasn’t really a majority of manuscripts until the 9th Century, per James White.

The impression I got in my experience of King James Onlyism was that the “evidence” and the role of “the majority of manuscripts” was quite important. That is what made the whole theory appeal to me as solid. When I found out that often King James Onlyists manipulated the evidence to suit their cause, I started down the disillusionment path.

Were the Early Fundamentalists King James Only?

Jason S, one of the contributors here, answers this question over at Re-Fundamentals.org. After marshaling several quotations from a variety of early Fundamentalists, Jason concludes with the following:

Whatever else may be said about the Scriptures (and there is much to say), we must state the the issue of translations was not a fundamental issue among the early Fundamentalists. Though they weighed in heavily against the RSV, the early Fundamentalists were not King James Only. That was not a fundamental issue to them. They were more interested in inspiration, authority, inerrancy, as well as the other fundamentals of the faith. We can conclude that the early Fundamentalists believed that God’s Word was to be found in every honest and faithful translation of the Scriptures.

I encourage you to go read the whole post.

How Usage in English Changes Over Time…

This Sunday, one of our members of a finer vintage (which means she’s 90 years old and still quick witted and thoughtful) asked me a question I had never considered. She said to me:

Where did “The Doxology” come from? I don’t think kids will understand the term “Holy Ghost” and they’re the future of this church. Can  you change it to Holy Spirit?

She threw me completely off guard.

Here are some facts.

  • In the KJV, the term Holy Ghost appears 89 times.
  • Holy Spirit by contrast appears only 4 times.
  • There are of course other combinations – Spirit of Holiness, Spirit of God, etc.

I did some quick digging and discovered, not surprisingly, that the word ghost is an Anglo-Saxon word. I knew already that spirit comes from Latin, but I did not know that it did not come through French. Apparently, it came from Latin into Middle English around the 13th-14th centuries.

At the time of the translation of the King James Version, ghost had none of the additional meanings used today – some kind of scary undead creature during Halloween and all that. Ghost was a far more prominent term, and it appears that it was used in English almost in spite of the Latin word – perhaps even in reaction to the separation of the English church from the Roman church.

Today of course, the meanings have changed. Spirit is the commonly used term in most English-speaking churches. It is rare to hear someone speaking of the Holy Ghost.

We’re therefore presented with a situation. Do we go against the cultural/linguistic movement of the English language and continue to use a term like ghost or do we embrace the word spirit as having the meaning in current English that the underlying Greek demands?

Encouragement to Respect and Co-exist

It has been very enlightening to watch the fireworks fly with our interviews with Dr. Maurice Robinson and Dr. Kirk DiVietro. What I found very interesting was that both of these men are highly respected in their particular spheres of influence and both chose not to engage the debate publicly. I think this is to their credit and shows maturity in the area of textual traditions.

The trap that everyone seems to fall into when discussing this issue is that they think that if they repeat their position often enough or disagree boldly enough that they will persuade their opponents to accept their position. At times, these arguments get so vehement and distracted that we have all gone off on tangents that had nothing to do with the premises put forward. (I will cite my previous article on the Testing the Core Textus Receptus Premise as an example.) Of the 100+ comments on that article, fewer than 20 actually addressed the premise of the article. Most were consumed with arguing with one another over who had the ‘better’ argument, often using the same evidence to support completely disparate positions. The conversation was certainly far more courteous than some others we have had on this blog, and I hope that this continues.

In all the years I have been in the middle of this debate (willingly or unwillingly), I have never seen any intelligent, well-reasoned person ‘persuaded’ by arguing with another intelligent, well-reasoned person. What I have seen is that when we engage in discussion rather than argument, we grow both spiritually and intellectually. This is why I have had to be very introspective about my own involvement in this debate and have backed away from some of the more inflammatory positions I took in months past. I realized that I value having an intelligent conversation more than I value being ‘right.’

For the next few months, I will not be posting on this blog as our congregation is in the final stages of an amazing merger process and a season of unprecedented growth. I feel my energies are better invested there. I wanted to offer one final encouragement to everyone here. The contributors of this blog have a wide variety of backgrounds and positions, and yet we have learned to both respect each other and co-exist peacefully. We hope this will be a model for the commenters as well.

You do not have to agree with everything someone says and believes in order to respect them. We all have a God-given right to speak our minds freely, but we also have a God-given command to respect others – to behave ourselves in a manner that demonstrates Christ to all. It is not “okay” for us to tear each other down here. It is not “okay” for us to call names and shout each other down. This is not the Way of Jesus.

To all of you, honor Christ above your own agenda.

“Purified Seven Times”: A Case of Defective Exegesis and Improper Application by Doug Kutilek

The following article is reprinted with permission from “As I See It”, Volume 13, Number 9, September 2010, a free monthly newsletter published by Doug Kutilek. Subscription information is available here at the author’s website: KJVOnly.Org. Note: our posting of this article does not imply our complete endorsement of all particulars contained therein.


 

“Purified Seven Times”: A Case of Defective Exegesis and Improper Application

One of the near-universal but untested assumptions of “King James Only”-ites is that Psalm 12:6, 7 has specific reference to God’s perfect preservation of Scripture in the copying and translating process, and that more specifically this refers to the King James Version, and in truth only to the KJV and no other Bible version in English or any other language on earth. This interpretation is both grossly arbitrary and wholly unsound.

That passage reads (KJV, all spelling, punctuation and italics as in original 1611 edition):

The wordes of the LORD are pure wordes: as siluer tried in a fornace of earth purified seuen times.

