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In light of modern controversies over the matters of the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, and to prevent misunderstanding of my own position on these questions, I have thought it appropriate to write a confession of my faith on these essential Biblical truths.
I confess that God, through a supernatural operation of His Spirit, used holy men to miraculously produce the autographs of the 66 canonical books of the Bible, controlling them in such a manner that the very words, and all of the words, that they recorded were the very words of God Himself (2 Peter 1:16-21). This miraculous production of the autographs of the Bible was absolutely unique. It never has been, and never will be, replicated by any individual or group of individuals whatever who copy, collate, compile, or translate Biblical manuscripts. Consequently, all views that affirm that any copyist, compiler, or translator of the Bible was controlled in the same miraculous manner as the original writers of Scripture must be rejected. I therefore reject the views of Peter Ruckman, Gail Riplinger, and all others who affirm that the King James Version contains advanced revelation or is superior to the original language texts of the Bible.[i]
I confess that the verbally, plenarily inspired Scriptures are the product of this miraculous process (2 Timothy 3:16). While entirely rejecting the idea that inspiration or enscripturation as a process ever has been or ever will be replicated, I confess that accurate copies of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic autographa are God’s Word, having in them the breath of God (Matthew 4:4) in the same manner that the original manuscripts were the Word of God, inasmuch as the words of such copies are identical to the words of the autographs. Furthermore, any copy, to the extent that it has the same words and sentences as the autographs, is to that extent the inspired Word of God. I further confess, in accordance with classical Baptist and orthodox Protestant Bibliology,[ii] that, in the same sense that Scripture, when translated, is still Scripture, and thus is still holy, living, powerful, sharper than any twoedged sword, and able to save (Romans 1:2; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:21), it also still has both the quality of having the breath of God in it and the resultant quality of being profitable (2 Timothy 3:16, pasa graphe Theopneustos kai ophelimos).[iii]
Concerning the preservation of Scripture,[iv] I confess:
1.) God revealed the Scriptures so men could know His will both in the Old and New Testaments and in the future (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-29; 1 John 1:1-4, 2:1-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:12-15). The Bible is clear that no Scripture was intended for only the original recipient (Romans 15:4, 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:11). God intended for His Word to be recognized and received by the churches as a whole (Colossians 4:16; Revelation 1:3-4). The inspired text of Scripture is to be guarded (1 Timothy 6:20-21) as a “form (pattern) of sound words” for the church (2 Timothy 1:13-14) and used to instruct all future churches (2 Timothy 2:2).
2.) The Bible promises that God will preserve every one of His words forever down to the very jot and tittle,[v] the smallest letter (Psalm 12:6-7, 33:11, 119:152, 160; Isaiah 30:8, 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Matthew 5:18, 24:35).
3.) The Bible assures us that God’s words are perfect and pure (Psalm 12:6-7; Proverbs 30:5-6).
4.) The Bible promises that God would make His words generally available to every generation of believers (Deuteronomy 29:29; 30:11-14; Isaiah 34:16, 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:18-19; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 17).
5.) The Bible promises there will be certainty as to the words of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19; 2 Peter 1:19; Luke 1:4; Proverbs 1:23, 22:20-21; Daniel 12:9-10; 1 John 2:20).
6.) The Bible promises that God would lead His saints into all truth, and that the Word, all of His words, are truth (John 16:13, 17:8, 17). Believers are not to set themselves above the Word but receive it with the faith of a little child, rejecting secular and worldly “wisdom” (Matthew 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20).
7.) God states that the Bible will be settled to the extent that someone could not add or take away from His words and effectually corrupt them (Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 12:32).
8.) The Bible shows that the true churches of Christ would receive and guard these words (Matthew 28:19-20; John 17:8; Acts 8:14, 11:1, 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 3:15).
9.) The Bible presents as a pattern that that believers would receive these words from other believers (Deuteronomy 17:18; 29:29; 1 Kings 2:3; Proverbs 25:1; Acts 7:38; Hebrews 7:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Philippians 4:9; Colossians 4:16).
10.) The Bible shows that God’s promises may appear to contradict science and reason. In Genesis 2 we see that a newly created world may look ancient. However, the Scriptures remind us that “it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). We believe in order that we may understand.
11.) Christ taught the preservation of His very words, since they will be the standard in the future judgment (John 12:48) and men will be accountable to obey all of them. He also warned of the vanity of ignoring His actual words (Matthew 7:26). Christ emphatically declared, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebuked men, saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.” If the Scriptures were only accessible in long-lost original autographs then why would the Lord chide people for being ignorant of words that were not available? Believers are commanded to contend for the faith (Jude 3) and this faith is based upon the words of God (Romans 10:17).
