Q: My husband and I attend a congregation where to become a member you have to use the King James only and not drink alcohol (we are not members, just attend). The pastor's son has given some lectures lately, one regarding the infallibility of scripture and textual criticism. The lecture on infallibility centered on defending the use of the word “infallibility” against the use by B.B.Warfield in his defense of scripture of using the word “inerrant”. The other lecture concerned textual criticism and how it had influenced men like Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield and also Bob Jones University.

I have listened to your tapes on Bibliology and also completed the Come and See series at Ariel, which have covered aspects of the lectures he has given. In the past, the pastor had given sermons on King James and had spoken about Wescott and Hort.

The questions I would like to ask are:

  1. Is the influence of Westcott and Hort a bad one on the translation of scriptures?
  2. Am I wrong in not wanting to attend the church meetings with these types of lectures?
  3. Is “Lower Criticism” as bad as the pastor has said in his lecture?
  4. Is the word “inerrant” an inadequate word to describe scripture?
  5. Where is the Lord in all of this controversy?

A: 1. The influence of Westcott and Hort was revolutionary. If you use the King James version, then it was a disastrous revolution. For the rest of us, what Westcott and Hort did was to begin a process of collating the vast number of manuscripts that had been discovered since the time of the KJV's translation in the early 17th century. We have discovered manuscripts that predate the texts of the KJV. The presupposition is that the more ancient a manuscript is, the more closely it resembles the original autograph, that which was written by the apostles. In addition, when a family of manuscripts found in one location agrees with another family of manuscripts from an alternate location, the assumption is that this confirms reliability. When we talk about the differences between today's translations and the KJV, you will note that there is very little substantive difference once you move beyond the KJV's archaic use of English. Primarily the issue is whether certain verses and certain paragraphs were added or are original, none of which affect any major doctrine in any way.

2. Just reading about the topic of these lectures made me drowsy, I don't blame you for not wanting to attend.

3. Biblical criticism is the basis of scholarly Bible study and translation. It is only a problem if one believes that King James' team of scholars was infallible.

4. Inerrant is actually a very good word to describe scripture. It means it is without error. Infallible is also good because it means scripture does not fail. It is actually the more liberal choice of terms for those who reject inerrancy, because they can then say that the Bible may not be devoid of errors, but it is infallible in every subject it intends to address.

5. The Lord is where He always is, superintending the preservation of His Word. The whole argument just proves how little deviation there has been in the text of scripture over the past few millennia.