The King James Controversy Revisited – Program 1
|By: Dr. Kenneth Barker, Dr. Don Wilkins, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dr. James White, Dr. Samuel Gipp, Dr. Thomas Strouse, Dr. Joseph Chambers; ©2002|
|Why is it that some Christians today hold that the only good translation of the Bible is the 1611 King James Version?|
Should the King James Version Divide Christians?
Today, Dr. John Ankerberg hosts a debate on the King James Only controversy. Which translation of the Bible is best for Christians to use: the 1611 King James, the New King James, the NIV, the New American Standard Bible, or some other translation? Are all translations truly the word of God, or only the 1611 King James? This is an important debate in which the general editors and scholars of the new translations meet face-to-face with some of their critics and those who hold that only the King James Version should be used.
John’s guests include : Dr. Kenneth Barker, general editor of the NIV Bible; Dr. Arthur Farstad, Executive Editor of the New King James; Dr. Don Wilkins, translator for the New American Standard Bible; Dr. Dan Wallace, expert on the ancient Greek texts; Dr. James White, author of The King James Only Controversy; Dr. Samuel Gipp, who holds the 1611 King James is the only infallible Bible translation; Dr. Thomas Strouse, who argues that only the 1769 King James translation should be read. Finally, Dr. Joseph Chambers, who also argues for the King James Version, and represents the views of author Gail Riplinger and her book New Age Bible Versions?
The King James Only Controversy has become a divisive issue among many Christians. Should it be? Join us for this important debate.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Today we will revisit the King James Only controversy, because the issue remains a divisive one among Christians individually, and among churches. I do not believe that it should, but I will let you make up your own mind about that.
- This debate was one of the rare occasions when the general editors and scholars of the New International Version, the New King James, and the New American Standard translation of the Bible met face to face with key representatives who hold to the King James Version only and criticize the new translations.
- The entire debate lasted for four hours, and during this series I have chosen to revisit key moments of that debate. Today, we will start at the beginning where I asked each man to present his position. Why is it that some Christians today hold that the only good translation of the Bible is the one that was completed way back in the year 1611? Dr. Samuel Gipp, our first guest to speak, believes the 1611 King James was not only good, it was perfect. In fact, it was specially protected by God.
- Ankerberg: Why do you believe, Sam, that the King James Version of the Bible is the only perfect translation today, and what’s more, that if these guys were going to do a translation into Swedish or Ethiopian or some other language, that they’re not to use any of the Greek texts, but they’re to use the 1611 English text to translate those other versions? Why?
- Dr. Samuel C. Gipp: The first reason, of course, picking the Bible above all books that are called “holy books,” I accept the Bible academically because of fulfilled prophecy. Now, when I give the Bible that inspiration from God, then I take its statements on itself as far as inspiration and preservation. Now, at that point, it’s got to become an argument of faith, not academics. In other words, you’re going to find places where the King James Bible doesn’t agree with even the Textus Receptus or something like that, so I believe the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God. I don’t call it the “inspired” Word of God, I called it the “preserved” Word of God. And English is, without a doubt, the language of the world. It is the language of missions in this world today.
- Ankerberg: So if a guy is in Russia and he really wants to get to the truth of the Word of God, would he have to learn English?
- Gipp: Yes.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Let me go to Don Wilkins over there—NASB. What do you think of that?
- Dr. Don Wilkins: Well, not very much. I don’t want to be cruel or mean or anything, but the problem that I think that a lot of us would have would be, why not the Latin Vulgate? Why not some of the old versions that are older than the King James and have been around a lot longer than 1611? And if it’s just a matter of faith beyond preservation, it seems that I could have more faith in them.
- Gipp: Now, what I’ve mentioned was, there is a world language now. It is common knowledge, even Russian airline pilots learn English. Everybody learns English somewhere along the line. We talk about the strong economy of Japan, but they learn English for business purposes. English is a language that permeates the world. Latin is a dead language. And so to have preserved it in Latin would have been rather useless. Preserving it in English….
- Ankerberg: Alright, let me just make a point here. James, you’ve written a whole book on this. What do you think about the fact that God preserved only the English 1611?
