DEMYSTIFYING THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE TEXTUS RECEPTUS
AND THE KING JAMES VERSION OF THE BIBLE
By Douglas S. Chinn &
Robert C. Newman
The six main arguments used by TR-KJV proponents are examined and shown to be fallacious, as the KJV and TR suffer from the same "problems" charged against the Alexandrian family and its modern translations. Apparently TR-KJV proponents are ignorant of these facts, or other factors lie behind their heated advocacy. Two such factors are suggested.
Controversy is one of the most common and annoying occurrences in life. Those involved in a controversy usually spend an enormous amount of time and energy in argument that they could have used for more profitable activities. Certainly this is the case among us fundamentalists concerning the controversy over the Textus Receptus (TR) and King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Men who once worked together to advance the Gospel and defend it against unscriptural teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, liberalism, various cults, and ecumenism are now sometimes separating from and even condemning one another over which English Bible one should use. This situation is truly a sad one for all involved. Unfortunately, the Gospel of salvation from hell through faith in the atoning blood of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the main message of the Bible, can be only weakened in the eyes of those who observe us fundamentalists fighting among ourselves.
The TR-KJV position, which is being used to split many fundamental churches and to polarize many fundamental pastors today is perhaps best stated by the following excerpt from the Proclamation of the Third Annual Fundamental Bible Conference of North America, held in 1975:
As fundamentalists, we believe that the King James Authorized Version of the Bible, based on the Greek Textus Receptus, is the only English version which is faithful to the original inspired texts.
The occasion for this statement is the proliferation of many modern English New Testament (NT) versions based on Greek manuscripts which are different than those behind the KJV. However, controversy over the exact wording of the Greek NT has been around for a long time, even before Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort popularized the use of a Greek text based on codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in 1881. Many of the Reformation leaders, such as Luther, Calvin, and Beza, questioned and offered corrections to the TR text first compiled by Erasmus (see Believing Bible Study, 2nd edition, by Edward F. Hills, 1977, pp. 63, 200-206). Even some of the first great leaders of the fundamentalist movement against modernism, such as Warfield and Machen, also understood the TR was an imperfect text (see Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the NT, by B. B. Warfield, 1899; The Virgin Birth of Christ, 2nd printing, by J. G. Machen, 1967, pp. 119-187). They did not, however, produce a new English version of the NT to replace the TR or KJV.
Most modern versions since 1881 have generally followed Westcott and Hort's Greek text. However, since the major English translations before 1960 involved liberal translators, we fundamentalists tended not to use them so that there was no immediate need to spark an in-house controversy. But with the advent of the New American Standard Bible NT (NASB) in 1960 and the New International Version NT (NIV) in 1973, both reputed to be largely the product of fundamental and evangelical translators, the situation changed. Many fundamentalists endorsed these versions, which are based on Greek texts different from the edition of the Greek TR, which underlies the KJV. This situation has occasioned a controversy, which has split or is threatening to split many fundamental churches.
For those who are not familiar with the Greek manuscripts, significant differences in manuscripts (i.e., more than variations in spelling or word order) affect only about 10% of the NT text at most. About 90% of the NT text is the same in all manuscripts. Thus, the controversy is over the importance and implications of a NT which has varying amounts of certainty in at most 10% of its text. In any case, there is enough redundancy of the fundamental doctrines in any text to firmly establish what we fundamentalists have historically held.
Many reasons have been advanced by the KJV faction to justify the splitting of fundamental churches over the TR-KJV issue. However, to some of us who are not KJV-only supporters, the reasons stated by various pro-KJV people are very often contradictory. It appears that the KJV supporters all agree on what the conclusions should be though they cannot agree with one another on what the foundations of their position are.
We fundamentalists are perhaps too familiar with people leaving our churches for various reasons. Often, the people who do will give many different reasons for their leaving the church. What causes the church to be totally mystified is that often they will attend another church which has the same supposed faults. When this occurs, the situation should be demystified by determining the real reasons for their departing. In the same manner, this paper attempts to demystify the position of the pro-KJV faction. First, we will show that the six major arguments used by various pro-KJV people to establish the KJV as the only English version which is totally faithful to the original NT Greek text are all contradicted by parts of the KJV text itself. Second, we will attempt to guess the real reasons motivating the pro-KJV faction, especially since all of them come to the same conclusion while stating widely differing reasons. In reading this paper, it will be important to keep in mind that most of the pro-KJV people do not profess to believe in all of the following six arguments and would even disagree among themselves whether some of these arguments are a valid basis for determining the best text of the NT.
Before going further, let us clearly state that we believe in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, namely: (1) the inerrancy of the Scriptures; (2) the virgin birth, deity, substitutionary blood atonement, bodily resurrection and future bodily return to earth of the Lord Jesus Christ; (3) deliverance from eternal punishment in hell by trusting only in Jesus' atoning sacrifice on the cross. We also believe in the need for ecclesiastical separation from those who do not affirm the above points. Thus, the purpose of this paper is not to challenge any of these doctrines. Rather it is to investigate the major arguments used to advance the belief that the TR in Greek and the KJV in English are the only faithful representations of the NT and that this belief alone should be a sufficient basis for splitting otherwise fundamental churches.
THE SIX MAJOR ARGUMENTS OF THE PRO-TR-KJV POSITION
Argument #1: The doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible necessitates not only that the original manuscripts were without error but also that there must be extant copies without error to preserve this inerrancy. Otherwise, even liberals can believe in the inerrancy of the originals but deny the inerrancy of the Bible we have today if all extant copies have textual errors. In the Greek, the inerrant manuscripts are those of the Textus Receptus or the Byzantine family, which underlie the Authorized King James Version of the Bible.
This argument was presented at the Fourth Annual Fundamental Bible Conference of North America in 1976 by Thomas Baker of the Bible Truth Institute, Sunbury, PA, in his talk "The Latest in Bible Versions." People who generally believe in this view have sometimes quoted verses like Matthew 5:18 ("For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.") or Luke 21:33 ("Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.") to show that not one letter or word from the original manuscripts will ever be lost or altered. Some state that a Bible containing textual errors leads men to question what God has said because it does not allow anyone to claim he has the pure Word of God or use the phrase "Thus saith the LORD" without fear of someone pointing out possible textual errors.
Any fundamentalist would like to have a perfect copy of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts of the Bible. Unfortunately, no two extant manuscripts are identical. Furthermore, no original manuscripts and no perfect copies are known to exist. Thus, God has not chosen to preserve the text of the Bible perfectly. Some of these textual errors should be readily apparent to all Bible readers. Thus, Matthew 5:18 and Luke 21:33 cannot refer to the perfect preservation of the text of the Bible.
