Chapter 1: Why The Lord is Forced to Choose Only One Bible
I have taken up the task of reviewing KJVO apologist, Jack McElroy, and his book called, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? See Part 1 for the background
With this post, I come to the first chapter.
McElroy opens his first chapter by imagining a scenario in which Jesus Christ would visit your local church. As Jesus walks through the crowd to attend the service, you notice He is carrying a Bible and you wonder which version He prefers. McElroy then explains that in his book, the reader will learn why Jesus can’t use all the modern Bible versions, or even just some of them, and that He is currently using just one.
He goes on to prove his assertion by providing a number of passages from both the OT and NT that conflict between popular Bible version like the ESV, NAS, and the NIV.
For example, the ESV states in Ecclesiastes 8:10, Then I saw the wicked buried. They … were praised in the city, but the NAS states, So then, I have seen the wicked buried … they are soon forgotten in the city. Another example is found in Luke 10:1 where the ESV reads, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others… but the NAS reads, Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others.
McElroy also cites a number of evangelical leaders like Al Mohler, John Piper, Paige Patterson, and even John MacArthur, who endorse many of those conflicting translations. MacArthur, for instance, recommends both the NAS and the NIV. However, that only confuses matters because he says that both the NAS and the NIV are “accurate” when there is documented differences between those two versions.
McElroy now sets up what he will discuss in the next couple of chapters when he explains how he will expose the “dirty little secrets” of textual criticism.
All KJVO literature will have a section that presents side-by-side comparison charts that mark out conflicting verses among the various modern Bible versions. Usually the charts and tables are cataloged according to doctrines the KJVO apologists claim are adversely affected by the translations of modern versions.
J.J. Ray wrote a little book called, God Only Wrote One Bible, as early as 1955, and Barry Burton published a classic KJVO book called, Let’s Weigh the Evidence, still available at Jack Chick’s website. Both supposedly demonstrate numerous alterations in the modern versions attacking biblical doctrine like inerrancy, salvation by faith alone, the deity of Christ, and the virgin birth by either changing the way a verse reads or by total omission. Both books set something of a standard for verse comparison charts that have been copied by KJVO apologists over the years.
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when considering those comparison charts as I move through interacting with McElroy’s examples.
First, KJVO apologist present them with the presupposition that the KJV is the Word of God alone and any deviation from the way it reads indicates an intentional corruption of Holy Scripture by either sinister forces or unwitting, compromised individuals. Thus, when the modern version sides with another reading of a biblical text that translates the verse differently than what is found in the KJV, it is concluded that heretical men chose those textual readings for the reason of intentionally distorting God’s Word for evil purposes.
What those “evil purposes” are usually remain in the realm of speculation on the part of the KJVO apologist presenting the evidence of corruption. It could be anything from the advancement of a secret Roman Catholic agenda designed to destroy Protestantism by casting doubt on Sola Scriptura, or it could be as fantastic as secretly working to subvert evangelical churches so as to make them more pliable to theological error and the ushering in of Antichrist.
Secondly, KJVO apologists ignore the context as to the reason why modern translators chose to use particular readings for their modern version. If any reasons are discussed, they are always bad. As we will see in upcoming chapters, modern textual critics and translators are considered liberal and the deniers of the inspiration of God’s Word, so they can’t be trusted because they have a nefarious agenda. Any evangelical translators who do affirm the inspiration of Scripture, yet still use modern versions, are considered compromised or pandering to “academia.” Never is there any genuine attempt to explain to the reader a balanced perspective for why translators translated a passage the way they did.
That is essentially what McElroy is trying to do with his first chapter. He lays out a number of verses taken from both the OT and NT, and then attempts to demonstrate that there are extreme differences between translations. So much so that it is implied that modern versions teach an alternative Christian faith.
However, if we were to take a step back and evaluate his “evidence” with a bit of sober-mindedness apart from the manufactured grid of his KJVO apologetic, one will quickly discover that he is misdirecting his readers just a bit.