12.) In summary, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4) and “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Scripture, and faith in the promises of God, must be the “glasses” through which we evaluate historical data about the preservation of the Bible. Scripture teaches the verbal, plenary preservation of the verbally, plenarily inspired autographa (Psalm 12:6-7; Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35); that the preserved words would be perpetually available to God’s people (Isaiah 59:21); and that Israel was the guardian of Scripture in the Mosaic dispensation (Romans 3:1-2), and the church the guardian in the dispensation of grace (1 Timothy 3:15). The Holy Spirit would lead the saints to accept the words the Father gave to the Son to give to His people (John 16:13; 17:8). Believers can know with certainty where the canonical words of God are, because they are to live by every one of them (Matthew 4:4; Revelation 22:18-19) and are going to be judged by them at the last day (John 12:48).
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.[vi] 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[vii] 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.[viii] 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[ix] 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.”[x]
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.[xi] 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.[xii] Furthermore, I recognize that there can be more than one accurate way to translate a verse from the original language into the vernacular.[xiii] 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,[xiv] 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] See the articles “What About Ruckman?” and “The Problem with New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger” by David Cloud, accessible, like the other resources mentioned in this confession, at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[ii] The affirmation of absolute verbal and plenary inspiration for the original language text, and a secondary, derivative inspiration for accurate translations, is the classic position confessed by Baptists and Protestants in the Reformation and post-Reformation era, in continuity with earlier periods of church history. For Baptist sources, see the reference in endnote #3. Richard Muller explains the historic Protestant position:
[Alongside] the insistence of the Reformed that the very words of the original are inspired, the theological force of their argument falls in the substance or res rather than on the individual words: translations can be authoritative quoad res because the authority is not so much in the words as in the entirety of the teaching as distributed throughout the canon. . . . [T]he issue of “things” (res) and “words” (verba) . . . is crucial to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture and is, as many of the other elements of the Protestant doctrine, an element taken over from the medieval tradition and rooted in Augustine’s hermeneutics. . . . [T]he words of the text are signs pointing to the doctrinal “things.” This distinction between signa and res significata, the sign and the thing signified, carries over into the language typical of scholastic Protestantism, of the words of the text and the substance of the text, of the authority of translations not strictly quoad verba but quoad res, according to the substance or meaning indicated by the original. . . . [O]nly the [original language] sources are inspired (theopneustoi) both according to their substance (quoad res) and according to their words (quoad verba)[.] This must be the case, since holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21, who dictated to them not only the substance (res) but also the very words (verba). For the same reason, the Hebrew and the Greek are the norms and rules by which the various versions are examined and evaluated. . . . [There is] a distinction between authenticity and authorship quoad verba, which belongs only to the Hebrew and Greek originals, and authenticity and authority quoad res, which inheres in valid translations. . . . Thus translations can be used, but with the reservation that only the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the authentic norms of doctrine and the rule by which doctrinal controversy is to be decided[.] Versions that are congruent with the sources are indeed authentic according to substance (quoad res); for the Word of God [may be] translated into other languages: the Word of God is not to be limited, since whether it is thought or spoken or written, it remains the Word of God. Nonetheless they are not authentic according to the idiom or word, inasmuch as the words have been explained in French or Dutch. In relation to all translations, therefore, the Hebrew and Greek texts stand as antiquissimus, originalis, and archetypos. Thus, translations are the Word of God insofar as they permit the Word of God to address the reader or hearer: for Scripture is most certainly the Word of God in the things it teaches and to the extent that in and by means of it power of God touches the conscience. Even so, in translations as well as in the original the testimony of the Holy Spirit demonstrates the graciousness of God toward us. All translations have divine authority insofar as they correctly render the original: the tongue and dialect is but an accident, and as it were an argument of divine truth, which remains one and the same in all idioms. (pgs. 269, 326-327, 403, 416, 427-428, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; volume 2, Holy Scripture: The cognitive foundation of theology (2nd ed.), Richard Muller. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003; quotations and original sources not reproduced)
[iii] See “Are Accurate Copies and Translations of Scripture Inspired? A Study of 2 Timothy 3:16,” at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[iv] A book length exposition of the Biblical doctrine of preservation is Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture, ed. Kent Brandenburg, El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2003. The book is a fine presentation of the doctrine by a separatist Baptist. It can be purchased at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7. The website also contains an exposition of a number of passages related to the preservation of Scripture. Compare the list of presuppositions on the preservation of Scripture found on pgs. 73-74, “Preservation of the Bible: Providential or Miraculous? A Response to Jon Rehurek of the Master’s Seminary,” Paul Ferguson. The Burning Bush 15:2 (July 2009) 67-100.
[v] See “The Debate over the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points” and “Evidences for the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points,” by Thomas Ross, and “The Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowels, and Accents” by John Gill at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7 for the implications of this confession to the question of the inspiration and authority of the Hebrew vowel points.
[vi] 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, whetherTR, 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.
[vii] 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).
[viii] See “The Canonicity of the Received Bible Established From Baptist Confessions” at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[ix] 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.
[x] 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689.
[xi] 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.
[xii] E. g., someone who affirmed that baptize would be better rendered as immerse.
[xiii] 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.
[xiv] 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.