Response on KJV-Onlyism

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)

Vessel of Honour has responded to my comments against the textual tradition that served as the basis of the King James Version (in my review of Bible translations). This is my somewhat lengthy response to what I consider to be a long list of false impressions, misunderstandings, and bad responses to what I said.

First of all, his title is a little odd. He says it's about how hate influences those who argue against the KJV. I didn't see much about hate in the post. There were some offhand, unsubstantiated remarks that might have tended toward this, but the title suggests that the post is simply about how hate shapes the discussion, and that isn't at all what it's about.

He says I make "several unsubstantiated statements about textual criticism that we're evidently supposed to accept at face value". Well, I wasn't giving a scholarly defense of my position. I was summarizing it for the purpose of reviewing Bible translations. I also wasn't telling people to accept it at face value. I linked to a scholarly defense of the position by Daniel Wallace, a Greek language scholar. His one argument against Wallace is an ad hominem attack on his character and not his scholarship.

To show that extremism goes both ways, Nicene and Parablemania both laughably link to an article by Daniel Wallace, a man who once wrote that KJV-Only believers were "fundamentalist pamphleteers waging a holy war," as if we were Al Qaeda terrorists in the making, only we're wielding KJV Bibles instead of the Koran.

I don't know what Nicene intended, but I didn't link to Wallace to show that extremism goes both ways. The grammar of the sentence requires that interpretation. Besides the fact the statement Wallace wrote is a largely true generalization in the same way that pretribulational rapturists are Left-Behind and Hal Lindsey consumers (even though not all are, and the best examples of them will tend not to be), using it to undermine his scholarship is nothing but an ad hominem attack on his ability to do good work in textual reconstruction simply because, in his own opinion, Wallace isn't a careful and understated social commentator on Christian movements. His sociological skills or character traits in reporting on his sociological conclusions in negative language don't say anything about his ability to do textual criticism or to explain the scholarly opinion and the reasons for it in readable language, which he's done admirably in the piece I linked. Wallace, I should note, doesn't associate the holy war notion within American fundamentalism with anything related to Muslim fundamentalist terrorism. That's an innovation of Mac's own. The holy war notion in American fundamentalism is metaphorical but real, as evidenced by those who talk of waging a holy war against liberalism. None of this is even in the thing I linked anyway.

Mac's main argument is one my dad often gives to me.

As an example, despite the fact that the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint has a spurious history based on falsehoods, many consider it to be more reliable than the newer Hebrew Masoretic texts simply because it's older. This absurd reasoning becomes understandable when you realise that it's the ONLY defense anti-KJV scholars have in countering some of the more pointed concerns that are raised largely by the KJV-Only crowd. If you can show that "older" does not always mean "more accurate," the whole argument falls flat on its face. While some may argue over the complexities of translations, it will always come down to the same worn out premise: that older is better.

The vast majority of biblical scholars, text critics and otherwise, take the oldest manuscripts to be the best. My dad always wonders why we should go with the oldest rather than the ones that have more copies but are much, much more recent (by many hundreds of years). Mac acts as if it's begging the question to assume that older manuscripts are better, because the other position won't grant that position. That would be so if it were a mere assumption, but it's not. It's the conclusion of an argument. The argument is given in Carson and White's books on the subject and in the Wallace essay I linked in my original post.

Mac seems to think the argument is merely:

1. Older is better.
2. The modern translations (besides the NKJV) use older texts.
3. Therefore, the modern translations are better.

This misunderstands what's going on in too many ways to count, but the main two problems with reconstructing the argument this way is that there's no assumption that older is better, and there's no conclusion that the modern translations are better in every way. I listed a number of ways that I think the KJV did a better job for its time than the modern translations tend to do. I happen to think its faulty textual basis is important enough to prefer a newer translation that takes into account the wider textual tradition. Also, the modern translations don't just go with the oldest manuscripts. They have a number of criteria for figuring out which reading was the original text. The antiquity of the text is one of them. They also look for the hardest reading (since easier ones are more likely to be someone's altering of the text to sound easier). They look for confirmation of a reading in multiple textual traditions, one of which is the Majority Text tradition used for the KJV.

Just as with Old Testament textual criticism (as I explained in my review, by the way, though Mac said I was doing the opposite of what I was actually doing), the Septuagint is used sometimes to try to reconstruct the original text, since it's older than the oldest complete Hebrew text we have, but that doesn't mean we should just go with the oldest text we have. One difference with the Septuagint is that it's a translation, whereas the Massoretic Hebrew text is in the original language. One thing in common to both issues is that many factors will determine which textual tradition to use.

The Septuagint is not my usual preferred text, though many scholars do find it superior, and I happen to have a brother agrees with them. I do think the Septuagint and other translations, e.g. the Syriac, will have the right readings sometimes when the Hebrew doesn't. For instance, the Hebrew says Saul reigned for ____ years. If we take the Hebrew textual tradition as absolute, the Bible never said how long Saul reigned even though it made an effort to try to. We have to turn to other versions for that. It's similar with New Testament textual traditions. If a reading is preserved across a number of textual traditions in different locations, then it's more likely to be right. If a reading is confined to the Western tradition (and only the text types that survived into the Latin high Roman period), that raises doubts about it.

Additions are far more likely than subtractions, and the textual tradition the KJV was based on is so riddled with bits that aren't in the other text types. No doctrine is based on such things, but KJV-onlies insist that modern translations are removing parts of the Bible, which of course begs the question against those who believe that the textual tradition the KVJ was based on had added stuff to the Bible.

