Category Archives: King James Version

Six Reasons To Not Follow “King James Version-onlyism”

By Pastor K. Bruce Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD


First, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it seems to imply that the Bible was not in English prior to the KJV.
   KJV–only literature emphasizes the idea that only the KJV is God’s Word in English. If that is true, what were English Bible translations before the KJV was published? Are we to assume that they were not really Bibles? Or, are we to assume that they ceased to be Bibles when the KJV was printed in 1611?
   What are the pre-KJV English Bibles? The Wycliffe Bible (1382); Tyndale’s Bible (1525-1534); Coverdale’s Bible (1535); Thomas Matthew’s Bible (1537); the Great Bible (1539); the Geneva Bible (1557-1560); the Bishop’s Bible (1568).
   If these translations were the Word of God when they were first published, they still are the Word of God. And if that is true, we cannot say that the King James Version alone is the Word of God in English.
Second, don’t follow KJV-onlyism for the simple reason that the KJV generally used today is different in substance from the 1611 KJV.
   Followers of KJV-onlyism make much of using the “1611 KJV.” But most of them seem unaware of the fact that most of them do not use it. The commonly-used KJV is different from the 1611 edition in substance, not just in spelling, and type-style, and punctuation.
   On page 217 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills wrote: “Two editions of the King James Version were published in 1611. The first is distinguished from the second by a unique misprint, namely, Judas instead of Jesus in Matthew 26:36. The second edition corrected this mistake, and also in other respects was  more carefully done. Other editions followed in 1612, 1613, 1616, 1617 and frequently thereafter. In 1629 and 1638 the text was subjected to two minor revisions. In the 18th century the spelling and punctuation of the King James version were modernized, and many obsolete words were changed to their modern equivalents. The two scholars responsible for these alterations were Dr. Thomas Paris (1762) of Cambridge, and Dr. Benjamin Blayney (1769) of Oxford, and it is to their efforts that the generally current form of the King James Version is due.”
   Note that the text was subjected to revisions!
  Evangelist Gary Hudson wrote a valuable article called, The Myth of No Revision  in which he listed over seventy examples of how the text of the 1611 KJV differs from what is used by most KJV readers today. Four examples of textual changes are given here:
2 Kings 11:10, 1611 KJV: in the temple
2 Kings 11:10, current KJV: in the temple of the Lord
1 Chronicles 7:5, 1611 KJV: were men of might
1 Chronicles 7:5, current KJV: were valiant men of might
Matthew 12:23, 1611 KJV: Is this the son of David?
Matthew 12:23, current KJV: Is not this the son of David?
I John 5:12, 1611 KJV: he that hath not the Son, hath not life
I John 5:12, current KJV: “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life
  Have you ever seen stickers on envelopes that say, “Use the Bible God Uses: 1611 KJV”? Or, have you seen advertisements for churches which say something like “Standing for the 1611 KJV” ? Well, it is very likely that they think they are using the original KJV, but are not doing so. A simple comparison of their King James Bibles with the 1611 edition might reveal something they will be surprised by.
  While there is nothing wrong with having a preference for the King James Version, we should not make claims that probably are not accurate. Facts are stubborn things, and one can easily verify the accuracy of those who claim to be using the original King James Version.
   Since it is easily proven that the KJV usually used today is substantially different from the 1611 edition, KJV-only advocates are faced with a dilemma: they must decide which edition is God’s Word in English.
Third, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it attributes infallibility to the KJV, something not done by its Translators.
   The original edition of the KJV has some very interesting and informative introductory material which enables us to see what the Translators thought of their own work. I am referring to The Epistle Dedicatory, and to a lengthy piece called The Translators to the Readers.
   In The Epsitle Dedicatory, the Translators dedicated their translation to King James. In their dedication we discover that they did not consider their work to be infallible, as the following quotation proves: “There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in your Majesty: but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of the accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto your Majesty. For when your Highness had once out of deep judgement apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the original sacred tongues, together with comparing of the labors, both in our own and other foreign languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; Your Majesty did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.”
   Since the translators who made the King James Version considered their work to be “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue,” should we make more of it than they did?
   In The Translators To The Reader, we find that they did not look upon their translation the way many do now. For instance, page seven says: “Now to the latter (the Puritans) we answer that we do not deny, nay we affirm, and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, not withstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. For whatever was perfect under the Sun, where Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?”
   Therefore, we should not consider the King James Version to be infallible when the translators themselves denied it.
A fourth reason we should not follow KJV-onlyism is that the marginal notes in the 1611 edition reveal that the translators themselves were often uncertain of how words and verses should be translated into English.
   Most KJV Bibles have few or none of these marginal notes. One should purchase a 1611 edition from Thomas Nelson Publishers so that the notes can be read. They are very interesting, informative, and perhaps unnerving to advocates of KJV-­onlyism.
  On page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills said some important things about those notes. Consider his statements carefully: “The marginal notes which the translators attached to the King James Version indicated how God guided their labors providentially. According to Scrivener (1884), there are 8,422 marginal notes in the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament, Scrivener goes on to say, 4,111 of the marginal notes give the more literal meaning of the Hebrew or Aramaic, 2,156 give alternative translations, and 67 give variant readings. In the New Testament 112 of the marginal notes give literal rendering of the Greek, 582 give alternative translations, and 37 give variant readings. These marginal notes show us that the translators were guided providentially through their thought processes, through weighing every possibility and choosing that which seemed to them best.”
    Two paragraphs later, Hills wrote, “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian reader.”
   The conclusion to be drawn from their many notes is obvious: If they were often unsure of themselves, should we attribute infallibility to their translation? No, we should make neither more nor less of their work than they did.
A fifth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is that it condemns modern translators for doing what the KJV translators themselves did by putting marginal notes in the Bible.
   In reading KJV-only literature, one soon learns that it is unacceptable to put any notes in Bible margins that can make the reader “uncertain” of how a verse should be translated, or that can make one question whether or not a verse should be in the Bible at all. For instance, one pamphlet concerning the NIV says: “Even though NIV includes a weaker translation of this (Matt. 21:44) in the text, the footnote says, ‘Some manuscripts omit vs. 44.’ This is a rather strong suggestion that it may not belong in the Bible at all. Matt. 12:47; 16:3; and Luke 22:43, 44 are treated by the NIV in the same shoddy and shameful way. To the uninformed reader, such footnotes will tend to destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.”
  While I understand this concern, the facts prove that the original KJV was “guilty” of the same thing. For example, the KJV marginal note for Luke 10:22 says, ‘Many ancient copies add these words, “and turning to his disciples he said.’” And the notation of Luke 17:36 says, “This 36 verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.” We should remember the fact that the 1611 KJV Old Testament has 2,156 alternate translations in its margins, and the New Testament has 582 in its margins. Aren’t such extensive marginal notes in the original KJV just as likely to “destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God” as those in other translations are said to do?
A sixth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is because the KJV is the product of the Church of England.
   As a Baptist, I believe in the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, two of which are (1) the separation of church and state, and (2) the immersion of believers. I would not have speakers in our church if they deny these doctrines. Therefore, I could not have any of the translators of the King James Version preach in my pulpit. They believed in, and were members of the Church of England, a state church. Furthermore, they believed in baptismal regeneration, whereas Baptists believe in regeneration by the Word of God and by the work of Holy Spirit.
    In their epistle of dedication of the King James Version, its translators expressed their “great hope that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby.” The fact that the KJV was produced by the Church of England does not mean that it should not be used. But it does mean that if Baptists are going to be consistent with their theology, they must admit that the translators of the KJV would not qualify to join their churches.
   Consequently, it does not make sense that so many Baptists are crusading for the exclusive use of the King James Version. How can Baptists crusade for the exclusive use of a translation produced by a denomination that promotes beliefs that oppose Baptist beliefs?
In Conclusion:
   We would do well to adopt the view of the KJV’s translators about their work. In their epistle of dedication to King James they stated that their work was “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue.”
   Furthermore, we would do well to remember that in The Translators To The Reader, they said: “Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that hath been our mark.
  We also should remember what E.F. Hills wrote on page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED: “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers…”
   It is with such an opinion of the King James Version that we, too, can commend it to readers, both Christian and non-Christian. But we have good reasons to not follow KJV-onlyism.
(This article is a re-write of my original article, called, “Why I cannot follow KJV-onlyism.”)

