Correspondence Between Rev. Hayes Minnick and Mr. Bruce Lund
October 24, 1980
Greetings in the precious Name of our wonderful Lord! Let me apologize for not having been able to reply to your good letter of the tenth before this. I was involved in preparing my report for our annual congregational meeting, plus the fact that my dear father is now almost totally infirm and requires waiting on hand and foot. Because of these two factors I have gotten behind in my correspondence and am just now beginning to catch up. Marty's kind letter came today with a photograph of the family which we will place in our album. Let me also express to you in behalf of our church family our deep gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for the gracious gift to the Lord through the local fellowship which came in your letter, Bruce. We earnestly pray that God will bless you and your precious family' in this sacrifice of love for Jesus' sake. Enclosed is a receipt from our church treasurer for your generous gift.
I am well acquainted with Dr. Dollar and his spheres of ministry over the past ten years. As far as I am able to judge, he appears to be sound on the doctrine of biblical separation but would not be prepared to accept our evaluation of the manuscripts of the minority text upon which Westcott and Hort placed so great an emphasis as corrupt. The convictions of Burgon and Scrivener of a century ago have been revived Within the past score of years but by far the majority of even the most conservative schools and those who teach in them still look with favor on the Westcott-Hort theory. Those of us who have come to the conviction that the true text is most reliably represented by the majority of manuscripts are in the minority. That is why there are so very few local testimonies totally committed to the KJV. I conceive it to be my responsibility to witness faithfully and aggressively to the truth as God has given me to see it with the earnest hope that those to whom my testimony is presented will be ultimately delivered from the hundred-year hoax perpetrated by Westcott and Hort. I personally could not in good conscience be identified with any local testimony that made use of any version other than the King James only. I believe it to be the only safe, sound, and reliable translation of the true text as set forth in the original manuscripts for the simple reason that it pre-dated the Westcott-Hort take-over at the time of the English revision a century ago. All versions since then have been channelled through the course established by W&H at that time.
This is not to say that I believe the King James translation is inspired. It is most assuredly not. And those who seek to defend it upon this premise only compound the confusion that exists to the detriment of the truth. Dr. Dollar was absolutely right when he stated that "no one version is actually totally free from error but only the original mss." If you look on the back of one of our church bulletins, you will observe under point #1 that this is the position we maintain. It is perfectly possible to make a thoroughly safe and reliable
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translation from one language into another while at the same time recognizing that no translation can in any sense of the word be absolutely accurate. For example, in the KJV the word "precious" represents the uniform translation of no less than seventeen different Hebrew and Greek roots in the original languages. It becomes obvious that no one word in the English can accurately portray seventeen different shades of meaning in the original. No one would be authorized to say that those portions of Scripture in which the word "precious" occurs are in error, but by the same token no one would be authorized to affirm that they were absolutely accurate.
Beyond inaccuracies of translation there are definite errors in the KJV, one such may be observed in I Corinthians l4:12. The subject with which Paul is dealing in chapters12-14 of this epistle is spiritual gifts (Greek=pneumatika). In verse 12 of chapter l4, however, an entirely different Greek word appears (pneumata) -- which means literally "spirits" or "unseen forces" -- yet the King James translators rendered it "spiritual gifts" as though it were the word pneumatika. In so doing they missed the force of Paul's argument completely to the effect that what the Corinthians were actually doing in their charismatic display was involving themselves in intercourse with the spirit World. There is also evidence of bias on the part of the translators. Their Calvinistic prejudice comes through in Acts 2:47 which reads literally in the Greek: "And the Lord added to the church those who were being saved." The translators made it to be "such as should be saved."
All that we can claim for the KJV is that it is a trustworthy translation, and I may add, completely trustworthy. The bed-rock foundation of our faith rests in the inspiration and innerrancy of the original writings. And this is what we mean when we speak of the Bible. By metonymy, a figure of speech by which one word is put for another on account of some actual relation between the things signified, it is possible to hold in one's hand a translation of the original text and affirm it to be the Word of the living God with the understanding that such a statement is true in so far as it is a true and accurate translation. The errors of copyists and linguistic limitations in the making of a translation in no way invalidate the fact that the original manuscripts are inspired and inerrant. No document loses its value merely because of deficiencies that may be inherent in the process of translation. The mistakes which the copyists made may render a few passages doubtful but do not make all the rest fallible. It is simply not true that a message, a teaching, a statement, of the Bible loses its infallibility, its power, its divine character, when a fallible human being copies it, transmits it, or preaches it. Will a condemned criminal doubt the validity of a pardon because a lowly messenger, and not the governor himself, brings and reads to him the pardon? And if the messenger mispronounces a word or two, is the pardon invalidated? Most assuredly not.
