A Case Study Regarding KJVO Apologetics

1611truck1I have recently been engaged in an email discussion with a KJV onlyist. As is typical with KJVO apologists, I was document bombed with a number of cut and pasted articles that allegedly refuted my criticism I have of KJV apologetics.

The first email focused upon my two part series on the word doulos, which is rightly translated “slave,” rather than the traditional KJV “bond servant” or “servant.” My emailer took umbrage with my articles and the conclusions I drew that slave is the more accurate translation of doulos. He instead insisted that the KJV translators were not only more accurate rendering the word as “servant,” but the translation “servant” better reflects the freedom and joy a man or woman has with their new found salvation.

I on the other hand argue – and I believe persuasively if you read my articles – that defining doulos properly as “slave” has profound theological implications with our understanding of the doctrine of depravity and salvation. In my opinion, the KJV (as well as a number of other translations), fails to accurately capture the true meaning of doulos and those important, theological nuances are missed as a result.

It’s not my habit to utilize personal email as blog fodder, but I thought the challenges my emailer raised presented us a working picture of how KJVO apologetics attempt to defend the KJV in light of significant problems with its translation of the biblical text.  So I wanted to present a few generic highlights from our exchange for others to read and study. My emailer’s statements will be in blue, mine will follow afterward.

One of many errors introduced to churches through some seminary/college graduates & modern bible versions is the rendering of Greek doulos as slave or its equivalent, bond servant.* This results in the improper suggestion that the Bible teaches a Christian is to be a slave in bondage to God or man. It’s not God who condones slavery & bondage, but the devil, through his influence on men who seek to make others submit to them. God teaches us voluntary servant-hood, which is a very different matter, one having great associated blessing, security and ultimate glory (Rev.3:21, Mt.19: 28, Lk.12:42-44).

I’ll begin with this opening comment by my detractor because it reveals for us some core presuppositions most Independent, Fundamental Baptists have regarding God, man, the nature of man’s sin, and salvation.

First he claims God does not condone slavery and bondage and thus by extension, to claim doulos must be translated as “slave” is besmirching God’s character as a promoter of slavery.  But it is just a fact that the writers of the NT, Paul in particular, utilized the word and slave imagery to teach basic truths regarding the bondage a sinner has to sin and the claim of Lordship God has upon those whom He has redeemed.

My detractor makes a category error, because he assumes the use of “slave” language equates to calling God a slave trader or whatever.  Translating doulos as slave does not equate to God condoning slavery.

However, while God does condemn slave trading and kidnapping for the purposes of enslaving people, He did not forbid slavery, merely regulated it, and instituted indentured servitude that does practice principles of master ownership of another person.

Additionally, the fact that Paul mentions slavery in the context of the Roman slavery during his days of ministry, exhorting masters to treat their slaves honorably with respect and dignity, and slaves to serve their masters with a whole-hearted devotion, (See Ephesians 6:5ff.) shows that Christianity can and does thrive in such conditions; albeit conditions we in liberty-loving modern America find odious and have virtually never experienced.

Secondly, and more to the main point, rather than defending the integrity and scholarship of the KJV translation, I believe he is aiming more at protecting the Fundamental Baptist form of semi-Pelagian synergism with regards to man and salvation. In other words, he wants to keep intact the idea that sinners have the ability within themselves to either choose for God or against God in matters of personal salvation.

That is the reason he double-downs on his defense of the KJV’s inaccurate rendering of doulos as “slave.” If men are owned by sin to such an extent that they are enslaved to sin as their “masters,” they are powerless to free themselves so as to make a willing choice for the Gospel.  That is a key talking point among Fundamental Baptists because if one goes with the correct translation of “slave” for doulos, that by extension directs our theology toward the erroneously named “Lordship” view of salvation (which is really just biblical Christianity) that Baptists like my emailer tend to despise.

I personally think that is what is at the heart of his defense for his view of doulos. It plays into his autosoteriological understanding of the Gospel. I say that because later in his email he writes (note my emphasis),

The Christian is a servant loved by God, and is free to make choices, even being forgiven for error in judgment due to his humanity and God’s love for him. Further, the servant of God receives wonderful wages in the form of eternal and earthly rewards, and he can have complete confidence that all that he does in service to God is for his own ultimate good and that of others since God knows all things perfectly and leads His people in accord with His love for them.