- Dr. James White: Well, it’s really interesting to me that when we look back at Church history we discover that many of the same arguments that are presented by King James Only advocates today were the arguments that were placed against the man who is primarily responsible for the Greek text from which the King James was translated, known today as Textus Receptus, a man by the name of Desiderius Erasmus. When Erasmus produced his Greek text, many of the same arguments were used.
- First of all, the Church, for eleven hundred years, had used what became known as the Latin Vulgate, and the argument was made: Look, you have the weight of history. The Church has used this. Why are you using the language of the Greeks? The Greeks are heretics, not God’s true Church. And really, they used the argument of faith and they felt that the Scriptures supported their argument from faith.
- I believe that we need to look at this whole situation and recognize the same things the King James translators recognized themselves, that is, that they were producing a translation. They were looking at all sorts of different sources. They recognized the need for revision. They never claimed that their work was the be-all-and-end-all of all things. And I really think that it’s interesting that—I believe Erasmus, who originated the Greek text that we obviously will be discussing, and the translators of the King James would agree with my perspective—that as more information comes to light, as further discoveries are made, that this information should be utilized by Christians to produce ever-better translations of the Word of God.
- Ankerberg: Next, we’re going to hear from Dr. Thomas Strouse, a professor at the Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the Dean Burgon Society. He also believes Christians should only read the King James translation, but not the one that was completed in 1611. Rather, he believes Christians should read the King James translation that was revised in 1769.
- Ankerberg: Dr. Thomas Strouse, you also prefer the King James Version, but you take a little different position than Samuel. Would you tell us what that is?
- Dr. Thomas Strouse: Well, my position is that of millions of Christians for about 400 years, and that is that the Authorized Version reflects the providential preservation of God through the original language of Masoretic Text and Textus Receptus. And this is a position of faith based on Scripture such as Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” and John 12:48: “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge them in the last day.” So, Christians have asked, “Where are these words?” Or in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow after me.” Where is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ? Where are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ? Based on faith and His promise of preservation, we believe it’s in a traditional text, and a traditional text, then, is manifested by the Authorized Version, which version we’re probably talking about now is the 1769 edition of it. But that is the theological perspective that we get.
- Ankerberg: Interesting, though, Tom, that you picked out 1769, where he’s picking out 1611 and, of course, that’s 1600-1700 years away from the time that Jesus and the apostles walked on the earth and the apostles and the New Testament writers wrote their books. There are a lot of manuscripts, a lot of copies, that have come down to us before that time. How did you know that those are the superior ones that God preserved, because there’s a ton of others?
- Strouse: Well, I think it gets back to a proposition of faith, once again, and that is in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice.” In other words, Christians en masse have maintained these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Ankerberg: Well, talking about en masse, I’ve got some statistics here and I want to come to you, Dr. Kenneth Barker. You’re general editor of the NIV Study Bible and the fact is that from 1611, it took up to the present time for the King James Version to sell 350 million copies, approximately. Is that about right?
- Dr. Kenneth Barker: Yes.
- Ankerberg: And in only 16 years the Bible that you have helped edit and put together, the NIV, has already sold approximately 100 million copies in just 16 years. And so, by actual cash register counts right now, it is by far the best-selling Bible going. And, well, another 50 years and the fact is, you will have superseded all the Bibles that have been sold in the last 400 years from the time of the 1611. What do you attribute the success of the NIV Bible to? Then talk to this thing of, you didn’t base it on the Textus Receptus and you didn’t base it on the 1769 text. How did you put it together?
- Barker: John, I’m glad that you mentioned that it is the best-selling Bible, because I think it’s phenomenal that there are already approximately 100 million NIV Bibles and New Testaments in worldwide circulation and use. I think an appropriate question is the one you asked, “Why?” I have two answers to that: the divine and the human. Since the Bible is a divine and human book, I believe that there is a divine and human answer to that question. On the divine side, I believe that God in His sovereignty, in His providence, His goodness, His grace, has simply been pleased to thus bless and prosper and use the NIV.
