King James Only?

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The caller questioned the host’s prediction of Christ’s return on May 21, 2011. The following ten callers condemned the skeptic for his unbelief. Night after night on Harold Camping’s call-in show, a faithful steward would challenge the host’s false prophecy only to be chastised as a self-deceived heretic.

I have chronicled my own encounter with the Word of Faith crowd who summarily dismissed my skepticism of their name-it-and-claim-it doctrine as either spiritual immaturity, or unbelief. The problem we have is that sub-groups within Christianity are not rightly handling the word of truth.

It is a prideful thing to believe that one is the possessor of all truth while any who disagree are branded as heretics. I do not share the pre-millennial, Dispensational views of J. Vernon McGee, but he is the first person I listen to when the Lord awakens me. Why? No one can preach the Gospel like Dr. McGee. We can disagree on points of theology, but on essential Christian doctrine we are united in Christ.

It is relevant to note that Dr. McGee teaches from the Authorized Text. His preferred version is the King James though he often reads from his own translation  (a variation of the KJV)  which he does not recommend. The point is that McGee though he has reservations about the modern translations will not cast stones if you read a version other than the KJV.

Having been sliced, diced and pureed by the Word of Faith sect, I was then engaged in a rather testy exchange with a group of folk who preach King James Only. I had heard of these people, but never encountered them. My presupposition was that they were not so legalistic, but possessed with Christian charity — like Dr. McGee. The commenters, save for one precious soul, were judgemental and dismissive of my position — a heresy for which I needed to repent.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory S. Neal posted an online letter to the KJV Only group:

The King James Only Movement is one of the most destructive cultic movements in the Church today. It majors in attacking the faith of millions, sowing seeds of fear among many who don’t know the history of their Bibles. The claim of the movement is that the King James Version of the Bible should be accepted as the ONLY Inspired Word of God. Any other translation, based upon any group of manuscripts other than those that are behind the KJV, is understood to be the product of Satan, a “New Age Bible,”and certainly not “The Word of God.” [1]

[Dr. Neal also cites “the less destructive Majority-Priority Movement” which is more reflective of the charitable position of Dr. McGee.]

Let me say from the outset that the King James Bible is a respectable translation, but to suggest that one is a heretic for reading another version does injury to the body of Christian unity.

The KJV and our modern translations are generally based upon one of two texts — Alexandrian or Byzantine. Alexandrian is considered the oldest text, and the type used by the early church. Byzantine is a later text type that was prevalent in the Greek Orthodox Church.

KJV advocates will argue that the Alexandrian text was corrupted, and that only the Byzantine text — from which the KJV is translated — is the preserved (and inspired) Word of God.

There are over 5000 Greek manuscripts of the Bible. The majority are of the Byzantine, or Majority Text discovered near the Greek-Roman city of Antioch. Greater numbers does not necessarily translate into more accurate manuscripts. Indeed, the church was centered around Antioch (not Egypt) so the Byzantine scribes had access to a wealth of scripts from which to copy. Fragments from the 200’s AD — and even more recent papyri discoveries — uniformly support the Alexandrian (Egyptian) manuscripts though it was the Byzantine text that was sourced by the translators of the KJV.

Scholars are divided as to whether the early church fathers quoted from the Byzantine text. Because the church was not witness to the text type before the 4th century it is believed they read extensively from the Alexandrian script. Of the oldest manuscripts — before the 9th century — there are more Alexandrian than Byzantine.

Desiderius Erasmus, a Roman Catholic priest, published the first Greek New Testament in 1516. Based upon the Byzantine text (which was widely available and easy to acquire) his compilation underwent four revisions. The Reformers and KJV translators were distinctly influenced by his body of work.

The Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Denomination claims that the KJV is the only translation that preserves the original intent of the Bible. They believe that the Alexandrian text was corrupted by heretical (Gnostic) influences, but so was the Byzantine text subject to Arian, Nestorian, Apolonarian, and Marcionite heresies.

The overwhelming consensus of the past 250 years is that no heretical teaching has been inserted into the Holy Bible. Corruptions, or variations exist in all styles of text and are typically due to copyists’ errors, or inserted scribal notes. Most of these differences — such as “He said,” instead of “Jesus said,” — do not alter orthodox Christian doctrine. The Word of God has thus been preserved.

It should be noted that the Byzantine script is wordier than the Alexandrian text. It is a smoother, almost edited read compared to the older manuscripts. This might suggest one of two things — text has been omitted from the Alexandrian script, or added to the Byzantine. KJV advocates will say that words, verses — even whole passages — were maliciously deleted from the older script thus corrupting the text and making it unreliable. However, there is another — less sinister — explanation.

First century skeptics convincingly argued that discrepancies, or differences in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) were evidence that the Biblical record was untrue.

