An Analysis of Dr. D.A. Waite’s King James Only Seminar, Slides #1-4: The Root of the King James Only Position

dbsemblemMy personal view on the King James Only position is that it is rooted in a misconception about the place of biblical inerrancy in Christian doctrine. Its basic premise is: Christianity stands or falls on biblical inerrancy. 

To begin his seminar, Dr. Waite began with this very premise. The first slide in his presentation represents the vast majority of KJVO defense works. He begins by quoting Satan in the garden, “Yea, hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1). The audience is told that the very first question in the Bible deals with Satan questioning the words of God. This idea corresponds directly with my theory, and provides the basis for the rest of his argumentation. If any word in the scriptures is questioned on its authenticity, it is equivalent to the work of Satan. Therefore, we must have a Bible that contains all of God’s words, without any question, if we are to believe the Christian message.

The problem with this underlying idea is that Satan was not questioning the words of God, as in His choice of nouns and verbs used to convey the idea. He questioned the message. Satan is opposed to the message God has given to man. No where in the Bible is it said that Satan is consenting to God’s message so long as the words are rearranged or a few words are missing. Upon examination of the portion of scripture used, one quickly finds that meaning is Satan’s intended target, not words:

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (KJV)

The serpent begins his conversation with Eve with a question that provoked her to reiterate God’s initial command. He seems to have purposely misrepresented God’s command in order to achieve a certain response. God restricted one tree, but he asked as if every tree was forbidden. It would be tantamount to a mother asking her son, “Did daddy tell you to play with that ball in the house?” The question is a bit rhetorical. The serpent knew the answer. He wanted to contradict the message, as we shall see.

Just as the little boy can respond, “no, mommy, daddy said I should never play ball in the house,” Eve responded with what God had told her and Adam concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in a way that would satisfy the serpent’s question.  But something very significant must be pointed out here. First, let’s see what God actually did say:

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  (KJV)

The words God actually said are recorded above. Here’s what Eve said that God said:

Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 

Both passages are equal, for the most part. Eve accurately restated God’s command: they may eat the fruit of any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden. But the problem that throws off Waite’s position is that Eve paraphrased the Lord. She did not quote Him word-for-word. She did not say “freely” while God did and she said “fruit” while God did not. God used the word “surely” concerning the result of disobedience while Eve only said, “lest ye die.”  She even added the phrase, “neither shall ye touch it.” We did not see that in Genesis 2. Perhaps God did say it but it was not recorded. Perhaps Eve added it for any number of reasons. The point is, though, that she didn’t reply with all the words. There was no exactness in Eve’s own reiteration of God’s command. This plays a major role in the KJVO logical construct because, eventually, it turns out to be exactness or nothing.

Despite her rewording of God’s command, the point was well made. Eve essentially gave back the Word of God to the serpent. Why is there no fuss that she did not quote God exactly? This is just the first of many examples all throughout scripture in which prophets reiterate what God told them to say, yet in a slightly different fashion than God had told them. How slight? About as slight as the differences between modern versions and the King James. Exactness cannot be a requirement for a sentence to be considered the Word of God. I bring this up because the reason Waite brings up Satan’s question is to lay the foundation for the idea that anything that is not exact cannot be the Word of God. He will not allow for a few differences between Bible versions but glosses over the fact that Eve, as well as many prophets, weren’t exact when they quoted God, yet their preaching is still considered the Word of the Lord. For Eve in particular, she conveyed God’s message with accuracy.

Because of her accurate understanding and explanation of God’s command, Satan was able to do that which he intended in the first place – cause doubt by twisting God’s Word. In this instance, twisting seems hardly the right choice of word for what he did, however. He blatantly contradicted God’s message. Satan is the father of lies and this account records nothing different:

Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 

So what did Satan do? He lied, plain and simple. He directly contradicted what God said, and used enticing words to tempt Eve to disobey God. Nothing in this sad account of the Fall has anything to do with the exactness of God’s words or even the remotest connection with the text of scripture. It is one of the most common starting points for the defense of the King James Only position, but it is self-defeating as well as taken completely out of context.

Waite builds on this false premise with his next passage, Psalm 11:3:

Psalm 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? 