In the Old Testament (OT), there are many well-known cases where the numbers do not fit the context or where the numbers disagree in parallel passages. For example, the Hebrew Masoretic text of II Samuel 15:7 says that Absalom stood in the gate of Jerusalem for 40 years before rebelling against David. However, since David is said to have ruled over Judah and Israel for a total of only 40 years (I Ki. 2:11) and since Absalom was born while David was reigning in Hebron as king of Judah (II Sam. 2:1, 3:2-3), there is an error in at least one of the numbers. Textual problems between many of the numbers in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles also occur (e.g., II Ki. 8:26 - II Ch. 22:2; II Sam. 8:4 - I Ch. 18:4). Furthermore, in the Masoretic Hebrew text, there are marginal notes to correct obvious textual errors. The incorrect word, called the kethibh, was still retained in the text while the correct word, called the qere, was printed in the margin.
Differences between certain OT verses and the NT quotations of these verses are quite apparent in some places of the Bible. The text of Hebrews sometimes follows the Greek Septuagint translation of the OT where it differs from the Hebrew Masoretic text (e.g., Heb. 10:5 quoting Ps. 40:6 and Heb. 1:6 quoting Deut. 32:43). Thus, there are textual errors either in the Masoretic Hebrew or the Greek TR on which the KJV is based. Otherwise, one might be forced to say that the NT author of Hebrews quoted from Septuagint verses which contained textual errors! In Matthew 27:9-10, both the KJV and modern versions ascribe the prophecy concerning thirty pieces of silver to Jeremiah. A careful search of the OT, however, reveals that this prophecy is not found in Jeremiah but rather in Zechariah 11:12-13. This is a textual problem which has no generally agreed upon solution. What seems amazing, though, is that some pro-KJV people have said the NASB has a "serious difficulty" for having a similar textual problem in Mark 1:2. In the NASB, prophecies in Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 are ascribed to "Isaiah the prophet" instead of to "the prophets" as the KJV does (see A Critical Examination of the New American Standard Bible, by D. K. Madden, 1976, p. 9). Surely, if we are to be consistent, can we not assume that if the textual problem in Matthew can be solved, the problem in Mark may be solved in a similar manner?
Finally, even the TR is not free of textual errors. There are many editions of the TR, not one authoritative text. Each edition differs slightly from the others with respect to spellings, words, and even verses. The first two editions of the TR edited by Erasmus did not contain I John 5:7 as we have it in the KJV. Even the edition of the TR used by the Bible Truth Institute in 1976 is missing Luke 17:36 (see p. 178 of the same) when compared with the KJV or with Beza's 1598 edition of the TR published by the Trinitarian Bible Society in 1976 (see p. 150 of the latter).
Every version of the Bible contains these types of textual problems which have been known for years. Matthew 5:18 and Luke 21:33 cannot mean that God will preserve every letter and word of the original manuscripts because, as we have just seen, He has not. Fundamentalists in the past have usually insisted that only the original manuscripts were inerrant and that the copies preserve all of the fundamental doctrines by means of their being frequently stated in various passages, many of which contain no variant readings. Today, the battle over inerrancy with liberalism is not over doctrines in which textual problems play a significant role. Rather, the dispute concerns points of doctrine in which textual problems are irrelevant, such as the bodily resurrection of Christ.
One of the most often quoted passages in the TR-KJV controversy is II Timothy 3:16-17.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The term "scripture" in this passage must refer not only to the original manuscripts, which Timothy did not have, but also to at least some copies of the originals, which Timothy did have. Since God has not providentially allowed for two extant Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek copies of the Scriptures to be identical (i.e., the same letter for letter), we should conclude that a man can still be "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" with manuscripts containing some textual errors. Obviously, those who have used the KJV in the past as well as today have thought this goal was possible even considering the textual errors in the KJV. Thus, this first argument used by some promoters of the TR-KJV is contradicted by both the TR and KJV themselves.
Argument #2: Although God has allowed textual errors to occur in all of the Greek copies of the original NT manuscripts, He has preserved the best text in the vast majority of these copies. The best text is found by looking through all of the extant Greek manuscripts and choosing the wording of the majority of those manuscripts. When 80-95% of the manuscripts have almost identical readings for any given passage, it should be obvious that the majority text is God's providentially preserved text.
The majority text is also known as the Byzantine text because almost all of the extant copies were made during the period of the Byzantine Empire (395-1453), or as the Traditional text because it was the only Greek text in general use from about 700 to 1881. This view, that the majority text is the best text, was strongly advocated by John W. Burgon in the 1880's and 1890's as a refutation of Westcott and Hort's Greek NT text which followed Alexandrian manuscripts instead of Byzantine ones. For the most part, 20th century fundamentalist scholars accepted the Alexandrian text as the best text although they continued to use the KJV in English. In the 1960's and 1970's, the majority text view was brought back into public view in order to defend the KJV and to attack the NASB and NIV. Men such as Edward F. Hills (author of The King James Version Defended!), Zane C. Hodges (editor of The Revised Textus Receptus), David O. Fuller (editor of Which Bible?), Wilbur N. Pickering (author of The Identity of the New Testament Text), and Donald A. Waite (president of the Dean Burgon Society) are some of the leading advocates of this argument today.
The primary problem with this argument is that the KJV does not totally follow the majority text. When the TR underlying the KJV is compared with the majority readings of the 5,000 known Greek manuscripts, many differences are found to occur. This may be seen by examining the textual notes in the recent Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text by Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad (1982) or the New King James Version (1982). Since textual errors in the TR are allowed in this argument, these differences are to be expected and the NT text changed accordingly. However, a close comparison of the TR with the majority text reveals that some well-known and widely-quoted verses in the KJV either are not found or are significantly different in the majority text. For example, I John 5:7 and Acts 8:37 are found only in the smallest minority of manuscripts. In Colossians 1:14, the words "through his blood" are also not found in the vast majority of manuscripts. Most of these well-known non-majority text differences in the KJV can be traced directly to the edition of the Latin Vulgate of the Roman Catholic Church which was in general use when the TR was first printed.
