An Analysis of Dr. D.A. Waite’s King James Only Seminar, Slides #37-47: Guilt by Association
Section IV – Guilt by Association (Slides #31-47)
Slides #31 and 32 display the good tree of Bibles and the bad tree, respectively. Again, the problem is that the “good” tree contains Bibles which disagree with each other.
Slide #34 lists four questions that supposedly makes one raise an eyebrow about consulting a modern version. Unfortunately, it is poor logic at its finest – the favorite tactic of King James Onlyism, guilt by association. The reasoning is as follows: since no farmer would put a fox in charge of his chickens, no teller would put a thief in charge of his bank, and no parent would put a pedophile in charge of his children, then no Christian would put a heretic in charge of his Bible.
This interestingly avoids the fact that God is the one who preserves His Word, not man. He is in charge. He determines who will be able to preserve His Word.
Another problem is the double standard used here. If those responsible for modern versions and their underlying texts were “heretics”, what do we consider the KJV translators and those responsible for the TR and MT? First of all, the Masorites who are lauded for their precision rejected Jesus as the Messiah. For the TR, Erasmus was a Roman Catholic priest until he died and Beza was Calvin’s successor at Geneva (an alliance between church and state). King James was responsible for the persecution of non-conformists and for the death of the Baptist Edward Wigtman. The translators were baby-baptizing Anglicans who also advocated persecution for non-conformists. The majority of people that we may thank for the preservation of manuscripts of any kind were Catholic or Eastern Orthodox monks. If guilt by association disqualifies modern versions, it disqualifies the King James Version.
Building on the guilt-by-association tactic, Waite begins to assess the positions and motivations of Westcott and Hort. Most scholars today believe that the personal opinion of Westcott and Hort have little significance, but they remain the biggest targets for King James Only advocates. In slide #36, Waite cites a passage from Introduction to the Greek New Testament in order to prove their “unbelieving methods”:
“The principles of criticism explained in the foregoing section hold good FOR ALL ANCIENT TEXTS preserved in a plurality of documents. In dealing with the text of the New Testament, NO NEW PRINCIPLE WHATEVER IS NEEDED OR LEGITIMATE. . .” (Emphasis most certainly Waite)
This argument also makes its rounds in other typical KJVO works. The reasoning is, since textual critics employ the same methods to the Bible as they do to other ancient documents, this proves that they are unbelieving. In other words, they only treat the Bible like “any other book.”
What the King James Onlyist fails to realize is that the textual methods applied to secular books actually helps the testimony of the Bible. That is, when applying the same methods of textual criticism to the Bible as one would to another source, such as Homer or the Gallic Wars, he finds that the Bible’s accuracy far supercedes that of any work of its kind and age. What scholars like Westcott and Hort, or contemporary scholars like Dan Wallace, have recognized is that one does not need to treat the Bible any differently in order to find out it has an outstanding testimony. This kind of knowledge is very encouraging to the Christian, especially in the face of the Bart Ehrmans of the world who use the textual problems as a basis for skepticism. Unfortunately, the KJVonlyist misunderstands this and does not allow his followers to see the beauty of the Bible through its true history. Yet, many in the King James Only crowd have no problem with creation science, which uses the same means of science employed by the unbelieving crowd, just with different conclusions. Although the creation scientist begins a priori that the world was created by God, he still uses biology, chemistry, botany, zoology, and geology when studying the creation.
Beginning in slide #37, Waite seeks to slander Westcott and Hort by using some of the things they have said. While I believe that their personal opinions contribute very little to the debate, especially in light of the fact that it cuts both ways, I still think we need to point out where Waite misrepresents them.
On the issue of infallibility, Waite quotes Westcott:
“My dear Hort-. . .For I too ‘MUST DISCLAIM SETTING FORTH INFALLIBILITY’ in front of my convictions. . . . at present I find the presumption in favour of the absolute truth – I REJECT THE WORD INFALLIBILITY – OF HOLY SCRIPTURE overwhelmingly.” (emphasis Waite, for sure)
Sounds like Westcott rejected infallibility, no? Unfortunately, the above quote is blatantly distorted to appear so (the title of the slide is “Westcott’s denial of the infallibility of the holy scripture”). I hope that a man with the humility and credentials of Dr. Waite will recant of such un-Christian behavior.
I realize that King James Onlyists love bold font and especially CAPS LOCK in order to make a point. But take careful notice that the emphases in font are carefully placed. The way it is structured, with the phrase “I reject the word infallibility – of holy scripture overwhelmingly” all in caps makes it look like it is a continuous thought. Fortunately, unlike some other sources that have done differently, Waite leaves in the dashes – dashes that are very significant. The phrase “I reject the word infallibility” is found in between two dashes, which means it is a separate thought from both “absolute truth” which precedes it and “of holy scripture” which comes after it. The phrase that must be considered, then, is only that in between the dashes. In it, we find that Westcott rejects the word infallibility, not the concept. Keep in mind that in the late 19th century, “infallibility” was not as common a theological term as it is now. He is not rejecting the concept as we know it. Rather, he is rejecting the terminology. Notice, though, that he says he is in favor of “absolute truth.” What we can glean from this quote is that Westcott prefers the terminology “absolute truth” rather than the term “infallibility” as a word to describe the Bible.