Again, we see my theory pop its head in this statement: “the FOUNDATION of ALL DOCTRINE is the BIBLE. Having the RIGHT BIBLE is critically IMPORTANT!!” (emphasis definitely his). Waite’s errors are both exegetical and practical. One thing that is hardly used in KJVO literature is meaningful exegesis of the passages used to support it. Psalm 11 has nothing to do with the text of scripture. One may seek to use it as a secondary application, but he cannot build a doctrine upon it. The context of Psalm 11 deals with trusting the Lord in the face of attacks from enemies. These enemies are ready to destroy the righteous. If the righteous has no foundation, how can he stand against these enemies? The Jamieson- Fausett-Brown commentary says:

Literally, “The foundations (that is, of good order and law) will be destroyed, what has the righteous done (to sustain them)?” All his efforts have failed. (JFB, Psalm 11:3)

As is the case with most KJVO proof-texts, meaningful exegesis destroys the argument. In order for Waite to succeed here, he has to first demonstrate how this verse can be interpreted his way while being consistent with the context. Next, he has to demonstrate how his interpretation connects with his statement about the Bible being the foundation of all doctrine. Notice, this very strong statement is not backed up by a scriptural reference. It is assumed. 

The practical error in this argument is found in the fact that there exists no evidence to back up the accusation. By saying we need the “right Bible”, Waite implies that use of the wrong Bible will only lead to false doctrine. Why, then, do those using a modern version have down-the-line orthodox doctrine? Why, then, do some using the King James Version preach false doctrine? Could it be because false doctrine is not tied to a particular reading of a passage but on other factors including faulty hermeneutics, presuppositions, or bad influences? If the Bible is the foundation of all doctrine, and having the “right” Bible is essential to upholding this doctrine, one can only assume that using the wrong Bible will always lead to false doctrine and using the right one will always lead to right doctrine. Yet, this is demonstrably not the case. The biggest problem in this argument is that the connection between modern versions and false doctrine is non existent. No King James Onlyist, to my knowledge, has ever demonstrated that a certain false doctrine is tied to a reading particular to a version other than the King James. Guilt-by-association does not help because it cuts both ways. However, I would love to see an example of how a church or individual literally changed their statement of faith on the basis of switching from the King James. This simply does not happen. It is made obvious when the only people pointing out the alleged heresy in the modern versions are those who reject them. If there were such a connection, orthodox Christians should be leaving modern-version-using churches and denominations in droves with testimonies exposing how their allegiance to a different version led to such heresy. On the contrary, heresy has been around since the first century and will always be with us. It is not demonstrable to say it is a result of a different Bible version.

Somewhere between his 4th and 5th slide, Waite made the statement, “many people don’t believe God preserved His Word.” The “many people” to which he referred means those who are not King James Only. Anyone familiar with the debate knows this is a straw-man. King James Onlyists always create for themselves the upper hand in this area because they deem any position on preservation different from their’s a non-affirmation of preservation. It is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the position. James White, D.A. Carson, Doug Kutilek, James Price, and other prominent writers who have written against the KJVO position have stated clearly that they  believe in preservation. The question for them is not whether or not God preserved His Word, but how. No where does God reveal how He would do so. He does not say that His Word would be preserved and only one family of churches will have it; nor does He say what text-type is the true one; nor does He promise it to be preserved in any one version. This has been pointed out many, many times, but the KJVOnlyist will always claim this is a “denial of preservation.” My frustration with this, as a Christian, is that my brethren are not being fair. I firmly believe that the Word of God endures forever. I just believe it differently than my King James Only brethren. Please, stop claiming that we on the other side do not believe in preservation.

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22 comments so far

  1. Philip D on

    Damien, thanks for all of your time and thought on this. It’s good stuff. Every claim to preservation in the Bible can be applied to modern versions, as well–we believe God preserved His “message”. He chose to use people to do this, just as He chose to use people to reach the world. We’re not perfect, but it just shows God’s awesome power that He is able to use us to preserve His message through a number of means… Primitive writing tools… Text criticism… Translation… When you honestly consider the variations in the text, this is the only kind of preservation that makes sense, and it’s far more wonderful than the pie in the sky word-for-word preservation of KJVO-ism.

  2. fundyreformed on

    Damien, my thanks too. Waite’s view probably represents the widest possible swath of KJV Only proponents. Your analysis is good.

    Some will point out that Eve added to God’s words by saying, “neither shall ye touch it”. And make a point of that indicating that her fall is tied somehow to that. That’s pure speculation though. Adam could have asked her not to touch it, or they could have just thought it makes sense not to play with fire….

    Great piece, looking forward to the rest of the analysis.

