Modern Bible Versions
Prof. David J. Engelsma
There is, at the present time, a proliferation of new
translations, revisions, and paraphrases of the Bible. One after another,
new versions of the Bible pour off the presses, so that it becomes
difficult to keep up with them.
It has not always been so. In 1611, the King James
Version appeared—a translation of the Bible into English by theologians
and ministers in England which is known as the "Authorized Version." For
over 250 years, it was, for all practical purposes, the only Bible in the
During the years 1881-1885, the King James Version was
revised in England, and this revision, after some changes were made for
American readers, became the American Standard Version, published in 1901.
In 1937, the National Council of Churches authorized a
thorough revision of the 1901 version, and they published the Revised
Standard Version in 1951. This proved to be a popular Bible.
In the last few years, many English versions have come
on the market: The Jerusalem Bible (1966); The New English Bible (1970);
The Living Bible (1971); and, very recently, The New International Version—to name only a few.
The justification for all these new versions is the
alleged weaknesses of the King James Bible. The King James Version is
criticized as containing many, serious errors; as not based on the best
manuscripts of Scripture, especially as regards the New Testament; and as
being unclear in its language. Due to the development of the English
language, it is charged, modern readers can no longer understand the KJV.:
it fails to communicate the Word to modern readers. The "Preface" of the
Revised Standard Version is representative of this criticism. It states:
"the King James Version has grave defects ... (which) call for revision of
the English translation." One of these defects is that "The King James
Version of the New Testament was based upon a Greek text that was marred
by mistakes, containing the accumulated errors of fourteen centuries of
manuscript copying ... We now possess many more ancient manuscripts of the
New Testament, and are far better equipped to seek to recover the original
wording of the Greek text."
A major reason for revision of the King James
Version, which is valid for both the Old Testament and the New
Testament, is the change since 1611 in English usage. Many forms of
expression have become archaic.
Other words are obsolete and no longer understood by
the common reader. The greatest problem, however, is presented by the
English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different
meaning from that which they had in 1611 and in the King James Version.
The modern versions make the claim that they will give
the Word in a clear, up-to-date manner.
If the King James Version were the Bible originally
inspired by God—the so-called "autographa"—there would be no problem with
the modern versions. In this case, we would simply condemn them as
deviations and demand that men stick with the version inspired by God. But
this is not what the King James Version is. It is a translation by men in
the early 1600's of certain documents called manuscripts that have come
down to us in the original languages of Scripture: Hebrew and Greek.
The King James Version is not a perfect translation. It
is to be regretted that the translators did not consistently render the
outstanding name of God in the Old Testament as Jehovah, but instead gave
it as LORD. There is archaic language in the King James Version, e.g.,
"wottest" for '"know"; "let" for "restrain" (II
Thess. 2); "conversation" for "conduct"; "take no thought" for "be not
6); etc. It is conceivable that, in time, the English language changes
to such an extent that 17th century English becomes unintelligible, and a
new translation is not only permissible, but even demanded. God's people
must have a Bible in their own language. This was a vital concern of the
Reformation. Luther translated the Bible into German. Tyndale translated
it into English. The Synod of Dordt saw to it that the Bible was
translated into Dutch. If we were stuck with a translation in the English
of Chaucer, a new translation would be required.
We are not simply against change, all
change. This would be a blind, hide-bound traditionalism, neither
defensible nor healthy. Think of the necessity, some years back, of
changing from Dutch to English in the worship services. Some fiercely
opposed this change, but we wisely made it. No, we do not simply oppose
change, but we do ask: Is the change good? This is the question regarding
the modern Bible versions.
Are They a Blessing? Or a Curse?
To be a good, usable version, a Bible must have three
qualities. First, it must be a translation that is thoroughly faithful to
the Word of God. It must be faithful to all the words that God inspired as
they have come down in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, i.e., it must be
the very Word of God, from beginning to end. Since all scripture is
inspired of God, an inspiration that extends to the very words (verbal
Timothy 3:15-17), the translation must be faithful with a faithfulness
that extends to the very words. This does not demand a word-for-word
translation, but it does mean that where the Spirit has "seed," as of one,
the translation must not have "seeds," as of many, and that where the
Spirit has "the Word became flesh," the translation must not put "Christ
became flesh." This characteristic is fundamental. Whatever lacks
faithfulness is worthless, in fact, a threat, for a book purporting to be
the Bible, the Word of God, is not the Word, but a word of man.
Secondly, a good version must be clear. It must be
clear to "the common man." Every believer, though he be a youth behind a
plough, must be able to read and understand the particular version of
Scripture. The great translator, Tyndale, put it this way: "If God spare
my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth a plough shall
know more of the Scriptures than thou doest." Clarity is an inherent
quality of God's Scripture. The New Testament, as is well known, was
written in the Greek of the common people—not the Greek of the
universities. This is also a basic requirement of a Bible version, hardly
inferior to the requirement of faithfulness.
Thirdly, a version should have a good style, a
pleasing, smooth-flowing, readable style. The style should also be
dignified. There must be a dignity about the version, It is God's Word
after all, the Word of the majestic, holy, glorious God. This condemns the
slangy, vulgar hip-talk and jive of some modern versions, which, although
promoted as "the language of the people, is not the language of the
people, but the language of a certain, limited, obnoxious segment of the
people. It is certainly not the language of GOD, and this is what the
In the light of these requirements, the modern Bible
versions are seen to be a curse, not a blessing for the church. They are
doing incalculable harm and threaten to do still more harm in the future.
I hasten to add that this does not mean that we may not have them and use
them along with the King James Version, always checking them against the
original or a reliable English translation such as the King James Version.
I have many versions and use them, even the one that angers me the most
and that I can use only to point out its errors—The Living Bible.
But I have reference to the modern versions as replacements for the King
James Version and as Bibles that are used regularly in home, school, and
They fail the test of the first fundamental
requirement: faithfulness to the inspired Word. Failing in this, they also
fail the second test: clarity—they do not clearly give the reader the very
Word of God. They either corrupt or hide important doctrines of Holy
Scripture: creation; the Trinity; the deity of Jesus; total depravity;
predestination; and others. I will show this a little later.
There is a reason for this. The explanation is the
apostasy of the Protestant churches since the days of the King James
Version. All of the modern versions have appeared after the 1800's, the
age of unbelief regarding the doctrine of the infallible inspiration of
Scripture. Originating in Germany, this unbelief—known as "higher
criticism"—spread throughout the world. Since it was unbelief regarding
the fundamental doctrine of the inspiration of Holy Scripture—really, the
denial that Scripture is the Word of God—it extended to ALL the doctrines
of the Christian religion. Creation was doubted; the Virgin Birth was
questioned; total depravity through the transgression of a real first
parent was denied. NOTHING taught in the Bible was believed any longer.