Fourth Of July Christians

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

You might have known some Fourth of July Christians, or perhaps know some now. Here are some of their characteristics: 1) They go off with a big bang, and aren’t heard from again. 2) They sparkle for awhile, and then disappear. 3) They produce a lot of smoke, but that’s it. 4) Someone lights their fuse, but they turn out to be duds. What we need are more Christians like the man named “Mnason,” referred to in Acts 21:16. The New King James Version and The Modern English Version say he was “an early disciple.” This means he had been a Christian for a long time, in contrast to Fourth of July Christians.  This takes commitment to the Lord, and his grace to stay committed.

Westcott & Hort Versus The Textus Receptus: Which Is Superior?

If you want good information on some Biblical textual matters, the following article is very important to read. It is posted with the author’s permission.

Westcott & Hort versus the Textus Receptus: Which is Superior?

by Doug Kutilek

Note: This study was first composed in 1996 and published that year by Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute as research report no. 45, a thirteen-page booklet (ISBN 0-944788-45-9). It was an attempt to clarify issues in the “Bible texts and translations controversy” by carefully defining and explaining terms which are often bandied about by those who seem to have limited understanding as to their actual meaning. It has not previously appeared in As I See It and is presented here with minor alterations. It is supplied with extensive endnotes, which should be read.–Editor

The New Testament was inspired by God, and came from the pens of its writers or their amanuenses in infallible form, free from any defect of any sort, including scribal mistakes. However, it is evident from the facts of history that God in His providence did not choose to protect that infallible original text from alterations and corruptions in the copying and printing process. Scribes, and later printers, made both accidental (usually) and deliberate (occasionally) changes in the Greek text as they copied and propagated it. As a result, the surviving manuscript copies (as well as printed editions) of the New Testament differ among themselves in numerous though usually trivial details.

Many attempts have been made (even as early as the second century A.D.) to sort through the manuscripts of the New Testament and weed out the errors and mistakes of copyists, in order to restore the text to its original apostolic form. Those who have made such attempts through the centuries have differed one from another in the resources at their disposal, their own personal abilities as text editors, and the principles followed in seeking to restore the original text of the New Testament.

The two most famous such efforts at restoring the original text of the New Testament are the Textus Receptus, dating from the Reformation and post-Reformation era, and the Greek text of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, first published in 1881. These two texts were based on differing collections of manuscripts, following differing textual principles, at different stages in the on-going process of the discovery and evaluation of surviving New Testament manuscripts, and, not surprisingly, with often differing results. [1] There is much dispute today about which of these texts is a more faithful representation of the original form of the Greek New Testament, and it is this question which will be addressed in this study: Which is the superior Greek New Testament, the Textus Receptus / “Received Text” or the “Critical Text” of Westcott and Hort?

Any proper and adequate answer given to this question must begin with the matter of definition of terms. First, what is meant by the term “superior”? This may seem an unnecessary question since it might be supposed that all would agree on the answer, namely, the superior Greek New Testament is that one which most closely preserves and presents the precise original wording of the original Greek writings of the New Testament. However, in the rather voluminous popular literature on this issue, some writers have argued that one text or another is superior because it is perceived to contain more proof-texts of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, or some other doctrine. In fact, to make a selection on such a basis is much beside the point. Additional supporting proof-texts of numerous doctrines can be found in various individual Greek manuscripts or ancient versions, though the readings in question are beyond dispute not the original reading of the New Testament. [2] “Which Greek text most closely corresponds to the original New Testament?”–this and no other consideration is proper in deciding which Greek text is superior.

Next, what is meant by the term, “Received Text”? This name was first applied to a printed Greek text only as late as 1633, or some 117 years after the first published Greek New Testament appeared in 1516. In 1633, the Elzevirs of Leyden published the second edition of their Greek text, and that text contained the publisher’s “blurb” in Latin: textum ergo habes, nunc ab omnibus receptum, or, “therefore you have the text now received by all,” from which the term textus receptus, or received text was taken, and applied collectively and retroactively to the series of published Greek New Testaments extending from 1516 to 1633 and beyond. Most notable among the many editors of Greek New Testaments in this period were Erasmus (5 editions: 1516, 1519, 1522, 1527, 1535), Robert Etienne a.k.a. Robertus Stephanus (4 editions, 1546, 1549, 1550, 1551), Theodore de Beza (9 editions, between 1565 and 1604), and the Elzevirs (3 editions, 1624,1633, 1641). [3] These many Greek texts display a rather close general uniformity, a uniformity based on the fact that all these texts are more or less reprints of the text(s) edited by Erasmus, with only minor variations. These texts were not independently compiled by the many different editors on the basis of close personal examination of numerous Greek manuscripts, but are genealogically-related. [4] Proof of this is to be found in a number of “unique” readings in Erasmus’ texts, that is, readings which are found in no known Greek manuscript but which are nevertheless found in the editions of Erasmus. One of these is the reading “book of life” in Revelation 22:19. All known Greek manuscripts here read “tree of life” instead of “book of life” as in the textus receptus. Where did the reading “book of life” come from? When Erasmus was compiling his text, he had access to only one manuscript of Revelation, and it lacked the last six verses, so he took the Latin Vulgate and back-translated from Latin to Greek. Unfortunately, the copy of the Vulgate he used read “book of life,” unlike any Greek manuscript of the passage, and so Erasmus introduced a “unique” Greek reading into his text. [5] Since the first and only “source” for this reading in Greek is the printed text of Erasmus, any Greek New Testament that agrees with Erasmus here must have been simply copied from his text. The fact that all textus receptus editions of Stephanus, Beza, et al. read with Erasmus shows that their texts were more or less slavish reprints of Erasmus’ text and not independently compiled editions, for had they been edited independently of Erasmus, they would surely have followed the Greek manuscripts here and read “tree of life.” Numerous other unique or extremely rare readings in the textus receptus editions could be referenced.

In this connection, it is worth noting that the translators of the King James Version did not follow exclusively any single printed edition of the New Testament in Greek. The edition most closely followed by them was Beza’s edition of 1598, but they departed from this edition for the reading in some other published Greek text at least 170 times, and in at least 60 places, the KJV translators abandoned all then-existing printed editions of the Greek New Testament, choosing instead to follow precisely the reading in the Latin Vulgate version. [6] No edition of the Greek New Testament agreeing in detail with the text followed by the KJV translators was in existence until 1881 when F. H. A. Scrivener produced such an edition (though even it differs from the King James Version in a very few places, e.g. Acts 19:20). It is Scrivener’s 1881 text which was reprinted by the Trinitarian Bible Society in 1976. This text does not conform exactly to any of the historic texts dating from the Reformation period and known collectively as the textus receptus, and so consequently any one passing off the 1881 Scrivener text as a or the “textus receptus” is engaging in disinformation.

