Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Cloud's review of James White's The King James Only Bible Controversy

David Cloud has written a great deal on the Bible versions controversies, but I linked this one in the post below because it says what I've figured has to be the case for most Christians these days, how the new versions are supported by partisan bias in the absence of any real exposure to the other side of the argument. This is an important point in Dr. Cloud's review of James White's The King James Only Bible Controversy. I decided it needs to be showcased here so I copied out a few passages I particularly appreciate (my emphases in bolding and purple): http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/examining01.htm

My first thought, as I looked through this book, was that this is a strange piece of writing. The world of Bible translation is becoming increasingly, bewilderingly perverse, yet James White aims his gun not at the Bible corrupters but at men who are attempting to defend God’s Word against the onslaught of end-times apostasy. Almost each passing year brings to light an English Bible version more corrupt than its predecessor. This is on the commercial side of Bible translations, yet the corruption is also evident in the field of professional missionary translation. The United Bible Societies, working hand in hand with the Roman Catholic Church, have almost completely given up on "formal equivalency" translation and have dedicated their vast resources to the production of paraphrase-type Bibles created with the presumptuous dynamic equivalency method of translation. The same is true for Wycliffe Bible Translators. White sounds no warning of these matters, though. His readers are given the impression that the onslaught of modernism in the field of Bible texts and translations is a matter of minor consequence compared to the great "error" of believing God has preserved His Word in the Received Text and in Received Text translations which have gone to the ends of the earth during the past five centuries of great missionary endeavor. . . .

Further, I did not read in White’s book long before I realized that it is misnamed. It should be titled The Ruckman-Riplinger Controversy, because White paints the entire movement in defense of the King James Bible with the brush of these two individuals.

White’s book appears, at first glance, to be an unemotional, objective, scholarly approach to the topic of Bible texts and versions. In reality, it is a slander upon defenders of the King James Bible and the Received Text underlying the KJV and other great Reformation Bibles. He implies throughout that every KJV defender is either a raving lunatic or an ignorant extremist. He ignores or passes over slightly, even flippantly, the great issues of the KJV defense, focusing, instead, upon indefensible representations.

The King James Only Controversy is straw man, smokescreen apologetics at its best. This is serious, because many men who read White’s book will become severely biased against "King James Onlyism" and, as a consequence, will never make the effort to read for themselves the many important materials written in defense of the Received Text and the KJV. It reminds us of a statement made by Dr. Alfred Martin, former vice president of Moody Bible Institute, in his doctoral thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1951:

"In spite of the notable work of Burgon, Hoskier, and others who supported them, the opponents of the Westcott-Hort theory have never had the hearing which they deserve. How many present-day students of the Greek New Testament ever heard of the two men just mentioned, and how many ever saw a copy of The Revision Revised or Codex B and Its Allies, to say nothing of actually reading these works? ... THE PRESENT GENERATION OF BIBLE STUDENTS, HAVING BEEN REARED ON WESTCOTT AND HORT, HAVE FOR THE MOST PART ACCEPTED THE THEORY WITHOUT INDEPENDENT OR CRITICAL EXAMINATION. To the average student of the Greek New Testament today it is unthinkable to question the theory at least in its basic premises. Even to imply that one believes the Textus Receptus to be nearer the original text than the Westcott-Hort text is, lays one open to the suspicion of gross ignorance or unmitigated bigotry. That is why this controversy needs to be aired again among Bible-believing Christians. There is little hope of convincing those who are unbelieving textual critics, but IF BELIEVING BIBLE STUDENTS HAD THE EVIDENCE OF BOTH SIDES PUT BEFORE THEM, INSTEAD OF ONE SIDE ONLY, THERE WOULD NOT BE SO MUCH BLIND FOLLOWING OF WESTCOTT AND HORT" (Alfred Martin, A Critical Examination of the Westcott-Hort Textual Theory, Th.D. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1951, pp. 4,46,47).

This was the condition that Alfred Martin witnessed in Christian education in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is much worse today. The reason why most students at colleges and seminaries are not presented with both sides of the Bible text-translation issue is because of men like James White, who do everything in their power to make the defenders of the Received Text and the King James Bible look like fools. I believe these men have a lot to answer for before God.

Let me say at the outset that I am convinced that James White’s book on Bible versions is a dangerous book. This is because it is dead wrong and it is leading men and women away from the preserved Word of God, yet it is very popular. It is hastening a process that is destroying absolute truth in churches.

Yes, this is what I've come to believe about the overall state of things, and it confirms that the seminaries don't teach the other side at all, which I supposed must be the case some posts ago, when I so strongly wished that they would all carefully read Burgon, because it seems to me if they did they'd have to overthrow, or at the very least begin to question, assumptions that have been passed down uncriticized for a century by now. Too many have not read Dean Burgon but know whatever they know only by hearsay.

Since they don't read the other side, they treat critics like James White as The Authority and anyone who questions them is impatiently brushed off. White mentions Burgon once in his entire book, only to point out that he seemed to have supported the idea of a revision, but Burgon's work as a whole is a masterful dismantling of the whole Westcott-Hort undertaking, from their Greek text to their abuse of the English translation to Hort's "theory" which according to Burgon is nothing but a purely imaginative construct without the slightest relation to reality.

