BIBLICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS ON THE BIBLE VERSION ISSUE
November 13, 2006 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
[The following is an excerpt from the 775-page “Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions,” available from Way of Life Literature.]
The evolutionist would have me put aside my biblical presuppositions when I study the natural record and the textual critic would have me put them aside when I study the manuscript record, but I will not put biblical presuppositions aside for any reason. As David W. Norris wisely observes: “We have a clear choice between one of two diverging pathways, the road of faith or the road of human reason and unbelief. Do we begin with the Word of God or do we begin with the word of men? This is the question and it has in the first instance little to do with texts, but with the faithfulness of our God. ... For it to be of any use, textual study must be grounded upon what the Bible already says about itself. If we do not begin with the Word of God, we shall never end with it!” (Norris, The Big Picture).
EIGHT BIBLICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS FOR APPROACHING THE BIBLE VERSION ISSUE
1. I BELIEVE IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Bible contains everything that we need for faith and practice. It is able to make the believer “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Obviously, then, nothing else is necessary. I do not have to rely on priests or scholars or tradition or extra biblical sources.
2. I BELIEVE IN THE SOUL LIBERTY OF THE BELIEVER, meaning that each believer can know the truth for himself and is responsible to test everything by God’s Word (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:21).
Thus, it is evident that the child of God can make his own decision in the important matter of the Bible text-version issue. I do not ask my readers to depend on me and to follow my teaching; I ask them simply to prove all things and hold fast that which is good and to receive my teaching with all readiness of mind and to search the Scriptures daily whether these things are so.
3. I BELIEVE IN THE SIMPLICITY OF SOUND DOCTRINE (Mat. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Jn. 2:20).
If a doctrine is so complicated that the average child of God must lean upon a specialized priest or scholar, that doctrine is not Scriptural. The New Testament faith is not an elitist issue. It was committed to ordinary people.
One example of this is Calvinism. For instance, James White claims that Dave Hunt doesn’t understand Calvinism even though he is an intelligent man, a believer, and he has studied the issue diligently. I am convinced that if something is that complicated it can’t be the truth. (I also believe that Dave Hunt understands Calvinism very well, in spite of what James White claims.)
Another example is modern textual criticism. The child of God is required to depend upon the textual scholars, because it is impossible for an ordinary believer to make textual decisions. Textual criticism involves such things as conflation, recension, inversion, eclecticism, conjectural emendation, intrinsic and transcriptional probability, interpolation, statistical probability, harmonistic assimilation, cognate groups, hypothesized intermediate archetypes, stemmatic reconstruction, and genealogical methods. Consider a sample of textual criticism from A.T. Robertson: “In actual practice appeal should first be made to the external evidence of the documents by first coming to understand the value of internal evidence of single readings. It will be seen that we have to consider the internal evidence of single readings, the internal evidence of single documents, the internal evidence of groups of documents, the internal evidence of classes of documents. That way of putting it appears paradoxical, but it is literally true that the scientific use of the external evidence (documents) turns on the application of the principles of internal evidence as seen in single readings. But the two methods must agree in result if one is to have confidence in his conclusion. ... The two kinds of internal evidence are transcriptional and intrinsic. ... It is best to begin with transcriptional evidence and then to consider intrinsic evidence” (Robertson, An Introduction to Textual Criticism, pp. 149-150). It is impossible to reconcile this level of complexity with the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and with the scriptural fact that God has chosen the weak of this world to confound the mighty (Mat. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:20-29).
4. I BELIEVE THAT ALL THINGS SHOULD BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 2 Cor. 12:19; Eph. 4:12, 16, 29).
Any biblical research that does not result in spiritual edification is wrongheaded and is disobedience to the plain commands of the Word of God. I can candidly say that none of the many books I have read on modern textual criticism has spiritually edified me. I have found them intellectually interesting, frustrating, and confusing, but never edifying.
5. I BELIEVE IN THE REALITY OF THE DEVIL (1 Pet. 5:8).
One of the devil’s chief goals since the Garden of Eden has been to attack and corrupt the Word of God and to confuse people’s minds in regard to it. His first words to Eve were, “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1). Consider the following important lessons from this first attack:
The devil questioned God’s Word (v. 1). This is the first step toward openly denying God’s Word. If the devil can cause a person to entertain doubts about the authenticity of the Scriptures at any point, it is likely that he can cripple him spiritually and open the way for increasing unbelief. The Bible is questioned on every hand today, even by those who claim to be “evangelicals.” They say, “Did God really create the world in six days?” or “Did God really destroy the entire earth with a flood?” or “Did Moses really write the Pentateuch?” or “Do the Gospels contain the very words of Jesus?” or “Is Revelation really a prophecy of the future?” or “Is Hell really a place of fire and eternal conscious torment?” I see the hand of the old serpent in all such questionings.
The devil denied God’s Word (v. 4). This is the skeptic’s approach to the Bible. He mocks it and openly denies that it is true. We find this, too, on every hand, in Hollywood movies, in the pages of popular magazines and newspapers, in bestselling books. The blatant denial of God’s Word is even made by those who profess to be Christians.
