Keister (known by the online moniker, “Green Baggins”) recently posted a long
(over 5,500 word), rambling, chapter-by-chapter review of the book Why I
Preach From the Received Text to the Puritan Board Discussion Forum.
begins by noting that though he has “vast areas of agreement” with the authors
of the book, it nevertheless has “many problems.” He describes the authors as
“either extreme or strong TR advocates.”
even claims that at least two statements in the book are “lies.” That’s a
pretty strong charge publicly to make against the authors (all 25 of whom are
church officers, and 24/25 of whom are elders). Note that LK does not say that
he disagrees with a writer’s opinion, or that a writer misunderstood or lacked
clarity, or that a writer misapplied some factual information, but that the
writer intentionally “lied” about something. Such language is, of course,
exceedingly pejorative and unhealthy.
enough, as I will point out, his charge of “lying” is unfounded, and it is, in
fact, LK himself who is guilty of several significant misrepresentations and
misunderstandings in this review.
stream of consciousness review and his comments on my article:
review, though it addresses the book’s 25 chapters in sequential order, often takes
on more of a stream of consciousness quality, with many inchoate observations offered,
undeveloped and unargued, but nevertheless definitively asserted.
review of my chapter, for example, consists of one sentence: “I have no comment on this chapter,
except that I found it unconvincing.” That’s the sort of review to which it is
difficult to respond. What point did he perceive my essay was trying to make?
Why did he find it unconvincing?
I close my article by writing, “Why do I preach
from the Received Text? I find it satisfying and winsome on many levels,
aesthetically, intellectually, spiritually, theologically. It has given me a
sure foundation upon which to exercise my ministry, and it has increased my
faith” (203). Is he unconvinced that this has been my experience? If so, how or
why did he reach this conclusion? Does he believe that he understands my
experience better than I do myself? That would be rather odd. Given that no
specifics are provided, I find it hard to offer any response to his review of
LK on the book’s introduction:
Maybe, it will be best to begin with LK’s
comments on the book’s introduction which I co-wrote with Christian McShaffrey,
since several specifics, in fact, are here provided.
Here are several of his arguments regarding our
introduction and some responses to them.
First, he suggests that we offer a “caricature”
of modern textual critics, failing to distinguish between what might be true of
“liberal” textual critics, but what is not supposedly true of “conservative”
Response: LK seems to have missed a point that
many were making in the book. Namely, that supposedly “conservative” and
“evangelical” textual critics offer very little that is different in practice, approach,
and results from “liberal” academics.
Several authors, for example, cite Dan
Wallace’s now infamous statement in his Foreword to Myths and Mistakes in
New Testament Textual Criticism, “We do not have now—in our critical Greek texts or any
translations—exactly what the authors of the NT wrote. Even if we did, we would
not know it (xii).”
Our point is that contemporary evangelical textual
critics sound little different from academic scholars like D. C. Parker or even
Second, he asserts that it is “ambiguous” for
us to claim that the Protestant fathers affirmed the TR. He says, “They
affirmed readings that were in the TR. That is not the same as affirming the TR
itself, let alone confessionally.”
Response: I would call LK’s attention to the
writings of John Owen and his explicit statement that it was “upon the
invention of printing” that the “vulgar copy” was “in actual authority” (Works,
16: 366). The TR was edited by Protestant men like Stephanus and Beza. As the
Elzevirs put it, it was the text “received by all.” I would also call his
attention to the writings of other historical theologians on this topic, like
R. Muller (PRRD, Vol. 2), Richard
WM 128), and Garnet Howard Milne (see
my review article). Clearly the men of the Reformation and the Protestant
orthodox who followed embraced not some amorphous view of “texts” of the Bible
but the standard printed editions of it in their age, the TR. This is evidenced
by the classic Protestant translations they produced from the TR and a perusal
of the prooftexts they attached to their confessional documents.
Third, LK argues that it is “overstated” for us to suggest that
the 19th century critics wanted to “set
out to undermine the authority of the traditional text and replace it.”
Response: This point is not overstated at all,
but has, in fact, been articulated by mainstream scholars who are by no means
TR advocates. This has been stated by Eldon Jay Epp in his survey of the
modern history of textual criticism (in The NT and Its Modern Interpreters,
SBL, 1989) and more recently by Robert F. Hull, Jr. who noted that “the
overriding motive” for 19th century text critics was “the overthrow
of the Textus Receptus” (The Story of the NT Text, SBL, 2010: p. 95).
Fourth, LK suggests that we, the editors,
“misstated” the purpose of the book when we said its primary goal was to defend
the traditional Hebrew and Greek text (a la WCF 1:8). He and other negative reviewers
of our book (i. e., Ward, Everhard), however, have seemed reluctant to quote
what we actually wrote in the introduction regarding the book’s purpose. We wrote:
We gave each
contributor the same topic to consider, “Why I preach from the Received Text.”