If one consistently holds to the majority text argument, then he should point out these minority readings in the KJV and have them corrected. Indeed, some pro-TR-KJV people have done this. Burgon suggested 150 corrections in the Gospel of Matthew alone (The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, by J. Burgon and E. Miller, 1896, p. 5) and rejected the authenticity of I John 5:7 (see Burgon's article in Counterfeit or Genuine?, ed. by D. O. Fuller, 1975, p. 39). Among modern pro-KJV advocates, Zane Hodges has published the Revised Textus Receptus which will change the KJV in about 1,000 places. Needless to say, this aspect of Burgon and Hodges' work has not been publicized by pro-KJV fundamentalists since many feel that anyone who corrects the KJV is "correcting the Word of God" and thus falls into the same camp as Westcott and Hort. Most pro-KJV advocates, however, seem to be unaware of these problems with the majority text argument. In their attacks on non-TR versions of the NT, they have often unknowingly attacked the majority text as well. For example, Donald A. Waite in The Case For The King James Version of the Bible (1971) attacked the NASB for "omission or downgrading of heaven, e.g., omission of I John 5:7" (p. 43) and "omissions involving the deity of Christ by omitting the word `Lord,' and in other ways, e.g., omission of Acts 8:37" (p. 38-39).
In November 1978, some of the leading TR-KJV advocates formed the Dean Burgon Society in order to defend the Traditional text of the Bible in a manner similar to the way in which Burgon did. Yet, one of their articles of faith states, "We believe that all the verses in the KJV belong in the Old and New Testaments because they represent words we believe were in the original Texts ..." (The Dean Burgon News, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1979, pp. 2-3). It will be interesting to see how they will resolve the problem of the minority verses in the KJV and Burgon's rejection of I John 5:7. One of the goals of the Society is to evaluate the Revised Textus Receptus published by Hodges and others.
So far, very few who advocate the majority text have discussed minority readings in the KJV. One of them who does is Edward F. Hills. In The King James Version Defended! (1956), he states on page 45,
Readings found in the non-Byzantine minority of the extant manuscripts may be adopted as probably or possibly genuine only [emphasis added] when it can be shown that they do not contradict the Byzantine text, alter its meaning, or detract from its doctrinal richness.
In this statement, Hills is saying that it is permissible to "correct" or "add" to the majority text if one feels the textual variations are in harmony with God's Word. Most majority text proponents, however, would reject this criterion since it allows a person to "correct" what God gave as it is providentially preserved in the majority of manuscripts.
One of the authors (DSC) asked Wilbur N. Pickering, author of The Identity of the New Testament Text (1977), how he resolved the problem of minority readings in the KJV with his majority text thesis. In a letter dated January 19, 1978, he answered stating, "The status of I John 5:7, etc. will be resolved in due time." Thus, both Hills and Pickering seem to say that it is possible for the majority text to be wrong, which is a contradiction of their argument that God has preserved the best text in the majority of the manuscripts. It is doubtful that either Hills or Pickering would accept as reasonable someone saying that "the status of the Alexandrian text where it differs from the KJV will be resolved in due time." This belief, that the minority readings in the KJV are genuine despite the abundant manuscript evidence to the contrary, shows that the majority text criterion cannot be the real reason why people claim the KJV is the only faithful English version of the Bible. Although one might say that there are exceptions to the general rule that the majority is the best text, no one has published any objective criteria for evaluating exceptions. Such criteria, however, would inevitably not satisfy pro-KJV people since many minority readings in the KJV have less manuscript evidence for their authenticity than the Alexandrian text.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the majority text argument, even apart from the minority readings in the KJV, is that there is no majority text for the book of Revelation. The text of Revelation is relatively "fluid" when compared with other NT books (see Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, by H. C. Hoskier, 1929). No one has yet suggested that Revelation be dropped from the NT because God has not preserved the true text in the majority of manuscripts. A "fluid" text, however, does not imply that the text of Revelation is seriously in doubt. Most of the differences are like "come and see" vs. "come, and behold" (Rev. 6:1), "from the earth" vs. "out of the earth" (Rev. 6:4), or "king of saints" vs. "king of the nations" (Rev. 15:3). Since God did not preserve a majority text for Revelation, it is at least possible that He might also preserve the best text of other NT books in a minority of manuscripts as well. After all, one of the fundamental beliefs of us fundamentalists is that any type of a majority can be wrong!
The majority text criterion cannot be the real reason behind the present TR-KJV movement. If it were, they would correct the KJV where it disagrees with the majority text by publicly rejecting I John 5:7, Acts 8:37, and other minority readings. Furthermore, they would explain how one can determine the best text of Revelation which has no majority text.
Argument #3: The Greek manuscripts underlying all of the modern versions of the NT come from Alexandria, Egypt. They could not be the best manuscripts because they have been in the possession of heretics, such as Origen and the Roman Catholic Church. God would not use such people to transmit the best text, since they would alter the text to suit their own teachings. Furthermore, the Alexandrian text was not in general use from the 8th to 19th centuries. God would not allow the true text to be hidden from public view for such a long time. Finally, God would not use liberals such as Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort to rediscover and resurrect the true text.
Much of the literature put out by KJV advocates majors in documenting the unbiblical views of the chief people and organizations involved in transmitting the Alexandrian text. They find it incredible that God would use heretics to transmit the best text. We are told that Origen spiritualized the Bible; that the Roman Catholic Church has always taught salvation by faith plus works; and that Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort were really liberals. However, what is lacking in this argument is an examination of what means God did use to transmit the Hebrew OT and Greek TR underlying the KJV.
First, the OT was transmitted by unsaved Jews. Ever since the 2nd century A.D., one of the few religious doctrines that nearly all Jews have agreed upon is that Jesus is not their Messiah. Yet, they were used by God to transmit the Hebrew OT text to us rather than any group of believing Jews or Gentiles. No one has yet suggested that medieval Jews may have made some doctrinal alterations in the Hebrew text to justify their rejection of Jesus.
Second, the Traditional text was transmitted by the Greek Orthodox (or Eastern Orthodox) Church. A study of the doctrines of the Greek Orthodox Church shows that it is just as unsaving as the Roman Catholic Church. Both believe in a theology of faith plus sacraments consisting of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Holy Unction. Both believe that church tradition is on the same level as the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church does not use idols (statues) as the Catholic Church does. Instead it uses icons (flat pictures) of the saints to aid in worship. About the only major doctrinal difference between the two churches is the supremacy of the Pope. However, it was not until 1054 that the churches officially split from one another over this issue, some 300 years after the Byzantine text became the only Greek text in general use. (For more information about the Greek Orthodox Church, see, e.g., The Greek Orthodox Church, by Demetrius J. Constantolos, 1967).