Some years ago a liberal theologian, deprecating the discussion of inspiration and inerrancy as not worth while, remarked that it was a matter of small consequence whether a pair of trousers were originally perfect if they were now rent. To which the valiant and witty David James Burrell replied that it might be a matter of small consequence to the wearer of the trousers, but the tailor who made them would
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prefer to have it understood that they did not leave his shop that way. The Most High should also be regarded as One who drops no stitches and sends out no imperfect work. If the original manuscripts of the holy writers were inerrant, then it was at least possible for the scribes to transmit an inerrant message to posterity. If the original writings were the Word of God, then the copies transmit to us the Word of God in the degree in which they are faithful to the original. The fact that copies offer a multitude of variant readings has no bearing on the scriptural thesis that everything written by the holy writers was verbally inspired and remains verbally inspired. It is imperative that these two matters be kept separate. Let it be recognized that the copyists did not do their transcribing by inspiration; nobody claims that. But the question before us just now is: Were the originals written by inspiration? And the fallibility of the copyists certainly does not affect the infallibility of the prophets and the apostles.
There is a very definite distinction between inspiration and preservation. Inspiration guarantees inerrancy and is God's responsibility. Preservation is man's responsibility, and it is in this area, because of human fallibility, that scribal errors and variant readings have been introduced into the manuscripts.' God came down upon Mount Sinai and established a testimony for the truth only once (Psalm 78:1-8); from that point hence forth it was the responsibility of each succeeding generation of Israel to preserve the truth and pass it on. Should the truth be lost through apostasy and human failure, it would never be reestablished again. The preservation of the truth is clearly a human responsibility. The same thing is true in the New Testament. How many times did Christ come down from heaven in the incarnation, die on an old rugged cross, and rise again to establish the glorious Gospel of the grace of God? Only once (Romans 10:6-10). If through apostasy and human failure the truth of the Gospel be corrupted and rendered spurious, the miraculous process will not be repeated. It happened once for all, and having been established, it is now the responsibility of each generation to preserve the truth and pass it on to the next generation. This is why we are exhorted to earnestly defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3-4. This is the reason why Paul exhorted Timothy to hold fast the very form of sound words, II Timothy 1:13. The preservation of the truth is clearly a human responsibility.
While the miracle of inspiration is not perpetuated in those who have copied and translated the Scriptures, the accepted translation is nevertheless so entirely free from fundamental error that fairness must conclude that God in His over-ruling providence has wonderfully preserved the purity of the original text in the transmission. Out of some 800,000 various readings of the Bible, about 795,000 are of about as much importance as the question in English orthography is whether the word "honor" or Saviour" should be spelled with a u or without it. L. Boettner declares that "'in probably nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand we have either positive knowledge or reasonable assurance as to what the original words were; so accurately have the copyists reproduced them, and so faithfully have the translators done their work." The insinuation that the Bible text is unreliable because of variant readings is a totally unfounded assumption. Through a process of textual criticism we have an established,
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authentic, accepted text. And this is the point that needs to be emphasized. It is upon this authentic text that our faith is firmly founded, and not upon any of the three supposed alternatives outlined in your letter.
May God bless you and every member of your precious family. Our prayer for you--Numbers 6:24-26; Romans 15:13. I must apologize again for the delay in getting this letter off to you--I began it a week ago and am just now finishing a week later! Last Thursday evening my dear father went to be with the Lord and we are planning to fly to Pennsylvania tomorrow for the memorial service next Tuesday. My time through the week was fairly well broken up with all the additional responsibilities, but I did want to get this off to you before we leave. Love from all of us to all of you,
In Jesus' Precious Name,
/s/ Hayes Minnick
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February 3, 1981
Greetings in the precious Name of our wonderful Lord! Please forgive me the lengthy delay in writing this letter that I promised to you. It appears now that I will have a little time free from the multiplied responsibilities of the past several weeks so that, hopefully, I will be able to realize the fulfillment of my intention.
