Book Endorsement: The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason Harris

The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason HarrisToday’s book review post is special for two reasons. First, this marks the 150th book review I’ve posted here at Fundamentally Reformed. Second, this review includes the foreword I was privileged to write for this book.

The Doctrine of Scripture: As It Relates to the Transmission and Preservation of the Text by Jason Harris is published by InFocus Ministries in Australia. I’m excited to recommend this new book to my readers here in the United States as I believe this book can go a long way toward helping those confused or entangled by King James Onlyism.

My Foreward

Another book on the King James Only debate? Much ink has been spilled and many passions expended in what may be the ugliest intramural debate plaguing conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and charismatic — all have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by those arguing for or against the King James or New King James Versions of the Bible. With each new book it seems the debate becomes more and more caustic, each group castigating the other in ever more forceful terminology.

Jason Harris enters the fray with the right blend of humility and tenacity, and turns the attention of all to the true center of the debate: the doctrine of Scripture. What makes this debate so passionate is that it centers on the very nature of Scripture. Rather than focus on technical facts and ancient manuscript copying practices, Harris takes us back to what Scripture says about itself: its inspiration, preservation and accessibility. In doing so, he demonstrates how those upholding the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus behind it, base their position not on sound exegesis of the Scripture, but on tenuous assumptions read into the text.

Harris’s pen is lucid and his grasp of the King James Only debate as a whole is masterful. He focuses his work on TR-only position which represents the very best of King James Only reasoning. He interacts with the exegesis of key TR-only proponents and marshals compelling evidence demonstrating their failure to measure up to Scripture’s own teaching about itself. And after explicating the doctrine of Scripture, Harris draws important conclusions which should protect the reader from making simplistic assumptions in a quest for textual certainty that goes beyond what Scripture teaches we should expect.

Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles. He wants such confidence to be rooted to a Scriptural understanding of the Doctrine of Scripture rather than in the “supernatural-guidance” of a group of sixteenth-Century translators. Assuming that such a group of men made no mistakes is to expect something Scripture doesn’t teach, and ignore what it does. Harris is to be commended for such a clear, lucid defense of the historic doctrine of Scripture. I hope his book is received well and helps laymen and pastors everywhere to begin to rethink the basis for why they think as they do when it comes to the King James Only debate.

Bob Hayton
FundamentallyReformed.com
KJVOnlyDebate.com

[pp. 9-10]

Additional Thoughts

After re-reading this book and seeing the published version, I am more optimistic than ever about its promise to provide clarity to the King James Only debate. Jason Harris’s book has a few characteristics which together make it a unique contribution to this debate.

First, his book focuses on the alleged doctrine of the verbal, plenary accessibility of Scripture. This is where the root of the KJV and TR preference lies for many people. The argument is not so much based on texts and manuscripts as it is on what allegedly the Bible teaches – that the very words of Scripture (all of them down to the letters) would be generally accessible to believers down through the ages. Harris spends most of his time marshalling a Scriptural rebuttal to these claims and also demonstrates the difficulties such a position has when it comes to the history of the text as we know it.

Second, this volume carefully builds a theology of the transmission and preservation of Scripture. Such a careful, exegetically-based explication of the doctrine of Scripture has been lacking in this debate. And such a gap has often been used by KJV-only proponents to their advantage. It is KJV-only books which start with a Scriptural position and then look at the evidence, with the “anti-KJV” books starting with history and evidence and then moving to the Scriptural arguments. This book is different and starts where the debate starts for most of the sincere beleivers who get swept up into it — it starts on Scripture’s teaching about the very nature and preservation of Scripture.

Finally, Harris keeps a very irenic tone throughout. He is careful not to overstate his case and exaggerate the claims of his opponents. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to this heated debate, but Jason pulls this off well. Additionally, he backs up his book with the inclusion of a vast array of footnotes documenting the claims he is arguing against. I appreciate how he does not direct his argument toward the Riplingers and Ruckmans of this debate. He focuses on the TR-only position and the more careful wing of KJV-onlyism, men like David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Charles Surret, and the like. Harris has read widely in the KJV only literature, and his treatment avoids broadbrushing and generalizations that tend to give KJV-only propoents an easy out. It’s easy to dismiss a book as not being directed to their particular position, or to claim the author makes egregious errors and lumps their position in with that of heretical views. Harris’s book is not open to such charges. He directs his case against the very best arguments of KJV-onlyism.

Had I been exposed to such a book I would have been inoculated to the pull of the KJV-only persuasion. As it happened, I was swept up in a TR-only view that made it seem like we had the corner on truth and everyone else was compromising. By God’s grace I came to understand that Scripture does not support such a view of the transmission of the text.

Jason Harris is to be thanked for giving us a tool to recommend to those thinking through this issue from within, and to help the ones who are being pressured to join the KJV-only position. I highly recommend The Doctrine of Scripture and hope it makes its way into the hands of anyone struggling with this issue who will yet be open-minded enough to study out the issue from both sides.

You can pick up a copy of The Doctrine of Scripture at Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~ cross posted from FundamentallyReformed.com, the author’s other blog.

