Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
3rd Reply to James White from Mr. McKinsey - Vintage
11/06/2012 - James White
(The following is Mr. McKinsey’s lengthy response to the first section of the above letter as it appears in the April 1987 edition of BiblicalErrancy).
Dear JW. After several months of correspondence it’s rather obvious, but unfortunate, that you have a notable array of shortcomings including a failure to listen very well, a strong propensity to belabor points that have already been answered, a tendency to uncritically parrot pat answers learned in Bible class and/or seminary, a deceptive and dishonest inclination to build strawmen for appearances sake, a poor grasp of logical processes in key areas, an attraction to glittering generalities rather than evidence, and a lamentable lack of comprehension of the overall imbroglio in which you find yourself. You hear what you want to hear, what you have been told to internalize. Your letters exude a distinct aura of deja vu and reek with examples of each failing. Apparently, you still don’t understand the problem but I’ll go through it one more time as succinctly as possible. Hopefully the audience can endure the repetition. I’m tempted to say, just re-read our correspondence and you’ll see the error of your ways, but I don’t think you’d do that any more than you’d read all of our back issues as I suggested. First, I never said, much less insisted, there was a textual variation in the Hebrew at Isaiah 7:14 nor did I say there was a textual variant between Matt. 19:18 KJ (‘Thou shalt not murder”) and Rom. 13:9 KJ (“Thou shalt not kill”). You attributed a position to me and then proceeded to dismantle your strawman. I never said the dispute was over text rather than rendering nor did I say how the contradiction arose. All I said was that a contradiction existed. Specifically, I stated the following which you chose to ignore. “You said there was no difference between Matt. 19:18 and Rom. 13:9 because both came from ‘ou phoneuseis’ in Greek... The translators of the KJV say ‘murder’ is the proper word in Matt. 19:18. while ‘kill’ is the best term to use in Rom. 13:9. Are you saying they don’t know the difference, that they don’t know how to translate? Are you saying you know Greek and Hebrew better than those who assembled the KJV? They say there is a difference, while you say there isn’t....several of the newest versions agree with the King James....8 The dispute as to whether ‘almah' in Isaiah 7:14 means a ‘virgin’ or a ‘young woman’ has never been resolved, I could become one of the world’s greatest Hebrew/Greek scholars and still find many knowledgeable people who disagree with my interpretation. So who is right? Who knows Greek and Hebrew best? 9 Many of these men have devoted decades to these languages (far more years than the 24 you have lived--Ed.) (Issue #44, p. 4). Later on page 4 of Issue 46 I provided three reasons translators may disagree with your equating of Matt. 19:18 with Rom. 13:9: (a) you picked inaccurate manuscripts, (b) you chose accurate manuscripts with identical words having different meanings, or (c) the original text is so imprecise as to be susceptible to several interpretations. As I stated months ago, your disagreement is with your colleagues as much as me. If all the manuscripts say “ou phoneuseis” as you contend and the words have identical meanings as you allege, then you have only scaled two lesser hurdles to reach an even higher barrier, namely, what does the Greek mean. If scholars can’t agree on how to translate the manuscripts, even though there are no textual differences, then what the text says is of no consequence. Locating the problem’s source is of less importance to this publication than noting the fact that it exists. If recognized experts give contradictory interpretations of the same words, then we have a problem equal in magnitude to that of contradictions between manuscripts. That’s the hurdle you either refuse to recognize or can’t surmount. If you think you have the solution then tell us what Matt. 19:18, Rom 13:9, and Isa. 7:14 say in English. 10 Whatever response you give will prove you view yourself as more knowledgeable in Greek and Hebrew than recognized experts in the field. If so, I again recommend that you write your own version of the Bible as did Wycliffe, Tyndale. Know, Lamsa, Moffatt, and Fenton. If you’re as capable as you seem to believe, then follow their lead and by all means send me a copy. You don’t seem to realize that translating or rendering is as serious a problem as disagreements among manuscripts. Contradictions in one instance are as fatal as in the other. What difference would it make if there were no contradictions among the manuscripts if authorities still couldn’t agree on what they said; the practical result would be the same.