That is not a weakness, but a strength. Imagine if Mark read word for word as Luke — what would the skeptics then say? That it was a fake, a forgery, a counterfeit, a plagiarized copy.

Still, the older Gospel accounts were rather awkward since Matthew was writing to Jews, Mark (Peter) to the Romans and Luke to the Gentiles. It was not uncommon, then, for a copyist to purposefully edit the script in order to harmonize the text. This was extensively done in the Byzantine period. Let’s examine one such example — the one that got me in hot water with the KJV advocates:

Matthew 1:25

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS (KJV).

… but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus (NASB).

Either the manuscripts supporting the New American Standard Bible omitted the word firstborn, or it was added by the Byzantine scribes, and into the King James Bible. The advocates posited that the word firstborn substantiates church doctrine with regards to the virginity of Mary, but the context of the passage sufficiently confirms this precept.

No, firstborn (πρωτότοκον, prōtotokon) was inserted in the 2nd century by Tatian whose life work was to harmonize the Gospels in order to improve their read and to deflect the skeptics. He borrowed from Luke 2:7 (And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son) to convey to Matthew’s Jewish readers the consecration (or birthright) of Yeshua.

King James copied “firstborn” specifically to challenge the Romish doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. That it does not appear in the oldest and best manuscripts does not negate what has already been established elsewhere in Scripture. If the heretics had plotted to subvert the text they would have altered Luke as well, and any Biblical reference to the virgin birth of Messiah.

James R. White (Scholar in Residence at the College of Christian Studies):

Many other examples could be examined that confirm that modern translations such as the NASB and NIV, far from being corrupt, are in fact the best examples of faithful English translations of the best Greek texts we have available to us.

The importance of the topic should not be underestimated. While the vast majority of conservative Christian scholars completely reject the KJV Only position, the emotionally charged rhetoric of KJV Only advocates causes unnecessary concerns among many believers. It is a sad truth that most Christians have only a vague knowledge of the history of the Bible and almost no knowledge of the mechanisms by which the Bible has come to us today. Issues regarding the transmission of the text over time (the process of copying), the comparison of one written text to another (textual criticism), and translation are not popular topics of discussion or study in the church today. Therefore, the claims of KJV Only advocates are liable to deeply trouble many Christians, even to the point of causing them to question the reliability and usefulness of their NIV or NASB Bibles. When believers are wrongly led to doubt the integrity of the translation they have used for years, Christian scholars have a responsibility to set the record straight.

While the KJV remains to this day a venerable translation, those who attempt to make it the standard to the detriment of more readable (and in many instances more accurate) modern versions are in serious error. [2]

John Oakes, PhD:

I am not saying that the KJV is a bad translation. It is just that in the relatively few places where the Greek editors tried to “improve” the original, the KJV follows the changes, which is not a good thing. The KJV may not be a bad translation, but it certainly is not the best English translation of the Bible. If a supporter of the KJV says that the church fathers from the second century used the Byzantine text, you can be assured that this person is either misinformed or is extremely biased. You would do well to ignore such a statement. This conclusion is the result of a person assuming their answer before asking the question. It is not at all uncommon for people to defend the KJV as somehow almost inspired as the best translation into English. It is impossible to defend this position unless one simply ignores the evidence. [3]

Years after it was originally published, the King James Bible was advertised as the text received by all, or Textus Receptus. It was quite a marketing campaign. The revered Geneva Bible (1553 AD) had been the official Bible of the church under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I prior to the crowning of James whose expedient motivation was not the integrity of Scripture but the preservation of the throne in resistance to Papal authority. Also, the king wanted to preserve the church rite of sprinkling so the word baptizo was transliterated into baptism rather than translated into its English meaning, immersion. KJV Only advocates don’t want to address that except to cloud the issue by suggesting that you might be confessing baptismal regeneration. No, I’m only suggesting that the KJV is not a perfect translation and to suggest otherwise is to do harm to the body of Christ.

Credits:

1. A Letter to a Majority-Text Type Supporter, Rev. Dr. Gregory S. Neal

2. Is Your Modern Translation Corrupt?, James R. White, Christian Research Institute, June 9th, 2009.

3. What Text Type Did Church Fathers Use?, John Oakes, Evidence for Christianity, April 30, 2007.

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Between Christians

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Dr. McGee remembered when he was a boy he would go to Sunday dinner at his uncle’s house, and his aunt would always serve “roast preacher”.

At the Sunday dinner another aunt would drop in and she’d argue with the other about religion. My uncle’s wife was a Methodist and his sister a Presbyterian, and they just didn’t agree on anything. My uncle would quietly eat his meal then go spend the rest of the afternoon at the club. He’d come home later — not drunk, but he’d had a few drinks — and you know what, my aunt’s just couldn’t save him. He never became a Christian. When Jesus said, By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you are what — a Baptist … one who gives a lot of money to the church … someone who believes in the right doctrine? No, by the love you have one for another. The world sees Christians fighting and they think to themselves, “I don’t want that. I’ve got enough strife in my life”.

