The King James Controversy Revisited – Program 2

By: Dr. Kenneth Barker, Dr. Don Wilkins, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dr. James White, Dr. Samuel Gipp, Dr. Thomas Strouse, Dr. Joseph Chambers; ©2002
Since we have no original manuscripts how can we be sure that what we have in our Bibles is really what the original authors wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

Can We Know We Have the Word of God in Our Bibles Today?


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.

Ankerberg: Why do you think that some Christians hold that the only good translation of the Bible is one that was completed way back in 1611 or in the year 1769? Why not read a translation that was completed recently, like the New American Standard Bible in 1971? Or how about the New International Version that came out in 1978? Or the New King James translation, completed in 1982?
Don’t you think it would make more sense to read a translation that accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words in the English terms we are familiar with today? You would think so. But as you will hear, that is not the case. In fact, that is what our debate is all about today.
Some insist that Christians should only read and only use the King James translation, not any of the others. Why do they say that? What does the evidence show? And how do the editors and scholars of the modern translations respond?
Well, today’s debate is one of the rare occasions when the general editors of the New International Version, New King James, and New American Standard Bible met face to face with some of their critics and those arguing that Christians should only use the King James Translation.
To begin today, I asked Dr. Samuel Gipp, who believes that the 1611 King James Version is the only perfect translation, I asked him this question: Since we don’t have the original writings of the prophets and apostles, how do we know that we really have the Word of God?


Ankerberg: Sam, I’d like to come to you. The books or the letters that the apostles or writers of the New Testament wrote we know are all called “original autographs.” I mean, they wrote it and we believe that God inspired and protected their writings so that what they gave us was completely accurate. But after that, we know that the letters or books on papyrus material soon disintegrated and had to be recopied. As those letters and books were copied, some were not too smart: They could misspell words, they put punctuation in the wrong spot. Others were the real professional scribes. And so we have accurate copies and we’ve got some that have words misspelled coming down to us. Since we don’t have the original autographs anymore, because they disintegrated, and we only have the copies, how do we know that we really have the Word of God—what the apostles originally wrote?
Gipp: That’s a good question. Inspiration, of course, my definition, is to start with a blank piece of paper. You’ve got one man and God, and God has that man write the words, and those are inspired. One of the reasons I don’t claim inspiration for the King James Bible is because I believe it is a fulfillment, the King James Bible is a fulfillment of Psalm 12:6-7: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” And so God said He would preserve them.
What you’ll find in every one of these programs is, there is going to be no Bible anybody can put in anybody’s hand,… you know, you talked about something your mother can understand, what’s she’s going to understand when everybody is done here on the other side of the room here is that they’re talking about, there is an infallible, perfect Bible. You say, “Okay, give a copy to my mom,” they won’t be able to do it. When I say, “The Bible is perfect,” I can hand her the King James Bible, she can read it and have no problem whatsoever.
Ankerberg: So, Dan, how would you respond to that?
Wallace: If that’s true, then what could you give them before the year 1611?
Gipp: Prior to 90 AD, prior to the finishing of the New Testament text, you could say, “Well, there was no Bible, so what do you do?”
Wallace: Well, you could say that for today, then, couldn’t you? Prior to the time of the NIV or the New American Standard, there is no complete Bible?
Gipp: Well, that may be what’s being inferred. I say….
Wallace: I don’t think they’re saying that.
Gipp: Well, I say…
Wallace: You’re the one who is saying that we have a perfect Bible in the King James.
Gipp: Absolutely.
Wallace: So what did people have for the first 1600 years of the Church?
Strouse: I think they had the Byzantine Text or the traditional text.
Wallace: Okay, but the Byzantine Text is not identical with the King James, it is not identical with the TR [Textus Receptus]. None of the Byzantine manuscripts are identical with each other. There’s at least six to ten variations.
Strouse: We’re talking more as traditional text.
Wallace: But we’re not arguing the same thing as you are. There’s at least six to ten variations per chapter for even the closest two manuscripts that we have.
Gipp: Right.
Wallace: So who’s got the Word of God? Who’s got the perfect Word of God?
Gipp: I wasn’t there.
Wallace: Oh, so it doesn’t matter?
Gipp: No, what I’m saying is, prior to 1611 you could have found what God wanted you to have in the traditional manuscripts, in the English translation.
Wallace: Not exactly like that.
Gipp: Absolutely.
Wallace: You still haven’t answered my question. What was the perfect word before 1611? Was it Tyndale’s? Was that perfect?
Gipp: No.
Strouse: We may not know…
Gipp: What was the perfect Word before 90 AD?
Strouse: We may not know, but we have the promise.
Wallace: So what you’re really saying is, there is no perfect Word until 1611.
Strouse: We have the promise of Scripture that God gives.
Wallace: You may have that promise, which I would dispute, but if you do, why is that promise fulfilled in the King James Bible? Does it say that in the Psalm? “And the word is preserved in the King James Bible”?
Gipp: Oh, no. In fact I’m willing to say this: Put the King James against the NIV, New American Standard, New King James, and every one of them will lose except the King James.
Wallace: On what basis?
Gipp: On several. One of them is that the King James Bible has been used by God far more than any of these others. You know, one of the things….
Wallace: Well, Dr. Barker talked earlier, in that last hour, about how the NIV….
Gipp: I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say sales is success. That’s typical American Madison Avenue. Sales is success. Sales is success. Sales is success.
Wallace: That’s what Gail Riplinger says, too.
White: This is the exact argument that Dr. Gipp has used against Erasmus. The very same argument that you’re now presenting: Erasmus’ opponents said, “Look, Erasmus, the Vulgate has been used for eleven hundred years. God has blessed this text.”
Gipp: But it wasn’t used.
Farstad: Ten thousand copies of the Vulgate is not being “unused.”
White: Why were they wrong and you’re right?
Gipp: The Catholic Church published them.
White: The point is, sir, why, if that argument was wrong against Erasmus, is it now right for you to use it for the King James?
Wallace: I would say that what is inspired is the original autographs. Inspiration is defined by the term that is only used once in the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16; that word theopneustos, “God-breathed.” All Scripture, or perhaps a better translation is, “Every Scripture is God-breathed.” That refers to the original autographs. We have copies of those, and insofar as those are accurate representations of the original, they are the words of God. Any Bible that is generally faithful could be called the Word of God.
Ankerberg: What do you say to the person that says, “But that seems to leave me with this feeling of uncertainty because you’re saying: ‘It’s not absolutely perfect, then.’” What do you say to that person?
Wallace: I’d say volumes to them. I think what has happened in American Christianity at the end of the twentieth century is that we’ve replaced the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of certainty. The cults are extremely certain about what they believe, but they don’t have truth. And that’s a deceptive thing. In fact, that’s post-enlightenment and it’s not really very biblical Christianity to view that. I’d also say that before the age of printing, one person sits in a pew; another sits in a pew. They don’t have the same manuscripts in front of them, so they don’t have certainty. Only Protestants have had to wrestle with this problem.

