There have been only a few responses to my book, The King James Only Controversy. Aside from one privately written and published response by Dr. Kirk DiVietro (my reply), and Dr. Ruckman’s wild-eyed articles in the Bible Believer’s Bulletin (which, as I understand it, ended up in a “book” as well), there has been little in the way of substantive response, other than the obligatory, “Oh yeah?” that I get often get in AOL chat rooms. J I’ve been told that Dr. Theodore Letis is writing a review as well, and he’s been busy traveling the country making outrageous (and untrue) statements about the book, too. I was informed that he had recently called Grand Canyon University, seeking my transcripts! I can only imagine what that review is going to be like: I once attempted to engage Letis in debate in the theonomy-l mailing list, and the result was, well, unfortunate at best.
But the first response I received came from Dr. Thomas Holland. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his response just a few months after my book came out. I looked it over, and quite honestly felt that it had very little merit to it, and filed it away. I’ve run into Dr. Holland a number of times in AOL since then, and just recently (April, 1997) “debated” Dr. Holland at a cult conference in Indianapolis. Immediately before the debate Dr. Holland handed me a copy of his response in printed form. I was somewhat amused to note that it was published by Peter Ruckman’s organization. Since I’m sure Ruckman will be doing all he can to promote this work, I’ve decided to take a few moments to respond to Dr. Holland’s comments.
A Very Nice Cover!
I mentioned to Dr. Holland that the cover of his booklet is quite nice. I pointed out that the cover has the very same colors as one of my Rush Limbaugh ties. Don’t believe me? Look at the graphic of the cover on this page, and then look for yourself: http://www.rushties.com/dcshop/rush/pg6.html ! Look at the tie called “Ivy Blue.” J
No credits are provided for the artist, but I get the feeling that I may well have been honored with a Ruckman original here. The artwork on the cover looks a lot like Ruckman’s chalk drawings. If it is an original, I’d love to ask Ruckman for the original drawing. I think I’d frame it!
As one can see from the cover, my book (in the form of a crate) is slowly slipping beneath the waves, having floundered against the rock of the KJV 1611 Lighthouse. But what is even more interesting is the back cover, which continues the painting:
Here a ship is slipping beneath the waves, and as you can see clearly in the above scan, the ship is the “S.S. White.” The text coming from the lighthouse is from 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (KJV, of course), which speaks of some who have made “shipwreck” of their faith. Since I, in the form of a ship, am slipping beneath the waves, it is sort of hard to avoid the clear implication that I have somehow made shipwreck of my faith by writing my book. Surely, many KJV Only folks say so without hesitation. But Dr. Holland claims I am a brother in Christ. When I pointed this out to him, he indicated that he had nothing to do with the design of the cover. The design is certainly consistent with Ruckman’s attitude and viewpoint, to be sure.
The Introductory Letter
This small (24 page) booklet contains only about 14 small pages of text in all. It begins with a short letter to Peter Ruckman. The only relevant piece of information here is listed in Dr. Holland’s “reasons” for writing his review. He notes as his third reason:
Mr. White not only misrepresented you, but also all who hold to the Authorized Version as God’s perfect and preserved word. Of course, this is nothing new.
It certainly seems like Dr. Holland is speaking in pretty much the same vein as Ruckman, who continually calls his opponents “liars” and the like. We shall see if I did, in fact, “misrepresent” Dr. Ruckman.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
Dr. Holland begins his review by misrepresenting my intentions:
Those who believe the King James Bible to be the preserved word of God for the English speaking people will find no friend in the writings of James R. White and his recent book, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (Bethany House Publishers 1995). White seeks to justify the use of modern versions such as the NIV and NASV while attacking those who hold to the Authorized Version as the word of God.
A fair reading of my book shows that I have no desire to “attack” those who hold to the AV as the Word of God. In fact, I said it is the Word of God, just as the NASB or NIV is rightly called “the Word of God.” I did not “attack” anyone. I do respond to the vitriol and ad-hominem argumentation that characterizes much of the body of KJV Only materials, and I review the presentations of some folks who use personal attack in everything they write, including Peter Ruckman, Texe Marrs, and Gail Riplinger. But as the vast majority of my reviewers have noted, I did so without stooping to their level. I leave the conclusions concerning the why’s of their writings to the reader. Next we read,
It would take a volume to answer all White’s objections to the King James Bible and those who believe it. Those criticisms have all been addressed in the writings of those White opposes.
I believe the King James Bible—I use it when witnessing to Mormons all the time. Obviously, what Dr. Holland should say is, “White’s objections to King James Onlyism and those who promote this viewpoint.” As to all my criticisms being addressed in the writings of “those White opposes,” this simply isn’t the case. The vast majority of my criticism of Gail Riplinger, for example, is not at all responded to in her own writings. Holland continues:
However, some points of justification require further examination. The number of contradictions, straw man arguments, and false information is astounding.
Sometimes, such broad-brush comments are worthwhile and proper. For example, it would be quite proper to say, “Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions, is filled with so many errors per page that it would require a multi-volume series to document them all.” But whenever you make such a comment, you need to back it up with solid and representative examples. And it is just this that Dr. Holland fails to do.
The real issue is never fully addressed in White’s book. In defending modern versions and attacking the Authorized Version, White gives the same old arguments: better texts, the difficulty in translation from one language to another, textual problems in the Textus Receptus (TR, the basic Greek text which underlined the Authorized Version of 1611), errors of the King James Bible, differing editions of the KJV, and the attitudes of those who support it.