I'll state this point again a little more clearly. Mac says, "they presume that just because the text is older, it automatically means it's closer to the originals". That's exactly what I'm not doing. It's not just because it's older. There are lots of text types, and some of the older ones are better than others.

Some of the older ones are better than the later ones. Some of the older ones also happen to be worse than later ones. The closeness is not just closeness in time, though that's part of it with some of these texts. It's primarily closeness in readings, and that point is argued for based on multiple features and not just assumed because of age. As far as I can tell, Mac is reading what he wants me to be saying into my words, because he thinks that's an easy thesis to refute. Then he says exactly what modern textual critics believe, "The truth is there is a whole host of factors that are (or should be) taken into consideration to determine authenticity, and the age of the text is simply one of these factors." If he believes that, then why is he disagreeing with modern textual critics' use of those criteria to say that often the older texts are better?

Here is another common KJV-only argument that shows that the position is really the bibliolatry that classic inerrantism is often confused with:

They're basically saying that segments of the word of God have gone AWOL for CENTURIES, before it finally turned up again in recent discoveries. Are they prepared to accept that that God failed to preserve parts of his word for lengthy periods of time before it somehow turned up again in modern times?

The bibliolatry charge is often unfairly leveled against inerrantists. Those who want to say that God couldn't speak through human beings and still have the actual words he wanted conveyed come out at the end of the process say that believing that the Bible really is God's word is bibliolatry. But it's not the words themselves that we worship. If that were true, we'd have the same view Muslims have, that holy scripture from God shouldn't be translated. We don't believe that. If it's still God's word when it's translated, then what is God's word here? It's not a linguistic entity but a matter of what God was communicating, which relies on the philosophical distinction between sentence meaning and speaker meaning.

A sentence could be interpreted in a number of ways, but there was only one intended meaning. Now with inspired scripture God may or may not have indended something that the human author wasn't aware of, but it first and foremost means what God inspired the human author to intend it to mean. Nothing crucial for doctrine or practice is affected by translation, especially when each part of scripture is read in light of the rest of it. It's the word of God, not the words we have on the page that ultimately go back to God, that we consider inerrant or infallible.

So what would be the case if it turned out that one original word was not preserved in the manuscripts we now have? For example, what if the other versions all have the wrong length for Saul's reign? A New Testament example would be the proper end of Mark. After the first 8 verses of chapter 16, scholars disagree about what, if any, ending is original. Some, a minority, think the one in the KVJ is original.

Others think it ended with verse 8. Others think the ending was lost. What if that last option is true? Does that mean we no longer have part of God's word? I don't think that follows. If everything expressed in that portion of Mark was also included in other gospels (most likely Matthew and Luke, since they include more of what's in Mark than John doeS), then we haven't lost it after all. If it turns out that this last view is correct, I don't think it should affect my faith, because I'm not a bibliolater. I worship the God who gave the Bible and the word that he gave through the multiple manifestations of the Bible that we have, none of which is itself inerrant or infallible. If you want to have a text type with no errors, as KJV-onlyists who give this particular argument need to have, then you need to move to another possible world, because I think that view is just demonstrably false (as the case of Saul's reign shows). This is a case where the evidence should refute someone's faith, if that's the view. That's not the view most Protestants hold, however, so it doesn't refute our faith as it should those who give this argument.

Let's remember what we do and don't have promised to us about God's word. There's no promise that somehow God's word will always be available to every human being on the planet. There's no promise that every part of it will be known absolutely by anyone. If short parts are missing that don't affect doctrine or practice, then I think we could still trust God that we have what we need.

Now that's all against the extreme version of this argument. Mac doesn't hold such a strong view. He says:

Note, my personal view of preservation does not mean the text would be void of copyist errors. Rather it means the text was spared from malicious corruption, a fact modern scholars seem to have trouble conceding, perhaps because to do so would put them in agreement with those KJV-O whackos they so utterly despise, or because they're too busy chanting the mantra, "Older is better, older is better, older is better...."

I don't see how malicious corruption is needed for most of the points I've made. The ending of Mark could have been deleted by an error. John 7:53-8:11 could have been inserted by error. The removal of the length of Saul's reign could have been deleted by error. There are lots of copyist errors, mostly of totally insignificant details and some of more substantial significance (though most of those are the kind where the correct details show up in a parallel account in another book). Even so, I don't know how this could be right. There are places where the Bible is quoted wrongly to lead to deliberate misinterpretation. Is Mac saying that God would never allow anyone ever to do such a thing? We know it happens. Is he saying that no one one would ever print a whole Bible with such corruptions? Thomas Jefferson did exactly that, as did Marcion many centuries earlier, each keeping exactly the parts he liked and removing the parts he didn't. If the assumption is that there is one real text type and only that type is immune to this kind of corruption, then it begs the question. If that's not the idea (which it can't be, given what he later says as he wraps it up), then I don't know how it will even make sense without being empirically false.

I won't bother to address his comments about Isaiah 7 except to say that the position he's attacking is neither what he says it is nor one that I even hold. I think more can be said for the view than its detractors allow, and more can be said for it than I said for it in the comments. John Oswalt and Alec Motyer discuss these options in their own commentaries and (I believe) both opt for a more traditional rendering, but it's not as simple as Mac makes it sound, as if any fool should see that it can only refer to a virgin, as if a sign has to be something the whole world will recognize as miraculous. That assumes only one kind of prophetic fulfillment (and disallows typology), and it skirts the linguistic issues (not that I addressed them either).

