Is It Possible to Be King James Only and Not Be Militant about It?

Over on my primary blog, I posted today about Dr. Kevin Bauder’s eight characteristics of hyper-fundamentalism. One of those characteristics is adopting “a militant stance regarding some extrabiblical or even antibiblical teaching“. Bauder then mentions the King James Only question as an example of this. He concludes that characteristic with: “When individuals become militant over such nonbiblical teachings, they cross the line into hyper-fundamentalism.”

I completely agree with Dr. Bauder, that it is militancy over a nonbiblical teaching which is the sticking point. A commenter on my blog mentioned that he felt Bauder was just trying to paint all King James Onlyists as hyper-fundamentalists. I countered with this: “He specifically mentions being militant over a non-biblical position. So people who prefer the KJV, even with strong convictions, who nevertheless remain non-militant in their stance on that question and who don’t make one’s view of the KJV as a mark of being a legitimate fundamentalist or not (the 6th characteristic), they would not be hyper-fundamentalist. I know several who are KJV only who would probably not be hyper-fundamentalist.”

My question to the readers here is, “Do you agree? Can one be King James Only and not be militant about it?” Certainly one can question the prevailing assumptions of textual criticism and not be militant, but can one be KJV only and be cognizant of the fact that it is a sticky issue and others don’t agree for valid-sounding reasons?

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).


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.

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.

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.


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.

Was the King James Bible Published on May 2nd, 1611?

I have a confession, I depended on Google to verify the publication date of the King James Bible when I posted my recent video review of Dr. Donald Brake’s A Visual History of the King James Bible. I had heard the date May 2, given for the publishing of the KJB from the Haven Today radio interview of Dr. Brake. I Googled and found that several other sites were saying May 2 was “the date”.

I came across this blog post, where the blogger directly asked Dr. Brake if May 2nd was the date. Here’s an excerpt from his post and I think this answers the question.

David Norton in his book A Textual History of the King James Bible says “The printing history of the KJB is plagued throughout by inadequate publishing records. Presumably because it was considered a revision rather than a new book, the first edition was not entered on the Stationers’ Registers, so we do not know when in 1611 it appeared.” (page 46)

Norton’s book was published in 2005 so I thought maybe some new evidence had surfaced which fixed the date to May 2nd. I immediately thought of Donald Brake. After reading his first book, A Visual History of the English Bible, I had emailed him a couple of questions and he quickly provided me with answers. Since he just published a book specifically on the history of the King James Version (A Visual History of the King James Bible) I thought I would try him again. Two days later came his reply. Here’s what he wrote:

“The actual date of the publication is unknown. Tradition has placed it in May but no specific date can be verified. We know it was being sold in November from a diary of a resident in England, a Mr. Throckmorton. I believe David Norton is correct and I too am puzzled by the fact it was not in Stationer’s Registers. They were generally disciplined to include all new publications. I question the reason ‘because it was considered a revision rather than a new book.’ While it was designed to be a revision of the Bishops’ Bible as clearly stated in the Introduction, few would consider it an actual revision of the Bishops’. The translators consulted most of the 16th century Bibles (as set forth in the 15 rules for translators) plus the Greek and Hebrew texts. Having said that, I don’t have a better explanation. Perhaps it was released over a period of time as the copies were sold.”

As it turns out Brake was in DC during May 2nd and 3rd for a celebration of the KJV anniversary. The date, he said, was a “date the anniversary committee decided as the official day.”…

[Read the whole post]

Celebrating 400 years of the King James Bible

I stumbled upon this video tribute to the King James Bible, made by the folks at St. Helen’s Church in London. It looks at the history of the King James Bible and seeks to answer these questions:

Was the King James Version the first translation into English? (1:08)
Was the King James Version King James’ idea? (3:00)
Who was the King James Version against? (5:30)
Was the King James Version a fresh translation? (7:40)
Was the King James Version the most popular Bible of its time? (10:48)?

A Short History of the KJV from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.

[HT: Adrian Warnock]

Why the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text is a Good Thing!

A few months back, my father mentioned to me that he had been approached to join the board of The Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text. Just a couple weeks before, I had been actively advocating the abandonment of the current ‘Text Family’ arguments in favor of a holistic approach to the corpus of Greek texts available to us. When I head about the CSPMT, I was hopeful that the project would yield what I was advocating:

  1. The rejection of the 19th century textual family arguments.
  2. The compilation of all known manuscripts (not published texts)
  3. The collation of these manuscripts in a database that would allow parallel views of the originals and transcriptions
  4. The development of the necessary software to make this database available as an online resource

Understanding that such a project would be a truly massive one, I did not expect the CSPMT to undertake it but at the very least to lay a foundation for it. As the CSPMT has begun to take shape, I think that it will be the foundation that is necessary.

Does it bother anyone else that textual criticism is bogged down by arguments between the proponents of the texts used in the 17th century (the Textus Receptus) and those discovered in the 19th (the Critical Text). This is the 21st century. Why can’t we rebuild our understanding of the text from the ground up without relying on the biases of polymath priests (Erasmus), printers (the Elzevir brothers), theological liberals (Westcott and Hort), adventurers (Constantin von Tischendorf), and continental academics (take your pick).

Rather than having to fight with insufferably complex critical apparatuses in one of two or three printed texts, technology would allow us to access as much or as little of the original information as we need. With the proper scanning technology and a well-constructed database, searching and comparison would be no more complicated than using Bibleworks or Logos.

Is it a massive project? Yes. Will it slaughter an awful lot of sacred cows? Yes. Will academics like it? No. (because it will remove their monopoly on information.)

Just a thought.