The 100-Year War Over the Bible

From "The Understandable History of the Bible" ©1987 Samuel C. Gipp. Reproduced by permission

Chapter 4: The 100 Year War

    For approximately one hundred years now, a battle has been raging over the question, "Where is the Word of God?"

    Surely we Christians cannot expect a Christ-rejecting world to accept our Book as its authority. We can, of course, expect rebellion. We can expect the world to make attempts to discredit the Bible's reliability. The battle of the lost theologians against the Bible has been waged since the Garden of Eden.

    But the war that I am referring to is not the war between the lost world and born again Christians. For the last one hundred years the same kind of war has been raging within Christian ranks! Up until the late 1800's there was, generally speaking, only one Bible, the Authorized Version. There had been others, but the translation instituted by King James I in 1603 A.D. and published in 1611 A.D. had become known not just in England, but throughout the entire world as the "Authorized" Version. It is a historical fact that the King James Bible had become known as the "Authorized" Version due to its universal acceptance among Christians of the world, and not due to a proclamation from King James himself.

Hills states: "Although it is often called the 'Authorized Version,' it actually was never authorized by any official action on the part of the Church or State. On the contrary, it's [sic] universal reception by the common people of all denominations seems clearly to be another instance of the providence of God working through the God-guided usage of the Church."3

    Ruckman points out: "As anyone knows, the A.V. 1611 had no royal backing, no royal promoting, no act of Parliament behind it, and the University Press was allowed to print any other version of the Bible along with it." 4

McClure states concerning the King James Bible: "Its origin and history so strongly commended it, that it speedily came into general use as the standard version, by the common consent of the English people; and required no act of parliament nor royal proclamation to establish it's [sic] authority."5

    As well, the footnote from the above reference in McClure's book reads as follows:

Says Dr. Lee, Principal of the University of Edinburgh: "I do not find that there was any canon, proclamation, or act of parliament, to enforce the use of it. 'The present version' says Dr. Symonds, as quoted in Anderson's Annuals, 'appears to have made its way, without the interposition of any authority whatsoever; for it is not easy to discover any traces of a proclamation, canon or statute published to enforce the use of it.' It has been lately ascertained that neither the King's private purse, nor the public exchequer, contributed a farthing toward the expense of the translation or publication of the work."

    Then in the mid to late 1800's a theory was initiated by two scholars of the names Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort. This is the theory that the Traditional Text was a "conflate" text produced by editors and not merely by scribes. Their theory has remained over the years, as Darwin's theory of evolution has remained, just a theory. It has never been proven and has in fact lost support over the years. Fuller confirms this when he records Martin's statement that "the trend of scholars in more recent years has been away from the original Westcott-Hort position."6

    Their theory will be looked at in depth in a later chapter of this book.


    By 1870 England was ripe for Westcott's and Hort's radical ideas, and their Greek Text was used by the Revision Committee of 1871 and by every revision and version ever since.

    The battle began! Which text is closest to the "originals?" And, of course, the ultimate question: "Do we have a perfect Bible in English today?"

    Today, three-quarters of the way through the Twentieth Century, Christianity is still divided over the question, "Do we have a perfect Bible in English today?" This battle will probably continue for the remainder of this century and well on into the next, if the Lord tarries His coming.

    Do we have a perfect Bible in English today? This is not an amazing question at all. In fact, it is quite a natural question that comes to every Christian at one time or another. Surely a naive babe in Christ would never approach an unbelieving scholar with this question and then lay the Bible in his hands so that he may do with it as he pleases. Surely he would not lay God's book at man's mercy. If he would, he should not be surprised when the scholar's answer, flowing in terms not easily understood, comes back, "No."

    Unbelieving scholarship is its own authority. It does not need any competition from a book!

    Unregenerate man goes about believing a theory that man has evolved and was not created. Yet when this theory is examined scientifically and logically, it cannot be proven to be true. Does this upset the unbeliever? No. He just sets about to believe his theory, for he knows that believing it allows him to be his own final authority. He also knows that to reject the theory of evolution means he must accept creationism as true, and this he has avowed in his heart not to do. He does not want to be associated with a few fanatics!