The devil substituted his own words for God’s Word (v. 5). This is what false religions such as the Roman Catholic Church do with their extra-biblical traditions. They say, “We believe in the Bible but we also believe in our traditions and councils and popes.” This was the sin of the Pharisees, who “made the commandment of God of none effect” by their tradition (Mk. 7:9). The dynamic equivalency method of Bible translation also substitutes man’s words for God’s. (See Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions, Part VIII, “We Hold to the King James Bible Because We Reject Dynamic Equivalency.”)
As these studies progress, we will see that the devil has continued to attack God’s Word throughout the church age. The child of God must therefore be alert to his activities in this field. It is impossible to understand the Bible text-version issue if one does not understand the devil’s hatred of God’s Word and if one does not make this fact a prominent part of his “textual criticism.”
6. I BELIEVE IN THE PRE-EMINENCE OF FAITH (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; 14:23).
The only way to understand the Word of God is by faith, and faith is based only on God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). The modern textual critic refuses to approach the Bible text-version issue by faith and mocks those who do, and fundamentalists who are supporting the modern texts are following in their footsteps. For example, Samuel Schnaiter of Bob Jones University critiques Wilbur Pickering’s Majority Text position as follows: “Finally, although Pickering has avoided an excessive reliance on theological presuppositions in his presentation, it is nevertheless clear that a theological presupposition essentially undergirds his entire purpose” (“Focus on Revelation,” Biblical Viewpoint, Vol. XVI, No. 1, April 1982, Bob Jones University, “Textual Criticism and the Modern English Version Controversy,” p. 72). How strange and frightful (and instructive) to see a professed fundamentalist criticizing a “theological” approach to the Bible text-version issue!
We do not have to answer every question that can be asked (i.e., about the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, Inspiration, or Preservation); we only have to believe God’s Word.
Our faith must therefore be in God, not in man (i.e., not in human scholarship, in the KJV translators, in Erasmus, or in John Burgon or some other defender of the traditional Reformation text).
7. I BELIEVE IN TREMBLING BEFORE GOD’S WORD (Psa. 138:2; Prov. 30:6; Isa. 66:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
The Scripture is not an ordinary book; it is the Word of the Living God and as such one must exercise extreme caution in handling it. Even to tamper with the words of a human author is a serious matter and there are laws against it, but how much more serious is it to tamper with the words of Almighty God! I have read dozens of books by textual critics, and there simply is no fear of God in their approach to the words of Scripture. The textual critic approach is strictly a matter of human scholarship and the Bible is simply another book.
8. I BELIEVE IN THE NECESSITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1 Cor. 2:12-16; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).
Apart from the Holy Spirit, nothing about the Bible can be properly understood. Unregenerate men who lack the Spirit are not qualified in this field. The book From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man claims that it doesn’t matter if textual critics are skeptics. “… a textual critic may be an unbeliever when it comes to the Bible’s doctrinal truths. But when it comes to the Bible’s text--to this question of the Bible’s words--a textual critic is initially little more than a reporter” (From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, p. 71). In his mistitled book “The Truth of the King James Only Controversy,” BJU professor Stewart Custer uncritically cites the following men in his “Select Bibliography” -- Bruce Metzger, Kurt Aland, Eberhard Nestle, Alexander Souter, B.F. Westcott, and F.J.A. Hort. He does not think it is important that his readers know that to a man these critics blatantly denied the infallible inspiration of Scripture. This approach is wrongheaded in the extreme! A wise position was that of Joseph Philpot, Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, and editor of The Gospel Standard. In 1857 he gave six reasons against a revision of the KJV, the first being that the biblical scholars of that day were “notoriously either tainted with popery or infidelity” (Joseph Charles Philpot, “The Authorized Version of 1611,” The Gospel Standard, April 1857). That was true then and it is even truer today. Philpot then asked an important rhetorical question, “And can erroneous men, dead in trespasses and sins, carnal, worldly, ungodly persons, spiritually translate a book written by the blessed Spirit?” The biblical answer is NO!
Modern textual criticism, which gave us the modern Bible versions, is not founded upon dependency upon faith or the Holy Spirit or any of the aforementioned things. Textual critic George Ladd wrote: “One does not solve a problem of divergent textual readings by prayer or by the inner illumination of the Holy Spirit; but only by an extensive knowledge and skill in the science of textual criticism” (Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism, 1967, p. 81). This is an unbelieving position. The Bible is a supernatural and spiritual Book and nothing about it can be known apart from the application of spiritual tools.
Though some evangelicals and fundamentalists who use textual criticism might claim that they also are following the Holy Spirit, the principles of textual criticism are contrary to this.
We conclude with the following important observation by David Sorenson from his book Touch Not the Unclean Thing (p. 58, f 30): “Some proponents of the critical text may claim that the Holy Spirit has led them as well. However, the working editors of the critical text are steeped in rationalistic philosophy and scientific reconstruction of the text. Their entire philosophical base is not inclined to such a Fundamentalist notion of seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
BIBLICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS ON THE BIBLE VERSION ISSUE