Old-Time Fundamentalists Who Defended The King James Bible
I often hear the charge that fundamentalists of old did not defend the KJV. This claim is commonly made in the context of trying to refute today’s KJV defenders. It is said that KJV defense is a new thing and that fundamentalists of old accepted modern textual criticism and did not make an issue of Bible versions. This claim is made in From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man. It was made by Rolland McCune in “Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Fundamentalism” (Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, Fall 1996). It was made by Mark Minnick in the tract Trusted Voices on Translations:
“The view that only one Greek New Testament (the textus receptus) or only one English translation of it (the King James) is the preserved Word of God was not taught by the majority of past conservative Christian spokesmen” (Trusted Voices on Translations, 2001).
One hears this repeated in many places. Following is a version that was distributed to an e-mail list in Canada:
“… the view of preservation that makes preservation synonymous or the equivalent of inspiration is the flawed one and a very rare one historically in Baptist circles. This was not the position held especially by those who took the lead with the separatist stance at the turn of the century that helped produce most of the twentieth century Baptist and fundamentalist churches (i.e. J. Frank Norris, John R. Rice, Bob Jones, T.T. Shields, certainly J. Gresham Machen, etc.).”
What do we say to this?
MOST FUNDAMENTALIST LEADERS DID NOT DEVOTE SPECIAL STUDY TO THE SUBJECT OF TEXTS AND VERSIONS. There are exceptions, but there is no evidence that the average fundamentalist leader, such as T.T. Shields or Harry Ironside or J. Gresham Machen or J. Frank Norris, devoted serious study to the subject of modern textual criticism. They faced many fierce doctrinal battles and they could speak authoritatively on many subjects, but the Bible version issue was not one of them. Therefore, to quote these men on the subject of Bible texts and versions has little significance for the simple fact that most of them did not know enough about the subject to make authoritative statements. For example, the pamphlet Trusted Voices on Translations quotes Harry Ironside as follows: “The differences are not very important, but are based upon some older texts which were not in evidence when the Authorized Version was being translated” (Trusted Voices on Translations, p. 9). Ironside was a man of God who loved the Scriptures, but in this particular statement he was wrong and is doubtful that he had looked into the matter very carefully for himself. This brief statement encompasses two serious errors. Ironside said the differences are not very important, whereas the differences between the texts and versions are, in fact, dramatic. He said the textual differences were not known when the AV was translated, but this is not true. From the time of Erasmus forward, the Reformation editors and translators were aware of the textual differences; they even had more than 300 of the readings from the Vaticanus; but they rejected them as corrupt. Had Ironside read the works of men such as John Burgon, Edward Miller, Herman Hoskier, Frederic Scrivener, Robert Dabney, or Philip Mauro, he would have known better than to have made such a statement, but it is obvious that he was merely repeating the opinion of others. Statements by an ill-informed man have no weight, and every man, regardless of how godly or scholarly, is ill-informed in many areas.
EVEN IF MANY FUNDAMENTALIST LEADERS OF THE PAST AND PRESENT HELD A CERTAIN POSITION, IT MEANS VERY LITTLE.
Our authority is not human leaders, but the Word of God itself (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Some men seem to think that if John Rice or J. Frank Norris or Bob Jones did or believed something, that I must be some sort of nut for not following them. I don’t understand that mindset. I don’t unquestioningly follow fundamentalist leaders past or present in any matter. I appreciate all of the good things they stood for, but they were only men.
Furthermore, fundamentalism has never been a homogenous thing; it has always been extremely divided. Fundamentalists have never agreed even on the doctrine of baptism or on eschatology, not to speak of the doctrine of preservation. Even fundamental Baptists themselves are an extremely divided group. The men who wrote The Fundamentals in the 1920s represented an extremely wide variety of doctrine and practice. In fact, some of them held serious error. For example, James Orr of Scotland denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture and allowed for theistic evolution. J. Campbell Morgan denied the literal fire of hell and believed that men could be saved even if they do not hear of or exercise personal faith in Christ.
