Answering an Erroneous Missive
It is not my wont to use this blog to answer those who are at odds with the King James Bible itself. For the most part they have been washed down the stream of history and are no longer relevant to the work of God. This blog was designed to defend the inspiration of the English text; educate the brethren as to nuances of its grammar, punctuation, spelling and history; and to goad those on the fence to make decisions. The world of those claiming to be King James men is wide enough for me to poke at the hypocrisy and unbelief that dwells within and never need to reach beyond.
However, Pastor Frank Townsend of the Concord Baptist Church in Lexington, SC has asked for my help. He is not a man who I can lightly refuse. At a time when I was weak beyond anything that I could have ever imagined, he was a true friend to me. He has since supported this ministry and those called to service through it. His church and ministry have recently been troubled by a small essay placed on the internet by a local lawyer. Ostensibly, the author of the piece (unknown to me) claims to be a King James man by virtue of the text behind it. Here is a portion of his essay.
When King James approved the translation of the Authorized Version, he did not do it without laying down some rules. He had two groups at odds with each other for serious reasons. One group was the Puritans, who you and I would side with, and the other was the Church of England, who King James himself sided with. The King wanted the backing of the Puritans but he knew all too well that the authority of the Church of England would be challenged if he didn’t give them some boundaries. That’s where the rules come in; fifteen of them to be exact. They were authored by an anti-Puritan named Richard Bancroft “on the behalf of church and state.” The very first one stated that he wanted the Bishop’s Bible, an older translation that the Church of England endorsed, to be the standard. He wanted it to be used as a guide, and changed as little as possible (his words, not mine). The third rule was a strict order that the authoritative word “church” had to be used in the translation rather than the more autonomous word “assembly” that the Puritans had always used. Before any translators began studying or praying, this English word was picked out by Bancroft himself for political reasons. If you’ve ever wondered why the church authority language comes out a shade stronger in this English translation (a reason why I believe authoritarian cults such as Mormons and JW’s favor it), you have your answer.
Here we see history intermingled with opinion. Yes, the Puritans and the High Church men were at odds. Perhaps this author really believes the Puritans to be his soul mates. I would suggest that he read Conrad Russell's, Crisis of Parliaments which contains a history of the very men with which our author purports to side. They indeed had many noble traits as well as many pernicious traits. Or, perhaps he could read Rebellion: The History of History of England From James I to the Glorious Revolution by Peter Ackroyd, or he could read behind Winston Churchill, Lord Macaulay, or John Richard Green.
I personally, recommend Russell, I read him every few years. No one reading any of these authors would ever make such a childish statement as "the Puritans, who you and I side with". It's far too simplistic. If I were grading essays by 8th graders, such a statement would earn an automatic C on the paper, with a note that said, "see me". Regardless of what we think of the Puritans, let's look at the main charge contained therein, that the word "church" was superimposed by royal fiat when in reality an unbiased or unfettered translation would have used the less authoritarian word, "assembly".
Apparently, James's edict concerning translation carried a lot more weight than historians thought. The translators of the ESV, the NIV and the New American Standard Bible all felt compelled to follow him. When they saw the word ecclesia, despite their sometimes liberal bent, and despite their 350 year separation from his tyranny, they apparently shook in their boots at James's edict, because they too translated it as church.
How can any sane man who knew one ounce of English History ever equate the Church of England's position (which had both good and bad points to it) to JW's and Mormons? "If you’ve ever wondered why the church authority language comes out a shade stronger in this English translation (a reason why I believe authoritarian cults such as Mormons and JW’s favor it), you have your answer." In fact, if my readers were to take more time than our befuddled author and actually checked with the JW's in their New World Translation, they could see that here are some men finally not afraid to throw off the King's chains. They studiously avoid the word, "church", they call it the "congregation". For the record, the Puritans of the 17th century were extremely authoritarian when in power.
For the record, King James did mandate that the Bishops' Bible be followed, but Rule #14 allowed the translators discretion when they felt that one of the other Bibles including the Puritan favorite, the Geneva Bible was translated better. As an example, compare Isaiah 44:20 with the King James Bible, the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible and you will see that they employed that liberty.
The conclusion reached by this author is exactly 180 degrees out of phase with reality. According to this man, the word "assembly" is more autonomous than the word "church". How is it then, that almost the only churches still proclaiming the King James Bible to be perfect, are the same churches that preach that all churches are autonomous? We are called Independent Baptists.
Quoting him further: The teaching is popular that the KJV is perfect in the sense that the translators were just as inspired as the writers of the original manuscripts. I’ve heard it taught with my own ears that the KJV, as a complete English version, is the seventh and final step of purification in the preservation process of God’s word, meaning you can just throw the original Greek and Hebrew in the trash can and move forward with only English. Unfortunately for those who teach such things, that idea was never prophesied in scripture or verified by history. Why would they want to teach that then?
