The Trial of God’s Word
This is the story of how God replaced my doubts about His written
Word with complete confidence in His written Word.
The doubts and questions that I experienced during this period of struggle
are a testimony to my own sin and helplessness.
The resolution to these doubts and questions
is surely a testimony to God’s goodness and grace.
May this story be a blessing to you.
“…Yea, hath God said…?”
Is the English translation of 1611 A.D. (commonly called the King James Version)
the perfect Word of God or is it not?
Over 20 years ago I had been taught that the King James Version is God’s perfect Word. I had come to believe this and had held to it. But now, around the end of the year 2000, I was questioning this belief. My doubts began when I heard the King James Version corrected and criticized from the pulpit. As time passed doubts increased. I read books that attempted to defend the “King James Only” position but they left me with new questions. Many people whom I knew considered the Bible version issue to be unimportant and therefore considered those who held strong convictions about the King James Version to be troublemakers. But surely this was a matter of great importance. After all these were the words of God in question not the words of man. I observed that some of the defense of the King James Version was done in a spirit that was not worthy of the name of Christ. But I knew that it was unwise to reject a position solely upon the basis of the actions of men who associate with it. I also observed that the end result of opposition to the “King James Only” belief was not perfect confidence in another translation. Rather, the result was a belief that we simply do not have God’s perfect Word at all today. Could this be true? Had my faith been misplaced? What I needed was confidence that I had God’s very words in my own hands. Anything else was of little worth to me. For without confidence in God’s Word how could I place confidence in God?
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
“Call unto me,…”
I wanted to be objective about my quest. I determined that I would not allow my personal prejudices (which I knew I had) to keep me from finding the truth (no matter what the truth turned out to be). This was a frightening moment. The issue seemed so involved and so difficult to me that I despaired of ever knowing the truth about it. As I was thinking about all of this on my way to work one morning, in my desperation I just cried out to God, asking Him to help me. I remember telling Him that I knew that it would be a genuine miracle if He were to help me with this but that I also knew that He was a God of miracles. Like a child I asked Him to show me his truth.
“…and I will answer thee,
and shew thee great and mighty things,
which thou knowest not.”
Slowly, as I continued to pray and ask for God’s help during the weeks to follow, I began to see God’s gracious hand at work in my life. A friend sent me some newsletters from an Independent Baptist missionary named David Cloud who had sacrificed much time and expense in a massive research effort to help people understand this issue. I read two articles on the subject of ”Bible Preservation”. They struck a certain chord in my heart. This encouraged me to meditate upon the multitude of scripture passages that teach this precious doctrine. Three times it is recorded that Christ stated that heaven and earth would pass away, but His words would not pass away (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33). The psalmist was comforted by this same truth: “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” (Psalm 119:111) All of the writings within the Old and New Testament are in sweet harmony on this subject. Glory! God had promised to preserve His Word! This was clear. I had the choice to believe God or not. I chose to believe Him. I had called and God was answering.
“And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised,
he was able also to perform.”
It now appeared unreasonable to me that God would demonstrate His power during the creation of His precious word and then neglect to use that same power to protect it. Was not this the Word by which the Son of God is named? “And he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13) Was not this the Word of which it is said: “…for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”? (Psalm 138:2) God’s Word may not be glorious in the eyes of man, but surely it is a glorious thing in God’s eyes. Not only did I come to believe that God would protect His word because of His own love for it, but I also came to believe that He would protect it because of His love for man. I came to recognize God’s care for His Word as one of the greatest evidences of His love for man. “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 117:2) Now, my quest was different. It was no longer a matter of determining if God had preserved His Word inerrant through time to my very generation. I had accepted this simply as a matter of faith in His promises. It was now a matter of identifying what God’s Word was today. I cannot explain in detail how God has preserved His Word nor can I prove scientifically that He has preserved it. God has never asked me to expend my energies in this way. Is not God able to perform that which He had promised? All that He asked me to do was believe Him.