When Martin Luther was warned that allowing everyone to privately interpret the Bible would spawn chaos Luther replied, “So be it.”

The fruit of the Reformation has been division. There are over a dozen churches (Catholic and Protestant) within walking distance of my home. They each have their own doctrine, creed, liturgy and baptism. They split over a number of disagreements such as the rapture, speaking in tongues, communion, or contemporary issues such as the definition of marriage.

Demominationalism is division as Paul wrote the assembly at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13):

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Were you baptized in the name of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Ellen White, William Miller, John Knox, John Smyth, John Darby, Charles Russell, Joseph Smith, Herbert W. Armstrong, Mary Baker Eddy, Sun Myung Moon … or Witness Lee? They all claimed to be the keeper of the Word, but what they wrought was division.

The Apostasy

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition … (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Catholics and Protestants both saw the Reformation as the Great Apostasy — not in rebellion against God, but in the renunciation of Papal authority. Catholics still believe that the rock built upon Peter is the true church of God; while the Reformers believed that the Pope was the son of perdition.

It is not in the scope of this abbreviated piece to lay bare the grievous sins of the Catholic Church, but the Protestant Church will neither stand innocent before God.

What has the Protestant Church given us? Endless interpretative debates about theology and doctrine — date-setting, rapture, tribulation, mark of the beast, sprinkling, immersion, healing, speaking in tongues and so forth.

Interestingly, Mormons believe that the apostasy began with the death of the last Apostle; and the church was not restored until God anointed Joseph Smith, a prophet, in 1820. The 19th century, in fact, saw the birth of Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Dispensationalism.

What is overlooked is that the falling away was to precede the day of the Lord. Did Christ return when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg? The cult-isms that arose in the 19th century suggested that Christ returned spiritually, if not bodily.

A Plea for Peace

This short essay was born out of a disagreement I recently had with a dear sister in Christ. Her position was that the King James Bible stands alone as the Authorized Text while newer translations are corrupt. She presented a lengthy, but scholarly defense of her position to which I do not agree. While the King James version is preferable to some translations it, too, has errors. We went back and forth on this issue, and some of the commentators were unnecessarily contentious — sort of like Sunday dinner at McGee’s house (I would imagine).

To insist that the church believed a lie for 1600 years (until the KJV in 1611) is not a tenable position. The Gospel of Jesus Christ — His death, burial, and bodily resurrection — has endured the test of time as Paul wrote,

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

If the Lord comes tomorrow it will make petty our disagreement about the rapture — pre, mid or post. Dr. McGee — an advocate of the King James Bible — said that we can disagree on these other issues, “But,” he added tongue-in-cheek, “if you want to be right you’ll agree with me.”

Let the Bible Speak

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions … (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out (Proverbs 17:14).

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife (Proverbs 26:21).

When you study the Bible it is always good to examine parallel passages in different translations. I also recommend a Greek and Hebrew lexicon, an interlinear Bible, a concordance and two or more commentaries. All of these study helps are linked to in the footer section of this blog. Two that are most useful to me are Bible Hub and Study Light.

If I condemn you for reading any other but the King James it is I who must repent. Each time we open the Bible (King James or NASB), God’s word reveals our ignorance. To assume that I possess all knowledge is a sin born out of pride. May the Lord grant us wisdom, a discerning spirit and a humble heart.

For strife between Christians insofar it is of our own doing may we seek Divine grace and forgiveness.

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Creation Times Two

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Brothers and sisters put on your full armor of God because we are about to go for a wild ride in apologetics. The following quote, found on the Internet, presents a smarmy interpretation of the creation story found in Genesis.

Most people don’t realize it, but there are two (yes, count ’em TWO) different and contradictory stories of Creation in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. The first story runs from Genesis 1:1 thru Genesis 2:3; the second story picks up at Genesis 2:4 and runs to the end of the chapter at Genesis 2:25.

In the first story, Creation takes six days and man (and woman) are created last after all the plants and animals are created. In the second story, Creation takes one day, man is created first, then all the plants and animals are created, and finally woman is created.

Warning: Most Creationist’s faith is not actually very strong – learning that the Bible has serious internal contradictions may lead to their ill-being – use this knowledge with caution! And the next time a Creationist tries to foist some Intelligent Design poppycock on you, ask them if the world was created as described in Genesis; then ask ’em “which version?”

Christian, do you know how contemptible you are in the eyes of the world?

Okay, let’s examine the creation account to see if it is, in fact, contradictory. Here is the complete text of Genesis 1:1 – Genesis 2:25.

