What follows is an exchange of some questions and answers with Dr. Kirk DiVietro, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Franklin, Massachusetts. Dr. DiVietro is a prominent member of the Dean Burgon Society and a Textus Receptus advocate. (He also happens to be my father, so forgive my bias if I say that he is one of the more well-reasoned TR advocates.) His comments appear as they were provided to us. If clarification is needed, please request it in the comments and I can either clarify it or ask Dr. DiVietro for more information. Today’s portion of the interview covers Dr. DiVietro’s basic information and some of his associations. Tomorrow, we will see his views on the Greek text.
For starters, could you give us a little background about yourself, your faith and your scholarly career?
I was saved Palm Sunday 1971 at the age of 18 years old. I came from a Christian home which loved and respected the Bible. When I was growing up, my family attended independent Baptist or baptistic churches. Despite this orientation I tried to objectively discover the teachings of the Bible. I spent hours reading and analyzing the bible to find the doctrines revealed by God in his word. Today I am a baptist by conviction forged by the Scriptures and not by any affiliation.
I was married in April of 1971. In September 1972, I began my formal preparation for the ministry by enrolling in United Wesleyan College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The school was both Arminian and Neo-orthodox in orientation. There was also a pro-charismatic element. I attended UWC for three semesters until I was asked to leave becuase of my conservative convictions, especially surrounding the nature of the Bible itself.
In January of 1974, I transferred to Lynchburg Baptist College which became Liberty Baptist College and presently Liberty University. Liberty at that time was a firm Bible-oriented, soul-winning, fundamentalist Baptist college. The theology department was primarily 4 or 5 point Calvinist in their orientation. The one point they debated was the limited atonement.
After graduating from Liberty, I started an independent baptist church in New Jersey which I pastored for 13+ years. During that time I continued my education through a small Bible school in Maryland. I earned a B.Th. and Ph.D. there. These degrees do not have wide recognition although the school was accredited in the state of Maryland.
In 1992 I moved my family to Massachusetts, where I took the pastorate of Grace Baptist Church – the congregation I still pastor.
For several years I taught as a part-time professor at Baptist Bible College East (now Boston Baptist College) in Boston, MA. When it drifted away from firm biblical footing I resigned. During my experience at BBCE I returned to Liberty for a M.A in Religion, and a M.Div. Since leaving BBCE, I have taught as a guest professor in seminary and was sought as a full time seminary professor in two seminaries. Neither position materialized.
You do not hold what might be considered the “typical” King James Only position. Tell us about your journey to a TR-only position.
I am not sure what you mean by “typical” King James Only position. Let me state clearly what I believe and then tell how I came to believe it.
- I believe that the Hebrew/Aramaic Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus are the preserved, inspired words of God.
- I believe that the modern versions of the Greek and Hebrew texts has been corrupted by theories advanced by unsaved biased ‘scholars.’
- Whenever the true words of God have been accurately translated into the English language we have the preserved authoritative words of God in English.
- The only place where I have the confidence by experience that this has been done is in the King James Bible. I use, as do most KJB advocates, the 1769 revision of the Cambridge text of the KJV of 1611. I have never found a verse which is inaccurately translated when compared to the Greek or Hebrew-Aramaic from which it was translated.
Many people think that only uneducated, traditionalists hold to the King James Bible and the texts from which it came. My experience is that those who hold to the KJB and the texts from which it comes are generally more educated in the details of textual comparisons and translation than non-KJB/Textus Receptus-Masoretic Text advocates. This could only be accomplished by reading both sides of the issue. My library is rather extensive in these areas containing many of the major textual scholars of both America and Britain. It also contains many of the notes and personal papers of those who created the modern textual theories as well as facsimilies of many of the major evidentiary manuscripts. Where manuscripts were not available I gathered printed texts of the manuscripts.
