Home > Brandenburg, King James Only > Churches: The “How” of Perfect Preservation

Churches: The “How” of Perfect Preservation

February 20, 2007

Not everyone who calls himself even a conservative evangelical believes that God promised in the Bible to preserve every Word.  W. Edward Glenny writes: “[N]o statement in Scripture . . . can establish the doctrine of the preservation of the text of Scripture.”  However, most professing fundamentalists admit, even if grudingly, that the Bible teaches its own preservation.  Usually, they will quickly add:  “It doesn’t teach how.”  So they say they believe in the reality of the preservation of the Words of Scripture, but not the means by which preservation would take place.Â

THE MEANS OF PRESERVATIONÂ

God does say how. In the Old Testament He used Israel and in the New Testament, the church (study the Hebrew word for “keep” [shamar and natsar] in the OT and the Greek word, tareo, in the NT). “Unto [Israel was] committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). The nation passed it down generation after generation (Acts 7:38), also using the family to do so (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

Colossians 4:16 provides a case study for seeing how the church would keep God’s Words: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” Likewise, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren” (5:27). From Thessalonica believers everywhere were to get their copies of this canonical epistle. The Jews copied, passed down and along, and read the Old Testament; and the churches continued this pattern in the New Testament. A large majority of the copies of Scripture that we possess come from the region of Asia Minor (the Byzantine empire) where Paul started His churches. This Scriptural understanding of the means of preservation is stated by Richard Capel in 1658:

God committed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament to the Jewes, and did and doth move their hearts to keep it untainted to this day: So I dare lay it on the same God, that he in his providence is so with the Church of the Gentiles, that they have and do preserve the Greek Text uncorrupt. (Capel’s Remains, London, 1658, p. 83)

CANONIZATION

Closely related to how the churches preserved God’s Words is the doctrine of canonicity. Scripture teaches the canonicity of the Words of God. Christ promised “that when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Early church believers recognized canonical writ, even as Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-16 writes: “[O]ur beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures.” Peter knew that what Paul wrote was Scripture. The Holy Spirit guided His churches generation after generation to copy and then agree upon His Words. The canonization of the Books were a logical extension of the Scriptural doctrine of canonization of Words.

That the Spirit would lead New Testament churches into all truth is a matter of faith. That very faith has manifested itself in agreement on what the Books of the Bible are, and just as much what its Words are. Recognition of God’s Words is not a science, but an act of Divine intervention and illumination. The churches made copies of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, not the other books. The proverb for the perfection of the Words was: “What mistake is in one copy is corrected in another.” Through His Spirit God would preserve His Words through His churches.

Was canonization a miracle?  Yes.  Was canonization by supernatural divine intervention?  Yes.  In canonizing Scripture did God the Holy Spirit work through the churches, directing them to the Words inspired by God?  Yes.  Was canonization an act of inspiration?  No. Canonization and inspiration are two different acts of the Holy Spirit.  A belief in canonization is not some form of double inspiration. The leading of the Spirit in identifying His Word to the believer and protecting His Words from error is the ongoing operation of God by which He preserves His Words.

To discredit the mighty, gracious activity of the Almighty, His preservation of His Words, some have questioned this doctrine, accusing it of recent origins.  Believers, however, have historically applied this to the Word of God, even as we read in the Westminster Confession: “[O]ur full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

On the other hand, the brand new doctrine, concocted from human reasoning, is the “science” of textual criticism, leaving the doubtful care of God’s Word to a handful of man-made criteria, crafted by men who rejected the doctrine of divine preservation. We shun this novel humanistic approach for God-ordained reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Several times the New Testament says something like it does in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God,” which mirrors what Jesus said in John 17:18, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them.” Even on the day of Pentecost, conversion is described as “they that gladly received his word” (Acts 2:41). The churches received God’s Words as led by the Holy Spirit, so it is no wonder that the terminology used to name their first printed copies in 1633 was textus receptus (TR), the mindset of God’s churches through history. As the Holy Spirit bore witness in the believer’s hearts to the Words of God, they received them.

No single individual can be the pillar and ground of the truth. The Holy Spirit directs through the church, not through one man. Agreement on the text of Scripture comes from the unity of the Spirit.  In contrast, eclecticism is the practice of one man choosing the Words of God, essentially canonizing Scripture on the spot, regardless of what churches have already agreed.

Finally, after centuries of handwritten copies, the printing press was invented and God gave the churches the opportunity to bring the text of Scripture into one printed edition. The English speaking people had uniquely responded to the Word of God. They, more than any one culture, devoted themselves to the Bible in their own language. After their finest scholars finished their translation of the Bible in 1611 (the King James Version), their churches agreed upon it as the Word of God. The Words of God were settled for the people of God. For at least 300 years after, the KJV was the Bible for God’s English-speaking believers. The Spirit canonized the Words of Scripture through the churches.

