As the 19th century unfolded, the call for a revision of the Greek Received Text and the English Authorized Version grew in intensity from the scholarly field. Hand-in-hand with this call for revision was a bold defense of the TR-KJV and an informed resistance to the move for change. We have documented this in our book For Love of the Bible: The Battle for the Received Text and the King James Bible from 1800 to Present, which is available from Way of Life Literature.
It is instructive to look back on this debate and to consider the warnings that were made by those who opposed revision. In light of what has happened in the field of Bible texts and versions and in Christianity at large in the past 100 years, it is evident that these warnings were prophetic.
JOHN HENRY TODD
In 1819, John Henry Todd published A Vindication of Our Authorised Translation and Translators of the Bible. In this he quoted T. Rennell with this warning:
“From either of these schemes, the bold project of a new translation, or the more specious one of a revisal of the present version of the Holy Scriptures, there can be so little gained, and may be so much hazarded, that THE PROBABLE GOOD BEARS NO MANNER OF PROPORTION TO THE THREATENED DANGER. ... With regard to revision, it is of little importance that a few particles be adjusted, a few phrases polished, if the whole fabric of that faith which was once delivered to the saints is thereby shaken to its foundation.”
Rennell warned that the revision of the Authorized Version could result in the shaking of the whole fabric of the New Testament faith. This is exactly what has occurred in the years since the warning was given. The 20th century has seen the explosion of Unitarianism, theological Modernism, the Cults, the Ecumenical back-to-Rome movement. In 1819, Christianity was divided into three major groups: the Roman Catholic Church, Protestant denominations, and Baptists. While the Protestants and Baptists differed on some doctrinal issues, they were united in such major points of the faith as the Trinity, salvation by grace alone, and the inerrancy of Scripture. This is no longer true. The whole fabric of the faith has indeed been shaken to its foundation.
John Jebb, Bishop of Limerick, gave this warning in 1829:
“But I humbly conceive that, in the present days of unsettlement and appetency after change, the only safety lies in keeping things as they are. We have not hitherto indeed had any great encouragement from the revisionary labours even of our first scholars and divines. Looking around me in the present day, I see much to fear, and little to hope; for one trifling error corrected I doubt we should have ten worse introduced; while, in point of style, from everything that has appeared of late years, I am obliged to think we should be infinitely losers” (Life of John Jebb, II, p. 454).
Jebb warned that for every small error corrected ten worse would be introduced. That is exactly what we see in the field of English translations. Each modern version has claimed to be an improvement over the King James, a replacement for the “antiquated language,” but for every truly antiquated word that has been modernized (assuming that they need to be modernized), many more than 10 textual and translational errors have been introduced.
Jebb also warned that the style of the new versions would be much inferior to that of the King James. That is exactly what we see. Not one of the modern versions that have appeared in the past 123 years has come up to the hem of the Authorized Version’s garments in linguistic style.
Alexander McCaul. In 1857 McCaul published Reasons for Holding Fast [to the Authorized Version]. He warned:
“The changing of these words would establish a principle, that words not intelligible to the general reader must be changed for others more easily understood. And then a great many and important words must be removed. The possibility of having our theological language and therefore our theology changed (as might be the case), makes us rather satisfied to hold fast what we have than to run the risk of emendations of so sweeping a character. ... The last reason which may be urged for holding fast the authorized version is, that the advocates for revision propose not only to change our existing translation, but also the adoption of some improved Text of the originals. … All the other perils are as nothing compared with the alteration of the original texts. Everybody knows that, in the New Testament especially, there are some texts affecting the very foundations of our faith, others affecting the controversies between High Church and Low Church, which are subjects of debate. ... But let these passages be changed, and the weight of church authority is at once thrown into the scale; and a doubtful, mischievous reading may be put forth as the oracle of God.”
McCaul warned that a principle would be established of changing words not intelligible to the general reader. This is exactly what has happened. The translators and publishers of the modern versions claim that the Bible must be as up to date as the morning newspaper, so they have produced an endless stream of new editions, because if this principle is true and if language constantly changes, as it does, the Bible must be revised continually.
McCaul warned that the principle of changing words that are not intelligible to the general reader would result in many and important words being removed. That is precisely what we see in the field of “dynamic equivalency,” which has taken the Bible version world by a storm in the last 30 years. Important words such as “justification,” “sanctification,” and “redemption” are not found in popular versions such as the TEV, the New Living Translation, and the Message. Even the “blood” is removed from key passages in the TEV and replaced with “death.”
