Coffee With Sam: What’s the Big Deal about the KJV?

A new website has launched called BigDealKJV.com, in which (according to the video creator) 8-10 video episodes will eventually be published. In this first episode, KJVO advocate Sam Gipp sits down over coffee with a student to explain to his confused mind why the KJV is the final authority.

In this well-produced short video, Gipp offers many of the same arguments and presuppositions posited by KJV advocates. While Gipp has said things that place him in the Ruckmanite category, he comes off here as a humble and wise professor seeking to take the complex issue of biblical transmission and make it fit into a simple construct with contemporary analogies. Here are some arguments given:

1. The Bible(s) we have today have to be exactly the same as that given by inspiration in order to be authoritative. 

Gipp makes this point in the very beginning when he declares the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, and then clarifies that he’s “not talking about an imaginary book” but “a book that I’m holding in my hand right now.”  He proceeds to point to the Bible in his hand as the final authority.

This idea has been propagated in numerous ways across the spectrum of King James Onlyism. What this concept does is it provides a basis to later declare all modern versions as less than authoritative because they do not all equally match each other. The KJVO advocate may deny it, but if he uses this argumentation, he really is looking for a photocopy of the originals, albeit in English.

2. There are only two Bibles, the Egyptian and the Antiochan.

Over coffee, Gipp tells his suspicious catechumen that despite the hundreds of Bible translations in the bookstores, all Bibles come from just one of two lines of manuscripts: those that come from Alexandria, Egypt, and those that come from Antioch in Syria. From this simplistic categorization of text types, Gipp then uses the guilt-by-association tactic to prove the superiority of the KJV because of its affiliation with Antiochian manuscripts.

Never mind that the Bible provides no precedent to use a distinction between Egypt and Antioch for a basis of judging translations, or that the Son of God was called out of Egypt, or that Athanasius, the champion of trinitarian orthodoxy, came from Alexandria. Because the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch and Egypt is generally spoken of negatively in the scriptures, the issue is presented very matter-of-fact by Gipp that the KJV descends from the Antiochian line, and is therefore superior.

3. The Textus Receptus is the Antiochian line of manuscripts

Gipp says the TR “is the Greek that comes out of Antioch.” So, the line of reasoning is as follows: Inspiration in Antioch > copies and publishing in Antioch > Textus Receptus > KJV.

Unfortunately for Gipp’s argumentation, the transmission of the text is not that simple.

4. The Critical Text is bad because it’s called the Critical Text

I chuckled at the statement, “Just the fact that it’s ‘critical’ should tell you there’s a problem.” All the while he’s promoting the TR, which is a Greek text. A text, by its very nature, is critical. Variant readings from manuscripts have to be compared in order to produce a finished product. In this way, Erasmus’ TR editions are critical, although worked from far fewer manuscripts and with less of a science of textual criticism.

5. Modern translations cannot help a Christian grow in the same way the KJV can.

Thankfully, Gipp admits that people can come to the knowledge of the gospel and be saved through reading versions other than the KJV. However, only the KJV is incorruptible, and corrupt modern versions are not appropriate for the Christian’s growth. No evidence is given here, but at this point, the episode is coming to a close, so I suspect we’ll get more details in the future.

Where Do We Stand?

Last week’s post generated plenty of conversation. I hope to highlight one of the points brought to light in a future post; namely, I will post on Tischendorf’s discovery of Sinaiticus and how the story is portrayed in the KJVO debate on all sides.

What got me thinking, though, is more along the lines of our personal backgrounds. I realize some of our regular guests have shared their own story, but I’m not sure that I even know where everyone stands on the issue. I see we have folks who regularly comment in support of the TR or MT but are not necessarily KJVO. We have others who are very critical of the CT but again, not KJVO. Then we have some who are indeed KJVO. I am also very interested in your theological leanings, as we’ve had people here who are not Christian at all. It helps to know who we’re talking to.

I’m wondering if those of you who regularly comment here (or who have in the past) would mind providing a little theological background and insight into your current thoughts on the Bible version issue. My fellow contributors are welcome to chime in as always. Even though we’ve given short bios on the authors page, and even though we all come from the IFB KJVO position, we have not all given our full position on this topic and I’m sure we even differ among ourselves.

To keep the commentary to the point, would you please follow these guidelines and answer these questions:

Guidelines: Please keep it brief yet specific. Please refrain from replying to a comment unless it addresses a specific point made (perhaps for an elaboration or clarification rather than an argument).

Questions:

1. What kind of church do you attend, if any?
2. What is your role in ministry, if any?
3. Has your position on the Bible version issue changed? If so, how?
4. How would you describe your current perspective on the TR, MT, and CT?
5. How important is this issue to you and how significant is it to your theology as a whole? (for example, do you practice separation if someone does not agree, etc)
6. What English Bibles do you recommend and use?
7. What resources have helped you, and which would you urge people to stay away from?
8. Finally, to keep things friendly, share with us what your favorite food is.

The above do not necessarily all have to be answered, or answered in order, but if you could frame your comments around these topics that would help us keep things clear and concise.