Thus, to uphold certain fundamentalist leaders of old as the standard will not do.
FURTHER, I CAN CITE MANY FUNDAMENTALISTS OF BYGONE DAYS WHO RENOUNCED TEXTUAL CRITICISM AND WHO HELD STRICTLY TO THE TR AND THE KJV.
Contrary to what the previous writer claims, many fundamentalists DID see inspiration and preservation as twin doctrines. I have documented this in the 460-page book For Love of the Bible, which traces the defense of the KJV and the TR from 1800 to present (available from Way of Life Literature).
Let me give three illustrations of fundamentalists of bygone days who renounced textual criticism and who held to the Received Text and the King James Bible.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN DEARMORE (1897-1969)
Benjamin Dearmore is an example of the fundamentalist Texas Baptists who were standing for the King James Bible prior to 1950. Dr. Dearmore was Chairman of the Faculty at the Bible Baptist Seminary (J. Frank Norris’s school in Ft. Worth) until 1948, and his son, Dr. James Dearmore, M.D. (1929- ), who worked with his father prior to going to the mission field in 1963, says in those days, “there was a very heavy emphasis on the KJV-AV Bible and a rejection of all other versions as ‘per-versions’” (Letter, May 24, 1995). In 1948 B.F. Dearmore and a few other pastors founded the Worth Bible College, which graduated several hundred students during its existence through the mid-1960s. Again, James Dearmore tells us that this school “always consistently defended the KJV-AV Bible.” The elder Dearmore also co-founded with Dr. L.E. Miller the Trinity Valley Seminary in the South Fort Worth Baptist Temple, a church he had founded. “From its founding until the deaths of B.F. Dearmore and L.E. Miller, none could have graduated from that school without strong teachings and belief in the defense of, and acceptance of, the KJV-AV as the ONLY acceptable English version of the Bible” (Letter from James Dearmore). The elder Dearmore also edited for many years an independent Baptist paper called The Message. According to his son, who co-edited this paper for a number of years, it “only recognized the KJV as truly God’s Word in the English language, rejecting all other (per)versions.”
I have a copy of The Message dated May 28, 1959. The lead article is titled “Greek Versus English,” and B.F. Dearmore said: “As for me, I will take the King James translation as the very Word of God for the English people. I believe it is without error. It is 100 percent correct. . . . I do positively state that people who do not know a word of Greek can become real Bible scholars. Many times their understanding is far greater than the Greek scholars.”
This opens a window into a large segment of the fundamental Baptist movement during the first half of the twentieth century in the south central and southwestern United States. There were hundreds of independent Baptist churches in those days which stood exclusively for the King James Bible and which opposed the modern versions. Those who believe that the “King James Only” position is some kind of new invention are conveniently ignoring the facts of history, or they are defining “King James Only” as a Ruckman type belief in advanced revelation, double inspiration, etc.
WILLIAM ABERHART (1878-1943)
Another illustration, from the many that could be given, is William Aberhart, who stood for the Received Text and the King James Bible in western Canada during the first half of the twentieth century. Aberhart was a pastor, Bible school dean, radio Bible teacher, the principal of one of the most prestigious high schools in Canada, and a greatly beloved political leader. He was Premier of Alberta from 1935-43. For many years Aberhart expounded upon the Bible in weekly lectures attended by hundreds on Sunday afternoons in Calgary. He was an old-fashioned Fundamentalist and dispensationalist. He was also a Baptist. In November 1925, he began his pioneer radio broadcasts which were beamed across Alberta and which enjoyed a tremendously large and dedicated following. Aberhart also founded the Radio Sunday School. At the time of his death, six thousand young people were enrolled. In the late 1920s Aberhart separated from the Regular Baptists over issues such as Bible inspiration and prophecy, and in 1924 he established the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute. The first student enrolled in this Bible Institute was Ernest Charles Manning, who eventually became the premier of Alberta, holding that position from 1943 until 1968. Aberhart also founded the Bible Institute Baptist Church, which was dedicated by the fundamental Baptist leader William B. Riley. The Bible Institute Baptist Church, which seated 1,250 counting the seats in the gallery, was a prominent church in Calgary in those days. Many well-known Fundamentalist leaders from the States, such as W.B. Riley and Harry Rimmer, preached there.