CONCLUSION

The Bible does tell us how God would preserve all of His Words.  He would use His congregation to do it, Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New.   By means of the Holy Spirit, God used the congregation of the righteous to recognize and then settle on the Words of Scripture.  Revelation 22:18-19 warns against adding of taking away from the Words of this Book.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

If the Words of Scripture were not settled, no one could possibly violate God’s instructions here.  God did lead His people into Truth and continues to keep His Words by means of His Spirit through the churches.

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  1. February 20, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Pastor Brandenburg,
    Thank you for this post. What are your thoughts on 1 Cor. 5:9?

  2. February 20, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Stellar post! I am going to print this one and keep it for future reference.

  3. Bobby Mitchell
    February 20, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Amen. Biblical and well-written.

  4. February 20, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Ok, this brings up questions for me. If you don’t already know me, I am one who uses the KJV only in preaching and in our church. I accept it’s Byzantine manuscripts (although they are dated newer than those of Aleph and B) to be superior. I agree that God did not give us an inferior Bible for 1800 years just so we could find a better bunch of copies in the desert after almost two millenniums.

    However, the assertion that God’s churches were the ones who preserved these manuscripts doesn’t make sense, since it was the Roman Catholic Church who was the custodian of most of these manuscripts through out the ages. It was also the RCC that commissioned Erasmus to write his Greek manuscript for which the KJV is based on. If you want to tell me that the RCC was God’s church , as many Protestants believe to be the case, I disagree. I believe in a succession of true believers such as the Waldenses, Donatists, Lollards, Paulacians, etc. Many of these groups did not have complete copies of God’s word. If anything, they had what was available during those dark ages: a Latin Vulgate.

  5. February 20, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Mr. Brandenburg, you state that

    “After their finest scholars finished their translation of the Bible in 1611 (the King James Version), their churches agreed upon it as the Word of God. The Words of God were settled for the people of God. For at least 300 years after, the KJV was the Bible for God’s English-speaking believers. The Spirit canonized the Words of Scripture through the churches.”

    Many books from the Apocrypha were included in the 1611 edition. Are we to conclude that the Holy Spirit canonized these books as well?

  6. February 20, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Bill, 1 Cor. 5:9 would be a doctrinally correct epistle that was non-canonical. Paul wrote more letters. He also wrote the epistle to the Laodecians. Bill and everyone else, consider this point: there were other epistles and gospels that were doctrinally correct that were written. When we find them and find that they are doctrinally correct and that they contain righteous words, why will those books not be considered Scripture?

  7. February 20, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    William,

    Thanks for your questions and comments. None of what you said is a problem based on Biblical presuppositions and the historical doctrine of providential preservation. We know that the churches did not make the initial multitudes of copies of the CT that they did the TR (Byzantine). The churches recognized what was the Word of God. I have no doubt that the churches at times failed, but God in His providence, based on His promises, circumvented them, just like He did in Israel in Josiah’s day. This is a common critique of what we believe on this. I would say this too. No one knows in absolute surety all the details of preservation. However, we don’t believe canonization takes place through unregenerate men, do we? We are impressed because believers recognized the Words.

    This is very unlike the CT and eclectic people, who are very impressed with scientific rules for textual criticism, a naturalistic explanation. It is akin, and I believe exactly akin, to the day age theory and theistic evolution, in which God supposedly uses naturalistic processes to do His work. This is one reason why the evolutionary tag comes in. This has not been the position of the church and it has major flaws. One is that it does not leave us with a perfect Bible.

  8. February 20, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Petros,

    The churches didn’t accept the apocrypha. That is obvious. That’s why you don’t see the KJV translated with the apocrypha today. The churches did not canonize those books. Do you see that the canonization work was still going on even in the 16th and 17th century—non-canonical Words rejected and canonical Words recognized and accepted? This question is one that commonly comes up, but usually not to get information, usually in the form of an attack, a “gotcha.” We know we have men that God used in this process as a part of His providence, but ultimately we are trusting the Biblical principles.

  9. February 20, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    Pastor B,

    Is it because the early church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and leadership of the apostles did not recognize those epistles as holy writ?

  10. February 20, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Based on the principles, Bill, that’s what I believe. Preservation relates to this subject closely too. We don’t have it, so they must not have recognized it, since God said He would preserve His Words.

