A King James Only Debate

I just watched this whole debate this morning, and found it very interesting and informative (from both sides). I just wanted to comment on some things I saw there. For full disclosure, I am not a King James only advocate, although I greatly respect the KJV, and use it rather often.

First, I think that James White had the better arguments. He had answers for Moorman’s queries, and had several things that Moorman could not answer, the Revelation passage in particular. Why Moorman would not admit that the KJV should be revised on that verse when no Greek manuscript whatsoever reads the way the KJV does is beyond me. The KJV at that point doesn’t even agree with the TR (Textus Receptus) or the MT (Majority Text)!

There are some weak arguments on both sides that I want to point out. First, the argument from vocabulary against the KJV is weak, in my opinion. The KJV is not that hard to figure out. We have dictionaries to help with the odd words. Not to mention that there are words in most modern versions that we will have to explain anyway: words like “propitiation,” “expiation,” “sanctification,” “justification,” “baptism.” These are not words (even the last one!) that regular people use in conversation. On the other hand, the point that White made about style is very important. The New Testament was written in the common spoken language of the day. It wasn’t slang, but it wasn’t high style either. If KJV advocates argue that we ought to keep using the KJV because of the majesty of its style, this is mere sentimentality, and an attempt to improve on God’s Word.

Moorman’s argument about “coherence” was incredibly weak. I have read most of the NT in Greek now. It is coherent in the critical text. When we start arguing that theological doctrines are clearer in one text than in another, we are on very dangerous ground. Here’s why: it is very easy to understand why a scribe would add something to strengthen a doctrinal testimony. It is very difficult to understand why someone would take away a doctrinal testimony, unless one subscribes to conspiracy theories, which are notoriously hard to prove.

White is correct that pejorative words like “take away” or “delete” assumes that which must be proven. In a given variant which has to do with words being present or absent, there can be no prior judgment rendered on whether the words were originally there and later deleted, or were originally absent and later added. So Moorman’s statement about the critical text having fewer words than the TR doesn’t prove anything. Maybe the TR added something that was not originally there. One cannot make broadbrush comments about these things either. Each textual variant has its own ins and outs and must be decided on its own merits. By saying that the CT has fewer words, Moorman was assuming already the standard of the TR which was the very thing under discussion. It was circular, in other words.

Also, Moorman kept on hinting that the majority of manuscripts should rule. He never came out and said it, but he always emphasized the difference in number between the vast majority, which support the TR, versus the 50 which support the CT. In particular, Moorman emphasized that the CT was based almost exclusively on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. This may have been true in the days of Westcott and Hort, but it is not true today. There are plenty of places where Sinaiticus and Vaticanus disagree with each other, and where the CT does not follow one or the other, or both. We have a lot more papyri than Westcott and Hort did, and so we have a larger basis for an early text.

White made a good point about the age of the texts: before the end of the first millenium, the majority text was Alexandrian in text type. Moorman trotted out the old canard about the provenance of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which White promptly kaboshed by noting the Arian heresy prominent in the Byzantine area, which was refuted by an Alexandrian by the name of Athanasius. Provenance does not govern the value of a manuscript. This would be the poisoned well argument, which is a logical fallacy.

To Moorman’s credit, he was not frothing at the mouth at modern versions, claiming that they were all Satanic, like some cultists do. The book linked is full of more factual errors per page than any other terrible book I have ever had the affliction to read. It once took me 15 pages to document the factual errors of quotation that Riplinger made in just 15 pages of her text. Moorman is quite a cut above that riffraff. He even admitted that major doctrines were intact in modern versions, even if he accused modern versions of running on fewer engines. The latter criticism, by the way, is the argument of the beard, another logical fallacy. It runs like this: how many hairs does it take to make a beard? If one defines a beard as 1000 hairs, then you immediately run into problems if someone says, “Isn’t 999 hairs a beard?” The problem is in the definition. For many KJV advocates who argue this way (which is not all of them), a doctrine is fully proved by 1,000 mentions of it in Scripture. And if the CT only mentions it 900 times, then it has weakened the testimony of that doctrine. Folks, this is not how we define our doctrine, and it is not how we speak of a doctrine as being proven from Scripture. White actually brought up a few Scriptures where the deity of the Son is actually more strongly supported in the modern versions than in the KJV (courtesy of Granville Sharp’s rule!).

Ultimately, there are many versions of the Bible that can be said to be God’s Word. If someone wants to use the KJV, go to it, I say. A person has God’s Word if they use the KJV. But so does someone who uses the ESV. Please don’t disenfranchise those of us who want to use the ESV, NASB, or even (shocker!) NKJV. Are there too many English translations out there? Absolutely. Let’s try giving some people of the world a translation of their own, instead of creating yet another niche English translation for the benefit of a publishing house’s royalty problems (as was pointed out very well in the debate).

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