In reality, my book goes far beyond this, providing a great deal of historical information on how we got the Bible in the first place. However, I wish to focus upon the first sentence. The “real issue” is addressed, many times, in my work. Obviously, Dr. Holland may differ with me on what the “real issue” is. That’s fine. In fact, Dr. Holland may take a different viewpoint than many in the KJV Only camp. That’s fine, too. However, to accuse me of misrepresentation as he often does requires that I be misrepresenting the particular viewpoint I am addressing at that time. He cannot accuse me of misrepresenting him if I do not address his viewpoint specifically. To be honest with you, I had never heard of Dr. Holland prior to writing my book. I am unaware of his having published anything prior to his review of my book, and almost everything I’ve seen by him in the Internet has been written since he began responding to my work. Hence, I can hardly be faulted if I didn’t address his particular viewpoint.
Unfortunately, Dr. Holland’s response is like every one I’ve seen thus far: it focuses upon minor issues, taken out of context, and utterly fails to interact with the vast majority of the material in the book, including its central thesis. This can be seen very early on, for we read,
For example, he makes light of KJV only groups, stating they believe the KJV was “delivered to us via angelic messenger” (pp.118-119). He boldly declares in one footnote:
We have heard of small groups that go even further, claiming that the KJV was written in eternity, and that Abraham and Moses and the prophets all read the 1611 KJV, including the New Testament! (p.6).
White’s speculations are not scholarly, but merely ridicule and hearsay.
How is it, may I ask, that pointing this fact out (and it is a fact—Eric Pement of Cornerstone Magazine in Chicago is the one who mentioned this group to me) is to be taken as making “light” of KJV Only groups? How is it that a footnote amounts to a “bold declaration,” “ridicule and hearsay”? Does Dr. Holland deny that anyone has ever gone this far in their views on the KJV?
The next section of Dr. Holland’s review is titled “Contradictions.” Here we should find plenty of solid evidence to back up the charges already made. Indeed, Holland starts off by saying, “Self contradiction seems to be a theme in his book.” Such allegations should be rather easily documented. We shouldn’t find Dr. Holland reaching for obscurities here, should we? Let’s look at his “contradictions” and see how he does. Here’s the first one:
White states that time should be spent by pastors helping the sick and not defending text types and translations (Introduction, p. IV), but then concludes that the Bible “requires us to study its history and the reasons for our trust in its veracity and accuracy” (Introduction, p. VI). Apparently, White feels the KJV issue worthy of attention as he has just published a 286-page book on this issue, written a pamphlet entitled “New Age Bible Versions Refuted” in response to Gail Riplinger’s book on the subject, and has debated Rip-linger twice and author Dr. D.A. Waite on this issue.
How did Dr. Holland do? Well, not too well. Let’s look at what I really said on page IV of the Introduction:
Most important, men of God, pastors and elders entrusted with the care of the flock of God, are inevitably, and often unwillingly, drawn into this controversy. Time that should be spent in ministry to families, the sick, the hurting, has to be invested in explaining to zealous members of the congregation why their salvation is not dependent upon a seventeenth-century Anglican translation of the Bible. Energy that could be devoted to the study of the Word and the proclamation of God’s truth from the pulpit has to be directed toward allaying fears inspired by KJV Only publications.
So, as we can see, Holland is the one doing the misrepresenting here, changing my obvious thrust so as to create, out of whole clothe, a “contradiction.” It only gets worse. Context seems to be something that is utterly irrelevant when looking desperately for “contradictions.” Here’s the next one:
In a series of contradictions, White cites several of Dr. Peter S. Ruckman’s books, stating that “charges of blasphemy, heresy, and even stupidity, fly thick from some elements of the KJV Only movement” (Introduction, p. V). Yet, on the same page he says, “The KJV Only controversy feeds upon the ignorance among Christians regarding the origin, transmission, and translation of the Bible.” According to White, this view causes conservative Christians to be viewed as “backwards” (Introduction, p. VII). Further, KJV only groups are “an opening” through which cultic groups often enter into the thinking of the unsuspecting believer” (p.27). White sends a mixed message that it is wrong to use words such as “heresy” and “stupidity” by supporters of the KJV, but condones the labels of “ignorance,” “backwards,” and “cultic” for advocates of the Authorized Version.
Anyone who has read Dr. Peter Ruckman’s works knows what I mean about the language used by KJV Only advocates. If you are reading this while on our web site, simply note the correspondence with Ruckman, replete with scans of his profanities scribbled on my letters and sent back to me. Or read the articles on Texe Marrs and his describing me as a “servant of Satan.” You can read The King James Only Controversy a thousand times and never find language like that, for it simply isn’t there. But what of Holland’s statements? First, saying that a person, or group of people, are “ignorant” of a particular field of study is not an insult. It happens to be a fact. The statement from page VII is in the following context:
I am no friend to those who would seek to undercut the very foundations of the Christian faith. Indeed, it is a concern for the integrity of the faith that drives this reply to the KJV Only position, for the cause of conservative values in the Christian faith is by no means aided by the existence of the KJV Only camp. The willingness of many to sacrifice all semblance of logic and rationality in the cause of defending a great, yet imperfect, translation of the Bible as if it were inspired is used by skeptics as evidence of how “backwards” conservatives as a whole truly are.
Again, it is amazing what a little context will do! So we are hardly surprised to find that the last statement has likewise been taken out of context and pressed into service to create a non-existent “contradiction”:
Being an informed person on the subject of the text of the Bible would seem a basic, fundamental aspect of being a Christian today. Yet the vast majority of Christians have little or no knowledge at all of where the Bible came from, how it was transmitted over time, or why their translation differs from any other. This lack of study not only provides the breeding ground of the KJV Only controversy, but it is also an “opening” through which cultic groups often enter into the thinking of the unsuspecting believer.