- But God uses people. So I think there’s also a human dimension to the answer. And on the human side, I believe that there are millions and millions of people who are looking for a balanced translation and they believe they’ve found it in the NIV.
- Today, all translations, all major standard committee-produced translations, can be placed in one of three categories. There are those that take a more literal or word-for-word approach to the translation task, and that’s where I would put the King James, the New King James, and the NASB. Then, at the opposition side of that, there are translations that take a very “free” approach to the translation task, and that is where I would put works like the Good News Bible and The Living Bible. On the other hand, there is the third area. This is a middle ground; and we have said in print that it was not our aim to produce either one of those other two, but rather, our goal was to produce a mediating translation, one that would find the best balance among all the others, hopefully being neither too literal nor too free, but a translation that would find the best balance, trying to capture the best of both worlds. And I believe there were millions of people who were looking for that type of translation and they believe they found it in the NIV. And I think, on the human side, that’s the main reason for its tremendous popularity.
- Ankerberg: When you talk about the New King James Version, which is based on the same Greek text as in 1611, they don’t like your version, Art. What’s going on here? Why did you bring out the New King James Version? And then, answer those objections.
- Dr. Art Farstad: We brought it out because we wanted to bring the King James tradition up to date, which has already been done before. And it’s a conservative and, I believe, godly and literary update of the King James. We’re sort of between Ken’s NIV and Don’s NASB in the sense that we are more literal than the NIV, but we’re more literary than the NASB because we’re based on the King James, which is great literature, and the old ASV of 1901 was not. We’ve been on the planet a shorter time than the NIV, but we’re doing very well. Nelson, the original publishers, has sold 20 million and at least four Bible societies, including the British and American, give it out. It’s used for “Our Daily Bread,” which is an enormously widely used devotional and it’s been very well received.
- And as far as the text, we didn’t want to make the mistake of the English Revised of 1885. They sneaked in a different Greek text which was not part of their mandate. And we thought, we’re updating a standard work, we should stick with what they translated from, in other words, the Masoretic. And there’s not much controversy about that in the Old Testament, and the traditional text used by the Greek-speaking church for many, many centuries—as my father would say, “from year one.” But we have footnotes giving Majority Text readings, which are my favorite, and Critical Text, which would be Dan’s favorite. So on every page of the New Testament we show things as they are.
- Dr. Joseph Chambers: No. I do not accept the New King James because the New King James does not totally follow the Textus Receptus but in many, many places follows the same text as the NIV or the NASB and so at least the translations certainly show that.
- Farstad: That’s not true, sir.
- Chambers: Or at least they show the dynamic equivalence, the change of words that are comparable to those.
- Ankerberg: Now, the men just brought up the technical term dynamic equivalency. What is it? Well, formal equivalency refers to a literal, word-for-word translation; whereas, dynamic equivalency refers to a translation that conveys the real meaning of the words when the literal word-for-word translation wouldn’t make any sense.
- For example, if you were translating English into Chinese, what if your American son said, “My girlfriend is really cool,” how would you translate that into Chinese? You could not translate “cool” literally. The Chinese would conclude your teenager was saying that his girlfriend was cold. To get across the real meaning of the word as used by your son, you would have to use the dynamic equivalency to convey, “My girlfriend is very special.”
- Now, keep in mind that all of the translations—including the 1611 King James, the New King James, the New American Standard Bible, and the NIV—have all, at times, used dynamic equivalency in translation. It’s not necessarily wrong to use dynamic equivalency. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary. Dr. Art Farstad, editor of the New King James Translation, and James White give us some biblical examples of where and when dynamic equivalency has been used in the different translations and why we wouldn’t understand a literal word-for-word translation.
- Farstad: In the crucifixion story, it says of the thieves that they “cast the same in his teeth.” [Matt. 27:44] There’s no “cast,” there’s no “same,” there’s no “his” and no “teeth” in the Greek. That is a dynamic equivalent of “they reviled him.”
- Ankerberg: Alright, for our audience, what’s dynamic equivalence?
- Farstad: Well, that’s when you want to say in your language the way you would say it if you had written it originally in English to make it understandable.
- Ankerberg: If you gave a literal deal it wouldn’t make sense in our culture.
