Bible colleges and seminaries in fundamental circles face the conundrum of which Bible to use in Bible classes and chapel. With the onslaught of modern Bible versions inundating the Christian public, individuals, churches and Bible schools are forced to choose between the Authorized Version (AV) and some other version such as the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Version NASV), or the New International Version (NIV). The author will address this problem along with various positions taken by Bible colleges and seminaries, and the author will give his position.
Fundamentalists have historically and traditionally held the AV in high esteem and have considered it
the Bible of fundamentalism. Consequently, fundamental Bible colleges and seminaries are reluctant to depart from the AV and some other versions in the classroom and chapel for fear of losing long-time constituents and of not attracting new students and supporters. The problem is exacerbated when the school teaches Greek and Hebrew, since these are the original languages of the ancient text from which the Bible was translated. The textus receptus (TR)is the Greek text behind the AV, and the textus criticus is the Greek text behind the modern versions such as the NASV and NIV. Since the TR and the critical text (CT) disagree in 7% of the text, translations from the respective texts disagree for this reason as well for their translational philosophy. An illustration of this problem develops when a Bible college uses the AV in Bible classes and uses the CT in Greek. This practice gives the appearance of inconsistency to supporting churches and it raises questions in the mind of the student concerning the authority of Scripture. Bible schools handle this problem in several ways.
AV/No Greek Position
Some schools avoid the problem altogether by using only the AV and not teaching Biblical languages. Some in this group teach that the AV is inspired and its English words are superior to the Greek or Hebrew.
AV/TR or CT Position
These schools see the necessity of publicly promoting the AV, for whatever reasons, and teach Greek from the TR and/or the CT. Quite often the Greek professor is given the liberty to decide on the Greek text.
This position is promoted by Bible colleges and seminaries which publicly promote the AV but allow only the CT taught in Greek classes. This position purports that the CT is superior to the TR.
AV or NIV/CT Position
Schools that promote this position hold that the AV and NIV are comparable translations and either may be used in chapel or class, but allow only the CT in Greek.
Although there may be other positions held by Bible schools, these aforementioned typify the fundamentalist arena or bibliology today. However, these various positions are contradictory and do not satisfy. Bible colleges and seminaries ought to have a consistent bibliology (since they are
Bible schools) and a satisfactory answer to the translation/text dilemma.
The Position of This Writer
The following is the position of this writer: I believe that the process of inspiration ceased with the autographa. The textus receptus is essentially the preserved autographa and the Authorized Version is an accurate and trustworthy translation of the TR, and consequently is the Word of God in the English language.
There are at least four lines of argumentation for this position. The author will briefly elucidate the Biblical, Theological, Practical and Historical arguments.
The Biblical Argument
Numerous passages declare that the Lord would preserve His Scripture for believers. Some of these passages are Psm. 12:6,7; 78:1-8; 119:111, 160; Mt. 5:17,18 and I Pet. 1:23-25. In addition, Mt. 4:4 reveals that
Christ promised that every Word of God would be the standard by which man should live (cf. Jn. 12:48). His expression
it is written" (gegraptai) declares that God's Word
was written and still is written.
The Lord said,
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them... (Jn. 17:8). Christ promised to preserve the Father's Words to His present audience and through them to future generations (v. 20). Moreover, the Lord states that the believer's responsibility is to receive His Word.
The Biblical argument comes from the Scriptures which give the clear message that the Lord will preserve His Word for believers to receive.
The Theological Argument
A very large number of the changes, omissions, and additions in the CT are of theological significance. The full name and title of the Lord Jesus Christ is changed repeatedly. Entire portions of Scriptures, such as Mk. 16:9-20 and Jn. 7:53-8:11, included in the TR MSS, are left out. CT proponents often argue that these changes affect no doctrine, but what about the doctrine of Providential Preservation which is inextricably woven with the foundational doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration? If words are added, omitted, or changed, how can these two doctrines remain unaffected? CT proponents generally take issue with the charge that the texts underlying the CT are examples of texts tampered with by early Gnostics. But the NT is full of warnings about incipient Gnosticism. It is naive indeed to think that these early false teachers did not tamper with the Greek NT in support of their false doctrine. That Satan attacks the Word of God is entirely noncontroversial. That his attack upon the NT underlies many of the variant readings of the CT which certainly have theological significance cannot be easily rejected.
The Practical Argument
In simple practical terms the TR is superior to the CT. With regard to textual credibility and fidelity the TR family of texts (which is by far the largest group, approximately 90% of extant MSS) is literally remarkable. Variants among these texts are few. Variants between the texts underlying the CT, however, are on such a large scale as to stagger the textual scholar who considers them. For example, in the Gospels alone there are 7,578 differences between codex B and the TR, and 8,972 differences between codex Aleph and the TR. From these facts it is evident that even among the two favorite texts of the CT adherents there are thousands of differences! How can these variant readings among the CT supporting texts be sorted out and any single dependable text restored?
The Historical Argument
By examining historical documents such as confessions and statements of faith, the bibliologist may ascertain the validity of this proposition that Christians have maintained the doctrine of Providental Preservation of Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-48) states that the original Hebrew and Greek
being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical... The New Hampshire confession (1833) states that the Holy Bible
is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction...
Through the centuries, Christians have believed the promises of Scripture that the Lord inspired His autographa and then preserved it through the apographa (copies) for accurate versions, such as the AV, to be translated. This writer believes and supports the aforementioned position. Graduates from both our Bible College and Seminary go forth with the strong conviction that they have the Word of God in their hands and have the solemn responsibility of proclaiming all of God's inscripturated Words.
Dr. Strouse is Dean of Tabernacle Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary and a member of the board of directors, The Graceway Bible Society.