His comments about conspiracy theories miss the point that KCV-only conspiracy theorists really do think most evangelical biblical scholars hate the Bible and are trying to undermine it. Just meeting almost any of these people should show that such a claim is ridiculous. He also acts as if those defending the position of most scholars will always go to the most extreme cases and ignore the more reputable defenses of the Majority Text. That's simply not true. I've read Carson's book on the topic, one of the two most popular response to KJV-onlyism. Carson doesn't deal with the more popular arguments. He spends time on the scholars. Zayne Hodges and more recent defenders of the KJV textual base are his primary focus. The same is true of the short piece by Daniel Wallace that I linked.

At the end of his post, Mac says a lot of things that I largely agree with, though his emphasis at a few points seems to me to convey something that's just not true. There had been a decreasing reverence for God's word among biblical scholars for many years. I think that's reversing quite rapidly as evangelical scholars are taking much more prominence. Some Bible translations have scholars involved who have less reverence for God's word, and these people may be decreasing in their reverence for the word. Yet other translations, including most of the ones I recommended, seem to be coming almost entirely out of more conservative circles. The NRSV is the only one I discussed that had a majority of scholars less concerned with reverence for God's word, with Bruce Metzger as the lone voice of reason on a couple views (most notably resisting gender-neutral terminology even about God, which would have masked some of the points the biblical writers were making, especially in Paul). The ESV and the NIV are not subject to this criticism, but Mac makes it sound as if all the modern translations are like this. He also gives some subjective conclusions about the quality of the KJV, which in my experience looking at the Greek of passages I've taught just doesn't seem to fit with the evidence. Many, many places in the KJV have rightly been updated in modern translations to make the point more clear, to correct a bad translation, or to reflect a change in language. I could probably name several off the top of my head, but a quick look through a good commentary with a KVJ in front of me could lead to a long list for virtually any of the longer New Testament books.

He also makes this linguistically insensitive comment: The KJV Translators knew what they were doing though, and intentionally reached back to a purer form of English subservient to the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, one that could be more faithful and accurate. Today we do just the opposite, attempting to fit the word of God into the corrupted languages of today, with no desire or yearning to go back to a time where English was used more purely, more lucidly, and more poetically. n away [sic], the modern Bibles present the modern churches, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. English has changed in many ways. Some of those ways make it harder to capture Hebrew or Greek. Some of them make it easier. There's no purer form of any language. Language change is natural. This really does make me think of bibliolaters, except that it's not even the text of the Bible that's being near-worshiped but the language it was written in. There's some special power in the text of the KJV that isn't in modern Bibles? How did the KJV translation get this magical ability? It was written in a language that has such a magical ability, of course.

I can't bear to quote his words that follow, since they reflect his ongoing ambivalence toward God's gathered ones (the church). For those unfamiliar with Mac's blog, he's involved with the "worship God but abandon God's people (the church)" movement recommending that Christians be unchurched, and I couldn't help but notice that he slips some of this into his conclusion. I couldn't write a response to his criticism of my review without at least mentioning how much such comments hurt God's people.

Finally, he describes the modern translations as a sword become a butterknife, diluted of power and stagnant. I would say the reverse. Instead of capturing everything in a language no one speaks, it puts the truths of God's word into the language people actually speak, thereby continuing its power rather than allowing it to remain stagnant. For the same reasons that the Bible was originally translated into new languages, we constantly need to rethink whether the best translations we have are the best we can achieve.

2 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Response on KJV-Onlyism.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://movabletype.ektopos.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/445

During my free time at work here, I stumbled across a few anti-KJV postings that were posted by a couple of blogs a few days ago, and naturally, being the only pro-KJV blog around (errrr...with the exception of Rings of... Read More

Mac Swift at Vessel of Honour jumps into the KJV-Only debate, responding to me and to the previously linked Parablemania. I am apparently anti-KJV, amusing, and dismissive (and my name is Darryl) ... sorry about that. Read More

2 Comments

The title was reflective of the tendency to lambast KJV-O positions driven by none other than either overt or subtle hatred. If you're claiming Wallace's remarks don't rise to the level of hateful rhetoric, the sky is obviously a different colour in your world.

You don't tell people to accept your remarks at face value, but you didn't have to. It's clear by your summation that you expect these views to be indisputable facts, and it's this tone that I address.

My "attack" on Wallace is hardly ad hominem, as I simply quoted one particular example of his animosity towards those who are KJV-O, and how it unfairly tries to put us in the same light as Islamic terrorists. Who else is waging a "holy war" (jihad)? And you say this is an innovation of my own? Please. It's embarassing to see you rationalise poor behaviour just because he holds a position you happen to agree with. I don't see a majority (or even strong minority) of KJV-O folks trying to rationalise Peter Ruckman's poor conduct, but I do see people writing him off not based on his scholarship but simply because he's a bit of a cuckoo. Is that double standard creeping up on us again? when it so clearly contradicts what are the fruits of the Spirit

....but I didn't link to Wallace to show that extremism goes both ways.

