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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:
Bruce Lackey (1930-1988) taught at Tennessee Temple (Chattanooga, Tennessee) for nineteen years and was Dean of the Bible School from 1965 until the early 1980s. He pastored the Lakewood Baptist Church of Chattanooga for eight years, and pastored two other churches before that. During the last few years of his life, he traveled as a Bible conference speaker and authored several books. He was an accomplished musician, a highly gifted Bible teacher, and a diligent scholar who was proficient in the Greek language. Dr. Lackey, who was deeply respected and beloved by the “preacher boys” at Temple, defended the Received Text and the King James Bible as the preserved and perfect Word of God.
Tennessee Temple has never stood strictly for the Received Text or the KJV. While most of the teachers use only the King James Bible in the classroom and only the KJV is used in preaching, the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament is used in the Greek courses. Many, if not most, of the teachers are either neutral on the subject of texts and versions, or they are sympathetic to the critical Greek text and modern versions. My Greek teacher did not believe there was a significant difference between the Westcott-Hort text and the Received Text, between the King James Bible and the New American Standard Bible. He felt both are theologically sound and that both are the preserved Word of God. One of my teachers used the New American Standard Version in the classroom in the mid-1970s.
I do not know exactly when Bruce Lackey came to a conviction about the King James Bible. By the mid-1970s, he was teaching a course in Bible texts that defended the King James Bible as the preserved Word of God. He also encouraged his students to purchase an edition of the Received Text, such as Berry’s Interlinear or the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Greek New Testament.
A high percentage of the students at the Temple Bible School from its inception through the late 1970s were men who were saved and called to preach in manhood, many coming to Temple from the military. The presence of these single-minded, mature men caused the Bible School at Temple to be different in character from the college. A high percentage of the Tennessee Temple Bible School graduates went on to plant churches throughout the world and today these men form a significant circle within the Independent Baptist fold. Several graduating classes of these men throughout the 1970s were influenced by Lackey to stand for the King James Bible.
Dr. Lackey had probably the greatest influence upon this writer’s life in the matter of Bible texts and versions. He was Dean of the Bible School at Temple during my years there from 1974-77. He was the most knowledgeable and edifying Bible teacher I have had the privilege of sitting under. Bruce Lackey studied his Greek New Testament every day, but he never caused his students or the members of his church to have even one doubt about the English Bible. I think that is a wonderful thing. Though this position is scoffed at by many, it is not contrary to ANY facts which can be established, and it is fitting to everything the Bible says about itself as the inspired, preserved Word of God. One of the hallmarks of Bruce Lackey’s life, as can be attested by anyone who knew him, was his deep love for the Word of God. He was converted to Jesus Christ in his early manhood from a bawdy life of playing the piano in bars and music halls. Dr. Lackey had no sympathy with sloth or ignorance toward the Bible. He was a careful and earnest student of the Scriptures all his Christian life.
In his book Can You Trust Your Bible? Dr. Lackey states the position he encouraged his students to hold:
“The King James Version was the only Bible available to most English-speaking people for centuries. The manuscripts from which it was translated were used by the majority of believers through the centuries. Thus they represent the Word of God which He promised to preserve for all generations. ‘The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever’ (Psalm 12:6-7). ‘For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations’ (Psalm 100:5).
“Almost every modern version has been made from manuscripts which were rather recently discovered, though they claim to be more ancient. These are highly touted to be more accurate than those from which the King James Version came, and have led to the charge that many errors exist in the KJV. It is the author’s experience that this has caused many people to doubt whether there is any Bible in the world today that is accurate, infallible, or dependable. ...
“When the so-called facts of textual criticism produce doubt in the Bible which people have had for centuries, they should be considered as no better than the so-called facts of evolution. In reality, there are very few “facts” in textual criticism today. It is very difficult to get textual critics to agree on their conclusions which are drawn from the principles which most of them accept. Even a cursory study of the material available on the subject today reveals that there is much personal opinion and bias regarding which manuscripts are the oldest or best. ...
“The most serious problem created by the multiplicity of versions and half-truths from textual critics is that many believe that we have no accurate, infallible Bible anywhere in the world today. To say that it exists in all the versions is to say, in effect, that you can not find it, since no one can agree on the best way to resolve all the differences in the versions.
“To say that the various differences in versions are unimportant is to raise a basic question: Why make them? If there is no basic difference, why do we need them? ... Every version claims to be ‘more accurate ... more understandable,’ but when faced with the problem of difference with others, almost every scholar, professor, translator, and textual critic says that no major doctrine is affected, and that the differences are minor and relatively unimportant. One wonders if the motive for more and more translations might not be commercial, rather than spiritual.
“The fact is that many a Christian has had doubts, fears, and skepticism instilled in his mind by these claims of discovering ‘more accurate manuscripts.’ ...
“If we believe God’s promises of preservation, we must believe that the Bible which has been available to all generations is that which God has preserved. Conversely, that which was hidden was not God’s truth, ‘which endureth to all generations’” (Lackey, Can You Trust Your Bible?, Chattanooga, Tenn., BIMI Publications, copyright 1980, pp. 48-52).
