Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Wheels on the Chariot...

I'm not sure how many people will even be interested in reading this post. It represents a response to one of my rather obscure Internet antagonists from the KJV-only camp, Will Kinny.

Since about 2003 or so, Will and I have had something of a Salieri-Mozart like relationship. As I have engaged the apologetics of KJV-onlyism on email discussion groups and Internet chat forums, Will has been faithful to post his comments contradicting everything I write. Plus, I can always count on him to publicly savage my personal character with accusations of being a lying Bible denier, or just plain stupid.

Generally, these exchanges center around particular problem passages found in scripture and how the translators of the King James Bible have chosen to translate the questionable passage, as opposed to how modern translators may have chosen to translate the passage. Take for example the number of people reported to have been struck by the Lord at Beth-Shemesh in 1 Samuel 6:19. The KJV states the Lord struck 50,070 people. Other translations, even non-English ones, translate the number a variety of ways. That is not because the translators of those other versions don't believe God won't kill that many people at once, but because the number is difficult to ascertain from the original Hebrew. In an article I wrote, I understand the number to be reflective of the total number of people God struck between the Philistines and the Israelites.

Will equates the English text of the King James with the original biblical autographs; the King James being an English translation of those original autographs. Thus, according to Will, anyone who translates the Bible any way other than how the KJV reads is changing the Word of God. So, if you do not believe God killed 50,070 individual persons in the small village of Beth-Shemesh just like the KJV implies happened, you are denying God's Word according to Will and his KJV-only apologetics. In fact, many of the polemics written by KJV-onlyists are constructed for the sole purpose of creating an absolute, unyielding defense of the English translation of the King James. Rather than seeking to uncover what the Bible is truly saying, these so-called "believing Bible studies" only serve as an excuse to protect the KJV text from any meaningful and much needed revision.

The problem with defending such an extremely irrational view of God's Word is how it leaves one easily exposed to embarrassing criticism. Rather than defending the infallibility of God's Word, we are defending the infallibility of a particular translation. If it then can be clearly demonstrated a serious flaw exists in the translation, then it is tantamount to saying an error exists in God's revelation. However, if we acknowledge the fact translations can be at times poorly done and in need of revision, the flaw is a problem with the fallible translators, not God's authoritative Word.

This view of the KJV is what fuels the current disagreement between Will and myself.

I wrote an article examining 1 Samuel 13:1, 5. I argued that in 13:5 the number of chariots listed in the verse, 30,000, is misunderstood. That is because no standing army during that period of Israel's history fielded an army with 30,000 chariots. I concluded the word for "chariot," translated from the Hebrew, rekeb, can have a wide semantic range including the specific vehicle, the driver of the chariot, or the entire chariot fighting force including men and vehicles. The last definition is what I think is being conveyed by the author at 1 Samuel 13:5.

Enter Will Kinny. Utilizing all his skill as a high school Spanish teacher, he posted an article exacting an autopsy of my argument.

Because I believe the 30,000 chariots here is better to be understood as the total number of individual soldiers and their vehicles rather than just individual vehicles, Will claims I have "lost my mind." I am a "Bible denier" and have changed the definitions of "inerrant and infallible." But notice I haven't denied the Bible at all. Heck, I haven't even denied the KJV. I happen to think the number 30,000 is correct. I don't side with the typical footnote of 1 Samuel 13:5 which says the number "30,000" is a copyist error for "3,000." The only thing I have done is offer my perspective on how we are to understand the number "30,000" as it relates to the word "chariots" and I guess if even my interpretative perspective differs with a KJV-onlyist I am apostate.

Will provides his typical criticism found in all his screeds by citing a dozen other translations that read "30,000" and then he cross references over to 1 Chronicles 19:7 where it says how the Ammonites hired 32,000 chariots to fight against David. He concludes that because a dozen or so other non-KJV translations have 30,000 at 1 Samuel 13:5 and 1 Chronicles 19:7 has "32,000 chariots," then it has to be individual chariots.

With these things in mind, let me consider Will's criticisms.

First, it needs to be understood that I didn't pull my understanding of rekeb out of thin air. The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis states that rekeb "can be used collectively for chariots, as well as charioteers." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia also affirms this idea. So it isn't some unique and bizarre understanding of the language as Will suggest. In fact, the KJV implies this usage in 1 Chronicles 19:18 where it says David, "slew of the Syrians 7,000 men which fought in chariots." Note the phrase men which fought in is in italics alerting the reader that the phrase is not in the original Hebrew text. The KJV translators made an interpretative translation of the verse to reconcile the number 7,000 with the number 700 in 2 Samuel 10:18. On what exactly did they base that interpretation? Could it be because rekeb can be seen as a collective total?