Ankerberg: Now, some will say, yes, the original autographs, written in Hebrew and Greek were inspired and inerrant; that is, they were written without error. But we know mistakes have crept into copies as they came down to us. So now, how can we be certain that we have the inspired, inerrant Word of God in our hands today?
The answer is, we have over 5400 different copies of the Greek text that have come down to us. Some are dated close to the apostles, some hundreds of years away from them, many dated during the Middle Ages. When we put all the copies together and compare them side-by-side, we can see what the original writers wrote. In fact, scholars have concluded there is no debate on 98% of the Hebrew and Greek text. Only 1.5-2% of the entire biblical text is debated, and none of these variants affect any doctrine or biblical truth.
But in spite of this, some will say, if we are only sure about 98% of the biblical text and are uncertain about 1.5-2% of the text, how can anyone be certain of what God has said?
To answer this question, I want you to listen to Dr. Norman Geisler. Dr. Geisler wrote one of the standard books that is used in seminaries and colleges today on how the Bible has come down to us. It’s called A General Introduction to the Bible. One day, in another program, I asked him, since we have copies that have come down from the original autographs, how do we know that we have the inspired, inerrant Word of God in our hands today? Listen to what he said, then we will return to our debate:

Dr. Norman Geisler: Another mistake you’ll find critics using is forgetting that only the original text, not every copy of Scripture, is without error. We don’t believe that God inspired every copy. We believe He inspired the original and the copies are good, they’re adequate, they’re sufficient, but there are minor errors that crept in. Let me give you an example of one. Second Kings 8:26 gives the age of King Ahaziah as 22. But in 2 Chronicles 22:2 it says he was 42. The latter number can’t be correct or he would have been older than his father. This is obviously a copyist error. But it does not alter the inerrancy of the original. There are many of these copyist errors in the Bible. It says 4,000 stalls—Solomon’s horses—in one passage. Another says 40,000. That’s the kind of error you like on the end of your paycheck, an extra zero! The Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts, but not every copy is inerrant.
We have over 5,000 copies of the New Testament and there are little errors in different places. But the more errors, the more we’re sure of what the original said. So minor errors in the copies do not affect us getting 100% of the truth from the original and it certainly doesn’t prove there was an error in the original. No one has ever found an original manuscript with an error in it.

Ankerberg: Now, let’s return to our debate with our eight guests, where we continue to discuss the same question. As we went along, I asked, “Is there any evidence that God had used any of the other translations, or is it true that He has only blessed the King James Version of the Bible?