Aberhart trained his people and his students to have confidence in the divine preservation of the Bible. Aberhart saw the Bible text issue as one involving the authority of God’s Word. On his stationery in dark orange ink were the words “We believe in an inspired Bible.” Aberhart was not satisfied, though, to believe that an inspired Bible had come from the hands of the Scripture writers only to be corrupted in its transmission through the centuries. He argued that not only was it God’s responsibility to give the Bible but also to keep the Bible. He believed the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God.
A summary of Aberhart’s teaching was given to me by Pastor Mark Buch (1910-1995), who was educated by Aberhart in the 1930s. Buch was the founder and pastor of the People’s Fellowship Tabernacle in Vancouver, British Columbia. This church was a stronghold for biblical fundamentalism in western Canada from the time it was founded in 1939. Buch knew and preached with many of the well-known Fundamentalist leaders of this century, including J. Frank Norris, G. Beauchamp Vick, and Bob Jones Sr. In 1990, Buch retired from the pastorate (though he continued his radio broadcasts until his death in 1995), and People’s Fellowship Tabernacle merged with Bethel Baptist Church to become the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Vancouver. Its pastor, Gordon Conner, continues to hold a standard for the King James Bible and biblical Fundamentalism in western Canada.
When I was doing research for my book For Love of the Bible, I had the pleasure of interviewing this gracious man of God on a number of occasions. Aberhart taught on the subject of inspiration and preservation in a second year Apologetics course at the Prophetic Bible Institute. Buch testified to me of the excitement he experienced during that course:
“In the Fall I went back to the Prophetic Bible Institute in Calgary. I came to the second year of Apologetics. It opened the subject of Divine Inspiration and preservation in particular, of the original manuscripts. It was a very helpful and blessed time. During that time I also took Greek at Western Baptist Bible College in Calgary. My heart leaped for joy as my mind was saturated with new confidence. The moment the story began to dawn upon me as we were tracing our way following the pure stream of the divinely inspired Bible, back, back to the divinely inbreathed autographs, my whole life changed” (In Defence of the Authorized Version p. 31).
In a conversation on March 1, 1995, Buch explained to me just how important the textual issue was to him: “When Aberhart helped me to see the Bible textual issue, it was like being saved again. I saw that God has preserved His Word and that the Authorized Version was an accurate translation of the divinely-preserved Scriptures.”
Note how Pastor Buch described Aberhart’s position on Bible preservation:
“Mr. Aberhart was one of the greatest Bible teachers in Canada. He was the first person I came in contact with WHO KNEW THE TRUE STORY OF THE DIVINE INSPIRATION AND PRESERVATION OF GOD’S HOLY WORD. He explained how it came down from the first apostolic faultless autograph, its safe keeping through the Byzantine church, the majority reformation copy by Erasmus of Rotterdam, William Tyndale’s translation, the Authorized committee of mental and spiritual giants, and the resultant glorious treasure—the Authorized Version” (Mark Buch, In Defence of the Authorized Version, People’s Fellowship Tabernacle, Vancouver, British Columbia, p. 25).
During my personal interviews with Pastor Mark Buch, he gave me a copy of one of Aberhart’s booklets on the subject of Bible versions. It was titled The Latest of Modern Movements: Or What about the Revised Version of the Bible? Published in 1924 or 1925, it was printed and distributed by the thousands. In the title of his booklet, Aberhart was referring to the English Revised Version of 1885. He also mentioned Darby’s Version, Russell’s Diaglot, Moulton’s Bible, American Revised Version, 20th Century in Modern Speech, Moffatt’s Translation, Goodspeed’s New Testament, and Kent’s Shorter Bible. He warned that modern textual criticism and the multiplicity of modern versions was weakening the authority of the Bible.