I wrote down how I planned to approach this study:
“This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
Diligent study of God’s Word
“If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”
Willingness to be instructed
“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”
Self judgment and obedience
“I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”
Hope & faith in God, not in my own abilities
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
“Except the LORD build the house,
they labour in vain that build it: …”
I recognized early that this matter could only be settled for me by God Himself. This humbled me and gave me hope. It humbled me because I knew that I was not able to resolve this by my own efforts or abilities. It gave me hope because I was now relying upon God who has unlimited knowledge and power.
“… except the LORD keep the city,
the watchman waketh but in vain.”
I also asked for God’s protection from man and Satan while I pursued my study. I knew that Satan did not want me to resolve this, and I knew how easily other people could wrongly influence me. I also knew that my own sin could hinder me. I was afraid, quite frankly, and turned to God in my fear.
“More to be desired are they than gold,
yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
When I confided to a friend about my struggle, he graciously gave me a book entitled ”For Love of the Bible” by Missionary David Cloud. I soon realized how well named this book was. Many times I had read expressions of fervent love for God’s Word by King David and other faithful men in the Bible. Now I was blessed to own a book that contained a collection of the testimonies of a multitude of men in more recent times (from the early 1800’s up to our present day) who shared this same love for our English Bible. Love! Is not that what man’s response to God’s glorious Word should be? And is not fervent love for God’s Word that which I had found to be lacking in those who do not believe that we have God’s perfect Word today? When I considered this I realized that there was a principle at work here:
An authority that is not fully trusted will not be fully loved.
It was instructive to me to learn that there was great variety among the men whose testimonies are recorded in ”For Love of the Bible”. Some had little training in linguistic and textual matters while others were profoundly learned in these areas. They all had a love for God’s Word that led them to treat it with great reverence. Surely, I thought, this subject should be approached with an attitude of godly fear and love, as King David had. I immersed myself in the study.
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
I had served as foreman on a jury in a felony criminal case previous to this study. This experience had taught me the following valuable principles of judgment:
Judgment must be based upon evidence
Judgment is subject to the law
Evidence may vary in weight
Evidence must be considered as a whole
A juror must judge the credibility of witnesses
A juror must be impartial
A juror must be willing to yield to the sound reasoning of an opposing view
A juror must resist peer pressure
The judge establishes order
The judge ensures that judgment is done according to the law
I applied this training to my study. There is a verse which corresponds to the third principle of judgment listed above (evidence may vary in weight): “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater:…”. (I John 5:9) This verse came to mean much to me in this study. I understood that the witness of God carries a far greater weight of evidence than any evidence that man brings to this subject.
It was encouraging to me to read the work of another man who, over one hundred years ago, had also seen the value of applying principals of legal judgment to this great question:
“… every Reader who would really understand, and form an opinion for Himself upon the great questions at stake, must bestow on the problem which has suddenly emerged into prominence a considerable amount of individual, unprejudiced attention. He will be able to see with which of the contending parties the Truth must lie: but he must approach the problem in a calm, judicial spirit, must require Proof (as far as Proof is attainable) instead of putting up with Hypothesis, and above all must never cease to exercise a large amount of vigilant sagacity,---in fact, of Common Sense.”
Edward Miller, “A Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament” 1886, Preface
“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.”
As I began to examine the differences between the modern English translations and the King James Version (by modern English translations I mean those translations which appeared after the King James Version), I learned something very important: the most significant difference did not concern translation per se (the bringing over of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words and sentences into English) but text (the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words and sentences themselves). For example, in the New Testament, I learned that there are thousands of word differences between the “Nestle/Aland” Greek text (which is the basis for the New International Version and the New American Standard Version) and the “Received” Greek text (which is the basis for the King James Version). What accounted for these differences? As I studied the history behind the textual criticism which produced the foundations for the modern translations I learned that this textual criticism attempted to recover the words of God through a process which was based solely upon human reasoning (as opposed to trusting that God had preserved His Word as He promised, and therefore accepting His pure Word as it was received through faithful churches). I also learned why this had happened: a philosophy known as German Rationalism that had emerged in the 18th century had greatly influenced the thinking of Europe and America in the 19th century.