Third, the man who compiled the first edition of the TR was Erasmus, a Dutch humanist. Except for the TR, we fundamentalists have not used any of Erasmus' works, even though he was the most famous scholar of his day. Although he attacked many practices of the Roman Catholic Church, he did not leave it and join with the Protestant Reformation. He even dedicated the first edition of the TR to Pope Leo X! Furthermore, in his attempt to compile the best Greek text, he sometimes followed the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate instead of the Greek manuscripts available to him because of public pressure.
Finally, in the past God has allowed not only the best manuscripts of Scripture to be hidden from public view, but has even allowed a whole part of the Scriptures themselves to be totally hidden. II Kings 22:8-23:2 describes the finding of a book of the law in the house of the LORD during the time of King Josiah. The book was accepted by the king and the LORD's prophets as truly being the Word of God though apparently no one could remember hearing it previously. Most fundamentalists believe that the book found was Deuteronomy which was totally lost from public view during a period of Jewish apostasy.
After looking into the history of the TR text, Argument #3 cannot be the real reason why people believe the KJV is the best text. They do not question the Hebrew OT text even though it was transmitted by unsaved Jews. They do not have the slightest mistrust for possible doctrinal alterations in the Traditional text which was transmitted by the Greek Orthodox Church. Yet, they claim the Alexandrian text teaches heretical Roman Catholic doctrines which are almost identical to the heretical Greek Orthodox doctrines. They never question the transmission of the TR text through Erasmus who, if one can imagine that he was saved, was at best a non-separatist Neo-Evangelical! They do not find fault with God for allowing a book of the law to be totally hidden from public view for a time. Yet, they find fault with the Alexandrian manuscripts for having a similar history.
Argument #4: The TR manuscripts are the best manuscripts because they properly exalt the person of the Lord Jesus Christ while the Alexandrian manuscripts do not. When the Alexandrian manuscripts are compared with the TR, many places are found where the words "Lord" and "Christ" are missing in reference to Jesus. This shows that the people who copied the Alexandrian manuscripts did not want to believe that Jesus is both "Lord" and "Christ."
One of the verses used to support this view is John 16:14, "He (the Holy Spirit) shall glorify me...." According to Thomas Baker (tape on "The Latest in Bible Versions," 1975), the manuscripts which the Holy Spirit inspired can be identified by the way in which they glorify Jesus, especially by the way they use the words "Lord" and "Christ." Pro-KJV publications of medium length or more usually have a list of verses where "Lord" and "Christ" are missing in modern NTs but are present in the KJV. (See Bible Version Manual, by Donald T. Clarke, 1975, p. 128-129; The Case for the King James Version of The Bible, by Donald A. Waite, 1971, p. 38-40.).
After reading through many such lists, one could easily come to the conclusion that all of the other Greek manuscripts are always lacking the words "Lord" and "Christ" when compared with the TR. To our knowledge, not one pro-TR publication has ever listed a single place where the KJV might have either "Lord" or "Christ" missing when compared with other English versions or non-TR Greek manuscripts. However, in Matthew 16:21, the NASB has "Jesus Christ" while the KJV has only "Jesus." In I Corinthians 6:11, both the NASB and the NIV have "Lord Jesus Christ" while the KJV has only "Lord Jesus." Yet, for all their research, no TR advocate seems to have found these places where the KJV "is corrupt and in need of correction." Even a cursory study of the variant readings in The Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland et al. (1966), shows that in many places, some manuscripts have "Lord" and "Christ" where both the TR and Alexandrian manuscripts do not (e.g., Rom. 3:26, Rom. 10:9, II Cor. 4:5, Gal. 1:6, II Th. 2:8). The words "Jesus," "Lord Jesus," "Jesus Christ," and "Lord Jesus Christ" all commonly appear in the NT. The best explanation for the variations of these terms in the NT manuscripts seems to be that God allowed some textual errors to occur in these similar phrases. This would seem to fit the manuscript evidence better than ascribing these differences to the unbelief of the copyists. If the Alexandrian scribes refused to copy the word "Christ" in Revelation 1:9, then why did they copy it correctly in Revelation 1:1, 1:2, 1:5? In Acts 24:24, both the NASB and NIV read "Christ Jesus" while the KJV reads only "Christ." Are we to conclude from this that those who copied the TR manuscripts of Acts hated the name of Jesus?
Argument #4 cannot be the real reason motivating the TR-KJV controversy. If the use of the terms "Lord" and "Christ" really determines the best manuscripts, why has no TR advocate suggested "correcting the corruptions" in the KJV where it does not properly "glorify" the Lord Jesus Christ? Or, on the other hand, if the KJV is the best text, why has no one published a list of places where other versions corrupt the Word of God by "over-glorifying" Jesus by adding the terms "Lord" and "Christ" to the text? Is it really possible after reading an Alexandrian NT that one could believe Jesus is not both Lord and Christ (see Acts 2:36 and II Cor. 1:2 in the NASB or NIV)? Those who have used this argument ought to address these questions in their literature.
Argument #5: The Alexandrian manuscripts could not be the true text because they teach doctrines different from those found in the TR. These errors include justification by works, Arianism, and belief that the Apocrypha is part of the Bible.
Of all of the arguments used to advance the TR-KJV position, this charge against the Alexandrian manuscripts has the most serious consequences. Undoubtedly, there are many other doctrinal errors which the Alexandrian manuscripts have been alleged to have. For the sake of space and time, though, we have limited this paper just to three of the most commonly mentioned allegations.
The attitude of many people who hold this view is perhaps best expressed by the following excerpts from God Wrote Only One Bible, by Jasper J. Ray (1955, revised in 1976).
Put poison anywhere in the blood stream and the whole becomes poisoned. Just so with the Word of God. When words are added or subtracted, Bible inspiration is destroyed, and the spiritual blood stream is poisoned. (p.9)
No person can be born again without the Holy Spirit, and it is evident the Holy Spirit is not going to use a poisoned blood stream to produce healthy christians [sic]. (p.9)
Therefore, since the Word of God did not come by the will of man, any portion changed by the will of man must result in corruption. Only an unaltered Bible can produce a perfect, soul-saving faith. (p.10)
It is impossible to be saved without `FAITH' and perfect-saving-faith can only be produced by the `ONE' Bible God wrote, and that we find only in translations which agree with the Greek Textus Receptus refused by Westcott and Hort. (p.122)
I Peter 2:2 is one of the most quoted verses in the Alexandrian manuscripts which is alleged to teach justification by works (see Bible Version Manual, by Donald T. Clarke, 1975, p. 60-63; or the tape by Thomas Baker, "The Latest in Bible Versions," 1975).
Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. (NASB)
By insisting that the word "salvation" in this verse can only mean "justification," one could certainly come to such a conclusion. However, could not "salvation" have its other common meaning in this verse, namely deliverance from sin and death when the believer is glorified? Surely these pro-KJV people believe that "salvation" can have other meanings besides "justification," such as in Romans and Philippians:
... for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom.13:11)
... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil.2:12)
In Revelation 22:14, one could use the same sort of argument to allege that the KJV teaches justification by works,
Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
The Alexandrian text has instead, "Blessed are they that wash their robes...." If apparent doctrinal soundness is the criterion for choosing the proper text, should not the Alexandrian reading be adopted in this place in Revelation instead of the TR reading? Those who have accused the Alexandrian manuscripts of teaching a different gospel in I Peter 2:2 should consistently apply their own logic to the KJV.
Some pro-KJV people have claimed that the new versions teach a form of Arianism in which Jesus is the physical progeny of Joseph as well as Mary. In Luke 2:33 and 43, the phrases "Joseph and his mother" in the KJV instead read "His father and mother" and "His parents" in the NASB and NIV. On the surface, these differences might appear significant. However, a closer reading of Luke 2 shows that even in the KJV Joseph and Mary are called Jesus' "parents" in verse 41 and Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus' "father" in verse 48. Does this mean the KJV teaches this same form of Arianism? Pro-KJV people believe that the terms "parents" and "father" in verses 41 and 48 refer to Joseph's position of Jesus' stepfather instead of his being Christ's physical father. It seems incredible that they should think so differently when the same terms are used in verses 33 and 43 in the Alexandrian text. Finally, does the phrase "Joseph and his mother" by itself necessarily teach the virgin birth? Could it not by itself be misconstrued to mean that Jesus was the physical progeny of an unknown man and Mary, and that Joseph later became Mary's husband and Jesus' stepfather? Actually, the fundamental doctrine of the virgin birth is not based on these passages but on Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-28 where Joseph and Mary are told what is going to happen. Both the Alexandrian manuscripts and the TR clearly indicate the virgin birth in these places.
Finally, the Alexandrian manuscripts have been accused of teaching that the Apocrypha is also a part of the Bible because some of the codices containing the Alexandrian NT also include some of the books of the Apocrypha. The assumption behind this view is that only men of questionable character would bind the NT with the uncanonical Apocrypha, or alternatively, that the Alexandrian manuscripts must have been known to be corrupt by these men. Jerome also has often been accused of being doctrinally unsound because he translated the Apocrypha as a part of the Latin Vulgate Bible, even though he personally did not believe that the Apocrypha was inspired. Thus, the Vulgate is held to be a corrupt Bible, not only because Jerome translated from non-TR manuscripts, but also because he had a compromising doctrinal view concerning the Apocrypha.
However, this is only one side of the story. The KJV of 1611 also contained the Apocrypha as a part of the Bible! The original KJV was published in five volumes, the fourth being the Apocrypha. (See The Authorized Version of the English Bible 1611, ed. by William A. Wright, Cambridge Univ. Press, Vol. 4, 1909). If the Alexandrian codices teach that the Apocrypha is part of the Bible, does not the 1611 KJV also? Although the KJV translators made a distinction between the Apocrypha and the OT, their including the Apocrypha as a part of the Bible after the Roman Catholic Church had declared the Apocrypha to be a genuine part of the Word of God in 1546 was just as compromising as Jerome's inclusion of it in the Latin Vulgate. Finally, if the KJV text can still be used after the Apocrypha is dropped, cannot this also apply to the Alexandrian codices as well?
This argument that the Alexandrian manuscripts teach different doctrines than the KJV cannot be the real reason behind the pro-TR position since the KJV has the same doctrinal "problems." To accuse the Alexandrian manuscripts of teaching doctrines different than those found in the KJV not only is false, but it also helps those who hold wrong doctrines to have a false sense of security. Unsaved people already have a difficult enough time believing the true gospel in any manuscript without telling them that different manuscripts teach different gospels. They should be told that their problem is having hard hearts toward God's Word rather than sincerely reading a non-TR Bible.
Even among people who use the KJV alone, it seems amazing what widely different doctrines can be "derived." We fundamentalists believe in the Trinity. Yet United Pentecostals believe the KJV teaches Sabellianism while members of The Way International believe the KJV teaches Arianism. Is the KJV unclear, or are United Pentecostals and Wayites twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction? Sometimes it is said that we fundamentalists can agree only on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g. salvation by faith alone) and nothing else (e.g., Arminianism vs. Calvinism, pre-, mid-, post-tribulation rapture, covenant theology vs. dispensationalism, role of women in the church, forms of church government, etc.). Since there can apparently be so many different interpretations of the same words, do not variations in the interpretation of any NT text produce far more uncertainty in determining correct doctrine than any of the textual variations in the Greek NT manuscripts?
Finally, even some of those who have defended the KJV do not believe that non-TR manuscripts teach different doctrines from the KJV. In his discussion of the manuscript evidence for Acts 8:37, Jasper J. Ray conceded that none of the 5,000 differences between Westcott and Hort's Greek text and the Textus Receptus altered any of God's revelation.
For a moment let us suppose that a copyist did insert Acts 8:37 into the text. Has he injected any phase of Bible doctrine that is in any whit contrary to any of God's revelation? Not one iota. Examine all the rest of the 5,337 changes made in the Textus Receptus by Westcott's and Hort's Greek Text, and you will find the same fact holds true. (See God Wrote Only One Bible, by Jasper J. Ray, 1976, pp. 105-106)
Also, Philip Mauro, a Christian lawyer quoted by many KJV advocates, could not find any difference in doctrine between the manuscripts.
But no two of these thousands of manuscripts are exactly alike; and every discrepancy raises a distinct question requiring separate investigation and separate decision. While, however, the precise reading of thousands of passages is affected by these differences, it must not be supposed that there is any uncertainty whatever as to the teaching and testimony of the New Testament in its entirety.
The consoling facts in that regard are: (1) that the vast majority of the variant readings are so slight (a mere question of a single letter, or an accent, or a prefix, or a case ending) as not to raise any question at all concerning the true sense of the passage; and (2) that the sum of all the variant readings taken together does not give ground for the slightest doubt as to any of the fundamental points of faith and doctrine. In other words, the very worst Text that could be constructed from the abundant materials available would not disturb any of the great truths of the Christian faith. (See True or False?, 2nd printing, ed. by David O. Fuller, 1975, p. 62)
Pro-KJV advocates should learn from these remarks of Ray and Mauro, and stop using a poor argument that would not even stand up in a human court, much less before the LORD. Since there are such wide differences in doctrine even among fundamentalists who use the KJV only, is it not possible that pro-KJV advocates have been twisting the Alexandrian text in their splitting of fundamental churches?