    Why is it that this type of reaction is found when dealing with Christian scholarship concerning the Bible? Ask a Christian scholar to tell you where the Word of God is, and he will tell you, "in the Bible." Yet, hand him any English Bible, and he will reply, "It's not there." How can we as fundamental Bible-believers tell people from our pulpits that the Bible is "infallible, without error, the very words of God" and then step out of the pulpit and allege to be able to find a mistake in it? This would not seem so serious if "the infallible Word of God" was not one of the doctrines that separates us from the world. We take pride in thundering forth that we are not as the unregenerate world, without an absolute guideline. We have a guideline. We have the guideline, the Word of God! Then we hold our open Bible up for all to see and shout, "This is God's Word! It's perfect, infallible, inerrant, the very words of God!" Yet in our hearts we are saying, "I believe all this about the original; this is just a mistake-filled translation."

    Most fundamentalists today vehemently reject the thought that God has preserved His words in English. We have "the Bible" they say, but it isn't in any one English version. Most fundamentalists never truly realize the weight of their statements when they say that we have no perfect English Bible. Anyone who has studied even a little about Greek manuscripts knows that the Word of God isn't found in any of the Greek texts when translated literally.

    What has started this controversy? From whence has this division of the brethren come?

The Problem?

    The first answer that comes to the mind of some Christians is that this division has been caused by a small group of fanatics who think that only the King James Bible is the Word of God, and who refuse to face the facts that the oldest and best manuscripts support the new translations flooding Christianity.

    Strangely enough, history points to just the opposite being true. The text used by the Authorized Version has been used from the time of the early church until today by true Christians. It is supported not only by the vast majority of manuscripts existent today but also by those of the highest quality and oldest reading. It has been used throughout history with the blessing of God among His born again believers.

The Problem!

    It is only a recent occurrence that Biblical Christianity has begun to use the inferior Roman Catholic manuscripts and asserted that they are better. This is the mistake garnered by the errant "scholarship" of Wescott and Hort. These people are the new young sect of Christianity who will not accept the oldest and best. Usually unsuspectingly, they put their support to manuscripts which are decidedly Roman Catholic in doctrine and history. It is we who are sure we hold the true words of God brought down through the centuries by the blood of our martyred Christian brethren.

    Ironically, those that take up the "new" versions, with their "better" Greek text, are voluntarily taking up the Bible which their early Christian brethren refused to use, a refusal that brought the Roman Catholic Church, the historic enemy of the Truth, crashing down on them. That same Roman Catholic Church is still active against the Truth today, only now many Christians are using her Bible.

    I know that these are strong statements. I intend throughout this work to prove their truth, but I state now, that I do not intend to bring railing accusations on those brethren who do not agree with me. I will state that they are wrong, prove that they are wrong, and attempt to point out their position in regard to God's revealed Word. I do not intend however, to forget that they are my brethren (those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour) and will treat them as beloved.

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

    This one hundred year war of words started back when the supporters of the Oxford Movement (apostates) realized that they must discredit the Reformers and Fundamental theologians in order to support their Roman Catholic Greek Text in place of the Received Text. Their salvo was returned by men like Burgon, Wilson, Scribener, Mauro, Hoskier, Cook, Salmon, Beckett, Malan and Wilkenson, and continues today with many of our modern day scholars.

Blind Rage!

    On both sides of the issue, men are called fanatic, heretic, cultist, Bible-rejecter, demon-possessed and more. These two sides have fought until the facts about which they fight are obscured by the dust of the battle. They call each other names until the student of Scripture finds reputable men on both sides of the controversy damaging their potential influence by using some adjectives which, indeed, are very descriptive but totally unnecessary. I am not a soft city gentleman who thinks we should all sit around and talk in quiet tones while sipping tea and eating "brunch." I am a militant Bible-believer who hates the devil, sin, heresy, and apostasy. Yet, I think it is time that we who claim to be "fundamentalists" step back and look to see who our enemy really is!