Rationalism: The doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth. Webster
This philosophy exalted man’s reasoning above God’s revealed will as a means of determining truth. God’s Word is in mortal combat with this philosophy: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Eve acted upon the philosophy of rationalism when she rejected God’s Word in favor of her own thinking and ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, considering it to be “…a tree to be desired to make one wise…” (Genesis 3:6) 19th century Europe was fertile ground for the false teaching of rationalism to root and grow. This was a period of great spiritual weakness, confusion, and mysticism.
“True piety was unacceptable; spiritual deadness was the order of the day. The midnineteenth century was the worst possible time for translation of the Bible. The result--- that is the English Revised Version of 1881 and its descendants, the American Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version---was entirely predictable.”
James H. Sightler (from a message before the Dean Burgon Society in 1990)
It was instructive to me to learn that the foolish theory of evolution also flourished during this period, for it is founded upon the same error in thinking.
“Many ministers, desiring to appear scholarly and learned, dismiss the case for the TR [“TR” stands for “Textus Receptus” which is the Greek text upon which the New Testament of the King James Version is based] because they have been convinced by leading evangelicals that the case is ‘intellectually untenable,’ As if ‘intellect’ were to determine our doctrinal standpoint, and not faith resting upon the Word! The doctrine of creation may be ‘intellectually untenable’ (in the minds of the evolutionists) but faith receives it as true.”
David Blunt (of the Traditional Text Society) 1995
The willingness of textual critics to submit themselves to the philosophy of German Rationalism resulted in an approach to Bible revision and translation whose “wisdom”, “understanding”, and “counsel” were by their very nature “against the LORD”.
“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.”
I understood from the scriptures that God used men to commit portions of His Word to writing. These initial written manuscripts are called “the originals” by people today. As far as is generally known, no one on earth has any of these originals in his possession. In addition, the copies of the original manuscripts that do exist today are not in complete agreement.
This is the situation that the discipline of textual criticism was developed to deal with. Textual criticism is the effort to determine the pure form of the originals from the manuscripts that are available. I realized that I was now touching the very nerve center of the entire controversy.
It was obvious to me that without a pure text to translate from, it would be impossible to produce a pure translation. It was also obvious that texts that differed from each other significantly could not all be pure. But how can we know which text is the pure text? Since I had previously chosen to believe God’s wonderful promises to preserve His Word, the answer was simple: the true text is that text which has been faithfully preserved by God’s providence for man’s practical use throughout the ages. There is a simple truth involved here: God gave His Word for man’s benefit (not for God’s benefit) in every generation. It was never “lost” and in need of recovery by the “experts”. The absence of the “originals” poses no problem for me at all because I am now confident that the God who inspired His Word is also the God who has preserved it. For that person who does not depend upon God’s promises of preservation, the absence of the originals poses a very serious problem indeed. In fact it is so serious that it prevents such a person from ever resolving the matter conclusively. Like the man who will not believe God’s wonderfully simple account of the creation of the universe, he is now adrift upon a vast sea of speculation and “science falsely so called” (I Timothy 6:20).
“And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait:
let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great:
and let me not fall into the hand of man.”
II Samuel 24:14
What a frightening thought to fall into the hand of man when it comes to determining what are and are not God’s words (man is cruel and deceitful by his very nature)! How much better to fall into the hand of the LORD, just trusting Him (for His mercies are great)! The English translations that have been produced since the King James Version have chosen to “fall into the hand of man”. No wonder that there are over one hundred of them (man’s ways are constantly changing). In the New Testament these modern translations lean heavily upon a few old Greek manuscripts which man’s reasoning has elevated to an unjustified position of authority. These manuscripts are often in conflict with the vast majority of manuscripts that have been passed down through the ages at great personal sacrifice. I learned something else which was truly eye-opening: these few manuscripts which the modern versions depend so heavily upon are also in great conflict with themselves!
