We believe in the Inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that God gave us His word in the original manuscripts, and that they are our authority for salvation, life, and service. We look to them as our authority.
We are Baptists, and are of “baptistic” doctrine and practice, and therefore we believe highly in the authority of the Word of God over our life and ministry. Having said that, as Baptists, we believe in soul liberty (God gives each individual a certain amount of latitude in making decisions in his own life, and God will speak directly to the individual in this) and in the priesthood of the believer, that likewise directs our focus on God using each individual believer’s understanding to come to God’s will. These positions are not easy to maintain (especially if you are a pastor working with a group of people), The tendency is to take a guru attitude and demand that everybody be cookie cutter copies of the pastor, and the pastor takes the same attitude towards some figure in Christianity, copying that person.
Our position is therefore that we have to insist that (1) all absolute doctrines that we demand in those we fellowship with and with our members be doctrines that are clearly presented in Scripture without any reasonable doubt. (2) any position, practice, or belief that is not clearly (beyond reasonable doubt) presented in Scripture has to be placed in an area of individual “convictions” (which are not bad in themselves). We believe that convictions cannot be made doctrine, because there is some reasonable doubt, and most obviously good, godly men of God differ on these points.
Our Position on Bible Versions
- We believe in the inspiration of the Bible.
- We use the King James Version in English.
- We use the Reina Valera 1960 version in Spanish.
- We reject “loosely” translated versions such as Good News for Modern Man, Philips version, New International Version, as unacceptable personal Bibles for believers.
Notes and Explanations: I have no problem with a pastor having and using these loosely translated versions (like the NIV, or Philips versions) in his own study as references. Most were intended as a study help in the form of an expanded translation more like a comment than a personal study Bible. I also am of the opinion that these types of translations are not all orthodox, in that the translators have non-fundamentalistic positions. But while I, as a pastor and missionary, do not recommend the common “Christian in the pew” to use or consult these Bible versions, other pastors may use them in their own personal study, and they are under God’s direction to do what God directs them to do in their ministry. I believe any pastor has the right to set a specific Bible version as the official Bible version of their church, especially for things like sermons, and joint reading of Scripture. But this does not mean that I will refrain from criticizing poor Bible translations, or poorly translated passages in any version (KJV included).
Concerning the KJV controversy
Our position on the English Bible
I do not argue for the KJV as the only Bible version that an obedient Christian can use. I am a missionary, and we speak Spanish, and I have to be consistent in my position “on both sides of the border”. I will not insist that my people have to learn Elizabethan English in order “to have God’s word.” The Spanish Bible we use comes from a version translated before the KJV, and the KJV translators used the Spanish version as a collaboration version (along with the German Martin Luther version, and Louis’ French version). That being that case, the Spanish Bible was of value to the KJV translators, and there was not and should not be a competition between these Bibles.
God did not give us the Bible in the King James English but in Greek and Hebrew. The authority is there, and every language you step the Bible through makes another factor for errors, changes, and other things to enter into. That being the case, I cannot insist on the KJV version as many people do, because no verse in my KJV Bible tells me nor gives me authority to do so. As a personal conviction, it is fine for others to have that conviction, as long as they understand that it is a conviction but not something that they can force on other people. I would say I could make a case for every English speaker using the KJV to learn Greek and Hebrew and only use the Textus Receptus in its original language, and never again use an English Bible version. People would accuse me of being extreme. The matter resolves itself correctly, biblically, only when we return to Scripture, and nowhere in any KJV Bible is the KJV version mentioned specifically in a chapter and verse of the Bible. That being the case, I disagree with people who exalt this matter over doctrines like the atonement of Christ, repentance, etc. As a preacher, I preach the Word of God, and only in a minor way touch any matters of Christian conviction. My position is very simply that we (Pastors of local churches) should have a single version that we use in our services and sermons, and that version should be decided upon after a lot of study and prayer, and that should be what is offered to our church family as the official version of our church. If I was a pastor in an English speaking place, with English speaking church members and services, I would recommend the KJV as that official Bible version for our church. I also only preach in English from the KJV.
Our Position on the Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts
It is my understanding that there are two “theories ” (logical presentations to explain reality) about the transmission of the Bible through the years. One is the Textus Receptus group which say that the majority of Christians at one point in time decided that these ancient manuscripts ARE OUR BIBLE. The other theory is represented by Westcott and Hort in their theory that the oldest manuscript that can be found is usually the most reliable. First of all I note that God did not engrave our Bible on stone tablets as He did with the 10 commandments (which we don’t have today either). The reality of life is that we don’t have the originals, and that we have many copies which differ slightly between one and another. I reject both of the above mentioned theories as being the absolute answer to the reality of life.