His view of “freewillism” drives his adoption of “servant” as a translation of doulos. But even then his understanding of freedom is flawed. The Christian is not “free” to just walk away from God and abandon his salvation unless my detractor is a full Arminian. The same is true about the Christian’s freedom in the eternal state. In other words, Christians won’t have the freedom to lead a heavenly rebellion against the Lord.

Moving along to some other areas, he writes,

K.S. Wuest, Greek professor at Moody Bible Institute, … He was one of the more influential anti-KJV men influencing modern scholars.

What will the KJV Onlyists do?A couple of thoughts with this comment. First, it is a repeated practice among KJVO apologist to accuse anyone who challenges the various KJV talking points as “anti-KJV.” That is common among members of any ideological camp: Paint your opponent as “anti” whatever. Challenge Roman Catholicism, you’re “anti-Catholic.” Challenge Darwinianism, you’re “anti-science,” etc. I never really read Kenneth Wuest, but from what I have read of him in regards to various NT studies, it is dishonest to claim his motivation was driven by anti-KJV sympathies.

Secondly, I never cited Wuest in my original article. In fact, some sources I cited pre-date his career, so it is an misguided attempt to identify him as the progenitor of the translation of doulos as “slave.” Deal with what I wrote and the sources I cited. Are they right or wrong?

One likely problem here is that scholars think doulos reflects the fact of slavery in the Roman empire of early New Testament days, not realizing that scripture teaching is relevant to all eras of time, and servant fits that type of usage.

Scholars think that because that is the meaning of the word. Moreover, the NT was written by the apostles living in the era of the Roman empire who practiced slavery, so I trust that they knew what they meant and intended to mean when God inspired them to write what they wrote. That doesn’t make the NT irrelevant to later generations. Later generations will need to do their study in order to uncover authorial meaning.

Like most words, doulos has different meanings in different contexts.

I would agree. In fact, my detractor supplies seven examples: Philippians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 9:19, 2 Timothy 2:24, Revelation 15:3, Matthew 20:7 and 24:45, and Luke 13-23. In a few of those examples he supplies, “servant” is probably a more apt translation of doulos, like Phil. 2:7.  However, that doesn’t change the primary definition as meaning “slave.”  More to the point is the theological theme expressed with the use of doulos which is one of a sovereign ownership and obedient submission.

In the case of Romans 6, the one passage I used to illustrate that theme and the one he doesn’t go into any serious detail addressing, it is clear that a sinner’s identification with the old man, Adam, dominates and enslaves him. He can do nothing but serve sin and live disobediently to God’s law (Romans 6:15-23).

But God has made the sinner His slave. That being, God has redeemed the sinner by paying the ransom price with the death of Christ on His behalf so that now the sinner is “owned” as it were, by God.  The sinner no longer obeys sin, for that former relationship of ownership has been broken, and he now has a new identification with Christ as his Lord (there’s the dreaded Lordship) and can serve righteousness.

My KJVO proponent seems to miss that theme entirely, and instead fixates upon making sure the person’s “freedom” and “freewill” remains at the forefront. Take for instance his comment regarding Revelation 15:3 where he says,

Moses as,… the servant (doulos) of God, and while he took many direct commands from God, even he was not a slave to God, for he made personal decisions, such as heeding the advice of his father-in-law in choosing judges to handle lesser matters among the children of Israel and deferring to his wife’s desire to not circumcise his son (for the latter choice he faced severe chastisement from God – Exo. 4:24,25).

Whether or not Moses could make decisions governing Israel or in his personal life is irrelevant to his position before God.  The point is that he was owned by the Lord, for the Lord had delivered Moses and the children of Israel from bondage. That is, they were enslaved in Egypt and God moved to deliver them so that now they are His people.  There is a principle of sovereign ownership and obedient submission in play between God and Moses (and all of Israel).

This is were the KJVO apologetic fails. Instead of recognizing significant difficulties in the KJV text that arise due to a slightly misaligned translation of the original languages, the KJVO apologist resorts to desperate exegetical measures to rescue any reasonable correction to the KJV text.  And regrettably, they are forced to adopt misguided theology in order to maintain their position.

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28 thoughts on “A Case Study Regarding KJVO Apologetics

  1. I suppose that one issue with the term ‘slave’ is that our understanding of slavery in the west is primarily through the lens of the race-based slavery in the United States in the 18th and 19th century, a form of slavery very different in that regard from the slavery of Biblical times. The point is taken, but the reply is that the word means what it means.