Consider the following excerpt from Aberhart’s booklet:
“How quickly Satan can get people to bow down to scholarship or the heroic in mankind. Let us be warned. … 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? No wonder the Roman Catholics smile as they say, ‘Where does the infallibility of your Bible come in?’ 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. Psalm 11:3—’If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ …
“I can still believe the Lord Jesus Christ, when he said: ‘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’ (Matt. 5:18). ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away’ (Matt. 24:35). If these words mean anything, they inform us that the Lord Jesus intended to see to it that the Bible, His Word, would be preserved for us in a perfect, infallible state.
“No one questions the need of Bible revision. It is an obvious fact, that, as centuries pass by, the spoken language will become different from the printed page. We are constantly changing the import of various words that we use. For example, take the word ‘let.’ In 1611, when the Authorized Bible was published, this word meant ‘hindered,’ the very opposite of its meaning today. ... But when the revisers take the ground that more reliable manuscripts and better translations have been discovered, I claim this is too uncertain and vague to carry conviction and it makes one become a living interrogation point. ...
“No, Modernists, serious-minded people who recognize the latest Modern Drift will need to be shown more convincingly before they will hand over the Bible of our forefathers. ... HERE AND THERE AND EVERYWHERE MEN ARE RISING UP ABOVE THE SCRIPTURES TO CORRECT THEM. THE TABLES ARE BEING TURNED TODAY. INSTEAD OF THE BIBLE CORRECTING MEN AND MEN’S OPINIONS, SOME ARE CORRECTING THE BIBLE. ... Personally, I am willing to accept Christ’s declaration at its face value. ‘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’ (Matt. 5:18).
“Why then should we be attracted by the error and nonsense which everywhere plead for a hearing because they are new? To suppose that theology can be new is to imagine that the Lord Himself is of yesterday. To propose that we need a new Bible is to declare that God has not spoken. A doctrine that declares itself new must of necessity be false. Falsehood has no beard, but Truth is hoary with age immeasurable. Pity should be our feeling toward those young preachers who cry, ‘See my new theology! See my latest Revision!’ in just the same spirit as little Mary says, ‘See my pretty new frock!’
“The time has not yet come when all things have been fulfilled. The heavens and the earth have not yet passed away. Therefore not one jot nor one tittle has passed. The Authorized version is reliable. I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice” (William Aberhart, The Latest of Modern Movements, 1925).
Aberhart influenced thousands of fundamentalists, and others like him could be mentioned.
The point is that there were fundamentalists in days gone by who defended the KJV against modern versions and took an educated stand against modern textual criticism. Though many fundamentalists did not take such a stand, many others did. Those today who are claiming that King James Bible defense is a new thing are wrong.
The position William Aberhart held on the Bible version issue in the 1920s is the position that I hold today, nothing more or less.
PHILIP MAURO (1859-1952)
A third illustration, of the many that could be given, is Philip Mauro, a famous patent lawyer who argued before the bar of the United States Supreme Court, and a fundamentalist leader who contributed at least two articles to The Fundamentals. As patent counsel for the Columbia Phonograph Company, Mauro had repeated encounters with Thomas Edison. Mauro was converted in 1903, ten years after he had been admitted to the bar. He had an Episcopalian background, but by age 45 he was a skeptic in regard to religion. In the spring of the year 1903 he attended a church service almost by accident, and it changed his life. Impressed with the friendliness of the people, Mauro returned to the church several times and was eventually born again through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Following is the story in Mauro’s own words:
“Certainly I was thoroughly discontented, desperately unhappy, and becoming more and more easy prey to gloomy thoughts and vague, indefinable apprehensions. . . . Life had no meaning, advantage, purpose, or justification; and the powers of the much-vaunted intellect seemed unequal to the solution of the simplest mysteries. The prospect before me was unspeakably dark and forbidding.
“I strolled out in my usual unhappy frame of mind, intending to seek diversion at the theatre. This purpose carried me as far as the lobby of a theatre on Broadway and caused me to take my place in the line of ticket purchasers. But an unseen hand turned me aside, and the next thing that I remember was a very faint sound of singing which came to my ears amid the noises in Eighth Avenue, near 44th Street, fully a mile away from the theatre.