The True Enemy

    The subtle Roman Catholic Church has assumed the position of the lad who told two of his enemies, "You and he fight ... I'll hold the coats!" After all, is not "divide and conquer" one of the oldest military strategies known to men? The fundamentalists have laid their coats at the feet of "Holy Mother Church" and for the past 100 years proceeded to "knock each others' block off." Is it any wonder that the Pope smiles so much? Who is our enemy? Let's find him and fight him. Today it seems, on both sides, that we are concerned more with finding fault with the people that we disagree with rather than what they teach. Let me make this statement: If what I believe about the King James Bible can be disproved, I will gladly trade it in for the "right" Bible.

We have an enemy, and I believe we should be verbal and active against that enemy, but I feel it is time that we realize that our enemy is not our brother. It is the one holding his coat!

    The part of the Roman Catholic Church in the affair is similar to that of a soldier leaping into the foxhole of the enemy, only to find that all of the enemy soldiers have strangled each other!

    Occasionally on either side we will be forced to face a railer, but instead of "writing him off" we will have to be charitable and look past his railing to see what his facts say. If we can disprove his facts, we need not worry about his mouth!

    "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4:16.

The Test

    What we must do as men of understanding is look into these statements and the questions which they naturally provoke.

    "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." II Peter 1:21.

    Did God inspire His Word perfectly in the original autographs?

    "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

    Thou shalt keep them O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Psalms 12:6, 7.

    Has God preserved His words?

    "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:35.

    Do we have Christ's words, or have they "passed away?"

    The first verse, II Peter 1:21, guarantees that God was active in originating His Word in the first place. "Inspired" we call it. Inspired perfectly, without any error. God was the all-powerful agent in seeing to it that sinful man wrote down His Word flawlessly.

    The second verse, Psalms 12:6, 7, claims that God is not only the agent in writing His words (verse 6) but is also the primary agent in preserving His words. Note that the subject is God's words, not His "thoughts."

    In the third verse, Matthew 24:35, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh reinforces what Psalm 12:7 has already said. Christ said that His words would not pass away before heaven or earth. Heaven is still above us, and I am relatively sure that the earth is still beneath our feet, so the words of God must be here, within our grasp. Somewhere. If His words are only in Greek, then he has restricted their usage to an elite number of scholars. This, however, was never Jesus Christ's method when He was on this earth. He always went past the religious, scholarly minority and took His words to the common people. Until then, only the Pharisees had possessed God's words in the form of the completed, accepted Old Testament books, and although they were well educated and very religious, they were found to be taking advantage of the common people. Christ eliminated this problem by going directly to the common people of His day.

    The Gospel is to all. God gave His Word to every person and gave the Holy Spirit as a guide to all truth (John 16:13) in spite of the Roman Catholic teachings that only the "clergy" are allowed to interpret the Scripture.

    If God's words are locked up in the "Greek Text," then once again education is a prerequisite to having the Word of God and knowing what it says. This type of philosophy would have eliminated Peter and John from the ministry, for they were "unlearned and ignorant men." They were unlearned, and the Bible states that they were ignorant as though incapable of learning. Yet, "they had been with Jesus"! (Acts 4:12, 13). Jesus Christ made the difference, giving Peter a great understanding of Scripture! Notice his delivery in Acts 1:15-22, 2:14-36, 4:8-12. He understood, though unlearned and ignorant. Education, though beneficial, is not a necessity for being used of God. I am not anti-education or anti-college, but the first requirements are that a person has "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13) and that they realize and believe that the written Word which they have in hand is "more sure" than God's spoken Word.

    Now today we know that it is easy to "be with Jesus." The Bible says in Romans 10:9, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." In John 14:20 it says, "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."

    But what about the second half? What about a written Word that we can believe is "more sure" than God speaking from heaven? A Word which the Bible claims God has exalted above all of His name? (Psalms 138:2). Can we have God's words today in our common language?

The Common Language

    While on the subject of a common language, let me point out that many opponents of the infallibility of the Authorized Version say that if God put a perfect Bible in English, He is also obligated to furnish such a translation in every other language. There must be a perfect Bible in German, French, Japanese and all of the other languages of the world. Unfortunately for them, this argument will not stand. There were many languages on this earth at the time that God chose to put it in Hebrew. There were hundreds of languages on this earth also, when God chose Greek for his New Testament. Matthew 13:18, Acts 13:46, 28:28, and Romans 11:11 show that God this time was going to be taking His message to the Gentiles, so He furnished it in the common language of the day -- Greek.