The theologians and ministers who translate the Bible are no longer strong
in the Lord and faithful. Their unbelief becomes evident in their
translation. It must. Whether the erroneous translations are deliberate or
not—and I am convinced that much is deliberate corruption of the Word—the spiritual weakness of the modern Protestant
church is necessarily
reflected in their versions of the Bible. Men have helped translate Holy
Scripture who personally deny the doctrine of inspiration, the doctrine of
creation, the doctrine of the fall, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the
It takes a strong church and believing men to translate
the Bible, and our age does not abound with such. It is not enough to have
expert knowledge of Hebrew and Greek—this is not even the main
qualification of a translator. But one must have a child-like faith that
the Bible is the Word of God, an utter dependence upon Scripture as the
foundation of the church, and such a reverence for it that one trembles at
its Word. Such men were Tyndale, Luther, the King James men, and the
Reformed theologians and preachers of Dordt. Where are they today?
The presence of bad translations in the church and
their use by the people is a serious matter. People do not take the threat
of bad versions seriously enough. Parents let them come into their homes
and schools, and consistories allow them in the pews. The seriousness is
simply this, that the Bible is the basis of everything for Protestantism.
"Scripture alone" is our confession. It is different for Rome. Their
authority is the church itself, expressing itself through the Pope.
Whether there are Bibles or not, is not vital for Rome. But for the true
church of Jesus Christ, for the Reformed church, Scripture is the sole
basis of doctrine and life, the foundation of the church herself. Since
Scripture has this position, the Bible that is in use in a church will
affect and mould every aspect of the faith and life of the church and
every aspect of the faith and life of the members of the church. If the
Bible version is a bad one, it will gradually overhaul everything for the
worse. There is no more effective, no more certain, no more thorough
method for a church to commit spiritual suicide than to bring in a bad
Bible and let it have its way in the congregation.
Significant doctrines of the Christian faith have been
established on the basis of exact readings of certain texts. If these
texts are changed in the version used by the people, the doctrines are
jeopardized in the mind of the people and will eventually be lost. When
the doctrine crumbles, the edifice of a godly life, built on this
foundation of doctrine, will also topple, e.g., the Christian church has
laid down the doctrine of total depravity, over against the Pelagian
heresy of the innate goodness of man, on the basis of such passages as
Ephesians 2:1, which says that the natural man is "dead in trespasses
and sins," and
Romans 8:7, which teaches that the carnal mind "is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be." This cardinal doctrine is the ground
of the humility of the Christian life—it is the death-blow to all human
pride. When The Living Bible translates the former passage so as to
omit the word, "dead" and the latter so as to omit the word, "can" thus
leaving out the truth that man lacks the ABILITY to obey the law, it
undermines the doctrine of total depravity, opens the door to Pelagius,
and produces proud people.
Think once of the essential importance of the bible of
the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses for that synagogue of Satan and its
miserable heresy. Everyone is aware, I suppose, that the Bible with which
they come to our door is not our Bible, but their own special creation. It
is no more the Bible of the Christian faith than is The Book of Mormon or
the Koran. The bible of the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses is a deliberate
perversion of the Bible, (masquerading as a version) to get rid of the
Bible's teaching of the Deity of Jesus and the Trinity. In their bible,
they have made
John 1:1, where the apostle states that the Word Who became flesh in
Jesus Christ "was God," read: "and the Word was a god." 'This bible has
results—it results in another body than the true Church of Christ, a
sect, and it results in the everlasting damnation of all those whom it
leads astray. They call their bible, by the way The New World
Translation of the Holy Scriptures. It is not without its grim humor
that the Watchtower group pushes its bible by means of the same come-on
used by the modern versions: "Read the Word of God in modern-day English."
Think also of the importance to Rome in its controversy
with the Reformed faith of its own peculiar version of Scripture. Rome's
version in English has long been the Douay Bible. Recently, a new
Roman Catholic version in English has appeared: The Jerusalem Bible.
These versions include the apocryphal books of the Old Testament from
which Rome can prove its doctrines of purgatory, prayers for the dead, and
meritorious good works, and translate key passages in a way favourable to
Rome, e.g., The Jerusalem Bible renders
Matthew 1:25 thus: "and, though he had not had intercourse with her,
she gave birth to a son," etc. - in this way protecting Rome's doctrine of
Mary's perpetual virginity and undergirding the whole of Rome's
Mariolatry. Again, it gives
Romans 8:28 as: "We know that by turning everything to their good God
co-operates with all those who love him ..." thus promoting Rome's
fundamental teaching of synergism.
So, it should be evident to all that what version the
church uses is an important matter. In opposing corrupt versions, we are
fighting essentially the same battle that our spiritual ancestors fought
in the Reformation: the battle for the presence and authority of the Word
of God. The only difference is that then the Bible was withheld from the
church, whereas now it is buried and distorted by multitudes of bad
What About Certain, Specific Modern Versions?
We should demonstrate and prove our charges against the
We cannot refer to all of them—time and space forbid
it. Let us pick several that are popular, widely regarded as the best, and
representative of the others.
First there is the Revised Standard Version. It
is the Bible of the "liberal," i.e., heretical, National Council of
Churches and reflects the unbelief of the heretical leaders of this group.
It weakens the Biblical teachings regarding the Virgin Birth, the deity of
Jesus, and the Trinity. In
Isaiah 7:14, it has: "a young woman shall conceive," for: "a virgin
shall conceive." In
Micah 5:2, where the prophet says that the coming Christ has been
"from everlasting," the RSV has: "from ancient days." In
John 1:14,18 and
John 3:16, where the original Greek calls Jesus the "only begotten
Son," thus teaching that Jesus is the eternal and natural Son of God, the
RSV indefensibly translates: "the only Son." In
I Timothy 3:16, where the King James Version reads: "God was
manifest in the flesh," thus clearly teaching that Jesus is God in the
flesh, the RSV merely has: "He was manifested in the flesh."
The New English Bible (NEB) appeared in 1970. It
was produced by the major Protestant churches in Britain. Louise Cassels,
then religion editor for Associated Press, called it, "The best of all
modern translations." It is an attractive book with a pleasing style. I
can remember that when I first saw it I thought: "Perhaps, this will be
the version that faithfully translates Scripture into good, modern
English." I can also remember my disappointment as I began reading in the
first chapter of Genesis. Already in the second verse of the Bible, the
unfaithfulness of this version is evident. where the King James Version
reads: "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," the NEB
has: "and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters." The
Holy Spirit is removed from
Genesis 1 and from the work of creation. In
Isaiah 7:14, the NEB has "young woman," for "virgin." It horribly
Isaiah 9:6, a brilliant revelation of Jesus' deity in the Old
Testament. The NEB reads: "For a boy has been born for us ... and he shall
be called in purpose wonderful, in battle God-like, Father for all time,
Prince of peace." Shades of old Arius—the Jesus concerning whom the text
really says that He is "the mighty God, the everlasting Father" now
John 1:1 is corrupted. The NEB reads, in this crucial passage: "and
what God was, the Word was." But the original states flatly: "and God was
the Word," or as our King James Version puts it: "and the Word was God."
The NEB errs noticeably also in passages that teach the sovereignty of God
in salvation and in damnation.