“There is no natural explanation of my being attracted by, and of my following up, that sound. Nevertheless, I pushed my way into the building (a very plain, unattractive affair, bearing the sign ‘Gospel Tabernacle’) [pastored by A.B. Simpson, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance], whence the sound emanated, and found myself in a prayer-meeting. I took a seat and remained through the meeting.
“I was not much impressed by the exercise, and in fact was not at all in sympathy with what transpired. What did, however, make an impression upon me was the circumstance that, as I was making my way to the door after the meeting, several persons greeted me with a pleasant word and a shake of the hand, and one inquired about my spiritual state.
“No natural explanation will account for the fact that I was constrained to return to a place so utterly devoid of attractions and so foreign to all my natural tastes and inclinations. The people were not in the social grade to which I had been accustomed, and I would have found nothing at all congenial in their society .... I do not remember how many times 1 went to these meetings before 1 yielded to the Spirit’s influence, and I do not remember that I was conscious of any benefit from attending the meetings, which, from the ordinary standpoint, would have been pronounced decidedly dull.
“I did not know the nature of what was happening, for I did not believe in sudden conversions. I supposed that a change of nature, if it occurred at all, must be very gradual-an ‘evolution,’ in fact. But my ignorance of the process did not stand in the way of the mighty power of God, acting in grace, to quicken me into new life. I called upon the name of the Lord with a deep conviction of sin in my heart, and that was enough.”
“I should have supposed that, in order to convince me of the truth of the Bible and Christianity, it would be necessary to employ the best efforts of a faculty of the profoundest theologians versed in all the arguments of sceptical philosophy, and able to furnish plausible replies to them. But God, in His wisdom, sent me to learn the way of everlasting life from a company of exceedingly plain, humble people, of little education, to whom I regarded myself as immeasurably superior in all the higher branches of knowledge. It is true that these people knew very little of what is taught in the colleges and seminaries; but they did have that knowledge which is the highest and most excellent of all... ‘the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus my Lord.’...”
“Perhaps the most wonderful change which was manifest to my consciousness, was this, that all my doubts, questionings, scepticism, and criticism concerning God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; concerning the full inspiration, accuracy, and authority of the Holy Scriptures...; concerning the sufficiency of Christ’s Atonement to settle the question of sin, and to provide a ground upon which God could, with perfect righteousness, forgive and justify a sinner; and concerning an assured salvation and perfect acceptance in Christ, were swept away completely .... I had no notion at all that intellectual difficulties and questioning could be removed in any way except by being answered, one by one, to the intellectual satisfaction of the person in whose mind they existed. But my doubts and difficulties were not met in that way. They were simply removed when I believed on the crucified One and accepted Him as the Christ of God, and as my personal Savior” (The Story of Philip Mauro, Gordon P. Gardiner).
After his conversion Mauro became a bold Christian and wrote many books on Christian themes. He was a fundamentalist and taught believer’s baptism by immersion. In addition to an original copy of his book Which Version, I have collected four other books by Mauro for my library. These are Man’s Day (London: Morgan & Scott, 1908), The Characteristics of the Age and Their Significance (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1918), The World and Its God (New York: Gospel Publishing House, 1905), and Baptism (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications, 1977 reprint of the 1914 original). He wrote dozens of other books and booklets, including The Truth about Evolution, The Progress of the Apostasy, Sanctification, God’s Apostle and High Priest, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, The Wonders of Bible Chronology, Evolution at the Bar, Dispensationalism Justifies the Crucifixion, Speaking in Tongues, Our Liberty in Christ, and Believing on the Son of God. He defended the faith in an uncompromising and gracious Christian manner and saw people saved through the distribution of his colporteur booklets. Though not a dispensationalist, he stood against theological modernism, evolution, Pentecostalism, and other isms of his day, and boldly defended the infallibility of Scripture.
Mauro wrote the legal brief that was used by William Jennings Bryan to defend the Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the public schools. This was the famous “Skopes Trial.” Bryan won the case against the famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow.