My journey to this position began in my second year of College. UWC used the RSV as its standard text my freshman year. They moved to the NASB in my second year. I used a parallel Bible my first few months of school. Comparing Scriptures quickly led me to believe that there were clearly two very distinct Bible traditions. I defaulted back to the Bible of my youth, the KJB. I found fellowship with a handful of other students who were conservative bible believing Christians. We were expelled because of the liberal bend of the school.
At Liberty I began my Greek education. We used the UBS 2nd edition of the Greek New Testament at Liberty. I was told that whenever it deviated from the Textus Receptus, the TR reading would appear in the apparatus at the bottom of the page.
After one semester I discovered that I had not really learned any Greek grammar and set off to educate myself while continuing to fulfill the academic requirements. My process was simple. Arbitrarily choosing I John 5, I purchased a lexicon, two grammar books, and an analytical lexicon and started translating. I made copious notes until certain vocabulary and forms became familiar.
When I got to I John 5.13 I found that words were missing and there was no footnote explaining why. This led me to realized that someone was lying. The text I was using could not be the source of the King James Bible. I had still not made an academic or scholarly decision on the text or the translation. I was driven to find the text of the KJB and to understand the reasons for the textual differences.
I discovered George Ricker Berry’s interlinear based on the Stephannus 1550 text, which was in the greatest majority the text behind the KJB. I started to translate from it and to compare it to the UBS 2nd. I started to understand the apparatus of the UBS and by analysis of Mark, the Johanine Epistles, Revelation and a few other partial books that there was a pattern.
Between 1/3 and 2/3 of the divurgences from the TR in the UBS text were NOT documented. I also noted that if I removed two manuscripts, Aleph or Sinaticus and B or Vaticanus from the equation the documentary conclusion reversed. I knew nothing about the nature of these or any other Manuscripts.
Probably your best known contribution to textual work is the digital texts for the Scrivener and Stephanus editions of the TR that pretty much all of us who use Logos have. Tell us how that came about.
Manuscripts are not readily available for observation. I found Codex W and Z on display at the Smithsonian Institute. My trips to Washington DC brought me into contact with Dr. J. Roy Stewart who headed Baptist International School of Theology. BIST and Dr. Stewart had a library of manuscripts and manuscript analysis. While in the area I found a book called Which Bible by Dr. David Otis Fuller. This book introduced me to areas of research that could prepare me to make intelligent analysis. I enrolled in BIST.
Dr. Stewart introduced me to the computer. At the time there was no computerized Greek New Testament available for the average person. I finally discovered a program which made the UBS text available and purchased it. I was able to get below the ‘program’ and modify parts of the data base back to the TR for convenience. A newer evolution of this program allowed me access to the full text of the Greek NT.
Motivated by curiosity and need I began to revise the ascii codes of the program back to the TR. Dr. Stewart encouraged me to do the entire New Testament since no TR Greek New Testament was available on computer. He provided a photocopy of an actual Stephanus 1550 which I used as the basis for my work. I typed out the entire ascii code of the UBS 2nd Greek text. Visually and mentally comparing this printed code to the Stephannus 1550
I redlined the printed codes back to the TR and then edited the computer files so that the program would produce the Greek text with Greek characters. This would form the backbone of my Ph.D. work. In producing the text I mastered the apparatus and was able to think my way through the alterations. This work and peripheral studies brought me to a convictional dependence on the TR and MT as the source of the English (or any other language) Bible.
You have worked extensively with D.A. Waite and the Dean Burgon Society. Tell us about that association and your reasons for working with Waite.
Subsequent to finishing my Stephannus text I was introduced to Dr. D.A. Waite of the Bible for Today. Dr. Waite introduced me to the text of F.H.A. Scrivener which was published in 1881 by the RV committee to show where the TR was changed by the committee. Having read Scrivener’s notes, I became convinced that the Scrivener text (the 1598 text of Theodore Beza with 190 slight alterations) was closer to the text of the KJB. Again armed with the codes of the UBS 2nd I redlined the codes to produce Scrivener’s text. Dr. Waite put me in contact with the producer of Logos Bible Research®. Logos expressed an interest and chose to use my text in their program. It was also used in the early versions of Bible Works for Windows®.