The first thing we have to understand is that Scripture is the inspired revelation of God, but it was chronicled by human hands reflecting not only the personality of the author, but also the literary style of the culture. Ancient Semitic literature commonly utilized the method of recapitulation, or summarizing (often restating) what had previously been written.

In short, the creation story in chapter one is a chronological presentation (Days 1-7), while the account in chapter two details the central purpose of God’s handiwork, that is, the creation of man on Day 6.

To the casual reader, or one who is predisposed to finding Scriptural errors, it might appear that there are contradictory accounts — some will assert multiple authors.

Jean Astruc, a 19th century French physician, claimed that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch, but that the first five books of the Bible were a compilation of several authors identified only by the letters “J”, “E”, “P” and “D”.

“P” (a priestly author) supposedly penned the chapter one creation story prior to (or during) the Babylonian captivity (ca. 586 BC), while the second account was written 300 years earlier by a divine author, “J” (Jehovah).

This is nothing more than a far-fetched liberal attempt to cast doubt on Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch, and to undermine the credibility of the Genesis account.

Let’s now examine the specifics. In Genesis 1:11, God created vegetation — literally, let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees

This was the third day before God created man. But in Genesis 2:5 we read that no shrub or plant had sprung up prior to the creation of man. What are we to do with this seemingly awkward discrepancy? Somehow we must reconcile what clearly appears to be a valid contradiction.

Quite simply, the chronological account (Days 1-7) ends at the beginning of chapter two. (Be mindful that chapter breaks were inserted by translators.) Beginning, then, at Genesis 2:4 is the recapitulation of the creation story:

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the (proverbial) day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

In summary, this is the detailed history of God’s creation.

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground (Genesis 2:5).

That concurs with the chronological record. There was, at first, nothing — no vegetation, no rain upon the earth and no man to till the soil.

But a mist rose up from the earth and watered the ground (Genesis 2:6).

This verse is the transitional key to unlock the meaning of chapter two. The necessary presumption is that vegetation then sprouted from the irrigated land.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

Again, the account concurs with the chronological record, as the succeeding verses provide additional details about the Garden of Eden and the creation of Eve which were not disclosed in chapter one.

We have, then, not a contradiction but a clarification of the creation story.

There is only one remaining disagreement found in Genesis 2:19:

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.

But didn’t God create animals before man in Genesis 1:24-26?

Remember, now, that chapter two is not a chronology, in the strictest sense, but a recapitulation. William Tyndale (1494–1536) was the first Bible scholar to edit an English translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek text. He noted that the Hebrew usage of formed ( וַיִּצֶר֩, way·yî·ṣer) should be interpreted in the pluperfect rather than perfect tense so that the verse should read (as it does in the Tyndale Bible, the NIV and ESV):

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.

So we understand the verse to mean that God brought to Adam the animals He had made in order for man to give them a name.

Consider, finally, that vegetation in chapter one does not exclusively refer to farmable plants. Referring to the 1917 translation of the Tanakh by the Jewish Publication Society we see that the Hebrew word that is translated vegetation (דֶּ֔שֶׁא, de·še) literally means grass. Whereas, in context of the Garden of Eden in chapter two, we find that the wording there refers to cultivated plants.

It is often claimed that Genesis 1 and 2 contain two different creation-narratives. In point of fact, however, the strictly complementary nature of the “two” accounts is plain enough: Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the centre of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting (i.e., the Garden of Eden). There is no incompatible duplication here at all. Failure to recognize the complementary nature of the subject-distinction between a skeleton outline of all creation on the one hand, and the concentration in detail on man and his immediate environment on the other, borders on obscurantism. [1]

Critics have other issues with these passages of which you should be aware. They nitpick that Elohim (God) is used in chapter one while Jehovah (Yahweh) is used in chapter two. Not really an issue when you consider there are 16 names for “God” in the Hebrew Bible each reflecting a specific trait or character of the Holy One of Israel.

This has been a difficult and tedious study in the Book of Genesis that I hope has strengthened your faith in the word of God, and equipped you to defend the Bible against a deluge of lies and deception.

I pray that you have a desire to go deeper into Scripture to uncover those hidden truths which can only be known by those who are called by His name.

Credits:

1. Ancient Orient and Old Testament, Kenneth Kitchen, pp. 116-117, (London: Tyndale, 1966).

Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?, Wayne Jackson, M.A., Copyright © 1991 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

Why are there two different Creation accounts in Genesis chapters 1-2?Got Questions?.org

Two Creation Accounts?Paul F. Taylor, Answers in Genesis, June 15, 2009.

Do Genesis 1 and 2 Contradict Each Other?, Tim Chaffey, Answers in Genesis, September 3, 2010.

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