Secondly, I don't think KJV defenders like Will truly appreciate the enormity of the number 30,000 or even 32,000. Thirty thousand is a huge number of anything let alone chariot vehicles. To put the number in some perspective, Andrew Higgins produced 20,000 landing craft for the 175,000 troops to be used during the Normandy invasion on D-Day, 1944. That is 12,000 short of the number mentioned in the KJV if we are to see individual chariots.

Additionally, the expense with building chariots, along with maintaining the animals needed for pulling them, is staggering. Imagine 32,000 chariots being pulled by 4 horses each. That would be 128,000 horses on a field of battle! If only two horses were pulling each chariot, we still have 64,000. 64,000 people can maybe sit in Dodger Stadium. That's just people. Imagine horses. Then consider the need to maneuver the chariots effectively in battle against an enemy, especially on bushy, hilly terrain. 32,000 chariots being pulled by 128,000 horses, or even 64,000 horses is astronomical.

Again, I am not denying the Bible or correcting anything. I am merely trying to understand the biblical text while attempting to maintain its integrity in light of known military history; and this is not liberal, higher criticism history either.

I am sympathetic to the desire of KJV-only apologists to defend the integrity of the biblical text. I am of the opinion that folks are too quick to label every textual difficulty a "copyist error." Perhaps some exist, but I look for other solutions to the biblical problem rather than automatically concluding its a "copyist error." However, KJV-onlyists are not defending the integrity of the Word of God specifically. They are protecting their favored translation from any meaningful revision. Their zeal is admirable, but in the long run, defending an outdated, 400 years old Bible version from being revised only serves to make them look foolish, and brings reproach upon the gospel.



Blogger Greg said...

I can really relate to this post. I was sucked up briefly in the KJV controversy, and read a lot of Will Kinney's internet trash heap.

What kept me from going overboard (and eventually turned me back around) was the patience of a pastor friend of mine, who knew the translators of the NKJV personally.

Before all that, I used to e-mail Will once in a while. You've really hit the nail on the head with him.

9:54 AM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger Shinar Squirrel said...

The thing about the KJVO (I wonder if there's a radio station with those call letters?) folks is that dealing with actual textual criticism requires thought, which interferes with jerking of knees.

The Squirrel

10:59 AM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

30,000 chariots(vehicles) and 6,000 horsemen(drivers). Some were remote controlled back then or did they fall apart and extra ones were pushed/pulled by the people mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:5? Wouldn't it make sense that the ratio would be several horsemen to each chariot...seeing as some men would succumb in battle? Elsewhere in the KJV is a reference of 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen. Notice wording below that makes one think ~ 4 or 40 thousand stalls?

Such things are similar to gnats and camels when one considers the greater forest over the tree view?

11:42 AM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

Moreover, in the KJV was it 700 or 7000 horsemen for 1000 chariots concerning David?


If one verse or part is suspect, isn't the whole thing then to be regarded as a lie? What did folks do for the preserved Word before the KJV? Just saying.

11:51 AM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

It's hard to understand the mindset until you've been there JOYce. What you have is a lot of people that have arbitrarily assigned a status of "perfect" to an old Anglican translation.

Their arguments could all be used to support the Geneva bible, and yet you see no GB Onlyists out there.

"What did folks do for the preserved Word before the KJV? Just saying."

Until you can break through the mythos they've set up in their head, then no amount of sound reasoning or proven deficiencies in their chosen translation will get through.

My King James mythos cracked open when I learned about the people who translated bibles from the people who translated bibles. Now I don't know how I lived without the ESV :)

1:03 PM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger fredsgirl said...

Well, since 1611 is in the Bible - it is simply indisputable! ;)

1:47 PM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger threegirldad said...

The thing about the KJVO...folks is that dealing with actual textual criticism requires thought...

That, along with either intentionally disregarding, flat-out rejecting, or being entirely ignorant of, the viewpoint of the translators themselves.

8:55 PM, March 23, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

Thanks for the viewpoint link, threegirldad. :-)

Greg, the KJV was the Bible when I was a little girl. The Message makes my eyeballs and ears do strange things. I remember when The Good News version was hip and along came others...and confusion and conflict. Which to memorize? Literal or functional? Verse comparisons do reveal different wording(have you ever been amazed at how those from foreign lands translate their individual languages to English when online?); with homeschooling, the topic came up as did videos highlighting the issue(think ABeka and Pensacola). Shouldn't the original language hold sway with all ~ at least a concordance or dictionary look/see?