Who says you did? My point was that Wallace has a clear bias here against the KJV-O crowd, something that influences his views, and I have no doubt his scholarship. His work may have merit, but it is subjective as well. You're basically admitting to a double standard here, for while it seems to be perfectly legitimate to undermine the KJV-O crowd by attacking their character and portraying them as extremists, obviously that's a no-no when the roles are reversed. before you start to deny this, I should point out that you did precisely this by taking a made up word (bibliolator) and then redefining the term to make it so broad that it could apply to half the animal kingdom. Why? This labeling system you've created for yourself is a stereotype and calling pro-KJV folks bibliolators is precisely the kind of hateful rhetoric that I'm crying foul over.

The vast majority of biblical scholars, text critics and otherwise, take the oldest manuscripts to be the best.

I wasn't aware that mob rule was the order of the day in determining what manuscripts are the best. There's a saying: "What's popular is not always right, and what's right is not always popular." The people who have the right view or correc views never seem to be in the majority. Only a minority believe in Intelligent Design. Only a minority of scholars got it right and recognised Christ's first coming (such as the Magi). Now you're arguing quantity, that because more scholars hold to a particular position, it automatically means it's the correct one. There was a time where I think the majority of scholars didn't even believe certain ethnic groups described in the Bible physically existed (like the Hittites) until archeological finds proved them wrong. In addition, most scholars believed that the Jews had all but lost their use of Hebrew during the time of Jesus, until the discovery of the DDS scrolls refuted this consensus. True to Scriptuire, men who think they know something always end up realising that they know nothing. And since you clearly like to use labels, I got another one for you: scholarolatry.

For decades, we see a clear assumption being made in scholastic circles that "older is better" We know this because those who defend the KJV constantly run into this line of thinking when making their case, and there is a conclusion that the modern translations are better in every way. You may not think so, but this is clearly the impression those critical of the KJV make.

Just as with Old Testament textual criticism (as I explained in my review, by the way, though Mac said I was doing the opposite of what I was actually doing),

I don't name you among those who favour the use of the Septuagint. I did say that there is a tendency to do this, and part of it may stem from the fact that many of the scholars' expertise lies in Greek, not Hebrew, so using the LXX is a way of bypassing the need to study and learn Hebrew as part of engaging in textual criticism. This is a bad approach for many reasons, not the least of which is the evidence that Hebrew influences the structure of even the Greek New Testament. A dual expert knowledge of both Hebrew and Greek is needed, and when that's taken into account, the pool of qualified scholars up to the task shrinks considerably.

Moreover is what constitutes "expert" knowledge. James White took a few courses in Hebrew and thus fancies himself an expert on the language, I presume because some college figured one or two courses in Hebrew was enough for him to teach on the very topic. Yet I don't doubt that if he had to write up a thesis in pure unadulterated Hebrew, Israelis would shake their heads at his mauling of their beloved language. Would you consider this an ad hominem attack though? think not, because it gets very tiring to see anti-KJV scholars puff up their credentials to more than it really is. I would only consider Carson to really rank up there, but then again his expertise is in Greek, so I'm unaware of how well he knows Hebrew.

To reiterate, it may very well be that the affability towards the LXX is based on scholastic laziness. It seems incredible that a manuscript with a spurious history should even be equated with the Masoretic texts.

e.g. the Syriac, will have the right readings sometimes when the Hebrew doesn't. For instance, the Hebrew says Saul reigned for ____ years.

Is this example merely hypothetical or are you using an actual case in point? If the missing x has to do with numbers, you're not taking into consideration that you could deduce the number of years by looking elsewhere in the same Hebrew text. For example, the text may say David was 12 years old in the first year of Saul's reign, and 22 years old when Saul's fell on his sword, making Saul's reign ten years. Thus you can fill in the blanks by using the same Hebrew text, without going to another source. This is just a hypothetical though, but for good measure you can go to the Syriac and see if it gives the same number, and if it does it will reinforce your conclusion even more, but if it DOESN'T then you have a problem. Those who view the Hebrew as superior will fill in the blank by reading elsewhere in the Hebrew, not by using the Syriac text.

But do scholars do this? I would suspct that some of them don't, and it calls into question the established method in which they engage in textual criticism, as well as explainly partly why translations tend to vary (aside from copyright issues that is).

You indicate that additions are more likely than subtractions, but based on what? Since you quote the last chapter of Mark as being an evident example of an addition, I should point out that in at least one study, a manuscript missing the last chapter indicated that the chapter had been removed. Through some forensic analysis they determined that the empty space where the chapter should have been had been erased, and they could discern indentation marks in that empty column that showed missing writings.

You also seem to be backpedaling from your earlier claim, which I quote:

...others favor using the whole range of manuscripts we now have available, including the older text types that we have fewer copies of but are much closer to the original manuscripts....

I'm glad you're clarifying your position more clearly in this entry, but what was I suppose to conclude here? You clearly indicated that because these fewer manuscripts were older, they were more accurate (and thus better). I didn't change your position just to make it easier to refute your argument, so please don't insult my intelligence. We always here this, that older is better, older is better, but now that I've called you out, you're saying older is not necessarily better. Well good for you.

I'll concede my earlier argument was wrong about missing portions of the Bible, since upon reflection, what the predominant issue here is not what Scriptures have gone missing that suddenly turned up now, but what Scriptures are contended to be ADDED, and thus were not part of the original. 1 John 5:7 is the most infamous of these verses, desite evidence of its existence centuries before Erasmus added it in his Textus Recepticus, we'd be hard pressed to find a scholar who will concede its rightful place in Scripture, and its crucial support of the Trinity. Muslims still contend to this day that since scholars believe this verse was tacked on, the entire idea of a Trinity is "Christian" invention. But I digress...