Furthermore, a careful distinction must be made between the textus receptus (even in its broadest collective sense) on the one hand, and the majority text (also known as the Byzantine or Syrian text) on the other. Though the terms textus receptus and majority text are frequently used as though they were synonymous, they by no means mean the same thing. [7] When the majority text was being compiled by Hodges and Farstad, their collaborator Pickering estimated that their resultant text would differ from the textus receptus in over 1,000 places [8]; in fact, the differences amounted to 1,838. [9] In other words, the reading of the majority of existing Greek manuscripts differs from the textus receptus in 1,838 places (Hodges and Farstad used an 1825 Oxford reprint of Stephanus’ 1550 text for comparison purposes), and in many of these places, the text of Westcott and Hort agrees with the majority of manuscripts against the textus receptus. The majority of manuscripts and Westcott and Hort agree against the textus receptus in excluding Luke 17:36 (here the original 1611 edition of the KJV has a marginal note: “this 36. verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies“); Acts 8:37; and I John 5:7 from the New Testament, as well as concurring in numerous other readings (such as “tree of life” in Revelation 22:19). Except in a few rare cases, writers well-versed in textual criticism have abandoned the textus receptus as a standard text. [10]

The question remains to be resolved: how shall we define textus receptus? It has been customary in England to employ the 1550 text of Stephanus as the exemplar of the textus receptus (just as an Elzevir text was so adopted on the continent of Europe), and so we will follow this custom. For our purposes here, the term textus receptus means the 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament published by Robertus Stephanus.

The Westcott and Hort text is much simpler to define. This is the Greek New Testament edited by B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort and first published in 1881, with numerous reprints in the century since. It is probably the single most famous of the so-called critical texts, perhaps because of the scholarly eminence of its editors, perhaps because it was issued the same year as the English Revised Version which followed a text rather like the Westcott-Hort text.

It needs to be stated clearly that the text of Westcott and Hort was not the first printed Greek Testament that deliberately and substantially departed from the textus receptus on the basis of manuscript evidence. Westcott and Hort were preceded in the late 1700s by Griesbach, and in the 1800s by Lachmann, Alford, Tregelles, and Tischendorf (and others), all of whose texts made numerous revisions in the textus receptus on the basis of manuscript evidence; these texts, especially the last three named, are very frequently in agreement with Westcott and Hort, against the textus receptus. [11]

Likewise, it is important to recognize that the English Revised New Testament which came out in 1881 was not directly based on the text of Westcott and Hort, although in many particulars they are the same. The Greek text followed by the Revisers was compiled and published in 1882 in an edition with the KJV and ERV in parallel columns. [12] It is true that the Westcott-Hort text and the English Revised New Testament of 1881 are rather similar to each other, but they are not identical.

Though the Westcott-Hort text was the “standard” critical text for a generation or two, it is no longer considered such by any one, and has not been for many years. The “standard” text or texts today are the Nestle or Nestle-Aland text (1st edition, 1898; 27th edition, 1993) and/or the various editions of The Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies (1st edition, 1966; 4th edition, 1993). The last two editions of each of these sport an identical text, a new “received text,” so to speak. It is true that the Westcott-Hort text is part of the heritage of both the Nestle texts and the UBS texts. Eberhard Nestle originally used as his text the consensus reading of three editions of the Greek New Testament in his day, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and Weymouth, later substituting Weiss for Weymouth. [13] The UBS editors used the Westcott-Hort text as their starting point and departed from it as their evaluation of manuscript evidence required. [14]

None of the major modern English Bible translations made since World War II used the Westcott-Hort text as its base. This includes translations done by theological conservatives–the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, the New King James, for examples–and translations done by theological liberals–the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, the Good News Bible, etc. The only English Bible translation currently in print that the writer is aware of which is based on the Westcott-Hort text is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. [15]

In a very real sense, the question of which is superior, Westcott and Hort, or the textus receptus, is passé, since neither is recognized by experts in the field as the standard text. However, since modern printed Greek texts are in the same respective families of text, namely the Alexandrian (Nestle, et al.) and the Byzantine (majority text), it is suitable to ask, “which one is superior, i.e., which comes closest to presenting the Greek text in its original form?”

What is perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the Westcott-Hort text vis-à-vis the textus receptus, is the fact that it has firm support from the oldest extant Greek manuscripts, plus the earliest of the versions or translations, as well as the early Christian writers of the 2nd through 4th centuries. Age of manuscripts is probably the most objective factor in the process of textual criticism. When Westcott and Hort compiled their text, they employed the two oldest then-known manuscripts, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, as their text base. Since their day, a good number of manuscripts as old and in some cases a century and more older than these two manuscripts have been discovered. With a general uniformity, these early manuscripts have supported the Alexandrian text-type which the Westcott-Hort text presents. [16] It is true that these papyrus manuscripts occasionally contain Byzantine-type readings, but none of them could in any way be legitimately described as being regularly Byzantine in text. [17] The agreement of some of the papyri with Vaticanus, especially p75 of the early third century, has been quite remarkable.

From the early versions, the critical texts have strong support in the various Coptic versions of the third and later centuries, plus frequent support in the Old Latin versions and the oldest forms of the Syriac, in particular the Sinaitic and Curetonian manuscripts whose text form dates to the second or third century (though there are also strong Western elements in the Old Latin and the early Syriac). [18] Jerome’s revision of the Old Latin, the Vulgate made before 400 A.D., also gives frequent support to the Alexandrian text. Of early Christian writers before the fourth century, the Alexandrian text has substantial support, especially in the writings of Origen, whose Scripture quotations are exceedingly numerous.

On the other hand, the Byzantine text-type, of which the textus receptus is a rough approximation, can boast of being presented in the vast majority of surviving manuscripts, as well as several important versions of the New Testament from the fourth century or later, and as being the text usually found in the quotations of Greek writers in the fifth century and after. The most notable version support for the Byzantine text is in the Peshitta Syriac and the fourth century Gothic version (though each of these versions has significant departures from the Byzantine text). A second-century date for the Peshitta used to be advocated, but study of the Biblical quotations in the writings of Syrian Fathers Aphraates and Ephraem has demonstrated that neither of these leaders used the Peshitta, and so it must date from after their time, i.e., to the late fourth century or after. Therefore, this chief support for a claimed second-century date for the Byzantine text-type has been shown to be invalid.

On the down side, the distinctively Alexandrian text almost disappears from the manuscripts after the 9th century, following, not insignificantly, the violent and destructive Moslem conquest of Mesopotamia, the Holy Land and Levant, and all of North Africa, destroying or enslaving the Christian community in all these locations, destroying churches and Bible manuscripts. On the other hand, the Byzantine manuscripts, though very numerous, did not become the “majority” text until the ninth century, and though outnumbering Alexandrian manuscripts by more than 10:1, are also for the far greater part considerably younger than them, most being 1,000 years and more removed from the originals.

Returning to the specific texts, Westcott-Hort vs. the textus receptus: in truth, both texts necessarily fall short of presenting the true original. Obviously, those readings in the textus receptus which are without any Greek manuscript support cannot possibly be original. Additionally, in a number of places, the textus receptus reading is found in a limited number of late manuscripts, with little or no support from ancient translations. One of these readings is the famous I John 5:7. Such readings as these are also presumptively not original. And if one holds to the “majority rules” theory of textual criticism, i.e., whatever the reading found in a numerical majority of surviving Greek manuscripts is to be accepted as original, then the textus receptus falls short in the 1,838 readings where it does not follow the majority text.

