The material below is the second and final part of this confession on the inspiration and preservation of Scripture. Part 1 is here. Lord willing, next Friday I will post the two parts together and ask you if you are willing to subscribe to this confession. At this point, any discussion of this part should take place in the comment section of this post.
I further confess that, receiving with the faith of a little child (Matthew 18:3; Luke 18:16-17) God’s own testimony to His own perfectly inspired, preserved, and self-authenticating Word, only the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Received Texts of Scripture, those original language texts from which the Authorized Version of the Bible was translated, fit the Biblical model of preservation. I confess that the modern critical Greek text of Scripture, represented in the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society editions, being a modern creation that was not in use by the people of God for well over a thousand years and differing in c. 7% of its text from the Received Bible, can by no means be reconciled with God’s promises about the preservation of His Word. I likewise confess that the printed Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts, while far superior to the critical Greek text and far closer to the perfectly preserved Textus Receptus, do not fit the Scriptural pattern for the preservation of Scripture when they differ from the Received Text, for true churches have not been led by the Spirit of God to receive their texts as perfect, the idea that the pure Word of God was not available for century after century but only came into existence in print in 1992, and that God’s people have not had the pure Word in their vernacular languages, as no major translations in any language whatever have been made from the Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts, is impossible. Furthermore, I confess that the Hodges-Farstad and Robinson-Pierpont texts are most improperly designated the “Majority Text,” for neither of them is a collation of the 5,000+ Greek manuscripts currently in existence, but they are rather collations of only a few hundred manuscripts, and there are hundreds of verses where they do not follow the reading of the majority of manuscripts.[i] Rather, the Textus Receptus that underlies the Authorized Version of the Bible, that holy Word that was in use by Baptist churches and believers in other denominations[ii] both in the time from the invention of the printing press until the present day, and also the type of text in use by the line of true churches and believers, who were first denominated Christians, and then Baptists or Anabaptists, in the ancient and medieval periods, is the true Majority Text, and the only text that the Spirit has led Bible-believing churches who accept the testimony of Scripture to its own preservation to receive as canonical and perfectly preserved.[iii] I therefore confess with true churches, countless martyrs, and the humble and faithful people of God, that the Textus Receptus, loved, copied, printed, translated, read, memorized, meditated upon, and preached for century after century, is indeed God’s very living and holy Word, delivered miraculously from heaven, providentially[iv] and perfectly preserved, and with holy joy and wonder received by me in faith as His own living oracles in my hands.
I likewise confess that I reject all textual criticism that denies or ignores God’s own promises about His providential work in preserving His Word, and that approaches the holy Scriptures in an atheistic and naturalistic way as if God’s Word were to be evaluated as if it were any common, uninspired and unpreserved book, instead joyfully receiving, with love, holy reverence, awe, and fear (Psalm 119:97; 119:120; Isaiah 66:2), that very Received Text that has been in use by true churches and the people of God from the time that God gave the autographs until this day. I confess with such true churches and saints that the Scriptures I can with reverent delight hold in my hands, “being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore authentical,” and likewise join such churches to confess that, while there is plentiful external evidence for the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, nonetheless our “full persuasion, and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”[v]
In relation to the English translation of the Authorized Version, I confess that I receive it with veneration, believing that the God who providentially works in all of history would certainly providentially work in relation to the translation of His Word that would be in use by Baptist churches for over 400 years in the language that God ordained would become the first truly world-wide language since the tower of Babel. I confess that I do not believe that modern Baptist churches should use any other English translation than the Authorized Version, nor do I see any necessity for revising the KJV at any time during my lifetime.[vi] However, I also confess that the promises of preservation are specifically made for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, not English words (Matthew 5:18), and that there are no specific promises that state that Scripture would be translated without error. Since no verses of the Bible promise a perfect English translation, I respect the views of brethren who, while receiving the promises of God concerning the preservation of His perfect Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, believe that there are places where the English of the King James Version would be better rendered otherwise.[vii] Furthermore, I recognize that there can be more than one accurate way to translate a verse from the original language into the vernacular.[viii] Nevertheless, because the people of God who do not know the original languages should have (a justified) confidence that when they hold the King James Bible in their hands, they have God’s very Word in their own language, and because I respect the high confidence that the Head of the church has led His congregations to place in the English of the Authorized Version, and because I have found in my own language study that, time and again, there are excellent reasons for the translation choices in the Authorized Version, and because I am not aware of any single place where I can, with a certain confidence and definitiveness, affirm that the English of the King James Version cannot possibly be justified as a translation but is indubitably in error,[ix] I refrain from criticizing the English of the King James Bible, and when it is appropriate in preaching and teaching to mention a different way the text can be translated, I choose to say, “this word (or verse, etc.) could also be translated as” rather than “this word (or verse, etc.) would be better translated as.” This is the faith that I confess in relation to the translation of the Bible into my mother tongue.
