Bible - Inspiration & Authority

God's Promise to Preserve His Word: The Disaster of the 19th Century

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
In the 19th century, men who were not committed to the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Word of God began to develop an adulterated form of the Greek New Testament which was not based upon the authentic source texts. It has become the primary source text for Bible translation worldwide.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 4 (final) of a series. Read part 3.

In the 19th century, men who were not committed to the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Word of God began to develop an adulterated form of the Greek New Testament which was not based upon the authentic source texts. It has become the primary source text for Bible translation worldwide.

In our last article we briefly reviewed the providential work of God in preserving the authentic text of both the Old and New Testaments over thousands of years.

In the case of the New Testament, the text that God providentially preserved is called the Byzantine Text. The Protestant Reformers and their successors used the Byzantine Text to produce the Geneva Bible of 1560 - the Bible the Mayflower pilgrims brought with them to America. The King James Bible of 1611, the 1769 revision of the King James Bible that we use today, and the New King James Bible which was first published in 1982, were all based on the Byzantine Text.

The Disaster of 200 Years Ago

But in the nineteenth century, what I believe we can accurately call the greatest theological disaster in the history of the Christian church occurred. Men who were not committed to the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Word of God began to develop an adulterated form of the Greek New Testament which was not based upon the authentic source texts. There is strong evidence that some of the manuscripts they used as their basis for adulterating the text - manuscripts they alleged to be very ancient - were actually later frauds.

This corrupted text is known as the Critical Text, as opposed to the Byzantine Text. It is often also called the Alexandrian or Egyptian text. Later versions of that corrupted text are known as the Nestle-Aland or United Bible Societies text. The Critical Text, by whatever name, omits many words, verses, and passages that are found in the authentic text and in the translations that are based upon it. The Critical Text is based on a small handful of alleged original manuscripts, while the Byzantine Text is based upon thousands of well authenticated manuscript documents.

The Byzantine is the text that we find quoted in the earliest theological writings of the Christian church - not the Critical Text. The Critical Text differs from the Byzantine over 5,300 times. The Critical Text omits over 2,800 words from the four Gospels alone. The Critical Text omits, in total, the equivalent of removing the entire books of First and Second Peter from the New Testament. Many of these omissions impact essential doctrines such as the true purpose of baptism, and justification by faith alone.

Not Mere Technicalities

Some of the information I have shared with you in this series may seem technical, and therefore unimportant to Christians who are not scholars. Some readers may be wondering why I have felt such a burden to share these matters with you. Let me briefly explain some of the reasons.

The first is that our churches, homes, and schools are filled with Bibles translated from corrupted texts. Over the past 130 years, virtually every new translation of the Bible has been based upon the corrupted Critical Text and not the authentic Byzantine. The only major English Bible translations available today that use the reliable, authentic text are the original King James Bible and the New King James Bible.

Every other major translation that you will find today - the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Living Bible, the Message, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and all of the others except the King James and New King James - use a corrupted body of source texts and therefore produce a corrupted Bible that is not worthy of being called the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.

Much of the evangelical church, much of what calls itself the Bible-believing church today, is employing a corrupted Bible. Many men in pulpits today are doing that because they do not understand the issues. They employ what postmodern scholarship has led them to believe is a superior text. They have not been told the kinds of things that I have presented to you in this series, or they have chosen to ignore or dismiss these facts.

A Non-Issue?

Today most pastors have been told by Bible scholars that the text is a non-issue. They have been told that the people who raise this issue up are obstructionists and schismatics. They have been told that the issues that I have put before you are not nearly as vital as the defenders of the Byzantine text of the New Testament make them out to be. They have been told that assertions that God has in fact preserved the New Testament word-for-word in the original languages, and that we can say with confidence that the fully preserved text of the original autographs exists today, are dangerous. They often characterize those who raise these issues and support their case with the facts as troublemakers.

One of the most common arguments is that the differences between the Greek Text of the New Testament that has been used by the believing church since apostolic times and the Critical Text that was brought to the forefront in the nineteenth century are minor. That statement is false. 5,300 differences are not a minor matter. Removing 2,800 words from the four Gospels alone is not a minor matter.

