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Verbal Plenary Preservation: Truth or Lies?

(An appeal to honesty and rationality in the bible versions debate)

 

Introduction

In 1957,  Dr. E. J. Young, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary  wrote a book “Thy Word is Truth” to  defend the Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration. In its preface he stated the main reason why he wrote the book.       
 

It is to call men's attention to what the true doctrine of inspiration is and to the necessity of contending for this doctrine in the light of modern hostility to true evangelical Christianity....We who name His name should pray that He will raise up men who will call this generation back to His infallible and inerrant Word and to the Christ of whom that Word speaks[1].
 

Dr. Young touched on two important assumptions  regarding the inspiration of the Bible.

 

(i)  That the authors of the Bible told the truth when they claimed to have written  under the influence of the Holy Spirit; otherwise they would be liars

If, in a matter so fundamental as that of the origin of their words, the writers of Scripture did not tell the truth, how can we even say that they were good men? They were not good men, but deceivers [2]
 

(ii)  That the Christian faith is grounded on historical facts.

History and faith cannot be divorced, the one from the other. Remove its historical basis and faith vanishes. To understand our faith properly we must study history.....Apart from history there is no faith. The separation between the two which some seek to make is impossible. The only faith that can legitimately bear the name Christian is one that is rooted in historical events[3] 

 

The Far Eastern Bible College, once the citadel of Christian Fundamentalism in Singapore, has lost its focus (on proclaiming the Gospel of Christ) and is sending out confusing signals under the influence of its academic dean, Dr. Jeffrey Khoo. In its zeal to defend the Word of God, the Far Eastern Bible College (FEBC) has adopted a new teaching[4] and resorted to questionable methods in promoting it. Historical facts have been blatantly disregarded and contradictions abound in this newly formed crusade to spread the gospel of VPP. This has resulted in the split of some churches within the Bible-Presbyterian movement.

 

The FEBC academic dean misquoted the KJV translators to promote VPP-KJVonlyism

 

In the preface to the KJV(1611), the KJV-translators wrote that the 'meanest translation' of the Bible is the Word of God. Dr. Khoo misquoted the KJV translators to deceive the reader by saying that 'meanest' has to do with 'bad writing style', and not, ' bad translation'

 

It is clear that by the word “meanest” they do not mean “worst” (i.e.“evil in the highest degree”).......Clearly they were not talking about sense but style. By “meanest” they meant poor in literary [5]

 

The truth is that Jeffrey Khoo did not quote the KJV-translators in full. He misquoted them by leaving out the phrase at the end of the sentence.

 

Now to the latter we answer,......we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession ..........is the word of God: as the King’s speech which he uttered in parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace.” [6]

 

When the missing phrase, left out by Jeffrey Khoo, was put back into the sentence the meaning is altogether different. This is shown below

 

Now to the latter we answer,......King’s speech which he uttered in parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, [7]

 

Drawing from the arguments of Dr. E. J. Young, it is deceitful for Dr. Khoo to leave out the phrase so as to mislead Christians into his way of thinking. This action calls into question his intellectual honesty and integrity. Can we trust Dr. Khoo? His theology? His exegesis of the Word of God?   How many people has he led astray? No, whole churches have been misled into believing this new teaching

 

VPP-KJVonlyism make statements that are contradictory.

It is claimed by the FEBC[8] that the preserved Word of God is to be found in the texts underlying the  “Reformation Bibles” and NOT in the “corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts and critical Westcott-Hort texts”

 

What and where are the preserved words of God today? They are the inspired OT Hebrew words and NT Greek words the prophets, ....underlying the Reformation Bibles best represented by the time-tested and time-honoured KJV, and NOT in the corrupted Alexandrian manuscripts and critical Westcott-Hort texts underlying the liberal, ..... modern English versions.

Yet, when it comes to the Chinese Union Version (和合本 ) it is said that

The Chinese Union Version (CUV) is the “Word of God” for the Chinese people today since it is the best, most faithful, most reliable, and most accurate version among the Chinese versions presently[9].

 It is a known fact that the Chinese Union Version[10] is  based on the English Revised Version of Westcott-and-Hort. If the Westcott-and-Hort texts underlying some English bibles was described by FEBC as “corrupt”, how is it that the CUV, a version based on the W-H texts is said to be “the best, most faithful, most reliable, and most accurate version....”?  

With so many qualified academics in the FEBC, this contradiction can easily be spotted. However, in order not to offend  the Chinese congregations such insincere and political statements  are made. Political and contradictory statements are made by politicians to score points and get votes, but coming from the FEBC, a bible college, it simply is unbelievable!