There's no promise that every part of it will be known absolutely by anyone.

There is a promise however that those who love God will find and have his Word.

Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Every word of God must be available to them that believe (not to the whole world) if Scripture is to be believed:

Luke 4:4 ...It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

I don't see how malicious corruption is needed for most of the points I've made. The ending of Mark could have been deleted by an error.

Could have been, might have been? Regarding my earlier mention of the missing verses in Mark, that particular instance doesn't indicate a simple error. Somebody intentionally wiped it out, for who knows why. That's malicious if you ask me, but not only that, it's consistent with what Pauls warns:

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God....

Paul says not some, but MANY were corrupting the word of God even then. It's not unreasonable to think that spurious versions of the inspired texts would make its way into circulation. But today as the days wax more evil, many, including you appear to exhibit a lacksadaisical concern about malicious corruption of Scripture, as if it were a rare occurence. It's not, and neither would it necessarily be obvious.

Is Mac saying that God would never allow anyone ever to do such a thing? We know it happens. Is he saying that no one one would ever print a whole Bible with such corruptions?

What are you talking about? I indicated the exact opposite both here and earlier. There will be corrupted forms of God's word (otherwise the modern translations wouldn't exist, *ahem*) but that his uncorrupted word would always prevail in spite of it all.

...it sound, as if any fool should see that it can only refer to a virgin, as if a sign has to be something the whole world will recognize as miraculous...

Uh, yeah exactly.

That assumes only one kind of prophetic fulfillment (and disallows typology), and it skirts the linguistic issues (not that I addressed them either)

Yeah, linguistic issues that exist because of a reluctantance to accept the overt messianic nature of the verse, but *ahem*, that's another issue.

His comments about conspiracy theories miss the point that KCV-only conspiracy theorists really do think most evangelical biblical scholars hate the Bible

Who's generalising now? I dont think all or even many KJV-O think MOST biblical scholars hate the Bible. I personally think many of them are just misguided and/or are simply poor scholars. In addition, they can be prone to influence by scholars who DO hate the Bible without realising it.

That's simply not true. I've read Carson's book on the topic, one of the two most popular response to KJV-onlyism..

Yes and I see you didn't mention James White, because that's who I was thinking of. He also has a broader reach probably because his book on the issue was more recent.

I think that's reversing quite rapidly as evangelical scholars are taking much more prominence.

I'm not convinced of this, but I'd like to hold out hope in this regard, especially if the Third Millennium Bible was a result of this resurgance in evangelical scholars.

Yet other translations, including most of the ones I recommended, seem to be coming almost entirely out of more conservative circles.

You're talking about translations that have been out years and years though (except for the NLT). Despite the conservative background (maybe), consider that the most popular Bible (NIV) is drawn by Westcott and Hort, who are not exactly the pillars of conservative Christianity. That would probably lead to a debate that would spawn volumes of text in defense of the two scholars, but I'll leave it at that.

this. He also gives some subjective conclusions about the quality of the KJV, which in my experience looking at the Greek of passages I've taught just doesn't seem to fit with the evidence.

You're presuming your knowledge of Greek is superior to the KJV Translators' knowledge of it.

And regarding the corruption of language, I have to wonder if those who teach or work within the realm of English Literature would all be considered freaks who have shrines built in honour of Shakespeare. If you want to argue that Ebonics and other poor usages of English is not a corruption of language, feel free to do so, but slandering those who have a love for language by calling them idolators is annoyingly derogatory and continues to prove my earlier points. We don't believe in a magical nature of English as it used to be, neither are we, as you appear to be, utterly blind to the corruption of English language as it continued to deterioriate throughout the generations. Consider that ye, thee, thou, etc. were important words to denote singular and plural audiences, and that's all been replaced with "you" for the most part. I think some translation now have to have a footnote indicating when a singular or plural audience is being addressed because this use has been lost through time. That's not a corruption of the language? But because I see this I'm an idolator of the English language? In your twisted view of linguistics, perhaps, but reality dictates otherwise.

those unfamiliar with Mac's blog, he's involved with the "worship God but abandon God's people (the church)" movement recommending that Christians be unchurched

Another gross misrepresentation of what I write. I dont encourage Christians to abandon God's people, but to leave apostate churches. I don't recommend that they leave godly churches, but apostate ones. Evidently there's no such thing as an apostate church in your view, or if there are, they are about as common as a dodo.


I would say the reverse. Instead of capturing everything in a language no one speaks, it puts the truths of God's word into the language people actually speak

We may not speak it, but we can certainly read it can't we. In addition, this is just one example, but it demonstrates the fallacy of the arguments against the KJV's language structure. I knew an immigrant from Italy who spoke broken English, and could not understand the modern translations of the Bible, yet he understood the KJV just fine. That might be an abberation except that I seem to read similar accounts eslewhere of people with limited knowledge of English, who understood the KJV better than modern translations. Perhaps some real research should be done to study this anomaly, since it clearly contradicts your assertions.

Consider also that the NIV has all the poetry of an office memo, and its dryness has also discouraged people from reading the Bible more often, hence the reason for the ESV. So really, just because it's in plain English hardly means it will succeed better in readership. The butter knife analogy remains true.

And that is all....till next time. >:-)

First, I'm not home, so I have no access to my books. I'm using a really slow connection and can't stay online long, so I wasn't able to edit or research my response properly.

