(Note: I have not had much exposure to the KJV-only camp, and as such am not terribly familiar with their arguments. I am assuming that most of the KJV-only camp falls into Darren's second classification: The KJV is the only valid English translation. (The first classification I have no problem with, but doesn't seem to fit the name KJV-only, as it seems to more accurately be KJV-preferred, or KJV-lover. The third classification is pretty radical and I can't imagine that it has a huge following.) In particular, I am assuming that KJV-only advocates believe that the KJV is the best possible English translation, and that KJV-Oers believe that the original Greek and Hebrew is superior to everything, including the KJV.)
In the discussion about KJV-onlyism, Mac makes the argument that God would not let any portion of His Word go unpreserved for any serious length of time. Here is what he has to say on the topic
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?This particular argument bothers me quite a bit. Rebecca and Jeremy see it as an a priori commitment to one particular notion of how God will preserve His Word and I am inclined to agree. But what really bothers me is not that there is an a priori commitment to a principle, but that the KJV-only camp applies this a priori principle selectively.
The KJV-O logic (or at least Mac's argument at any rate) is a proof by contradiction and goes something like this:
(1) Assume that there exists today an English version of the Bible that is better than the KJV. Call such a version the BV (Better Version)
(2) Then, by definition of "better", people did not have the best possible version of the God's Word between 1611 (the completion of the KJV) and the date of the completion of the BV.
(3) God would not allow His people to be without the best possible version of His Word or any significant length of time.
(4) Therefore, (1) must be false.
The argument hinges on two premises: (1) and (3). The KJV-O camp feels that (3) is significantly more compelling than (1), and thus (1) is deemed false. As such, (4) should more accurately be written as:
(4') Therefore either (1) or (3) must be false (or possibly both).
What drives me crazy is that while (1) may or may not be false, (3) is demonstrably false, especially by KJV-O standards. Consider the following:
(5) The KJV was the best English translation of the Bible in the year 1611.
(6) By definition of "best", the KJV was better than all of the English translations which preceded it.
(7) Thus, prior to 1611, God's people (well, the ones who spoke/read English at any rate) were without the best possible version of His Word.
(8) However, God would never allow such a thing. See (3).
(9) Therefore, either (3) or (5) must be false (or possibly both).
Mac will certainly not give up on (5). Thus he is forced to give up (3). But if he gives up (3) then he really shouldn't use it as a hammer against other versions.
[Before Mac goes and accuses me of being anti-KJV, let me state for the record that I like the KJV quite a bit. I do believe that the KJV was by quite a large margin the best English translation of the Bible in its time and that the translators did an incredible job.
I will not go so far as to say that the KJV is the best possible English translation because I do not think there is such a thing. Every translation is imperfect and fails in some way (usually in multiple ways) to capture the full meaning and context of the original. Each translation chooses to emphasize some aspects of the original over others by necessity. Inasmuch as they are successful in doing so, that translation succeeds in being the "best" in respect to those aspects. The KJV is the "best" for poetic style and for memory work, but is not the "best" when it comes to current language usage. That is by no means meant to be a disparaging remark against the KJV, but simply a recognition that all translations are imperfect, and the KJV is no exception.
All that being said, I think that the argument between Jeremy and Mac is primarily about the use of the Majority Text vs. the Critical Text as the basis for translation, and that the argument of Mac's which I refute is a minor one and not critical to his point. I am no expert on textual criticism and have little to say on the matter of "which one is better", but I do know that contra Mac's assertions that the Critical Text advocates only care about the age of manuscripts, the Critical Text was assembled with far more criteria than just the age of manuscripts in mind (though the age of manuscripts was an important criterion).
With that in mind, my question to Mac is "What about other translations which use the Majority Text as their foundation? Might these possibly be better than the KJV? If not, why not? And if so, are you really a KJV-Only advocate, or just KJV-preferred?]