Monday, March 13, 2006

Where Are the Words?

I wrote this as a post on SharperIron, and it was so much work, I thought I’d double up and put it here too.

I think the original questions were (cut and pasted): "The thing that still plauges my understanding of all this is...did God promise to preserve EVERY word or not? If so, then where are they?"

I did not read the replies super carefully, so you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't actually read an answer or answers to his questions. I'm not counting "read so and so's book" as an answer. That would mean we've gone four pages of text, including some very, very long posts without giving him an answer. Perhaps we forgot the questions or we just don't like them. They are good basic questions, and obvious ones too. On every single doctrine, I start with: "What does the Bible teach?" I never start with: "What do famous 'fundamentalists' say?" Or, "What does history tell me?" When someone starts with the latter questions, they reveal a historico-rationale apologetic.

Answer to first question. Yes, he did promise to preserve every word. The Bible teaches this clearly, at least as plainly as it teaches inspiration. I guess I should assume that you want to know where the Bible teaches that. You will find a Biblical theology for the perfect preservation of Scripture cumulatively from Matthew 5:17-19 (especially v. 18), 4:4; 24:35; Isaiah 59:21; Psalm 12:6,7; and 1 Peter 1:23-25, among other places. This bibliology is also taught through the perfect passive of grapho (it is written). As well, inspiration implies preservation. Someone who agrees wrote in 1984: "Inspiration ensures the preservation of God's words regardless of the destruction of individual texts by wicked men." He was none other than Dr. Mark Minnick, and wrote this in the 1984 Biblical Viewpoint, Focus on Jeremiah. The renouned liberal, Bart Erhman, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, once a conservative theologian and confessing born again, writing in his most recent book on textual criticism and giving testimony to his watershed moment, said, "I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don't have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by scribes---sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don't have the originals!" Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Answer to the Second Question. Another doctrine within the framework of preservation of every Word of God is availability. God also promised availability of every Word. That is a doctrine I have assumed as I read Scripture, because it smacks of the plain reading of the Bible. Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Matthew 4:4; John 12:48; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 1:17, and Isaiah 59:21, among others, cumulatively express this teaching. If God says they will be available, then we would assume that we would know which ones they are. How do we determine that? Scripture teaches us, for one, in the doctrine of canonicity. The Bible teaches a canonicity of Words, not books. The church (generic singular), that is, churches have agreed on the words, like they agreed on the books. God uses the church as His pillar and ground for the truth, and since the Holy Spirit works through churches, we look to see what He did. People have believed they had a perfect Bible. The London Baptist Confession has an identical wording as this in the Westminster Confession of Faith: "The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages." That is what churches had believed, believed, and still believe. That statement in the confessions was chiefly revised hundreds of years later by Benjamin Warfield, a Presbyterian at Princeton Seminary. He understood that the modern view of textual criticism didn't fit with the Biblical doctrine of preservation, so he spun the confession into textual criticism. Many have just taken Warfield's position as historical. I think is one good reason why to put quotes around the word history. I have taught history for 15 years and I will often say "history."

What words did the churches agree upon? They agreed on the King James Version. Someone says, "But that's English!" Sure, but there are Greek words behind the King James Version, and today that is published in Scrivener's 1894 and Trinitarian's TR. They are essentially found in Beza's 1598. The Bible doesn't say they'll be available in one Greek edition. It says they will be available. Some might not like that answer, but the alternative is rejecting the doctrine of preservation and availability, and please don't tell me either the "preserved in heaven" view or what I call the "buried text" view. The book mentioned, God's Word in Our Hands, says that God preserved His Word and that the Words are in all of the manuscripts. Of course, first, all of those words aren't available, and, second, that book doesn't even agree by the admission of the authors, at least privately, that they don't believe that their thesis is even true. They believe certain parts of the Old Testament Hebrew are still not found or don't even exist in a preserved form. They use the "Greek Septuagint" to back translate into the Hebrew to correct the Masoretic text. These are the same people who have a problem with preservation in a translation. Doesn't sound consistent, does it? The KJV and the text behind it was received by the churches for at least 350 years. To say those were not the words is to say that the Bible wasn't preserved and wasn't available. I reject that view based on the teaching of Scripture, just like I reject evolution based on the teaching of Scripture. I've never seen a worldwide flood or the ark, but I accept the Genesis account of the flood. I accept that I have every word, and I believe there was a miracle of preservation that matched a miracle of inspiration. Quoting Ehrman again in his trek toward liberalism, he wrote: "The fact that we don't have the words surely must show, I reasoned, that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn't perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think that he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring those words." Too bad, isn't it?