  11. February 20, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    I would like to know what your thoughts are on the Septuagint (The LXX). I have heard and even read some pros and cons on this issue. Did Jesus use the LXX? Will you tackle this in the future?

  12. February 20, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    If you go to the Emmanuel Baptist Theological Website, you get some good articles on that by Dr. Strouse.

    http://www.emmanuel-newington.org/seminary/resources/index.php

    The Spring 2005 of their journal, the article, “Scholarly Myths Perpetuated on Rejecting the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament.”

    I don’t mind dealing with it though.  I have written some on it in a couple of reviews of books and in an answer to a review by Larry Oats of our book, TSKT.

  13. February 20, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    Ok so I have a question, nott sure where to post it. Why do publisher’s change the Word of God? Here is what I mean. We only use KJV, but several of our Bible’s are from different publisher’s. They slightly change one word in a verse, to maintain their copyright. My seven year old pointed this out to me that her Bible (KJV) had a different word in it, then the Bible at school (KJV).

    If the Bible is supposed to be perserved, shouldn’t it be perserved in copyright as well?

  14. February 21, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Bro. Brandenburg,

    Thanks for the link. Would you allow me here to mention that our next issue of the journal will be dealing with some of these questions? The theme is the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. Some of the articles will be (Lord willing) “Christ’s Targums,” “The Bibliology of the First Baptist,” “The OT Hebrew Text of John the Baptist,” and possibly some other things such as an article dealing with the Bible doctrine of the inspired and original Hebrew vowels.

    If anyone is interested in subscribing ($30.00 per year) they can call me (860-667-6208 ext.238) or email (jrgrassi@emmanuel-newington.org). Or you can wait till they eventually go up on the website.

    On another note, I have enjoyed reading some of the articles you men have written here recently. Thanks.

  15. February 21, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Mr. Brandenburg, I understand what you are saying, but it does not agree with your statement “After their finest scholars finished their translation of the Bible in 1611 (the King James Version), their churches agreed upon it as the Word of God…. The Spirit canonized the Words of Scripture through the churches.” You specifically reference the 1611 edition.

    In your thinking, when did the canonization process stop and what is to say that it could not continue even past the 16th, 17th, or 21st century?

  16. February 21, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Thank you Pastor B., I also appriciate the link.

  17. February 21, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Petros,

    The confusion may be in the referrant to “their.” ‘Their” in its context refers to the English speaking people. The finest scholars of the English speaking people translated, and then the Spirit canonized the Words through the churches (true churches) of the English speaking people.

    I’m going to answer your last question, but first let me ask you a few. Do you believe that Scripture teaches we should ever be settled on what Scripture is? If we are to be settled on the books, why? Shouldn’t we leave room to wait on that first letter to the Corinthians of 1 Cor. 5 and then that epistle to the Laodecians of Colossians 4? You made the point that the RCC still considers the Apocrypha is Scripture, so it seems that canonicity is still an issue. If Scripture isn’t settled, then it would seem that the books wouldn’t be settled either to have a consistent position.

    I believe it is settled, and it is obvious that they did settle on those Words, the Hebrew and Greek ones with the King James Version. I believe that in the hand copy stage that the philosophy was what I mentioned, and I will be bringing quotes in later from these men to show this was the position. They believed that God providentially preserved all the Words and that they had them to use or to live by.

    If someone does not take presuppositional apologetics on this, he will not care about it being settled, so I can’t trust the unsettled ones who do not have their position previously squared away Scripturally.

  18. February 21, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Bro. Grassi,

    That issue of the journal looks good; I’ll be looking forward to receiving my copy (which I paid for, I say that so that people will know I’m no shill here). Thanks for your comments, and you truly are free to join the fray here.

  19. February 22, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Mr. Brandenburg,

    Regarding #8, your statment seems to contradict a previous statement made in your post. For example, in your post you state, “After their finest scholars finished their translation of the Bible in 1611 (the King James Version), their churches agreed upon it as the Word of God…. The Spirit canonized the Words of Scripture through the churches.” In #8 you state that “The churches didn’t accept the apocrypha. That is obvious. That’s why you don’t see the KJV translated with the apocrypha today. The churches did not canonize those books.”

    So did the churches accept the 1611 or not?

    Also, I wanted to point out that I did not reference the RCC: you pointed that out. I was addressing the 1611 ed.

    Your questions are as follows:

    Q: Do you believe that Scripture teaches we should ever be settled on what Scripture is? If we are to be settled on the books, why?

    A: I cannot think of any passages that explicitly “teach we should be settled on what Scripture is.” Canonization is a historical process by which the Holy Spirit led the church to recognize those writings that were inspired.This issue was settled in the early church: we have the canon.