Ankerberg: Would you say that the material that we have in question, that we think, by comparing the oldest documents, as we compare those that have come down the pike, that there’s some additions, even if we say that that is in argument, that that is something we have to take a look at, would you say that therefore it has changed the truth, the message, of the Bible?
Wallace: No, not at all. That’s the amazing fact about preservation. This was something that a Roman Catholic scholar, Richard Simon, argued against Protestants. He said, “You have a paper pope.” He said, “Look at all these variants. They changed the text.” And so one of them began to work on it; John Mill worked on it; J. A. Bengel worked on it; others. Strong, evangelical, conservative Christians began to look at the variants. And they said, “We don’t find any doctrine affected by these variants. So what’s the problem here?”
Ankerberg: How many manuscript texts have come down to us, copies, for the New Testament?
Wallace: We have approximately 5,400 of them; in Greek, that is.
Ankerberg: Okay. Alright, let me give the audience an example I think they can understand. Let’s take a verse like John 3:16, and this is not necessarily true or false, but just an example. If I quote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Okay? And we have, what did you say? Fifty-four hundred manuscripts?
Wallace: We don’t have that many in John; we have about 2,000 that cover John.
Ankerberg: Okay. Let’s say you’ve got 2,000 that you’re looking at, and of the 2,000 you’ve got 1,900 of them that have just the way I said it. And then you’ve got the others that have a textual variant that say it this way: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Okay. Those manuscripts left out the word “for.” So, now, textual criticism has a way of saying whether that “for” should be in there or not. But I want to go to a broader question: Does that mean that, because we have that variant, we don’t know what John said about “For God so loved the world”? I don’t think so. And I think that’s what we’re talking about: Those variants that, a lot of times, the scholars say, not one of them has anything to do that will affect Christian doctrine.
Wallace: Right.
Ankerberg: Okay. But now I want to come to this question, and, Art, you haven’t talked for a while here. Let’s get into this. You have the New King James. Don, you’ve got NASB. Ken, you’re over here with the NIV. And the guys on the last program said, God, basically, hasn’t given proof that you’ve got the real Bible because He “ain’t” using it.
Farstad: God has used many Bibles. He used the Septuagint as a key to bringing the Old Testament faith to the Gentiles and a bridge to the New Testament. And for years the Greeks had the whole Bible in Greek. God used the Vulgate for a thousand years…
Ankerberg: Which is the Latin version.
Farstad: The Latin version. In fact, I read it for my devotions every other week because I happen to like Latin. It doesn’t give me any extra points, but it’s a good Bible. And God used the Luther Bible for the German speaking world. And the Geneva, the people who founded America did not use the King James, they used the Geneva. They thought the King James was too “high church.” It said, “Church” instead of “congregation” and “bishop” instead of “overseers.” The Pilgrims and Puritans of Plymouth Colony didn’t use the King James. The foundation of our country was on the Geneva Bible.
Gipp: Wait, no, the foundation of the country was 1776.
Farstad: You’re talking about politics. I’m talking about spiritual base.
Gipp: No. No.
Farstad: Everyone who is conservative looks back to….
Gipp: The reason I say this, I’ve got a book on some American history called The Myth of Separation with quotes from some of the founding fathers of this country and they’re King James quotes, they’re not Geneva.
Farstad: Of course, they’re King James in the 1700’s, but I’m going to the year that they landed in 1620.
Gipp: Right. Right.
Farstad: I mean, I don’t read the Geneva….
Gipp: The men that sat down and founded this nation, the men that sat down and chose the direction of this country were not just the Puritans.
Farstad: Oh, I realize that. But I’m talking about the initial people….
Wallace: This again sets up this false construct that if you only quote from the King James, that’s the perfect Bible; if they had quoted from the Geneva, it’s imperfect. As a matter of fact, there’s going to be so much agreement between those two that, when they quote it, it may well be the Geneva they’re quoting from.
Strouse: But the Geneva Bible was based on the traditional text, so that’s my point.
Gipp: Right.
Farstad: Well, I have no problem with that, but just to say that God was not well represented on the planet until 1611, that is just plain wrong on historical grounds.

Ankerberg: Next, I asked Dr. Kenneth Barker, the general editor of the NIV translation of the Bible, to talk about two things. First, has God used the more than 100 million copies of the NIV that have been sold so far? And second, what about the words in Psalm 12:6-7, which say, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” I asked him, “Do these words indicate that God preserved only the words of the 1611 King James translation and not any of the other modern versions?