  3. Kent Brandenburg on

    Bob,

    What is speculative is your speculation. God didn’t say “neither shall ye touch it” so it is an addition to what God said. Someone isn’t speculating when he bases what he believes on what Scripture actually says. You are speculating that Adam said something to Eve or that they made up an extra biblical standard to help them not eat.

    DT,

    God said, “thou” when He talked to Adam, and Eve said, “we.” You missed that point. God said, “thou mayest freely eat,” and Eve said, “we may eat.” So when Eve applied God’s Word to herself, she said, “we,” when God said, “thou.”

    Of course, to be more specific, you should have considered what Eve said after the words “God hath said.”

    I don’t see how this proves anything about the validity of changing the words of Scripture. It seems it does just the opposite.

  4. Damien T Garofalo on

    Obviously Bob threw in some speculation as well, that’s true. and I’m sure he’d agree. But to say that what’s recorded is the only thing God said is just as speculative. This is why I say that God’s Word transcends the writings. The scriptures don’t represent everything God ever said. Though we don’t exactly know where Eve got the phrase she added, we also can’t be so sure that what she said wasn’t an accurate representation of what God said.

    The point I’m trying to prove is that, to say Satan’s questioning of God is related to the words doesn’t hold because Eve did the same thing. The sin of Satan is that he contradicted God’s message. God said they would die, Satan said they would not.

  5. fundyreformed on

    Eve’s fall being tied to her addition to God’s Words is speculation. The idea that Adam told her those words or she had an extra biblical standard is speculation.

    She did expand God’s words when she quoted them. To say this indicates she was in line with Satan’s program goes beyond the realm of our knowledge. We do know Satan contradicted God’s message. He aimed to get Eve to sin, and Eve’s recalling God’s message was not enough for her to choose good versus evil.

  6. Kent Brandenburg on

    Wow. This seems like a scorched earth method to defeat Waite’s position. What hermeneutic do we use that says that Eve didn’t add to what God said? We know what God said and Eve added to it. The only basis for not saying so is speculation or silence. Silence should not be a basis of an argument. There is no silence as a basis for her adding. She added.

    Should we make a theological point from her additions? Yes. Don’t add. Adding will get you into trouble. She added and got into trouble.

    If we try to figure out why, then we might go into speculation, but I don’t think that it is as serious to speculate that direction. She wanted to eat of that tree and was discontent. People who are discontent feel ripped off. They exaggerate God-ordained standards. This is a reasonable speculation based on everything that happened.

  7. Damien T Garofalo on

    Ok, my Eve argument is rather weak. I said there was no fuss about what she said, but then again there is. I was wrong.

    I’m not sure this has too much bearing on the overall point though. Waite uses the Satan situation to tie into the textual/version situation. My point is that Satan’s “yea, hath God said?” is not the same as textual variation. New versions based on textual variants are not Satanically questioning or contradicting the message like the serpent did in the garden. But Waite and others attempt to make this connection. I think it’s a wrong starting point. And in the light of the “intact” idea, how Eve, or any prophet, repeats God’s commands should bring an interesting point.

    It comes down to what one believes Satan was doing. He added the word “not” to “shall surely die.” But what is that? Is it an attack on the words in the sense of nouns and verbs with a later application for textual variation and translational differences? Or is it a blatant attack on the message and purpose of God? I think the latter is more obvious.

    No matter the reason for Eve’s addition, I don’t think we can say that’s what got her into trouble. Satan takes the phrase “lest ye die” and twists that. “Neither shall ye touch it” really has no bearing on the entire account. It seems she would have gotten into trouble whether or not she used the phrase. One thing’s for sure, though. When I get to Heaven, I’m going to ask why she did.

  8. Kent on

    I’m quite aware, DT, that it is possible that you won’t like my disagreeing, but I do and it isn’t personal. It only gets personal when someone uses derogatory language. I say that as a preface to say that I’m interested in the arguments alone.

    Changing the words affects doctrine. That is a given that Daniel Wallace and James White both accede to when challenged by Bart Ehrman. They act like variants don’t matter, but then they talk about variants all the time. Ehrman calls them on it. I’m not on Ehrman’s side, as if I need to say that, but I’ve found that I do. Not only does it change doctrine, but affects authority. I’ve dealt with that at my blog. It also relates to the historic belief in the infallibility of scripture, which Warfield changed to the inerrancy of scripture to shift the emphasis of this historic doctrine. So Satan is interested in the minute changes I believe. And when a few changes don’t matter, then a few more won’t matter. So I believe Waite’s point stands.