The reader will notice that Dr. Holland has badly misrepresented my words here. I am talking about ignorance of how we got the Bible being the “opening” through which cultic groups often enter into the thinking of the unsuspecting believer. Holland changes my words to refer to KJV only groups. This is a blatant error, and should be enough to request both an apology, as well as a retraction. So far, then, we have no contradictions after two attempts. But Dr. Holland has some more:
Another of White’s discrepancies depicts those in the King James only movement opposing the use of Greek and Hebrew. White states (pp.55-56):
Recently I mentioned to a KJV Only advocate that I was teaching both Greek and Hebrew classes. He asked me what percentage of Christians today know Greek or Hebrew. I answered that it is a very small number, to which he replied ‘Good.’ No need to waste time with such things anyway, since you have God’s words in the AV 1611.
Later he admits the Greek Textus Receptus is “…used today by nearly all KJV Only advocates…” (p.63). How can KJV only advocates hate New Testament Greek and use the Greek TR at the same time? Every Bible college that believes the King James Bible to be the preserved word of God teaches New Testament Greek.
Again, context is utterly ignored. I plainly differentiated between those KJV Only advocates who view the English text as superior to the Greek and Hebrew texts, and those who do not. Holland ignores my own definitions. What is worse, he again changes the context, misrepresenting my statement. The material that appears right before his citation reads thusly:
It is very common to find the KJV Only advocate dismissing any appeal to the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts. “So you have to know Greek to know what God says” is the comment that has been made to me many times. “You are limiting God’s Word to scholars. What about those of us who do not know Greek or Hebrew? Can’t we know what God has revealed?”
Would Dr. Holland like to suggest that KJV Only advocates, especially the followers of Peter Ruckman, to whom he entrusted the publication of this “review,” do not say such things? If he would like, I have files filled with letters from such folks. So, another “contradiction” that is nothing more than a creation of Dr. Holland’s imagination. Three down, and three left to go:
Chapter Two gives a discourse of “New and Improved,” noting this phrase comes from advertisers who are “not the most honest people in the world” (p.9). While the beginning almost reads like a KJV only book against new versions, the chapter quickly changes to criticism of the KJV only movement as die hard traditionalism.
We are not told how this is supposed to be a contradiction. The chapter documents the fact that the impetus behind the KJV Only movement is nothing new. No contradiction here.
Were homosexuals on the NIV translation committee? White emphatically denies this inquiry (p.245) but then points out that Virginia Mollenkott was used as a consultant on matters of English style because “she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views” (pp. 245-246).
Again, Dr. Holland completely misses the point. Anyone who reads the two pages cited knows this. Mollenkott was not on the translation committee. A committee position is not the same thing as a stylist position. Surely Dr. Holland should know the difference. Five out of five alleged contradictions have failed. Dr. Holland has one last shot:
White claims he is a “biblical conservative” (Introduction, p. VII) and believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Yet he states, “To err is human” (p.36). His point that the translators of the KJV were human and subject to error is the same argument the liberal scholar uses about the issue of Biblical inerrancy.
I am a biblical conservative who does believe in inerrancy. And, I believe that scribes making manuscripts erred. The two issues are, obviously, separate, as Dr. Holland well knows. This is nothing but a bogus argument that relies upon switching categories, and is beneath Dr. Holland.
So we have seen six attempts by Dr. Holland to provide examples of contradictions in The King James Only Controversy, and all six have been shown to fail. Not only this, but in most of these, it is Dr. Holland who is plainly guilty of creating straw men and using misrepresentation, the charge he makes against me in his review (a common tactic, I might note). This takes us to the half-way point of the entire published piece, and so far, we haven’t found a single substantive criticism! Such should speak volumes.
Straw Man Arguments
Dr. Holland begins his next section by demonstrating that he would like me to have only reviewed his own beliefs, not the beliefs of the loudest of the KJV Only movement:
In the same vein, White builds a series of straw man arguments in order to prove his point. He uses the equation (p.3), “The King James Bible Alone = the Word of God Alone,” to state the view of the KJV only movement. This equation is given without any quotation to support it, and assumes that only the King James Bible is the word of God. The logical implication is that those who hold to this view do not believe any other country has the word of God unless they speak English, or that until 1611 the word of God was lost. Most KJV advocates believe the King James Bible to be God’s preserved words for the English speaking people not the whole world as White suggests (p.3). King James supporters also recognize the history of the scriptures throughout the church age and show different times in history where the word of God existed before 1611.
There are many KJV Only advocates who take the very views Holland notes here. For example, anyone who has viewed the John Ankerberg series on the KJV issue knows that in the very first program Dr. Ankerberg asked Dr. Sam Gipp (a graduate of Peter Ruckman’s school—and remember, Dr. Holland’s “review” is published by Ruckman!) about this very topic. He asked Gipp if a person in Russia needs to learn English to have God’s infallible Word, and Gipp answered “yes.” One need only read Gipp’s The Answer Book to find statement after statement defending this view. The other two KJV Only advocates did not disagree (though I know that Dr. Strousse would have, if given the chance). Hence, Dr. Holland commits a basic fallacy here: he faults me for addressing someone else’s view, not his own. If he takes a less strident view, more power to him. But he cannot even begin to deny that there are individuals who take the views I presented. He has to admit that I differentiated between the various groups, and if he focuses upon the passages where I am dealing with something other than his own position, he is the one using the straw man argument.
Again, White states of the TR:
Anyone who believes the TR to be infallible must believe that Erasmus, and the other men who later edited the same text in their own editions (Stephanus and Beza), were somehow ‘inspired,’ or at the very least ‘providentially guided’ in their work. Yet, none of these men ever claimed such inspiration (p.58).