Argument 6: The KJV, and the Greek TR text underlying it, must be the best text because God has so blessed its use since the time of the Reformation. In every major modern revival, men have preached from the TR-KJV texts. God has not used and will not use the corrupt Alexandrian text to do such great works among men.
First, just because one has a TR based text does not mean God will bless its use. The Greek Orthodox Church has used TR based manuscripts for almost all of its existence. Yet, its major doctrines are almost identical to the Roman Catholic Church except for the supremacy of the Pope. Even when the Reformation occurred, the Greek Orthodox Church did not, and still has not, endorsed the biblical teaching of "justification by faith alone." On a superficial basis, one could equally (but fallaciously) argue that the direct use of the TR type texts, instead of using translations, in the Greek Orthodox Church prevented its people from responding to the true gospel while the use of the Latin Vulgate produced people who would accept the true gospel.
Second, God has blessed the use of non-TR texts in the past. Edward F. Hills, in his book Believing Bible Study, 2nd edition, 1977, discusses God's providential use of other versions, namely the Greek Septuagint OT and the Latin Vulgate Bible. On pages 81 to 83, he shows how "the Apostles recognized the Septuagint as the providentially approved translation of the OT into Greek" by their abundant quotations from the Septuagint. Now the Septuagint does not everywhere follow the Hebrew Masoretic text which underlies the OT of the KJV. Yet, God blessed the use of the Septuagint version rather than the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, or Theodotion, three 2nd century A.D. Greek translators of the Masoretic text. Hills goes on to show that the only Bible used in Western Europe for the 1,000 years preceding the Reformation was the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate again does not always follow the TR text which underlies the KJV, being rather something of a mixture of the Alexandrian and Western text families. Yet God blessed Wyclif's translation of the Vulgate into English. Hills goes on to say that it was primarily through the study of the Vulgate that Martin Luther became convinced that the Roman Catholic Church taught unscriptural doctrines, not through the study of the TR. Hills concludes by saying,"The Latin Vulgate was the providentially appointed Bible version for Christians of Western Europe during the medieval period."
From our standpoint in history today, it is obvious that the KJV has been the providentially appointed version of the Bible for most English-speaking people since 1611. Considering that the newer versions have not been in print as long as the KJV (the complete NASB Bible was published only in 1971 and the complete NIV Bible only in 1978), it should not surprise anyone that every major English-speaking revival since 1611 has used the KJV. This does not mean, however, that the KJV should never be replaced. The providential use of a version by God can be determined only for time in the past, not for time in the future. No one could know at the times the Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, or KJV were first published that they would be so widely used for hundreds of years and would largely replace previous versions of the Bible then in use. The belief that God will never stop using the KJV as the providentially appointed version for most English-speaking people is not the real reason motivating the TR-KJV movement. This is evident because many pro-KJV people have stated they would accept a modern English version if it were based on the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek TR texts. However, God's providential use of other versions in the past, especially the Greek Septuagint OT and the Latin Vulgate Bible, shows that the types of texts God has used have not always been those underlying the KJV. Thus, it is possible that God might in the future providentially use an English version not based on the types of manuscripts underlying the KJV. Only time can tell if this will be true.
CONJECTURES AS TO THE REAL REASONS BEHIND THE TR-KJV MOVEMENT
In the previous sections, we have discussed the six major arguments used to split fundamental churches over whether the KJV is the only Bible which English-speaking people should use today. Remember, everyone who supports the KJV does not believe in all six of the previous arguments. Many pro-KJV people strongly disagree with one another over how the text of the KJV should be defended and would reject some of the previously mentioned arguments as spurious. Although these arguments have been used to allege that the Alexandrian text is a "false" Bible which will not produce a "pure" faith, they cannot be the real reasons behind the movement because the TR and KJV have the same problems. Thus, those who are splitting churches over this issue must have other reasons or must be ignorant of the similar problems which plague both the Alexandrian text and TR-KJV. Not everyone who has written popular material to support the KJV believes that fundamental churches should be split over this issue. However, such authors have not gone out of their way to stop this church splitting either, nor have they pointed out any of the problems in the KJV similar to those the Alexandrian text is accused of having.
We will now give two conjectures as to why this controversy over the TR-KJV is presently occurring. These reasons have not been openly admitted by TR-KJV advocates, to the best of our knowledge. However, in comparison with the arguments popularly used to support the TR-KJV, these conjectures seem more likely to be the real reasons behind the controversy.
Conjecture #1: The use of the KJV has become a tradition in the English-speaking world. Many fundamentalists have used the KJV all of their lives and would find it very difficult to use another version.
Human nature is such that once people are locked into a tradition, they find it very difficult to change. Even the most pleasant changes are sometimes difficult to adjust to emotionally. If a person has used only one version of the Bible all his life, any different version will seem strange. Anyone would feel defensive if he were told that some of the passages he had memorized and preached on were not exactly the inspired words of God. Differences in the text will always be attributed first to errors in the other person's version rather than in one's own.
Some have even gone so far as to state that the KJV is a more correct version than even the TR. Peter S. Ruckman, in his book The Christian's Handbook of Manuscript Evidence (1970), has a chapter entitled "Correcting the Greek with the English." In it he actually defends the KJV translation of Acts 19:37 which has the word "churches" even though every known Greek manuscript has the word "temples." He concludes this discussion by stating that "Mistakes in the A.V. 1611 are advanced revelation!" (p. 126). From this sort of reasoning, it sounds like the KJV does not strictly preserve the contents of the original manuscripts. Rather it sounds like the KJV is seen as part of a sort of ongoing revelation in which God gradually changes with time what He originally gave. This amazing new doctrine, however, seems unlikely to be true since the KJV is based on Greek manuscripts and can be no better than its foundations. None of the KJV translators claimed to be making an inspired translation which would improve their Greek text. If we fundamentalists were to examine the religious beliefs of all the KJV translators (for a list, see Which Bible?, 5th edition, ed. by David O. Fuller, 1975, p. 13-24), it is highly probable that everyone of us would have serious objections to at least some of their doctrinal views and thus would reject any claim to the KJV being as inspired as the original manuscripts were.