Thou shalt keepe them, (O LORD,) thou shalt preserue them, from this generation for euer.

We will here mention only in passing one particular misinterpretation by KJVO zealots of this text, to wit, that the promise of preservation in v. 7 refers back to the “words” of v. 6, when in fact it refers (as the Hebrew and the context show) to the persecuted believers of v. 5 (“For the oppression of the poore, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise (saith the LORD,) I will set him in safetie from him that puffeth at him”; for proof of my analysis, see the commentaries of John Gill or Franz Delitzsch on this Psalm; or, more fully, my article “A Careful Investigation of Psalm 12:6, 7,” The Biblical Evangelist, October 14, 1983. That article does need some modification, expansion and revision–which I hope to undertake shortly–but is essentially correct as written).

By remarkable extrapolation, the faulty foundational interpretation imposed on this text by KJVO partisans is alleged to first refer to the written word of God, then to its perfect transmission to posterity, which culminates most particularly and in fact uniquely in the English translation of the Scriptures known as the King James Version. An arbitrary explanation? Completely so. Nothing in the text nor context speaks of the copying or translating process at all, and certainly nothing about any English Bible version, nor indeed a particular one among them. Even so, it is somehow “found” in the text, resulting in an interpretation as exegetically forced as the Mormons finding the combining of the Book of Mormon with the Bible in the two sticks of Ezekiel 37:16-19.

Our attention here will be directed to the “use” made by KJVOers of the simile in v. 6 “as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times” as though it were a reference to seven stages in God’s providing a “pure Bible” to the English-speaking people (and only to the English-speaking people) in the form of the KJV.

(One must ask–if the Word of God was verbally and plenary inspired, as indeed the Bible teaches, and then verbally and plenarily preserved in the copying and transmission process, as the novel doctrine created by KJVOers in the 1990s claims [see “The Error of ‘Verbal Plenary Preservation’,” As I See It, 12:11], why would there be any need to purify the Bible even once, much less “seven times”?)

As far as I can discover, the first writer to abuse Psalm 12:6–“purified seven times”–as though it were actually a promise / prophecy regarding the process of transmission of the Bible from antiquity to the modern era, was Peter S. Ruckman, Sr. A correspondent (whom we leave anonymous at his request, but who has made a systematic study of Ruckman’s published books) wrote to us:

Peter Ruckman seemed to use a form of the “purified seven times” claim in his commentary on the book of Psalms. Commenting on that phrase from Psalm 12:6, Ruckman indicated that the word “went out in seven installments” that included the Hebrew O. T., the Aramaic, the Greek N. T., the old Syriac translation, the Old Latin translation, the German translation of Martin Luther, and the AV of 1611 (I, pp. 70-71; see also his The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship).

We don’t own Ruckman’s commentary on Psalms or otherwise have direct access to it, but do have his The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship. Those “seven installments” in which God’s word went out are indeed alleged to be (The Christian’s Handbook of Biblical Scholarship, p. 125 in 1987 edition; p. 129 in 1988 edition):

1. the Hebrew part of the OT
2. the Aramaic part of the OT
3. the Greek NT
4. an “old Syriac” translation of 1.-3.
5. an “old Latin” translation of 1.-3.
6. a German translation of 1.-3. made during the Reformation
7. the KJV, allegedly “from the end of the Reformation”

Several of these are “problematic,” since number 4., the Peshitta Syriac version (no doubt what Ruckman has reference to) differs in literally thousands of places, all told, from the Masoretic Hebrew text, the textus receptus Greek NT, and the KJV. For example, the Peshitta Syriac does not contain I John 5:7, John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37; and other passages, and in fact did not include Revelation and several other NT books at all!

And number 5. the Old Latin version, in the OT was not made from the Hebrew text but was made from the Greek Septuagint translation, which version is to Ruckman and the whole of the KJVO herd “anathema.” And in the NT, the Old Latin manuscripts differ in many hundreds of details from the textus receptus Greek edition. Examples: all Old Latin manuscripts read “Isaiah the prophet” rather than “the prophets” at Mark 1:2; all read “men of goodwill” like Greek manuscript Vaticanus and the Vulgate, rather than “goodwill toward men” in Luke 2:14; all lack “after the spirit” in Romans 8:1 and lack “and in your spirit which are God’s” at I Corinthians 6:20; etc. (see my article “The Truth About the Waldensian Bible and the Old Latin Version,” Baptist Biblical Heritage 2:2, Summer, 1991)

Number 6. Luther’s German version, does NOT precisely conform to the Masoretic OT, the textus receptus NT, or the KJV. Among other things, it does not have I John 5:7 (see “Ruckman on Luther and I John 5:7: Dolt or Deceiver?” As I See It, 4:8, August 2001).

And there is no definitive edition of the KJV, with even the two editions issued in 1611 differing between themselves in over 2,000 places. Differences between these two and later KJV editions are many times greater.

One is hard-pressed to see a perfect and pristinely pure text in steps 4.-7. since these do not agree precisely or in all details with each other or with 1.-3. (whatever printed editions one may claim as the “true original” of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek)

Somewhat surprisingly, the KJVO acolytes of Ruckman seem not to have followed their chosen “Pied Piper” in his abuse of this text (though they have gone in lock-step with him on many others), but have struck out in a different path of text abuse. It is common place among KJVO authors to find the “purified seven times” phrase limited to seven steps in the purification and perfection of the Bible in English, always culminating in the KJV as the crown of perfection. One problem: there is continual disagreement among authors as to the identity of these supposedly Divinely-foretold steps.
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