Saturday, May 16, 2009

New from Bethany House: The King James Only Controversy

This updated and revised edition of James White’s book, The King James Only Controversy, has only gotten better. There are not many books that deal with this issue as thoroughly and with as much sanity as this one. White offers a devastating rebuttal to the advocates of the King James Only position. What is that position? It is the belief that the King James Version (KJV) translation of the English Bible is the only acceptable English translation and that all other translations are corruptions of God’s word. Not only that but they also believe the KJV is inspired and inerrant. The chief proponents of this position are Gail Riplinger, Peter Ruckman, Samuel Gipp, J. J. Ray and D. A. Waite. This should not be confused with those who believe in the superiority of the Byzantine Family of Greek manuscripts over the eclectic texts used by virtually all modern day translations (NKJV is the notable exception). Names in this group include Dean Burgon, F. H. A. Scrivener and H. C. Hoskier.

White is meticulous in his research and demonstrates with charity how ill founded the KJV Only arguments really are. There is an added benefit to reading this book. The reader will come away with an excellent understanding of what textual variants are in Greek manuscripts, their significance, and how scholars judge between them as to which is the better reading. In other words it is a mini course in textual criticism. And while it doesn’t make a significant difference in the book White shows awareness of recent developments in the field of textual criticism by such notables as Bart Ehrman, D. C. Parker, and Eldon Epp (193). In fact, White added one extra question in his “Question and Answers” chapter which directly interacts with Bart Ehrman (303-07). No one should confuse Bart Ehrman with a KJV Only advocate but since he has become the recent pop star of textual criticism with an eye to debunking the Christian’s confidence in Scripture White appropriately deals with him. (White has debated Ehrman and the audio and video are available from White's ministry website here.)

One interesting addition is White’s answer to “those who demand a ‘single example of error in the KJV!’” (236) He points to Revelation 16:5 which in the KJV reads “And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.” The key phrase is “and shalt be.” White notes that “every Greek text—not just Alexandrian texts, but all Greek texts, Majority Text, the Byzantine text, every manuscript, the entire manuscript tradition—reads “’O Holy One’” (237). Where did the reading “and shalt be” come from? None other than Theodore Beza. Beza thought there was sufficient similarity between “holy one” and the future form of “shall be” that the latter was probably the more accurate reading which would “allow him to make the change to harmonize the text with other such language in Revelation. But he had no manuscript evidence in support of his conjecture (237 emphasis his). To bolster his case White shows photo copies of Erasmus’ third edition Greek New Testament, the Stephanus text of 1555, the 1538 Coverdale translation, and the 1560 Geneva Bible. White concludes “Quite simply, before Beza, no Christian had ever read the text the way the KJV has it today” (241 n. 58). White admits that some manuscripts do omit the reading (holy one) but none contain the KJV reading. It is a reading “created out of the mind of Theodore Beza, one unknown to the ancient church, unknown to all Christians until the end of the sixteenth century” (241). I can’t imagine any responsible answer to this sort of evidence.

I’m grateful that the endnotes have been made footnotes. I wish the indexes had been updated. They include no reference to many of the new figures like Ehrman, Epp, Maurice Robinson and others. But this is an inconvenience and nothing more. If you can only buy one book on this subject this is the one. It is 364 pages and sells for $15.99. James White is director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church.

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