The early editions of the TR were also met with similar resistance to change. Erasmus eventually included several passages from the Latin Vulgate (and not found in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts) because of public pressure based on the belief that these passages must truly be part of the Word of God. I John 5:7 in the KJV is the best example of this. In the first two editions of the TR, Erasmus refused to include the verse on the grounds that no Greek manuscript containing the verse was known to anyone at that time. He then made a promise that if but one Greek manuscript could be found which had the verse, he would include it. Of course, one was found shortly afterwards. However, most people, including Erasmus himself, believe that this particular manuscript (#61) was fraudulently prepared for the express purpose of forcing Erasmus to include the verse in the TR. Hills claims that this incident is an example of how God used the "common faith" of the time to protect the NT text, but it sounds like an example of the stubborn refusal of people to accept good evidence (see Believing Bible Study, 2nd edition, by Edward F. Hills, 1977, p. 210-211). In any case, it seems strange that the common people who did not know Greek and had been dominated by the Roman Catholic Church for over 1,000 years should know what parts of the Latin Vulgate not found in the Greek manuscripts were a genuine part of the original Greek text!
Thus, conjecture #1 is that many pro-KJV advocates have used only the KJV all of their lives and are resistant to any changes. While they can easily believe that God would allow others to have access only to a "corrupt" text, they absolutely refuse to believe that God might also allow them to have an imperfect text.
Conjecture #2: If it is admitted that there are errors in the KJV text, then people would have to be taught how to evaluate manuscript evidence in order to determine the best text. Unfortunately, this would require a knowledge of Greek and manuscript history. For most of the common people, such an education is unattainable. Then they would be at the mercy of anyone who claimed to be a scholar. Furthermore, after all of this scholarship, no one, not even a seminary-trained fundamental pastor, would be able to point to a text and say that he now has a perfect copy of every word which was originally inspired by God.
Probably this is the unstated motivation of most TR-KJV advocates. No one wants to be at the mercy of others. Everyone would like to say that he has evaluated the evidence or at least could evaluate the evidence if necessary. No one wants to say that the odds for this portion of the text being the Word of God are 99 to 1, the next portion 75 to 25, and in some portions the odds are even 50 to 50. Everyone would like to say that there is no question that every word in the text is the Word of God.
However, we fundamentalists should accept the fact that God did not make the world so simple. People who cannot read the Bible depend on others to tell them the truth. People who cannot read the original languages or who do not have access to manuscripts in those languages depend on the work of others. Children especially are always at the mercy of others. Most people are even now at the mercy of their pastors to tell them what is the best text and the correct interpretation of that text. Thus, the use of scholarship in determining the best text should not be rejected because most people cannot be scholars.
Finally, that no one could produce a text which one could say is 100% the Word of God should not be surprising. Everyone runs his life on the basis of relative probabilities. Rarely can anyone claim to know anything with 100% accuracy except for a mathematical proof. This does not, however, morally excuse anyone for acting in a way contrary to the most reasonable evidence available to him. One will not be excused by God on judgment day if he rejects the Bible because he was only 50% sure of some words in the text. Instead, he will be condemned for rejecting the thousands of passages in the Bible which have little textual doubt. Even the KJV of 1611 did not offer complete assurance of the text to its readers. In 13 places in the NT, the KJV translators placed variant readings in the margin showing that they could not absolutely determine the wording of the Greek text (see The Authorized Version of the English Bible 1611, ed. by William A. Wright, Vol.5, 1909).
Therefore, we fundamentalists should not be afraid of admitting that the KJV is in need of correction, knowing that this is not equivalent to saying that the whole text of the Bible will be in doubt. Rather, we should admit that determining the best text of the Bible is sometimes a complicated problem. Fundamental churches ought not to be split over a problem which has no easy solution, which even the KJV translators could not completely solve. Instead, we ought to feed and take care of these churches which hold to the historic fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and not try to split them over which version of the Bible they use.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Perhaps the most ironic part of the pro-TR-KJV position is their use of Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
The point usually made in connection with these verses is that it is a very serious thing for a manuscript to have even one word added, missing, or altered from what God originally inspired. However, the phrase "book of life" in verse 19 is found in no Greek manuscript. Every Greek manuscript has "tree of life." The phrase "book of life" appears to be an uninspired change imported by Erasmus from the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate.
We believe that our two conjectures are the real reasons underlying the present TR-KJV movement, and that the six arguments advanced by various pro-KJV people are obscuring their real reasons from public view. What then is the difference between the more public reasons and the real reasons? A careful examination of the basic methodology behind the six arguments and the two conjectures shows the difference.
The basic methodology behind the six arguments is an appeal to scholarship. No matter which one of the six arguments is advocated, one cannot determine the text which best preserves the wording of the original manuscripts without a collation of the 5000 extant copies of the Greek NT and a knowledge of church history. For example, take Argument #2 (the original text of the NT is best preserved in the majority text of the copies). If one does not have access to information about the contents and history of the manuscripts, then he has no way of knowing if the KJV, or any other version for that matter, is the best text. The same is true for the remaining five arguments. The weighing of manuscript reliability and interpretation of church history, however, varies among men so that it is unlikely that even two fundamentalists would ever come up with the identical text given the same set of manuscripts and history books. Furthermore, if one is to honestly use scholarship, he must always admit that his opinion of the best text is subject to change upon the discovery of new data. One can never say that he has determined the best text once and for all. Instead, he can say only that he has determined the best text for the present which may be subject to further improvement upon the discovery of new data. Thus, it is this scholastic methodology of determining the text of the NT which is also under attack by present pro-KJV advocates, although they themselves might not consciously know it. They do not want to appear to be dependent on other men, even other fundamentalists, to do the scholarship for them or for others. In their view, the scholastic methodology makes other men the final authority on what constitutes the Bible instead of making God the final authority.
At this point, one might ask, "If the mentality of these KJV advocates is actually anti-scholastic, then why do they seem to argue for the KJV text using scholastic methodology?" Our answer is simple. They are trying to show that even if one used scholarship, he would come to the same conclusion that any uneducated Bible believer of average intelligence would come to -- that the KJV is the only English Bible which is faithful to the original manuscripts. Thus, they are not actually using scholarship to determine the best text of the Bible. This is obvious when the text of the KJV is put through their own scholastic tests. If one actually believed in the scholastic method and then found parts of the KJV which failed his tests, he would admit the KJV has textual errors and correct them. Unfortunately, it seems that only Burgon and Hodges are willing to do this (see section on Argument #2). When logical contradictions are pointed out to the others, they simply respond that it is their firm belief that the textual problems in the KJV will somehow eventually be resolved in favor of the KJV, even for the textual problem in Revelation 22:18-19.