In reading these essays it will become clear that all the contributors have
high respect for the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible in English,
as many make mention of this venerable translation in their respective essays.
The reader should not, however, be confused about this book’s primary focus.
Critics of the traditional text, in fact, often confuse our position, whether
intentionally or unintentionally, with “King James Version Onlyism,” a position
which is inconsistent with WCF and LBCF 1.8. We did not ask our authors to
address, “Why I Preach from the King James Version,” but “Why I Preach from the
Received Text.” The primary purpose of this book is a defense of the
traditional original Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible (16-17).
I think one can see why these reviewers do not
desire to provide this extended quotation, because it does not fit the
narrative they would like to promote about this book.
LK says our stated purpose is not genuine. He
says this is the case on two points:
First, he criticizes our book for not offering
an in-depth defense of the traditional Hebrew text. Indeed, most, but not all,
attention is given to the New Testament.
This criticism, however, represents a major
problem with LK’s review. Namely, he does not accept the book on its own basis,
but he tries to criticize it for not being what it was never intended to be.
This book is not an in-depth or technical work regarding textual criticism. It
is a theological and pastoral work.
He is right; there are no references to the
“Aleppo Codex” in the book, and neither are there any references to “‘Non-Western’
interpolations.” There are instead 25 testimonies from church officers who have
embraced the traditional text in their ministries. It is unfair to criticize
the book for not addressing matters it never set out to discuss.
Second, he claims the hidden purpose of the
book is to promote the KJV. As proof he notes there are 160 references in the
book to the TR and 149 to the KJV. But what exactly does this prove? We noted
in the introduction that every author had high esteem for the KJV, but this was
not the book’s primary focus. There are at least four or five chapters in the
book that make NO or only incidental reference to the KJV. That’s c. 20% of the
book, but every single chapter clearly defends the traditional original text.
Many of those references to the KJV were, in
fact, to make points like these:
Some might even
think we are “King James Only”, but we consider that a dangerous position to
hold (de Gier, 70).
The Bible is
immediately inspired in the original Hebrew and Greek, however, not in
translations. With that distinction firmly in place, we can also trust the
accuracy and authority of the King James Version (Mullins, 184).
Would LK consider statements like these (and
more could be piled up from the book) to be an “extremist” promotion of the
KJV? Why is he so suspicious of the book’s stated purpose and so hostile to the
LK’s reviews of three chapters:
From LK’s treatment of the introduction, let’s
move on to a selection of some of his more controversial comments on individual
chapters (having already noted his minimal review of my chapter). We’ll look at
three with which he seems to have taken particular exception, the chapters by Rob
McCurley, Pooyan Mehrshahi, and Christopher Sheffield. In these reviews he offers
what appear to me to be especially harsh, unjust and unfair criticism.
Rob McCurley’s chapter:
LK’s comments on McCurley’s chapter were particularly
(and even breathtakingly) uncharitable and misguided in my opinion. Let me cite
LK’s review here of McCurley in full:
Overblown rhetoric characterizes this chapter
as well. Saying “Likewise, the believer does not depend upon unbelieving
methodology, nor may he employ the world's depraved assumptions in grappling
with textual questions” (p. 145). It's obviously a bad thing modern
confessionally Reformed text critics of any non-TR position employ the “world's
depraved assumptions” in doing their work. I question this statement's charity,
truthfulness, and even sanity. His quotation of Matthew 5:18 in
support of his position is a gross twisting of Scripture. Jesus is talking
about the law. The Old Testament is the plain referrent, as nothing in the New
Testament had been written down at the time when Jesus spoke these words. It is
in the context of hypothetical abrogation of OT law, not textual preservation.
He also seems to think that any deviation from the TR constitutes “purposeful
alteration of the text of Scripture” (p. 147). He uses the poisoned well
fallacy of “a region rife with Arian heresy.” It doesn't seem to occur to him
that Alexandria is actually the place where Athanasius opposed the Arian
heresy. He was bishop of Alexandria! It was everywhere else where the
Arian heresy was making inroads, including the entire Byzantine empire! So he
gets this history 100% wrong. The presence or absence of the Arian heresy is
neither here nor there with regard to the copying of manuscripts. This was one
of the very worst essays in the book, full of lies and twisting of Scripture.
For the author of this review to accuse anyone of “overblown rhetoric” would appear to be an effort to remove the mote from a brother’s eye while ignoring the beam in one’s own. McCurley’s essay is, in fact, one of the most measured and winsome in the whole book. One might not agree with his principled stand that those who reject the traditional text have succumbed to worldly assumptions, but one cannot deny him the right to form and articulate his own conclusions (just as LK can by posting his review), especially when McCurely does so in such a firm and yet winsome manner.