    Regrettably there are always those who wish to say that anyone who dares to say that the KJV is not the be all and end-all of English Bible translations are thereby attacking it. Of course we are not, we are merely pointing out that it is on a level with other translations, not a special pedestal of its own. As I have said to one KJV-Onlyist, “There are no such things as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart” – being a quotation from Nehemiah in the KJV.

  2. When entering a debate with a KJV onlyist you must realize the KJV is the standard so all issues that come up must not be the fault of the translation. Therefore, the KJV onlyist will take great measures, even foolish ones to find a way to defend what is obviously wrong. Having been one for many years I know how they think. They approach everything with their premise already determined. The Scriptures are just a tool to defend their views, the Scriptures are not the sole authority.

  3. So, what is the best version according to the “anything but” KJV crowd? It seems this blog is set to champion only a few narrow minded views and looks down their noses at any other opposing views. What is so wrong with the KJV? I doubt if any one of you approach the scholarship of the translators who put together the KJV.

  4. This anything but an ” anything but KJV” crowd. Next although the translators were well educated and their scholarship is well recognized that in no way means they were perfect, they were men, men with limited resources, as well as a theological and political bent , hence the reason they wanted the Geneva ( much to the pleasure of the sodomite King James) done away with. There’s nothing wrong with using the KJV, our church still does ( although I can’t wait till we move to the ESV). But it is outdated as a translation and full of translational errors. Remember translators are not inspired not are they perfect. And this comes from a former KJVonlyist ( and a rabid one at that), but the book the King James Only Controversy by James White ( along with Fred’s bible talk site) did away with that man made doctrine. And praise God for that.

  5. Let me see the translators that trusted in their infant baptism for salvation, two of whom condemned and watched the burning of a Baptist preacher, the translators that upheld the Anglican church and its false teaching, and the translators that advised us in their preface to the KJV to update it and seek more changes as evidence came forth; yes I think we are talking about those translators. For your other question I still preach out of the KJV and do my study out of the ESV and KJV. I find no one saying that those that want to use the KJV are bible correctors or bible deniers like the KJV crowd accuses good brothers that prefer a different translation. If no one made the issue about using only the KJV, then there would be no one writing about the KJV Only position and pointing out its flaws and contradictions.

  6. Doulos does not always mean “slave.” Every major translation except the NASB translates it rightly as “servant” in Matthew 18:23 and following.

    In general, any major translation committee, including the KJV one, knows / knew more Greek than me, so I’m slow to declare a particular translation wrong, especially since it can be proved Biblically that more than one translation of a particular text can be correct. :)

    In this instance, we learn something by looking at I Cor. 7:21-22. “Servant” in the KJV is contrasted to “freeman” and “free.” You can find similar things elsewhere. The KJV also translates it as “bond” contrasted to “free” several times.

    The KJV translators used “servant” generically to include both hired servants and slaves. It was a good translation because doulos was also generic (as Mt. 18 demonstrates) — but it is awkward in modern usage. Modern usage lacks a comparable generic term. Today, when we think “servant” we exclude “slave” as a separate category. In the time of the translators, it was obviously inclusive rather than exclusive of “slave.”

    It is overstating, thus, to call the KJV translation “wrong.” Because of the way English has developed, doulos is an awkward word. It clearly sometimes means slave, sometimes not. The context doesn’t always tell us which. The KJV translators were able to translate in a way that left interpretation to the readers, rather than the translators. That’s excellent translation work, IMO. It’s always better if interpretive work in translation can be avoided.

    Modern translators don’t really have that option — they have to decide, “slave” or “servant” or “bond-servant.” If they do it the same in every context, they will be wrong at times. They have to key off of the context, and make a decision. Most have decided for “slave” when the context doesn’t help. Seems reasonable to me, but there is no guarantee that they are getting it right every time.

  7. I really don’t know what the “sodomite” King James means but if it implies he was gay then that is the most ridiculous statement ever made. It is abundantly clear that his enemies portrayed him that way AFTER his death. It seems that the King James consistently affirms the Deity of Christ. Maybe that is why it is under attack. In this ever increasing watering down of the scriptures the KJV is more and more rejected. Because it accurately portrays homosexuality as an abomination?