So, if scholarship is not the ultimate basis for the present TR-KJV movement, what is? What kind of non-scholastic methodology is thought to allow God to be the final authority on what constitutes the Bible instead of men? Their answer is FAITH! The same kind of faith that God demands when one believes in Jesus as his Lord and Savior -- so they claim. By this method, one can be independent of other men and come to a final conclusion by himself concerning what constitutes the Word of God.
An example of this kind of faith is seen in the following case. When confronted with a difference between the KJV and (say) the NASB, how does one tell which reading is genuine? By the method of scholarship, one would have to study the manuscripts and their history. By the method of "faith," however, one only has to pray and ask God to reveal to him in some way (without scholarship) which reading is correct. If one has been saved under preaching from the KJV, it is very easy to appeal to one's personal experience as God's revealed "proof." They would say, "I can see the changes that have taken place in my life since I believed what was taught in the KJV. These changes are evidence that God is really working in my life. Therefore, I know that the KJV is the best text without any manuscript evidence." This methodology, of course, is then later used to defend every word in the KJV text. In our discussions with pro-KJV people, it is not uncommon for them to claim that even the TR can be wrong, but the KJV cannot.
However, is this the kind of "faith" the Bible talks about? Blind faith based on personal experience and independent of other evidence such as manuscripts and history? In I Corinthians 15:14, the Apostle Paul wrote, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." How does one determine whether Christ has actually risen from the dead? Are not historical and archaeological evidence (using scholarship) for the reliability of Scripture involved? Did not Paul give historical evidence when he told the Corinthians to ask the other Apostles and the five hundred brethren who saw the risen Christ (I Co.15:4-7)? Would this not involve some scholarship in determining whether a person actually saw Christ or was lying? Should not every Bible believer be ready to renounce his faith if a grave in Palestine were ever identified unmistakably to contain the remains of Jesus Christ? If not, what would be the difference between that person and a liberal who says that it does not really matter what happened, only what a person believes happened is important?
We fundamentalists sometimes claim that some of the hymns we sing are doctrinally unsound. Is this not the case for that line in the hymn "He Lives" which says "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!"? There is more to Biblical faith than belief without objective evidence. If not, then how does one witness to a Mormon? Present day Mormons claim that scholarship can never prove or disprove that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God or that the Book of Mormon is also the Word of God. That would make other men the final authority on Mormonism, not God. If one should point out some of the abundant evidences against Mormonism, Mormons will usually respond that these problems will eventually be resolved in favor of Mormonism given enough time. The primary evidence for the truth of Mormonism comes from the Holy Spirit working in one's life, so their claim goes. Prospective converts are first given a presentation of Mormonism. Then they are asked to pray to God and sincerely ask Him to show them by divine revelation whether or not Mormonism is true. By this methodology, many people do indeed become Mormons while others do not. With the passing of time, many converts will be able to give glowing testimonies of the changes God has supposedly wrought in their lives. If one asks why certain people who prayed decided not to become Mormons, Mormons will typically answer that such people must have prayed (at least subconsciously) with an insincere heart. Otherwise, they would have become Mormons! Indeed if the growth of a church is the evidence of God's blessing the use of a particular text, the Book of Mormon would do well. Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in America.
We believe that the main cause of the modern pro-TR-KJV movement is an anti-scholastic attitude. This attitude is generated because, while people in general desire absolute certainty, scholarship can never claim to produce the completely perfect text. Such an attitude is demonstrated by Edward F. Hills,
For by this (scholastic) method the best conclusion we can reach is that the New Testament text is probably trustworthy, and this is not sufficient when we use this text to comfort others or apply it to ourselves in our time of need. (Believing Bible Study, 2nd edition, 1977, p. 216).
Yes, the methodology of scholarship can only produce a text which is probably true. However, as more data is collected and understood, the possibility that any newly discovered data will significantly alter what is presently accepted as the best text becomes very small indeed. The process then becomes one of filling in the minor details rather than making significant changes.
Does the methodology of faith without scholarship produce any more certainty than faith based on scholarship? Has not every person once thought he was certainly right on some issue only to later change his mind and believe he was totally wrong? Is God really the final authority in this methodology? If He is, then why do people become Mormons and claim to have peace and assurance in their times of need? Has not God really been replaced by "leading by feelings" concerning their experiences using the KJV in this methodology of faith without scholarship? Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that the feelings about our experiences, even after sincere prayer, are the voice of God.
How can one tell which methodology is right? The best way is by using the methodology with which one is compelled to conduct his daily life in order to survive. God has ordained a world in which people always make decisions with a limited amount of data. They can never say they are absolutely right since they never know everything. They must often change their minds when new data becomes available which alters the situation. Of course, one can always say that the textual problems in the KJV will eventually be solved. Yet again, they may never be solved in favor of the KJV. Men are morally obligated to live according to what is most likely to be true with the amount of knowledge they have now, not with what they do not have now and only might possibly have in the future. As far as the NT is concerned, any text based on known manuscripts is clear enough so that anyone reading it is without excuse if he does not understand and accept the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
In concluding, we hope that this paper has brought out at least two points. First, using the methodology of scholarship, the KJV is an imperfect text. The KJV and the Greek TR underlying it both fail in some places to meet the criteria of text authenticity used by modern TR-KJV advocates to attack the Alexandrian text family. Second, the subsequent refusal of many pro-KJV people to acknowledge that the KJV is an imperfect text demonstrates that scholarship is not the primary basis of the TR-KJV movement. Rather, it shows that another basis besides scholarship is being used to establish the KJV as the best NT text, to split fundamental churches, and to polarize individuals over this issue. In their desire for absolute certainty, many people have replaced true scholarship with "faith without scholarship." However, such a methodology does not allow one to distinguish between biblical Christianity and such "blind faith" heresies as Mormonism. In reality, such a faith replaces the authority of God with "leading by feelings" concerning one's experiences using the KJV (or the Book of Mormon for that matter); and these experiences are just as likely to change, if not more so, as conclusions derived from careful scholarship.
Undoubtedly, we have not convinced every KJV advocate who has read this paper that his position is in error. We do hope, however, that we have at least showed him that there is a basic difference in methodology between those who believe the KJV is a perfect text and those who do not. We also hope that those who have been splitting otherwise fundamental churches over this issue will realize that their actions have been based on a mistaken methodology with which we should not conduct our lives. We fundamentalists ought not to be fighting among ourselves over the TR and KJV. Instead, we should be trying to bring a lost world to the wonderful and everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.