Monday, July 20, 2015

Recent James White Videos and the Bible Version Issue, pt. 1

In the last couple of weeks, James White has shown up in a video and made one himself about the Bible version issue.  It's important to consider, because the Bible is God's Word and our sole authority for faith and practice.  James White purports to disabuse Christians of a very harmful position, and professes in doing so to be a significant defender of the Christian faith.  He has written a book about the Bible version issue, The King James Only Controversy, and he talks about it all the time, most recently in two videos he has posted on his website, the first he entitled, An Interview with Eric Hovind on the Transmission of the Text of the Bible, and the second, My Concerns with the Ecclesiastical Text Position.  It would be nice if White could be challenged in a fair setting.  I have never seen him in a legitimate debate on the Bible Version issue, where what he says could be challenged in an impartial way.

I'm going to use whatever number of posts necessary to deal with everything he says in the above two videos, starting with the Eric Hovind interview.  It is not an interview on the transmission of the text of the Bible, so that title, made at White's website, misleads right away.  Hovind himself calls it, Eric Hovind Discusses Bible Translations with Dr. James White, and describes it with the following caption:

Did God re-inspire the writing of Scripture with the King James Version? Why do we have so many English translations? What is textual criticism and what should we know about it? Gain much-needed discernment as Eric Hovind and James White discuss standing on the authority of Theópneustos Scriptures.

Hovind first questions White about the double inspiration error of certain King James Version advocates, a doctrinal offense the equivalent of a high lob to swat down by a Bible expert, by someone who depends on the Bible as his authority for his beliefs.

White:  Well, (loud exhaling sigh), ya know, uh, the funny thing is, uh, the King James translators themselves really would have had a hard time with anyone using their work in that way.  I mean...

Hovind:  Wow!

White:  ...If we just read the fff, the fff, preface to the readers that the King James Translators themselves wrote, uuuuh, we'd get a really good idea where they were coming from, and they in no way thought that their work was a reinspiration.  They recognized their dependence upon previous translations, upon Wycliffe, and Tyndale, and, and the Geneva, and so on and so forth, and they also recognized that there would be need for revision of their work in the future, uuum, and so what has happened since then in the discovery of sooo many manuscripts that have, that have shed sooo much light upon the earlier history of the text, both the dead sea scrolls as well as the, eh, historical, uh, light upon the early manuscripts of the New Testament. The, the King James translators themselves would have welcomed, uh, that, uhm, providential blessing from God, they really would have.  Unfortunately what has happened, and this is a rel, relatively new movement, this kind of, uh, radical perspective, because there are some others who will say, 'well, for certain reasons we believe that the text upon which the King James is, was translated is better than the modern texts.'

Hovind:  Right!

White:  Ya know, I can understand those arguments, uuum, and, and, and, and have explained those arguments to people and I engage those types of arguments.  I can understand that, and I can even understand someone saying that they prefer, uh, the style and majesty of the King James translation.  I can understand preferences, but when it comes to a point where you're basically saying to people, 'if you use anything other than this, you're not really getting what God would have you to get,' and if you dare promote that, now you're not even, uh, in the will of God, you're rebelling against God, that type of thing, that's when it becomes extremely dangerous, and, uh, unfortunately there are still those folks out there that say that, but it's interesting, I never find them taking that argument out into the places where I go with the people like the Bart Ehrmans of the world or into mosques around the world, um, because the fact of the matter is that kind of claim is indefensible against the people that know anything about the history of the, of the New Testament whatsoever.  And so we want, we want, what we say in the church to be consistent with what we say in the market place of ideas...

Hovind:  Wow.

White:  ...If we don't have that kind of consistency, uum, we really can't claim, uh, that we're, we're ff following He who is the truth, and so for me that's why it becomes an important issue.

White is asked by Hovind if someone should use the English translation to correct the Hebrew and the Greek, and White's answer is, first, the King James translators would not have liked that position. He then proceeds to bounce all over the place without referring to scripture itself to debunk that false doctrine, but instead to the preface of the King James translators.  He does not speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:11).  Double inspiration and correcting the original language with English -- those are unbiblical and can be repudiated from scripture itself.  God completed inspiration in the first century (Jude 1:3; Rev 22:18) and then preserved the words He inspired (Is 59:21; Matt 4:4; 5:18; 24:35), Hebrew and Greek ones, so that there was no need for re-inspiration of an English Bible.  In common with White, these with this "radical perspective" do not believe in the perfect preservation of scripture, so they compensate for their faithlessness with an unscriptural and novel doctrine of second inspiration.