I didn't reread the Wallace thing, but I did do a search of it and couldn't find anything related to the quote you've found from him, so that must be something else he wrote that I've never read. The exact words you quoted do seem indicative of certain KJV-only people, including just about every single one that I've met in person, one of whom I considered a friend but haven't seen in a long time because he's in the Air Force now. I've never actually met someone who consciously takes the KJV-only position (and not just that the KJV or NKJV should be preferred) who isn't like what your quote from Wallace says about KJV-onlies. Your statements that the vast majority of KJV-onlies are more reasonable doesn't even remotely resemble my experience.

The use of holy war metaphors is all through public discourse without trying to bring up images of Islamic terrorism. We talk about crusades for breast cancer, and we have Campus Crusade for Christ, both of which use the term 'crusade' in a metaphorical sense for a holy war without weapons of war. The charge against KJV-onlies who wage a holy war on those whom they label as hating God's word is at least as much a holy war as those examples. I don't see how the language of the quote you gave requires anything about terrorism. That's why I think you've innovated in interpreting it that way. So I wasn't rationalizing poor behavior because I agree with the position. I haven't yet seen what was supposed to be so bad about it.

The attack is ad hominem if you're trying to say that his scholarship is bad because he has a bad attitude. It seemed pretty obvious to me that you wouldn't listen to what he said because you didn't like his tone. That's precisely what the ad hominem fallacy is.

You did say that my link to Wallace was to show his extremism. "To show that extremism goes both ways, Nicene and Parablemania both laughably link to an article by Daniel Wallace..."

I didn't make up the word 'bibliolater'. As I said in my post, it's commonly thrown around against inerrantism. What I was saying is that the reason such a word is wrongly applied to inerrantists is because inerrantism isn't placing ultimate value on the texts we have. It's placing it on the message delivered through those texts, a message from God. My point is that KJV-onlyism has to say things that move much closer to what these people charge inerrantists with, something that historically inerrantists haven't believed. It's not hateful rhetoric. The name is as a result of a conclusion of an argument, and if something is wrong with the argument I'd like to see what. Simply calling it name-calling doesn't address the argument that led to the name.

"The people who have the right view or correc views never seem to be in the majority. Only a minority believe in Intelligent Design."

The majority of people in general do believe in intelligent design. A majority of scientists think the arguments for intelligent design are unconvincing, and I agree with them. They aren't convincing. Neither are the traditional theistic proofs. I think some of them are good arguments, much better than their opponents will admit, but they're not ultimately convincing to someone who doesn't agree with all the premises, and the standard philosophical conceptions of our day give some good ways to resist those premises. This point comes out all the time. There is such a thing as a consensus of experts, and usually a consensus of experts is right when the issue they're talking about is within their purview. Just because it has to do with God or Christianity leads some to dismiss scholarly competence altogether, but the fall is a fall of the will and not a complete removal of intellectual capacities. Sometimes something prevents people from seeing a truth, but that's a case-by-case phenomenon that's true with non-religious matters. I think this was true with the generation of scholars who accepted the circular reasoning for the division of the Pentateuch into sources that were independently brought together by haphazard editors. Now scholars are realizing that their reasons for holding that were bad, and scholars are moving toward a more reasonable conclusion, partly due to the influence of conservative and moderate evangelicals like Gordon Wenham. Scholars still accept the division of Isaiah because of a circular argument and an assumption of naturalism. However, on many issues when scholarly consensus settles on a view, particularly when such a view continues despite the best objections, the scholars turn out to be right. I think there's a presumption of considering very carefully the arguments of most scholars. I'm convinced that KJV-onlies haven't done that, because the arguments seem to me to be thoroughly compelling. What I'm saying isn't merely that the majority of scholars believe it. What I'm saying is that the majority of scholars believe it for good reason. They've given compelling arguments for it. The KJV-only position stands in the face of that.

I think this is true with the issue of free will in philosophy. The difference with this issue is that the evangelical scholars almost all agree that the Majority Text is inferior. It's not an issue of secular scholars trying to undermine the biblical account vs. Christian scholars upholding it. Many KJV-onlies portray it that way, though you've been careful not to say it that way (but I suspect you sometimes think that way). Sometimes the secular scholars do tend to be right, with Christians ones wrong (e.g. in my view, on free will in philosophy, where secular scholars accept the biblical compatibilist picture and Christian philosophers insist on what I see as unbiblical Arminianism). This issue can't be like that either, since both the evangelicals and the secular scholars agree. That would say something, even though it's not a proof.

"I did say that there is a tendency to do this, and part of it may stem from the fact that many of the scholars' expertise lies in Greek, not Hebrew, so using the LXX is a way of bypassing the need to study and learn Hebrew as part of engaging in textual criticism."

That's just not true. It's the Old Testament scholars schooled in Hebrew who prefer the Septuagint. I think of Kyle McCarter's commentary on Samuel, which tends to favor the Septuagint whenever it differs from the Hebrew. Interestingly, this is also reversing. Ralph Klein's commentary, which came after McCarter's takes a more hesitant approach to the Septuagint, taking it into account but preferring the Hebrew when possible. This reflects a larger trend. Neither trend has to do with a language preference.

