For those who make scripture authentic, make it canonical; since it is only authentic scripture that is canonical, and it is canonical, because it is authentic. Now they have made their scripture authentic, forasmuch as it was not authentic previously. Therefore they make scripture canonical ; which yet they confess not to be placed in the power and judgment of the church. — William Whitaker (1548-1595, from Whitaker’s Disputation on Scripture)
In light of my last post, I thought I’d share the following. I came across something like this on the Internet the other day…
The KJV is not a publisher’s Bible but our Bible. Millions of people have adopted the KJV, have come to love it, and have deep feelings for it. We’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours reading it, pondering it, memorizing it. For many, the KJV is the Bible, the only Bible they have ever known. For others it is the Bible that led them to salvation or that led them to a theological awakening. This is especially true of people who have maintained a high view of Biblical authority in a time when it is under assault. In many ways and for many of us the KJV is inseparable from our convictions. We don’t just use the KJV, we are deeply connected to it, deeply invested in it. An outcry has been aroused by our love for the KJV and our desire to see it continue as our most trusted companion. It’s our Bible, too!
UPDATE: 2 hours after initial post…
The above is a slight tweak of Challies’ comments about the ESV here… For the most part, I’ve simply exchanged “ESV” with “KJV”.
I initially made this post without this clarifying section and posted it to several Reformed groups on Facebook. As one can imagine, there was a barrage of negative comments and some that were even bizarre in regards to how irrational they were.
For many in Reformedom, it is simply NOT okay to say anything good about the KJV but it is perfectly fine to say the exact same things about the ESV. When called on it they will deny that this is the case but anyone who advocates the KJV today knows this is an ever present reality. Why is that?
It is problematic and exceedingly ungracious that any positive statement regarded the KJV causes immediate strife and accusations or insinuations of King James Onlyism especially towards confessional, Reformed brethren who have publicly abominated KJVOism on a number of occasions. I can’t help but think there is more to it at this point than an overreaction to King James Onlyism.
The reality is there is among some a deep, inexplicable enmity against the Bible of the English Reformation and it would arguably exist if there were no such thing as KJVOism.
There is something very strange about all of this. There must be a spiritual dimension to it.
As a lover of the King James Bible, I am astounded at how many people respond with condemnation to any positive reference regarding this translation.
On the one hand I get it. There is that angst we all feel that is a reaction to some of the vitriolic King James Onlyists. I myself, even as an outspoken advocate of the KJV, have been called a “Bible denier” and many other similar epithets by these sorts of KJVOists. Then there is this guy.
But I am not one of “those guys”.
Over the last decade, a number of Reformed young men have begun moving over to the King James Version as their primary text for a number of reasons. Today it is becoming a tsunami. If you are missing this massive wave back to the Bible of the English Reformation among confessional, Reformed Christians you’ll soon see it because it is only picking up speed.
The thing is, this move to the King James Version among Reformed evangelicals is not a move to King James Onlyism. It is the rare exception where any of these guys are not also consulting modern translations and even referencing them where they think they have better captured the sense of the text than the KJV. Is there a concern among them with many aspects of the modern Bible movement? Yes. Does this mean they believe modern versions can never do anything right? No.
This has been the spirit of what I will call The Reformed KJV Resurgence. That said, the way many people respond to us is astounding. Simply going into a large Christian group on Facebook and saying, “I really like the KJV”, often leads to a flame war. I’ve had a number of people mention this to me over the last few weeks. Even going out of our way to qualify that we are NOT King James Onlyists and giving credit where credit is due to translations like the NASB and the ESV (also popular among the confessionally Reformed) doesn’t appear to douse the flames.
What we are seeing is the adoring little brother of King James Onlyism. This spirit can rightly be called Modern-Version Onlyism (MVOism). MOVism shares these things in common with KJVOism.
- An immediate negative response to the advocacy (of any sort) of the KJV. [just as KJVists respond negatively to any positive statement about another version]
- An implicit trust in modern textual scholarship and translational methodology. While I often see MVOists attempting to engage in the scholarship, it is very rare to come across someone engaging in a flame war over the KJV who has even a rudimentary understanding that undergirds their favored translation though they will speak as if they are an expert.