Problems with the Textus Receptus. First of all, since when are the doctrines and positions of a Fundamental Baptist subjected to a popularity contest? That is just a wrong (devilish) concept to begin with. Go with the majority of the people, and you will always end up in the devils crowd. Secondly, who was this majority that decided that these manuscripts were the only viable Word of God? Didn’t this happen under Pope Constantine? Didn’t he burn other Bible manuscripts like so many other similar acts of Catholicism? They also burned fundamental Bible-believing Christians at the same time that they burned these other manuscripts in order to enforce their authority. Smells rotten there. In the end analysis (my opinion), the Textus Receptus is a conglomeration of manuscripts, and there is no single ancient manuscript that is exactly the Textus Receptus, i.e. the currently accepted Textus Receptus is not an exact text from any single ancient manuscript. I detest the KJV only argument that other Bibles “take out” real Bible words from their versions. The KJV is a conglomeration of manuscripts, therefore it usually includes all variants, and in Revelation 22:18-19…
Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Therefore this argument is senseless, because (1) the rule of faith is not the KJV by default. You have to establish a rule or absolute by some criteria before you can judge other things by it. (2) If the KJV added to the Bible, then it is in error just as all the other Bible versions that KJVers criticize. The prohibition is to “add to” first, and then “take away”. So you cannot say all Bibles that take away are wrong if your version added to. (3) The KJV position doesn’t have a valid, biblical criteria for judging what is God’s Word, i.e. what makes the Textus Receptus what we accept? There are no verses that state that the Textus Receptus “IS IT”. There are no verses that give biblical command to accept a particular biblical translation theory, and majority rules is not an acceptable criteria to me when the majority is the Roman Catholic Church, and a Roman Pope. Although I use the KJV because of its literalness and faithfulness to accurately represent the Greek and Hebrew, I do not accept the arguments some people put forth for the KJV as a litmus test of orthodoxy, i.e. KJV only people are always biblically correct and the rest are not. The logic doesn’t work. The Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses (until they made their own translation), cultists like David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, etcetera all claimed their correctness because they used the King James Bible version. They were KJV only people, and doctrinally they were rotten. Likewise there are good churches and men of God that use the New American Standard Version (my second choice after the KJV because of its same translation liternalness). I would note though that the NIV people (as well as all Christians with the mindset of these loose Bible versions) do seem to have a more lax view towards doctrine and practice, and in general their standards are on the “lower side” (looser standards towards alcohol, worship, dress, etc) of Christianity. I am not comfortable with their standards.
The entire concept and process of the Textus Receptus is to blindly trust Pope Constantine and his Catholic agents to do all the editing of choosing one variant over another and to come to the truth of God. I cannot accept that proposition. Moreover, the logic doesn’t work out. Which of Erasmus’ three editions of the Greek New Testament is the absolute Word of God to the exclusion of all others? Did the 1st one he do have errors which he corrected? Erasmus was a priest his entire life and died a priest. As a link in a chain of transmission of God’s word, I can accept that people of other beliefs would be used of God to get the Bible to me. But I cannot accept that his editing of the ancient Greek texts is all inspired. God doesn’t work that way in my opinion. Moreover, I find the KJV translators a problem to be frank. They were all loyal to King James, an Anglican. They believed in baptism of infants for their salvation (works salvation). Immersion doesn’t fit into that scheme and they translated baptizo with “baptize” instead of immerse. Isn’t that a theological bias that shows up in the KJV?
While the KJV translator’s rule of translation was to be as literal as possible while maintaining correct English, I find that their theory and practice of translation is the best there is (with a few problems which they under order of King James followed the Catholic Bishop’s Bible, i.e. baptizo=baptism, bishop instead of supervisor, apostle instead of missionary). These few places can be correctly explained in the pulpit when the time is right in a sermon.
Problems with the Westcott/Hort Theory. Both the Textus Receptus and Westcott/Hort positions are only theories, and should never have been exalted to major Bible doctrine. The Westcott/Hort position is that the oldest manuscript is the most reliable. But if a copyist made an error copying from the original, and later in that copyist’s life, he found it was an error in his copying and corrected it in many copies, then how does that work? The oldest “that we have” is not necessarily the best variant. While there is a process of textual variants in which all manuscripts up to a certain period have the same thing, and then after a certain point in time, a variant enters, and it would seem logical that the later-in-time variants are most probably not the original reading. Westcott/Hort tried to make a reasoned explanation why one variant is better or worse than another. They reveal their reasoning process while the Textus Receptus group “just trusts blindly” a pope and his men.