Besides these shortcomings, others also apparently occur in a number of places where a perceived difficulty in the original reading was altered by scribes in the manuscript copying process. Probable examples of this include Mark 1:2 (changing “Isaiah the prophet” to “the prophets,” a change motivated by the fact that the quote which follows in 1:3 is from both Malachi and Isaiah), I Corinthians 6:20 (where the phrase “and in your Spirit which are God’s” seems to have been added after the original “in your body,” which is the subject under consideration in the preceding verses), Luke 2:33 (changing “his father and his mother” into “Joseph and his mother” to ‘safeguard’ the doctrine of the virgin birth), Romans 8:1, end (borrowing from verse 4, in two stages, the phrase “who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit”), Romans 13:9 (the insertion of one of the Ten Commandments to complete the listing), Colossians 1:14 (the borrowing of the phrase “through his blood” from Ephesians 1:7), etc. [19]

On the other hand, the defects of the Westcott-Hort text are also generally recognized, particularly its excessive reliance on manuscript B (Vaticanus), and to a lesser extent, Aleph (Sinaiticus). Hort declared the combined testimony of these two manuscripts to be all but a guarantee that a reading was original. [20] All scholars today recognize this as being an extreme and unwarranted point of view. Manuscript B shows the same kinds of scribal errors found in all manuscripts, a fact to be recognized and such singular readings to be rejected, as in fact they sometimes were rejected by Westcott and Hort (e.g., at Matthew 6:33).

What shall we say then? Which text shall we choose as superior? We shall choose neither the Westcott-Hort text (or its modern kinsmen) nor the textus receptus (or the majority text) as our standard text, our text of last appeal. All these printed texts are compiled or edited texts, formed on the basis of the informed (or not-so-well-informed) opinions of fallible editors. Neither Erasmus nor Westcott and Hort (nor, need we say, any other text editor or group of editors) is omniscient or perfect in reasoning and judgment. Therefore, we refuse to be enslaved to the textual criticism opinions of either Erasmus or Westcott and Hort or for that matter any other scholars, whether Nestle, Aland, Metzger, Burgon, Hodges and Farstad, or anyone else. Rather, it is better to evaluate all variants in the text of the Greek New Testament on a reading by reading basis, that is, in those places where there are divergences in the manuscripts and between printed texts, the evidence for and against each reading should be thoroughly and carefully examined and weighed, and the arguments of the various schools of thought considered, and only then a judgment made. (Years of doing this very thing have led me to conclude that the critical texts are very much closer to the precise original wording of the Greek New Testament than either the textus receptus, or the “majority text,” though with exceptions in readings here and there).

We do, or should do, this very thing in reading commentaries and theology books. We hear the evidence, consider the arguments, weigh the options, and then arrive at what we believe to be the honest truth. Can one be faulted for doing the same regarding the variants in the Greek New Testament? Our aim is to know precisely what the Apostles originally did write, this and nothing more, this and nothing else. And, frankly, just as there are times when we must honestly say, “I simply do not know for certain what this Bible verse or passage means,” there will be (and are) places in the Greek New Testament where the evidence is not clear cut, [21] and the arguments of the various schools of thought do not distinctly favor one reading over another.

This means there will at times be a measure of uncertainty in defining precisely the exact wording of the Greek New Testament (just as there is in the interpretation of specific verses and passages), but this does not mean that there is uncertainty in the theology of the New Testament. Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg has well-stated the theological limits of the manuscript variations in the New Testament,

Although the Scriptures were originally penned under the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit, it does not follow, that a continued miracle has been wrought to preserve them from all error in transcribing. On the contrary, we know that manuscripts differ from each other; and where readings are various, but one of them can be correct. A miracle was needed in the original production of the Scriptures; and, accordingly, a miracle was wrought; but the preservation of the inspired word, in as much perfection as was necessary to answer the purpose for which it was given, did not require a miracle, and accordingly it was committed to the providence of God. Yet the providence which has preserved the divine oracles, has been special and remarkable. . . . The consequence is, that, although the various readings found in the existing manuscripts, are numerous, we are able, in every case, to determine the correct reading, so far as is necessary for the establishment of our faith, or the direction of our practice in every important particular. So little, after all, do the copies differ from each other, that these minute differences, when viewed in contrast with their general agreement, render the fact of that agreement the more impressive, and may be said to serve, practically, rather to increase, than impair our confidence in their general correctness. Their utmost deviations do not change the direction of the line of truth; and if it seems in some points to widen the line a very little, the path that lies between their widest boundaries, is too narrow to permit us to stray. [22]

To this may be added the testimony of Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, the pre-eminent British authority on New Testament manuscripts at the beginning of the twentieth century. In discussing the differences between the traditional and the Alexandrian text-types, in the light of God’s providential preservation of His word, he writes,

We may indeed believe that He would not allow His Word to be seriously corrupted, or any part of it essential to man’s salvation to be lost or obscured; but the differences between the rival types of text is not one of doctrine. No fundamental point of doctrine rests upon a disputed reading: and the truths of Christianity are as certainly expressed in the text of Westcott and Hort as in that of Stephanus [23]

Even advocates and defenders of the supremacy of the textus receptus over the Alexandrian text agree in this assessment. One such writer was 19th century American Southern Presbyterian theologian Robert L. Dabney. He wrote,

This received text contains undoubtedly all the essential facts and doctrines intended to be set down by the inspired writers; for if it were corrected with the severest hand, by the light of the most divergent various readings found in any ancient MS. or version, not a single doctrine of Christianity, nor a single cardinal fact would be thereby expunged. . . . If all the debated readings were surrendered by us, no fact or doctrine of Christianity would thereby be invalidated, and least of all would the doctrine of Christ’s proper divinity be deprived of adequate scriptural support. Hence the interests of orthodoxy are entirely secure from and above the reach of all movements of modern criticism of the text whether made in a correct or incorrect method, and all such discussions in future are to the church of subordinate importance. [24]

These sober and sensible judgments stand in marked contrast to the almost manic hysteria found in the writings of some detractors of critical texts who write as though those texts were a Pandora’s Box of heresy. In truth, all text families are doctrinally orthodox. A dispassionate evaluation of evidence is very much to be preferred to the emotionally charged tirades that characterize much of the current discussion.