“Strange as it may appear, it is undeniably true, that the whole of the controversy [of which type of text is the true one] may be reduced to the following narrow issue: Does the truth of the Text of Scripture dwell with the vast multitude of copies, uncial [copies made with uppercase characters] and cursive, [copies made in a “running hand”] concerning which nothing is more remarkable than the marvellous agreement which subsists between them? Or is it rather to be supposed that the truth abides exclusively with a very little handful of manuscripts, which at once differ from the great bulk of the witness, and---strange to say---also amongst themselves?” John Burgon (1813-1888), “The Traditional Text”, page 16
Modern “scholarship” has determined that simple faith in God is just not “scholarly” enough. Now I saw that when faith had been cast aside, sound reasoning had been discarded with it. I had no choice but to reject this form of “scholarship”.
“…Why herein is a marvellous thing…”
When I had first started examining the foundation for the modern translations, I did so with trembling, knowing that the learning associated with some of these translations was formidable. I do not know Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. I do not have a college degree. I discovered that none of these things were necessary for the task before me anymore than extensive legal training had been necessary for me to perform my jury duty. I felt something like the man who was born blind may have felt as the religious experts of the day attempted to convince him that Jesus was not the Son of God (John chapter 9). The opening of the eyes of a man who had been blind from birth was a glorious miracle that the world had never witnessed before. In light of this, this man was astonished that the Pharisees were unwilling to build upon this miracle and admit that Jesus was of God. Like the man born blind, I was now a witness (by faith) to another glorious miracle. The perfect preservation of God’s written Word throughout all time is truly a miracle that is also unique to history. In light of this miracle, I was astonished that those who had produced the modern translations were proceeding as if this miracle had never occurred! As the blind man had said: “Why herein is a marvellous thing”.
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction
that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.”
As the results of my studying and prayer were pushing me away from the modern English translations, I began to wonder if I was losing some of the impartiality that I had committed myself to at the beginning of my study. Then God showed me a verse: “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27) God had given me a great guiding principle: the “words of knowledge” in my present situation were God’s written promises to preserve His very words. The “instruction that causeth to err” was the body of arguments for the modern translations that conflicted with God’s promises. Through this verse, God was telling me to “cease to hear” any “instruction” which caused me to err from His precious promises. This might appear to be “closed minded”, but it is not. My courtroom experience came to my assistance again. In my role as a juror, I had promised to submit myself to the rule of law and the authority of the judge. In the same way, as I sought to separate truth from error on this subject, I had to submit myself to the ultimate Judge and to His law. It was my duty to “cease to hear” any arguments (no matter how compelling they appeared to my limited human reasoning) which violated His “words of knowledge”. Anything less would be presumption on my part. God is the Judge.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world,
and not after Christ.”
I understood that much of the success of the modern translations is directly related to the prevalence of rationalism within many institutions of religious education. Students have in many cases been spoiled through the cunning deceptions and traditions of this world when instead they should have been guided toward God’s simple truths through simple faith. I learned that many men’s faith has been shaken (as mine was) by the rationalism of the “scholars” on this subject. One man testified that his doubts about the Word of God that were given him while in Bible school led him ultimately to question God’s very existence. I thought about this. This is a very reasonable result of doubting God’s Word. If God cannot be trusted to preserve His Word as He has promised, then why should any reasonable person believe Him at all (or anything about Him for that matter)?
“…O thou man of God, there is death in the pot….”
II Kings 4:40
I learned that the differences between the translations are very significant in terms of their quality and quantity. Pastor Jack A. Moorman, author of “Missing in Modern Bibles – is the Full Story Being Told?” counted every word in the Received Greek Text (which is the foundation for the New Testament of the King James Version) and every word of the Nestle/Aland Greek text. The Nestle/Aland text is the Greek text (or one similar to it) that is the foundation for the modern translations. It is also the text used in most Bible schools today. Pastor Moorman determined that the Nestle/Aland text is shorter by 2,886 words (approximately 2% or roughly the equivalent of the amount of words in I Peter & II Peter). Pastor D. A. Waite (A teacher of Greek, Hebrew, Bible Speech, and English for 35 years and Director of “The Bible for Today”) has done a different kind of word count and has determined that the Westcott and Hort Greek text of 1881 (which the Nestle/Aland text followed) differs from the received text in almost 10,000 Greek words (additions, subtractions, and changes). There are approximately 140,500 Greek words in the Received Text, so the differences amount to approximately 7% of the text. Can this be a light matter to God who said “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him”? (Proverbs 30:5)
I learned that the textual differences between the King James Version and the modern translations affect doctrine. Among others, the doctrines affected include: salvation, prophecy, the trinity, and doctrines directly related to the person of Christ (His incarnation, sinlessness, bodily resurrection, eternal existence, deity, and other matters). Many of these differences would likely go unnoticed without a verse-by-verse comparison. They typically do not involve a direct attack upon doctrine, but instead subtly diminish doctrine. There are 86 passages that I am aware of that diminish or discredit the testimony of Christ in various ways in the modern translations. When I understood this, it angered me.