McCaul warned most strongly about replacing the Greek Received Text with a new one. He warned that a modification of the Greek text could strike at the foundations of our faith and affect various doctrinal controversies. He warned of doubtful, mischievous readings. This is precisely what the modern critical Greek text has done. It is filled with doubtful, mischievous readings, such as the removal or questioning of the last 12 verses of Mark and the omission of “God” in 1 Timothy 3:16. Contrary to popular opinion, there a serious doctrinal issue lies at the heart of the Bible text-version debate, and this has been recognized by godly men (as well as by Unitarians and Modernists and other apostates) since the beginning of the 19th century.
Lord Panmure, speaking before the Edinburgh Bible Society in January 1857, warned:
“We have heard in this country, and we have seen it absolutely put into practice in the United States of America, of a scheme for what is called a new version of the Bible. Now, feeling very strongly on this subject, I take this opportunity of publicly stating my opinion: that any such scheme is fraught with the utmost danger to the Protestant liberties of this country. Nay, it is fraught with danger, I believe, to the Protestant religion itself. ... I think it would be the most dangerous and disastrous thing which could occur to this country, if we were to permit those words to be tampered with which have been household words in many a pious family for upwards of three hundred years, and I hope will be household words to all the families of the world before three hundred years more are passed” (Lord Panmure, The Witness, January 10, 1857, as cited by Edwin Bissell, The Historic Origin of the Bible, p. 351).
Panmure called the scheme for a new version of the Bible “dangerous and disastrous” and warned that new Bible versions would be a danger to “Protestant religion itself.” He was referring to the Anglican Church, firstly, and to other denominations, secondly. He was a prophet, for the onslaught of theological Modernism and Ecumenism has destroyed the Church of England. Most other mainline Protestant denominations are in the same shape and declining church attendance is a reflection of their apostasy. Has the multiplicity of modern Bible versions had any influence on this situation? Lord Panmure thought it would.
D.H. Conrad, in April 1856, delivered this warning to a Bible Convention in Richmond, Virginia:
“[Regarding the proposed revision of the Authorized Bible] ... (2) You open a crevasse through which you know not how soon the floods of innovation may sweep away the sacred landmarks. (3) You risk too much for a small (supposed) accuracy, for you let in the cavils of those ‘who watch for your halting.’ You will have, as allies in the undertaking, all the heresies, past, present, and to come, to say nothing of those who now hate the Bible, because it stands a solemn protest against their ideal theories” (D.H. Conrad, Esq., at a Bible Convention, Bible Society Record, December 1856, cited by Edward Cone Bissell, Historic Origin of the Bible, 1873, pp. 348, 349).
Conrad warned that a flood of innovation would sweep away sacred landmarks. This is exactly what the modern texts and versions have done. The ancient landmark of the Traditional Greek Text, which even by Hort’s estimate was a millennium and a half old, has been swept away. Ancient landmarks such as Mark 16:9-20; Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 3:16; and 1 John 5:7 are gone. The ancient landmark of one authoritative Bible for the entire English-speaking world has also been swept away.
Conrad warned that the allies in revising the English Bible and its Greek text would be “all the heresies, past...” This is true. It was well known by informed Bible-believers of Conrad’s day that the Alexandrian text represented by the Vaticanus was a text that contains Gnostic and other heretical anti-Christ corruptions introduced in the first two centuries after the apostles.
Conrad further warned that the allies in revising the old English Bible and its Greek text would be “all the heresies ... present, and to come, to say nothing of those that hate the Bible, because it stands a solemn protest against their ideal heresies.” What prophetic words! This is precisely what has happened. See our books Myths about the Modern Bible Versions and For Love of the Bible for extensive evidence of the Unitarians, Modernists, and other assorted heretics who have rushed in to revise the Ancient Landmarks.
