Review of The Bible Version Debate

Grisanti, Michael A., ed. The Bible Version Debate: The Perspective of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Minneapolis: Central Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997. 148 pgs. $5.00. (Contributors: Roy E. Beacham, W. Edward Glenny, Douglas R. McLachlan, Larry D. Pettegrew)

Note that a revised version of this book has since been commercially published: Roy Beacham & Kevin Bauder, eds. One Bible Only? (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001). (The review is of the original edition.)

The multiplication of Bible versions in the twentieth century combined with the insecurities and anti-intellectualism of some sectors of fundamentalism has produced paranoia among some well-intentioned (but misguided) pastors. Unfortunately, this spills over into the pew, generating considerable and unnecessary turmoil. Few writers have braved the acid waters of this maelstrom in an attempt to bring some sanity (to say nothing of some factual data!) into the debate. Those who have done so are to be thanked, though their number is few. The church should be thankful for another brave contribution to these troubled waters-a contribution that will go a long way towards resolving many misconceptions if it is read with an open mind. (Unfortunately open minds seem to be few and far between in the ranks of the “King James Only” crowd.) Central Baptist Seminary (Minneapolis) has published a useful and profitable book on this controversial issue. It consists of a series of faculty papers that spell out the position of Central Seminary on this issue. In the process it addresses several issues that have not previously received the attention they deserve. Two in particular are worth highlighting.

The most notable of these is the OT perspective on the “Masoretic Text” (MT) written by Roy Beacham. Little discussion has focused on this topic because too often both sides assume that the MT is a given-“there’s nothing else to translate.” Dr. Beacham traces the history of the MT tradition (in itself a revealing discussion) and evaluates the King James only arguments related to it. Politely he does not identify those who advance unsubstantiated (and unsubstantiable!) claims regarding the inerrancy of specific printings of certain Masoretic type texts.

The largest part of the book (three of the five major chapters) are written by Ed Glenny. Some of these cover familiar ground, but they never the less provide a helpful introduction to the basic issues involved. The most unique part of these chapters is Dr. Glenny’s discussion of the differences among the various editions of the KJV. He cites estimates of 75,000 (!) differences of detail between the first printing, 1611 KJV and the 1769 revision by Blayney (which is the basis for most contemporary printings of the KJV). Also of note is his discussion of the “doctrine of preservation: (in which he develops the approach laid out by Dan Wallace’s perceptive 1992 GTJ article).

Because it is privately published and because it is couched as a “position statement,” it will probably not get the attention that similar works from the commercial publishers receive (D. A. Carson,The KJV Debate; James White, The King James Only Controversy). It will, never the less, serve a valuable role in the church, if for no other reason, because it comes from a seminary whose orthodoxy and fundamental stance is unquestioned. This in itself may prove to be reassuring to some fundamentalists who are unduly skeptical of “outside” scholarship (a unnecessary, provincial view, I might add).