Romans 8:28 is made to read: "he co-operates for good with those who
Acts 13:48 reads: "and those who were marked out for eternal life
became believers" (the King James Version correctly has: "and as many as
were ORDAINED to eternal life believed.").
Romans 9:15 is translated: "Where I show mercy, I will show mercy,"
when in fact the apostle wrote: "I will have mercy on whom I will have
mercy," referring to particular persons.
What About the Living Bible?
The Bible that is all the rage today is The Living
Bible. It is available in many different forms and editions, e.g.,
Reach Out, The Greatest is Love, The Way, Living
Letters, etc. But they are all the same Bible. The Living Bible
is Kenneth Taylor's paraphrase of Scripture, published by Tyndale House,
distributed widely by the World Home Bible League, and on sale everywhere.
It is at once the worst and the most popular of all the modern versions of
The Living Bible is, inherently, an attack upon,
indeed it makes a mockery of, the doctrine of Scripture's infallible,
verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit. It purports to be the Bible, in
fact, arrogantly, it claims to be a LIVING Bible in distinction from the
other versions which presumably are then DEAD ones, and it is being
received and used as the Bible. However, it is a paraphrase, i.e., it
gives what the author conceives to be the sense of a passage, and it gives
the sense of the passage in the author's words quite in disregard of the
words which the Spirit inspired. It is not faithful to God's Word; it
replaces God's Word with the words of man. If such a "Bible" is
acceptable, infallible, verbal inspiration is a farce.
The Living Bible is filled with false doctrine.
Genesis 6:2 solemnly tells us that "beings from the
spirit world looked upon the beautiful earth women and took
any they desired to be their wives," and verse 4 says that
"evil beings from the spirit world were sexually involved
with human women," introducing the nonsense of Greek
mythology into Scripture a teaching as foolish as it is
erroneous. We will bypass other, similar errors, for the
main evil of The Living Bible is that it is an
all-out attack on the Reformed faith—it is the Bible of Arminianism, the gospel of man's free will. Anyone
interested in a more detailed analysis of The Living Bible
than that given in this pamphlet can write the distributors
of this pamphlet for the brochure, "An Examination of Reach
Out and The Greatest is Love."
Acts 13:48 reads, "and as many as wanted eternal life,
Romans 8:28 reads: "And we know that all that happens to
us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting
into His plans"—a rendering which, if correct, would have
been enough to have routed the entire Synod of Dordt.
Romans 9 cannot be recognized: "This proves that God was
doing what He had decided from the beginning; it was not
because of what the children did but because of what God
wanted and chose" (v. 11); "I chose to bless Jacob, but not
Esau" (v. 13); "God's blessings are not given just because
someone decides to have them ..." (v. 16); "God told him
[i.e., Pharaoh] He had given him the kingdom of Egypt for
the very purpose of displaying the awesome power of God
against him" (v. 17); "fit only for destruction" (v. 22);
etc. One only needs to compare these verses with the correct
translation in the King James Version to see that The
Living Bible has gone through the Scriptures replacing
the testimony of the sovereignty of grace with the message
of the dependency of salvation upon the will of man. This is
every bit as serious as the denial of the Deity of Christ.
In addition, The Living Bible represents and promotes
the religious movement that downgrades doctrine, preaching, and the
instituted Church of Christ and substitutes feeling, experience, and
individualism. As such, it serves as a powerful instrument of the
ecumenical movement. Most significant is the introduction—by a Roman
Catholic priest—to The Way, the Roman Catholic edition of The
Living Bible. Concerning The Living Bible, which he heartily
recommends, the priest states: "This present volume departs radically from
(the) history of Scriptural translations ... Perhaps more than other
translations, this translation cannot be used as a basis for Doctrinal or
traditional disputes. More than other English versions of the Bible, this
one freely departs from a literal translation from the original languages
... Most readers of the Bible who choose this translation will not be
interested in such technical, theological considerations. They will be
looking for spirit and life from the Word of God. We rejoice in our chance
to encourage and help those who approach the Scriptures for this reason.
We caution those who wish to engage in theological disputes not to use
this volume." A genuine Protestant, much less a Reformed man, needs to
hear no more.
To this "Bible," we are totally and unalterably
opposed. If it should prevail among us, the Reformed faith would be
destroyed. It may not be the Bible that we use at home, in school, in our
personal study, or in any aspect of the life of the Church. Our young
people must be aware that it is another arm of the power of the lie that
we fight as Reformed saints. It is a wicked effort to destroy God's Word,
as wicked as Jehoiakim's burning of the Scriptures that he disliked, or
Thomas Jefferson's whittling down the Bible to the sermon on the mount.
That Reformed people and Reformed institutions can smile on it only shows
how little knowledge of and love for the Reformed faith there is today.
Can We Still Use the King James Version?
If the modern versions are unsatisfactory, what then?
We can and should continue to use the King James Version. It is faithful,
completely faithful to the infallibly inspired, sacred Scriptures. No one
has ever accused it of unfaithfulness. Even those passages that are not
found in the better manuscripts, e.g.,
I John 5:7, are not contrary to sound doctrine, but are in harmony
with the teaching of Scripture in other, uncontested passages. The King
James Version IS the Word of God; when you have it before you, you have
the uncorrupted Word. You can trust it, rely on it, and safely let it
continue to work its work on the Church, on your home and family, on your
Christian school, and on your personal Christian life. It is faithful, and
this is the main criterion of a Bible version.
The King James Version is also clear. There are odd
words now and then, words unfamiliar to 20th century Americans, but on the
whole it is clear. It is clear in
Genesis 1 regarding creation; it is clear in
Genesis 3 regarding the fall; it is clear in the gospels regarding
salvation in Jesus; it is clear in the historical books; it is clear
everywhere. I deny the common charge that the King James Version is
impenetrably murky, especially for children. I did not find it so for
myself as a child and a youth; I do not find it so for my own family of
small children; I do not find it so for the many children and young people
in the congregation. Rather, I find that a child can understand the King
Concerning the excellent style of the King James
Version, any praise from me would be superfluous. Its beauty is
well-known. It has moulded our thinking, our writing, and our speaking. It
has the dignity and solemnity that befits the Word of God.
Besides, it uses the words of the Church of the past,
the language of the creeds, so that the person who learns the King James
Version also becomes familiar with the terms of Church history and Church
doctrine: justification, sanctification, regeneration, predestination, and
the like. The new versions are dropping these words, and we may expect
that we will shortly hear that the old creeds must be scrapped or revised,
because "no one understands their terminology anymore."
We need feel no compulsion to change Bibles just
because change is the order of the day. We are the CHURCH, the only solid
reality in all the changing, fickle world, and we are solid because we are
builded on the imperishable, unchanging Word of God. In the world, there
is a craze for new things; everything old is despised—every few years a
new car with a radically different design; new stereo equipment regularly;
a new style of clothing whether the old is worn out or not; even a new
wife or husband periodically. This creeps into the Church too: every other
year a new gospel, now Barthianism, then the death of God message, and who
knows what after that; pop-top, throw-away creeds to reflect every passing
religious fad; and, now, throwaway Bibles—today The Living Bible
and perhaps another version next year. This confuses the people of God.