You erroneously created a strawman when you said I accused you of picking “inaccurate manuscripts among the thousands available.” In point (b) above I repeated my original charge that your fellow apologists many (sic?) so contend. You also erred with another strawman when you said I “postulated a difference in meaning between the two instances of the same word,” i.e. “ou phoneuseis.” I postulated nothing of the sort.11 I originally said in point (c) above that your critics or fellow apologists may see a difference in meaning between two instances of the same word. On page 4 of Issue 46 1 noted that the word "pound” could have many different meanings. Your problem is with your colleagues while BE is primarily concerned with the bottom line, the contradiction that’s present. Whether its among manuscripts or interpretations of those manuscripts is of secondary importance. The result is the same. People don’t know what to believe. Even if the Greek/Hebrew manuscripts were in unison throughout, which is by no means true, the Bible would still be of no value in many areas because of contradictions within and between versions. 12
Second, with reference to these same verses, I stated that the problems problems associated with lower (textual) criticism seem to elude you, JW” (sic) and you responded by sending me two of your papers on textual criticism. How two textually critical papers on topics A and B, assuming they are valid throughout, proves your analysis with respect to topic C is correct, eludes me, JW.13 Using that kind of logic I might as well not grade Johnny’s paper because he got 100’s on the last two. Isn’t that known as a non sequitor?
Logic is also sadly deficient when you challenge me "to dispute the findings of such scholars as Bruce Metzger, Kurt Aland...." You mean I’m supposed to research their data? That’s your responsibility, not mine. Since the burden of proof lies on he who alleges, you, not I, are obligated to provide the findings. Imagine a defense attorney in court doing nothing more than saying, "I have three witnesses corroborating my client’s testimony. Prove them wrong." What do you think the judge would say? I seriously doubt he would instruct the prosecutor to research their data to see if it’s true. 14
Third, and in close conjunction with what has gone before, is your attraction to glittering generalities and summations to the jury without evidence. 15 You said I "did not at all deal with the facts... relevant to our main discussion” which is wholly inaccurate. I not only dealt with them but did so in some detail. The problem is that you didn’t like what you heard and chose to ignore that which did not fit your preconceptions of biblical criticism. 16 I again recommend that you re-read our dialogue, especially my responses in Issues 44, 46, and 47. You made a blanket indictment of some comments I made on page 4 of Issue 46 without providing evidence to the contrary. Specifically you denounced my disbelief that the original writings ever existed, my belief that textual criticism involves educated guesses, and my assertion that apologists can’t prove with certainty that most contradictions are the result of copyist errors. 17 Yet, you provided nothing than another demeaning generalization with respect to my knowledge of the field. It’s not that I “demonstrate a lamentable lack of knowledge of the field” hut that you demonstrate not only a lamentable lack of evidence for your sweeping generalizations and those of the people you quote with a mindset indicative of those who have been told what to accept as valid criticism and reply. Your repetition of the common apologetic defense that variations in the text provide “the means of its own correction” is not only notably unsubstantiated by concrete examples but exposed by my “homicide detective” analogy. Following your logic, one could more accurately recreate the “original manuscripts" as the number of contradictions and inconsistencies between and within manuscripts increased. I’ve never seen a solid example of this apologetic ploy which receives a lot of play but no proof. It’s comparable to saying that “the more chaotic things become the clearer they are.” 18
Incidentally, you built another strawman by intentionally giving a misleading impression of what I said regarding the original writings. I did not flatly state they never existed. I said there is little reason to believe they did. As in an earlier discussion of Jesus, which you apparently refuse to read, I never said he didn’t exist; I said there is practically no extrabiblical evidence that he did.
In essence, then, if you want to contend there is no contradiction in the Greek manuscripts between Matt. 19:18 and Rom. 13:9 while admitting these verses should be stricken from the Bible because reliable, non-contradictory interpretations don’t exist, I have no objection in this instance or others we could discuss. The result is the same. The verses mean nothing because nobody definitely knows what they are saying; only contradictory translations exist.
Again, if you’re sure you know their correct meaning, then, by all means, translate them into English.