First of all, who believes these men were inspired by God in the same sense the Old and New Testament writers were inspired? White assumes the KJV advocate believes this, and then expresses that men like Erasmus “never claimed to be inspired.” Secondly, White quotes Dr. Edwin Palmer of the NIV translation committee as saying, “John 1:18, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.. declare(s) that Jesus is God” (p.103). Because the KJV has a different rendering here, Dr. Palmer calls the KJV and its Greek texts “inferior” and his Greek text “inspired.” If a KJV advocate had used such wording concerning the TR, White would have objected.
The reader will note that such arguments are very difficult to follow, as Dr. Holland seems to be trying to miss the points I am raising in an effort to find fault with the book as a whole. He ignores the fact that there is an endnote attached to the word “guided” in my quote which provides a citation of Dr. Edward F. Hills, from whom I took my phraseology, in which Hills says the same thing! The context of my statement has to do with the collation of manuscripts, not the writing of manuscripts, so again Holland misrepresents my point. I am speaking to the choices made by Erasmus and others as to textual variants, not to the writing of the Scriptures themselves. Hence, the first objection is groundless. The second objection, likewise, is utterly groundless, as Dr. Palmer did not refer to “his” Greek text as “inspired” over against the TR. This is a blatant misuse of Palmer’s citation, and is, quite honestly, a very poor stretch at best. If my book is so full of contradictions and straw men, why does Dr. Holland have to work so hard to create his examples? Next, Holland is found defending Ruckman, but in the process, missing the point yet again. He cites my statement concerning Peter Ruckman’s view of the superiority of the KJV to the Greek and Hebrew texts, though he forgets to note that I did so by citing Ruckman directly! He goes on to say:
This is another example of Mr. White not doing his homework. It is common to refer to the Greek texts of modern versions as “the original.” Since Dr. Ruckman sees these texts as corrupt, he often makes light of them by stating the KJV should be used to correct them. He is not claiming the KJV should be used to correct the authors of the Old and New Testaments, but that the KJV should be used to correct the writings of modern textual critics. As to the superiority of the KJV to the true originals, Ruckman only points out that the originals would serve little purpose to the common English reader since he could not read them but could read his English KJV Even modern scholars recognize this. Luther A. Weigle quotes Sir Frederic Kenyon, who stated in 1936, “It is the simple truth that, as literature, the English Authorized Version is superior to the original Greek” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha [Revised Standard Version], Oxford University Press 1977, p.1553). Neither Kenyon, Weigle, nor the committee for the Oxford study Bible could be called followers of Dr. Ruckman or part of the KJV only group, although they did recognize how the KJV was superior to the original Greek. Perhaps White will target these men in his next book on the subject.
First, Dr. Holland says “this is another example of Mr. White not doing his homework.” Yet, we haven’t found a single example in the entirety of his review to this point. Next, he tries to downplay Ruckman’s caustic comments about the “originals,” but fails to even begin to interact with the citation I provided from Ruckman himself. Without such interaction, his defense carries no weight. But even the rather irrelevant citation of Kenyon fails him, for Kenyon is not speaking in any context even remotely similar to Ruckman. Kenyon is stating that the KJV translators used a higher form of English than would directly match the grammatical level of the koine Greek used in the NT. This is not the point Ruckman is making at all. Hence, on both points, Holland’s arguments fall flat. This makes his comment, “Perhaps White will target these men in his next book on the subject” somewhat embarrassing.
We then come to the issue of dynamic equivalence, where again, the straw men abound in Dr. Holland’s review. It seems that if I explain the theory behind dynamic equivalence, I automatically become a proponent of it as the final word in translation. Anyone who reads my work objectively will know that I presented the case for both formal and dynamic equivalence, and pointed out that every translation is a mixture of both principles. Holland misrepresents this section by stating that I argued that modern translations are “better” than the KJV due to their use of dynamic equivalence. Such is, again, a simple misrepresentation.
Next Dr. Holland accuses me of “speaking for the dead.” He writes:
“I can say with confidence that if Desiderius Erasmus were alive today he would not be an advocate of the AV 1611″ (p.60). How does White know this? Has he been speaking with Erasmus lately?
No, but I sure have been reading him, and I said what I did on the basis of what Erasmus wrote. Holland conveniently ignores the preceding six pages of information, replete with twenty-two endnotes almost all of which are from Erasmus’ own writings in making this statement. This isn’t reviewing a book, this is massacring a book.
“Dr. Hills’ [sic] honesty is a breath of fresh air. If he had not begun with the assumption of the superiority of the TR, he would undoubtedly have been led to a conclusion in favor, at the very least, of the ‘Majority Text’ rather than the modern critical texts” (p.93). Really? Then why did he not do so?
This comes from a discussion of the view of Edward F. Hills (making “Hills'” the proper form of the possessive), and any review of the passage provides abundant answer to the question. Given Hills’ use of the data, if he had not begun with the assumption of the superiority of the TR, he would have come to a different conclusion. It is not difficult to understand. Dr. Holland moves on to another “example”:
The following is perhaps the best. In reference to 2 Cor. 2:17, the KJV translates the Greek word “kapeleunontes” [sic] as “corrupt” instead of “peddle” as the New King James Version does. “Surely if the KJV translators were alive today,” states White, “they would gladly admit that ‘peddle’ is a better translation than ‘corrupt,’ and would adopt it themselves” (p. 114). This is foolishness. There were peddlers in 1611, but they chose “corrupt” because they felt it was the better translation. No amount of speaking for the dead will change that fact.
Again, context, context, context. Here is what I said:
When we look more closely, it appears that the NKJV simply translates the Greek text differently than the KJV, which has “corrupt the word of God.” Is the NKJV (and NASB and NIV and RSV and NRSV) teaching that it is acceptable to corrupt the Word of God? The Greek term used here (there are no textual variants regarding the word) is “kapeleuontes,“ which literally refers to a peddler, a merchant, one who sells things, often with a negative connotation to the term. One source defines it, “to engage in retail business, with the implication of deceptiveness and greedy motives—to ‘peddle for profit, to huckster.’ ” Therefore we see that, in reality, the KJV rendering is inferior to all the modern translations, which more faithfully bring out what Paul is referring to. He is talking about those who seek to make a profit by preaching, and he contrasts this motivation with his own, that of “sincerity.”