Dr. Lackey gave a good answer to those who claim there is error in the King James Bible. He made a clear distinction between translational error and translational preference.
“‘Atonement,’ in Rom. 5:11, is said to be another error, since it comes from the Greek word (KATALLAGE) which is always translated ‘reconciliation’ in other places. It is also supposed to show doctrinal error, since ‘atonement’ describes a temporary condition which the Old Testament saint had, whereas ‘reconciliation’ describes the permanent condition of the New Testament believer. If all this is so, why did the KJV translators choose a different word in this place, from all others in the New Testament? The word ‘now’ indicates that they evidently believed the Old Testament doctrine of atonement to be fulfilled in the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. We have ‘now’ received that which was only foreshadowed and promised in every bloody sacrifice that was made before the cross. There is no error here; if the KJV translators were intelligent enough to use ‘reconciliation’ every other instance in the New Testament, they surely must have had a good reason for choosing ‘atonement’ in Rom. 5:11. Every translator knows that in all translation there will be some interpretation. Such is unavoidable. This instance is obviously a matter of their interpretation, which, by the way, is clearly a correct one. Every Bible-believer knows that the sacrifice of Christ fulfilled all that was foreshadowed in the many sacrifices of the Old Testament. Again we see that, before one charges error, it is a good idea to stop and think about what is actually being said and try to find a reason why a different word was chosen. When such is done, there will always be a great and precious truth learned.
“‘Devils’ is another word that the critics delight in pouncing on, as a wrong translation. Everyone knows, they say, that there is only one devil (Satan), but many demons. Also, the Greek word from which ‘devils’ comes (DAIMON, and cognates) is different from that which refers to Satan (DIABOLOS). Again, a little investigation will prove this charge to be foolish, to say the least, and ignorant, at the most. Consider:
“(1) The word translated ‘devil,’ when referring to Satan, does not always refer to him; DIABOLOS is translated ‘slanderers’ in 1 Tim. 3:11, ‘false accusers’ in 2 Tim. 3:3 and Tit. 2:3. In all three places, it refers to human beings. Again, we see the necessity of translating in a manner which will be understood by the readers.
“(2) Devil in the English language has multiple meanings; it may refer to Satan, demons, a very wicked person, an unlikely person (that poor devil), a printer’s devil (apprentice or errand boy), and various other persons, as any good English dictionary would show. To say that ‘devil’ is an erroneous translation, because it can only refer to Satan, is to ignore the dictionary!
We must say, again, that no translation always renders a particular Greek word with the same English word in all places. In all translations there is some interpretation. Translators must use words which the people will understand. To say that calling a demon a devil is an error is to show ignorance of the English language.
“Then, someone is always trying to show that a particular verb tense has been wrongly translated. It has been well said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this can correctly be applied to a little knowledge of Greek. To assume that the aorist tense, for instance, always means punctiliar action, is to ignore what Greek grammars teach: Greek tenses have flexible meanings and must be interpreted according to context. For example, the word ‘building’ in John 2:20 is aorist, but it cannot describe action which happened ‘at once,’ as some people insist that the aorist always does. In that sentence, the Jews were referring to the 46 years which were required for the building of the temple. Forty-six years is certainly not ‘at once’!
“2 Cor. 11:4 is supposed to be one of those places where a verb tense is wrongly translated, when it says, ‘ye might well bear with him.’ The tense is imperfect, which some people insist always means continuous action in the past. Why then does the KJV put this in the future? Is that an error? A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey, gives several uses of the imperfect tense in just the way it is used here, saying that it may refer to ‘the lack of a sense of attainment.’ In other words, it may refer to something which has not yet been attained, therefore, future! In this light, no error exists in the KJV. They chose these words carefully, because the context shows that Paul was concerned about what might happen, rather than what had already occurred. In v. 3, he was afraid that their minds might be corrupted; in v. 4, he referred to the possibility of false preachers coming to them when he said, ‘For if he that cometh...’ the word ‘if’ clearly shows a possibility in the future. Once again we see that a careful examination of grammar and the context would show any honest inquirer that there is no error. Although the translation may be unusual, it is a possible one and cannot be called a mistake. Anyone has the privilege of disagreeing with a translator’s interpretation, but if the translation be grammatically and contextually possible, it cannot be called an error....
“Of course, this list could go on and on, but there is no real need. Some people will never be convinced. This author, however, has learned many precious truths through the years by meditating on these and other such places, trying to find out why an unusual translation was made. Rather than treat these places as errors, why not remember that the KJV translators were intelligent and reverent scholars, and try to find out why they did a particular thing in the way that they did?” (Bruce Lackey, Why I Believe the Old King James Bible, pp. 44-48).
Through his pastorate, Bible school courses, itinerant preaching, correspondence, tape ministry, books, and through the ministries of those he trained, Dr. Lackey has influenced thousands. Bruce Lackey published two books in defense of the KJV: Can You Trust Your Bible? in 1980 and Why I Believe the Old King James Bible in 1987. There are hundreds of men in the ministry around the world today who echo Dr. Lackey’s position on the Bible.
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