LK’s charge that McCurley’s interpretation of
Matthew 5:18 as relating to meticulous preservation of the very words of
Scripture is a “gross twisting of Scripture” is particularly appalling.
McCurley’s view of Matthew 5:18 is, in fact, precisely the same interpretation
of the verse given by John Owen (see Works, 4: 24). Would LK say that Owen also
is a “Scripture twister”?
As for McCurley’s stress on the significance of
Christological controversy upon the text, especially in Alexandria, and its
possible impact on the transmission of Scripture, such a view is in no way
preposterous but is, in fact, highly plausible. Yes, Alexandria was the home of
Athanasius, as LK states, but the great orthodox leader also sent 17 years of
banishment in five separate exiles during seasons the Arians held the upper
LK’s concluding sentence is simply outrageous,
“This was one of the very worst essays in the book, full of lies and twisting
Pooyan Mehrshahi’s chapter:
LK first claims that Mehrshahi’s assumption that
the proof-texts play a significant role in the Westminster Standards and in
one’s adherence to them is a “bizarre position.” If the proof texts are not
important, however, why were they even added, and why is it still considered
standard to print the prooftexts along with the confessions and catechism? Does
LK want to downplay the prooftexts, because they make such frequent reference
to and are clearly dependent upon the traditional text?
Second, he accuses Mehrshahi of an “outright
lie” and takes one sentence from p. 75 from his article out of context. Here,
however, is that sentence cited by LK as being an “outright lie,” along with
the two sentences that precede it. Mehrshahi wrote:
Text is mainly based on a vast majority of extant readings. It is the fullest
and most authentic text, which has been preserved by God and used by the people
of God. The critical text is generally based on a minority of available texts,
which differ at significant points with the TR (75).
Since it is generally acknowledged that the
critical text is indeed shorter than the TR (lacking long passages like Mark
16:9-20 and John 7:53—8:11, as well as thousands of other shorter passage in
the NT alone, which are supported by the Majority Text), and that it very often
distinctively appeals to readings primarily supported by two uncials (Aleph and
B), Mehrshahi’s statement is, in fact, accurate. It is not a “gross exaggeration”
to say that the TR and the modern critical text are significantly different. If
they were the same, there would be no conflict over the matter!
Christopher Sheffield’s chapter:
In this review, LK’s rhetoric is again extremely
hostile and caustic. Sheffield takes up a very serious and reasonable concern regarding
the modern critical text. Namely, many of the changes it makes to the traditional
text tend to downplay explicit references to the deity of Christ. According to
LK, such a charge is “ridiculous.” Sheffield’s point, however, is well taken,
and the influence of unitarianism in modern higher criticism has been made by
many critics of it (see, for example, Michael Horton’s assessment in The
Christian Faith, where he notes, “The liberal trajectory … is essentially Arian
(or Adoptionist)” [464-465]).
LK takes special exception to Sheffield’s
discussion of Romans 9:5 on p. 209, where he says that this discussion “is so
highly misleading as to transgress into the ‘lie’ territory.” Sheffield’s discussion
of changes to the traditional translation of this verse relate specifically to
how it was translated in the RSV, influenced by the modern critical texts of
that era and says nothing of how that verse is treated in modern editions of
the critical text.
I recently did a podcast on this passage (see WM
249: The “New Perspective” on Romans 9:5) that readers, including LK, might
want to examine). Challenges to the traditional translation/punctuation of Romans
9:5, one of the clearest affirmations of the deity of Christ in the Pauline corpus,
is not a dead issue. Translations of Romans 9:5 that mute the deity of Christ
continue to be perpetuated in the main body of translations that remain in print
and usage, like the RSV, the Good News Bible, the NLV, and the CEV, and well as
in the marginal notes of popular translations, like the NIV, ESV, and NRSVUE.
All conservative Christian readers should be
alarmed at the rationale provided by Bruce Metzger speaking for the majority of
critical text revision committee when he claimed in his Textual Commentary,
on the basis of the general tenor of his theology it was considered tantamount
to impossible that Paul would have expressed Christ’s greatness by calling him
God blessed forever” (522).
Here is how LK chose to end his review of
He argues that “The changes introduced by the
Critical Text strike at the very core of the Christian faith—the person of
Jesus Christ.” That is ridiculous. First of all, I have answered all his
specious arguments, including the lie. Secondly, this rhetoric is so overblown
as to be ridiculous. The Critical Text affirms the deity of Christ every bit as
much as the TR does. This essay was terribly argued.
In my opinion, however, it is LK’s ad hominem dismissal
of Sheffield’s legitimate concerns that, if anything, should be categorized as “ridiculous.”