One evidence of this confusion is the weakness of the present generation
of young people as concerns memorization of the Bible. With all their
different versions, they memorize none of them.
We should stick to the King James Version, but we must
USE it, really and diligently use it. The problem today, whether for young
or old, is not that the King James Version is dark and hard to understand,
but that we are not faithful to read and study it and that parents and
churches are unfaithful in teaching it. The appalling ignorance of
the Word in our age is not an intellectual problem, but a spiritual one.
There is a demand that everything come easily; people want an easy-chair,
push-button life—also as regards the knowledge of the Word and things
spiritual. The children in catechism, used to the lazy, sit-back-and-relax
"instruction" of television, have the attitude, "Now entertain us, and get
through to us if you can." Grown-ups desire instant, painless attainment
of Christian maturity, and even perfection, by turning the switch of "the
baptism of the Spirit" in Pentecostalism. The same thing holds true with
regard to the knowledge of Scripture—it must be made easy. So, we get
"Bibles" with racy covers, striking pictures and comments on all kinds of
current events scattered throughout, and a watered-down content. But
growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is not easy. Scripture
is clear, but it is not easy. God gives us knowledge of the Word through
hard study, memorization, work! This is true for pastors, adults, and
Let the churches preach and teach the Word; let the
parents read and explain it to their children at home; let the Christian
school teachers teach it at school; and let every child of God study it
daily on his own. Then, there will be knowledge of the Scriptures among us
as there was in former times.
APPENDIX: THE ENGLISH
TRANSLATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
David J. Engelsma
The subject of the English translation of the Bible
becomes complicated, especially in the unavoidable area of textual
criticism. There are some 5,000 manuscripts (MSS) of the Greek New
Testament, each with its name, date, and contribution to the New Testament
text. This field of study has its jargon ("genealogy"; "text-type";
"conflation"; etc.). The subject plunges us at once into controversy: the
King James Version (KJV) versus the modern versions; the majority of MSS
versus Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph) MSS; Burgon versus Westcott
and Hort (W-H). Besides, the material is voluminous. Books, pamphlets, and
English Bibles multiply. Not only the layman, but also the pastor is
inclined to throw up his hands in despair of ever coming to know the
But the subject is obviously of great importance. It
concerns the Bible that we use in the church and in our personal life—the very heart of our ecclesiastical and spiritual life.
Nor can we ignore the issue: which English Bible? Many
new versions have been published and are clamouring for our acceptance.
They demand acceptance on grounds that must be taken seriously: better MS
basis; clearer translation; more helpful for the twentieth century church.
The advocates of these versions make the sharpest criticisms of the KJV
and of our continued use of the KJV. Our people, especially our young
people, are affected by the modern versions and their claims. Some begin
to use a modern version for private devotions; others carry a modern
version to Bible study; and others ask whether it is proper for the family
to use a modern version in family devotions.
A survey of the history of the English Bible shows that
the KJV was the only English Bible from 1611 to the end of the nineteenth
century. In 1881-1885, the Revised Version (RV) was published in England.
(The American Standard Version is the American form of the RV, published
in 1901.) The publication of the RV was a turning point in the history of
the English Bible. It was not merely a revision of the KJV, although
seemingly this was the expressed intention. But it was a version based on
different MSS in the New Testament than those used by the KJ translators.
These were the newly discovered MSS, B and Aleph. The men mainly
responsible for the rejection of the MSS used by the KJ translators and
for the adoption of B and Aleph were two English scholars, B.F. Westcott
and F.J.A. Hort. They were the heroes or the villains in the story of the
English Bible from about 1870 to the present time. For the many versions
that followed the RV basically adopted the Greek text of the New Testament
proposed by W-R. These versions include the Revised Standard Version
(RSV); the New English Bible (NEB); Today's English Version (TEV, also
known as Good News for Modern Man); and the New International Version
It must be noted from the outset, that those who
promote the new versions criticize the KJV, not only as an inadequate
translation for twentieth century men (e.g., using archaic words), but
also as based on an inferior Greek text. Hort, with something less than
scholarly objectivity, contemned the Greek text behind the KJV, the
Textus Receptus (TR), as "vile" and "villainous."
In the past, some preachers have defended the KJV as
the best English translation, while conceding that the MSS behind the new
versions are the best Greek MSS of the New Testament and that they give
the better reading in places where they differ with the text behind the
KJV. How often, e.g., have not our people been told at Christmas,
Luke 2:14, "Now the better reading of the text is, '... and on earth
peace to men of good-pleasure"'? This seems to me to be an indefensible,
and, in the long run, impossible, position. I contend that the KJV is the
best English version, not only because it is the best translation (i.e.,
as regards faithfulness to the Hebrew and Greek of Scripture; clarity; and
beauty), but also because it is based on the best MSS—the MSS that
faithfully transmit to us the original Scriptures, particularly the
Scriptures of the New Testament. We should heed VanBruggen, Pickering, the
Trinitarian Bible Society, Burgon, and others who ask concerning the
theory of W-H, whether the emperor has any clothes, and who defend the
text of the KJV the Majority, or Byzantine, or Traditional, Text.
Criticism of Various, Modern English Versions
Many of the modern versions are to be criticized apart
from the matter of the Greek text of the New Testament.
The Living Bible, among its countless faults, is
a biased paraphrase of Scripture, in which no regard is shown for the
verbal inspiration of the Bible. The human author of this best-selling
book, which is neither the Bible nor living, has wilfully and
systematically corrupted the passages that teach salvation by sovereign
Rom. 8:28ff.; and
Romans 9, throughout). It is a repository of false doctrine.
Good News for Modern Man, or TEV, weakens the
Deity of Jesus, e.g., in
John 1:1 ("Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he
was with God, and he was the same as God"), and in
Romans 9:5 ("they are descended from the patriarchs, and Christ, as a
human being, belongs to their race. May God, who rules over all, be
praised for ever! Amen."). it translates "virgin" as "girl" in
Luke 1:27. It omits "begotten" in
John 1:14, 18 and elsewhere in John. As is well known, it
systematically translates "blood" as "death," e.g., in
Acts 20:28 ("... Be shepherds of the church of God, which he made his
own through the death of his own Son"—where the Godhead of Jesus is also
obscured by the translation), thus robbing the church of the precious
comfort of the blood-theology of Holy Scripture. Throughout, this version
omits, adds, and changes words at its pleasure.
The New English Bible is ravaged with
theological modernism. In
Genesis 1:2 it has a "mighty wind" sweeping over the waters of the
Isaiah 7:14, "virgin" is translated "young woman."
Isaiah 9:6 raises ancient Arius from the dead: "For a boy has been
born for us ... and he shall be called in purpose wonderful, in battle
God-like ..." God is stripped of His sovereignty and the saints, of their
Romans 8:28: "and in everything ... he co-operates for good with those
who love God ..."