The caps lock is not the only problem, however. Waite is not as honest (unless, of course, this is an oversight) in the way he portrays the very end of the sentence. His version uses the word “overwhelmingly.” Yet, Westcott actually said “overwhelming.” Does it make a difference? Certainly. Waite probably added ly to overwhelming to make it look like it is connected to the phrase between the dashes. He is trying to make it seem like Westcott “overwhelmingly rejected the infallibility of the scriptures.” This is not the case. The word is “overwhelming”, and it modifies the phrase before the dashes. That is, Westcott finds that the evidence for the absolute truth of the Bible is overwhelming. Now there is a great quote for the testimony of the Bible! Here is a late 19th century Greek New Testament scholar saying that the Bible has overwhelming evidence that it is absolute truth! Yet, Dr. D. A. Waite turns this statement around to mean something heretical. Either he is mislead and should change it, or he is purposely lying and must repent. In either event, Christians need to be aware of this ungodly tactic.
Now, here is the entire quote, without emphases:
“My dear Hort – I am very glad to have seen both your note and Lightfoot’s – glad too that we have had such an opportunity of openly speaking. For I too “must disclaim setting forth infallibility” in the front of my convictions. All I hold is, that the more I learn, the more I am convinced that fresh doubts come from my own ignorance, and that at present I find the presumption in favor of the absolute truth – I reject the word infallibility – of Holy Scripture overwhelming. Of course I feel difficulties which at present I cannot solve, and which I never hope to solve.”
After reading the above quote, I am quickly reminded of how I would hate for someone to characterize (or mis-characterize) me by personal letters I wrote. Here we find Westcott being very candid in admitting that he has doubts (which we all must admit we have, if we’re honest). If I expressed that to a dear friend of mine in a personal letter, I would hate for someone, after my death, to read it to a church and say, “you can’t trust what Damien Garofalo says because he had doubts!” It is ridiculous and not Christlike.
I also admire Westcott’s plain admission of the source for his doubts – his “own ignorance.” To sum up the entire quote, a very learned scholar is expressing to a close friend, by way of a personal letter, that although he has doubts that arise from his own ignorance, the more he learns, the more he is convinced that the absolute truth of the Bible is overwhelming. It is a shame that Dr. Waite misrepresents him.
Slide #38 charges Westcott with denying the miracles. Again, note Waite’s convenient emphases:
“I never read an account of a MIRACLE but I seem instinctively to feel ITS IMPROBABILITY, and discover some WANT OF EVIDENCE in the account of it.” (Emphasis. . well, you get the point by now)
Here’s what Brian from the Westcott and Hort Resource Centre had to say about this particular quote:
Before discussing the contents of the quote, I would like to point out that this quote of Westcott’s was made when he was 22 years of age while he was a student, and approximately 34 years prior to the publication of Greek New Testament of 1881. How many current authors that oppose Westcott and Hort, such as Ruckman, Gipp, Fuller, etc., would like to be held to the quotes they made when they were that young? Probably none. Beliefs can change quite a bit in 34 years, as evidenced in most Christians.
Context reveals the point of the quote. Here is the entire journal entry, and the next:
“11th August. – James i. I do not recollect noticing the second verse ever before in the way I have. How sincerely do I wish that I could “rejoice in temptation.” I never read an account of a miracle but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability, and discover some want of evidence in the account of it. The day is extremely warm.
31st August. – Hooker. V.S.D. Oh, the weakness of my faith compared with that of others! So wild, so sceptical am I. I cannot yield. Lord, look on me ; teach me Thy truth, and let me care for nothing else in evil report and good. Let me uphold nothing as necessary, but only Thy truth.”
Here Westcott, as a 22-year-old student, is lamenting his own weaknesses. He is not expressing his disbelief in miracles, but admitting a natural tendency to want an explanation – that he struggled with simply accepting them by faith. That doesn’t mean he did not accept by faith the accounts of the miracles, but rather that his first reaction (which he did not let determine his view on miracles) was to desire some evidence of them. In later years, Westcott went on to write many books, and wrote many things specifically about the absolute truth of the miracles as recorded in Scripture. He even wrote a book solely on this subject about 12 years later, called “Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles” in 1859. (Westcotthort.com)
The rest of the allegations against Westcott and Hort can be scrutinized in the same fashion. For example, Waite interprets Hort’s reservations about Darwin (keeping in mind that he could not log onto AnswersinGenesis.org or pick up a book by Henry Morris) as an affirmation of the truth of Darwin’s book (slide #47). What he does not point out, however, is that Hort was preparing to write an answer to Darwin (a work he never completed).
I know that the personal views held by Westcott and Hort do not fit the mold of many in the King James Only crowd. In fact, there are probably some documented times in which they seem to lean toward liberalism. I do believe, though, that these men were much more orthodox than they are made out to be by their opponents. Keep in mind also that their contemporaries who disagreed with their textual theories (such as Burgon) indeed attacked their theories, but not their character. Overall, my opinion is still that their views have little to do with the issue, charges of guilt-by-association cut both ways, and most of what they are accused of is not true.