    I guess I’m just looking for your answers to my two questions:

    Q1: “Many books from the Apocrypha were included in the 1611 edition. Are we to conclude that the Holy Spirit canonized these books as well?”

    You state that the 1611 ed was canonized by the churches, but the Apocrypha is included in this edition so does it belong to the canon?

    Q2: “In your thinking, when did the canonization process stop and what is to say that it could not continue even past the 16th, 17th, or 21st century?”

  20. February 22, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Oh, I also wanted to ask if anyone was going to comment in response to Cathy’s comment (#13).

    Thanks!

  21. February 22, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Petros,

    I’m wondering why you don’t have a problem with saying that the churches settled on the canon, but do have a problem with saying that the churches settled on the words. You said,

    “I cannot think of any passages that explicitly “teach we should be settled on what Scripture is.””

    But there is not any passage that explicitely teaches that we should be settled on what the canon is either. So, what is the standard?

    We reject the Apocrypha for the same reason that you accept the canon… “This issue was settled in the early church: we have the canon.”

    Accepting the 1611 or later editions is not tantamount to accepting the Apocrypha. Nor are we saying that “the 1611 ed was canonized by the churches.” What we are saying (and have said several times in our main articles) is that the churches have, along the way throughout history, settled on the words. The early churches settled on the canon, later the churches settled on the Byzantine, later on the TR, and when the 1611 was written, the churches settled on it and thus on the TR that was behind it.

    What Cathy is talking about is really the result of the churches abdicating in their role of the care and maintenance of God’s Word. We have been content to allow publishing houses to maintain God’s Word, and thus they have done with it as they pleased. The problem is becoming more and more pronounced, and the churches must step back in and do their job.

  22. February 22, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Petros,

    Thanks for your participation. Timothy was settled on what Scripture was at that point when He said “All Scripture,” which was not the original manuscripts, but copies. I believe He also recognized, like the Thessalonians (2:13) and Peter (2 Peter 3:15,16) that Paul’s epistles were Scripture.

    You write: “Canonization is a historical process by which the Holy Spirit led the church to recognize those writings that were inspired.This issue was settled in the early church: we have the canon.” Our authority for being settled are verses like John 16:13 and John 17:8. We would recognize and receive the Words that were His through the guidance of God Himself, the Holy Spirit. This is the historic position of Christ’s churches as well. If based upon Biblical presuppositions, we assume that the churches had every Word and every Word was available, then we would believe that they would settle on what those Words were by means of the Spirit. Our interpretation of history comes from the promises of God, basing our view upon the providence of God.

    Kevin Bauder writes this in his recent article in the Baptist Bulletin on canonicity in the last paragraph, “In principle, the question of canonicity is always open.” I agree with that. Each generation of churches passes down the Bible to the next generation, each successive generation receiving again the Words of God by means of the guiding of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is perfect; it can’t change, but we must receive, as Christ prayed in John 17:8, the Words that God has given.

    YOUR QUESTIONS, PETROS:

    Q1: “Many books from the Apocrypha were included in the 1611 edition. Are we to conclude that the Holy Spirit canonized these books as well?”

    THE KJV TRANSLATORS DID NOT CANONIZE SCRIPTURE; THE HOLY SPIRIT CANONIZED SCRIPTURE THROUGH THE CHURCHES. THE CHURCHES HAD AND CONTINUED TO REJECT THE APOCRYPHA EVEN IF THE ANGLICANS DID NOT REJECT IT. THAT IS CLEAR THAT THEY DID AND CONTINUED TO REJECT THE APOCRYPHA.

    Q2: “In your thinking, when did the canonization process stop and what is to say that it could not continue even past the 16th, 17th, or 21st century?”
    IF THE BIBLE DOES NOT CHANGE AND IT IS TO BE AVAILABLE, THEN GOD’S PEOPLE WOULD SETTLE ON IT. THEY NEED TO CONTINUE TO SETTLE ON IT IN EACH SUCCEEDING GENERATION, BUT IT COULD NOT HAVE CHANGED. THE BIBLE OF THE 16TH CENTURY CANNOT BE DIFFERENT THAN THE ONE OF THE 19TH CENTURY. THE SPIRIT CONTINUES CANONIZING THROUGH THE CHURCHES IN PRINCIPLE, BUT THE BIBLE HAS ALREADY BEEN SETTLED BY HIS PEOPLE. THAT IS WHY WE DON’T CONTINUE TO RESTORE GOD’S WORD; WE JUST RECEIVE IT.

  1. February 24, 2007 at 12:30 pm
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