Let me start with McElroy’s opening example. After telling his imaginary story of Jesus visiting your church with a big Bible under His arm, he cites Exodus 36:19 which reads in the KJV, And he made a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins above that. He highlights the phrase “badger skins” and then lists out how Exodus 36:19 reads in the NIV, NASB, ESV, and the New NIV. All of those translations translate the word for “badger skins” in the KJV as, “hides of sea cows,” “porpoise skin,” “goatskin,” and “durable leather,” respectively.
So in other words, according to McElroy, a profound disconnect exists between all those translations. They can’t ALL be correct as he proclaims. The reader is left with the impression that the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy is at stake. But is it really?
What he is not telling his reader is that there really isn’t any corruption in the biblical text at all. Oh certainly there are differences in translations, but translational differences don’t count as textual corruption or even variant readings. All OT texts say the same thing in the original Hebrew language. But as seen in the previous post, McElroy rejects the concept of the “original” text which really just introduces still another presupposition one must accept unquestioningly for his system to work.
The phrase translated as “badger skins” is tachash ore and checking any Hebrew lexicon, the words are rather generic that mean some sort of leather or animal skin. The phrase may or may not mean “badger skins.” It is even mentioned in Exodus 26:14, where the same description of the tabernacle is given.
How the word is translated is left up to the translator’s discretion. McElroy doesn’t even bother to explain which one is correct. The reader now has the impression that all those kinds of leathers are presented in various readings of the OT at Exodus 36:19, but that’s not the case at all.
Let’s consider the citation of Ecclesiastes 8:10. McElroy partially cites the verse as it is found in the ESV and the NASB, but let me cite the verse in its entirety from those versions:
ESV: Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This is also vanity.
NASB: So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility.
So here we have a major contradiction, right? The ESV says the wicked will be praised in the city whereas the NASB says they are soon forgotten? What on earth? One translation has them being praised but the other has them forgotten?
Again, what is not mentioned here is that a variant does not exist in the Hebrew. However, because this section in Ecclesiastes has been historically difficult for translators to interpret, there have been emendations to the text to help with understanding what it means. McElroy mentions how the ESV sides with the Latin Vulgate and the LXX rendering of the verse, “were praised,” but the LV and LXX are also translations of the Hebrew. Those translators had the same difficulty with interpreting the text as modern translators do, hence the reason they chose the translation they did and the reason why the ESV chose to side with those translations.
Even the earlier English translations before the KJV recognized the interpretive challenge. For example, the 1549 Matthew’s second edition translates Ecclesiastes 8:10 as,
For I have oft seen the ungodly brought to their graves, and fallen down from the high, glorious place in so much they were forgotten in the city, where they had in so high and great reputation.
So the verse is not a matter of a corruption of God’s Word, but which interpretation best understands what Solomon is saying and capturing that in the receptor language. Either one of those translations could be legit, because they are attempting to understand the meaning of the text so as to convey that in the translation. (This article provides a bit of background to the interpretive challenge of Ecclesiastes 8:10: The Doings of the Wicked in Qohelet 8:10).
Let’s go to the NT and consider a verse that is a result of a textual variant.
McElroy notes Luke 10:1. In the KJV the passage states that Jesus sent out 70 men to preach the Gospel. A few modern versions, particularly the NIV and ESV, will have 72 instead of 70. The question then is which one is correct?
Honestly, KJVO apologists exaggerate the variant (as they do most of them found in the Bible as we will see), but there is solid textual evidence for both readings as Jeffrey Miller reports in his article on the subject, Two or Not Two. Even the 1541 Great Bible recognizes the possibility of the variant when it translates “Seventy (and two)” adding the two in parenthesis.
I believe 70 is the correct reading, but I understand why 72 is found in a number of manuscripts and ancient translations and it doesn’t worry me one bit if a modern version reads 72 instead of 70, nor do I conclude God’s Word has been corrupted by heretics nor do I believe it is no longer inerrant.
McElroy discusses 5 other examples in the first chapter and everyone of them is easily explained when one steps back, lays aside the KJVO interpretive filters, and takes Barry Burton’s advice to weigh ALL the evidence. The specter of a corrupted Bible dissipates into the air.