FEBC has rejected the reformed position  that  revelation and miraculous gifts have ceased with the close of the apostolic age.

VPP-KJVonlyism teaches that God used the KJV translators to restore the Original writings of the Bible in 1611 from the available manuscripts. Dr. Khoo liken this event to a “canonisation” of  biblical texts.

In the same way that God worked in history to preserve and identify for us the 27 canonical books of the Greek New Testament, God has also preserved and identified for us the 140,521 inspired words of the Greek New Testament in the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation.....God restored from out of a pure stream of preserved Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the purest Hebrew and Greek Text of all--the Text that underlies our KJV--that accurately reflects the original[11].

Next, Khoo described the 1611-event a miracle; he used the Latin words  providentia extraordinaria (extraordinary providence). He calls it one of the tenets (central doctrine) of VPP:

The “providential” preservation of Scriptures is understood as God’s special and not general providence. Special providence or providentia extraordinaria speaks of God’s miraculous intervention in the events of history.....The divine preservation of the Canon (books) and Text (words) of Scripture comes under God’s special providence. [12]

Prof. Louis Berkhof explained the meaning of providentia extraordinaria[13] and stated its purpose: 

“The distinctive thing in the miraculous deed is that it results from the exercise of the supernatural power of God. .....it is not brought about by secondary causes that operate according to the law of nature....the miracles in Scripture were not performed arbitrarily, but with a definite purpose. They are not mere wonders, exhibitions of power, destined to excite amazement, but have revelational significance. It was by a miracle that God gave us both His special verbal revelation in Scripture, and His supreme factual revelation in Jesus [14].”

There are serious problems with the assertions of VPP-KJVonlyism; they are as follows:

(i)   The KJV-translators were in the process of translating the bible into English  and not restoring Hebrew and Greek texts.

(ii)  The Greek text underlying the KJV did not exist in 1611. F H A Scrivener[15] translated  it about 200 years later using the KJV as the underlying text.

(iii)  How did Jeffrey Khoo know that the perfectly preserved Greek text has 140,521 words? Did the Holy Spirit reveal it to him?

(iv)  By embracing miraculous preservation (providentia extraordinaria) as one of VPP's central doctrine effectively makes the 1611- event a  miracle (since the 1611-event viewed as preservation by FEBC has been classified under God's special providence[16] ). FEBC is.....

(a) ascribing to the KJV translators the same status as the biblical authors ( 2Peter1:19-21). As Prof. Berkhof puts it “It was by a miracle that God gave us both His special verbal revelation in Scripture...”

(b) saying that the KJV has all the characteristics and qualities of the autographs (Original writings)

(c)  rejecting the biblical doctrine  that sign-gifts and revelation has ceased with the close of the apostolic age. As the Bible says in

Jude1:3 “... it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.(KJV)

Jude1:3 “...I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.(NKJV)

The Christian faith delivered to believers is a non-repeatable event. Sign-gifts and biblical revelation has stopped. This is one of the reasons why conservative reformed churches reject the Charismatic movement, their confusing practices of tongues-speaking, healing and subjective interpretation of the Bible.

(d) compromising on its stand against the Charismatic movement. The FEBC has opened  its door to the Charismatic movement.

Conclusion

         We have seen how the FEBC, in particular its academic dean, has not been truthful and is deceitful in its promotion of VPP-KJVonlyism, let alone consider its biblical basis.

         The contradictory statements made by  the FEBC should call into question what the real motives of the FEBC are in their zeal to push for VPP.

         By describing the 1611-event of the KJV translation as “God restored from out of a pure stream of preserved Hebrew and Greek manuscripts...” is at best speculative. This goes against the principle that the Christian faith must be grounded in historical facts. Our faith comes in when we believe the eye-witness accounts described in the Bible. St. Luke, in Luke 1:1 to 4, took great care to record accurately,and follow-up on eye-witnesses accounts.

         Many of those who subscribe to VPP-KJVonlyism put their faith in how FEBC interprets the bible to them. The FEBC will discourage these people from finding out independently but will quote to them Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the ...” But then conveniently forget to tell them that the author of the Hebrews gave at least ten examples of heroes of faith, concluding with Hebrew 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.....”  Similarly, the cloud of witnesses of conservative Biblical scholars conclude that VPP-KJVonlyism is a new teaching which has no biblical basis.

          A grave error of the FEBC is to make the preservation of Scriptures a miraculous phenomenon. They then cunningly devised fables, by claiming that God used the KJV-translators to restore  the autographs of the Bible; and that the perfectly restored New Testament has 140,521 words. By so doing they are advocating post-canonical inspiration and progressive revelation.