The Origin of the Title “The Authorized Version” for the KJV

I have long thought that the proper term for the King James Version is “the Authorized Version.” At times, I’ve wondered if that title isn’t more of a British title, since most Americans prefer “King James Version” or simply the “King James Bible.” But I recently read a historical essay by David Bebbington, professor of History at the University of Stirling, Scotland, in which he points out the fact that the King James Version was not always known as “The Authorized Version.” Bebbington’s essay, “The King James Bible in Britain from the Late Eighteenth Century,” appears in a collection of important historical essays published by Baylor University Press (2011) under the title, The King James Bible and the World It Made (edited by David Lyle Jeffrey).

Bebbington argues convincingly that the King James Bible did not enjoy universal acclaim in the eighteenth century until the very end of that period. In a post at my personal blog, I excerpted Bebbington’s conclusion, which argues that “the enthusiasm for the translation of 1611 rose and fell with the growth and decay of Romantic sensibility.” In the excerpt provided below, I would like to quote his description of how the title “the Authorized Version” came to be used for the King James Bible.

A fourth explanation of the rising tide of admiration for the translation of 1611 was its redefinition as “the Authorized Version.” The title emerged for the first time in a debate provoked by the creation of the [British and Foreign] Bible Society. Whereas the society’s evangelical supporters considered the new agency a bulwark of the existing social order, the High Church party thought it a sinister development. It threatened the work of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the established Anglican organization for circulating the Scriptures. Furthermore, the timing was unfortunate. During 1804, the year of the society’s foundation, Napoleon’s forces were poised to invade the country, and in the heightened alarm, the equal presence of Dissenters alongside Churchmen on the society’s committee seemed poentially subversive. Had not Dissenters once killed an English king, Charles I? Thomas Sikes, the High Church vicar of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, warned that, when the production of the sacred text was being entrusted to “sectaries,” nobody could be confident that they would not tamper with the translations. In order to calm such fears, John Owen, one of the society’s secretaries, replied that the organization was limited to producing versions “printed by authority.” When an opponent pointed out that this restriction had not been stated formally, the society hastened in May 1805 to revise its constitution so as to read, “The only copies in the languages of the United Kingdom to be circulated by the Society, shall be the authorised version, without note or comment.” Thus the phrase “the authorized version” was launched on the world as an apologetic device for the Bible Society. By 1819 the phrase had been heard so often that it crept for the first time into the Times newspaper, though still with a lowercase “a,” showing that it was not yet a title. The steady growth of the usage is documented in the number of times in each subsequent decade the phrase occurred in the Times: 1820s, 7; 1830s, 41; 1840s, 61; 1850s, 91. By the last of these decades, the expression was starting to be capitalized, demonstrating that it had emerged as a title. Thereafter “the Authorized Version” became the standard term for the 1611 Bible in Britain, where the phrase “King James Bible” was hardly ever used. The new title surrounded this particular text, as it was originally intended to do, with an aura of unique legitimacy. It helped forward the process by which the version became embedded more deeply in the national culture. (pg. 53-54)

You can pick up a copy of this book at any of the following online retailers: CBD, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Baylor University Press.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Baylor University Press for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

National Geographic Features the King James Bible and Its Legacy

This month, the King James Bible is featured in National Geographic Magazine. You can read the entire article here. The article is written by Adam Nicolson, author of God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

For some reason the global impact of the KJV morphs into a discussion of Rastafarianism. But the article is a worthwhile read, nonetheless. My thanks go to James Snapp for alerting me to this article.

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]

40% Discount on KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World (DVD)


Westminster Bookstore has a special deal on the DVD documentary: KJB: The King James Bible – The Book that Changed the World. This DVD is a first-rate and tells the story of the making of the King James Bible well. I have reviewed the DVD in full here.

At 40% off the regular retail price, this may be the time to pick up this DVD. You can also compare the price at ChristianBook.com and Amazon.com.

Here is the trailer:

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]

Christianity Today on the Legacy of the King James Bible


The latest issue of Christianity Today features a cover story on the influence of the King James Bible. Mark Noll, the noted evangelical historian, authored the article entitled: “A World Without the King James Version: Where we would be without the most popular English Bible ever”.

The article explores an interesting question. Along the way you will learn things you didn’t know about the KJV. Here’s an excerpt which reveals that the problem of multiple and competing Bible translations is no new problem. Be sure to read the entire article, and check out this interesting quiz.

From about 1650 to 1960, when Protestants memorized the Twenty-third Psalm, they would always recite the last verse this way: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” But if the KJV had not become the favored translation, the memorized words would have depended on translation preference.

For at least 50 years after the KJV’s completion in 1611, various editions of the Geneva Bible, published in 1560, were just as popular. Geneva’s adherents liked the down-home flavor of the translation and its helpful marginal notes. They would have memorized, “Doubtless kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall remain a long season in the house of the Lord.” Protestants who wanted to connect with their Catholic neighbors would have memorized this, from the Douay-Rheims translation: “And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.”

But Bible readers who wanted to use an officially authorized text—which the KJV never was—would have memorized the Bishops’ Bible of 1568: “Truly felicity and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of God for a long time.”

Of course, Protestants would have continued memorizing Scripture even with several popular translations in existence. But they would have done so privately, sincepublic recitation with several translations could be haphazard—much like it is today. And we would have lost some small sense of connectedness in the church and the broader culture.

~cross posted from my personal blog, Fundamentally Reformed