  9. Damien T Garofalo on

    Ok well I’m glad you like your disagreeing. I really have no clue as to what you’re responding in your preface, but I’m equally interested in arguments. I agree that none of this should be personal. . .I never took it that way..

    I think your statement about Wallace and White and variants is over generalized. They say variants don’t affect doctrine. Ehrman himself has said that despite the variants, the NT is the most veracious and reliable document of its kind, and White called him out on that. There’s a difference between calling variants the work of Satan, poisonous, heretical, etc, (to which guys like Wallace and White have to respond, hence the variants-don’t-affect-doctrine position) and the role of variants in textual transmission and editing texts to be more precise to the original.

    Yes, Satan can be interested in minute changes but only when it affects meaning that changes doctrine, otherwise its useless. The KJV says God “commendeth” his love toward us, other versions read God “shows” His love toward us. Same meaning, same doctrine, different translation. In Acts 3, the KJV says His “son” Jesus, while modern versions read His “servant” Jesus. Different word, different meaning, but no doctrine is changed. One teaches the sonship of Christ, which is true. The other, the “servant of the Lord” (OT parallel) which is also true. John 1:18, the KJV says “only begotten Son”, modern versions read “only God.” Different words based on different text, but both are true. If Satan were behind any of these, they would teach false doctrine. So what does Eve saying “neither shall ye touch it” bring to the table? It has yet to be proved that she was either right or wrong in saying it. The Bible gives no indication that adding that phrase was the root of her troubles. Satan is behind works that are opposed to God. His changing of (or lying about) God’s Word is akin to the Book of Mormon, the NWT, the Koran, etc., not the modern versions of the Bible.

  10. Kent Brandenburg on

    So adding to God’s Word, like Eve did, that’s no problem with you?

  11. Damien T Garofalo on

    No, of course it’s a problem. That’s a blatant scriptural teaching, both in the Old and New Testament.

    What I’m saying is that we don’t know for sure what compelled Eve to add that phrase. It’s possible she added it out of her own reasoning, which would be wrong, but I think it’s still possible that she was reiterating something God may have said but was not recorded. The Bible simply does not say either one, nor does it indicate that the Fall was a result of that phrase. We don’t know what affect it had overall. But I’m not sure how much this brings to the table, as I’ve admitted that this scutinization of Eve was a weak argument on my part.

    I’m also not saying that wrong variants are ok. John 1:18, for example, has two main variants that I’ve pointed out. If “Son” is correct, then “God” is wrong, or vice versa. Not to say that one or the other was added by malicious intent or Satanic influence. We rejoice that both teach Truth, though that doesn’t justify that one must be wrong.

    The whole point is that Waite’s connection between what happened in the garden and textual variation is wrong, I believe. Textual variation, and consequently Bible versions, exist all throughout history. To say that these things are an undermining of God’s truth equivalent to Satan blatantly contradicting God’s Word in the garden is not true. I would even say textual criticism exists to do the opposite of just that.

  12. Reforming Baptist on

    KB said: “God said, “thou” when He talked to Adam, and Eve said, “we.” You missed that point. God said, “thou mayest freely eat,” and Eve said, “we may eat.” So when Eve applied God’s Word to herself, she said, “we,” when God said, “thou.”

    Maybe because Eve hadn’t been created yet. So, as soon as she was created, “thou” automatically meant “we”.

  13. Reforming Baptist on

    KB said: What hermeneutic do we use that says that Eve didn’t add to what God said? We know what God said and Eve added to it. The only basis for not saying so is speculation or silence. Silence should not be a basis of an argument. There is no silence as a basis for her adding. She added.

    Should we make a theological point from her additions? Yes. Don’t add. Adding will get you into trouble. She added and got into trouble.

    RB – Then James added to scripture too when he said:
    James 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

    The phrase “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” can’t be found anywhere else in the Bible…at least not word for word.

  14. Reforming Baptist on

    KB -So adding to God’s Word, like Eve did, that’s no problem with you?

    RB – Like Damien said, we’re not sure if God actually said that or not, and if her adding words was a sin, she would have fallen before having eaten the forbidden fruit.

  15. Kent Brandenburg on

    Will,

    Unfortunately, I was being facetious, tongue-in-cheek on this one:

    “God said, “thou” when He talked to Adam, and Eve said, “we.” You missed that point. God said, “thou mayest freely eat,” and Eve said, “we may eat.” So when Eve applied God’s Word to herself, she said, “we,” when God said, “thou.”