Ankerberg: Has God used the NIV?
Barker: Two things, John. First, on the issue of “use,” my files at the NIV translation center in Lewisville, Texas, which is affiliated with International Bible Society, my files are replete with testimonial letters from people all over the world testifying as to how they’ve been brought to Christ, a saving knowledge, a saving faith in Christ, through reading the NIV, and from Christians from all over the world who have been blessed and spiritually taught and matured in their Christian life through using the NIV.
Ankerberg: And, second, you are an Old Testament scholar, so I do want you to comment on the use of Psalm 12:7.
Barker: I’d love to respond to the use of Psalm 12. I have studied and taught Hebrew all my life. And knowing Hebrew the way I do, I would not translate it the way the King James translators did. I think the King James translators occasionally made some mistakes. I think this is one of them.
Ankerberg: Slow it down. First of all, give me a King James Version and then give me the Hebrew version or give me the NIV version and explain it to me.
Barker: Sam quoted the King James about the words of the King James being preserved.
Ankerberg: Sam, quote it again, please.
Gipp: Well, verse 6 is: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Verse 7: “Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” The Hebrew Old Testament that I have is third person plural: “Thou shalt keep them.” The NIV translates that first person plural: “Thou shalt keep us,” which is wrong.
Ankerberg: So you’re saying “Thou shalt keep them” refers to the words.
Gipp: Yes, sir.
Ankerberg: And you would say that’s not true.
Barker: I would say it isn’t true. And let me read the passage in its entire context starting with verse 5 so that you know what the true reference is. And I don’t care if it’s read in the King James or the NIV. Obviously I’ll read it in the NIV, you would expect me to. “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord. I will protect them [same thing as we have later: I will protect them, namely people] I will protect them from those who malign them. And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”
Now, when the next verse, verse 7, goes on to say, “O Lord, you will [protect or preserve them or] keep them safe.” We wanted to make it clear that the reference is still to people, as the vast majority of Hebrew scholars and experts would agree; and to make that clear, we said, “O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people.” That’s exactly the way I would translate it for clarity, because I think the “them” refers to people.
Gipp: That’s your opinion.
Barker: And the vast majority of Hebrew scholars would agree with that. I would say 95% of Hebrew scholars today would agree with that.
Strouse: But the King James translators of 1611 read, in their Masoretic Text, they read: “Thou shalt preserve him.” And they have a note in their margin of their text that the pronominal suffix as “him” rather than “them.” And so their argument is that it should be the Word of God.
Ankerberg: Interesting, though, Tom, that you know that Beza, who was one of the translators of the Textus Receptus and replaced John Calvin at Geneva, both Beza and John Calvin said, “He’s right.”
Barker: The pronominal suffix doesn’t help you there, because the reference for the suffix is not the Word of the Lord. The Hebrew is clearly “words” previously. Not “word” but “words.”
Ankerberg: But let’s take it one step further. Even if we’re talking about the words being protected, Dan, does that mean any one particular version from the time of the original autographs?
Wallace: No. This is one of the amazing fallacies of the King James Only school. It assumes that inspiration has a direct corollary in preservation—therefore, if God has inspired the text He must have preserved the text. So the question is, He’s inspired one text: which text has He preserved? Did He not do it until 1611? Or until 1516, the Erasmus text? If that’s the case, then we’ve got 1500 years of no preservation. We’ve also got some changes to the text from the original. That means that either the Roman Catholic Erasmus changed the text, and he was somehow under inspiration, or the King James translators were somehow under inspiration.
Chambers: That statement doesn’t hold. If the Word of God was translated to the 1611, was the true Word of God, and it came from the Received Text, He had preserved it all during those years. So to say He didn’t preserve it up till the King James would say we wouldn’t even have the King James. Of course, we have the King James because it came out of the preserved text.
Wallace: But the preserved text, we’re talking about a Textus Receptus where Erasmus had to invent a lot of readings on the basis of Latin. In fact, in the last six verses of Revelation alone where he back translated from Latin into Greek because he did not have the last leaf, he created 17 variants that are not found in any Greek manuscripts. Is that a preserved text or created text?
Chambers: It was not wrong for him to go to other languages to get inspiration for his preserved thoughts.
Wallace: So he was inspired, then? He was inspired, you’re saying? Erasmus was inspired?
Chambers: Oh, no. I’m just saying that in order to preserve the Word of God Erasmus was a tool….
Wallace: You said for Erasmus to get inspiration for his text….
Ankerberg: This is a good spot I think to end, and we’ll pick up in the next discussion, because some of you fellows are saying exactly this: that that group of manuscripts is superior to all the others and we want to actually pick up this debate next week.

Ankerberg: Let me close by saying today that no Christian or non-Christian need wonder whether or not we have the actual words of Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the other Old Testament writers. Nor do we need to question whether we have in our hands accurate copies of what Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude wrote in the New Testament. From the science of textual criticism, we know that the copies, collectively taken, give us 100% of the original manuscripts. This means nothing has been lost of God’s original inspiration, and that we retain 100% of the inerrant Word of God.

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