The Revised Standard Version renders "virgin" as
"young woman" in
Isaiah 7:14; "from everlasting" as "from ancient days" in
Micah 5:2; and "only begotten" as "only" in
John 1:14, 18 and elsewhere in John—thus weakening the testimony to
the Godhead of Jesus.
Evident in these representative versions is a weakening
of Scripture's testimony to the Godhead of Jesus and, therefore, to the
Trinity, and a weakening of Scripture's teaching of God's sovereignty.
Glaringly evident is the disbelief on the part of the translators of the
doctrine of the infallible inspiration of Holy Scripture, extending to all
its parts—the doctrine which the church has expressed as "verbal
inspiration." This is the reason why the translators paraphrase Scripture;
deliberately falsify the words of Scripture; change the words; and add or
It is this unbelief concerning Scripture's inspiration
which also accounts for the theory of translating which gains ground
today, namely, "dynamic equivalence." In the interests of putting the
language of Scripture into the language that the people of a certain age
and culture will understand, this theory permits the translator to depart
widely from the very words which God breathed out in the Hebrew and Greek
Scriptures. The reader of a version which has been translated according to
the theory of dynamic equivalence cannot be sure that he has God's Word at
any point; the word may well be the word of the translator. The main
proponent of this theory is Eugene A. Nida, who holds important positions
in both the United Bible Societies and The American Bible Society.1
Nida himself indicates how this theory of translation may affect the
doctrinal content of the English Bible:
One of the most common interpretations of the
atonement has been substitutionary, in the sense that Christ took upon
Himself our sins and died in our place as a substitutive sacrifice. This
interpretation, true and valuable as it may be for many, is not
communicable to many persons today, for they simply do not think in such
categories ... the presentation of the Atonement in terms of
reconciliation is more meaningful, since in this way they can understand
more readily how God could be in Christ reconciling the world to
Our objection to this theory of translating does not
imply the demand for a literal, word-for-word translation. As Luther,
masterful translator of the German Bible, insisted in defense of his own
work, translation of Scripture requires the freedom to express the text in
the idiom of the people for whom Scripture is being translated. The Bible
must be made to speak German, or English, or Chinese. At times, this means
that the translator gives up the words of the original Hebrew and Greek
and renders the thought of the passage in different words.
... at many places we have departed rather freely
from the letter of the original ... Again in
Psalm 68 we ran quite a risk, relinquishing the words and rendering
the sense. For this many know-it-alls will criticize us, to be sure, and
even some pious souls may take offense. But what is the point of
needlessly adhering so scrupulously and stubbornly to words which one
cannot understand anyway? Whoever would speak German must not use Hebrew
style. Rather he must see to it—once he understands the Hebrew
author—that he concentrates on the sense of the text, asking himself,
"Pray tell, what do the Germans say in such a situation?" Once he has
the German words to serve the purpose, let him drop the Hebrew words and
express the meaning freely in the best German he knows.3
But this necessary freedom in translating differs
essentially from the changing of the text of Scripture by "dynamic
equivalence." For even the free translation of Luther was always a
faithful rendering of the thought and meaning of the original. Besides,
when it came to doctrines, Luther translated literally, keeping strictly
to the words of the original. Here, he was willing to sacrifice the German
idiom. If, at times, he made the Jews speak German, Luther also made the
Germans learn Hebrew.
On the other hand we have at times also translated
quite literally—even though we could have rendered the meaning more
clearly another way - because everything turns on these very words ...
out of respect for ... doctrine ... we should keep such words, accustom
ourselves to them, and so give place to the Hebrew language where it
does a better job than our German.4 I have been
very careful to see that where everything turns on a single passage, I
have kept to the original quite literally and have not lightly departed
Luther's concern to be faithful to the inspired Word in
translating comes out in his defense of that particular translation which
was most vehemently attacked:
Romans 3:28. As is well known, Luther's translation "inserted" the
word, "only" (German: allein). Admittedly, this word does not
appear in the original Greek. The Roman Catholics professed outrage and
accused Luther of deliberately tampering with the text, in order to
buttress his beloved doctrine of justification by faith only. Luther does
not admit to any "insertion" of a word into the Bible, without any warrant
in the text itself. On the contrary, the word, "only," is called for by
the meaning of the text itself and by good German usage. The thought of
the apostle Paul in
Romans 3:28, justification by faith without the deeds of the law, is
that expressed by the word, "only." In addition, good German often uses
"only," when an affirmative and a negative statement are contrasted. The
word, "only," is not necessary in a German translation of
Romans 3:28; but it does make Paul's statement "more complete and more
intelligible" than would be the case if it were omitted.6
In contrast to Luther's faithfulness to the inspired
Word, "dynamic equivalence" produces versions which change the Word of
God, not only as regards words, but also as regards sense, thought, and
doctrine. But a Bible is worthless, if it cannot be trusted to give
faithfully and reliably the Word inspired by God.
Although a main objection to the New International
Version concerns the Greek text of the New Testament used in its
translation, also the NIV often fails faithfully to give in English the
words of the Hebrew and Greek original. According to David Stark, in a
brochure, "Prove all Things," "the whole O.T. is riddled through with
textual reconstruction, independent of the Hebrew Manuscript Authority.
This is done twenty-one times in the book of First Chronicles, alone!"
VanBruggen writes: "In the N.T., the ... is also too free in its
translation." He illustrates this charge in an "Appendix."7
Other weaknesses of the NIV are its translation of "only begotten Son" as
"one and only Son, "or "only Son" (omitting "begotten"), in the Gospel of
John and the First Epistle of John, and its footnotes which destroy the
confidence of the reader in basic teachings of Scripture at crucially
important passages. At
Romans 9:5, e.g., the NIV translates correctly, "... Christ, who is
God over all, forever praised! Amen.;" but a footnote casts doubt on this
clear teaching of the Deity of Christ: "Or Christ, who is over all. God be
forever praised! Or Christ. God who is over all be forever praised!"
Heretical views of Holy Scripture prevail in the
churches today, especially among the scholars and theologians. There is
the view that the Bible is only the fallible testimony of Israel and of
the church to Jehovah and to Jesus of Nazareth. But there is also the view
that Scripture as given by God cannot effectively communicate to modern
men, or to certain groups of modern men, e.g., the youth. It must be
adapted by the church, in order to be able to speak to men today. These
low views of the Word of God influence the translation of the Bible. They
give the translators license to render Scripture almost as they please.
This is seen today in the version being prepared by the National Council
of Churches which will filter the Bible through the mind of the women's
liberation movement, even though we lose our Heavenly Father and our Elder
Brother in the process. I suppose that these translators are sincere and
that their work on this version is consistent with their view of
Scripture: it must be made to speak to twentieth century "liberated"
women, if not to a unisex society. It is not at all inconceivable that
future versions will be made to "communicate" with Marxists; proponents of
liberation theology; homosexuals; and those who take salvation as a purely
There is a spiritual issue, here - the issue raised in
Isaiah 66:2: "... but to this man will I look, even to him that is
poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word"; in
John 10:35: "... and the scripture cannot be broken"; and in
Revelation 22:19: "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
In light of this consideration of a reliable
translation alone, how excellent is the KJV. It is a perfectly faithful
and reliable translation into English of the Hebrew and Greek original.