It is obvious, therefore, that the NKJV translators are not seeking to give anyone an excuse to “corrupt” the Word of God, but are instead doing just as the KJV translators before them: seeking to faithfully translate the Word of God into English. Surely if the KJV translators were alive today they would gladly admit that “peddle” is a better translation than “corrupt,” and would adopt it themselves. The foolishness of the argument put forward can be seen simply by reversing it: is the KJV trying to say it is OK to peddle the Word of God, as long as you do not corrupt it? Of course not.
One might suggest at this point that if you have arrived at the seventeenth page of a 24 page review, and have yet to find a single meaningful or accurate objection, that “enough is enough.” But, with only seven pages to go, why not provide a full response? Dr. Holland goes on to address briefly the issue of freedom. I mentioned that many KJV Only churches do not allow the use of other translations in their churches. Dr. Holland points out this is due to their conviction that it is a perfect translation, which I fully understand. This is hardly an objection to my work.
Next Holland notes a single statement I made concerning the motivations of the KJV translators. I pointed out that some might have had less than perfect motives, just as some modern translators might. I noted William Barlow held views of the monarchy that could have impacted his translation (as I had elsewhere noted the King’s influence upon the translation itself, p. 71). Holland questions this, but upon what basis? Is he prepared to assert that all the KJV translators had perfect motivations?
More simply irrelevant points are raised, including my noting (as an example of the inconsistency of KJV Only advocates) that the KJV translators were Anglicans and Puritans, and hence believed in infant baptism. Holland ignores the context in which I made this observation.
Holland asserts that the citations of the KJV translators provided on pages 72 through 77 “prove nothing” or “are taken out of context.” Yet, he fails to substantiate his allegation, which, given his track record thus far, says a great deal. When your batting average is 0.000, you can’t ask that someone just take you at your word. He again fabricates a context, saying, “White seems to think the translators of the KJV favored the need for additional translations and therefore would welcome modern versions (p. 76).” Yet, this is what I had written:
One of the issues that arises in the Preface that is very relevant to the KJV Only controversy is the inclusion of alternative translations or marginal readings in the KJV. The translators defended their inclusion of these items, and in so doing demonstrated that those who would make their translation an inerrant and inspired work do so against their own statements.
I have to ask: why does Dr. Holland have to consistently misrepresent a text that is widely available? Such is very hard to understand. Holland speaks “for the dead” (to use his phrase) when he says,
The translators would not accept the readings of modern versions. They had English translations based on the same type of textual readings of modern versions in the Catholic (Douay) Bible. The translators wrote, “…and all is sound for substance in one or the other of our editions, and the worst of ours (that is before 1611) is better than their authentic vulgar.”
Given that I provided a number of citations from the translators (passed over in silence by Holland) that say that they used the same kind of methodology modern textual critics use, such a statement collapses under its own weight. Besides, does Dr. Holland wish to say that Douay matches modern texts? Or will he not admit that in many places it is quite Byzantine, and reliant upon the Vulgate, just as the KJV? Amazingly enough, even the KJV translators are not immune to Dr. Holland’s misrepresentations! He writes,
The translators plainly state that their work was equal to David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem and Solomon building the temple. Their conclusion was, as even cited by White, that the KJV “containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God” (p.75).
The way Holland presents this (and he did the same thing in a brief “debate” we had in Indianapolis in early 1997) is that the translators are saying the KJV specifically is “the word of God.” But here is what they actually said:
Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.
To what are they referring? To the KJV? No, to “the very meanest translation of the Bible in English.” Even the “meanest” translation “containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.” Such is exactly opposite the view of most KJV Only advocates. Will Dr. Holland call my NASB the Word of God? The KJV translators would. Holland concludes by saying, “The translators believed they translated the very word of God and that their work was beyond themselves.” That is quite true, but it has nothing to do with any of my citations of their words, nor the topic at hand. Again, while Holland asserted that my citations either proved nothing, or were out of context, he failed to interact with the majority of them, and the few he did, he failed to deal with adequately, or, sadly, even honestly.
We are getting close to the end. Entire sections of long explanation of textual issues are reviewed in single paragraphs. In discussing the differences between the later Byzantine texts and the earlier Alexandrian manuscripts, I discussed, rather fully, the concept of the “expansion of piety.” Holland ignores the large number of examples I provided on this topic elsewhere in the book, and focuses upon only one example I gave of how this can happen in every day life. I mentioned a lady who called in on a radio program and who instructed me that I needed to say “the Lord Jesus Christ” rather than anything shorter, like “the Lord” or “Jesus.” Having ignored the majority of my presentation he glibly concludes, “Does modern scholarship now consist of proof by radio?” He then points out that the TR does have expanded titles of the Lord Jesus (as my book says), but then ignores my full discussion of the reasons, concluding, “Since the scriptures teach us ‘that in all things He might have the preeminence’ (Col. 1:18), it makes sense to use a Bible with the ‘expansion of piety’ than to have one where Christ is not as prevalent.” This ignores my repeated assertion that the issue is “what did the apostles and prophets write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” not what a pious scribe thought a thousand years later. By ignoring the points raised in my own book, Holland unwittingly provides a glowing example of how accurately my book focuses upon the real errors in KJV Onlyism—errors their leading advocates simply cannot respond to.