Contrary to White, the KJV translators did not rely upon Wycliffe, who translated from the Latin. Their preface doesn't mention his name.  They did believe in a future revision of their work, but we have no basis that they would have accepted other original language texts than those from which they translated.  They say nothing about that in their preface.  Assuming a revision of their translation doesn't assume a revision from a different original language text.

White speculates that the translators would have welcomed the Dead Sea scrolls and older Greek manuscripts to correct the text they translated. He uses the terminology "providential blessing," pointing directly to the language of Benjamin Warfield's spin on the wording of the Westminster Confession, equating textual criticism with the providence of God.  That isn't what the Westminster divines meant when they wrote, "by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages." Warfield also believed in the science of evolution and accepted Darwin as a providential enlightenment of the first three chapters of Genesis.  We could just as easily speculate that the KJV translators rejected older manuscripts as inferior to the text received by the churches.  That would by far conform more to the bibliology of the church and fit the evidence of  historical theology.

When White says "modern texts," he means "older texts," confusing it with "modern translations."

Why would a doctrine of perfect preservation and general accessibility be dangerous?  How could trust in providential preservation, the language of the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession, be dangerous?  Why would the doubt produced by never-ending criticism not be what is really dangerous?  How could certainty in the Word of God be dangerous?  Why is textual criticism not the radical perspective?  It is the historically new perspective on the doctrine of scripture, the post-enlightenment take on bibliology.  Only preference is tolerable to White.  What is the biblical basis for preference being the only acceptable view?

White's only stated reason against certainty in a single text of scripture, instead of choosing preference, is that he himself has not witnessed any non-preferential people taking that position out into the world against the Bart Ehrmans and into the mosques like he does.  The setting of a formal debate isn't the only or even the best place to confront the world in the "market place of ideas."  In the San Francisco Bay Area, I talk to the liberals, the atheists, and the Muslims all.  The Muslims use the White position as a crucial component in their argument against Christianity.  I've heard it again and again.  They reject the preservation of scripture, and White would agree.

We're not and neither should we be attempting to defeat the world in a market place of ideas.  We're preaching the truth, and I've noticed that the Bart Ehrmans' problem isn't that our ideas aren't defeating theirs.  The problem is a volitional one, not an intellectual one, and their strongholds will be defeated with scriptural arguments, not ones that point back to a preface by a translator.  What is indefensible are the natural arguments that White brings against unbelievers, and that coming from someone who says he advocates presuppositional apologetics.  A true presuppositionalist assumes what scripture teaches as true, authoritative, and powerful.  What I hear from White here treats discovery as neutral, even elevating his opinion to a higher level than divine revelation.  You can hear White's thinking when he says, "the, eh, historical, uh, light upon the early manuscripts of the New Testament" and "the fact of the matter is that kind of claim is indefensible against the people that know anything about the history of the, of the New Testament."  Historical light?

The only consistent position is one derived from the only supernatural source, the Word of God.  The only accurate view of history must adapt to scripture and not vice-versa.  He Who is the truth said His sheep hear His voice, live by every Word, and that not a jot or tittle will pass from the law until all be fulfilled.  If we love Him we will keep what He says.  A two book approach to Bible doctrine, man's observations and divine revelation, will never be consistent.

More to Come.  This series may come faster than the usual two posts per week by me.  I'll keep writing as I get the time to do so.


Tyler Robbins said...

I've read the WCF, and the other usual confessions from the Reformation era. I have always taken them to be advocating a "providential" preservation. I admit this may be because the seminary I went to advocates providential preservation. Perhaps I'm reading into these confessions what I want to see? This is Maranatha's official policy statement on this matter:


“We believe that the Bible teaches the complete preservation of the verbal revelation of God, yet no passage of Scripture specifies the manner in which God preserved His Word. Thus, we hold that God has providentially preserved His Word in the many manuscripts, fragments, and copies of the Scriptures. We hold that the reliability of any text, text type, translation, version, or copy of the Scriptures is to be judged by the autographs only. Thus any translation or version of Scripture in any language is the Word of God if it accurately reproduces what is in the original languages. We believe that the translation of the Word of God from the original languages into the language of common people is a necessary activity and essential for the spread of the Gospel.”


Here are some sample excerpts from the Reformation era that I have always taken to be in line with providential preservation:

John Symthe:

The holy Scriptures viz. the Originalls Hebrew & Greek are given by Divine Inspiration & their first donation were without error most perfect & therefore Canonicall.

No writings of ordinart men how holy or good soever are given by inspiration, & therefore are subject to error & imperfect & so Apocrypha.

No Translation can possibly expresse all the matter of the holy originals, nor a thousand thinges in the Grammar, Rhetorick, & character of the tong.

A translation so far forth as it doth truly & fully expresse any thing of the originals may be saide inspired of God & no further.