Men translated it who believed the Bible to be a divine, and not a human,
book, and who believed that God would be able to "communicate" with His
people by the words which He inspired, faithfully rendered in English.
Such men are required for the translating of the Bible.
It is not enough that they be scholars of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
and adepts in the language into which the Bible is translated; but they
must also be godly, orthodox saints who reverence Scripture as the holy
Word, wholly God-breathed.
Ah, translating is not every man's skill as the mad
saints imagine. It requires a right, devout, honest, sincere,
God-fearing, Christian, trained, informed, and experienced heart.
Therefore I hold that no false Christian or factious spirit can be a
The Issue of the Greek Text of the New Testament
It is impossible, however, to do justice to the subject
of the English Bible without treating the issue of the authentic Greek
text of the New Testament. (As concerns the Hebrew text of the Old
Testament, there is no controversy; there is one Hebrew text—the
"Masoretic Text.") The controversy concerns the Greek text of the New
Testament; and the issue makes a significant difference in the New
Testament that is put into the hands of the people of God in an English
The facts in the case are these. The KJ
translators used Greek MSS that represent the type of Greek
text supported by an overwhelming majority of extant Greek
MSS of the New Testament. There are, according to Wilbur N.
Pickering, more than 5,000 Greek MSS of the New Testament.9
Eighty to ninety percent of these MSS are in basic agreement
among themselves. The Greek text contained in this majority
of MSS is known as the Majority Text, the Byzantine Text, or
the Traditional Text (TT). The text of the KJV, which
belongs to this majority of MSS, but is not perfectly
identical with the TT, is known as the Textus Receptus
(TR)—the "Received Text." This text was accepted as the
authentic text of the New Testament by the Protestant Church
from the Reformation to the nineteenth century and by the
Greek Church for more than a thousand years before the
Reformation. In the nineteenth century, Westcott and Hort
asserted the superiority of a type of text represented by a
small minority of Greek MSS, particularly Codex Vaticanus
(B) and Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), which had recently been
discovered. They made this text, which they called "Neutral"
and which is now called "Alexandrian," the basis of the RV
of 1881-1885. Their rejection of the TR and of the TT won
the day, not without strong protest, most notably by John W.
Burgon, an outstanding scholar in the field of textual
criticism in the nineteenth century. All the modern
versions, including the NIV, adopt the position of W-H and
are based, in the New Testament, upon the text which they
proposed. Basically, this is the text found in B and Aleph,
In his review of Burgon's works, B. B. Warfield remarks
that there was some truth in the reproach of Hort, "that he looked upon B
as an infallible voice proceeding from the Vatican and upon the
combination B Aleph as a manifest deliverance from heaven itself."10
Many Reformed and Presbyterian preachers have accepted
the theory of W-H.
Probably, they use a Nestle-Aland, United Bible
Societies edition of the New Testament. And they are accustomed, now and
again, to tell the congregation that a reading in B or Aleph is "better"
than the reading of the TT.
At the same time, some stoutly maintain and vigorously
defend the KJV.
This is an indefensible position. First, an integral
part of the W-H theory is its sharp attack on the KJV. The "preface" of
the RSV is typical:
... the KJV has grave defects ... these defects are
so many and so serious as to call for revision of the English
translation ... The KJV of the N.T. was based upon a Greek text that was
marred by mistakes, containing the accumulated errors of fourteen
centuries of manuscript copying ... We now possess many more ancient
manuscripts of the N.T., and are far better equipped to seek to recover
the original wording of the Greek text.
D. A. Carson makes the same charge: "the textual basis
of the TR is a small number of haphazardly collected and relatively late
minuscule manuscripts ..."11 To adopt the W-H theory
is to accept this criticism of the KJV.
tradition ("We have learned to love the KJV," etc.) cannot,
in the end, hold out against other, vehement attacks being
made upon the KJV from conservative and Reformed quarters.
The plain truth of the matter is that the version
that is so cherished among senior (sic!) saints who have more or less
come to terms with Elizabethan English, is obscure, confusing, and
sometimes even incomprehensible to many younger or poorly educated
He quotes Edwin H. Palmer, spokesman for the NIV,
attacking the KJV almost fiercely:
Do not give them a loaf of bread, covered with an
inedible, impenetrable crust, fossilized by three and a half centuries.
Give them the word of God as fresh and warm and clear as the Holy Spirit
gave it to the authors of the Bible ... For any preacher or theologian
who loves God's Word to allow that Word to go on being misunderstood
because of the veneration of an archaic, not-understood version of four
centuries ago is inexcusable, and almost unconscionable.13
Third, preachers weaken the people's trust in the
reliability of the Bible which they use when they so often and so casually
say, "The reading of the KJV is wrong; the better reading is ..." I find
evidence of mistrust when, in a debate in a Bible study class, a member
will say, "Maybe the Greek is different," or, somewhat cynically,
"Probably, the original has something else."
At the very least, we ought to subject the W-H theory
to a critical examination. Our love for the KJV and the obvious, serious
weaknesses of the modern versions should motivate us to do this. It is to
be feared that Reformed men, including the influential Warfield, accepted
the views of W-H uncritically, without seeing the weaknesses and
implications of their theory.
Perhaps Wilbur N. Pickering is too strong when, having
examined the W-H critical theory, he concludes: "It is evidently erroneous
at every point."14 But his careful examination
clearly shows that it certainly would not be too strong to conclude that
the W-H theory is unproven at every point. One cannot but ask, "Why
was their theory so readily and widely accepted as gospel truth in the
realm of textual criticism?"
The W-H theory chooses the few older MSS rather than
the many later MSS. But it is not proved that the oldest are the best; it
is not proved that the oldest MSS contain the authentic text. There is
reason to suspect the oldest MSS. All are from one region - Egypt, where
the climate allows for the preservation of MSS. The oldest MSS differ
greatly from each other; "B and Aleph ... disagree over 3,000 times in the
space of the four Gospels. "15 The very fact that
these MSS exist at all may be evidence that the church did not use
The W-H theory rejects the testimony of the majority of
Greek MSS because they are alleged to be a later text. It is now freely
admitted by some defenders of the W-H text that the TT is an ancient text,
going back at least to the time of B and Aleph. It is demonstrated that
Byzantine, or Traditional, readings appear in the MSS and in the church
fathers long before Nicea (A.D. 325).
The W-H theory discounts the majority because they are
said to be one, related family. All of the Majority MSS are said to derive
from one, common, parent MS. Therefore, the testimony of the many MSS
carries little weight. But this dogma of W-H concerning genealogy is not
proved. Indeed, there is solid evidence that, although there is essential
agreement among the majority of MSS (which are not limited to one region,
but are scattered through all parts of Christendom), the Majority MSS are
not related genealogically.