Because of his profession, Philip Mauro had opportunity to witness to many well-placed individuals, including Thomas Edison. This is the account in Mauro’s own words:
“Mr. Edison is now in his eightieth year; but his mind is evidently as keen as ever. All his life his attitude regarding things not seen--God, the human soul, life hereafter, etc.--has been severely skeptical. But now, in the sunset of his days, he has undertaken the investigation of those great matters, with a desire to know the truth, but with insistence upon PROOF. ‘1 want FACTS,’ was the way he expressed the attitude of his mind. Owing to Mr. Edison’s deafness, it was difficult for the editor to speak to him. But it was better so; and the promise was given that he would read attentively a short letter on the matter discussed.”
Following is the letter Mauro wrote to Edison the next day:
“Dear Mr. Edison,
“It was a real pleasure to see you and hear your voice again. Moreover, the matters touched upon in our conversation of yesterday gave me much to think about.
“You want facts. So do I. A reasonable man’s belief should rest upon nothing less substantial than well attested facts. So here is a fact for you:
“God (whom you reverently call ‘the Supreme Intelligence’) loves you and wants your love in return. My visit to you and this letter are evidence of it, though, of course, not sufficient to prove to your satisfaction either that God is, or that He cares for Thomas Edison. But wait.
“Another fact: God is Light.
“How do I know? I know in the only way that light can be known by experience. For the nature of light is such that it admits of being known only in the way of experimental knowledge. 1 am saying this to the man who has had more to do with the development of artificial light than any other who ever lived in this dark world, and who probably knows more about light, in a practical way, than any other. How then could the existence and the nature of light be demonstrated to one who had been shut up all his life in a dark cell? It could be done only in some such way as by opening a window; and then the light would enter, and prove itself.
“This 1 say, because you are seeking a solution of the mystery of life and the soul by the way of analogies from nature. Very good. Much truth can be got in that way; as Butler, in his famous Analogy has abundantly shown. I hope you will continue your investigation, and in your customary thorough-going fashion; for it is the most important you ever undertook. And in this connection I call your attention to a clear and pertinent analogy; the point of which is that the proof you demand can be had only by experiment. For myself, I know that God is Light, and that He sheds light in the heart that is opened to Him, because I put the matter to the test of experience twenty-three years ago, and have enjoyed the consciousness of spiritual light ever since. Moreover, my experience is that of millions of others.
“Let me remind you that light will not force its way into a place that is tightly closed; but that, if only a tiny chink be opened, in it comes, proving itself.
“Likewise Christ, who is ‘the true Light,’ does not force Himself into the chambers of the soul against the human will. For the nature of the matter is such that, like the smell of a violet, the color of a sunset, or the taste of honey, it can be known only by experiment. The ‘Good Book,’ that you asked me not to quote, says, ‘Come and see,’ ‘Taste and see.’ Is not that strictly scientific?
“You have been truly doing God’s work in helping to enlighten the darkness of nature. But there is a spiritual darkness too. So follow the analogy, and it will lead you straight to the truth, and to the solution of the whole mystery of human existence.
“With sincere affection and respect, (Signed) Philip Mauro.”
Interestingly, Mauro was aboard the Carpathian when it rescued survivors from the ill-fated Titanic in 1912.
Mauro contributed material to The Fundamentals, a series of books published in the 1920s to resist the tide of theological liberalism that was entering America from Europe and England. The name Fundamentalist derived from these books. Thus, Mauro was one of the fathers of the fundamentalist movement.