One more thing, Dr. Sproul's book has a "review" of our book, Thou Shalt Keep Them, in the addendum. That chapter is actually a total hatchet job written by the same Dr. Gephart. Dr. Gephart, incidentally, uses Bruce Metzger to provide almost half his chapter in God's Word in Our Hands (an ironic title). Bart Ehrman calls Metzger his "father-professor" in his book. It isn't coincidental that Metzger taught at Princeton Seminary, where Ehrman attended, and also the school of Benjamin Warfield. Connect the dots: Warfield...Metzger...Ehrman and Gephart. Actually, it's all very sad. He really doesn't argue away the points, just takes pot shots, and very poor ones. He wants to discredit the exegesis enough to cause reasonable doubt, like a defense lawyer attacking the prosecution. I wish I could say differently, but that's what he does. It doesn't read like someone who wants the truth of those passages. What else I have noticed is that they offer no alternative. What do we get when they're done? Doubt in the Word of God.


Terry McGovern said...

Great post. Well researched.
It amazes me how one can claim they believe inspiration and yet deny preservation!

You can not have one without the other.

Many today seem to be leaving their belief in Biblical preservation and embracing such things as Calvinism. Very sad!

Terry McGovern said...

I have been following the thread on I think you are doing a great job, and articulating your posistion very well.

I seen from the thread you have written a book on the subject. I would like to purchase it. How can I accopmlish that? If you prefer to email me, my email address is


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Brother McGovern. I thank you for your interest and reading the sharperiron presentation. We will develop the historical points loaded with juicy material in the second book. The first book is the key. It is a Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture. We are out of the first edition, but I know someone who has copies left in his bookstore. I'll have him send you one if you will send your address to I'm going to add you to my prayer list there in Papua New Guinea.

From your comments, we seem to see eye to eye doctrinally.

Terry McGovern said...

Thank you Bro Brandenburg. I will email my mailing address to the email address you provided.

I would agree from your blog and other posts I have read of yours, that we agree doctrinally.

The thread at sharperiron was very interesting. I get frustrated with the mentality that one is simply ignorant, if he believes in KJVO position. (Granted, there have been many poorly written books by KJVO people, which have done more harm then good.) I think your posts surprised many at sharperiron. They are not used to getting direct responses to their questions. The fact is many KJVO people struggle to defend their position, and those non-KJV people really take advantage of that.

Michael Alford said...


Maybe I'm overthinking this, but if a pillar of the discussion is that God preseerved his word through churches, and the churches accepted the AV as 'the Book', then what hapens when a majority of churches no longer accept the AV? Not to say that the church's acceptance 'made' the AV the word of God, but one could extend the logic of church acceptance and say that a plurality of churches now accept the NIV so it must be God's word also.

horace said...

Funny you should say that Mr. McGovern since many of the KJV translators were Calvinists.

horace said...

Mr. McGovern,

"Many today seem to be leaving their belief in Biblical preservation and embracing such things as Calvinism. Very sad!"

I'm not sure what Calvinism has to do with "Biblical preservation" especially considering many of the KJV translators were Calvinists

Joshua said...


Mr McGovern is probably referring to the very common "package deal" that comes when you are an IB who is heading to evangelicalism.

Belief in preservation
Belief in LCO
Dress standards
Music standards
Specific preaching on worldliness and separation

Exposition without uncomfortable applications

That's the way the cookie often crumbles in the parts where I hail from.

Kent Brandenburg said...

First, thanks Joshua, great observation and so true. I don't think it's about studying it out, as much as what's hot or what's convenient. It's what I see too.


The church settled on the books. Everyone agrees that the Holy Spirit leads to all truth. Once those are settled, you don't start over and say, "Hey, now we think those weren't the books." Just like we don't say, "Hey, this is now the new plan of salvation!" No, the books were settled, and the words were settled. This is what Christians have always believed until the enlightenment, and rationalism. I know critical text people hate that, but that won't say it isn't true, because they know it is.