A few examples follow:
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:24) The underlined portions are eliminated in the New International Version, The New American Standard Version, and the New King James Version footnotes. (The elimination of “Take, eat” removes a statement which is symbolic of man’s ability to receive Christ’s sacrifice by choice. The elimination of “broken” reduces the impact of the cost of Christ’s sacrifice in this verse.)
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (I Timothy 3:16) The underlined portion (“God”) is changed to “He” in the New International Version, The New American Standard Version, the New King James Version footnotes, and the New Berkley Version.
(This verse is one of the clearest statements of the deity of Christ in the Bible. This change completely eliminates this clear statement from the verse.)
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:3)
The underlined portion is eliminated in the New International Version, The New American Standard Version, the New King James Version footnotes, and the New Berkley Version. (The elimination of “by himself” diminishes a clear testimony to Christ’s inherent ability to purge sins, and therefore also diminishes a clear testimony to the deity of Christ.)
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
The underlined portion is eliminated in the New International Version, The New American Standard Version, the New King James Version footnotes, and the New Berkley Version. (There is probably much more behind the removal of these words than I realize, but it certainly has the effect of weakening a statement about Christ’s eternal existence.)
“…in the slight alteration of the text is the poison. …How careful we must be. All medicine dispensed in this country, as well as in my country, must if it is poisonous, have ‘POISON’ written on the label. This is the law, and any pharmacist who disregards it can lose his license or even be imprisoned, but poison introduced in the name of holy scripture is being spread throughout the world today…”
“Some therefore cried one thing, and some another:
for the assembly was confused;
and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.”
I read the testimonies of men from the present day far back into the 19th century (where much of the controversy began) who recognized how very important this issue (improper changes to the translation) is because it directly affects the authority of God in people’s lives. Many today do not know that the prospect of an unfaithful revision to the King James Version was seen by many men in the late 1800’s as literally the greatest danger that the English speaking world could be faced with. One of the major problems foreseen was the inevitable confusion produced by a multitude of translations that were in disagreement.
“A story is told that a visiting clergyman entered a church in Paris, and found the minister reading from one version, while in the pew was another version, at the bottom of a page of which was pencilled, ‘not two words in five alike.’ Imagine the influence of such a condition! Are we blind to the force of a statement such as this: ‘You have many different Bibles and no two are alike’? Can you estimate the effect upon the rising generation to have nothing settled? Will our children not soon begin to think that Holy Scripture is a nose of wax to be twisted hither and thither?…What a fog! Would to God I could use a dispeller that would roll back this fog in every direction, for I believe God has spoken….after all is said and done, we can never have an infallible guide upon which to base our faith. Who knows but that the next ten years will see further translations and revisions by greater ‘intellectual giants’ than those of today, and we shall find that we have been groping in the dark. Thus, not having an infallible guide, we are cast adrift on the seas of life in a vessel that has no rudder. On what coast, think you, we can hope to land in such a case? Are you prepared, dear reader, to grant all this? Will you set out to sea under such conditions?” William Aberhart (1878-1943), “The Latest of Modern Movements: Or What about the Revised Version of the Bible?”