James White vs. Will Kinney

Will Kinney may not be a household name, but  those who have debated the King James Only issue on the Internet are very likely to have come across Kinney’s articles one way or another. I have personally exchanged arguments with him in the past. I do think he has a better handle of some of the issues than many drive-by commentators on the web (so much so that on a message board, a bunch of folks I’ve debated could not respond to my arguments so one member of the message board threatened to “get Will Kinney over here” to refute me, and the exchange began), but he does not hold back from the typical ad-hominem attacks of many extreme KJV Onlysists. His tone unfortunately takes away from the force of any of his legitimate arguments.

Anyway, in typical KJVO fashion, Kinney has gone on the attack against James White (who has possibly been attacked more by fellow Christians holding to the KJVO view than he has by Muslims and atheists) complete with insults and wide-eyed accusations. One video in which he does this is here, and you can follow related links to others:

On a recent episode of the Dividing Line, White responds to some charges:

Will Kinney calls into the program about 15 minutes in, and the two argue for about 12 minutes. The exchange is rather annoying, as both men are talking past each other and basically saying, “No, you answer the question” back and forth. Kinney is bold; James white is bold. Kinney is on the attack and White does not seem as though he will let these insults fly without response. Knowing Kinney’s pattern, he will not let this go. So unless James White, out of frustration, decides not to pursue the matter any further, I would expect a drawn-out back-and-forth over the next few weeks or so.

 

Answering John MacArthur on the Ending of Mark

Recently, Dr. John MacArthur finished preaching through the New Testament (after nearly forty years). His last sermon covered the biggest controversy in the world of textual criticism: the ending of the Gospel of Mark. Dr. MacArthur sided with the majority of careful Christian scholarship and defended the position that Mark ends his Gospel at vs. 8. In the sermon (available to watch on Youtube), he gives a brief survey of textual criticism, the various manuscript types, and the evidence for and against the ending of Mark.

As I listened to MacArthur’s sermon, I winced at his handling of the textual evidence. He painted the picture in rosy kind of way, making the evidence in favor of his position seem insurmountable. In reality, the picture is quite different from the reality, and this question is one that should not be decided so cavalierly. It isn’t black and white and a simple matter of going with the ancient manuscripts on this point. The issue is much more complex than that. At the end of the day, I think MacArthur takes the correct position (I could still be persuaded otherwise, however), but at the very least he should be more transparent with the evidence. I understand wanting to instill faith in the Scripture and wanting to help people have confidence in textual criticism. Bending the truth (at least in the way you present the evidence) doesn’t help, however.

Pastor James Snapp, who is a proponent of equitable eclecticism and has studied long and hard on the issues surrounding textual criticism, has answered John MacArthur in a series of three 13-14 minute YouTube video clips. James is a frequent commenter around here, and doesn’t always agree with every position that I personally have taken. But he is fair minded and tries to go where the evidence takes him. He does a good job marshalling the evidence for the inclusion of Mark 116:9-20 and explains numerous errors that Dr. MacArthur made in his sermon.

Not every error is equally damaging, and not all the evidence that Snapp presents is convincing. I walked away from Snapp’s series with more questions about this matter which I intend to research further, but I am not completely convinced that the majority of Christian scholarship is just completely duped on this point. Snapp doesn’t explain how the various alternate endings of Mark arose, and that is a matter to explore. Why would anyone chop off the ending of Mark and keep the rest of his Gospel? What’s so special about the ending?

Regardless, I wanted to make you aware of Snapp’s rebuttal and post his video clips below. Snapp is very fair and charitable toward Dr. MacArthur, and presents a perfect example of how to engage in a disagreement honorably and respectably.

Has anyone else seen some kind of response or additional elaboration from MacArthur’s church on this question? Or do any of our readers have additional thoughts to share on this matter? Please join the discussion in the comments below.

The SBC Expresses “Disappointment” over the NIV 2011 Bible

Do you think the recent resolution from the SBC on the NIV 2011 translation has gone too far? I think it has. Let me know what you think.

Here’s the report from Baptist Press following the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, held June 14-15.

Resolutions: SBC tackles immigration, NIV

Posted on Jun 16, 2011 | by Tom Strode

In an unusual move, messengers called to the floor and passed a resolution on the “gender-neutral 2011 New International Version” (NIV) that was not reported to the convention by the Resolutions Committee….

The NIV resolution overwhelmingly approved by messengers “expressed profound disappointment” with publication of the new translation and “respectfully request[ed] that LifeWay” not sell the version in its stores.

The resolution came to the floor when Indiana pastor Tim Overton persuaded messengers to address the 2011 version of the popular translation that his resolution said had “gone beyond acceptable translation standards” regarding gender. His resolution said 75 percent of the flawed gender translation in the TNIV appears in the new NIV. Southern Baptist messengers expressed their disapproval of the TNIV in a 2002 resolution.

Overton, pastor of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind., told messengers the Southern Baptist Convention needed to address the issue in its role as a leading voice in the evangelical Christian community.

