Those who want to take a neutral position on the issue of Bible texts and versions often claim that the current defense of the King James Bible and its underlying Greek Received Text is an unnecessarily divisive, near-cultic position that has no historical precedent among fundamentalists and other strong Bible believers. This is historic revisionism of the worst sort. The fact is that only recently have professing fundamentalists begun using and defending the modern versions. Though some fundamentalist leaders might have had their “fingers crossed” when they spoke of the King James Bible as the preserved Word of God in English, multitudes of others believed it was exactly that and believed it without equivocation. And thousands of strong Bible believers during the past two centuries have defended the Greek Received Text as the preserved Word of God and have condemned modern textual criticism as heresy. This is not a new and obscure position that was devised only a few decades ago by a Seventh-day Adventist or by Peter Ruckman, as some would have us believe!
In the book FROM THE MIND OF GOD TO THE MIND OF MAN: A LAYMAN’S GUIDE TO HOW WE GOT OUR BIBLE (1999, Ambassador-Emerald Press, Greenville, South Carolina), we find a recent example of the aforementioned revision of history. This book is edited by James B. Williams. Contributors and other men associated with the book include John Ashbrook of the Ohio Bible Fellowship; Keith Gephart of International Baptist College; William Smallman of Baptist Mid-Missions; Ernest Pickering of Baptist World Mission; Larry Oats of Maranatha Baptist Bible College; James Price of Temple Baptist Seminary; Douglas McLachlan of Central Baptist Theological Seminary; Sam Horn of Northland Baptist Bible College; and David Beale of Bob Jones University. This book was promoted at the World Congress of Fundamentalists at Bob Jones University in 1999. An autographed copy was presented to Bob Jones III at an evening session, and he made a passionate speech about it. Within a matter of hours, their stock of the book was sold out and more copies were delivered the next day.
In the Introduction to this book, Dr. J.B. Williams called the defense of the KJV a “cancerous sore” that has resulted in “a deplorable condition in Fundamentalism.” He described the defense of the KJV a “mass of misinformation.” Dr. Williams then traced the history of what he calls “King James Onlyism” back to Seventh-day Adventist Benjamin Wilkinson and to Dr. Peter Ruckman, editor of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin. He then listed “others who have joined in this parade of misinformers, including D.A. Waite, E.L. Bynum, Jack Chick, and Walter Beebe” (page 7). He said: “The list increases with time as more unqualified proponents of the KJV Only view join in the confusion.”
Those are not mild words, my friends. These men say they are concerned about the “mean-spiritedness” and divisiveness of those who defend the KJV, but FROM THE MIND OF GOD TO THE MIND OF MAN sounds very mean-spirited and divisive to me.
Furthermore, having studied this topic diligently for 25 years, having spent many thousands of dollars to purchase related books, having developed one of the most extensive bibliographies on the subject, having gone to great expense to travel to serious research facilities such as the British Library, having corresponded with hundreds of men on all sides of this subject, and having written an extensive history of the defense of the Received Text and the King James Bible, I am convinced that Dr. Williams presents a slanderous caricature of the truth. Dr. Williams ignores the fact that many King James Bible defenders have scholarly credentials at least equal to that of the contributors to From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man.
It is an unequivocal fact of history that the defense of the Received Text and the KJV did not originate with a Seventh-day Adventist, but with godly men in Britain in the 1800s who defended the Greek text underlying the KJV against the new theories of textual criticism, which they considered to be unbelieving and heretical. I have documented this extensively in my 500-page hardcover book For Love of the Bible: The History of the Defense of the KJV and the Received Text from 1800 to Present [available from Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. http://www.wayoflife.org (web site), firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail), 866-295-4143 (toll free), 519-652-2619 (phone)].
This series of articles is an attempt to help set the record straight. The following is an example of the men and organizations that have defended the Received Text and the King James Bible during the past 150 years:
EVERETT FOWLER AND GOD’S COMMON MEN
Everett Fowler was a deacon in the famous First Baptist Church of New York City, a center of Fundamentalism from its beginning in 1711. He sat under the ministry of and served with the respected Fundamentalist leader Dr. Isaac M. Haldeman (1845-1933), who pastored the First Baptist Church from 1884 to 1933. By profession Fowler was an engineer, with a degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Mr. Fowler’s faithful heart for Christ was witnessed by a long life of faithful service in this church—deacon (over 45 years), Sunday School teacher (more than 40 years), trustee (37 years), church treasurer (more than 21 years), church clerk (25 years). As a young man, Fowler made a commitment to the Lord to rise before breakfast for personal devotions. He read the Bible through twice a year in English for some 40 years. This was in addition to his study of the Greek New Testament.