“Someone has wisely said, ‘A man who owns only one watch knows what time it is, but a man who has two watches is never quite sure.’ In a similar way this is the problem with the many different translations of the N.T. …The authority of God’s word in the English language is being eroded by these many translations. …When there are two authorities, there is no authority at all. Your feeble judgment becomes the authority as to whether this translation or that translation is right. …Where there is more than one authority, there is no authority at all. …More than one authority in the home is a house divided against itself. More than one authority in the government is anarchy. More than one authority in the churches is division and chaos. …It comes down to two choices. We can accept the text handed down by the churches for nearly two thousand years or accept the findings of modern scholars, no two of which agree. If we go with the scholars, there is no one text that is accepted by all of them. Confusion reigns among the scholars. There is no standard.” Charles Turner (Director of the Baptist Bible Translators Institute), “Why the King James Version”
“The final court of appeal is no longer final if there are others of equal standing. Many of God’s people no longer have an ultimate authority. ‘What does God’s word say,’ has been replaced by an anemic, ‘How does this version render the passage.’ …Those who defend the God-honored version are made to appear divisive, while the ones introducing the new and criticizing the old ‘have a more balanced view.’ And so it goes.”
Jack Moorman, “When the KJV Departs from the ‘Majority’ Text: A New Twist in the Continuing Attack on the Authorized Version”, Preface, 1988
“I will remember the works of the LORD:
surely I will remember thy wonders of old.”
As I continued to trust God, He led me to study the history surrounding the English Bible. It is a very great and sobering history. I read of William Tyndale, a man “of whom the world was not worthy”.
“The Authorized Version is the outcome of faith and zeal that have never been excelled. Every sentence and every word of Tyndale’s translation were steeped in prayer. They came forth from a soul that gathered up all its energies with Samsonlike spirit and devotion, and devoted them to this one task of making the English people know the Word of God.”
James H. Brookes (1830-1897), “The Truth”, Vol. xxii, 1896
William Tyndale literally lived and died so that common English speaking people could have God’s precious Word in their native tongue. In 1536 he was strangled and his body burned at the stake for this “crime”. Three years before this Tyndale’s very dear friend, John Fryth was burned to death. In 1555 John Rogers (Alias Matthew) who was the editor of the Tyndale Bible received by Henry VIII in 1537 was also consigned to the flames. Anne Askew, from whose lips such astonishing wisdom came during the period of her great trials, was crippled on the rack and then burned at the stake for her faith in God’s written Word (as translated by Tyndale). I learned that the great majority of the King James Version New Testament that we have today is actually the translation of William Tyndale.
I now see God’s hand in historical events that worked together for good:
Some History Surrounding the English Bible
The invention of printing. (The ability to manufacture paper from rags occurred around the same time.)
Explosive increase in the ability to share scriptural knowledge, and ultimately to spread the scriptures themselves.
The fall of Constantinople.
Thousands of Greek manuscripts (and associated Greek scholarship) flow to Europe, laying the textual foundation for an English New Testament translation.
Tyndale’s New Testament published.
God’s words begin to be commonly available to English speaking people
Tyndale’s dying prayer: “O Lord, open the eyes of the King of England”
Within a year, King Henry VIII (the ruler responsible for Tyndale’s death) gives permission for Tyndale’s Bible to be circulated.
The Elizabethan period: The refining of English literature.
The English language is being matured for its greatest purpose.
The Spanish Armada, the greatest fleet the world had ever seen, is defeated by England’s small fleet, to the world’s astonishment.
The development of the English Bible is unmolested by the tyranny which would have resulted from Spain’s conquest of England. England becomes a great world sea power, resulting in the worldwide spread of the English language and of the English Bible.
The King James Version (a revision of Tyndale’s Bible and influenced by four translations of the Waldenses) is printed.
The fruits of perhaps the greatest Bible translation effort in man’s history are available to English speaking people.
The Mayflower (carrying the King James Version on board) lands in Plymouth.
America is to be mightily used of God to spread His Word throughout the world.
What I have learned about the King James Version:
As far as I can determine, it is the result of the most extensive Bible translation effort ever to occur in history.
The Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts which are the basis of the King James Version represent the traditional texts preserved down through the centuries.
The translation effort was meticulously organized and managed in a way that has never since been equaled.
The translators were masters of their trade. There has never been a body of English translation scholars to compare with them before or since.