The final section before the conclusion of this “review” is titled “False Information.” Of course, to this point, we have failed to find a single accurate criticism of an entire 286 page book. Twenty pages of a twenty-four page review have passed in utter failure, so we have every right to wonder about such a title. Holland begins:
The real issue is not the inspiration of the KJV, but the preservation of the word of God as stated in scripture (Ps. 12:6-7; Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23). White seems to overlook the issue, touching on it briefly at the end of chapter three where he discusses the relationship between preservation according to the canonization of scripture and the keeping of the Bible as a whole. Again, is this not the same argument the liberal theologian uses to deny Biblical inerrancy? All liberal scholars believe in Biblical preservation in the same form touched on in the King James Only Controversy. But where is the scriptural support for such a view? Sadly for White and his cohorts, there is none.
Actually, Dr. Holland errs again. There is a lot of discussion of this issue in the book beyond the few places he cites. Why does he ignore those sections? When he asks if this is not the same argument liberals use, the answer, of course, is “No, Dr. Holland, it isn’t.” It is simply untrue to state that “liberal scholars believe in Biblical preservation in the same form touched on” in my book. Either Dr. Holland knows nothing about liberal theology, or he has again misrepresented my book, one of the two.
As to Scriptural support, and Dr. Holland’s own presentations, I provide the following brief comments. I have read through all of the material on Dr. Holland’s web site, http://members.aol.com/Logos1611/index.html, and have found a consistent pattern of error, both in exegesis, and argumentation. He relies completely upon a misinterpretation of Psalm 12:6-7, and even brings this up at this point in his review. The following information was written in preparation for my debate against Dr. Holland:
There is no argument, this evening, that both Dr. Holland and myself believe in the preservation of God’s Holy Word, the Scriptures. I fully affirm the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible. I have engaged Roman Catholic apologists all across the nation in public debate in defense of the great truth of sola scriptura, and will be doing so again in only a few weeks on Long Island. We both believe in the authority of the Bible, and we both believe in the preservation of the Scriptures.
The issue between us is very basic, and while it can at times seem complex, it really isn’t. We don’t have to discuss variant readings and text types and the like to address the fundamental issue between us. For quite honestly, the reason we would differ in our discussion of all other issues regarding textual criticism is due to the starting points we both have regarding the subject itself.
Dr. Holland has already explained his position to you. In his written materials, available on the Internet, Dr. Holland uses the same passages repeatedly to assert that there is a “biblical” or “Bible-believing” method of textual criticism, which is what he embraces. Opposed to this biblical method is that embraced by myself and the vast majority of conservative Christian scholars today. I quote from Dr. Holland:
The King James Version View:
This view draws most of its textual support form the Traditional Text, since the Greek Text which underlined the King James Version came from the Traditional Text.
The view covers preservation, final authority, and the Sovereignty of God. The view states that the Authorized Version is the preserved word of God for the English-speaking people. It stands as the final authority for all matters of faith and practice without any proven error.
This view begins with a basis of Scriptural promises. Namely, that God would keep and preserve His words. (Psalm 12:6-7; Matt. 4:4; 5:18; 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23). Preservation would mean more than a general term. It would mean that God kept all of His words without error, and that these words are preserved in a book which can be read and tested. Throughout church history God has kept His words, and since 1611 for English-speaking people, it is found in the Authorized Version.
All other issues we can, and may, discuss, will be determined, I believe, by Dr. Holland’s tenacious holding to this belief. Now, I would point out in passing that the position as defined has insuperable difficulties: it assumes the existence of one “Traditional Text,” when in fact, the “Traditional Text,” whether we speak of the Byzantine family or the Majority Text, demonstrates internal variations and differences. Indeed, the exact text of the NT as found in the KJV cannot be found, word-for-word, in any Greek manuscript anywhere on the planet prior to 1611. Hence, the position itself requires the use of a view of textual criticism at its start that it then disallows when finished, making the position internally inconsistent. Remember, Dr. Holland says ALL God’s words—plural, which speaks to a particular word-for-word text—has been “preserved” as a body from the beginning.
Why do the vast majority of conservative Christian scholars reject this view? Because it does not accord either with a fair reading of any one of the biblical passages cited, as we shall see in a moment, nor with history itself. We find no compelling biblical reason to assume that God has promised to preserve a particular text-type, family, or manuscript, as the “final authority,” nor that there is any promise that particular language groups will be granted a particular translation that, by some means, is made to be “better” than all others. Instead, we find that God has indeed preserved His Word, only in a very different way than the one proposed by Dr. Holland.
While our debate today is specifically on Dr. Holland’s position, I feel compelled to briefly state my own, as it represents the view of most of those conservative Bible believing scholars working in the field. God’s work of preservation has taken place not through the use of a particular group, a particular geographical area, or a particular text type. God has preserved His Word in the entire mass of New Testament manuscripts, including those of every text type. Christians, as a people, believed that everyone should have access to the Scriptures. So, they were quite willing to have copies of their Scriptures made by anyone who wished. As a result, copies of New Testament books were quickly distributed all over the known world, from the British Isles to the sands of Egypt, from Germany to Palestine. Some of the greatest treasures we have discovered over the past century have been the papyri manuscripts that have laid in the sands of Egypt for nearly 1800 years.
The genius of the Lord’s means of preserving His Word is striking, and beautiful. And since we are here in an apologetics and counter-cult conference, we should note that it provides us with a solid basis upon which to defend God’s Word. You see, God sent out His Word to all the world, so that there was never a time in all of the past two millennia when any one man, group of men, church, or council, had “control” over the text of the Bible. All the time we hear people saying that at such and such a time in history this doctrine was removed from the Bible, or this book was taken away, so on and so forth. Yet such is simply not the truth. Since there were primitive copies of the NT books buried in the sands of Egypt by as early as a century after the originals were written, we have a providential and fool-proof system of maintaining the Scriptures against the desires of anyone who would wish to change or alter them. You see, no one could ever track down all the copies of the Bible and make wholesale changes in them. Such would be an impossible task. And if someone does try to change the text in one area, the corrupted copies stand out like a sore thumb against the mass of manuscripts from other areas. Hence, God has preserved His message in a most wonderful way.