    Question: When would the two Testaments be combined into one perfect Book?

    Answer: As soon as God chose a language to become common to the entire world. Germany, Spain, France and most of Europe were soon to be overly influenced by Rome. No language there. There have been great Latin and Syrian translations, but these languages never became common to the entire world. God needed an island of purity, a nation not shackled by Romanism, and a language so descriptive and simple that it could best deliver His message. These needs were satisfied in England. Here was a people who threw off the bondage of Rome and a young language which was to creep into every corner of the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from England and America to Moscow and Peking. English is the language of this world!

    English is taught to Russian pilots, because it is universal. It is learned by Oriental businessmen, because it is universal. It was the first language spoken on the moon! English is spoken the world over. This is the language God would use. Being a God of purity, He would want to use it in its purest form. The English of the King James Bible has been known to be the finest form of the language ever used. McClure praises the Authorized Version in this manner:

"The English language has passed through many and great changes, and had at last reached the very height of its purity and strength. The Bible has ever since been the great English classic. It is still the noblest monument of the power of the English speech. It is singularly free from what used to be called 'ink-horn terms' that is, such words as are more used in writing than in speaking, and are not well understood except by scholars."7

    The English language was, in the 17th Century, just solidifying. It had been a fluid language, made up of elements of Danish, Old Norse, Latin, Greek, French, and many other dialects.

    In about 1500, major changes in vocal pronunciation, inflection, and spelling simplified and helped solidify the language.8 This was all in preparation for the ultimate English work, the Authorized Version of 1611.

    Many claim today that since the Authorized Version was printed in the common English of that day, that the Bible should be retranslated into the common English of today, but this is not a valid claim. It must be remembered that the English used in the Authorized Version was not only the common language, but it was also the English language in its purest form. The English language has degenerated from what it was in 1611 to what it is today. Those claiming to put the Bible in "modern English" are actually, though possibly not intentionally, trying to force the pure words of God into the degenerated vocabulary of today! What a disgrace to God's Word! What a shame to those who propose such a thing!

The Archaic Con Job

    A charge often brought against the Authorized Version is that it is full of "archaic" words. But are we to make the Bible pay the penalty of our own irresponsibility in not keeping our language pure and descriptive? Would we not be richer to learn the meaning of those nasty, old, "archaic" words and add them back into our own vocabulary? Would we not be making the Bible poorer by depriving it of its descriptive style? Are these words truly "archaic?" I have seen stores today that still advertise "sundry" items. Perhaps the store owner didn't realize that it was supposed to be archaic. Perhaps it is like the fish caught off the Atlantic Coast a few years ago which was supposed to have been extinct for over one million years. Of course it was extinct! It just didn't know it! Science said it was extinct, so it must be. (They first had better prove that the world was here one million years ago.)

    Let us look at the word "conversation" in Philippians 1:27 and see how God chose the most descriptive words He could. Is not "conversation" a much more descriptive term than "life?" When we realize that our life speaks to people then we must live our Christianity, not talk it. The Authorized Version obviously gives us a deeper meaning.

    What about words whose usage has definitely been dropped from modern English? Those words which are just not used anymore? What shall we do with them? In answer to this question, let us remember that the Bible is The Word of God. We "Bible people" claim to accept its authority in all matters of faith and practice. But do we? Do we accept the Biblical practice of how to deal with situations today? Would we be willing to accept the Biblical example of how to deal with words whose meanings have changed?

    Let us look and learn and follow the Bible example of handling "archaic" words. Surely the Bible, God's Word, cannot be wrong! Let us look at I Samuel chapter 9.

1. "Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.
2. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
3. And the asses of Kish Saul's father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses." (I Sam. 9:1-3)

    These verses give us the circumstances involved. After searching fruitlessly for his father's asses, Saul decided to give up, fearing that his father, Kish, may begin to worry about Saul and his servant.