It was culminated when true biblical scholarship was at its zenith and when the English language was in its best condition for the task.
The King James Version has had an enormous impact on the world. One of the areas that it impacted was the English language itself. The type of English that is found in the King James Version is not the same as the English of that day. Rather it is an English that resulted from faithfully carrying over the Greek and Hebrew. As such, the King James English is the language of the Bible rather than the language of 16th or 17th century England. The publication of the King James Version ultimately resulted in changes to the English language. God has never been limited by language. The English language was, especially at the time of the translation, God’s servant to be used as he saw fit.
Its rendering of the original languages is so exact that in addition to being a translation, it has been considered to be a lexicon (a word book or dictionary of Greek and Hebrew).
If it is to be judged by its fruit, its fruit has been great revivals and perhaps the greatest missionary efforts since the days of the Apostles.
It is recognized as the greatest literary achievement of England.
Its development was accompanied by providential world events.
It was nurtured in a period of great persecution and was watered with the blood of martyrs.
No such history adorns the modern translations.
As far as I know, no one has ever given his life for any modern translation.
No providential events accompanied their development. 22
No great period of persecution by Satan gave witness to his wrath at their appearance.
Their promotion has been done for monetary gain (this is evident from the marketing techniques used to sell modern translations today).
They have been introduced with deceitful methods in some cases (i.e., the English Revised Version of 1881 was done under the pretence of being a moderate revision to the King James Version but a significantly different Greek text was secretly given to the revisers under pledge that the general public would be kept ignorant of this fact).
They have had the blessing of apostate organizations and individuals in many cases.
The academic principles upon which they are based show a disregard for sound thinking as well as a disregard for God and His promises.
Collectively, they cause widespread confusion, division, doubt, and apathy.
The Jury Room
I was confident at this point that the modern translations were not the Word of God (I do believe that they contain the Word of God in various places). I was convinced that the King James Version was much, much better than the modern translations. I was almost convinced that the King James Version was truly the perfect, preserved Word of God. But what if it wasn’t? Where else could I go to find God’s Word? This was truly frightening. Despite all of the studying that I had done, and all of the wonderful things that God had shown me, a few questions still plagued me. Even though I was so close to a conclusion, once again I despaired of ever knowing the truth about this issue. Perhaps I had a translation that was better than anything else, but that alone wouldn’t satisfy me. My original question remained: “Do I have God’s very words in my own hands”?
I wanted that same Word that God spoke of when he said…
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart:
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever:
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”
…and I wanted it desperately.
The three questions that I could not resolve were as follows:
History shows me that the stream of English translations through which the King James Version had ultimately arisen had undergone a process of change. Even the King James Version itself had changed some after 1611 A.D.. Pastor D.A. Waite (Director of “The Bible for Today”) studied this issue and determined that there were136 “substantive changes” made to the King James Version after 1611. The details of this study are available in “The Authorized Version 1611 Compared to Today’s King James Version” by Pastor D.A. Waite. I knew that the changes were not extensive and that they were of a different nature than those made by the modern translations, but if something was perfect, why change it? If it was not perfect to begin with, then how could I be sure that it was perfect now? If it was not perfect now, then how could I consider it to truly be God’s Word?
So, Question #1 was: How could I have complete confidence in a Bible that has changed over time?
“The Translators to the Reader” (a statement from the translators which was originally prefixed to the 1611 version) contains statements that appeared to me to indicate that the translators themselves did not claim perfection for the translation, but only considered it to be a very good translation. For example: “For what ever was perfect under the sun, where Apostles or Apostolike men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?” But, God says that His written Word is perfect.
So, Question #2 was: How could I have complete confidence in a Bible when the very ones through whom it came apparently considered it to be imperfect?