The first thing you need to get fixed firmly in your mind, my dear young friend, is that we do have an authentic, absolutely authoritative text in the originals, both Hebrew and Greek. It is not nonexistent and it is most assuredly not unverifiable. While the actual autographs are not now available to us, there are multiplied numbers of copies through which the true text of scripture is preserved intact. Surely you will acknowledge that the Bible did not lose its force, its authority, the divine power of its words, through its transmission to us by way of written or printed copies. Do our lawyers ask to have the original engrossed documents embodying the legislative acts of Congress in their hands before they make use of them? Let us be done with talk about copies not being as good as the originals! Though I have never seen the original Declaration of Independence, it is perfectly proper for me to say that I have read it by means of copies that have been placed in my hands. An exact copy is certainly as good as the original. And even a copy that contained scribal or typographical errors would not invalidate the message of the autograph. There are a sufficient number of copies of the Declaration in existence to enable us to correct any faulty copies that might appear. So it is with the science of textual criticism. It proceeds upon the assumption of an
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inspired original. The very multiplicity of the number of copies is in itself a safeguard to the preservation of an authentic text. Where scribal errors or variant readings occur, faulty copies may be corrected by an appeal to the majority of the manuscripts, versions, and patristic citations. We have in our possession an edition of the Bible in which there appears to be an unusual number of typographical errors. One, for example, is found in Revelation l4:13. This edition reads: ''..,and their words do follow them." It is very obviously a misprint, and through a very simple process may be determined as such. Every other Bible I have ever read has "works" instead of "words." Which of these is the correct rendering? As a mere matter of common sense we would conclude that if ninety-nine copies of the Bible read "works" while but one read "words," the true reading would be "works." Thus the faulty copy is easily corrected by an appeal to the vast majority of copies. Further and final verification would, of course, be made by comparison with the Greek text.
But just suppose for a moment that the only copy of the Bible a person had ever read was a representative of this faulty edition. Would his faith be impaired in the least by reading "'words" instead of "works"? By no means, for the simple reason that either reading is completely consistent with the entire context of Scripture. Did not our Lord declare (Matthew 12:36), "that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment"? So whether "works" or ''words" is read, there is no fusion of doctrinal truth with doctrinal error. Both readings are in full accord with the truth of Scripture. And thus it is with by far the majority of variant readings in the copies of the New Testament. Let me quote to you a paragraph from L. Gaussen in his Theopneustia, written over a century ago;
"No doubt, in these passages (he had just made reference to a dozen instances in which it may be difficult to determine the genuine reading found in the autographs), among the different readings which the manuscripts present, it will not be possible to know infallibly which is the one that ought to be regarded as the primitive text, or the very word given by God; but, as to the meaning of the sentence, our uncertainties will always be circumscribed within a very narrow and very clearly defined field. It is true, that choose I must between one word and another word -- between one letter and another letter; but there all my doubts are limited, there they stop: they are not allowed to go any farther. Not only, in fact, have I the assurance that the rest of the text is entirely from God; but I further know, that of the two different readings which the manuscripts present to me, One is certainly the inspired word. Thus you see how it stands: here my uncertainties can bear only on the alternative of two readings, almost always very much alike..."
It should be obvious, then, that scribal errors and variant readings do not necessarily involve a mixture of truth with error. They do not come under the same category as doctrinal error. As I look back over this half page which I have just written, I observe at least two typographical errors -- neither of which affect the sense one iota! So there are errors on this page; yet they are of a kind that would in nowise represent a perversion of the truth. Such errors do exist, yet they may be readily determined and corrected. And in those very few
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instances in which it may be difficult to decide which of the variant readings is the right one, we may suspend judgment, presenting the possibilities, with certain knowledge that at least one of them is found in the autograph.
I think you will agree that this is a thoroughly objective approach. No one hates and exposes the injection of subjectivity and relativism where truth is concerned more strongly than I. It has been said that scholarship is devotion to accuracy, and this is the goal toward which we strive. It can only be attained through diligent study (II Timothy 2:15) in utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit. In the entire process we must deal with the facts as they are, and not as we might think they should be. And the simple fact of the matter is this: we have a firm foundation for our faith in the authentic, absolutely authoritative, text of the Hebrew and the Greek. As to why God should have permitted errors in the transmission, the answer is simply this: He did it as a test of faith. In His infinite wisdom God has hidden every precious thing in such a way that it is a reward to the diligent, a prize to the earnest, and a disappointment to the slothful soul. All nature is arrayed against the lounger and the idler. The nut is hidden in its thorny case; the pearl is buried beneath the ocean wave; the gold is imprisoned in the rocky bosom of the mountain; the gem is obtained only after you crush the rock that encloses it; and the very soil gives its harvest only as a reward of industry to the husbandman. So it is with the study of God's Word! The knowledge of God comes through the earnest pursuit of search and research within the confines of Holy Scripture (Jeremiah 29:13). Transmissional errors in the multitude of copies available to us only serve to intensify the ardent desire of believing hearts through diligent study to obtain the very words given by God.