To translate the originals into any mother tong is aswell, & asmuch the work of a mans witt & learning, as to analyse the Scriptures Rhetorically or Logically, to collect doctrines & vses Theologically, to give exposiitions & interpretations of places doubtfull."

John Gill:

. . . only the original exemplar is authentic; and not translations, and transcriptions, and copies of them, though ever so perfect:"

I've heard you say before that Warfield "hijacked" the traditional meaning of inerrancy and put his own unique spin on it - the idea of "providential preservation." Why do you believe this? I read quotes like those above, and I see the Reformers believing in perfect autographs, and not always so perfect copies. In other words, providential preservation in the mass number of extant manuscripts. This is what White means when he refers to the ecclesiastical text position being at odds with "historical evidence."

Of course, this really rises and falls on what the Bible actually teaches about it's own preservation. However, just speaking from the basis of historical theology, I've always taken the Reformers to be advocating providential preservation. Why am I wrong on this one?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Yes, I'm up. I was listening to a sermon by someone and just kept going, checked email one more time and voila.

And you're working right now? :-D

I believe providential preservation. The hijacking occurred when he equated textual criticism with providence. He made the confession mean textual criticism, read into it that meaning. That was new.

Richard Muller, foremost historical theologian, writes:

By "original and authentic" text, the Protestant orthodox do not mean the autographa which no one can possess but the apographa in the original tongue which are the source of all versions. The Jews throughout history and the church in the time of Christ regarded the Hebrew of the Old Testament as authentic and for nearly six centuries after Christ, the Greek of the New Testament was viewed as authentic without dispute. It is important to note that the Reformed orthodox insistence on the identification of the Hebrew and Greek texts as alone authentic does not demand direct reference to autographa in those languages; the "original and authentic text" of Scripture means, beyond the autograph copies, the legitimate tradition of Hebrew and Greek apographa.


The case for Scripture as an infallible rule of faith and practice . . . . rests on an examination of the apographa and does not seek the infinite regress of the lost autographa as a prop for textual infallibility.


A rather sharp contrast must be drawn, therefore, between the Protestant orthodox arguments concerning the autographa and the views of Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. . . . Those who claim an errant text, against the orthodox consensus to the contrary, must prove their case. To claim errors in the scribal copies, the apographa, is hardly a proof. The claim must be proven true of the autographa. The point made by Hodge and Warfield is a logical leap, a rhetorical flourish, a conundrum designed to confound the critics---who can only prove their case for genuine errancy by recourse to a text they do not (and surely cannot) have.


Turretin and other high and late orthodox writers argued that the authenticity and infallibility of Scripture must be identified in and of the apographa, not in and of lost autographa.

And later,

All too much discussion of the Reformers' methods has attempted to turn them into precursors of the modern critical method, when in fact, the developments of exegesis and hermeneutics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both precede and, frequently conflict with (as well as occasionally adumbrate) the methods of the modern era.

KJB1611 said...

I would like to point out that Mr. White's position actually is to defend the errant critical text, which is much harder to defend and less orthodox than the Textus Receptus. There are a number of places where the critical text jettisons inerrancy (Mark 1; Matthew 1; etc.)

Tyler, I would commend to you my essay on Baptist confessions and the TR here:

Mr. White is an elder at a Reformed Baptist Church that subscribes to the London Baptist Confession, see here:

I would like to ask him if he agrees with that Confession's statement on the preservation of Scripture, its citation of verses like 1 John 5:7, Mark 16:16, Acts 8:37, etc. that are not in the critical text, or, in some cases, in the so-called "Majority Text."

Tyler Robbins said...

I'll be very interested in seeing the response to the entirety of White's video on the ecclesiastical text position. From about 10:00 on, he highlights some of my own questions on this position. I'll be interacting with this series, at the appropriate times, as it marches on.

Robert Truelove said...

I'm the pastor James White was responding to in his post "My Concerns with the Ecclesiastical Text Position" video. My response to James White is here...

The Preacher said...

It says all scripture is given by inspiration. It does not say all the originals were given by inspiration. You and others imply that.

The Holy Ghost of God would not give scripture in other languages if they are not inspired in the same way as the originals. I know that because the church in the last 700 years NEVER preached a Greek text to the world or even within the body of Christ, the church.

No one in the world today has any authorative Greek or Hebrew text that is preached. The only world wide text that is believed and preached that I am aware of is the English of the Holy Bible (could be others). Therefore, the body of Christ considers that text to be inspired as the scripture teaches.

It really is not that hard.

LXX 1 said...

If 1 John 5:7 was an marginal note and was accidentally added you would discard the whole bible, in spite of the supernatural agreement between all the copies of the new testament we have in Greek, Latin, Coptic, Armenian and others?

LXX 1 said...

You aren't wrong.