[just as KJVists implicitly trust in every decision in translation made by the KJV translation committee]
- A stubborn refusal to even attempt to understand where men in The Reformed KJV Resurgence are coming from or truly study the issues for themselves. [just as KJVOists label those they disagree with as “Bible deniers” and other such accusations when the truth is there are many people who make use of the modern versions who have a high view of Scripture AND many KJVOists don’t appear interested in really studying out the issues either but will go to the mat on the subject]
- An exaggerated position regarding the problems (real and imagined) inherent with the KJV. [just as KJOists exaggerate the problems with modern versions]
- A tendency to divisive behavior over this issue. (just as…ok, you get it 😉 )
- Conflating The Reformed KJV Resurgence with KJOism whether directly or indirectly. (just as KJOists slander and mischaracterize where many of their believing opponents are coming from]
I could go on and I could even expand the list to include how liberal “Christians” jump on the MVOism bandwagon because they absolutely hate the orthodoxy of the KJV on matters such as feminism and gender issues, the LGBTQ??? crowd, ‘patriarchal language’ and some key Christian doctrines. I’ll leave it here though because I’m addressing this problem from within the actual believing community. Yes, I count many of these Modern-Version Onlyists to be my brothers in Christ.
That said, it’s very bizarre behavior and I’m even seeing it from some very prominent teachers.
However, as an advocate of The Reformed KJV Resurgence, I am seeing a positive aspect to this. I have received quite a bit of correspondence from people who have been awakened to look into this subject BECAUSE of the irrationality of MVOism they are seeing online. They suspect there is something going on—on a spiritual level—and are beginning to suspect there may be something here worth looking into.
Modern-Version Onlyism is quickly becoming one of the chief means fueling The Reformed KJV Resurgence. How ironic 🙂
In Chapter 1, Section 8 of the Westminster Confession, the Savoy Declaration, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith we read:
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them.
When the confession speaks of the original Greek and Hebrew as “being immediately inspired by God” it is often thought today to only be referring to the original autographs which are now lost. However, the confession proceeds to make clear that “immediate inspiration” is not referring merely to the autographs, but the text that came down to us through history for it goes on to state that it was “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic”.
It is “authentic” because it has been “kept pure in all ages” and therefore the texts on hand were considered to be the locus of authority, not non-existent originals. The text on hand was the Greek Textus Receptus (the printed edition of the Greek text at the time) along with the Byzantine manuscripts (the Traditional Text) upon which it was largely based and the Hebrew Masoretic Text.
The confession of these texts to be “authentic” is a direct rebuttal to the claims of the Council of Trent wherein Rome declared the Latin Vulgate to be “authentic” in the following words:
Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,—considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,—ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many ages, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.
Rome was pointing to their Latin Vulgate declaring it to be the “authentic” text or locus of authority and the Protestants were pointing to the Traditional Text of the Greek and Hebrew as “authentic”.
What we have therefore in our Protestant confessions is a direct rebuttal to Rome. It is not the Latin Vulgate that is “authentic” (by virtue of the authority of the church) but the original language texts of the Greek and Hebrew Scripture as preserved in the Traditional Text (by virtue of its own, internal self-authentication by the Holy Spirit). When we actually look at what the 17th century Reformed Scholastics taught on this matter, there can be no doubt as to the meaning of the confessions of this same era.
Below is an excerpt from David Dickson’s commentary “Truth’s Victory Over Error: A Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith on The Westminster Confession” which was written in the early 1650s just a few short years after the confession was published.
“Hath not the Lord, by his singular providence and care kept pure in all ages the Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek?”
Yes; Mat. 5.18.
Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, The Old Testament in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, which are the fountains, to be corrupted, and that their common Latin version is authentic?
By what reasons are they confuted?
1st, Because Christ says, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled, Mat. 5.18.
2nd, Because there can be no urgent necessity shown, why the fountains are corrupted.
3rd, If any such corruption had been in the Scripture, Christ, and his apostles, and the orthodox fathers had declared so much.
The Helvetic Consensus of 1675, drawn up by Francis Turretin of Geneva, Lucas Gernler of Basel, Hummel of Bern, Ott of Schaffhausen, Johann Heinrich Heidegger of Zurich, and others of the time, contains some rather stunning assertions revealing how the Traditional Text was viewed by the Reformed churches on the continent in the 17th century.
Canon 1 concludes with a statement about the preservation of the text of Scripture saying:
Therefore the Church justly ascribes to it his singular grace and goodness that she has, and will have to the end of the world (2 Pet 1:19), a “sure word of prophecy” and “Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim 3:15), from which though heaven and earth pass away, “the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen will not disappear by any means” (Matt 5:18).
