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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), email@example.com (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:
TRINITARIAN BIBLE SOCIETY
The Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) was formed in 1831 from a conflict within the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) over the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. The BFBS refused to take a stand against Unitarianism, and those men who were concerned for doctrinal purity left to form the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS). In the early years of the TBS, the matter of different Bible texts and versions was not a serious issue in the sense it was to become at the end of the nineteenth century. Though there were textual critics in the first half of that century, they did not exercise wide influence in ordinary Christian circles. The battles faced by Trinitarian in its earlier years were in other directions.
The TBS did make public statements from the very beginning that they believed in the divine preservation of the Scriptures. For example, J. Lockhart said, “Let it be our zealous care, in our day and generation, to guard inviolate the precious treasure, and our delight to acknowledge with thanksgiving our infinite obligation to the special providence of the Lord, Who hath conveyed it down to us in its original purity” (TBS, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, p. 6). From the beginning, the TBS made a commitment to circulate only the Authorized Version in English. “They did not accept the so-called ‘Improved Version’ or the ‘most correct text’ upon which it was based, and they did not allow the Committee any latitude to circulate along with the Authorised Version such other English versions as the Committee might approve from time to time” (Holding Fast the Faithful Word, p. 6).
With the publication of the English Revised Version (ERV) and the Westcott-Hort Greek text of 1881, the TBS began to take a more active position on texts and versions. A number of articles were published in the TBS Quarterly Record at the turn of the century critiquing the ERV and supporting the Received Text. Some of these drew heavily upon John Burgon’s Revision Revised, as well as the research of F.C. Cook and F.H.A. Scrivener. From that time to this, Trinitarian has stood solidly behind the Received Text and the King James Bible. Though the TBS has never claimed absolute perfection for either, their published writings have promoted all of the major points commonly given in defense of the KJV.
In 1904 the British & Foreign Bible Society issued an edition of the critical Greek text prepared by Eberhard Nestle and based upon the work of Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and Weiss. That same year the Annual Report of the Trinitarian Bible Society made this plain statement in contradiction to the confusion being promoted by their liberal counterparts:
“There is a great shaking going on all around us; the foundations are being displaced; ancient landmarks are being removed; institutions are being assailed; confusion is written on all things ecclesiastical and political. There is only one thing that can sustain us in times like these, and that is living faith in the living God.
“It is the design of the enemy to quench the lamp of Inspiration, to get rid of the supernatural and miraculous in the Word of God; to break down its authority and integrity by minimising differences of translations; for, IF THE BIBLE IS NOT THE WORD OF GOD, BUT ONLY ‘CONTAINS’ IT, THEN ONE VERSION CAN CONTAIN IT, OR AS MUCH OF IT, AS ANOTHER. IF THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ‘THE BIBLE,’ THEN “A BIBLE’ OR ANY BIBLE WILL DO.
“The enemy cares not by what agency he gains his great end of making the Word of God of none effect. The enemy will use any instrument to accomplish his purposes; and the greater and the better the agent, the more effectually will he obtain his ends” (Holding Fast the Faithful Word, p. 15).
Of particular note in the defense of the Authorized Bible within the TBS is TERENCE HARVEY BROWN, TBS Secretary from 1958 to 1990. Brown authored many of the publications produced by TBS during these years, publications that influenced great numbers of people around the world. This is described in the official history of the TBS as follows: “From 1958 onwards the TBS waged war on all these fronts with considerable vigour. Successive modern English translations were reviewed by the secretary in the Quarterly Record, and their defects analysed” (Andrew J. Brown, The Word of God Among All Nations: A Brief History of the Trinitarian Bible Society 1831-1981, p. 118).
Titles of TBS articles leave no doubt about this society’s position on Bible versions. The following are a few of these:
“The Divine Original: Doctrinal Deficiencies of the Modern Versions Traced to their Source”
“Notes on the Vindication of 1 John 5:7”
“A Textual Key to the N.T.: A List of Omissions and Changes in the Modern Versions”
“The Bible and Textual Criticism”
“The Deity of Christ: Modern Versions and Romans 9:5”
“The New International Version: A Critique”
“God Was Manifest in the Flesh: A Defense of ‘God’ in 1 Timothy 3:16”
“Rome and the R.S.V.”
“The Excellence of the Authorised Version”
“The Authenticity of the Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Mark”
The following excerpts from TBS publications illustrate the position of this organization in regard to the KJV:
“Since 1881 modern versions have had a number of common features, the most important of which has been the adoption of emendations of the Greek text based upon the unreliable testimony of a comparatively small group of ancient manuscripts entirely unrepresentative of the great mass of documentary evidence that has come to light in the last one hundred and fifty years” (The Excellence of the Authorised Version, TBS article No. 24).