- Farstad: Well, often it would. We try to be literal where we can. It’s true of the NASB as well. We don’t overdo it by bringing dynamic equivalence where it isn’t needed.
- Ankerberg: Jim, give me a quick definition here.
- White: An excellent example is Luke 9:44. Anybody who wants to look at their Bible and find out whether their Bible uses dynamic equivalence or a formal equivalence translation, Luke 9:44 in the King James, NASB, “Let these words sink into your ears.” We don’t talk like that. NIV says, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you.” That’s an excellent example to see where your translation is coming from.
- Ankerberg: That would be a dynamic equivalency.
- White: A dynamic equivalent translation. The literal Greek words are: “Let these words sink into your ears.” What does that mean? A dynamic equivalence translation is trying to translate meaning; and sometimes it understands that if you translate just words the meaning is going to be lost, and that’s the idea here.
- Ankerberg: But you’re saying here that you have stuck with the same text as the 1611?
- Farstad: Yes, we have used the same text.
- Ankerberg: Are you saying that you did it more than the 1611?
- Farstad: Well, actually, yes. There are places where the 1611 leans on the Latin. The original scholars were crazy about Latin. The meetings, the journal meetings, were taken in Latin. They spoke in English, but the notes were in Latin.
- Ankerberg: Yes. And part of the thing that Erasmus translated in Revelation, he didn’t have any Greek text so he took it right out of the Latin Vulgate, didn’t he?
- Farstad: Yes. The Latin is a great version. I mean, it’s like the King James or the Luther Bible. We’re not criticizing it.
- Ankerberg: But what do you say to the guy who says it’s more accurate than your 1611?
- Chambers: Well, I would really like to answer to Art, because I believe if the NIV and the NASB give us the correct rendering of God’s Word, then basically we’re saying the Church world from 300 AD until these new translations came out did not have the Word of God. That’s 1700 years.
- Ankerberg: Is that what you’re saying?
- Chambers: There was no real Word of God because these men say that the Alexandrian Text and the new text is the basis? They’re saying for 1700 years there was no Word of God.
- Ankerberg: Is that what you’re saying, that we didn’t have the Word of God until we got the NIV?
- Barker: No, no. That is not at all what we’re saying. First of all, to keep things in proper perspective, all translations today translate the same Greek text over 98% of the time. That is a fact. It’s been well documented by Dan and by others. So the problem isn’t nearly as great as some try to make it. All translations today are translating the same Greek text over 98% of the time. The differences, then, make up only less than 2% of the total text of the New Testament and no basic Christian doctrine hinges on that less than 2%.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Dan, I’m going to come to you on this. For people that might be thinking that we don’t believe in an inspired, inerrant Bible, say some more about where Ken was going here.
- Dr. Daniel B. Wallace: I think what we would say is that the original is what is inspired and inerrant. And insofar as a translation accurately represents that original, then we have an inspired, inerrant Bible.
- Ankerberg: Now, I think it is important to remember a few facts. First, the Bible has come down to us from writers who were inspired and kept from error by God. They wrote their books and letters in Hebrew and Greek. But the original writings eventually began to decay and had to be recopied. Of the copies that have come down to us, all translators agree that we have 100% of the Greek and Hebrew texts. The debate is only about 1.5-2% of that total text; and in that 2%, there is no basic Christian doctrine or truth that is affected. In other words, whether you use the Textus Receptus of the King James Translation or one of the eclectic Greek texts closer to the time of the apostles, 98% of the text of the Bible is agreed upon by everybody.
- Dr. B. B. Warfield once said about the New Testament, “The great mass of the New Testament… has been transmitted to us with no or next to no variations.” Well, in light of this, if God inspired the original autographs, and all sides admit that we have in our possession 100% of that text, and we already agree on 98% of it, then any accurate translation of that text would lead us to say we have 100% of the inspired, inerrant Word of God in our hands.
- Well, we’ve just started to examine the issues surrounding this debate. Next week we’re going to proceed further. If the original autographs were inspired, what about the copies of those autographs? And of the copies that have come down to us, can it be shown that God has specially protected certain ones and not others?