The result of allowing the Scriptures to be hand-copied and distributed widely is the phenomena known as textual variation. People make mistakes when copying manuscripts by hand. Indeed, we still make mistakes when using computers and optical scanners! As a result, every single manuscript in the world, including those used by the KJV translators, differs from all others in some way. The vast majority of the differences are in matter of minutiae, such as how to spell a word, or a missing “and” here or there. Given the number of manuscripts we have (around 5,400 in Greek alone), we are easily able to resolve the vast majority of these variations without undue effort. But in some instances, we have to work hard at examining the two or three possible readings to determine the original. But I must ask you to consider: would you rather have to deal with textual variations as the inevitable result of the process of copying over time, or have to face the situation of the Mormons, with one “inspired” text controlled by a church hierarchy, susceptible to changes on the whims of the leaders?
Let us also remember an important lesson from history: there have been movements in the past that have attempted to enshrine a particular translation of Scripture as the final authority in the Church. In the early years, some tried to make the Greek Septuagint the “standard” for the Church, resulting in a near riot in Carthage when Jerome’s Vulgate was read in public for the first time. Then, eleven hundred years later, it was the Vulgate that had become the standard, so that when Erasmus published his own Latin translation, he was accused of heresy for daring to question the “standard” that God had so obviously preserved. And today, there are those who make Erasmus’ Greek text, as translated into English in the KJV, the standard for English speaking people. I would assert all along that in every instance, the absolute and final standard must be the words of the apostles and prophets themselves, not any later rendering of those words.
Now, the main question before us this evening is just this: does the Bible teach a particular type or method of textual criticism, and specifically, does this force us to believe that there is a standard translation in English, and that this standard translation is the King James Version? I answer unambiguously that it does not. I begin my rebuttal of Dr. Holland’s position by directing your attention to Psalm 12:3-7.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things;
4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”
5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.
7 You, O LORD, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever.
8 The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.
Psalm 12 is, I would assert, the central passage for Dr. Holland’s position, as defined in his written materials on the Internet. If this passage doesn’t teach what Dr. Holland says it does, his position becomes untenable. Dr. Holland has written:
Concerning the words of the Lord, the inspired writer reminds us that,
Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.(Psalm 12:7).
Man can not be trusted with this job. He will think the can do a better job than God and add to them. Or else, he will think that a passage would read better if he takes something away. Man does so because he is a liar.
This ends the notes I wrote on the way to Indianapolis for our debate. However, briefly, I point out that when I attempted to get Dr. Holland to interact with Psalm 12 in our debate, he consistently ignored my questions. Many in the audience noted this as well. I asked him about the context, about the fact that the KJV does not literally translate the Hebrew text, and so on. Dr. Holland refused to even deem such questions worthy of a reply. I leave it to the reader to determine why. Quite simply, the passage will not bear the burden placed upon it by Dr. Holland. Allow me to explain.
A quick review of just some of the translations of the passage reveals the problem:
(KJV) Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
(NASB) You, O LORD, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever.
(NIV) O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.
(Hebrew) `~l’A[l. Wz rADh;-!mi WNr,C.Ti ~rem.v.Ti hw”hy>-hT’a; (uses BWHEBB.ttf font)
The difference in translation is central to the entirety of Dr. Holland’s position. His entire system is based upon a particular interpretation of “preservation” taken from this passage. If, however, the passage is not talking about God preserving His words, Dr. Holland’s position collapses (and, I might add, even if the passage is referring to the preservation of “words,” what that means must be addressed as well). Dr. Holland has chosen a passage, however, that itself contains a textual variation. The Hebrew text used by the KJV translators, the 1525 edition of Bomberg, reads literally just as the NASB, “will keep them…will preserve him.” A few other Hebrew manuscripts “fix” this problem and follow the Greek Septuagint in reading like the NIV, “keep us…protect us.” Jerome, likewise, reads “us.”
But aside from the textual issue, we point out that “them” is not the reading of either the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts. It is possible that the KJV translators took the third person masculine singular suffix, literally translated as “him” (NASB), as a “collective,” and rendered it “them.” Or, it is possible the translator(s) simply erred and followed the third person masculine plural of the preceding verb, ~rem.v.Ti. If they did, this is not a literal translation, something Dr. Holland would have to explain. But most importantly, the suffix attached to the word “preserve” is a masculine singular (WNr,C.T), while the term “words” in “words of the LORD” in verse 6 is a feminine plural. Hence, whatever is “preserved” in verse 7 is not the “words” of verse 6, as you cannot match a masculine singular to a feminine plural. Yet, Dr. Holland’s entire interpretation demands that this passage say that it is the words of the LORD that are preserved in verse 7, yet the grammar of the passage does not allow this interpretation.
What, then, is the passage saying? Taking into consideration the grammar and text, as well as the entire context, the passage is quite clear. The “words of the LORD” referred to in verse 6 are given in verse 5: “Now I will arise, I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” The “he” is the “afflicted” found previously in verse 5. Verse 6 says that God’s promise to deliver the afflicted is as good as gold or refined silver. God will “keep” His promise (v. 7), and will preserve the afflicted one from this wicked and evil generation. This understanding fits with the grammar and context of the passage.