Anthony Ashley Cooper (the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury), gave this warning before the British & Foreign Bible Society in May 1856: “DESTROY THAT COMMON CONSENT TO RECEIVE AN ‘AUTHORIZED VERSION,’ AND MY BELIEF IS THAT YOU HAVE INFLICTED A DEADLY WOUND ON THE CAUSE OF THE PROPAGATION OF THE TRUTH AMONG ALL THE NATIONS THAT SPEAK OUR LANGUAGE. ... At present we have the ‘Authorized Version,’ and we consent to receive it. We are, therefore, all on an equality; when we enter into a controversy we are on an equality; THE LAITY CAN EXERCISE THE BEREAN PRIVILEGE OF EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURES ‘TO SEE WHETHER THESE THINGS BE SO,’ AND CANNOT BE TOLD BY THOSE FROM WHOM THEY DIFFER, ‘IT MAY AGREE WITH YOUR VERSION, BUT I HAVE ANOTHER AND A BETTER ONE, AND THEREFORE, I CAN HAVE NO CONTROVERSY WITH YOU.’ What is proposed would, if carried out, tend to destroy the exercise of private judgment—that grand, sacred, solemn principle which is the right of every man, and which I imagine to be the great security of churches and nations, and the life and soul of individuals. WHEN YOU ARE CONFUSED OR PERPLEXED BY A VARIETY OF VERSIONS YOU WOULD BE OBLIGED TO GO TO SOME LEARNED PUNDIT IN WHOM YOU REPOSED CONFIDENCE, AND ASK HIM WHICH VERSION HE RECOMMENDED; AND WHEN YOU HAD TAKEN HIS VERSION, YOU MUST BE BOUND BY HIS OPINION. I HOLD THIS TO BE THE GREATEST DANGER THAT NOW THREATENS US. IT IS A DANGER PRESSED UPON US FROM GERMANY, AND PRESSED UPON US BY THE NEOLOGICAL SPIRIT OF THE AGE. I hold it to be far more dangerous than tractarianism or popery, both of which I abhor from the bottom of my heart. This evil is tenfold more dangerous, tenfold more subtle than either of these, because you would be ten times more incapable of dealing with the gigantic mischief that would stand before you. ... The cry for further amendment would know no end. It would be difficult to construct an impartial commission. The immense variety of opinion on doctrinal matters, and the immense diffusion of knowledge, both deep and superficial, in these days, would render necessary such a combination of members as would include the extremist forms of Ritualism, Socinianism [denial of Christ’s deity, Unitarianism], and Infidelity. Numerically and as scholars, these professors would be very strong, and experience will not allow us to believe that these learned persons, after years of thought and study in the same groove, fixed and sincere in their peculiar opinions, would not entertain (unknown to themselves no doubt) a decided bias towards special renderings of the sacred text (Lord Shaftesbury, as cited by Bissell, Historic Origin of the Bible, p. 355).
Cooper was very emphatic in his warning against replacing the Authorized Version, describing it as a “deadly wound” and a “gigantic mischief.” He warned, first, that to multiply commonly accepted Bible versions would destroy the exercise of private judgment. Instead of one accepted Bible being the ultimate authority, it would be the scholar, the textual critic, or the alternative version. This is precisely what has happened.
Since the average believer is not competent to make textual decisions, the ultimate authority is the textual critic.
Since there are competing Hebrew and Greek readings and texts, there is no one authority.
In a Bible study or church in which the participants use a multiplicity of versions, no one can speak with absolutely authority on a text.
Cooper warned that the danger in Bible texts was from the direction of Germany and that it reflected the shallow spirit of the age that yearned after new things (“neological spirit”). Germany is precisely where modern textual criticism originated. It arose in the same place and climate as theological modernism. Because of the careless, non-critical, unholy spirit of the hour, this poison has spread far and wide in the last 100 years.
Cooper warned that the cry for revision and novelty would be endless. This is exactly what has happened. This is true for Bible translations. In the English language alone, more than 100 versions have been published and new ones are appearing each year. This is true in translation methodology. The theories and principles have been modifying continually. This is true for Greek texts. There have been dozens since that of Griesbach. There have been 27 editions of the Nestles’ text and four of the United Bible Societies’.
Cooper warned that the theological climate was not conducive to sound Bible textual work of the nature that should replace that of the Reformation era. He warned that Unitarians, Modernists (“Infidelity”), and Romanists (the reference to Ritualism was to the Romanist Tractarian movement of his day) would find their way into the work. What a prophecy! A Unitarian was on the committee for the English Revised Version and another one was on the ASV committee and Unitarians played a key role in the development of modern textual criticism. Romanists have also played an increasingly significant role, to the extent that one of the editors of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament is a Roman Catholic Cardinal.
Cooper warned that those who are committed to heresy are biased toward special renderings of the sacred text. This, of course, is true, and it is why the Scriptures admonish God’s people not to associate with heretics and apostates (2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:9-11). This is why the Unitarians loved the Alexandrian Greek text, because it definitely favors their heresies more than the Received Text. We have already demonstrated that in these studies.
Joseph Philpot, Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, and editor of The Gospel Standard, in 1857 gave this warning about a revision of the Authorized Version:
1. Who are to undertake it? ... Of course they must be learned men, great critics, scholars, and divines. But these are notoriously either tainted with popery or infidelity. Where are the men, learned, yet sound in Truth, not to say alive unto God, who possess the necessary qualifications for so important a work? And can erroneous men, dead in trespasses and sins, carnal, worldly, ungodly persons, spiritually translate a book written by the blessed Spirit? We have not the slightest ground for hope that they would be godly men, such as we have reason to believe translated the Scriptures into our present version.