“Those who are favourable or tolerant towards the modern versions are apt to react very sensitively to any suggestion that any changes have been made in the interests of ‘a lower Christology’, but it can be very clearly shown that the modern versions and their underlying Greek text eliminate or considerably diminish the force of many passages relating to the deity and Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. ... The Bible testifies to the eternal deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of the Eternal God. The modern versions, and the defective manuscripts upon which they rely, obscure this vital testimony, which the Authorised Version faithfully preserves” (The Divine Original, TBS Article No. 13).
“The architects and advocates of the modern English translations of the Holy Scriptures often assure us that their numerous alterations, omissions and additions do not affect any vital doctrine. While this may be true of hundreds of minute variations there is nevertheless a substantial number of important doctrinal passages which the modern versions present in an altered and invariably weakened form” (God Was Manifest in the Flesh, TBS Article No. 10, 1965).
“A comparison of the modern versions with the older ones reveals that the former all have something in common with the Rheims-Douay Roman Catholic Version which was translated from the Latin Vulgate. This was influenced by the Old Latin copies, which have some affinity with a small group of ancient Greek copies often at variance with the majority” (“Good Will Toward Men,” TBS Quarterly Record).
“For too long the ‘science’ of Textual Criticism has been in bondage to the authority of a small class of ancient manuscripts, with the Sinai and Vatican copies at their head, which are in thousands of instances at variance with the Greek Text preserved in the great majority of the documents now available for ascertaining the true text. ... The result has been that even in the ‘evangelical’ seminaries generations of theological students have been encouraged to accept without question theories which involve the rejection of the historical text and the adoption of an abbreviated and defective text cast in the mold of the Vatican and Sinai copies” (Many Things, TBS Article No. 33).
“No evangelical Christian, learned or unlearned, would wish to follow [modernistic] writers along the perilous paths of infidelity in which they strode with such presumption. There is another danger, no less serious, in that Textual Criticism, the evaluation of the actual manuscripts in the ancient languages, the preparation of printed editions of the Hebrew and Greek Text, and the modern translations now being made in English and many other languages, are very largely conducted under the direction or influence of scholars who by their adoption of these erroneous theories have betrayed the unreliability of their judgment in these vital matters. WE MUST NOT PERMIT OUR JUDGMENT TO BE OVERAWED BY GREAT NAMES IN THE REALM OF BIBLICAL ‘SCHOLARSHIP’ WHEN IT IS SO CLEARLY EVIDENT THAT THE DISTINGUISHED SCHOLARS OF THE PRESENT CENTURY ARE MERELY REPRODUCING THE CASE PRESENTED BY RATIONALISTS DURING THE LAST TWO HUNDRED YEARS. Nor should we fail to recognise that scholarship of this kind has degenerated into a skeptical crusade against the Bible, tending to lower it to the level of an ordinary book of merely human composition” (If the Foundations Be Destroyed, TBS Article No. 14).
The TBS publishes an edition of the Received Text Greek New Testament that it considers to be the preserved Word of God: “The Society uses the form of the Greek text of the New Testament known as the Textus Receptus or Received Text. This is the text which underlies the New Testament of the Authorised Version and the other Reformation translations. It is a faithful representation of the text which the church in different parts of the world has used for centuries. It is the result of the textual studies of conservative scholars during the years both before and after the Reformation, and represents for the most part over 5,000 available Greek manuscripts. The Society believes this text is superior to the texts used by the United Bible Societies and other Bible publishers, which texts have as their basis a relatively few seriously defective manuscripts from the fourth century and which have been compiled using twentieth-century rationalistic principles of scholarship” (The Trinitarian Bible Society: An Introduction to the Society’s Principles, TBS, London, copyright 1992).
The heartbeat of the Trinitarian Bible Society for pure copies and translations of the Word of God is seen in the following excerpt from the 1904 Annual Report referred to earlier:
“How infinitely important, then, is it, that the Bibles we send out should contain (as far as we can assure it) only and exactly what He has said, and what He can speak of and acknowledge as ‘My Words’ ... We ought to leave nothing undone in order to secure that every translation shall be as near to human perfection as human capability can make it. Satan’s first words were, ‘Yea, hath God said?’ and the answer was given in a false version of what God had said. In that answer there was an omission from, and an addition to, and an alteration of what God had said. These are the only three ways in which the Word of God can be adulterated, and these are the three marks which have characterised all false versions from that day to this...
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of these two things—unfeigned faith, and the Word of God. This is the Divine provision for all the errors, and all the evils, and all the hostile influences of the present day.”
[Trinitarian Bible Society, 217 Kingston Rd., London SW19 3NN, England. http://biz.ukonline.co.uk/trinitarian.bible.society/contents.htm (web site), firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).]
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