  8. Those translators weren’t perfect but I have yet to see a better translation.

  9. Actually the ” most ridiculous statement(s) ever made ” on this issue at least, are by the KJVonly camp. And the sodomite comment was thrown in , because in the KJV debate, one of the things KJVers throw out is that someone who had nothing to do with the NIV( of which I’m no fan) was an avowed lesbian, Virginia M. . Now this is true but she never came out till sometime after the NIV translation, plus she had far less to do with the NIV than Jimmy the king did with the KJV. Now it’s only ” abundantly clear” that he wasn’t gay to those like yourself who’ve only read men like Sorenson , Gipp, Riplinger, et. al. But the REAL facts are he was , and not only that but took quite the erotic pleasure with animals ( and dead ones at that). And you can do a simple google search to find info on that.

    I will be the first to agree that his Sodomite lifestyle had nothing to do with the translators or their work but that slices in both directions.

    As for the ” slave ” debate , I’ll leave Fred to deal with that, since his pastor wrote a great book on the subject.

    My main point in even posting in this topic here was your ” anything but the KJVonly crowd” comment as if anyone hear has EVER held to or stated such a ridiculous view. Now if you wish to continue with such childish behavior here then you can expect to not be taken very seriously.

    P S. I cringe to think of how ridiculous and unbiblical as well as unkind and un-Christ like
    I was when I held the KJVonly view. And I’m reminded when I see comments like Barry’s of how it was so.

  10. Yes The Romans 6 passage is a prime and even KEY example—-the contrast of being a doulos (slave ) of sin vs being a doulos (slave ) to Godliness & righteousness is so central to how we are Christians yet — he misses it –astonishing and sad…

  11. I’m no KJV lover. In fact, I’d argue that most of us would have to learn old English in order to properly understand the KJV.

    However, it is not clear at all that King James was a homosexual. Historians who are neutral on the issue have said that whatever evidence does exist, it is clouded by political motivations.

  12. I agree with you 100% the term “slave” is meant to be there but I see it more as a metaphor but indeed with real implications. I have to say I agree with the KJV only guy as I believe the Bible also teaches we are given free will but like you said, Bible implies we must yes, make ourselves a slave to Christ Amen because if we truly loved Him it would not be a problem. Nice blog I really enjoyed that one.

  13. By the way I AM NOT a KJV onlyist. I actually really disagree with that teaching. Just wanted to clear that up.

  14. Give me some reasons, other then archaic language, why the KJV is an inferior translation.

  15. I agree with Aaron. The translation of the KJV happened within the immediate years following King James’s ascension to the throne. Later accusations of his “homosexuality” didn’t appear until after the KJV was completed.

    However, why that is an important talking point against KJVO apologetics has to do with the fact that they insist certain modern translations are devilish and are to be rejected because homosexuals were allegedly involved with their translation and subsequent watering down of all biblical references against homosexual sin. The primary culprit being Virginia Mollencott who was one of many stylus editors on the NIV and later came out as a lesbian, even co-authoring a book supporting gay Christians.

    If the NIV is guilty due impart to such a loose affiliation with one supposed lesbian who had a minimal if not any influence on the NIV’s standard text, what is to be said about a king who had a much larger influence on the KJV as a translation who was accused later of homosexual sin? It is a double-standard on part of the KJVO apologists and hence the reason they race to clear the King’s character.

  16. The main point I am attempting to make is that the concept of “slave” has direct ramification on the Lordship of Christ. KJVO apologists typically insist that any acknowledgment of Christ as Lord is leading the gospel recipient into the dangerous area of “works” and is adding to the message of salvation. Of course, such a notion is absurd and ridiculous.

    As to the concept of “free will” how exactly are you defining it? I hold to “free will” if free will is defined biblically, in that men have the ability to make choices according to their nature. IOW, men are sinners and will only make sinful choices, albeit they do so freely. They cannot, however, choose to receive Christ without a direct work of regenerating grace taking place in the heart that reorients their nature toward godliness.

    Fred

  17. Have you read any of my articles on the subject of the KJV that are linked under my article heading underneath my banner? Start there and you find many reasons.

    The primary one has to do with the fact the TR is compiled from just a small handful of textual witnesses, a number of them even incomplete and do not reflect accurately what the authors of Scripture originally wrote. Even portions of Revelation were incomplete and Erasmus had to translate Latin into Greek in order to complete his text for publication. He introduced a number of previously unknown readings into the Bible. It was a clear example of the violation of “adding to” the Scripture.

  18. It is my understanding that many KJV onlyists bypass the issue of King Jame’s character by saying that he wasn’t invoved in the translation.

    I personally do not believe he was a homosexual. I just think the evidence is less than weak, especially given the political turmoil during that era which would have capitalized on anything they could have (there were numerous attempts on his life). The Catholics, especially, had good reason to accuse James. However, King James was no friend to Baptists, from which most King James Onlyists hail. And in that respect, King James did influence the translation.