All of the above is the faith in the inspiration and preservation of Scripture I believe and confess with my whole mind and heart. Unless convinced otherwise by the Scriptures, I will continue to believe and confess this faith, by the enabling grace of God, until Christ’s return or my death.
[i] For example, in Ephesians 5:21 the Textus Receptus follows about 70% of MSS with the reading en phobo Theou, while both the CT/UBS and both editions of the printed “Majority” text, Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont, contain en phobo Christou, following c. 30% of Greek MSS; in Romans 13:9 the Textus Receptus, with 67% of Greek manuscripts, reads ou psudomarturesis, while the Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont “Majority” texts follow 33% of manuscripts in omitting the words and removing the ninth commandment from between the eighth and the tenth; in Romans 6:1, the Textus Receptus reads epimenoumen with the majority of Greek manuscripts while the Robinson and Hodges “Majority” texts follow 19% of manuscripts to read epimenomen. Sometimes the Hodges/Farstad and Robinson/Pierpont texts contradict each other; for example, in Romans 12:2, the Textus Receptus, as well as the Hodges/Farstad text, supported by 65% of Greek manuscripts, contain the imperatives suschematidzesthe and metamorphouesthe, while the Robinson/Pierpont “majority” text follows 35% of Greek manuscripts to print the infinitives suschematidzesthai and metamorphousthai.
In the book of Revelation, Pickering notes that very early on, probably within the second century, three main independent lines of transmission developed, and then a variety of variations within those streams. Thus there are some 150 variant sets where no reading receives even 50% attestation, and another 250 sets where the strongest numerical attestation falls below 60%. In these 400 places to speak of a “majority” text is not convincing (cf. http://walkinhiscommandments.com). However, the Textus Receptus tends to follow the largest of these three divisions in Revelation, but that grouping does not always represent the actual majority of MSS. Hoskier declared, concerning the TR text of Revelation: “I may state that if Erasmus had striven to found a text on the largest number of existing MSS [manuscripts] in the world of one type, he could not have succeeded better” (cited on pg. 16, J. A. Moorman, When the KJV Departs from the “Majority” Text, 2nd ed. Collingswood, NJ: Bible For Today, 1988).
Of course, there are certainly instances where, because of the evidence of ancient versions or a variety of other reasons, in the providence of God the Textus Receptus follows a smaller number of Greek manuscripts than the majority (e. g., 1 John 5:7). Indeed, there are instances where the Textus Receptus, the Hodges-Farstad, Robinson-Pierpont, and modern critical texts all follow a reading that has less than 50% support (e. g. 2 Timothy 3:7, where all printed texts, whether TR, CT, or H/F & R/P, read Moousei with c. 30% of Greek MSS, while Mouse has c. 60% of Greek MSS, but has never been put in print in any edition.