The W-H theory attempts to account for the TT and for
its dominance by positing a recension of the Greek text by one Lucian of
Antioch (d. A.D. 311). A "recension" is a deliberate, editorial revision
of the text of Scripture, by which a new text is composed from existing,
earlier texts. This revised text, then, becomes the "official" text used
by the church. Bruce M. Metzger notes that the assertion of W-H, that "the
Byzantine text is an essentially revised text—following sometimes one,
sometimes another of the earlier texts," is the crux of the W-H theory.16
For at one fell swoop, the TT is judged a later, unreliable, and
unauthentic text of Scripture, while at the same time its popularity in
the church is accounted for. But this assertion of a recension of the
Greek text of the New Testament by Lucian is sheer speculation, devoid of
Similarly ungrounded is the assertion that the
dominance of the TT in the Greek Church from the fourth or fifth century
on was due to the extraordinary influence of Chrysostom. As the former
confidence in a supposed "Lucianic recension" fades, those who reject the
TT must look elsewhere for an explanation of the use of the TT by the
church. Some look to Chrysostom. This is how Gordon D. Fee attempts to
explain the dominance of the TT:
One can scarcely underestimate the influence of
Chrysostom in the history of the Greek Church ... It is almost inevitable
that the text form Chrysostom used first at Antioch and then later
carried to Constantinople should become the predominant text of the
The W-H theory judges the TT inferior because it
exhibits "conflation," i.e., a certain text is supposed to have combined
the different readings of two or more MSS. "Conflation is the term used to
denote ... editorial change in which two variant readings of a text are
combined forming a new reading not precisely identical with either of the
two source readings.18 The TT was alleged by Hort to
be characterized by a combining of the readings of the "Neutral" and of
the "Western" texts. As a result, the TT (called "Syrian" by Hort) is a
more complete text than the others. This, too, is mere speculation and is
rightly challenged, and exploded, today.19
The W-H theory charged that the scribes responsible for
the form of the TT deliberately added material to the text and simplified
hard readings. Hence, two sacred canons (cows?) of textual criticism are
that the shorter reading is to be preferred and that the harder reading is
to be preferred. On this basis, W-H criticized the TT for "lucidity
and completeness," "apparent simplicity," and being "conspicuously a full
text." The natural reaction is: Why should not the authentic text,
faithfully transmitting the autographa, be lucid, complete, simple, and
full? These characteristics are not unworthy of inspired Scripture!
It is this aspect of the W-H theory that may be the
most dangerous of all. Called "the internal evidence" of the readings, it
really consists of the scholar's judgment as to what the original reading
of a given passage probably was. The scholar judges that scribes added
material; the scholar decides that scribes simplified passages. There is
reason to fear that this subjectivity is manifest today in the "eclectic"
method of establishing the Greek text—a select body of scholars pick and
choose readings as suits them. The NIV acknowledges that "the Greek text
used in the work of translation was an eclectic one" ("Preface"). Should
the church be so at the mercy of the scholars in such a matter as
determining the Greek text of the New Testament? Still more, some who
develop the W-H theory of textual criticism have come to have doubts about
the very possibility of the church's possession of the authentic text of
the New Testament. In his "Introduction" to Burgon's The Last Twelve
Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark, Edward F. Hills quotes F.
The ultimate (N.T.) text, if there ever was one that
deserves to be so called, is for ever irrecoverable.20
Hills quotes Kirsopp Lake to the same effect:
In spite of the claims of W-H and of vonSoden, we do
not know the original form of the Gospels, and it is quite likely that
we never shall.21
Now this may be the personal doubt of scholars who lack
the faith that God preserves His Word, seeing to it that not one word
falls to the ground; but it may also be the final working out of the very
principles of W-H.
It is not correct to minimize the significance of this
issue of the Greek text, as though the differences in any case are minor.
According to Pickering, there are over 5,000 differences between the TT
and the text of W-H. Although many are minor, adoption of the text of W-H
means that we lose a sizable portion of the New Testament, including
John 7:53-8:11; and
John 5:3b-4. One can check these passages in TEV or NIV, to see that
the modern versions set these passages aside as uninspired. In his
convincing work, The Woman Taken in Adultery and God Was Manifested in
the Flesh, Burgon shows, among other arguments, that the omission of
John 7:53-8:11 destroys the coherence of the passage:
John 8:12 does not relate to
John 7:52.22 It is significant that the
translators of the NIV, feeling the incoherence, were forced to translate
8:12 in a manner wholly unwarranted by any Greek reading: "When Jesus
spoke again to the people, he said," etc. The Greek text does not have
"when," nor does it have "the people."
Another serious aspect of the issue is the weakening of
the doctrine of the Deity of Jesus in the text of W-H. An outstanding
I Timothy 3:16, unaccountably omitted from the chart reproduced by
D.A. Carson in which he tries to disprove the charge that the modern
versions weaken the testimony to the Godhead of Jesus.23
Where the KJV has "God was manifest in the flesh," the text of W-H and the
modern versions, including the NIV, have, "He," or "Who," thus nullifying
at a crucial point the testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ. Textually,
the reading, "God," is well-supported; indeed, the support is
overwhelming. Aleph stands virtually alone in rejecting the reading,
"God." The passage itself demands the reading, "God," just as
Isaiah 7:14 requires the translation, "virgin." No more than it is a
sign that a young woman has a child is it the great mystery of godliness
that "he" is manifest in the flesh. For myself, I will accept no Bible
that does not read "God "in
I Timothy 3:16. Yet another example is the omission of "the Son of
Mark 1:1 by the text of W-H. Where the KJV reads, "The beginning of
the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," the W-H text reads, "The
beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." Although the NIV and the New
American Standard Bible do translate, "the Son of God," in
Mark 1:1, both have weakening footnotes, that some MSS omit these
words. Other instances of a weakening of the doctrine of the deity of
Jesus by the W-H text include
Acts 20:28; and
I Corinthians 15:47.
In its fine pamphlet, "The Bible a Sure Foundation,"
the Trinitarian Bible Society points out that by its omission of the
words, "... and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him ..., " in
Luke 24:51-52, in connection with its omission of the last twelve
verses of the Gospel of Mark, the W-H text not only removes a powerful
testimony to Jesus' deity, but also the entire account of the historical
event of Jesus' Ascension in the Gospels.
In opposition to the theory of W-H, we should at least
consider, with utmost carefulness, the claim of the Greek text in the
majority of MSS to be the authentic text of the New Testament Scriptures.
This is essentially the text of our KJV. VanBruggen24,
Pickering, the TBS, and Burgon25 before them have
convincingly defended the TT on textual grounds. The TT is the text of
nineteen-twentieths of the manuscript evidence; it is an ancient text; it
is the text found everywhere in Christendom.
And this is the Greek text that the church, in the
providence of God, accepted and used for some 1500 years.