When it comes to the Word of God, there is no such thing as a "minor" change. In the first article of this series we saw that the change of even a single word or the tense of a verb can have serious doctrinal implications. We saw that Jesus himself promised that neither a single letter nor the smallest stroke of a letter of Scripture shall perish.

God repeatedly commands that mankind shall neither add to nor take away from the text of His Word. Paul declared, in the passage with which we began this series, that he and his fellow workers had not adulterated the text of Scripture as some others were doing, even in apostolic times. So to dismiss any change as a minor change is a human judgment that we have no right to apply to the Divine Book.

Another argument of those who say that this is a non-issue is the idea that despite the major differences between the Byzantine Text and the Critical Text, supposedly no major doctrines are compromised in the Critical Text.

But when it comes to the Word of God, any compromise is unacceptable. The Word of God reveals a tightly woven and highly interdependent system of doctrine that existed in the mind of God from before the foundation of the universe. Every word of God comprising that indivisible body of revealed truth is pure, Proverbs chapter 30 tells us - literally, it has been refined to purity.

Man has no right to compromise the smallest bit of it, much less to stand in judgment as to what constitutes a minor doctrine. Today many Evangelicals consider the doctrine of literal six-day creation to be a minor doctrine. But even the most basic study of the Word of God tells us that this doctrine is an essential element of the Gospel itself.

Home to Rome?

You also need to be aware that many of the changes and omissions that are found in the Critical Text support Roman Catholic doctrine. The changes undermine the teaching of the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for salvation, apart from works. The changes undermine the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

In fact, when the Critical Text began to gain acceptance among Protestant scholars in the late 1800s, Roman Catholic leaders were delighted with the fact that the Protestants were, as they saw it, finally "coming home" to the source texts that underlie the Vatican's corrupted versions of the Bible. You will find more information on the Rome-ward drift of Bible translation worldwide in our companion series, If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: Rome's Changing Approach to Controlling the Bible.

Seeking a Pastor Who Has a High View of Scripture

Any church seeking a man to serve as its pastor should be asking crucial questions of candidates for the pulpit. In fact, congregations should be asking questions in the same vein of men who presently lead their churches. Here are the questions: Do you truly believe that God has kept and is keeping His promise to supernaturally preserve His Word, intact and free from error, for all time and for all eternity? Do you understand which translations of the English Bible today are based upon the authentic source texts? Will you commit to using those translations in your ministry here, and no others?

Most pastors and most seminary and Bible college instructors of the present era cannot answer "Yes" to those questions without attaching a long list of reservations, qualifications, and obfuscations that turn their "Yes" into a "Yes, but" that actually means "No".

What they actually believe, in effect, is that God has permitted His Word to be corrupted over the centuries. Most of them won't dare say it in those words, but that is the effect of what they believe. And therefore I would submit to you that they truly have no right to say that they will stand in your pulpit and preach the whole counsel of God.

They have no basis upon which to say that they will, as Paul declares here in Second Corinthians 4 verse 2, preach the Word in a way that is characterized by a "manifestation of the truth" - literally, a plain and forthright disclosure of revealed truth. You cannot declare the whole counsel of God if you are in fact not certain what the whole counsel of God actually is.

There are many men today who will come as a candidate for a pulpit vacancy with this kind of an attitude: They will say, "Let's not allow these things to get in the way of the church's mission." But let us never forget that the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Word of God are the very foundation of the church's mission. God has spoken on this matter, clearly and directly. These things are not stumbling blocks to the church. They are not things that "get in the way" of God's work. They are its foundation stones.

The issues I am raising are not minor issues because God himself declares that they are major issues. He has very specifically promised to preserve His authentic Word in meticulous detail, and He condemns those who dare to produce corrupted counterfeits - those who handle the Word of God deceitfully.

It is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God which is the instrument by which the church carries out Christ's great commission to evangelize the world and edify the saints. There can be no more foundational and vital issue for any church than the authenticity of the Book that is the basis of its congregation's hope of eternal life, the Book that must be the church's sole authority in all things.

We must take this issue seriously because God does. Our attitude must be that of David the psalmist, who wrote this in Psalm 138 verse 2. He declared to the Lord:

I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your Word above all your Name.

God himself says that He has exalted His Word even above His own name. We can do no less. May we never do anything less.


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