End Notes (to be read)

  1. Some writers calculate the differences between the two texts at something over 5,000 specific details, though in truth a large number of these are so insignificant as to make no difference in any English translation made from them. Without making an actual count, I would estimate the really substantial variations to be only a few hundred at most.
  2. E.g., at John 1:13 in one Old Latin manuscript and some Syriac manuscripts, the phrase “who was born,” etc., is singular, and can be interpreted as a reference to Christ, and the virgin birth. This reading is not supported by any known Greek manuscript of John’s Gospel. Greek manuscript p72 in I Peter 1:2 alone of all witnesses deletes the word “and” between “God” and “Jesus,” leaving the two nouns standing in apposition, and providing in this manuscript alone another proof-text of the Deity of Christ. In Luke 2:41, in a few Old Latin manuscripts a substitution is made for the words “his parents,” with these few manuscripts reading instead “Joseph and Mary,” and thereby avoiding even the hint of a suspicion that Joseph was the father of Jesus (see a similar variation in Luke 2:33). Though these three examples give added proof-texts for orthodox doctrines, these readings are all but universally rejected as not being the original reading of the Greek in these verses. This information is to be found in the textual apparatus of Novum Testamentum Graece, edited by Barbara and Kurt Aland, et al., 27th edition [the so-called Nestle or Nestle-Aland text].
  3. See He Kaine Diatheke: The New Testament. The Greek text underlying the English Authorized Version of 1611 (London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1980), “preface.”
  4. Ibid.
  5. Doug Kutilek, Erasmus, His Greek Text, and His Theology (Hatfield, Penn.: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1986), p. 3.
  6. F. H. A. Scrivener, The New Testament in Greek (Cambridge: University Press, 1949), pp. vii-viii; 648-656.
  7. Another term increasingly used to refer to either the textus receptus or the majority text is the term “traditional text.”
  8. Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980. Revised edition), p.232.
  9. Daniel Wallace, “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text,” Bibliotheca Sacra, July-September, 1989, p. 276.
  10. This includes the much-acclaimed J. W. Burgon, who wrote in The Revision Revised (Paradise, Penn.: Conservative Classics, n. d.), p. 21, n. 2: “Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction.” Edward F. Hills, of those who could be called “competent” scholars, was virtually alone among mid-20th century writers who defended the supremacy of the textus receptus.
  11. See the page notes in The Englishman’s Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970. Reprint of 1877 edition). Caspar Rene Gregory states that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, when the texts of Tregelles, Tischendorf and Westcott-Hort are compared, Tregelles stands alone in only ten very minor matters, Westcott-Hort in seven, and Tischendorf only four. Canon and Text of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1907), p. 527.
  12. The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Oxford: University Press, 1882).
  13. Barbara and Kurt Aland, et al., editors, Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart: Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, 1993. 27th edition), “Introduction,” p. 44.
  14. Kurt Aland, et al., editors, The Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1966), preface, p. 5.
  15. New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1969. Revised edition). The title page states: “a modern-language translation of the Westcott-Hort Greek Text.”
  16. See the listing of papyrus manuscripts in Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968. Second edition), pp.247-256. Metzger characterizes about three-fourths of these manuscripts as Alexandrian, with the rest being called Western or mixed in text; none carries a Byzantine-type text.
  17. See Harry A. Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Crticism (Nashville: Nelson, 1984) for an extended treatment of these Byzantine readings in the papyri and other early manuscripts.
  18. For extended treatment of all the translations of the New Testament in the first millennium A.D., see Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977).
  19. Analysis of these and many other variant readings are thoroughly treated in Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971).
  20. The New Testament in the Original Greek (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1881), vol. I, p. 557.
  21. Even following rigidly the textual theory that “the majority rules” leaves a fair measure of doubt in a number of passages (especially in Revelation) where there is no numerical majority reading, the manuscripts exhibiting three or more variants, with none represented by 50% plus one (or more) of surviving witnesses. See the apparatus of Hodges & Farstad. And fleeing to the position, “I’ll just stick to the textus receptus,” doesn’t settle the matter, since the various t.r. editions differ widely among themselves–the Complutensian text–the first printed Greek New Testament–differing from the first Elzevir edition in 2,777 places, by Scrivener’s count (A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, first edition, p. 293), and in more than 2,300 from Stephanus’ 1550 edition (p. 300); Stephanus’ 1550 edition in turn differs from the Elzevir 1633 edition (these two have long been considered the standard textus receptus editions) in 286 places (p.304).
  22. J. L. Dagg, A Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, Va.: Gano, 1982 reprint of 1857 edition), pp. 24, 25.
  23. Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: MacMillan and Co., 1901), p.271.
  24. Robert L. Dabney, “The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek,” in Discussions by Robert L. Dabney: Theological and Evangelical, vol. I, edited by G. R. Vaughn (Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle, 1982 reprint of 1890 edition), pp. 351, 389. I quote Dabney, not because he is a recognized authority on this subject–indeed, this article, and the other in the same volume, “The Revised Version of the New Testament,” (pp. 391-9) are marred by astonishingly (even for that day) incomplete knowledge of the subject matter, as well as very defective logic and argumentation–but because he is sometimes quoted in the literature as a defender of the traditional text, as indeed he was.

Note on additional resources

I have written and published research studies addressing specific questions regarding the effect of variations between printed Greek New Testaments and the issue of the doctrinal content of the New Testament. I affirm in each of these that in no respect is the doctrinal content of the New Testament altered, whether one follows the textus receptus, Westcott-Hort, Nestle-Aland or Hodges-Farstad. These include:

“Do ‘Critical’ New Testament Greek Texts Subvert the Doctrine of Blood Atonement?” As I See It, 5:8, August 2002

“Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth,” As I See It, 7:3, March 2004

“Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth Once Again,” As I See It, 7:9, September 2004

“I John 5:7: An Outline Study of the Evidence,” As I See It, 13:1, January 2010

—-Doug Kutilek


Mom Found My Cigarettes!

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Cigarette graphics
We moved from the farm north of Appleton, MN to Minneapolis, MN in the summer of 1964. Not long afterward, I started smoking cigarettes. My parents did not smoke, and did not approve of it. So, I had to hide my cigarettes. When I was maybe 13 years old, I told Mom that one of my winter coat’s pockets had a hole in the bottom, and I asked her if she would mend it. Well, that had become a convenient place to hide my cigarettes. I would drop the pack of smokes through the hole, and it would fall down to the hem at the bottom. But I had forgotten that Mom was going to mend the pocket. One winter morning, I put on that coat and went outside to walk to school. As usual, I put my hand in the pocket to get the pack of cigarettes, and my hand came to a sudden stop. Without telling me, Mom had mended the pocket! And she had left the pack of smokes in the mended pocket, not down at the hem. I took out the pack, and in it I saw a piece of white paper rolled up like a cigarette. It was longer than a cigarette, so it stuck out maybe an inch. I took the paper out. She had written a note to me. It was a simple message: “You can’t fool me!” She had suspected I had become a smoker, and now she had found indisputable evidence of it. There was now way I could talk my way out of this one! Unfortunately, this event did not make me quit smoking. I had to find more clever ways to hide the evidence from Mom, and I did. I quit smoking when I was 16 years old, and have not had a cigarette since then. Thank the Lord!
Sometimes it seems that mothers are omniscient, which means they seem to be all-knowing. This fact helps kids keep on the right track. They know it is almost certain that sooner or later, Mom will discover their wrongdoing.
But only God is omniscient. His infallible Word, the Bible, teaches that he alone knows every fact about every person, place, and thing in the universe. The Bible teaches that he knows everything about the past, the present, and even the future. This can be a comforting thought, because it means he knows it all about us. Nothing about us escapes his notice. And this all-knowing God also cares about us as individuals.
Not only can this be a comforting thought. It can also be an unnerving thought. Since God knows everything about us, it means he knows every bad thing about us. He knows our bad thoughts, our bad words, and our bad actions. But in spite of everything bad about us, the Bible says this amazing truth: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This statement is found in John’s Gospel, chapter 3, verse16. God loves us in spite of ourselves. He offers us full and free forgiveness and salvation. These blessings become ours the moment we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have not yet done so, believe on him at once.
What follows is the Bible’s 139th Psalm. Read it carefully. And as you do so, note how it emphasizes God’s omniscience. The Psalm is taken from this website:

PSALM 139 (From the King James Version of the Bible)

O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

King James Version (KJV)
by Public Domain

Baptist Beliefs Compared To The Theology Behind The Authorized (King James) Version

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In this post I will present some beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists and compare them with the theology behind the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible. To do so, the word “Baptists” will used, with each letter referring to beliefs common to Bible-believing Baptists. But it must be understood that these beliefs are not the private property of those who call themselves Baptists. Many others in the past have held these beliefs, but have not been known as Baptists. Many hold these beliefs now, but do not call themselves Baptists. They often are referred to as baptistic. The Bible does not say we must call ourselves Baptists, and it wrong to insist that the name be used.