Inaccuracies, charges of “lying,” and
As noted above, one of the ironies of LK’s
review is that he charges several authors not merely with making unclear or
mistaken claims but of being “liars.” He attacks not their ideas but their
character. At the same time, he does not always appear to be careful or consistent
in the claims he himself makes in the review.
I’ve already pointed out how his charges
against McCurley, Mehrshahi, and Sheffield misrepresent their positions. Let me
offer just two more examples (of what could be many others) to illustrate this.
First, in his review of Myers’ chapter LK takes
exception to Myers’ suggestion that men like Warfield and Hodge were influenced
in their view of text by the advent of evolutionary methodology. Again, LK makes
a familiar charge: “This is a lie, as has been shown in the responsible secondary
literature (particularly Fred Zaspel).” He even makes the unsolicited
suggestion, “This essay should never have been included in this book at all.”
If one examines Zaspel’s discussion of Warfield
and evolution in The Theology of B. B. Warfield (see 369-386), however,
one finds that although Zaspel thinks some (like Livingstone and Noll) take it
too far, he does not think it is unreasonable to ponder the influence of
evolution on Warfield. Myers’ brief reference certainly takes it no farther
than that. LK is completely unjustified to categorize Myers’ passing reference
to Warfield and evolution as a “lie” and, in fact, it is LK who might well be
charged with misrepresenting the truth here.
Second, LK makes an interesting claim about my
response to another unfavorable review of our book from Everhard. LK writes:
Jeffrey Riddle has already responded by saying,
functionally, that any critique of this book at all is toxic (he used this
label over Everhard's critique, which was, in my opinion, an extremely gracious
and fair critique).
LK’s statement here is, however, a blatant
falsehood. I have never stated (even functionally) that any critique of this
book is necessarily toxic. What is more, I NEVER labeled Everhard’s critique
(though I believe it misguided) as “toxic.” It was Mark Ward’s rushed review I
described as “toxic,” citing a third person response to his review on Goodreads
which so labelled it.
In fact, I explicitly told Everhard on twitter
that I did not think his review was “toxic.”
his unfunny and boorish follow up Labor Day video in which he accused
me personally of holding “wacky conspiracy theories” to which I took exception.
I was not alone in my criticism of that video, and Everhard removed it within a
few days and replaced it with another.
Again, I do not mind fair reviews of the book,
even those which challenge its ideas. There is a difference between what LK writes and someone saying
something like, “The editors of the book claim that its goal is defense of the
traditional Hebrew and Greek text, but the frequent references to the KJV tends
to overshadow that claim.” Such would be a fair critique, with which I would disagree,
but I would acknowledge it was fairly stated. There is a world of difference
between that kind of statement and charging our book, as LK does, with being a “bait
and switch” flim-flam operation. I’ve learned that evangelicals may be
charitable to ideas that come from the left, but they punch right. And when
they punch right the blows can be coarse, defamatory, and mean-spirited. As one friend who read LK's review observed: It is he who sounds like an unhinged KJV-Onlyist in this review.
In the end, it does not seem to me that LK’s
review is so much attempting to address the ideas in the book fairly and justly,
as it is aiming to impugn the character of its contributors. Such a review
would never be accepted in any respected scholarly journal, and it might well be
described in the end not as a review at all, but as a screed.
In the end, I’m not really discombobulated by LK’s
review. I think it does not reflect so poorly on our book or its contributors as
it does on LK himself. I don’t know this man, but the review tells me a lot
about him. Back when the “Orange Man” was in office some of his most unhinged
critics were described as having “Trump derangement syndrome.” Sometimes it
seems that there are those who have “Received Text derangement syndrome.”
If anything, I take this review as a kind of backhanded
compliment to the book, because LK and other “conservative” Reformed
evangelicals who have embraced the modern critical text or who make some claim to
a Majority text (or even “Sturzian”) position seem to be highly threatened by our
LK even says, “I will do everything in my power
to prevent anyone from my church even knowing about its existence. We just put
the ESV in our pews last year. This book would function to undermine the
confidence of anyone whose Bible is not already the KJV. That is the
fundamental problem here.” Wow, he comes across here like a counter-Reformation
priest who doesn’t want anyone in his parish exposed to any of that vile Protestant
literature. Or, maybe like a social media executive in 2020 who does not want
any “misinformation” about the virus or the jab posted online.
Yes, LK is partially right. This book is
dangerous. You might want to keep it in a brown paper bag to sneak it past your
erudite seminary trained pastor. If you read it, you might just find it makes a
lot of sense. You might just decide that it’s time for confessional men and
churches to leave the ever-changing modern critical text behind and return to
the traditional Protestant text.
And that’s no lie.