Those who favor the Septuagint do so because of an argument, not a preference. It has to do with insurmountable problems in the Hebrew (e.g. large numbers, for which there's still no satisfactory solution among evangelical scholars, differences between genealogies, gaps in the text), and it also relates to the finding of partial Hebrew texts older than the Massoretic text that were found among the Qumran scrolls that agree more with the Septuagint on certain matters than they do with the Massoretic text. This actually solves some of the charges of contradictions between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. If the Samuel-Kings text is faulty, and the Septuagint that agrees with Chronicles against Samuel-Kings more accurately reflects the original Hebrew, then there was never a contradiction to begin with. We don't have more than pieces of this older Hebrew text, but it does favor paying more attention to the Septuagint than you seem to want. Scholars have taken this too far, but there's something to their claim.

James White and D.A. Carson are both popularizing and summarizing the thoughts and arguments of more specialized scholars. Carson does know a lot about language in general. He's published in contemporary linguistics, and he knows something like seven languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. He was also raised bilingual. I don't know much about White and have never read anything he's written. I do know that Carson endorses White's book as more up-to-date than his own, addressing more recent attacks against modern translations. That's why I've been willing to refer to it in the same category as Carson's book.

Carson's attitude toward the Septuagint is pretty close to mine anyway. There's no bias toward the Greek language simply because it's the one he's a specialist in.

The Saul's reign case is real. I didn't bring my Samuel commentaries with me, so I can't get into the details. What I wrote was all reconstructed from memory. I don't think the numbers most translations use come from other biblical passages. I'm fairly sure they come from the Septuagint. I can't get into any more details until I have access to my library to look for the particular arguments.

You said I was backpedaling from my original claim by saying that not all old manuscripts were accurate, which of course follows from the fact that different older manuscript types disagree with each other.

I'm not sure how any of that should count as backpedaling from my original claim that the most accurate manuscripts are older. When I referred to the older manuscripts that are closer to the originals I was talking about the more accurate ones. As for "older is better", I think that's the right presumption.

Older is presumed better, just as harder readings are considered better, just as readings appearing in multiple text types are better. I was resisting, on the one hand, that older is irrelevant to whether it's better and, on the other hand, that older is the only criterion that counts for whether it's better.

You seemed to be assuming the second view was mine, but my opposition to the first view doesn't require the second.

I'm not quite sure what you're asserting about I John 5:7. Isn't this the bit that doesn't exist in any Greek manuscript? The same reasoning you gave for rejecting the Septuagint and preferring the Hebrew should favor seeing this as an addition. The fact that Muslims wrongly assume the doctrine of the Trinity rests of this verse shouldn't affect whether we think it's a genuine part of I John.

That the word of God will be available to all those who believe is undermined by the fact that believers have been imprisoned without access to the Bible. The verses you give don't support this anyway. I'm not sure why Jeremiah's delight in the word given to him has any bearing on whether any individual Christian later on will be promised to have the whole Bible. The Deuteronomy verse you quote seems to me to be about those who pick and choose which things they know God to have said based on whether they prefer it to be true. The real life of faith requires heeding all God's messages that have been given to us. Moses didn't have Isaiah, Chronicles, or Luke, but he was able to live the life God had for him. If we happen to be missing the very end of Mark after the resurrection (which I'm not assuming is the case), so can we. We're held responsible for the word of God as it's given to us.

Your evidence for the malicious wiping out of the ending of Mark is news to me. I've never heard of it.

If you've described it correctly, it doesn't show that this was done maliciously to violate scripture.

What it would show is that someone deleted something that had been on the page. If this person knew that someone had added something that doesn't belong there, then I don't see how it's malicious. Your speculating as much as anyone else here. We just don't know enough information to have a dogmatic view on the ending of Mark. Your interpretation of Paul's II Corinthians comment also seems speculative. It may well be about misinterpreting, misapplying, or selectively reading. I see no reason to assume it's about modification of the texts themselves.

Then you move into an uncharitable interpretation:

But today as the days wax more evil, many, including you appear to exhibit a lacksadaisical concern about malicious corruption of Scripture, as if it were a rare occurence

No. I detest malicious corruption of scripture. I just don't think that's what's gone on with this issue.

There really is a trend in Pentateuchal source criticism away from the fragmentation of the text. J and E have merged into J, and D is now viewed as minimal in Genesis at least (I don't know about beyond that).

The original idea was a movement from pure spirituality (J) to ritualistic religion (P), with D in between. Now it's pretty clear that the passages attributed to P are older than Deuteronomy and older than the time Deuteronomy was once assigned (which aren't necessarily the same period, even for mainstream scholars). James Watts, who teaches at Syracuse University where I'm currently working on my Ph.D., is a good example of this younger generation of scholars criticizing the old source theories under the influence of people like Gordon Wenham and Duane Garrett without fully accepting a one-author view.

Some of this new work even suggests that Genesis 1-11 is much older than Moses even, with some modifications between Moses and the era of the kings, which I think is much more likely than the traditional view that Moses simply wrote it. This is one case where a bad view has given rise to a view that seems to me to be even better than the traditional view.

The NLT, TNIV, ESV, and HCSB are all very new. I'm not sure why you think the NLT is the only new one among them, since it's the oldest of the four. As for Westcott and Hort, they're often the subject of KJV-only ad hominems. Just because they weren't evangelicals doesn't refute the fact that they were the best text critics of their generation and excellent biblical commentators in their own right.

The best commentators today, conservative or not, have to refer to them as old standards, even if they might disagree with them much, as they would with almost anyone in a field so dominated by controversies over piddling details that don't admit of certainty.