I look favorably upon this discussion in general and the kill/murder example in particular because they strike at the heart of the Greek/Hebrew escapist defense and the basic fallacy contained therein. The principle underlying this discussion is also applicable to other verses of crucial importance.
In concluding, several additional observations are in order. First, you’re not really interested in objective scholarship and a comprehensive discussion of the Bible, JW, as much as forcing me to say uncle on one point. This accounts for your narrow focus and intense concentration. Your limited range of concern and failure to confront the substantive issues I’ve posed in prior issues only confirms my belief that you’re insecure in other areas and, like VT in earlier issues, are desperately trying to put me on the defensive. VT became almost obsessed with his “Sabbath Days Journey” problem to the exclusion of all else. If I followed that tactic, many an apologist could be nailed to the wall while many readers would become thoroughly bored with the repetition. One might have some respect for your scholarship if you discussed a far wider range of issues as do more capable apologists such as Gleason Archer, Josh McDowell, and Norman Geisler. They exhibit more intellectual honesty by facing a much broader spectrum. 19 On page 5 of November’s issue (#47) 1 said “I’d especially like for you to address more substantive problems such as most of those posed on pages 2 and 3 of Issue #34.” So far, your silence has been deafening. Literally hundreds of statements with respect to the Bible’s validity have been made throughout the history of this publication and the fact that your criticisms have been so narrow in scope is practically an endorsement of the 98% outside of your purview. Second, having read several issues of Alpha and Omega’s publication and witnessed the dearth of meaningful material contained therein, I’d say you’d do well to look homeward before complaining about other periodicals being intellectually wanting. 20
And finally, please don’t send critical letters while asking that they not be published. We prefer open debate so all can judge for themselves. Moreover, insufficient time is available for protracted off-camera discussions with single individuals. 21
End of Debate
[Note: On July 18th, 1987 Mr. McKinsey appeared on The Dividing Line, the radio ministry of Alpha and Omega Ministries. I brought up the main issue that we debated above - that of the supposed contradiction between Jesus and Paul. Mr. McKinsey was completely unable to defend his original charge at all - he had rather to go to a discussion of translations just as he did above. He masterfully avoided answering my question when I asked him if he was aware of the fact that Jesus and Paul had said the same thing before I had written to him. I do not believe that he did, but he would not answer that question when put to him. The best Mr. McKinsey could do was to challenge me to write my own translation and send it to him for his review, Since he admitted on the air that he could not read Greek or Hebrew. I’m not sure how he could evaluate such a project anyway. Should you wish to hear the discussion. write and ask for the tape from Alpha and Omega Ministries.]
8. What Mr. McKinsey seems ignorant of here is the fact that translations are not done by one big group sitting around discussing these things. Rather, translations are done by groups - one group might do the Gospels, another the Pauline epistles. etc. Therefore. it is impossible to say that the KJV translators specifically meant to differentiate between these two passages. Further, McKinsey will on numerous occasions accuse me of being in disagreement with scholars who are far better trained than I. He accuses me of putting myself up as some sort of expert. Problem is. McKinsey never sites so much as one “expert" who disagrees with me. Not once!
9. It absolutely must be pointed our here exactly what Mr. McKinsey is doing. Aside from the fact that everything Mr. McKinsey is here bringing up has already been answered in previous letters. I must point out that Mr. McKinsey is here abandoning his original charge and coming up with another one, and then faulting me for not addressing an issue that I never intended to address in the first place. If the reader will look back at the original quotations from Biblical Errancy, one will discover that what Mr. McKinsey first said was as follows: "Jesus and Paul can't seem to agree on the wording of the 6th Commandment regarding killing." Now that it has been shown conclusively that Jesus and Paul did agree on the wording of the commandment (as McKinsey admitted above). He is forced to change his original charge - now he is dealing with what he sees as “problems in translation.” What does that have to do with his original charge? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What people 2,000 years later would do in translating ou phoneuseis into a language that didn't even exist yet was probably of little concern to Paul or to Jesus. Jesus and Paul were in perfect agreement as to what the 6th Commandment said - McKinsey is shown to be wrong, but is just as obviously unwilling to admit it. When I began corresponding with him, it was my intention to deal only with the issues and not with a lot of side issues. McKinsey will criticize me for so doing, mainly to direct attention away from the fact that it is he who has avoided the real issue.