Fowler’s concern for the issue of texts and versions began in 1953, when he enrolled in the New Testament class at his church with the goal of reading the Greek New Testament. The first book he read was the Gospel of John, which was accomplished in the place of reading the newspaper while he commuted on the morning train. Upon completion of the class, he owned a Greek Gospel of John, an interlinear, and a parallel-column Greek-English New Testament. Desirous of reading the entire New Testament in Greek without an English translation alongside, he purchased a Nestle’s Greek text, not knowing Greek texts differ and not knowing it mattered. Through diligent work he was able to read the entire Greek New Testament, which he did several times. As his study progressed, he became increasingly concerned about the differences he was seeing between the modern critical Greek text and the Received Text underlying his King James Bible. He began a diligent comparative study of the two, noting the exact differences between the various editions of the critical Greek text and the Received Text, as well as the differences between the modern English versions and the King James Bible. The fruit of this prodigious labor was his book Evaluating Versions of the New Testament, which has enlightened the eyes of thousands of God’s people to the danger of the modern versions. Fowler’s work does not lean on Burgon, Wilkinson, Ray, Fuller, or any man. It is a diligent firsthand comparison of the texts and versions.
Evaluating Versions was distributed in mimeographed form for a number of years before being published by The Bible for Today in 1971. It was produced in a perfect-bound edition by the Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1981 (though the school no longer publishes it). Its chief feature is a series of charts showing the significant theological differences between the texts and versions. Table I lists the whole verses omitted or enclosed in brackets in the new versions. Table II lists significant portions of verses omitted. Table III lists the omissions of names of Jesus Christ omitted. Table IV lists other differences that have a substantial effect on the meaning. Table V lists the total word differences between the United Bible Societies text and the Received Text. Table VI is a summary of the differences that affect translation.
GOD’S “COMMON” MEN
I include Brother Fowler as an illustration of those countless “ordinary men” across the worlds that have stood quietly but firmly in defense of the Received Text and the King James Bible. The issue of textual criticism reminds me of what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. While the scholars and religious elite of that day rejected Him and scoffed at His words and spent their time trying to catch Him in some error, the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). In light of man’s perverted nature it is no marvel that the scholarly elite today are blinded by their pride; they refuse to take the position of simple faith.
Thousands of “common” men have diligently and prayerfully looked at the issue of Bible versions and have taken the time to compare the various texts and versions for themselves. THOUGH NOT TEXTUAL SCHOLARS, THESE ARE MEN OF SOUND MIND AND REASONABLE INTELLIGENCE, BORN AGAIN MEN WHO HAVE THE SPIRIT OF GOD AND WHO BELIEVE THE WORD OF GOD EXPLICITLY, MEN WHO HAVE BEEN TRAINED IN SOUND DOCTRINE, MEN ORDAINED FOR THE MINISTRY AND FOR LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCHES OF GOD, MEN WHO HAVE EARNESTLY SOUGHT THE FACE OF GOD IN THIS MATTER OF WHERE GOD’S WORDS ARE TODAY. Thousands of men like this have reached the independent conclusion in the privacy of their studies before God that the Received Text is the preserved Word of God and that the King James Bible is a lovely, dependable translation thereof.
TO OVERLOOK AND RIDICULE THE TESTIMONY OF SUCH MEN IS TO SCOFF AT THE WAY GOD WORKS. The prophets of old were not, for the most part, scholars or members of the religious elite. They were farmers, shepherds, soldiers, herdsmen, boat builders, wanderers. The Apostles were not scholars, for the most part. Paul was, but the others were not. They were tax collectors, fishermen, ordinary fellows; one was a medical doctor. The Apostles did not establish seminaries; they built churches. They did not bestow degrees; they ordained pastors. Did God call the religious elite to pastor His churches? Was it not the common man, for the most part, who was called to preach? God’s qualifications for pastors and teachers mention nothing about scholarship. The requirement, rather, is regeneration, holiness of life, explicit faith (which is based on the Word of God—Rom. 10:14), humility, knowledge of and zeal for God’s Word, and the call of God as recognized by the churches. If the apostolic churches did not need ivory tower scholarship, the churches of today do not either. Do not be deceived by the proud who belittle the common pastor and who erroneously imply that a man must be a trained textual critic to understand where God’s Word is today. WHILE WE PRAISE THE LORD FOR BIBLE-BELIEVING SCHOLARSHIP, AND WHILE WE PUT NO PREMIUM ON IGNORANCE, WE ARE NOT DELUDED INTO THINKING THAT WISDOM COMES THROUGH GRADUATE STUDIES.
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