Is the Text an Authority Issue?

We’ve avoided making an argument on this issue for the last few years because we know our audience has varying opinions on the topic. However, we decided it would be a good idea to explain why we choose to use the King James Bible exclusively on this website. We believe the text of Scripture itself is an authority issue and we hope in this article to demonstrate it.  This is not to mock or attack fellow Christians who have different beliefs on this issue. There are wonderful men of God who have strongly stood for the key doctrines in Scripture without ever opening a King James Bible. However, by accepting modern textual criticism, these gentlemen have subtly undermined the doctrine of preservation.

So what is the doctrine of preservation? In basic English, the doctrine of preservation is the ability of God to preserve His Word throughout history. This means that God has always had an accurate, available copy of His Word. In the Old Testament system, the text was confined to the Jews who were ultra meticulous to ensure they copied the text correctly.  If they made a single error, the manuscript had to be destroyed and they had to start over. This explains why the Masoretic Hebrew text that forms the Old Testament in our Bibles is so incredibly accurate.  In the New Testament, the responsibility for passing on the teachings of Christ and His apostles fell to individual churches.  Different churches obviously produced differing levels of accuracy in their copies depending on their orthodoxy. However, the orthodox members of the church were able to maintain an incredibly accurate level of transmission throughout history.

What developed over time was a corrupted set of manuscripts, which were mostly produced under the influence of Origin in Alexandria.  The orthodox church wanted nothing to do with these Alexandrian texts as they became known. As the false doctrines of the time passed into history, and with the rise of Islam in the east, the Alexandrian texts were mostly relegated to libraries and trash cans.  Thus old manuscripts were preserved, simply because they were not being used by the church.

By contrast, the orthodox church, mostly in middle, northern and western Europe and Asia minor maintained texts which remained remarkably similar and entirely orthodox.  There are literally thousands of these Byzantine or Received texts, all marching to the same drum as it were with very little difference between any two.  Because these manuscripts were heavily used by the orthodox church and later the Catholic church as it slowly lost orthodoxy, they were quickly worn out and replaced, resulting in dozens of newer manuscripts.  Despite their loss of orthodoxy, the Catholic church had no motive or need to change the manuscripts. Most people, even priests could not read and the few that could usually didn’t read Scripture other than to deliver homilies.

By a strange coincidence of history, a scholar by the name of Desiderius Erasmus set out on a strange task for a Catholic monk. He began work on synthesizing the Byzantine text into one Greek New Testament.  Erasmus was an incredibly well learned and connected man. He exchanged letters with most scholars in Europe and, because of his status as a monk, had access to manuscripts other scholars did not.  Erasmus would publish his first edition of what has become known as the Textus Receptus or Received Text in 1519. It was a rushed edition, published to beat a rival team in Spain and Erasmus knew he had made mistakes. These mistakes were corrected by the time of the publication of the third edition in 1522.

When the Reformation controversy blew up in Germany in the late 1510s and 1520s, Erasmus was highly critical of the Catholic church but did not leave it, despite appearing to agree with many of Luther and the other Reformer’s criticisms.  However, he did share their high regard for Scripture. He even went further than the reformers in advocating for believers baptism only, something Luther never did. His Received Text was the foundation for the translation of the New Testament into German, English and numerous other languages. He was aware of manuscripts from the Alexandrian school and rejected them as being inaccurate.  He did practice textual criticism, as did his successors in the reformation who translated from it. However, all of them shared one key feature: an undying respect and reverence for the Word of God and it’s inerrancy. When they approached the Scripture, they strove to ensure that they simply translated what had been faithfully passed down by orthodox believers.

There had always been other Bibles available in the people’s language. However, they were rare and were confined to small sects of orthodox Christians such as the Paulicians and Waldensians.  With the advent of the Reformation, the Bible suddenly began to spread like wildfire again, all using the faithfully transmitted Received Text.

It was not until the mid-1800s and the rise of German higher criticism that the Received Text began to be challenged in orthodox circles.  The Alexandrian text which is the foundation of all modern translations became popular as the Nestle-Aland text but was promoted and fashioned by two Englishmen heavily influenced by German higher criticism and, of all things, the occult. Their names were B.F. Westcott and J. B. A Hort.  Westcott and Hort were theologically very liberal, never affirmed the doctrine of preservation and treated the manuscripts they worked with as any other piece of literature to be edited, rather than the inspired Word of God to be preserved.  Most, if not all textual critics in the present have followed this path. Thus modern versions lack words, particularly the names of God, in many places where the KJV retains them. In some cases

With the history lesson aside, what does it all mean for the doctrine of preservation? Well consider this point. God promised to preserve His Word. “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18 tells us. Further,  Proverbs 30:6 tells us “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Deuteronomy 12:32 adds “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” In other words, adding to the Bible, or taking away from it is sinful. God intended His Word to be kept whole, not selectively edited to remove His name hundreds of times, nor to remove key doctrinal verses.

Some of you may be doubting that this is possible. How could references to the Godhead be systematically removed, let alone whole verses without people noticing? Well, people did notice and refused to use the new translations, but much of the church dismissed them as conspiracy theorists or branded them “Fundamentalists” as if it was a bad thing to want to hold the fundamental truths of Scripture.

If you still doubt this fact, turn in your ESV, NASB, NIV or other modern translation to Romans 1:16. Note the phrase “the gospel” in that verse. Now search that verse online in the KJV.   You will find that two words are missing from the modern translations. They are important words because they tell you whose gospel it is. The words are “of Christ”.  Notice the issue?  The NASB removes the name Christ 52 times, the name Jesus 87 times, and references to Christ as “Lord” 39 times. The NIV is actually worse, removing seventeen whole verses and footnoting doubts about twenty-eight others. Search Acts 8:37 in your NIV and you will find it missing from the text with a footnote explaining it away.  The ESV does the exact same thing.  Taking this verse away makes it easier to claim salvation is not necessary for baptism, hence why it was likely removed.

Is the text an authority issue then? Absolutely. There is no way around it.  The textual lineage of the Textus Receptus is that of orthodoxy. The Alexandrian lineage has always been associated with heresy.  This alone should be disqualifying. However, the hundreds of deleted words, the dilution of key doctrines and the removal of key doctrinal verses should make it clear that what is going on here is an attack on the Scripture! After all,  if we can’t know for certain that certain words are in the Scripture or not, how do we know that the Bible means what it says? How can we know what the Bible teaches? We are left reliant on fallible man, many of whom are heretics at best and outright atheists at worst, to tell us what belongs and what does not belong in God’s Word. Yet God Himself said that no part of His Word would pass away until all of it was fulfilled.  That makes it an authority issue.  By refusing to stand on the Textus Receptus, church leaders are undermining the authority of the Bible.  I do not say this lightly. Many great Christians have never used a King James Bible, just like many great Christians have believed the earth is millions of years old. However, by doing so they are unwittingly undermining the doctrine of preservation and the authority of the Scripture.

 

For those who want to know more on this topic, or who want more detailed examples than we can provide in this blog, we recommend the work of Dr. David H. Sorenson, Touch Not the Unclean Thing, as an introduction to this topic. 

 

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