    I was making a fake argument.

  16. Kent Brandenburg on

    On the James passage, that fits nicely with the idea of targumming that I have so often mentioned.

    I don’t care that much about the Eve thing, except that I think there is some preaching there about her discontent that is valid.

    I get DT’s point though. Variants don’t matter unless they result in mistakes.

  17. Kent Brandenburg on

    Oh, and that point, striving to make it is a must for a MVO guy since the there are thousands of differences between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. They don’t matter, these changes. If the scribes only knew. Carefulness wasn’t that important. Key—just go after the essence of the teaching, since God wanted His concepts kept.

  18. Damien T Garofalo on

    My point is not that variants don’t matter, it’s that variants that teach no false doctrine cannot be attributed to the work of Satan. I’m speaking specifically of Waite’s argument and the connection that he and others attempt to make.

    Also, I don’t see that targum here just as much as it’s not in Luke 4. The fact that both Luke and James tell us what the scripture says dispells that off the bat. If targumming occurred, then it wasn’t written in the scriptures.

    Thousands of differences between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Thousands among the Byzatine platform. Differences between editiions of the TR. Differences between versions throughout history. That’s the record of the histroy of textual transmission. A lot more than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are considered in the weighing of evidence, including number, age, geographic dispersion, and internal evidence. I praise God that through all of this, the Word is still the Word – and not just the ‘essence’, as in some general message, but in the details as well. It’s still a miracle the scriptures have been preserved the way they are.

  19. Damien T Garofalo on

    And Will, you bring up a good point.

    Though I wouldn’t be dogmatic about this, Eve hadn’t sinned yet. So how could her adding a phrase be wrong? We’re also dealing with someone who was much more capable of remembering than we’ll be until glory. So if she was sinning by adding that phrase, that was the Fall of man. But we know it was when she ate the fruit. So perhaps the phrase was added as an accurate representation of what God said.

  20. fundyreformed on

    The targumming point seems so convenient. It seems your position is that the text of Scripture, words, spelling and grammar — all that is extremely important. The smallest variants from the received text matter. Then you turn around and say the literal, plain meaning of the following two texts should be explained away.

    Luke 4:17b “…And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,”

    James 4:5 “…the scripture saith in vain…”

    The Luke text particularly in the Greek uses the perfect passive participle of grapho (to write), from which we get scripture (graphe). As your book makes emphasizes, this is the perfect passive form which indicates that the words have been preserved. So the words preserved apparently are not Hebrew Masoretic Text words as Luke 4:18ff. makes clear.

    The very source you quoted on your blog post about targumming mentioned that they first read the Scripture, then they gave the sense. Luke 4 describes Christ reading the Scripture and quotes the Scripture read. Then it has Him giving the sense, and he sits down.

  21. ModernBibleReader on

    Please find a copy of “Which Bible?” and you’ll see where the KJV only position comes from. All of their main arguments come from this book. (W+H are evil, the good v bad text traditions, etc.) The book was edited by DA Waite’s mentor, David Otis Fuller. About half the book is a reprint of Benjamin Wilkinson’s book (copyright never renewed, so it is available online) “Our Authorized Bible Vindicated.” Apparently, an earlier book by JJ Ray is just a reprint of this book, but I haven’t found that. Please note Wilkinson is a Seventh Day Adventist. Fuller never mentions this, and even deletes footnotes that relate to EG White. The book (back then) was so obscure that no one knew who Wilkinson was. This is not the totality of the KJV only movement, but every important modern talking point comes from this book. If you take away the SDA material, there’s not much left.

    Would you put a fox in charge of your hen coop? Would you put a thief in charge of your bank? Would you put a pedophile in charge of your children? Would you put someone who misled people about the cultic origins of his material in charge of Bible preservation?

    (PS: It’s also ironic that Waite, who wrote a paper taking issue with limited atonement — so he must be a universalist, or believe God is not omnipotent — is talking about proper doctrine. Maybe the fox is in charge of the hen coop?)

  22. Robert L. Scofield on

    Ref. last April 2, 2009 comment: It wasn’t when she ate the fruit, it was when Adam ate the fruit the whole human race still in him was lost. Posterity comes from the man. I know this opens a whole new can of worms, though…did she sin when she ate, or when she added, if she added? etc.


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