2. Again, it would unsettle the minds of thousands, as to which was the Word of God—the old translation or the new. What a door it would open for the workings of infidelity, or the temptations of Satan! What a gloom, too, it would cast over the minds of many of God’s saints, to have those passages which had been applied to their souls translated in a different way, and how it would seem to shake all their experience of the power and preciousness of God’s Word!
3. But besides all this, there would be two Bibles spread throughout all the land, the old and the new, and what confusion would this create in almost every place! At present, all sects and denominations agree in acknowledging our present version as to the standard of appeal. Nothing settles disputes so soon as when the contending parties have confidence in the same umpire and are willing to abide by his decision. But this Judge of all dispute, this Umpire of all controversy would cease to be the looser of strife if present acknowledged authority were put an end to by a rival.
4. If the new translation were once to begin, where would it end? It is good to let well enough alone, as it is easier to mar than to mend. ... The Socinianising Neologian would blot out ‘GOD’ in 1 Tim. 3.16, and strike out 1 John 5.7, as an interpolation. The Puseyite would mend it to suit his Tractarian views. ... Once set up a notice, ‘The Old Bible to be mended,’ and there would be plenty of workmen, who trying to mend the cover, would pull the pages to pieces. ... All our good Bible terms would be so mutilated that they would cease to convey the Spirit’s meaning and INSTEAD OF THE NOBLE SIMPLICITY, FAITHFULNESS, AND TRUTH OF OUR PRESENT VERSION, WE SHOULD HAVE A BIBLE THAT NOBODY WOULD ACCEPT AS THE WORD OF GOD, TO WHICH NONE COULD SAFELY APPEAL, AND ON WHICH NONE IMPLICITLY RELY.
5. Instead of our good old Saxon Bible, simple and solid, with few words obsolete, and alike majestic and beautiful, we should have a modern English translation in pert and flippant language of the day. ...
6. The present English Bible (Authorized Version) ... is, we believe, the grand bulwark of Protestantism; the safeguard of the Gospel, and the treasure of the church; and we should be traitors in every sense of the word if we consented to give it up to be rifled by the sacrilegious hands of the Puseyites, concealed Papists, German Neologians, infidel divines, Arminians, Socinians, and the whole tribe of enemies of God and godliness (Joseph Charles Philpot, “The Authorized Version of 1611,” The Gospel Standard, April 1857; reprinted in The Authorized Version—1611 vs. The New English Bible: a Critical Review, Trinitarian Bible Society, 1961).
Philpot warned that the biblical scholarship of the day was tainted with popery and infidelity. He warned that men who are unsound in the faith could not properly translate a spiritual Book. Would that the evangelicals and fundamentalists of our day who are committed to the textual criticism of Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland had this much biblically sanctified wisdom.
Philpot warned that competing versions would produce confusion and open the door to infidelity. I believe this is exactly what has occurred.
Philpot warned that the authority of the Bible would be seriously weakened because of the conflicting texts and translations. This is preciously what we see. An authoritative “thus saith the Lord” has been replaced with “the older and better manuscripts read this” and “the best authorities read that” and “my version says this; what does yours say?”
Philpot warned that the quest for revision would be endless. This is exactly what we see.
Philpot warned that Unitarians and Romanists would modify the texts and versions to suit their doctrine, that the Unitarian would omit “God” from 1 Timothy 3:16 and the Trinitarian statement from 1 John 5:7. This is exactly what happened. All modern texts and versions today contain these and many similar doctrinal omissions, and they can be traced back to the heretics of the 2nd and 19th centuries.
Philpot warned that the majestic language of the Authorized Version would be replaced with the “pert and flippant language of the day.” This is exactly what has happened. At first the new versions at least attempted to be literal and somewhat majestic, but with each passing decade they have become more “pert and flippant.” What could better describe the dynamic equivalencies and paraphrases? The Bible Societies have flippantly described Jesus as “Action Man” and the early editions of the Living Bible had the prophet Elijah saying to the prophets of Baal, “You’ll have to shout louder than that to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet...” (1 Kings 18:27).
Philpot warned that the King James Bible is the bulwark of Protestantism and that it treachery to allow it to be revised by heretics. His warning was not heeded and as a result the old Text and Version has indeed been rifled by sacrilegious hands. One of my books documenting this is titled “Unholy Hands on God’s Holy Book.”