Speaking for the committee regarding its decision not to present Overton’s measure, Russell Moore said the members did not believe the issue “rose to the level of needing to be addressed by this year’s convention.” Moore said the TNIV was “something of a stealth move,” which was not true in this case. He also said the NIV is not in the same position now as it was in the past, since such translations as the Holman Christian Standard Bible and English Standard Version are now available. He also said the NIV is “just one of many Bibles out there [with] similar language.”

The committee did not oppose passage of the resolution. At the news conference, Moore said, “The committee, of course, shares the concerns that were expressed in the resolution. The issue was not whether or not we would affirm the NIV and its changes but whether or not we thought the current changes were worthy of being addressed” at this year’s meeting.

Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as teaching pastor for Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

Thoughts?

Logic, Reason, and the Scriptures

On his site, What Is Truth?, a KJV Only pundit presented a rather lopsided perspective on the King James Only position being “the only logical position to take on the English Bible today.” He made it very plain that any other position is inferior to his own. He continues, “Yes. Any other position is illogical.”

Since I have commented on his site but never had a comment approved (largely because he has been banned from this site for insulting other commenters as well as the authors), I thought it might be worthwhile to answer his logic here. I will provide his syllogism and then present the logical fallacies.

Here is his central thesis: One set of words in one set order is the Bible.

(Because he takes such great care to submit this exact word order, I must assume that he intended to write it this way even though it produces a syntactically odd phrasing.)

Without addressing any of the syllogisms he develops from the thesis, let’s ask some questions about this idea.

Is one set of words in one set order the Bible?

We must acknowledge that in order for this statement to be true, it must be ubiquitous. There must be one definitive, absolute order for the set of words. There can be no variation, no alternate readings.

There must be an absolute authority setting down the one set of words in one set order, and that would include the ways the books are put together into an anthology as well as which books to include and which not to include. It requires that someone make a definitive declaration about the one set of words in one set order.

This is not what we see in church history. It took quite a while for the churches to come to a consensus on the books of the New Testament. What’s more, for most of its history, the church relied on a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) as its primary text rather than the original Hebrew. There are significant variations between this Greek version and the Hebrew originals. Which is the one set of words in one set order for the church?

Where is the one set of words in one set order?

Moreover, how does the English translation known as the King James Version represent this one set of words in one set order? Does the King James Version restore the one set of words in one set order? If so, then who knew the one set of words in one set order prior to the King James Version?

If it is not the KJV – if this one set of words in one set order is the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic text, then how did one know the order prior to the publishing of Erasmus and the other TR editions? The manuscripts they have include a number of variants (which are easily sorted for the most part), but there is not a single manuscript that IS the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus is a term for the printed editions composed from the manuscripts available.

Is the one set of words in one set order comprehensible?

Finally, if there is truly one set of words in one set order then it stands to reason that there must be one, absolute standard of understanding these words. The word set, which must be therefore divine and eternal, must be knowable in all ages. There must always be a set of knowledge for the words themselves.

But we find this is not true. The King James translators struggled with many of the words in Hebrew and Aramaic. The languages were dead for all intents and purposes, and the knowledge of the meaning of words was often difficult to decipher. Comparative studies and archaeology have helped us in the intervening centuries, but there are still many words in the original texts that we are not certain how to translate. Any translators will say this – even TR-only translators.

Conclusion

It simply does not make logical sense that God would preserve one set of words in one set order but then allow the meaning of those words to be lost.

It does not make logical sense that one set of words in one set order had to wait for the publication of the Textus Receptus or the restoration of the Hebrew Old Testament in order to be known.

It does not make logical sense that this one set of words in one set order exists in human experience.

What we have is transmitted, miraculously aligned manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. We have many translations in other languages, and multiple editions of those that appear in the original languages. We have a beautiful tapestry of manuscript tradition, woven by several millennia’s worth of believers who reverenced the Word of God. We have good manuscripts and bad ones; and we should reverence them all.

As you can see, logic relies heavily on the thesis. When you begin with a statement and take it as axiomatic, you can represent any position as if it is absolute. The core thesis presented can be demonstrated to be false, but when one does a deductive reasoning from the thesis without questioning it, the thesis appears to be true. As I hope I have demonstrated, this particular thesis is not nearly as absolute as it might first appear.

I don’t fault this pundit for his article or his logic. I believe his central thesis is faulty – but not because he is a bad person or wishes to mislead people. He has the core human right to believe as he does, and I understand that means he will be biased against those who do not accept his logic and ideals.

True objectivity is not as possible as our modernist fore-bearers believed it was.Logic is often faulty and biased because it is developed by humans. It is relative to the experience and beliefs we bring to it. It is a human tool which is used by humans for humans, and as such it falls short of the divine.

And that is only logical.

Audio Available from The Reformed Cast Interview on KJV-Onlyism


You can download tonight’s interview for free from ReformedCast.com. We covered a lot of ground, but there’s so much more to be said. I ended up basically just explaining the movement rather than getting into the nitty-gritty of the debate. I welcome your feedback, if anyone is interested in downloading the audio.

My thanks go out to Scott Oakland of The Reformed Cast for once again having me on his podcast.