         The heart of the VPP-KJVonly issue is the insistence by FEBC that the texts underlying the KJV is identical to the autographa (Originals). They also insist that Christians must have an exact replica of the Originals in their hands[17]. This error is insidiously fed to some BP congregations who have adopted it without knowing the implications. The FEBC then makes VPP a precondition for God to be sovereign (otherwise He is impotent), and also becoming a foundation of the Christian faith. This makes VPP a heresy, to say the least.

         The doctrine of inerrancy applies in the strict sense only to the  autographa[18](originals), but in a derivative sense to copies and translations, that is, to the extent that they reflect the original. What is being affirmed by inerrancy of the autographa is that inspiration did not extend to copyists and translators. There was not the same type of action of the Holy Spirit as was involved in the original writing of the text. Nonetheless, we must reaffirm that the copies and the translations are also the Word of God, to the degree that they preserve the original message and words. At all times we must be aware that God providentially preserves His word from corruption.  With the development of textual science, variant readings between manuscripts are (a) shown to be apparent, (b) due to the copying process, or (c) due to intentional efforts to provide help to the reader's comprehension. The number of passages in the Bible where the reading is in doubt is relatively small; in many of the problem passages there really is no question of the reading.

         It remains for FEBC to argue from the Bible that strict inerrancy of the bible applies to the apographs (copies) as well as the autographa (originals) and not rely on, and  propagate the myth that the KJV translators  restored from available manuscripts an exact replica of the autographa.


[1]    'Thy Word is Truth.' p7, E.J. Young.

[2]    'Thy Word is Truth.' p90, E.J. Young.

[3]    'Thy Word is Truth.' p101, E.J. Young.

[4]    The new teaching is VPP-KJVonlyism (VPP means 'verbal plenary preservation' of  scripture.).  It is the teaching that God restored and preserved the Original manuscripts of the Bible in the KJV bible and/or texts underlying the KJV bible. If He did not do this, he does not deserve to be called God.

[5]    'KJV, Questions & Answers',p12, Jeffrey Khoo

[6]    Jeffrey Khoo deliberately  misquoting the KJV translators in his book “KJV, Questions & Answers”,p12.

[7]    What the KJV translators actually wrote . http://www.angelfire.com/la/prophet1/intro1611kjv.html

[8]    'The VPP of the Sacred Scriptures';   http://www.febc.edu.sg/Verbal%20Plenary%20Preservation.htm

[9]    'The VPP of the sacred scriptures';   http://www.febc.edu.sg/Verbal%20Plenary%20Preservation.htm

[10]  The most famous Chinese translation of the Hebrew Bible is the Chinese Union version(, 和合本). .... translators from all the major denominations of the time came together and worked in co-operation with each other in order to produce the finished work. This translation was commissioned by the Shanghai Missionary Society in 1890 and completed in 1919 by a sixteen-member committee of foreign missionaries, ....The Union translation took the Revised Version of 1885 in English as its source....The Union translation was a great text,The Union translation was a great success since its publication and has been the best selling Chinese Bible ever since. It has been considered not only a popular book for believers and non-believers alike, but also an outstanding scholarly work.  ('A Brief Survey of the History of Chinese Translations of the Hebrew Bible' by Chen Yiyi)

[11]  “The Canonisation and Preservation of Scripture”,by Jeffrey Khoo

[12]  The VPP of the sacred scriptures';   http://www.febc.edu.sg/Verbal%20Plenary%20Preservation.htm

[13]        'Systematic Theology', p176,Louis Berkhof

[14]        'Systematic Theology', p176,p177,Louis Berkhof

[15]  “Who was F H A Scrivener?”  http://www.truth.sg/response/scrivener.htm; 'The Received Text' by GW & DE Anderson

[16]        The divine preservation of the Canon (books) and Text (words) of Scripture comes under God’s special providence.

[17]           An elder from Calvary Pandan BP Church wroteI believe that God has preserved for us today an exact replica (copies) of the original inspired text. If you ask me where it is today, my conviction is that it is the text that is providentially assembled by the KJV translators, i.e. the text underlying the KJB.... To say that it is lost would make God impotent  To say that it is somewhere out there but don’t know where, TO ME it is liken to telling someone that you are sick and there is only one cure and the cure is somewhere out there but I don’t know where”.

[18]    “The Inerrancy of the Autographa”,  Greg L. Bahnsen, http://www.truth.sg/resources/inerrautog.htm