You say I'm presuming my knowledge of Greek is superior to that of the KJV translators. I know it better than James White does, perhaps, if your description of his language training is correct, but I'm a philosopher by training and not a translator of classical or Hellenistic Greek. Since this is independent of the text critical issue, I won't bring that issue in, even though today's scholars have a much richer resource base for reconstructing the original text. Just on translation issues, in some ways my understanding of the Greek language is informed by scholars who have come to understand the language better than the KJV translators did. Advances in understandings of Greek literature have improved considerably. Part of this is from finding new manuscripts or works in the language. Some is from years of scholars coming to understand to texts we already had. Part is from theological and exegetical debate bringing out more options of interpretation. Part is from archeological discoveries and vast advances in our understanding of the social setting of the ancient world. I don't know all this information, but whenever I look at a recent commentary I have access to an expert's analysis of all that information, and the best commentaries include it and the various arguments so the reader can come to their own views based on the relevant information. I've read enough in those kinds of commentaries to know quite a bit about what we now know that the KJV translators didn't know. That doesn't require knowing the ancient Greek language better than the KJV translators did.

As for language corruption, I think we need balance between the observation that language does change, and there's nothing wrong with that, and the observation that sometimes these changes can be unfortunate.

It's interesting that many of what language purists list as new perversions are really older expressions or meanings of terms that have become less used but still occur occasionally. I don't remember any offhand, but Language Log frequently lists this sort of thing.

That doesn't mean language purists are automatically wrong, but it takes careful checking to make sure the thing you consider an innovation really is one.

You claim that the loss of expressibility is automatically a corruption. Your example is the loss of two forms for singular and plural of the second person pronoun. Granting that, we still have to admit that there are other language changes that allow more expressibility and that there are ways the same can be expressed in many regions ('youse' in the northeast, 'yall' in the south, 'all yall' in Texas with 'yall' as singular). I'm not sure loss of expressibility is a degradation, though. Is Chinese a degraded language because it doesn't have tenses? Hebrew itself is much older than English. Did it degrade sooner than English simply because it only has two tenses? Most languages that have less expressibility in one way have more in other ways. Those that lose expressibility in one way are probably gaining it on other ways. This isn't a matter of a downward slope however you look at it.

John McWhorter (at Berkeley) is one of the best linguists of our day, and he just wrote two books in succession, one about how language change happens and needs to be accepted. There's no such thing as an infinitive in spoken English at this point, and insisting that people not split infinitives is linguistically insensitive. Then the second book points out some ways that language has been dumbed down.

He seems to have a very balanced perspective on this issue, and that's the sort of attitude I have, not that I agree with him on everything. (For example, I disagree with his claim that we should remove all our inhibitions to profanity, and I don't think there's anything inherently better about the older style of public speaking that sound fake and old-fashioned to me but that he misses for their more carefully composed language.)

As for the leaving churches issue, I think the churches you call apostate are real churches in the same way the Corinthian church Paul poured so much love into was. Your attitude seems to me to be the exact opposite of Paul's when it comes to churches with false teaching, gross moral problems, or a cult of personality. These are problems to address, and there's a biblical way to do it. Telling people that it's not a church isn't that way. If the biblical path has been followed and the people in charge are unrepentant after having been confronted in a loving way, and the people of the church are unwilling to remove them once they've seen this, then it might be best to abandon them to the charge of apostasy. I

don't think you've done this with Rick Warren. If you did, you might find that he's not a false teacher after all but just an uncareful exegete who is excited about ideas he gets that do have some truth to them, and it sometimes leads him to ignore some biblical emphases. Pretty much everyone does this in some ways, though, to lesser or greater degrees.

Your immigrant example is the exception. Most people I know who speak English as a second language (and I know quite a few) prefer a translation like the NLT. Your claim that the ESV is preferred by people who think the NIV is dry and unpoetic is countered by people who say the opposite, that the NIV sounds to them like good English and that the ESV is not as bad as the NASB but not good enough to count as good English. The general point that the NIV is unpoetic means nothing anyway. Only parts of the Bible are poetic to begin with. If we want to translate Luke according to style, it should sound like a classical Greek epic, and Acts should sound like street language in comparison. Mark should sound like a teenybopper on the phone trying to express more content than she can fit into a breath. The psalms should sound like poetry, and the prophets should be mostly exalted prose. Numbers should have lists organized in chart form, given our way of looking at information like that now in the way people of the time would have interpreted it. Yet all of these methods would lose some of the content expressed. If you want those kinds of features preserved, look to The Message. If you want form in other ways, the KJV does do that, as does the NKJV, but so do the ESV and the HCSB. If you want content, however, it depends on which part of the content. Some of it is better expressed in the NIV, TNIV, NLT, and NRSV than in the form-intensive translations. It's true that the KJV was an excellent literary work of its time, and for that reason we should keep it and enjoy it. That doesn't mean it's the best translation, though.

You used the butter knife analogy, which reminds me of the old complaint that the Living Bible was a rubber sword. I think the same might be extended to The Message and maybe the New Century Version. I don't think it's true of the modern translations I was recommending, but neither do I think it's true of the KJV and NKJV. My comments were to the accuracy in various places and not to whether it's of value for careful study. In many ways it still is. I just think it's best to use the best resources available rather than to insist on ones that are no longer the best, in ways that favor the modern translations in general.

Leave a comment

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To

Games I've Been Playing

Other Stuff

    jolly_good_blogger

    thinking blogger
    thinking blogger

    Dr. Seuss Pro

    Search or read the Bible


    Example: John 1 or love one another (ESV)





  • Link Policy
Powered by Movable Type 5.04