Since I am one of those who believe that you could throw the original Greek in the trash (my Jewish friends still read the Hebrew and incidentally defend the King James Bible), I believe the King James Bible as represented by the Cambridge Text from 1920 to 1985 to be an exact replicate of what sits on a pulpit in heaven. This blog will give you both the history and the doctrine behind that statement. Apparently the author of our funny little essay never read, For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people, Isaiah 28:11. Apparently, when God speaks in other tongues it is not inspired according to this man.
When Peter preached in Acts chapter 2, men heard it in 17 different languages. How sad that none of them heard it in inspired speech! When Jesus said, Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away, Mark 13:31, he did not say it in Greek, yet it was recorded in Greek. Which one is inspired scripture? Perhaps our author has mastered the Greek language (he has not). Perhaps he prays to God in Greek or Hebrew? I doubt that. He probably prays to God in English and just hopes that God can understand it well enough to answer his prayer. Just what attribute does the author of this little essay ascribe to the original languages that he feels that the King James Bible lacks? By every single measure known to scripture, the King James Bible can and does perform exactly as the original texts were meant to perform.
Quoting again: Imagine for a moment that I was a pastor who used the JB Phillips translation (a very uncommon, little used English Bible) but I taught you that my translation was the only translation that contained truth, and that all others should just be burned in a heap. If I could get you to believe that, your choices of churches to attend would be limited to pretty much only my church, right? Or, at the very least, churches just like mine. With that one teaching, I could bind you to my entire religious philosophy, maybe even to the point that, no matter what I did or said or taught, you would be afraid to leave. After all, you wouldn’t want to be labeled a heretic, right?
Imagining any man advocating the JB Phillips translation to be the only translation that contained truth is quite a stretch. Phillips didn't even believe the originals were inspired as evidenced by his footnote in I Corinthians 14:21,22 where he ascribed Paul's statement to a slip of the pen. The footnote was purged in later editions to hide the man's infidelity. However, that obscures the bait and switch our author used. "the only translation that contained truth, and that all others should just be burned in a heap." Who ever claimed that no other translation contained truth?
The claim is that the King James Bible is perfect. After all, even Darwin spoke some truths. I never ask my people to believe the King James Bible based on manuscript evidence or some rigid orthodoxy. I ask them while they are still unbelievers, or still using other versions to test the claims of the scripture in its application to their lives as they would test the claims of an automobile manual claiming to be written by the manufacturer of their auto. Inevitably, they find that in test after test, and in application after application, it proves itself to be the exact words of the being that created their body, their soul, and their spirit.
They are free to go to church wherever they want, and I have never taken a single version out of the hand of anyone. Over and over, I have watched people toss out the cheap imitation owners manuals that purported to be accurate, but never made them free. This author is the only person I have ever read behind that believed knowing the truth made you unfree. When Jesus spoke, was anyone who heard him suddenly in bondage because they were not allowed to go with a different version of what he said? When Moses or Peter penned scripture did it bind the readers to servitude, or did it make them free? If God preserved his word over the centuries, would that enslave people?
For the record, I have always preached that this is America, and I am an Independent Baptist who believes in freedom of conscience. If you want to go to the city nearest to you, pry up a manhole cover and worship it as God, you have perfect liberty to do so. You are even welcome to sit in our church services, though you might be more comfortable in our author's church.
Quoting further: I’m an old-school King James guy. From the competence of the translators to the Antioch Text that it’s based on, I assure you that it won’t be surpassed any time soon. What’s not ok, though, is if I think that makes me part of God’s elite, and that everyone else is just a bunch of ignorant wanderers. It’s also not ok for me to use my position to bully people into being slaves to my opinions. The most effective Christians we could ever read about are in the book of Acts, and they didn’t even have Bibles. We can’t undermine the work of the Holy Spirit just because He chooses to work in people who don’t look like us. Seek out truth, and stand for it when you find it. Truth doesn’t need to be added to or taken away from. Truth is the only source of freedom in existence. If someone hands you a “truth” that chains you to a stake in their front yard, it’s a good sign that you may have bit off a little more than you should have.
What more does this man need to say? Truth enslaves you. Were the holders of the original manuscripts enslaved? Does centuries of error creeping into the text and doubt as to the meaning of the text liberate? Just what statement in a King James Bible is holding my people back? I have men and women who who live righteous lives today free from years of psychotropic drugs and illegal drugs sitting in my services. They have healed their families and made their lives envious to those beholding the changes.
I can point to family after family that has found peace whereas once they only knew war and hate. I have children in my services who used to go to sleep at night listening to their parents scream at each other or pass out from liquor. Now they go to bed serenaded by the songs of Zion. They awake to moms and dads who love them and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In each and ever case, I had to first convince these poor people that man was not the answer. Before they could ever open their hearts and minds to the promises of Jesus Christ, they needed to know that there was a more sure word of prophecy. All their lives they had been taught the tripe that this author is feeding people; there is no exact truth.
The 19th century brought us Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Westcott and Hort. If you follow the fruits of each of these men, you will find the roots of all social ills destroying our civilization. Westcott and Hort can be thanked (in hell) for convincing the people that the Bible was true once, but now needs the agency of men to be trusted. Our author has followed them up disguised as a King James man.