10. Can you imagine someone faulting Shakespeare for writing something in English that is difficult to translate into German? Can you imagine saying that the difficulty in translation from English to German is as serious as not knowing what it says in English? That is exactly what McKinsey is saying here.
11. I will leave it to the individual reader to decide whether Mr. McKinsey is correct in charging me with the creation of 'strawmen’ as he puts it. The implications of Mr. McKinsey’s words in his last response were very clear.
12. Therefore, anything not written in English is useless, for there will always be so-called "translational difficulties" present! Good logic!
13. Again Mr. McKinsey misses the whole point (or rather, changes the point of discussion in the middle of the river) - he had stated that the "problems associated with lower (textual) criticism seem to elude” me, and I simply provided him with evidence that he was wrong. I am, very familiar with the process of textual criticism and have taught informal seminars on that subject. The papers sent to him simply proved that he was wrong in saying that I was unfamiliar with the area of textual criticism.
14. The problem is, it was Mr. McKinsey who was attacking the Bible and the subject of textual criticism. It was he who was making completely unfounded and untrue allegations, and it was he who was showing an abysmal ignorance of the entire subject of textual criticism. Therefore, since it was he who was alleging, it is he who must provide the data. The simple fact is Mr. McKinsey is completely unable to deal with the facts as presented by the above mentioned scholars.
15. I must admit guilt at this point. I did attempt to be as brief as possible, and I also assumed that my opponent in the debate would be aware of the scholarly material on the subject. In respect to the latter point, I was obviously wrong - Mr. McKinsey proved himself to be very unfamiliar with the scholarly arena of discussion. Relevant to the former point, I made the mistake of trying to keep my responses brief due to the fact that BE is only six type-written pages long. I could have sent McKinsey pages and pages and pages of documentation and writing - but very little of it would have been printed. So, I stayed on the issue and tried to summarize the argument as much as possible. Mr. McKinsey will spend quite some time criticizing me for this.
16. It is amusing to note that this statement is a fantastic attempt of a “glittering generality” and a "summation” without any evidence. Mr. McKinsey does not know what I am thinking, nor why I react in certain ways, so he has no basis upon which to say this.
17. Actually. Mr. McKinsey did not mention anything about contradictions relevant to “copyist errors” - if you wilt reference his original comment, he was talking about textual variants, not contradictions. There is a world of difference there.
18. Here again Mr. McKinsey shows absolutely no familiarity with textual criticism. The use of ”famities" of manuscripts that contain similar variants (Alexandrian, Western, Byzantine, etc.) in textual criticism is very common amongst all who have taken the time to study it. Mr. McKinsey seemingly has not taken that time.
19. Here Mr. McKinsey is forced to throw in the proverbial “red herring’ to get the attention off of the fact that he is avoiding the issue even to the point of deleting half of my letter. I believe the reason for the deletion of that section of the letter is clear - he could not answer the clear errors he had made. Now he attacks me for not having dealt with three years worth of his publications. And just how was I supposed to do that? If Mr. McKinsey would provide me with half of his publication each month, I would gladly deal with the various points he has brought up in the past. As it is, I have been unable to see any other single person get more space in BE than I did in our debate, Mr. McKinsey, of course, would not be aware of the fact that I have dealt with the vast majority of his attacks on the Bible in the past as they we're brought up by members of various pseudo-Christian cult groups that I have been involved in evangelizing. But the point again is this - I wrote to Mr. McKinsey on three specific points. Why should I be faulted for following that topic to its conclusion? Is it my fault that Mr. McKinsey made as many substantive errors as he did in his replies?
20. I could fault Mr. McKinsey for not having dealt with the many issues brought up in our publication of The Dividing Line to which McKinsey here alludes - but I won’t. That would be using his logic.
21. Mr. McKinsey is here referring to the letters I had written to him asking if he was going to ever print this final letter, I also mentioned in one letter one other issue relevant to the "King James Only” controversy, to which he must be referring here.