Let me quote again from Gaussen: "If the Holy Scriptures -- which have been so often copied, and which have passed so often through the faulty hands of ever fallible men -- were absolutely without variations, the miracle would be so great, that faith in them would no longer be faith. I am astonished, on the contrary, that the result of all those transcriptions has not been a much greater number of different readings." He is quoting at this point from Bengel, one of the most eminent of textual critics. Gaussen closes out the chapter in which he deals with this subject by concluding, "that not only was the Scripture inspired on the day when God caused it to be written, but that we possess this word inspired eighteen hundred years ago; and that we may still, while holding our sacred text in one hand, and in the other all the readings collected by the learned in seven hundred manuscripts, exclaim, with thankfulness, I hold in my hand my Father's testament, the eternal word of my God!"
I do not believe that the permission of transcriptional errors was passively intentional on God's part to prevent the Scripture from becoming an object of idolatry. Inasmuch as He has magnified His Word above His Name (Psalm 138:2), He requires that we give the same reverence to His fiord that we give to Him. This is not idolatry, or bibliolatry, as the liberals and compromising evangelicals allege.
Not for one moment, and in no way, do I minimize the overruling providence of God in the preservation of Scripture. So zealous is He for
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the truth or His Word that He is constantly and continually -- yes, unceasingly -- active in guarding and safeguarding it down through the centuries. But He does it through imperfect men in spite of their human frailties, while inspiration involves the immediate presidency or the Holy Spirit, the matter or preservation involves only mediate supervision -- and the foibles of men are permitted to make themselves manifest. Moses, whom you cited in your letter is a perfect example. He to whom the original tables of the law had been entrusted, in a display of righteous indignation, shattered those tables at his feet when he came down from the mount and witnessed the Israelites dancing the dance of death around the golden calf. In their utter wickedness, they had forfeited their right to such a covenant before it had ever been delivered to them in writing. And had it not been for the intercession or Moses, no new tablets would have ever been written; the people would have perished under the judgment or God (Psalm106:23). But because of Moses' mediatorial ministry, in the sovereign providence of an infinite wisdom, the covenant was re-established, the tables of the law were rewritten, and the impetuous act of Moses in breaking the first tablets was overruled for the preservation of the truth. In all of this entire process we have abundant evidence of the manner in which God, through His continuing care, sustains the testimony of truth – in spite of the imperfect instruments which He uses.
But please note one thing further. Whereas in the first instance God himself provided the tables of stone (Exodus 32:16), Moses was instructed to produce them the second time. (Exodus 34:1). The Lord was teaching him a lesson in human responsibility. Since he was the one who had destroyed the first tables of testimony, and thus railed in the trust that was committed to him, God now requires him to furnish the second set himself. Thus the two fundamental factors involving divine Providence and human responsibility blend together in perfect harmony in the preservation of a true testimony. Neither negates the other. The very same principles may be observed in the rewriting of the roll destroyed by Jehoiakim. In neither instance -- the giving of the decalogue of the prophecy or Jeremiah -- was the truth established in writing to the people of God prior to their violent destruction. According to the divine design, those to whom the transmission of the truth had been entrusted were sustained in the sovereign providence of God to the fulfilment of their mission, even to the rewriting of both tablet and scroll. In the situation involving Jeremiah, God miraculously preserved him (Jeremiah 36:26) for this purpose. With the cessation or the prophetic office, however, and the completion of the canon or Scripture, inspiration also ceased (Revelation 22:18-19). And it is now incumbent upon the saints to whom the faith was once-for-all delivered (Jude 3-4) to earnestly contend for it so as to preserve it in all or its purity and pass it on to subsequent generations. There is here a very definite human responsibility - a responsibility which can only be fulfilled through the sustaining grace and overruling providence of God. The two are combined together in an activity of total unison. The Lord will always have a godly remnant upon earth to preserve His truth, though faith will be at a minimum just prior to His return (Luke 18:8). My purpose in emphasizing human responsibility in the previous letter was simply to indicate the area in which scribal errors and variant readings have been introduced into the text by means of the great numbers of copies in existence. I had no intention whatsoever of eliminating the all-important element of providential preservation.