I was raised in a Presbyterian home by loving parents. Like many young people, I had left the religious institution of my parents in my teens. In my mid twenties I began to earnestly study God’s Word for myself. I also began to study church history. Through both studies, I learned that Protestant teachings were in conflict with God’s Word in many very important respects. I also learned that those who had desired to be faithful to God’s Word in these areas (Ana-Baptists and others) had been the objects of hatred and cruel persecution by Protestants in Europe as well as in Colonial America. When I learned this I was shocked. It was something that I had not anticipated and it changed my thinking at its foundation. My separation from Protestantism at this point in my life took on an entirely different meaning than it had in earlier years. Now, I was in my forties, and my current study of the Bible version issue had reminded me of the fact that the King James Version had come through Protestant hands. My knowledge of Protestantism had always made me uneasy with this fact. I knew that Protestantism contained some truth, and I believe that there are honorable and sincere Protestants, but given its doctrinal error and its history of persecution of God’s people it seemed to me that it would be “out of character” for God to bring His pure Word through this religious group. I had learned that the King James Version was actually a revision to the earlier translations of William Tyndale, so that in effect the great majority of the King James Version was actually the translation of Tyndale. Tyndale was not a Protestant. But the translators who took part in the revision of 1611 A.D. under King James’ reign were primarily Protestants (Members of the Church of England).
So, Question #3 was: How could I have complete confidence in a Bible that came through a channel that seemed to be contrary to God’s ways?
When I had served my jury duty I had promised to be impartial, and now I had the same responsibility in this study. I had examined the modern translations in the light of God’s standards and they had failed the test. Now, I had to examine the King James Version by those same standards. I could not ignore the questions that remained, and they seemed to me to be insurmountable. I sought out and purchased literature that I hoped would help me answer these questions. I spoke on the phone with a Pastor who is one of the foremost living authorities in the world on this subject. Although I gained more understanding it was not enough. No one seemed to understand why I was having such difficulty and no one seemed able to fully help. I struggled with these questions for months.
At one point I thought on a verse that gave me hope:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, “ (Ephesians 3:20)
What I was asking and thinking wasn’t solving the problem. But wait! God said that He wasn’t limited by my questions and thoughts! Once again my own helplessness was turning me toward the only One who could help. One night (about a year after I had started this study) I lay in bed unable to sleep. An earthquake shook the mobile home that my wife and I live in. It did no damage, but it jolted the house sharply and my thoughts grew more sober as a result. I got up around midnight and proceeded to think and pray about the questions that I was struggling with. Once again, I realized that I did not have the ability to resolve these questions. If they were going to be resolved, God was going to have to do it. I laid my questions at God’s feet asking Him to help me. If the King James Version was not His perfect, preserved Word then I wanted to know this. I would look elsewhere for it.
What happened next I will never forget. My thoughts turned to God’s Son, the Word:
He was perfect: perfect when born, perfect as He grew, perfect when He reached adulthood, and perfect when He died.
Jesus Christ, the Word, changed and also remained perfect.
One might think that if anyone would have been convinced of the perfection of Jesus Christ, the Word, it was the one through whom He came (Mary), and yet she accused Him of a fault and misunderstood Him:
“And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.” (Luke 2:48-50)
The one through whom the Word came had doubted His perfection.
The Son of God was known as “Jesus of Nazareth”, and Nazareth was a village that was not worthy of Him
“And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said unto him, Come and see.” (John 1:46)
Jesus Christ, the Word of God, came through a channel that seemed contrary to God’s ways.
“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.”
I was stunned. I held my breath. For a moment, all of the fear, the doubt, the joy, the frustration, the graciousness of God, the loneliness and heartbreak, the anguish and hope…all of this was now gathered together upon the brink of completion. None of my own reasoning had led me to consider the issue in this light. What I had failed to do in many months, God was accomplishing in almost an instant, and He was doing it in a way that was so far above all that I had asked or thought that I could have no doubt as to its source.
It was as if God was saying to me:
“The three questions that have caused you to doubt my written Word could just as surely have caused you to doubt my Son, the incarnate Word. And yet, you do not doubt that my Son is perfect. Do you not now see how foolish it is to doubt my Written Word for the reasons that do not cause you to doubt my Son, the Word made flesh?”
I dropped to my knees, then lay flat on the carpet, sobbing like the little child that I had become.
The trial was over.
I have reached the verdict your Honor.
Some of the quotations within this story were obtained from works that referenced these quotations (rather than from the original sources).
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