Herein we see they confessed to having (and will have to the end of the world), all of the words down to the smallest strokes. It’s important to note that this is very obviously not a theoretical text but one they considered to be in their possession.
Here is Canon 2 in its entirety:
But, in particular, The Hebrew original of the OT which we have received and to this day do retain as handed down by the Hebrew Church, “who had been given the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2), is, not only in its consonants, but in its vowels either the vowel points themselves, or at least the power of the points not only in its matter, but in its words, inspired by God. It thus forms, together with the Original of the NT the sole and complete rule of our faith and practice; and to its standard, as to a Lydian stone, all extant versions, eastern or western, ought to be applied, and wherever they differ, be conformed.
They confess that even the vowel points of the Hebrew Masoretic Text are “inspired” (or failing that, “the power of the points” designating the meaning we derive from the vowel points) and that all other translations were to be corrected by it (The Hebrew Masoretic Text) where they differed.
In Canon 3 they go on to condemn those who:
go even to the point of following the corrections that their own rational powers dictate from the various readings of the Hebrew Original itself which, they maintain, has been corrupted in various ways.
That is, they condemn those who would “correct” the received Hebrew text they had on hand (again, being the Hebrew Masoretic Text).
In Turretin’s Systematic Theology he wrote:
By ‘original texts’ we do not mean the very autographs from the hands of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, which are known to be nonexistent. We mean copies (apographa), which have come in their name, because they record for us that word of God in the same words into which the sacred writers committed it under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit…Faithful and accurate copies, not less than autographs, are norms for all other copies…and for translations
Copies are “not less than autographs”. It is to the “faithful and accurate copies” we are to look and the faithfulness of the copies was gauged by their conformity to the Traditional Text.
Moving to England, in 1657 Brian Walton published his London Polyglot that contained a textual apparatus showing variants among the Greek manuscripts to which he had access. John Owen, who is the chief framer of the Savoy Declaration (wherein Chapter 1, Section 8 is identical to the Westminster and the 1689), responded to this development with his Considerations on the Biblia Polyglotta. The following are a few choice citations.
“the original [language] copies of the Old and New Testament are so corrupt that they are not a certain standard and measure of all doctrines, or the touchstone of all translations…Of all devices of Satan to draw off the minds of men from the Word of God, this decrying the authority of the originals [original language texts] seems to me the most pernicious.”
“Besides the injury done hereby to the providence of God towards His Church, and care of His Word, it will not be found so easy a matter, upon a supposition of such corruption in the originals as is pleaded for, to evince unquestionably that the whole saving doctrine itself, at first given out from God, continues entire and incorrupt.”
“the purity of the present original copies of the Scripture, or rather the copies in the original languages, which the Church of God doth now hath for many ages enjoyed as her chiefest treasure.”
Here we have in Owen (again, the primary framer of the Savoy Declaration) clear statements placing the locus of authority in the Traditional Text he had on hand. It is clear from Owen’s words that he saw the questioning of the wording of the Traditional Text to be an assault upon the authority of the Scripture itself.
Again Owen states of the Textus Receptus…
“Let it be remembered that the vulgar copy [being the Textus Receptus] we use was the public possession of many generations,—that upon the invention of printing it was in actual authority throughout the world with them that used and understood that language, as far as any thing appears to the contrary; let that, then, pass for the standard, which is confessedly its right and due, and we shall, God assisting, quickly see how little reason there is to pretend such varieties of readings as we are now surprised withal.”
First note that Owen clearly does not see a huge dichotomy between the Textus Receptus and the manuscript tradition from which it was derived.
Secondly, he states it should be the standard against which variants in the manuscripts are compared. He is saying that the Textus Receptus should be the starting place of enquiry.
This again demonstrates that those in the era of the great English confessions believed their Received Text was a functionally pure text in spite of any variant issues which they saw as so trifling as to be virtually dismissive of them. It is therefore inconceivable that men like John Owen would accept many of the conclusions found in the modern Critical Text.
We can go one step further with John Owen and demonstrate that he saw Codex Vaticanus (seen by modern critics as one of the “best manuscripts”) as a corrupted text. He stated that we should reject readings that…
“Arise out of copies apparently corrupted, like that of Beza in Luke and that in the Vatican [Codex Vaticanus] boasted of by Huntley the Jesuit, which Lucas Brugensis affirms to have been changed by the Vulgar Latin, and which was written and corrected, as Erasmus says, about the [time of the] council of Florence, when an agreement was patched up between the Greeks and Latins.”