[ii] Historians recognize that the Received Text was identified with the autographs by both Baptists and even the general body of Protestantism. The Textus Receptus “was . . . the Bible of the Middle Ages and much more, since it was independent of interpretation by Popes, councils, canon lawyers or university doctors. In one sense both Zwingli and the radicals [such as the Baptists] were uncritical about the Bible in that they made no attempt to go behind the received Hebrew and Greek texts to original manuscripts, and were not concerned that alternative readings were possible — quite the contrary, there was but one text . . . Zwingli and the Anabaptists . . . both accepted the received text, and both agreed that tradition, the hierarchy and any human authorities, however ancient or eminent, must give way to the Word. . . . [the Baptists defended what this unbelieving historian calls] narrow and uncompromising bibliolatry” (Pg. 172-173, Zwingli, G. R. Potter. London: Cambridge University Press, 1976). One of the editors of the modern critical text stated: “It is undisputed that Luther used the Greek Textus Receptus for his translation of the German New Testament in 1522 and all its later editions (although the term itself was not yet in use at the time). . . . [So did] all the translators of the New Testament in the 16th century (e.g., the Zürich version). All the translations of the 17th century, including the King James version of 1611, the “Authorized Version,” were also based on this text. Thus the New Testament of the church in the period of the Reformation was based on the Textus Receptus. It is equally undisputed that in the 16th or 17th century (and for that matter well into the 18th century) anyone with a Greek New Testament would have had a copy of the Textus Receptus. . . . Finally it is undisputed that from the 16th to the 18th century orthodoxy’s doctrine of verbal inspiration assumed this Textus Receptus.” Indeed, the Textus Receptus “was regarded as ‘the text of the church’ . . . from the 4th . . . century” (pg. 143, ibid.). It is therefore not surprising that throughout Baptist and Protestant Christiandom in the Reformation and Post-Reformation era the “Textus Receptus . . . was regarded as preserving even to the last detail the inspired and infallible word of God himself” (pg. 11, The Text of the New Testament, Kurt & Barbara Aland, trans. Erroll Rhodes. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989).
[iii] See “The Canonicity of the Received Bible Established From Baptist Confessions” at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[iv] I confess that the preservation of Scripture is providential rather than miraculous. No miracle of the sort performed by Christ and the Apostles took place when scribes were copying Scripture, or when Scripture was being translated, or when any edition of the Textus Receptus was being compiled and printed. Therefore, the Scrivener edition of the Textus Receptus, the edition that exactly underlies the English Authorized Version, was not the product of a miracle or the product of an act comparable to that through which the Scriptures were given to holy men of God in the autographs (2 Peter 1:16-21). Nonetheless, the providence of God was involved in all stages of the transmission of the Bible, and there is nothing imperfect about God’s providence. Since all of history takes place in accordance with the decree of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), and God can bring about in perfect detail the sort of astonishing acts of providence that are recorded in the book of Esther without a specifically miraculous action, and the providential preservation of the Bible did not cease with the invention of the printing press, and there are no verses of Scripture that affirm that God is unable or unwilling to lead His people to certainty about the text of the Bible through having His pure words printed, and, while Christians before the age of printing could know with certainty what the words of the canon were but a perfect, mass-produced edition was not possible without miracle before the age of the printing press in the centuries after the autographs and their earliest apographs passed away, I therefore confess with the vast numbers of Baptist churches who receive the testimony of the Spirit to the words He dictated and preserved, and who believe the promises of Scripture concerning its own preservation, that the canonical words of God have been through Divine providence perfectly preserved in the common printed Received Text, the Scrivener edition underlying the Authorized Version.
[v] 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689.
[vi] In the unlikely event that the Lord were not to return for some hundreds of years into the future, and the English language changed in such a manner that the early modern or Elizabethan English of the Authorized Version were to have the comprehensibility of the Old English of Beowulf, it would certainly be right to update Biblical language. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit would lead Biblical Baptist churches to have general agreement that such a revision of the English Bible is needed. Without such clear Divine leadership, any revision would be inferior to the Authorized Version (as such versions as the NKJV most certainly are), and detrimental to the cause of Christ.
[vii] E. g., someone who affirmed that baptize would be better rendered as immerse.
[viii] E. g., rendering peripateo as “walks” instead of “walketh” in a text such as 1 Peter 5:8 would not make such a translation inaccurate or erroneous.
[ix] That is, for example, baptize rather than immerse more clearly communicates the character of the baptismal ceremony as a religious ordinance, immerse does not specifically indicate that the person who receives baptism is not only to be plunged under the water but also to arise out of it, and the verb to immerse was not commonly used in the English language in 1611 (and thus appears nowhere at all in the KJV; cf. the Oxford English Dictionary). Furthermore, the argument sometimes advanced that men like King James were seeking to cover up the fact that baptism was properly performed by dipping is highly questionable in light of the fact that King James, Queen Elizabeth, and other English monarchs actually were dipped as infants, not sprinkled or poured upon, following the dominant Anglican liturgical practice of their day.