What has me take pause is that the KJVO folks split into two sides on salvation ~ both confirm by grace while one is monergistic and the other synergistic. Some on the side of free will won't even read other than what supports what they've been taught ~ everything else is heresy, for sure. Mention GTY or John MacArthur and find oneself marked out by some in the blogosphere...or the real world. Yet those very people find context, context, context problematic. Same perfect Word. Some sites point to King James having a motive to uphold Calvinistic doctrine in the version. Some reject that thought with a vengeance. Is it Ryrie or Scofield for study? Or Precept Ministries and a study Bible that many schools of doctrine find fitting to uphold theirs?

I typically quote the KJV ~ avoids the copyright issue. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

3:31 AM, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I actually did a series on KJV onlyism back when I started this blog. Older articles are in the side bar, or you can check out more stuff, including an audio series on the subject at www.fredsbibletalk.com.

I realize there are fundamental Baptist KJV onlyists (the ones I tend to chase here at my blog) and the Calvinistic KJV onlyists (generally ultra strict-particular Baptist denominations, at least here in the states).

The problem with the Calvinist version of KJV onlyism is they adhere to their views of the Bible more out of a tradition built upon false premises, i.e. the KJV upholds Calvinism. Historically, however, the KJV is an Anglican revision of previous English translations. King James chose to allow its publication because he saw it as an opportunity to supplant the Geneva Bible, which is a Reformed Bible, but one he hated because it is was instrumental in getting his mother Mary of Scotland, executed, at least in his mind. If anything, the KJV was meant to be a counter-reformation Bible. Hence the reason the original editions didn't have study notes like the Geneva.

I like the KJV, too. My point of contention is with an errant strain of apologists who have developed a ridiculous revisionist history of our Bible's transmission and are notorious for disrupting Churches with their false doctrine.

5:37 AM, March 24, 2009  
Blogger charles said...

Fred, I know it's not the subject, but I see you deleted the post about the Transformation of Grace Church paper. I guess you didn't want to display some of the very good comments made. Too bad, but all evil will be revealed in the end.

5:53 PM, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Just this once.
Yes Charles, I did delete it because a) it wasn't the subject of the post, b) you named people and again, this is after I asked you not to, c) you didn't add anything new or substantive to your conspiracy theory. Go back and answer the things I mentioned about you being an employee of Grace (I know you live here in LA somewhere), and maybe write something in response to the points I raised in my article that talks about how conspiracy theories damage the spirituality of believers. Email me your responses, don't leave them as comments under non-related posts.

Okay, everyone else can go back to talking about Bible versions.


6:53 PM, March 24, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

Fred, this was one of the first rooms entered when introduced to your thoughts. http://www.fredsbibletalk.com/fb019.html You have many links into which I desire to delve. Thanksgiving!

It would be nice to have a link(maybe there is one) for the varied versions of the Bible sharing information as you have about the Geneva Bible, etc. Appreciate your putting this on the study table!

Errant strain of apologists...disrupting Churches...false doctrine. Nothing new under the sun...the Son equips His own to confront it and move forward in love to the praise of the glory of His grace?

Now did God, according to the KJV, say and mean Easter(Ishtar) or Passover in Acts 12:14? Wonder what the Geneva Bible indicates? The original language and context?

To the reader at the front of a Ryrie expanded study Bible are these words by Dr. Ryrie:

...Useful as helps can be, the most important thing is to read the Bible itself. This is God's Word to you. I pray that these notes will serve to make it clearer and more personally meaningful.

We shouldn't solely want to know facts but to be grace-grown to know God's face, hand...and heart being His workmanship. To go. Kerfuffles divert the call.

3:58 AM, March 25, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

There are at least three good books on the KJV translators - all of the titles escape me at the moment. I know one of them is entitled "God's Secretaries." All of them go into detail about King James politics. If memory serves, even Wikipedia, as unreliable as it can be, as a fairly accurate biographical description of King James's disdain for the Puritan movement and the Reformation in England. He was, by the way, one of the catalysts used by the Lord to drive the Pilgrims to America. They didn't like him for his anti-Puritanism. Also, check around at www.kjv.org. There may be some articles on his background.

As for easter, I did write a little article on Acts 12:4 if you haven't seen it.

5:53 AM, March 25, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

oops, I am sorry for being later than sooner in seeing/reading your last comment; please forgive my not being an A+ blogger. What you shared is appreciated...see there are reasonably priced used hardcovers of God's Secretaries online, one to be snagged. Do hope to be back in short order to read the article on Acts 12:4. I'm VERY grateful.

6:56 AM, March 30, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

Printed & read ~ loved it! :-)

3:35 PM, March 31, 2009  

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