Tuesday, August 09, 2022

WM 245: Examining Mark Ward's Claims on Psalm 12:6-7 and the Preservation of Scripture


I posted WM 245 last week but am just getting around to posting it here along with my notes.

In this episode we will be examining MW’s claims concerning Psalm 12:6-7 and the preservation of Scripture.

In WM 244 I posted a sermon I preached seven years ago on Psalm 12 and the doctrine of the providential preservation of Scripture. In that episode I suggested I might do a follow up podcast relating to Psalm 12:6-7 and the preservation of Scripture in light of MW’s recent suggestion that no one in the history of Christianity until KJVO (in the mid-twentieth century) has used Psalm 12:7, in particular, in reference to preservation.

Here is the claim MW had made:

First: FromTCC 3/7 (posted 7/25/22), MW said (c. 8:40 mark):

And I could not find anybody who used Psalm 12:7, and especially the second half of v. 7—“though shalt preserve them from this generation for ever”—I couldn’t find anybody in the history of the church until KJV-Onlyism… I can’t find anyone who applied Psalm 12:7b … to textual preservation….

Second, in a review of the book I co-edited of Why I Preach from the Received Text, a review at least one person described as “toxic”, posted to his blog (7/24/22), Ward writes:

The writers in this book, for all their appeals to the Reformed tradition, do not represent the historic orthodox or Reformation position on the Bible….

He then adds:

They misuse Bible passages such as Psalm 12:6–7, which (I have shown in a recent paper) have never in the history of the church until the advent of KJV-Onlyism been used the way KJV/TR defenders use this passage.

The question: Is Mark Ward’s claim true?

I want to approach this from two directions:

First direction: Is it irrational to suggest that the pronouns in v. 7 might be taken in reference to the “pure words” in v. 6?

Two kinds of objections might be raised against taking v. 7 as referring to the “pure words” of v. 6.

The first objection relates to the fact that the pronouns in v. 7 are masculine in gender and “pure words” in v. 6 are feminine.

Response: Peter Van Kleeke, Sr. in An Exegetical Grounding For A Standard Sacred Text (2021) on p. 45 (n. 1) of his discussion on Psalm 12 cites Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (originally published in 1813; Oxford/Clarendon English translation reprint, 1990):

“Through a weakening in the distinction of gender, which is noticeable elsewhere, and which probably passed from the colloquial language into that of literature, masculine suffixes (especially in the plural) are not infrequently used to refer to feminine substantives.”

The second objection relates to the pronoun in v. 7b being in the singular (“him” though translated “them” in the AV).

The pronoun, however, can simply be understood in a representative and collective sense, meaning something like, “thou shalt preserve him [meaning, every single one of the poor, or every single one of the pure words] from this generation for ever.”

MW seems willing to grant that v. 7a might refer to the preservation of the words, but he is adamant that this does not apply to v. 7b.

One major problem with this statement, however, is that it fails to recognize that v. 7 appears to utilize the from of Hebrew poetry known as “synonymous parallelism.” That is, the author makes a statement in the first clause, and then uses slightly different words or terms in the second clause to repeat or even emphasize the initial statement.

Given this convention, v. 7b is likely best understood as simply restating and affirming, if not expanding upon, v. 7a.

Another problem with MW’s interpretation regards a point I made in my sermon on Psalm 12 (from WM 244). Namely, the statement in Psalm 12:7 should be taken as a “both-and” rather than an “either-or.” The pronouns in v. 7 refer both to the “poor” in v. 5 and to the “pure words” in v. 6. I also noted that this was the interpretation given by Matthew Poole in his Commentary on Psalm 12:7.

Preliminary conclusion: It is not irrational to think that v. 7 refers to the preservation of Scripture.

Second direction: Is the interpretation of Psalm 12:7 as relating to the preservation of Scripture unknown in Christian history prior to KJVO in the mid-20th century?

MW claims to have consulted over 60 commentaries without finding anyone who interpreted Psalm 12:7 as relating to the preservation of Scripture.

His claim, however, brought to mind Van Kleeck, Sr.’s work cited above, which has a substantial discussion of Psalm 12 (see pp. 45-79), including the issue of whether v. 7 can be interpreted to relate to Scriptural preservation. In the course of discussion, Van Kleeck, Sr. cites several pre-modern examples of such an interpretation from Christian writers.