“B” stands for the Baptist belief in the authority of the Bible. This means that, because Baptists believe the Bible alone is the infallible Word of God, it, therefore, is the authority upon which our beliefs are based. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this belief? Yes. But some of their beliefs are not truly derived from the Bible. These will be pointed out as this post progresses.

“A” stands for the Baptist belief in the autonomy of the local church. This means Baptists believe the local church is a congregation of Christians that govern their own affairs without having to answer to some person or organization outside of itself for its decisions. It also means that no one and no organization makes decisions for a  local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view. Perhaps in theory, but not in practice, for they were a part of a government-approved church, the Church Of England, which had/has bishops who oversaw/oversee local congregations. Not only did/do their bishops have authority over the local congregations. So also did James I, after whom the King James Version got its name. His role in the Church Of England is clearly stated in “The Epistle Dedicatorie,” found in the front of the 1611 edition of the Authorized (King James) Version.” Another proof that those who produced the King James Version did not truly believe in the autonomy of the local congregation is the fact that the 1611 edition of their translation says in the front that it is “appointed to be read in churches.” This in contrast to the historic Baptist belief that each congregation decides which translation/translations it will use.

“P” stands for the Baptist belief in the priesthood of all believers in Jesus Christ. This means that we believe each Christian has direct access to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ’s name, they can pray directly to God the Father. In his name, they can ask him for, and receive forgiveness of sins. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Yes. But they also had clergy called “priests,” something foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, and, therefore, not accepted by Bible-believing Baptists.

“T” stands for the Baptist belief in two officers/offices in the local church. These are pastors and deacons. The New Testament also calls the pastors of local churches by two other terms: bishops (meaning overseers) and elders (meaning those who lead by virtue of their age, maturity, and experience). Deacons are the officially elected servants of the local church. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. They believed in a hierarchical form of church government, with bishops having authority outside of their own congregations.

“I” stands for the Baptist belief in what is called “individual soul liberty.” This means that each person  is directly accountable to God for his or her own beliefs and behavior, and no government, whether political or ecclesiastical, can dictate his or her beliefs. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? Only in theory. Historians have proven that King James and his government persecuted those who did not conform to the Church of England.

“S” stands for the Baptist belief that there should be an obvious separation between church and state. It means that there should be no religion or Christian denomination that is the official religion or Christian denomination of a government. Although President Thomas Jefferson rejected Christianity, the Bible, and its doctrines, he understood the importance of the separation of church and state, and advocated it. But did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No. That is why they were members of the Church Of England, a state church.

The second “t” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in two ordinances of the local church, which are baptism and the Lord’s upper. We believe these are ordinances, not sacraments. This means we believe they symbolically represent important truths about the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel. We do not believe baptism is required of one who wants to be saved. Instead, it is required of one who professes to have been saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe the saved should get baptized as a public profession of their faith. It is symbolic of their identification with the crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected Lord. It is symbolic of their commitment to live new lives as followers of Jesus. The Lord’s supper is symbolic of equally important Gospel truths. The bread is symbolic of the Lord’s body which was broken for us sinners. The cup is symbolic of the Lord’s blood, which was shed in payment for the sins of all humanity. Did those who produced the King James Version hold these views? Perhaps a safe answer, based on the thirtynine articles of the Church Of England, is yes and no. Their view of baptism was not Biblical because they believed in the baptism of infants. Infant baptism, even if it is done by the Biblical method, which is immersion, is not taught in the Bible. Infants cannot do what the Bible requires of those who want be baptized. That is, infants cannot believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and make profession of their faith in him. Therefore, they are disqualified from baptism. It is an interesting fact that, though the King James Version, in Acts 8:37 and elsewhere, clearly teaches a profession of faith is required of anyone who wants to be baptized, King James and the translators of the King James Version believed in infant baptism.

The second “s” in the word “Baptists” stands for the Baptist belief in a saved church membership. We require anyone who wants to join our churches to profess to have been saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and we require that their profession of faith is credible. That is, they must give evidence of being true believers in the Lord. Their lives must show that they have believed in Jesus Christ and have become his followers. We do not assume that everyone who claims to be a Christian, and who has been baptized upon their profession of faith, is a true Christian. Sometimes thy prove to be otherwise. But we do require a credible profession of faith prior to admittance into church membership. Did those who produced the King James Version hold this view? No, for the simple reason that they believed baptism grafts one into the church, and they believed in infant baptism. Therefore, I am compelled to believe they believed in infant church membership. But we must remember that infants cannot believe in Christ, and belief in him is a Scriptural requirement for both baptism and church membership.

I encourage all readers of this post to read the thitynine article of The Church Of England. By doing so, you will learn firsthand the theology behind the Authorized(King James) Version. Here is a link to those articles: If you are a King James Bible-only Baptist, you will find it very interesting to read the quote from Lancelot Andrews, who was one of the key persons in the production of the Authorized (King James) Version. Read the following from the same source given above:

Anglican Basics


Anglicans trace their history and doctrine back to the earliest church and through the first English speaking Christians. The English Reformation (when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church) was a pivotal event that resulted in the Anglican Formularies, our statements of belief. See below.

Beliefs and Doctrine

“One Canon (one Bible), two Testaments, three Creeds, four General Councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period determine the boundaries of our faith.”   

~ Bishop Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)

If you want to learn firsthand what we call the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, they are derived from the pages of the New Testament. I suggest you start with reading the Book of Acts, and proceed from there. You are sure to find these distinctives as you read. It is a fact that many non-Baptists have become Baptists or baptistic simply by open-mindedly reading the New Testament. You can also read my two posts just prior to this one, and articles and books on this subject by other authors .

What follows is the testimony of one man who became a Baptist by reading the New Testament. It is taken with permission from this website:

Reading The Bible Will Make You A Baptist


Taken from the Baptist Reporter, October, 1858

To the Editor of the Baptist Reporter.

Dear Sir, — I am a young baptist, and have only seen your Reporter for Jan., 1858. Having recently joined the body, I inquired for one of the publications published by the baptists, and a minister directed me to the Reporter, with which I am quite delighted. It occurred to me that I would mention a few of the objections to believers’ baptism which I met with whilst I was among the Independents. I am a young man, and am occasionally engaged in giving a word of exhortation to my neighbours; but I am what is called a “self-educated man,” for I have had to pick up what little knowledge I have obtained; and therefore I trust you will excuse the imperfections which you may discover in this communication.

When among the Independents, in conversations with my fellow-members, the subject of baptism was at times introduced, when one or another would say, “Well; I do think that the baptists are right, and that their mode of administering the ordinance is scriptural.” “Well,” was my reply, “if you consider that the baptists are right, and that their mode is scriptural, why not join them, and be right too, and observe that which you say is scriptural?” The reply they generally gave was, “Oh, it is so inconvenient; and if we are baptized, we shall be expected to join the baptist body, and then what will our minister and the people say? I do not think it matters much.”