My association with Dr. Waite brought me into the Dean Burgon Society. The DBS is a group which researches textual matters. At annual meetings papers are presented on the subject. As a member of DBS, I have had greater access to many relevent documents. I was able to do more first hand research. Through the years I have become more and more firmly convinced that the Greek Textus Receptus is the very words breathed out by God the only legitimate basis for Bible translations.
You caught quite a bit of flak in some extreme corners recently for being critical of Gail Riplinger’s views. Most people assume that TRO/KJVO people all stick together (the enemy of my enemy is my friend). Why take on Riplinger?
My allegiance is to truth not positions. It is that simple. Extremists are always used to discredit an unpopular position. Mrs. Riplinger is an extremist who advocates an absurd theory. Those who stand on legitimate grounds must separate from those who through foolishness discredit that position.
The Dean Burgon Society has lost many members through the last few years because of our stand on inspiration. This stand was taken to separate from the false teachings of people like Gail Riplinger. We do not believe that the King James Bible has a claim to inspiration. Mrs. Riplinger and other extremists do. We do not want to be painted with that broad brush.
II Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” The word ‘inspiration’ is a translation of ???????????. This word comes from two words meaning ‘God breathed’. The Scriptures are not inspired because they were written by inspired men. They are inspired because God breathed them out. What language did God use to breathe them out? English? NO! He used Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. Those words are the inspired words of God.
The King James Bible, the result of over 200 years of concentrated Bible translation, beginning with Tyndale and ending in 1769, has been tweaked and fine tuned until it accurately preserves the Words of God into English. A pastor or student does not have to read Greek and Hebrew to be confident that he has the words of God but he does not have the words God breathed out in the King James Bible.
If and when English changes sufficiently to demand a new translation and if and when qualified scholars are assembled to do the work and when that work is subject to intense scrutiny and use until it creates consensus and confidence then the KJB will be replaced. I don’t see that as a condition on the foreseeable horizon.
Some say that TR/KJB proponents are marginalized and outdated. How do you respond to this criticism?
Truth is not determined by popularity. The average english speaking person is lazy and does not know his own language. He will not pick up a dictionary or a grammar book to work through a difficult passage.
To say that TR/KJB is marginalized because of this phenomena is like saying since people don’t understand the word POISON we should use the term BAD THING. Is poison a bad thing? Yes. Is a bad thing poison? Not necessarily. To hand someone an inaccurate, inexact Bible because they are too lazy to read and understand the real thing is not acceptable.
Many people can’t read a map, and so we have invented GPS devices. My GPS refuses to see my driveway and insists that I drive through the neighbor’s yard to get to my house. There is a property in Maine I have to visit on a regular basis. The GPS tries to send me down three wrong turns on the way. A GPS is a wonderful invention but it is only as valuable as its accuracy. Few people buy atlases anymore BUT an accurate map is far more valuable than an inaccurate GPS.
In the same way having an accurate translation of the very words of God is far more important than having an ‘easy to read’ modern Bible. We used to live by the bromide, “If it is new it is not true. If its true it is not new.” The Bibles being offered today are not just new translations. They have altered the very content and structure of the Bible.
What positive contribution do you believe that TR-only proponents need to make in order to move forward in the discussion of the Greek NT?
I believe TR advocates have made every positive contribution they can make. They have advanced the evidence and arguments, but they are ignored. Since their evidence does not enter the mainstream, it is ‘marginalized’ but that’s a faulty premise.
I applied to the Ph.D. program of a fully accredited seminary. I was rejected primarily because I used the KJB and MT/TR. I have the letter of rejection where this was clearly stated.
Textual criticism is a ‘good old boy’ network. If you don’t support their conclusions they will not allow you to have credentials. It is not being argued on a factual basis. This is the reason that questions like yours above about being marginalized are asked. They make the argument by character assassination rather than by facts.