Beginning in the early 1920s, Philip Mauro wrote in defense of the King James Bible and in opposition to the critical Greek text which had been introduced thirty years earlier, and to the modern versions which were beginning to flow from it. Mauro’s 1924 work Which Version? Authorized or Revised? was reprinted 50 years later in David Otis Fuller’s True or False. Mauro leaned heavily upon the research of John Burgon, but his logic was his own. This brilliant lawyer carefully represented the side of the Traditional or Received Text. The thing that characterized Mauro is that which characterizes each defender of the Received Text and the KJV: faith in God’s providence and an emphasis on Bible preservation:
“...In view also of the leading part the English speaking peoples were to play in shaping the destinies of mankind during the eventful centuries following the appearance of the Version of 1611, we are justified in believing that it was through a providential ordering that the preparation of that Version was not in anywise affected by higher critical theories in general, or specifically by the two ancient Codices we have been discussing. For when we consider what the A.V. [Authorized Version] was to be to the world, the incomparable influence it was to exert in shaping the course of events, and in accomplishing those eternal purposes of God for which Christ died and rose again and the Holy Spirit came down from heaven—when we consider that this Version was to be, more than all others combined, ‘the Sword of the Spirit,’ and that all this was fully known to God beforehand, we are fully warranted in the belief that it was not through chance, but by providential control of the circumstances, that the translators had access to just those Mss. which were available at that time, and to none others. This belief in no way conflicts with the fact that man’s part in the preparation of the A.V. is marked, and plainly enough, by man’s infirmities” (Mauro, Which Version?).
Thus, the claim that fundamentalist leaders of bygone days ignored the Bible version question, or refused to make Bible versions an issue, or came down consistently on the side of the critical Greek text and against “King James Onlyism,” is simply false. The position held on the Bible version issue in the 1920s and 1930s by Benjamin Dearmore, William Aberhart, and Philip Mauro was held by thousands of other fundamentalists.
Fundamentalist leaders have always taken different positions on this issue as they have on most other issues. They held different positions on Bible versions in the first half of the twentieth century, and they hold different positions today.
Some might protest that it was only a minority of fundamentalists of bygone days who defended the King James Bible, but I, for one, do not believe that is true. I doubt any other man has looked into the history of this more than I have; but even at that, no one has done an exhaustive study on this to prove it one way or the other. Such a project would require years of diligent and expensive research, and even at the end of such a project one would know only a little about some of the more visible fundamentalist leaders who left a written record touching this subject and would still be ignorant of what the vast majority of fundamentalist preachers have believed.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TWO ASPECTS TO FUNDAMENTALISM: THE SCHOLARS AND THE COMMON PEOPLE. The common people, who have made up the vast majority of fundamentalism, have always stood for the KJV. See Mk. 12:37. This is a fact that is recognized by historians of fundamentalism. Consider this from James Bar: “For fundamentalist society as a whole the Authorized Version functioned as the direct and immediate expression or transcript of divine revelation” (Barr, Fundamentalism, p. 210). Likewise, Robert Gromacki, in his New Testament Survey, observed, [The KJV is] “the text of fundamentalism.” Peter Thuesen agrees: “Yet many, if not most, fundamentalists of the fifties and sixties still regarded the King James Version as the only real Bible, save for the autographs themselves” (Peter Thuesen, In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible, p. 112).
FINALLY, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE BIBLE VERSION ISSUE WAS NOT A GREAT ISSUE AMONG FUNDAMENTALISTS UNTIL THE 1970S. Other battles were more pressing. Between 1920 and 1950, fundamentalists were preoccupied with fighting theological modernism. Between 1950 and 1970, they were preoccupied with fighting New Evangelicalism and ecumenism. It was until the 1970s that the King James Bible had any serious competition in fundamentalist churches. Prior to this there were many modern versions, such as the ASV of 1901, the RSV of 1952, and the NASV of 1960, but these were never popular among fundamentalists and never presented a serious challenge to the KJV. Though modern textual criticism was used in some fundamentalist seminaries, it was something that was isolated, for the most part, among the “scholars.” Even those seminaries that accepted modern textual criticism in the Greek department used the King James Bible in the pulpit so that the average fundamentalist was simply not faced with the issue. This changed in the 1970s with the publication of the popular New International Version, which was adopted widely among evangelicals. It is no accident, then, that it was in the 1970s that fundamentalists began to publish books on a large scale opposing modern texts and versions.
For more information, see Why We Hold to the King James Bible, which is available from Way of Life Literature in print and eBook editions -- http://wayoflife.org
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