It appeared to me an odd thing for them so to acknowledge their duty, and then give such feeble reasons for declining. I could not but wonder what there could be in believers’ baptism that made the ordinance so objectionable.

I talked with other friends on the matter, but was annoyed by their ignorance. They knew not so much as he who was enquiring. Some said, “Oh, these baptists think all wrong but themselves. Have nothing to do with them.” Others said, “Such a mode would suit a warm climate very well, where the people are in the habit of constantly bathing, but not a cold country like ours.” Others “thought that there was something very indecent about it.” I then spake to a more intelligent class, and they informed me “that Christ only intended the ordinance to be observed by his servants in heathen lands, where Christianity was unknown, so that the converts to the gospel, by that ordinance, might publicly disown and cast off all their old heathenish practices.” Others reminded me, “that if I was going to enquire into such a subject, perhaps I would inform them why Christians do not recline at the table and take the bread and break it into pieces, instead of having it partly cut.”

Such were some of the helps I met with in the path of enquiry, from persons who professed to make the New Testament their rule of practice.

There are many in the Independent and other bodies who can say no more than the above. Why? Because, like those I have already mentioned, they have never thoroughly and impartially examined the subject. Ask them whether they have looked through the New Testament for instances of Infant Baptism; they reply, “No”. Ask them whether they have for evidence of believers’ baptism; they give the same reply.

Dissatisfied with such evasions, I resolved to search the New Testament for myself, with prayer for Divine guidance, and the result was that I became a Baptist.


Baptist Beliefs Versus Those Who Produced The King James Version

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

In this post, I will present the views of Bible-believing Baptists versus those who produced the King James Version, also known as The Authorized Version and the King James Bible. The beliefs of Bible-believing Baptists are presented below from volume 1 of John T. Christian’s 2-volume work that is a history of the Baptists. I have this 2-volume set in hardback, and have read it carefully. The important and interesting chapter given below is taken, with permission, from this website: This is a valuable resource for those interested in the history and beliefs of Baptists.

Before you read the chapter from John T. Christian’s book, consider a few Bible-based Baptist beliefs that differ considerably from the beliefs of those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe in autonomous local churches, in contrast to state-controlled churches, believed in by those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe that one must profess faith in Jesus Christ before being baptized, in contrast to the baptism of infants, practiced by those who produced the King James Version. Baptists believe in religious liberty for all, in contrast to those who produced the King James Version, who believed in and practiced the persecution of those whose beliefs differed from theirs. (My post right before this one documents the persecution experienced by many at the hands of the State-controlled church of which those produced the King James Version were a part.) As you read the following chapter from Christian’s book, you will learn more Bible-based Baptist beliefs that differ from the beliefs of those who produced the King James Version. This information should help Baptists who are King James Version-only re-evaluate their excessive exaltation of the King James Version. It is a good and honorable translation, but that should not make us overlook the false teachings and shameful persecution of others by those who produced it. Such men would not now be allowed in the pulpits of Bible-believing Baptist churches. Why then, are they so highly esteemed?

A History of the Baptists

Chapter I – The New Testament Churches

The Great Commission—A Definition of a Church—A Voluntary Association—A Church Not National or General—The Officers of a Church—The Ordinances—The Proper Subjects of Baptism—The Form of Baptism—The Lord’s Supper—The Ordinances as Symbols—The Churches Missionary Bodies—The Continued Existence of the Churches.

After our Lord had finished his work on earth, and before he had ascended into glory, he gave to his disciples the following commission: “All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20). Under the terms of this commission Jesus gave to his churches the authority to evangelize the world.

A New Testament Church is a company of baptized believers voluntarily associated together for the maintenance of the ordinances and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The distinctive characteristics of this church are clearly marked in the New Testament.

Such a church was a voluntary association and was independent of all other churches. It might be, and probably was, affiliated with other churches in brotherly relations; but it remained independent of all outward control, and was responsible to Christ alone, who was the supreme lawgiver and the source of all authority. Originally the teachers and the people conjointly administered the affairs of the church.

In the New Testament sense of the church there can be no such an organization as a National or General Church, covering a large district of country, composed of a number of local organizations. The church, in the Scriptural sense, is always an independent, local organization. Sister churches were “united only by the ties of faith and charity. Independence and equality formed the basis of their internal constitution” (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I. p. 554. Boston, 1854). Gibbon, always artistic in the use of material, continues: “Such was the mild and equal constitution by which the Christians were governed for more than a hundred years after the death of the apostles. Every society formed within itself a separate and independent republic; and although the most distant of these little states maintained a mutual, as well as friendly, intercourse of letters and deputations, the Christian world was not yet connected by any supreme or legislative assembly” (Ibid, p. 558).

The officers of the church were first, pastors, indifferently called elders or bishops, and, secondly, deacons. These were the honorable servants of a free people. The pastors possessed no authority above their brethren, save that by service they purchased to themselves a good degree of glory.

The more recent Episcopal writers, such as Jacob and Hatch, do not derive their system from the ancient Scriptural form of government, but always acknowledge the primitive congregational form of government, and declare that episcopacy is a later development In the New Testament, elder and bishop are different names to describe the same office. Dr. Lightfoot, the Bishop of Durham, in a very exhaustive discussion of the subject, says:

It is clear, that, at the close of the Apostolic Age, the two lower orders of the three fold ministry were firmly and widely established; but traces of the episcopate, properly so-called, are few and Indistinct. The episcopate was formed out of the presbyterial order by elevation; and the title, which originally was common to all, came at length to be appropriated to the chief of them (Lightfoot, Commentary on Philippians, pp. 180-276).

Dean Stanley represents the same view. He says:

According to the strict rules of the church derived from those early times, there are but two orders, presbyters and deacons (Stanley, Christian Institutions, p. 210).

Richard B. Rackham (The Acts of the Apostles cii), A. D. 1912, says of the word bishop (episcopos):

We may say at once that it had not yet acquired the definite sense which it holds in the letters of Ignatius (A. D. 115), and which it still holds today, viz., of a single ruler of a diocese. From Acts xx..28, Titus i. 6,7, and comparison with I Timothy iii. 2f., we should conclude that episcopus was simply a synonym for presbyter, and that the two offices were identical.

Knowling (The Expositors Greek Testament, II. pp. 435-437) reviews all of the authorities, Hatch (Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, II. p. 1700), Harnack (Gebhardt and Harnack, Clement of Rome, ed. altera, p. 5), Steinmetz, etc., and reaches the following conclusion:

This one passage (Acts 20:28) is also sufficient to show that the “presbyter” and the “bishop” were at first practically identical.

Jerome, at the end of the fourth century, reminds the bishops that they owe their elevation above the presbyters, not so much to divine institution as to ecclesiastical usage; for before the outbreak of controversies in the church there was no distinction between the two, except that presbyter was a term of age, and bishop a term of official dignity; but when men, at the instigation of Satan, erected parties and sects, and, instead of simply following Christ, named themselves of Paul, of Apollos, or Cephas, all agreed to put one of the presbyters at the head of the rest, that by his universal supervision of the churches, he might kill the seeds of division (Hieron. Comm. ad Tit. 1:7). The great commentators of the Greek Church agree with Jerome in maintaining the original identity of bishops and presbyters in the New Testament. Thus did Chrysostom (Hom. i. in Ep. ad Phil. 1:11); Theodoret (ad Phil. 1:1); Ambrosiaster (ad Eph. 4:11); and the pseudo-Augustinian (Questions V. et N. T. qu. p. 101).