Dr. Holland’s interpretation does not take these issues into consideration. It demands that a masculine singular be matched with a feminine plural when there is no logical reason to do so. Two other issues should be noted quickly: first, even if one were to take the object of “preserve” as the “words” as Dr. Holland does, (ignoring the fact that there is a limited application of the term in the immediate context, that being the promise the Lord just gave of delivering the afflicted man), the passage does not in any way prescribe a method of “preservation.” Such has to be filled in from some other source. Second, some suggest that the final phrase of v. 7 should be translated “O Eternal One” rather than “forever,” making a balance with the vocative use of Yahweh at the beginning of the verse. This, too, must be considered in examining the validity of Dr. Holland’s interpretation.
After discussing the preservation issue, Holland briefly addressed the Comma Johanneum. While I spent many pages on the topic in my book, Holland offers his “rebuttal” in one paragraph, claiming Cyprian “quoted” the passage (he didn’t—it is, at best, an allusion, not a quote) and the like. He does not even attempt to deal with my presentation of the data on the manuscript evidence relevant to 1 John 5:7 in the KJV.
Likewise, he mentions my discussion of problem translations in the KJV, again pleading that it would “take a volume” to respond to what I wrote. If Dr. Holland had, up to this point, established a track record of accuracy and consistency, such a claim might be accepted. But since we have yet to find a single meaningful objection or accurate documentation of an error on my part, we can hardly take his word for it. He insists that the great scholars could not possibly have mistranslated something since they were in committee, yet, why not deal with the examples given? Even committees make mistakes, and it should be remembered that the work of the committees sometimes clashed, and the final editing left a lot to be desired. And if having a committee means you can’t mistranslate something, why doesn’t the fact that the NASB is translated by a committee mean the same thing?
Dr. Holland’s conclusion carries no more substantive weight than the rest of his review:
White argues that those who can answer the above question by producing a Bible which can be seen, read, and tested have become cultists looking for “absolute certainty.” In fact, he compares them to Roman Catholics looking for absolute certainty in the infallibility of the Pope. He compares them to the Mormons who look for absolute certainty in the authority of the Apostles in Salt Lake City and to Jehovah’s Witnesses who look for absolute certainty in the Governing Body of the Watchtower (p.94). Strangely, all these groups would agree with White that the KJV is full of errors and they have something better. They are free to believe as they wish but truth dictates the assurance that God has kept and preserved His words. On this issue we can be absolute and certain.
I would like to challenge Dr. Holland to produce the words “cultists” in The King James Only Controversy regarding KJV Only advocates. Surely I think some go that far in losing all sight of the central doctrines of the faith, but you will note that there is no page citation here, since I did not even address the issue in the book. This is an appeal to emotionalism, little more. Likewise, he misses the importance of the topic I was addressing about absolute certainty. This is what I said:
The desire for absolute certainty in all matters plainly lies behind statements such as this, and the much less polished (and much more emotional) versions of the same argument that are encountered in less scholarly KJV Only materials. It is argued that unless we embrace the KJV as our “final authority,” we have no final authority at all, and hence all is subjectivity and uncertainty. People do not want subjectivity, but desire certainty and clarity, and so we must hold to the “traditional” text.
This argument is extremely powerful and should not be under-estimated. Many people fulfill their longing for “certainty” in religious matters by swearing allegiance to a particular leader or system. For example, many Roman Catholics find the idea of an infallible pope very “comforting,” for when things get confusing they always have a source of certainty and absolute authority to turn to. In a similar way many Mormons look to the Prophet and the Apostles in Salt Lake City, and Jehovah’s Witnesses look to the Governing Body in Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Others find a TV preacher or evangelist and, without stating it in so many words, invest him or her with some level of infallible religious authority. The fact that groups that offer this kind of “trust us and we will give you absolute certainty in all religious matters” mentality continue to attract followers should tell us that the lure of “absolute certainty” is a strong one indeed.
Protestants, however, should be quick to question any such notion of absolute religious certainty. The concept of the individual’s responsibility before God is deeply ingrained in Protestant theology. We cannot hand off our responsibility in religious matters to someone else. We cannot say “the pope told me to do that” or “the prophet instructed me to believe that doctrine.” God holds us individually responsible for our beliefs and our actions. This was one of the great scandals of the Reformation: the idea of the plowman and the merchant carrying and reading the Bible was unthinkable to the medieval Catholic theologian. How could the layman understand religious things without asking the priest? The Reformers preached a radical concept: a man is responsible to learn God’s Word as best he can, and to follow what he learns. We are called to be students, responsible men and women who make learning, and studying, God’s Word a high priority in our lives. We cannot blame anyone else for our ignorance, or our errors.
As imperfect human beings we will make mistakes. As Paul said, we see in a glass darkly in this life. There are things that are unclear, things that are simply not as plain as they someday will be. The KJV translators themselves said in their Preface, quoted earlier, “For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.” Those who offer us certainty beyond all questions, the translators would rightly say, are being presumptuous with God’s truth. Those who offer absolute certainty do so at a cost: individual responsibility.
If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderius Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, “Well, I must have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even scriptural reason for doing so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.” This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text.
As we have seen throughout this review, Dr. Holland avoids the real issue. By isolating a little phrase from its context, he joins Peter Ruckman, Texe Marrs, and Gail Riplinger, all of whom are masters of misrepresentation. This is disturbing, since Dr. Holland strikes one as a kind, fair man in personal conversation. Yet, an impartial review of what he has allowed to go into print under his own name shows not a bit of impartiality or the requisite fairness that marks Christian scholarship.
The only people who will be convinced by Dr. Holland’s arguments regarding The King James Only Controversy are those who have not fairly read the book. Those who have will find yet another example of the desperation of the KJV Only movement to provide any kind of response to the work. I call upon Dr. Holland to explain the many, many errors documented in this file, and to withdraw from circulation a work that does nothing whatsoever to add to the dialogue on the most important topic of Bible translation.