This will probably be my final review article of Jack McElroy’s King James Only book, Which Bible Would Jesus Use? I want to cover four of his concluding chapters in his book because they are so vital to the way a lot of KJVO advocates think and argue their position. His chapters also underline clearly why KJVO apologetics as a whole are subversive to biblical orthodoxy.
In chapters 14-17, McElroy defines his understanding of biblical inspiration. I’ll summarize his position on the doctrine and then return to evaluating the key talking points he lays out in defense of his definition.
Beginning in chapter 14, McElroy mocks the concept of what he calls “The original Bible.” That “original Bible” is an imaginary book, he claims, because the “original autographs” which allegedly comprise the “original Bible” were never gathered into A BOOK in the first place . In other words, there is no tangible book that contains the authentic original autographs of the Bible anywhere on the planet.
For example, Moses may have made an inspired copy of the tables of stone, but that was 1450 years before Christ. The mythical “original Bible” could not have been “assembled” into one book until AFTER 90 AD when the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation .
Moving into chapter 15, he attempts to define the doctrine of inspiration. Directing his readers to 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16, he builds his doctrine of inspiration around three areas.
First, he notes that Timothy was taught the Scriptures from his childhood. McElroy points out that the Scriptures Timothy read were copies, not the original autographs.
Next he states that the Scriptures Timothy read are described by the present tense: “All Scripture is given by inspiration.” That means the Scriptures are presently inspired or God-breathed. That further means it is not only the original autographs that are inspired, but all the copies, because Timothy read copies, not original autographs.
Then thirdly, it was an inspired book Timothy read. Not just ideas or words, but words written down in a book that can be handled and touched.
He states that the word inspiration is only found in two places (in the KJV of course), here in 2 Timothy 3:16 and then Job 32:8. Job 32:8 states (in the KJV), “understanding is given to men by inspiration of the Almighty.” He then provides the following definition of inspiration,
Inspiration is a method by which the Holy Ghost imparts understanding to men. The inspiration of the Almighty gives you understanding of the Scriptures. It’s a ministry of the Holy Ghost. [McElroy, 242]
Thus, inspiration is not God-breathing out the Scripture, but is God-breathing out a person’s understanding of the Scripture.
In Chapters 16 and 17, McElroy tries to explain how the inspiration of only the original autographs is a recent teaching within the last 150 years or so of church history. It was made up by the early Princeton theologians like Charles Hodge and B.B. Warfield and early Fundamentalists like James Hall Brookes. Before those men, he argues, no one thought that inspiration was only found in the original autographs.
It is truly difficult to know where to start with answering what really amounts to heresy regarding Scripture. In his zeal to defend his KJV idol, McElroy causes his readers to drink a concoction of neo-orthodox postmodern continuationism. Whereas he believes he is defending his commitment to God’s book that Jesus would most certainly use, in truth, he has removed God’s book from the realm of objective authority into subjective uncertainty.
Let me work my way through his presentation to show you what I mean.
First, in chapter 14, he mockingly suggests that non-KJV only folks believe in an imaginary Bible since the so-called original autographs of that Bible were never gathered into A BOOK” (all CAPS). Those evangelicals “believe that the words of God are found in the multiplicity of extant manuscripts” and states “Too bad the Lord never saw fit to assemble them into a printed book we believe in.”
Those are some profoundly ridiculous comments, because the Bible is clear that God’s Word was gathered into one document, especially what we know as the OT. Take for example Luke 4:17 when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah. God’s Word had been “assembled” into a collection of scrolls. They may not be books with pages, but it’s the same idea. Even Timothy had access to Scriptures as we see in 2 Timothy 3, so God’s Word had to have been assembled into a “book.”
Additionally, we know from church history that early Christians collected the letters from the apostles that became the canon of our NT into portfolios. Paul’s letters, for instance, would be collected and circulated together from church to church. The same happened for the Gospels.
McElroy is either seriously uninformed about the formation of the early Christian canon, or he is intentionally re-writing the facts to boost his KJVO apologetic. The reality of those multiplicity of extant manuscripts that he ridicules testify against him, because there is absolutely no two manuscripts that are the same. At some point, anyone who wants to make a copy or a translation of those copies from Hebrew and Greek into English (you know, gather all those originals into one BOOK) has to make an educated determination which of those extant manuscripts best reflects what the prophets and apostles originally wrote.
Secondly, he draws our attention to 2 Timothy 3:15 and 16. Here he begins some of his more gratuitously ignorant claims he makes in these chapters. First is the word “is” in verse 16 when Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired.” McElroy writes, “Note, the operative word “IS” – present tense – which means the Scripture “IS” presently either “God-breathed” or “inspired” according to all the versions” .