6. "And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither, peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.
7. Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?
8. And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.' (I Sam. 9:6-8)

    Now let us watch very carefully, for an "archaic" word is about to make its appearance in the next verse. But before it can, God inserts a note to the reader!

9. "(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)" (I Sam. 9:9)

    God knows that the word "seer" is no longer in common usage; it is archaic. He defines it so that we will better understand His choice of words. Is this changing the text? No! Look at the following two verses.

10. "Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
11. And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here?" (I Sam. 9:10-11)

    Notice in verse 11 God leaves the "archaic" word in the text! He does not change it to "prophet." He does not change the text. God gives us a definition of the word which He chose to use in the text, but He does not give us a "modern" or "updated" edition. This is the Biblical example of how God handles an "archaic" word without rewriting the text.

God's Method

    "We fundamentalists accept the authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice." I suggest we practice this method. Define what a word, whose definition has become cloudy through the changes in the English language, really means. I am not advising "running to the Greek." I am advising "running to the dictionary" and letting the text stand as it reads without the derogatory remarks about "archaic" words and "out of date usage." Let us respect God's text more than that.

    God has given us every word; we do well to accept them from Him as they are and not attempt to "improve" on them. As one great preacher said, "The Bible doesn't need to be re-written, it needs to be reread." I concur. Born again Christians are intended to be "Bible people." Are we not expected to read the Book we claim so loudly to believe?

    Upon receiving a lengthy letter from home, does a lonely soldier proceed to the third page to begin his reading? After page 3 does he "speed read" page 4, skip page 5, and read half of page 6? Does he attempt to understand the last page and then proceed to the first? Ridiculous isn't it? Yet it describes the Bible reading habits of many of God's people. Obviously, our soldier, so far away from the home he loves and the writer of his letter, is going to devour every word of this letter and upon finishing it, he will read it again -- every word.

    God sent us, His homesick soldiers, a "letter from home," yet we steadily refuse to read it. He didn't give us the whole Book just so that we could read the Psalms. We are expected to read Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as well as John, Acts, and Romans. The same author who inspired I and II Corinthians placed every bit as much inspiration into I and II Chronicles. We are to read Malachi as well as Revelation. God has given us every word of the Bible. We are to start at the beginning and read every word! Upon reaching Revelation 22:21, we are not expected to quietly lay the Bible aside as if our work has been done. We are to begin afresh at Genesis 1:1. There are only two events that should stop a Christian from reading through his Bible continuously, cover to cover: death and the rapture. All other "reasons" are really weak excuses. We are to read the Book!

    Many exclaim, "But I can't understand it! There are portions with deep and difficult meanings." They find a difficult passage, give God approximately five minutes to deliver the answer, and then turn to a "better translation" or a Bible commentary for the answer. They are like the four-year-old child who wishes to drive a car. He sincerely wants to drive a car. His motive for wanting to drive may be pure. He believes that he can handle the job, and he wants the answer now. He will not only be refused permission to drive the car, but he as yet won't even be allowed on a bicycle. He cannot handle anything larger than a tricycle. As he matures, he will "graduate" to bigger and more complicated things.

    This is true with our English Bible. We begin to read through it for the first time and ask God a question, the answer of which we just cannot handle until our fourth or fifth or sixth time through. We sincerely want the answer. Our motive may be pure. We believe that we can handle the answer, and we want it now. God will not show us on our first time through the Bible what He has ready for us on our tenth or eleventh time through. We must grow, and there are no shortcuts. A shelf full of Bible commentaries and other translations is an attempt at a shortcut, but it will not work. I am not opposed to Bible commentaries. I am opposed to their de-emphasizing the Bible and replacing the Holy Spirit. I am in favor of intensifying our reading time in the only authority we have, the Authorized Version!

    But why the Authorized Version? Who says we have to use only this particular translation? Why couldn't some other version be perfect in English instead of the Authorized Version?

    To get the answers to these questions, we will have to take our hands off each other's throats long enough to examine the evidence which has come down to us through history. First, let's study where the manuscripts came from.

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