The Argument from God's Providence
Christ promised His church that she would always have
His Word: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass
24:35). This is necessarily implied in the doctrine of Scripture. If
Scripture is God-breathed, as
II Timothy 3:16 teaches, God in His providence will surely preserve
Scripture for His church in all ages. The Greek Church maintained the TT
for some 1000 years prior to the Reformation. The Protestant Churches
accepted it and used it for some 350 years (and some continue to use it to
this very day). It is, of course, the text not only of the KJV, but also
of Luther's German Bible and of the Dutch Bible of the Synod of Dordt, as
well as others.
How widely this text has prevailed in the actual use of
the church, Bruce M. Metzger, himself no advocate of the TT, indicates. It
"spread widely throughout Greek speaking lands." It was the text of the
first translation of the Bible into Teutonic language, by Ulfilas,
"apostle to the Goths," in the second half of the fourth century. It was
the text of the first translation of the Bible into a Slavic language,
thus forming "the basis of the New Testament ... for millions of Slavic
peoples." Metzger concludes:
As regards the history of the printed form of the
Greek New Testament, the so-called Textus Receptus, which was
based chiefly on manuscripts of the Antiochian recension [sic], has been
reprinted, with only minor modifications, in almost one thousand
editions from 1514 down to the twentieth century. When one considers how
many translations into the vernaculars of Europe, Asia, Africa, and
South America have been based on the Greek Textus Receptus of the
New Testament (such as the King James version or Luther's translation),
it will be appreciated how enormous has been the influence of Lucian's
recension [sic], made in Antioch about the turn of the third and fourth
centuries of the Christian era.26
Although the defenders of the text of W-H and of the
modern versions are severely critical of the argument from providence, it
is striking that W-H could never account for the use of the TT by the
church after A.D. 300, along with the disuse of the text of B and Aleph.
Nor can the present critic of the TT give satisfactory explanation.
It is, at the very least, difficult to imagine that the
genuine text went unused and largely unknown for some 1500 years, only to
be picked out of a waste-paper basket on Mt. Sinai and discovered in the
Pope's library in the nineteenth century (as Burgon sarcastically put it).
The text of B and Aleph, then, is a text which God led
the church to reject, just as He led her to reject spurious books from the
New Testament canon. The church recognized this text as corrupted by
heretics in the time when the doctrines of the deity of Jesus and of the
Trinity were being assailed, and corrupted by careless scribes who were
prone to omission.
Our Present Task
We ought to renew our gratitude to God for the KJV. Our
congregations should be instructed to prize the KJV, not only because of
its reliability and other precious characteristics as a translation, but
also because it presents the authentic text of the New Testament. We ought
to defend it, and repudiate the modern versions, on this ground, as well
as others. We should continue to use it, and it only, in our churches,
homes, personal devotions, and schools, as our English Bible.
We could profitably arrange lectures in which we teach
the fascinating history of the English Bible; set forth the worth of the
KJV; and warn concerning the dangers of the modern versions.
The preachers should acquire a TR and the Byzantine, or
Majority, or Traditional, Text.27 They should stop
referring to B and Aleph as the best text.
We should acquaint ourselves with the work and
materials of the Trinitarian Bible Society.
As VanBruggen points out, there is still room for work
in textual criticism, determining the exact text of the majority of MSS.
Is there a need for a new English version based on the
TT? In my judgment, this would be warranted only if the English of the KJV
is not clear to present readers. It is conceivable that the English
language undergoes such change that this is the case. But this is not the
case today. The reason for the ignorance of many church-members is not the
darkness of the KJV. The proof is our own children. I make bold to say
that they, reared solely on the KJV, know more of Scripture than most who
use the modern versions. The reason is, first, that the KJV is clear and,
second, that they are thoroughly instructed in the truth of Scripture.
Lack of good instruction, and not the KJV, is the reason for much
ignorance in Protestantism today. As for the few out-dated words in the
KJV, let preachers, parents, and school-teachers explain them to the
Our main task, therefore, is that which it has always
been: preaching, teaching, hearing, reading, and studying Holy Scripture,
the God-breathed Word, which, by the grace of God, we have: "... from a
child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee
wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II
1 Cf. Jacob Van Bruggen, The
Future of the Bible (Nashville and New York: Thomas Nelson Inc.,
1978), pp. 67ff., 151ff.
2 Eugene A. Nida, Message and
Mission (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), p. 59. Quoted in
Theodore P. Letis, "A New Hearing for the Authorized Version"
(Springfield, Missouri: Reformation Research Press Inc., 1978), p. 13.
3 Martin Luther, "Defense of the
Translation of the Psalms," Luther's Works, Vol. 35 (Philadelphia:
Muhlenberg Press, 1960), pp. 209, 213.
4 Ibid., p. 216.
5 Martin Luther, "On Translating;
An Open Letter," Luther's Works, Vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg
Press, 1960), p. 194.
6 Ibid., pp. 185ff.
7 VanBruggen, Op. cit., pp.
8 Luther, "On Translating: An Open Letter," Op.
cit., p 194.
9 Wilbur N. Pickering, The
Identity of the New Testament (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977), p. 16.
10 B. B. Warfield, Critical Reviews (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1932), p. 29. Warfield enthusiastically embraced
the W-H theory and became an influential promoter of the theory in
Presbyterian and Reformed circles. Cf. also his The Westminster
Assembly and Its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931), pp.
23-242, and his An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New
Testament, a popular textbook.
11 D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), p. 36.
12 Ibid., pp. 101-102.
13 Ibid., p. 102.
14 Pickering, Op. cit., p.
15 Ibid., p. 126.
16 Bruce M. Metzger, Chapters in the History of New
Testament Textual Criticism (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1963),
17 Gordon D. Fee, "Modern Textual
Criticism and the Revival of the Textus Receptus," Journal of the
Evangelical Theological Society, March, 1979, pp.19-33.
18 Richard N. Soulen, Handbook
of Biblical Criticism (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1976), p. 41.
19 Cf. Pickering, Op. cit.,
20 John W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the
Gospel According to S. Mark (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sovereign Grace Book
Club, 1959), p. 41.
21 Ibid., p. 41.
22 John W. Burgon, The Woman
Taken in Adultery and God Was Manifested in the Flesh, pp. 235ff.
(Neither publisher nor date is given.)
23 D. A. Carson, Op. cit.,
24 Jakob Van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New
Testament (Winnipeg: Premier Printing Ltd., 1976). Cf. also his The
Future of the Bible.
25 Edward F. Hills has been instrumental in reviving
John W. Burgon's defense of the TT and opposition to the W-H theory. Cf.
Hills, The King James Version Defended (Des Moines, Iowa: The
Christian Research Press, 1956, 1973). Cf. also Theodore P. Letis (ed.),
The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate (Grand
Rapids, MI: Institute For Biblical Textual Studies, 1987).
26 Metzger, Op. cit., pp.
27 The TR is available from the
Trinitarian Bible Society (Canada), 39 Caldwell Crescent, Brampton,
Ontario L6W I A2. The JT is available from D.C. Divry, Inc., 293-7th Ave.,
New York, N.Y. 10001.