What he doesn’t tell his readers is that the word “is” wasn’t written by the Apostle Paul. In fact, there isn’t anything in the present tense in 2 Timothy 3:16. The word “is” is certainly implied, but the conclusion McElroy wants to make from it is concocted from his reading of the KJV. There, the translators, like all English translators, insert the word “is,” but if you check a KJV, the word is italicized, meaning, the translators are alerting the English reader that the word isn’t a part of the original text.
McElroy then does a cross-reference to the second time he says the word “inspiration” appears in the Bible (KJV), Job 32:8 that reads, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” He then makes the wildly absurd assertion that inspiration is likened unto one’s understanding of God. He goes on to explain that the context of 2 Timothy 3:16 is present tense, and just like the Lord gave Timothy a book he as given us a book (KJV) so that we can become wise unto salvation.
What??? There is no explanation as to why that book has to be the KJV. It’s just assumed that it is. It truly is a bizarre logic. But what is worse is how McElroy’s view of inspiration tosses the authority of Scripture into the realm of subjectivity.
If inspiration is defined as God giving a person the understanding to know God’s book, by what means does that person judge whether his understanding is correct? How does he know it is from God? How exactly is his understanding confirmed to him? Does he feel compelled to believe the Scripture? Does he have burning in the bosom? Is it a neo-orthodox view of inspiration that says if the Scriptures become meaningful for a person well then they are inspired?
I have encountered that kind of nonsense regularly from charismatics who allow their personal experience/feelings to trump the teaching of the objective Word. If that is how we define what it means to have God’s Word breathed out, how do we distinguish from all the various interpretations of particular passages that lead to all sorts of diverse opinions among those who claim to be Christians? His position boils down to the same things the various writers for Charisma Online believe about the Bible.
Lastly, in chapters 17 and 18, we witness McElroy’s ironic dependence upon liberal, higher-critical views of Scripture in support of his KJVO apologetic. Along with positive references of Bart Ehrman, he cites favorably Ernest Sandeen, who wrote a book entitled The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism. In that book, Sandeen claims that the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, especially the idea of inerrant and inspired autographs but errant copies, were never really affirmed as Christian doctrine until the Princetonian theology of Hodge and Warfield. The doctrine of inerrant and inspired autographs but errant copies, concludes Sandeen, was a view unique to Warfield who developed it because of an unnecessary overreaction to encroaching modernism.
Seizing upon Sandeen’s material, McElroy uses it to bolster his KJV onlyism and the subjective definition of inspiration. However, as I pointed out in the fifth review of this book, the concept of inerrant autographs but errant copies was not original to Warfield. Many of the early church fathers, and especially the Reformers, tied inerrancy to the original autographs of Scripture and argued if there are errors, it is due to poor copying by scribes or bad translations by translators.
John Woodbridge and Randall Balmer wrote a chapter for the book Scripture and Truth called “The Princetonians and Biblical Authority: An Assessment of the Ernest Sandeen Proposal.” In it, they thoroughly dismantle Sandeen’s thesis and demonstrate rather clearly the complete opposite of what he, and by extension, McElroy, is arguing regarding the “original autographs.” Warfield was merely documenting the historic Christian view of Scripture; he was hardly creating anything novel.
Is he even aware of that book and their critique of Sandeen? Or does his two chapters represent yet another example of the sloppy, lazy research found in KJVO apologetics intentionally avoiding those uncomfortable truths that expose their foolish views of the Bible?
Wrapping it Up
As I bring my reviews to a close, there is certainly something to say about all the historical revisionism, egregious textual errors, and overall terrible teaching found in his presentation that I have documented.
But what I find absolutely mystifying is how a guy who runs in the circles of Independent, Fundamental Baptists would advocate the levels of skepticism he does regarding Scripture. In my opinion, that is the most troubling portion of his entire book. You cannot possibly insist that God’s Word is only found in one unique, 17th century English translation and then turn around and say we have no idea where it came from because no one knows where to find the original autographs.
Rather than dealing with the crushing weight the historical evidence and textual criticisms proves about our inspired and infallible Bible, McElroy instead appeals to the criticisms developed by counter-Reformation Catholics who attacked the authority of Scripture. He then appeals to apostates like Bart Ehrman and other nit-picky, pseudo-evangelicals who constantly attempt to overthrow the authority of God’s Word.
If a KJV onlyist has to call upon hostile witnesses to testify on his behalf in order to safeguard his apologetics, his apologetics aren’t worth defending.