I haven't read further in Dr. Cloud's review yet. My own take on James White's book, from my position of less certainty about these questions, was a constant irritability. His approach is patronizing. He talks down to the reader. His avuncular air leaves no room for the slightest objection to anything he says. He occasionally stops to psychoanalyze what he projects to be the mental set of those who disagree with him, which is pretty silly psychobabble ("We" think this or that etc). As Dr. Cloud points out, most of his argument is aimed against the intemperate methods of Gail Riplinger and Peter Ruckman, which is a huge waste of time for someone who recognizes the error in their attitude and wants to get to the substance of the topic. When he does deal with the relevant material he is always begging the question. Instead of attempting to prove that the Westcott and Hort manuscripts are superior, he assumes it and explains things based on that assumption. I know I need to provide examples but I think I'll just say this much to this point.

Just a thought about fasting

Sometimes it is thought of as a "work" or as legalism. I suppose it can be that, but in my experience, or at least my intention, it's more like a practical aid to prayer and spiritual openness to hearing from the Lord.

How high the mental barrier sealing off the modern Bible versions from effective criticism

I did lose my momentum on the Bible versions topic, but I may take it up again soon. I've read more in Dean Burgon's Revision Revised as well as James White's The King James Only Controversy, plus some in Thomas Holland's Crowned with Glory and Edward F. Hills' The King James Version Defended.

I recently got an email notice from a local church that a well-known textual critic was to give a seminar in my area on the reliability of the transmission of the Bible, hyped in glowing terms as a fantastic opportunity not to be missed. Of course I really wanted to say something. But wasn't sure I should. I wrote a reply and put it aside. Then looked at it again and rewrote it. And finally sent it as a Reply to the notice. I wrote:

It sounds like he isn't going to discuss the difference between the Greek texts that underlie all the modern Bible versions and those that underlie the King James (and a very few others), or if he mentions the difference will simply give the usual apologetic for the Alexandrian/Sinaiticus/Vaticanus/Westcott and Hort/Nestle-Aland group of texts. This textual tradition was soundly denounced as corrupt by some of the best scholars (Burgon, Scrivener) of the time of Westcott and Hort, yet seminaries today treat them as superior. It seems to me it would be more valuable to have a debate between the Textus-Receptus defenders (not KJV defenders though) and the defenders of the W&H texts and their offshoots.

I did pray about it too. I did get a brief answer from a pastor:

. . . forwarded your email to me and I need to say, as one who has studied textual traditions, transmissions and criticism for years, that you are profoundly mistaken about the TR.

Burgon's conspiracy theory didn't prove anything, and in fact proved too little. Scrivener agreed with some of Burgon's textual arguments, but did not agree with his conspiracy theory.

The Byzantine text form, which underlies the Textus Receptus (the TR only represents a few Byz MSS) has a few modern defenders, such as Maurice Robinson. The only advocates of the TR are usually KJV only folks. The Byz priority has some good arguments, but it also some major weaknesses.

The bottom line is that the textual differences between an eclectic text (NA or UBS) and the TR is less than 5%. Neither text is "superior" in defending the deity of Christ or any other Christian doctrine. They simply represent two different textual traditions, which vary slightly. Many have made comparisons on such supposed differences and there is no substance to the arugment. (As a side note, I am constantly comparing the Byz text with the NA 27th as I read, and the differences are truly miniscule and virtually predictable.)

My caution to you would be against imbibing the conspiracy theories which are unfounded. If a person wants to argue for Byz priority, that is fine. But those who demonize Westcott and Hort and other textual critics who have given their lives to labor in the Greek New Testament, are unecessarily divisive, unkind and untrue.

Funny, I didn't say anything about the TR, so how could I be so clearly "profoundly mistaken" about it? I guess he's saying there's no defense possible for it so the idea of a debate is ridiculous? I did say the texts underlying the modern versions were denounced as corrupt by some trustworthy critics, and that happens to be a fact.

I also had said nothing to indicate that I share in any conspiracy theories. I did write back, mostly to say that I find no conspiracy theory in Burgon.

I wonder where he gets that idea, or if he has Burgon confused with someone else. Burgon was not KJV-only in the sense that more recent writers are, some of the most extreme of whom do get into conspiracy thinking. As I read him, Burgon conceded a need for some revision of both the TR and the KJV, which sets him apart from recent KJV-onlies, but besides that, rather than accusing Westcott and Hort of evil motives he accused them of stupidity and "schoolboy" level Greek and extremely bad judgment.

Wish I'd included some links in my answer. So much good material out there. Here's a link to David Cloud's answer to James White for instance.

Abstinence-Only "Sex Education"

Let's get something clear. The policy of teaching Abstinence-Only in Sex Education classes is NOT ABOUT PREVENTING PREGNANCIES.

It's a MORAL position. It's the RIGHT position. Hopefully it MIGHT prevent fornication by declaring it wrong, but if it doesn't it doesn't, at least the principle is out there as the standard to be honored. The point is that it's the RIGHT ATTITUDE toward premarital sex.

If you dispense condoms you are teaching that premarital sex is OK. "They're going to do it anyway" is stupid. They are less likely to do it if they are clearly and convincingly taught that it is morally wrong, but focusing exclusively on what they do and on the practical consequences of doing it, misses the point that it's the moral principle that matters, is the reason we on the Right promote Abstinence-Only.

People may sin all they want on their own conscience -- it's better for their moral and spiritual health if they don't, of course, and this should be vigorously taught as part of the program -- but the nation as a whole, AS a nation, MUST have right standards or the whole country is going down the drain.

Pregnancy is the problem from the point of view of the Left, not the Right. How did we let the Atheist and Leftist camps define this?

(Reminds me I'll probably get back to making some comments on the evolution-creation debate eventually too).