Sunday, October 5, 2008

They belittle the KJV and yet claim to respect it?

One complaint by the modern Bible versions defenders that is particularly hard to take is that the KJV is an inferior translation, and that its translators were inferior scholars. Even without knowing much about the actual historical facts, don't you have to ask how, if it were such an inferior production, it could have been regarded as the pinnacle of the English Bible translations and admired as a great work of literature as well for over two hundred and fifty years? Don't you also have to ask how on earth those who defend the modern versions nevertheless say that they respect the KJV and have nothing against anyone's depending on it? It's all the worse of course that this denigration of the translators is added to the assertion that they had inferior Greek manuscripts to work from. Is there anything at all left to respect of the KJV? Yet they say they do respect it.

There is something peculiarly painful -- I want to say wounding -- about this position. Even without being KJV-only I would think a person with the most rudimentary knowledge of the history of the English Bible would feel the hurtfulness, the injustice of such a position. It denigrates not only the KJV translators and the tradition of Greek texts they depended on, it dismisses the whole sequence of English translators that led up to the KJV (since their work was the foundation the KJV built on), it implies that Christians for centuries prior to the KJV had no trustworthy Bible to depend on, and in fact that Christians of all nations for over a millennium were deprived of the most trustworthy Greek texts, and worst of all it implies that God didn't get around to preserving His word as He had promised to do, until Westcott and Hort.

Here's a page from David Cloud's site where the contention that the KJV translators were inferior is addressed.

Westcott and Hort's (alleged) false and heretical beliefs.

Quotes that demonstrate the false beliefs of the fathers of the modern Bible versions abound in the KJV-only literature, but they are contested by the versions defenders as being taken out of context, and sometimes contested as out and out lies.

Thomas Holland gives a typical list of quotations:

From Crowned With Glory by Dr. Thomas Holland:

[Page 38]. . . should we not know something of the beliefs of Westcott and Hort [the fathers of modern textual criticism]?

  • Westcott denied biblical infallibility. 76

  • Hort stated that those who believed in biblical authority were perverted. 77

  • Hort taught that Revelation 3:15 proclaimed Christ was the first thing created, agreeing with the Gnostic teaching that Christ was a begotten god. 78

  • Westcott denied that Saint John ever claimed Christ to be God. 79

  • Hort stated that the ransom for our sin was paid to Satan. 80

  • Both men denied the doctrine of eternal damnation, stating hell is not a place of punishment. 81

76. Arthur Westcott, The Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1903), 207.

77. Hort, 400.

78. F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John 1-3: The Greek Text with Introduction, Commentary, and Additional Notes (1908; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 36.

79. B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John: The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes (1881; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 297.

80. F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter 1:1-2:17: The Greek Text with Introductory Lecture, Commentary, and Additional notes (1898; reprint, Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing, 1976), 77.

81. B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith (London: Macmillan, 1885), 77-78. Hort, Life and Letters, 149.

Here is a site calling these quotations false, saying the quotes have been taken out of context among other things.

He discusses the claim that Westcott denied biblical infallibility here: This page of complete quotes and commentary does seem to show that Westcott has been misread by the KJV-onlies, as he here affirms a belief in "the absolute truth" of scripture, and is objecting to the word "infallibility," which from other quotes given here he finds to be inadequate to describe the inspiration of scripture.

As for stating that evangelicals were "perverted," what Hort actually said was: "The positive doctrines even of the Evangelicals seem to me perverted rather than untrue," apparently not in reference to "biblical authority" and in fact without identifying which doctrines he had in mind (same page linked above.) This was said from the point of view of an Anglican.

On another page, the accusation that Hort believed Christ to have been created is answered. Apparently he is merely discussing the ways the Greek can be read.

This site is still under construction and I have not found the site owner's answer to the charge that Westcott denied that John claimed Christ is God, or that Hort claimed that the ransom for sin was paid to Satan. Likewise the section on Heaven and Hell is not yet on board, so the charge that both men denied that hell is eternal punishment is not yet answered there. There is a forum page where the unfinished topics may be discussed, but I haven't explored it yet.

it seems best to be cautious and say that rather than lying, most likely many KJV-onlies simply misread W&H, probably having had some trouble with Westcott and Hort's ways of expressing themselves, their Anglican frame of reference and their intellectuality.

My own observation is that they write like intellectuals, not like believers. Where they affirm belief in any particular tenet of the faith, it seems to have been arrived at intellectually, not through faith. They simply do not sound like believers. They sound most of all like 19th century liberals, who could often sound orthodox while meaning something completely different by their words. But maybe I'm also judging them unfairly from outside the Anglican tradition, and based on very few quotes after all.

I do think that it would be best to drop all the accusations of the character and beliefs of Westcott and Hort for the sake of the argument against the Bible versions, because when the KJV-onlies get their quotes wrong they make the case all the harder to prove despite their many other good arguments. Dean J W Burgon and other critics of the work of Westcott and Hort in their own generation did not accuse them of wrong beliefs, they argued strictly against the work itself, always the best policy in any dispute.

Caveat: I've done only the most cursory checking of the facts involved here and consider this subject unfinished.

Addendum: I just have to add another link to David Cloud's site, because over and over he seems to me to be the most scholarly, careful and reasonable defender of the King James Only position.
(Disclaimer: I am not a Fundamental Baptist, I am a Calvinist, so I can't agree with everything Dr. Cloud writes.)

Both the KJV and the Modern Bible Versions cannot be God's pure word; logically, either one or the other has to be corrupt.

From Crowned With Glory, by Dr. Thomas Holland:

p. 14. One notable distinction deals with the number of verses contained in the Textus Receptus that are not contained in the Critical Text, and therefore do not appear in most modern versions based on that text.

[The Textus Receptus is the Greek text that underlies the King James Version; the Critical Text is another set of Greek manuscripts that underlie the modern Bible versions.]

This, of course, does not prove a certain translation correct and another incorrect. These verses are Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; Romans 16:24; and 1 John 5:7. Additionally, Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are contained in the majority of Byzantine manuscripts and the Traditional Text. However, most Alexandrian manuscripts do not contain these verses, and therefore are so noted in the Critical Text.
[The Byzantine manuscripts make up the general class of Greek manuscripts the Textus Receptus is based on, that underlies the King James Bible, and the Traditional Text is another term for the Textus Receptus which is derived from the Byzantine group of manuscripts. The Alexandrian manuscripts are those the modern Bible versions are based on, and the Critical Text is the specific version of those manuscripts that is used for the translations.]
This leaves the Christian who believes the commands of Scripture in a dilemma. Three times the Bible warns against adding to or taking from the word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; and Revelation 22:18). Either the Greek texts that remove these passages are corrupt or the Greek texts that add them are corrupt; one cannot be biblical and believe that both textual lines are pure.
Hard to dispute that, it seems to me.