  19. @FivePointer
    I’m not so sure that men will only make sinful choices. Again I believe the Bible teaches free will and of course our flesh is born of sin and therefore we all sin even to this day (1st John 1:8) But again. I am not so sure that we don’t have a free will choice in it. I believe we do. And I believe the Bible supports this. I agree 100% with your last statement too. Yes. Of course no man can choose to receive Christ without first changing their heart and worldview. Amen. It is so.

  20. @Five Pointer
    Another point I wanted to make was that I believe a good deed is just as a decision as a bad deed. I do believe the Bible teaches a true good and evil and that God instills into the hearts of all men this conscience and knowledge of right from wrong. And that we all make either good or bad choices. Free will. That is not to say that God has not, nor never, intervenes because I believe God does and yes I really do believe that truly, some thing really happen for a reason. God bless. Have a good one!

  21. And also there are some newer translations that deny the Deity of Christ. The KJV consistently points out that Jesus Christ is the ONLY Way, Truth and Light Who leads to salvation. And we are also admonished to study to show ourselves approved, are we not? If you take a translation that denies the Deity of Christ over one that may add a few verses or passages that in no way takes away from Christ, which do you choose?

  22. I’m no KJV onlyist but I’m not so sure that is a “bypass” I believe it to be factual because King James ordered a team of scholars obviously to translate the text but I think the reasoning would be that King James was not capable of doing so himself. Of course there are other reasons as well, but of course King James couldn’t had much influence on the text nor do I think he did, because he wasn’t nearly capable of accurately translating the text. I believe the KJV to be a legitimate translation, one of the best, but of course not the only translation we should read from. There is a huge problem with KJV only belief.

  23. By “bypass” I mean that KJV onlyists will say that King James’ character is ultimately irrelevant because he had nothing to do with the translation itself. The problem is that while King James did not directly translate the text, he did influence who was on the translation team and how certain passages were translated. It is a well established fact that James believed in the divine right of kings and influenced the translation to support this belief. This was true with a couple other things as well (like church vs. congregation).

    I don’t disagree that the KJV is a “legitimate” translation and I have no problem with somebody who prefers to read from this translation. But every reformer held a belief that one must know the original languages in order to rightly divide the Word. In fact, this was the founding purpose for so many seminaries in America’s early history.

  24. There isn’t one modern conservative translation ( ESV, NKJV, Nasb, and the NIV, which btw, isn’t one I recommend, but that’s me), that denies Christs deity.

    The problem with the KJV onlyist, is that they seem to think that if you don’t have ” as many vs” stating the fact of Christs deity then somehow your ” denying His deity”, which isn’t the case. To deny something one would have to either come right out in the text and say ” Christ isn’t God ( or something to that effect , in a more subtle way within the text ), or you deny it by removing EVERY vs that proves His deity and NONE of the MV’s I mentioned does such a thing. As a matter of fact I’m not sure any MV does that( I’m not counting the JW translation in that estamation).

    I’d also like to state that I’m a former RABID, KJVer and held everyone Of those views which, upon wanting the whole truth on the matter, I studied out for myself and saw how untenable the KJV only position is. One great book that helped ( and there was more than one I used on this subject), was James Whites book ” The King James Only Controversy”. And I’d recommend it to all who want to do a complete and balanced study of the issue ( remember Scripture says a false balance is an abomination, and to only study one side certainly falls under this admonition), should purchase the book.

    As for my mentioning King James ” sodomite tendencies” Fred’s correct ( and I stated the same in one of my comments) it has nothing to do with the translation, it was mentioned only to show how inconsistent the KKVers are when attacking another MV.

    I have more problems with the ” character” of some of the translators themselves than I do with James . Not to mention I always found it humorous how the KJV only crowd like to call their version the Baptist version when it was translated by a group of Baptist hating , baby sprinklers. And their actually was a movement in the 19th century to ” fix” the authorized version to have it translate more accurately the original meaning of words such as baptize and church. But they ( as many that don’t tow the KJV line) were upheld in doing so and had to create another Bible union to accomplish their goal. Which they did and I have a copy myself. You can read Thomas Artimage’s history for the info on that subject.

    Take care and may God bless you in your studies , with whichever translation you may use.
    Webb Bailey

  25. Pingback: Answering the Claims of KJV-Onlyism | hipandthigh

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