Review of Searching The Scriptures
By Peter Connell
Having worked intimately with Jerry Ensey over several years providing detailed edits on various versions of the manuscript of this book, I feel qualified to offer comment on this latest of his many quality books, Searching the Scriptures. The author has given us a treasure of research and valuable information in this remarkable volume. Any honest student of the Scriptures is interested in truth—and this work paints the clear picture that the Bible we hold in our hands is the veritable Word of God.
In English-speaking countries we hold translations of the Scriptures that are so breathtakingly true to the original writings of Moses, the prophets, the Apostles and those close contemporaries such as Luke and Mark who penned the holy Writ—that we can place our trust in that wonderful Book of books we call the Bible. This latest volume from the author brings this salient fact out vividly—and every student of the Word should be thankful.
I should warn that this book is not a “casual read!” It will challenge you to think, and to look at the large assemblage of factual evidence presented in its pages. While he deals with what has been a controversial subject within the Apostolic movement—that of the acerbic debate of whether the King James Bible is superior to all modern English translations; or more distinctly put, whether the KJV is the only English Bible that presents God’s Word, and whether all newer translations are rogue Bibles (as some men assert without justification)—he does so with painstakingly authoritative support, and with the utmost balance.
While I have always been a “King James man,” due to the fact that it is what I came into the church reading, and is what our great fellowship predominately uses (and I have no compelling reason to change)—I also understand that it is simply a translation based mostly on manuscripts of a rather late date, as well as on an old Latin translation known as the Vulgate; and is largely a rework of the earlier Bishops’ Bible. Other English translations have been based on manuscripts of the same Hebrew texts that the KJV translators referenced for the Old Testament, and upon older Greek manuscripts not yet discovered and referenced by the KJV translators.
Searching the Scriptures is a call to look at the facts surrounding how we got our English Bibles, and to be open, honest and balanced in our understanding of the Scriptures—and the history of our Bible. There are some among us who fear that if we will admit to translational inaccuracies and biases of the English translation most used among us that we will undermine the faith of those among us who are, perhaps, unable to grasp some of the finer points of historical research and theology. They fear that such an admission will undermine people’s faith in the Bible altogether. I believe this to be a completely unfounded fear, if we will simply teach. I’ve never had someone’s faith shaken when I taught from conviction the truth of the Bible we hold in our hands.
Should we hide our eyes from evidential truth, for fear of finding out something we don’t wish to believe? We Apostolics, of all people on the planet, should not fear to see things as they are. It would do us well to not hide unmistakable facts from saints of God, but to examine the evidence and teach the people of God the fact that we have translations of the Word of God in which we can place our complete faith and trust.
This latest book examines unfounded claims made by some well-intentioned people regarding “manuscript families”—and finds many of those claims horribly wanting. Conclusions that have been based on some of these false claims are also examined with great attention to the available mountains of evidence, and the result is a clear vindication of the fact that our Bibles—whether my preference, the KJV, or several other contemporary versions that many of us use for reference and study such as the NIV84, the ESV, the NASB and others—are faithful English renditions of reliable biblical texts. The underlying Greek and Hebrew texts of each of these translations are remarkably the same for all of them (the texts match about 99% and no doctrine is affected by the minute differences). Slight differences in translation are to be expected—and often referring to other translations brings clarity to a subject, not confusion. Ensey’s book reinforces, with solid evidence, the fact that we hold the Word of God in our hands when we hold our Bibles.
Where the few times that rogue translations have appeared, such as the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the supposed “gender-neutral” TNIV, or the 2011 NIV, Ensey points out clearly that these were quickly caught and strongly criticized by the large community of dedicated evangelical scholars. Ensey wrote against these rogue volumes himself when they came out. Of course, he also discounts paraphrases as not being in the same category as translations.
Still, the overriding message of this scholarly and well-documented tome is that the our English translations (the KJV and modern) transmit to us the Word of God, miraculously preserved through the centuries, and that we can rely upon them for our salvation and in teaching and preaching to others the genuine Word of God. Newer translations including the 1984 NIV, the NASB, ASV, ESV and many others are based on texts from the original languages that are so close to the autographs that they defy any reputable scholar to deny that fact. No other ancient writing has been so closely studied and documented or so copiously copied (a huge number of manuscripts have been uncovered and studied) as our Scriptures—and they continually stand up to the scrutiny they have been given.
Ensey’s tremendous work in the appendices and the nearly eight-hundred endnotes of the book should not be overlooked. They are a treasure-trove of information worth exploring.
The Apostolic movement owes a debt of gratitude to Jerry Ensey for the several years of hard work that went into this important piece of scholarship. I heartily recommend this book for every minister and serious student of the Bible.