First: The Italian exegete Michael Ayguan (1340-1416) in his commentary on the Psalms. He wrote: “Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep or make good thy words: and by doing so, shalt preserve him—him, the needy, him the poor—from this generation” (54-55).

Second: Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote a commentary on Psalm 12 in 1519. Van Kleeck, Sr. says Luther noted “three possible interpretations of this passage: the words, the saints, and the ungodly” (56). He cites Luther as saying, “it is in the Hebrew ‘thou shalt preserve them’; and it refers to the words of God, as [Jerome] translates it” (56).

Third: Luther’s hymn (1523) titled “Look down, O Lord, from heaven behold,” based on Psalm 12. He cites this translation of Luther’s second stanza:

            Thy truth wilt [persevere], O Lord,

                        From this vile generation,

            Make us lean on thy Word,

                        With calm anticipation (61).

Fourth: The Protestant English Bible translation tradition: Coverdale Bible (1535); Matthews Bible (1537, [1549]); Taverner Bible (1539); The Great Bible (1540); The Third Part of the Bible (1550); Geneva Bible (1560); Bishop’s Bible (1568); KJV (1611).

Fifth: Matthew Poole’s Commentary (1685). He writes:

Thou shalt keep them, either 1. The poor and needy, Psalm 12:5 …. Or, 2. Thy words or promises last mentioned, Psalm 12:6… (75).

Sixth: In John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Old Testament (1765), he writes:

“Thou shalt keep them—Thy words or promises: these thou wilt observe and keep, both now, and from this generation for ever” (76).

In addition to these six, I might add Calvin’s commentary on the Psalm (1557). Though Calvin does not prefer to take “them” in v. 7 in reference to the “pure words” he writes: “Some give this exposition of the passage, Thou wilt keep them, namely, thy words; but this does not seem to me to be suitable.”

Again, this is not the interpretation he prefers, but he acknowledges “some” held the view in his day that v. 7 referred to the preservation of the words.

BTW, the Calvin Translation Society edition of Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms (1845) has a note at “thy words” above, stating, “This is the view of Hammond. He refers the them to the words of the Lord mentioned in the preceding verse, and the him following to the godly, or just man, and explains the verse thus: ‘Thou, O Lord, shalt keep, or perform, those words, thou shalt preserve the just man from this generation for ever” (178).

In the comments section on MW’s blog on his review post, R. L. Vaughan challenges MW’s claim and adds a few more pre-modern examples of Protestants interpreting Psalm 12:6-7 as referring to scriptural preservation. They include (listed in the order posted by Vaughan):

W. A. Jarrel (1907);

Louis Gaussen in his famous work on inspiration (1844);

Samuel Hanson Cox (1833);

Joseph Parker (c. 1885);

Spurgeon’s sermon on Psalm 12:6 (no date);

H. Donner (Dutch writer; no date);

Samuel Howard Ford (1903);

Possibly James Montgomery Boice’s Psalms commentary;

Ebenezer Richie (1868).

MW’s response to Vaughan: “Give me some time to consider what you have brought forward.”


Here’s the problem with MW’s argumentation on Psalm 12:6-7. He wants to suggest that CB uses the same arguments in favor of the preservation of the traditional text that KJVO use for their position, and thus to discredit the book (in his so-called “toxic” review) and the CB movement in general (in the TCC video) by tying it to KJVO. He does so even though he has recently publicly stated that he would no longer attempt to conflate CB with KJVO.

This leads MW to make this claim (that no one in the history of Christianity connected Psalm 12:7 with scriptural preservation until the modern KJVO movement) apparently without ever properly investigating whether or not that claim is true. It isn’t.

It reminded me of his claim in his 2020 article critiquing CB that there were 28 editions of the TR prior to Scrivener. That’s factually inaccurate (as I pointed out in my recent review of MW’s article at the Kept Pure conference), but it makes for good rhetoric.

One wonders when he made this claim about Psalm 12:6-7 on the TCC why others on the panel who have publicly declared that they care about “just weights and measures” and “getting the facts right” did not object or at least questions the validity of it.

One also wonders if Mark Ward be offering a public correction/retraction of this claim or doubling down on it?


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