My Position. Between the two, I personally would tend towards analyzing each variant for its own worth and value, or problems. But considering that God did NOT give us a finalized manuscript of the Bible like a tablet of the 10 commandments written on it, then we have to make decisions, and although I would see it better to decide for oneself using evidence that others have provided, I would not necessary accept everything Westcott and Hort say, nor what the Pope Constantine edicts for us through the Textus Receptus. I think the best position is that the individual examines the Bible, and serious examines places where there are variants, and analyze with meditation and prayer what God would direct. We only have two options here: (1) decide for ourselves what is correct in a passage by passage basis based on the evidence we have. (2) Let somebody else decide this for us. If we let somebody else decide for us, they should be of the same doctrines and belief and practice as we are, and being Catholic or Anglican would disqualify that person from being correct. (I wonder if all other fundamental Baptists would be unilaterally acceptable to me also). Basically, we have to trust other people who are more studied in translation and textual transmission than we are, and look into individual cases ourselves when necessary. I trust the King James Version because of its literalness in accurately translating from the originals into English. I distrust loose modern Bible translation in general. Having said that, I do not trust the English of any Bible translation over the Greek or Hebrew. I have studies in both languages. I put a higher trust in what the Greek and Hebrew words, grammar, and syntax tell me than anybody’s interpretation or translation of that. A lot of people can translate from the originals correctly, but that does not mean that they were uniquely inspired by God to give us another Bible in English which is more inspired that the original language Bible manuscripts that we have.
From the Preface to the Reader of the 1611 KJV
“Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay,is the word of God.”
My Observation: The KJV translators viewed other competing Bible versions as much equally as “being the Word of God” as their own translation, i.e. they did not exalt their own work to be the only real Bible. Why do people today do that?
“Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is no so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded.”
My Observation: The KJV translators viewed other translations as helpful in giving the student of Scripture a broader understanding, and therefore these other translations in the most part were taken as brothers and sisters, and not enemies. [The translators argue that all previous English translations can rightly be called the Word of God, even though they may contain some “imperfections and blemishes.” Just as the King’s speech which he utters in Parliament is still the King’s speech, though it may be imperfectly translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin; so also in the case of the translation of the Word of God. For translations will never be infallible since they are not like the original manuscripts, which were produced by the apostles and their associates under the influence of inspiration. However, even an imperfect translation like the Septuagint can surely be called the Word of God since it was approved and used by the apostles themselves. Taken from article http://dbts.edu/blog/the-embarrassing-preface-to-the-king-james-version/]
“Yet before we end, we must answer a third cavil and objection of theirs against us, for altering and amending our Translations so oft; wherein truly they deal hardly, and strangely with us. For to whomever was it imputed for a fault (by such as were wise) to go over that which he had done, and to amend it where he saw cause?”
My Observation: The KJV translators saw their own work as having errors and places where they had not chosen the best words and wording in English, and therefore needing updating and correcting. This is not an attitude of inspiration by God, but an honest work of honest men who know and admit that their work may contain errors.
“But, when the fulness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God should come into the world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yea, of all them that were scattered abroad; then lo, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek Prince (Greek for descent and language) even of Ptolemy Philadelph King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal.”
“It is certain, that that Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translations to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing a witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded.”
“The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the Original in many places, neither doeth it come near it, for perspicuity, gravity, majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it…which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and comment it to the Church, if it had been unworthy the appellation and name of the word of God.”
My Observation: The KJV translators noted that the Septuagint was translated before the New Testament, and while it had translation problems which Jesus and the Apostles preferred to fix “on-the-fly” from their own knowledge of Hebrew, they still did not condemn it, but rather used it many times in their preaching and teaching, while on other occasions they translated directly from the Hebrew against the Septuagint. This point should make us understand that the New Testament view and practice of our Lord and the Apostles and disciples was to use it when it agreed with the originals, and correct it from the originals when necessary. My position is this practice and position of Jesus and his followers in the primitive church.
Our Position on the Spanish Bible
Our reality is that we are missionaries, and therefore after due investigation and study I have decided (my conviction) to use the Reina Valera 1960. I disagree with the Bible Society’s position of making money off of the sale of God’s Word, but understand the realities of life, and I am subject to paying for my Bible.
A Final Bible Exhortation
While the Bible does not really endorse (nor negate) any specific Bible translation, it does have some things to say about people who cause division among the brethren over issues that.
Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.