A Different Paradigm
When we place the writings of the 17th century Reformed (and even Lutheran) Scholastics alongside the wording found in the confessions, it is difficult (if not impossible) to escape the conclusion that these confessions place the locus of authority in the Traditional Greek and Hebrew texts.
In addition to this, we see the Scriptural footnotes in the confessions that time and again identify with readings now rejected by modern, critical scholarship.
What we are seeing among our Protestant forbears is a different mindset in their approach to the difficulties inherent in textual variants among the manuscripts than that of the popular, contemporary approach to textual criticism. We see this in their sermons, writings, commentaries and confessions.
To say that if they possessed the evidence we now have they would have agreed with modern critical thought is an anachronistic claim that fails to grasp the concerns of our forbears. While it is true they came before the discoveries of many of the the ancient Egyptian papyri, they were yet aware of the problem of variants (as their writings reveal) and rejected the older uncials they had considering them unreliable because they did not conform to the Traditional Greek Text passed down in history through the Greek speaking church.
Indeed, their doctrine on the text of Scripture was first and foremost a matter of dogmatics, not a rationalistic pursuit. Even Dr. Kurt Aland recognized this when he wrote…
Finally it is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus. It was the only Greek text they knew, and they regarded it as the original text.”
~ Kurt Aland (Trinity Journal, Fall 1987)
“Yet no real progress was possible as long as the Textus Receptus remained the basic text and its authority was regarded as canonical.”
~ Kurt Aland (The Text of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1981, P.4)
Dr. Aland, one of the leaders in modern textual criticism clearly understood what we are saying in this post and lamented (though we rejoice!) that this belief in the Received Text held up the development of modern textual criticism for centuries because our forbears believed they already had a canonical text.
It is also clear that they approached the issue with a completely different set of presuppositions. To the 17th century Reformed Scholastics, the text of the Bible was not a matter naturalistic thought, but faith. God had preserved his word in the Traditional Text that had been in use and preserved in all ages and found it’s representation after the move to the printed page in the editions of The Received Text received at the time of the Protestant Reformation..
The Reformed confessions confess a view of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures that accepted as “authentic” the text that they had on hand in the Greek Textus Receptus and The Hebrew Masoretic Text.
Furthermore, they thoroughly rejected the notion that these texts were corrupted by confessing them to be infallible (that is, they do not err because they cannot err).
They did not see a huge dichotomy between the Textus Receptus and the Greek manuscripts reflecting what they called “apographs” or “good copies”, and we now call the Byzantine Text-form (which makes up the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts).
When we consider all of these facts, it is not just that modern textual criticism represents a different praxis, but a different doctrine of the text of Scripture than we see in the leading scholars and ministers at the time of the Protestant Reformation.
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
— Galatians 6:9
Being faithful in our commitments to God is not easy. We come to feel the burden of His service and it is quite a challenge. If we lose site of the faith, we grow weary and despair and in so doing draw back.
John Mark fell to such discouragement. He had enthusiastically committed to serve in Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:5) but after Cyprus he abandoned the work and turned back.
“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.”
— Acts 13:13
We do not know if the work was seen as too difficult or if John had grown homesick. What we do know is that the apostle Paul saw Marks departure as a betrayal of his commitment…so much so that Paul was unwilling to journey with Mark during his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39) though they later appear to have been reconciled (2 Timothy 4:11).
I think we can learn a few things from this incident. How many faithful pastors have been let down and discouraged when people enthusiastically join the church only to leave in a short time to seek a congregation wherein they think they will obtain more personal peace and affluence? I have been there and it is heartbreaking.
Service unto others is so quickly abandoned that we might better serve ourselves. When we fall to such worldliness, we fail in our service to Christ and to those to whom He has lovingly committed us to in fellowship. Herein we can understand the great discouragement and betrayal Paul felt in John Mark’s abandonment early on in that first missionary joinery.
Such unfaithfulness is incongruous with the love that Christ has for his church. When we fall to such fickle worldliness, we present a distorted picture of Christianity to those looking upon our lives. Christ has promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) but we will drop our commitment to our church family over things so trifling as to make even the angels shudder.
Many I fear will follow this great inconsistency all the way to the fires of Hell and only then realize their error. May God grant us grace to press on in our Christian commitments. Real Christians aren’t quitters.
Do you struggle with your Christian commitments? Comment below…