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The King James Version was the climax of nearly a century of Bible translation, and its value lies in the fact that it represented the cumulative efforts of many consecrated scholars. It was the work of no single man and of no single school. Fifty-four men were appointed to the task. They were the finest Hebrew and Greek scholars of that day. Divided into six groups, they met separately. Each scholar first made his own translation, then passed it on to be reviewed by the other members of his group. When each section had completed a book of the Bible, it was sent to the other five groups for their independent criticism. In this way each book went through the hands of the entire body of trained men. Now just where, in this shallow, superficial age, will you find a body of consecrated scholars capable of performing such a task with such thoroughness? Certainly not in the ranks of the modernists. Neither will they be found in the camp of the New Evangelicals, whose attack upon the authority of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God is far more insidious than even that of the Neo-orthodox liberals. The tragic truth is that the forces of fundamentalism have been sabotaged. The institutions, schools, colleges, and seminaries founded by fundamentalists have been infiltrated and taken over by the advocates of academic freedom, and are consequently no longer capable of producing either the consecration or the scholarship so necessary to a reliable revision of the Scriptures. There are very few seminaries today that require the study of Hebrew and Greek for the training of ministers. It is no longer considered important. While a good reliable revision might be desirable, it is not an absolute necessity. The King James Version is a thoroughly safe translation. In the hands of consecrated pastors, trained in the use of the original languages and in the principles of textual criticism, the literal meaning of words can be given and outdated expressions explained very simply so that the people in the pews are able to understand. This was the method of ministry used in Ezra's day (Nehemiah 8:8) when personal and private copies of the Scripture were not available to the people. God honored this method then, and will certainly honor it now in a day when fundamentalists are again engaged in rebuilding walls that have been broken down. The KJV is a monumental translation, vastly superior to any modern version or private translation, without a doubt it was brought into existence by the sovereign providence of God and will never be surpassed or supplanted prior to the coming of the Lord. It is by far the most trustworthy translation because of the consecrated scholarship that produced it and the fact that it relies upon the witness of the majority text.
Where do those who claim inspiration and inerrancy for the King James translation get their authority for so doing? Did the translators themselves make such a claim? Most assuredly not! Are we to suppose for one moment that after the prophetic office ceased with the close of the canon of Scripture, God Almighty, in 1611, reintroduced the process of inspiration in the production of one single version? Such an assumption would open the door wide to all the cultists and liberal theologians who lay claim to a continuing revelation. It is a deadly dangerous assumption and ought not to be engaged in by those who call themselves fundamentalists. What did the saints do before 1611 if the KJV is to be considered the only inspired translation, and all other translations uninspired? What do people do today who cannot read English and have to depend upon a translation made into their own language? Have they not an authoritative copy of the Bible? Each
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translation must be evaluated on its own merits and is trustworthy in so far as it conforms to the original language. There are relatively good ones, and there are relatively poor ones. (I am not now referring to the multiplied rash of diabolic perversions trade in the last some thirty-five years by men who had no serious intention of making a literal translation, and whose work represents a very loose and elastic paraphrase, as for example: The New Life Testament, Good News For Modern Man, The Living Bible, The Revised Standard Version, the yet unpublished effort of the National Council of Churches to de-sex the Bible, etc. I refer only to those translations that represent an honest effort to accurately reproduce the literal meaning of the words found in the Greek and Hebrew texts.) Even a relatively poor translation would suffice to impart the truth and bring salvation to a believing heart.
Those who argue for the inspiration and inerrancy of the KJV seem to think that the Textus Receptus, which underlies the KJV, is perfect. If this were so, will they please tell us why Erasmus made five different editions, and why it did not even come to be recognized as the received text until more than a hundred years after the first edition? If Erasmus were living today, he would take his place as a leader in the camp of the New Evangelicals, while sympathetic to the views of the Reformers, he nevertheless refused to take a solid stand with them and ended up making an open break with Luther. In no way could he possibly be considered as belonging to the category of holy men through whom God inspired the Scriptures of old (II Peter 1:21). I have great respect for the Textus Receptus because it represents the witness of the vast majority of manuscripts, but any one familiar with the facts knows that it has its imperfections.
I trust that this will have answered the questions that you have had in your heart. If at any point you are still not clear, let me know and I'll try to give you further help. I must apologize again for the length of time it has taken me to get this off to you. We are sending you a copy of Gaussen's book which I am sure will be profitable to you. If I can secure a copy of Engelder's Scripture Cannot Be Broken, I'll send that too. They are now out of print and hard to obtain.
May God bless you and every member of your precious family. We think of you and pray for you daily. Our prayer for you -- Numbers 6:24-26; Romans 15:13. Love from all of us in our church family to all of you,
In Jesus' Precious Name,
/s/ Hayes Minnick
Paper written by Rev. Hayes K. Minnick