There were two ordinances m the primitive church, baptism and the Supper of the Lord. Baptism was an outward confession of faith in Christ. It thus expressed a belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a subsequent resurrection of all believers through the eternal Spirit.

Only believers were baptized and that upon a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The church was composed of believers or holy persons. The members were called in the New Testament “beloved of God, called to be saints”; “sanctified in Christ Jesus”; “faithful in Christ”; “God’s elect, holy, and beloved.” The conditions of membership were repentance, faith, righteousness, and the initiatory rite of baptism, which was symbolical of the changed life.

In this connection it is interesting to note that all the Pedobaptist Confessions of Faith include only believers in the definition of the proper members of a church, The following definition of a church is taken from the Augsburg Confession of Faith of the Lutheran Church. It fairly represents all the rest. It says:

To speak properly, the church of Christ is a congregation of the members of Christ; that is, of the saints, which do truly believe and rightly obey Christ.

So universal is this definition of a church in all of the Confessions of Faith that Köstlin, Professor of Theology in Halle, says: “The Reformed Confessions describe the Church as the communion of believers or saints, and condition its existence on the pure preaching of the Word” (Köstlin, Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopaedia, I. p. 474).

The above definition, consistently applied, excludes infant baptism, since infants are incapable of faith, which always, in the New Testament, is a prerequisite to baptism. The New Testament teaching is quite clear on this point. John the Baptist required that those who were applicants for baptism should experience repentance, exercise faith, make a confession of sin and live a righteous life (Math. 3:2; Acts 19:4). Jesus first made disciples and then baptized them (John 4:1), and gave distinct commandment that teaching should precede baptism (Math. 28:19). In the preaching of the apostles repentance antedates baptism (Acts 2:38): the converts were filled with joy, and only men and women were baptized (Acts 8:5, 8, 12). There is no account or inference implying the baptism of an infant by Jesus or his apostles.

This is generally conceded by scholars.

Döllinger, a Catholic scholar, Professor of Church History in the University of Munich, says: “There is no proof or hint in the New Testament that the apostles baptized infants or ordered them to be baptized” (John Joseph Ignatius Döllinger, The First Age of the Church, II. p. 184).

Dr. Edmund de Pressensé, a French Senator and Protestant, says: “No positive fact sanctioning the practice (of infant baptism) can be adduced from the New Testament; the historical proofs alleged are in no way conclusive” (Pressensé, Early Years of Christianity, p. 376. London, 1870).

Many authors of books treating directly on infant baptism affirm that it is not mentioned in the Scriptures. One writer only is here quoted. Joh. W. F. Höfling, Lutheran Professor of Theology at Erlangen, says: “The sacred Scriptures furnish no historical proof that children were baptized by the apostles” (Höfling, Das Sakrament der Taufe, p. 99. Erlangen, 1846. 2 vols.).

A few of the more recent authorities will not be amiss on this subject. The “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,” edited by Professor James Hastings and Professor Kirsopp Lake, of the University of Leyden, says: “There is no indication of the baptism of children” in the New Testament.

The “Real Encyklopädie fur Protestantiche Theologie und Kirche” (XIX. p. 403. 3rd edition), the great German encyclopaedia, says:

The practice of infant-baptism in the apostolic and post-apostolic age cannot be proved. We hear indeed frequently of the baptism of entire households, as in Acts 15:32f; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16. But the last passage taken, 1 Cor. 7:14, is not favorable to the supposition that infant baptism was customary at that time. For then Paul would not have written “else were your children unclean.”

Principal Robert Rainy, New College, Edinburgh, Presbyterian, says:

Baptism presupposed some Christian instruction, and was preceded by fasting. It signified the forgiveness of past sins, and was the visible point of departure of the new life under Christian Influence and with the Inspiration of Christian purposes and aims. Here it was the “seal” which concerned a man to keep inviolate (Rainy, Ancient Catholic Church, p. 75)

The form of baptism was dipping, or an immersion in water. John baptized in the river Jordan (Mark 1:5); and he baptized in Aenon near to Salim “because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Mark 1:9), and he “went into the water” and he “came up out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). The symbolical passages (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12), which describe baptism as burial and resurrection make it certain that immersion was the New Testament act of baptism.

This, indeed, is the meaning of the Greek word baptizein. The word is defined by Liddell and Scott, the secular Greek lexicon used in all colleges and universities, “to dip in or under the water.” In the lexicon of J. H. Thayer, the standard New Testament lexicon, the word is defined as an “immersion in water.” All scholarship confirms this view. Prof. R. C. Jebb, Litt. D., University of Cambridge, says: “I do not know whether there is any authoritative Greek-English lexicon which makes the word to mean ‘sprinkle’ or to ‘pour.’ I can only say that such a meaning never belongs to the word in Classical Greek” (Letter to the author. September 23, 1898). Dr. Adolf Harnack, University of Berlin, says: “Baptism undoubtedly signifies immersion. No proof can be found that it signifies anything else in the New Testament, and in the most ancient Christian literature” (Schaff, The Teaching of the Twelve, p. 50).

Dr. Dosker, Professor of Church History, Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, says:

Every candid historian will admit that the Baptist. have, both philologically and historically, the better of the argument, as to the prevailing mode of baptism. The word baptizo means immersion, both in classical and Biblical Greek, except where it is manifestly used in a tropical sense (Dosker, The Dutch Anabaptists, p. 176 Philadelphia, 1921).

Nothing is more certain than that the New Testament churches uniformly practiced immersion,

The Lord’s Supper shows forth the death of the Saviour till he shall come again. It is a perpetual memorial of the broken body and the shed blood of the risen Lord. In the Scriptures the Lord’s Supper is always preceded by the act of baptism, and there is no account of any person participating in the Supper who had not previously been baptized. That baptism should precede the Lord’s Supper is avowed by scholars of all communions.

Dr. William Wall sums up the entire historical field when he says: “For no church ever gave the communion to any persons before they were baptized. . . Since among all of the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized” (Wall, The History of Infant Baptism, I. pp. 632, 638. Oxford, 1862).

The Baptists have always insisted that the ordinances were symbols and not sacraments. Indeed this is the heart of their contention.

President E. Y. Mullins has concisely stated the historical contention of Baptists in the following words:

They have seen with great vividness and clearness of outline the central spiritual elements of Christianity. With a like vividness and clearness they have perceived the significance of the outward form. For them it has seemed as if the very life of Christianity depended upon keeping the spiritual and ceremonial elements in their respective places. Christian history certainly justifies them in their view. Forms and ceremonies are like ladders. On them we may climb up or down. If we keep them in their places as symbols, the soul feeds on the truth symbolized. If we convert them into sacraments, the soul misses the central vitality itself, spiritual communion with God. An outward religious ceremony derives its chief significance from the context in which it is placed, from the general system of which it forms a part. If a ceremony is set in the context of a spiritual system of truths, it may become an indispensable element for the furtherance of those truths. If it is set in the context of a sacramental system, it may and does become a means for obscuring the truth and enslaving the soul. It is this perception of the value of ceremonies as symbols and of their perils as sacraments which animates Baptists in their strenuous advocacy of a spiritual interpretation of the ordinances of Christianity (McGlothlin, Infant Baptism Historically Considered, p. 7).

The early churches were missionary bodies. They were required to carry out the great commission given by our Lord. The obedience to the missionary program laid out by the divine Lord, the disciples in a few generations preached the gospel to the known world. The first church was organized by Jesus and his apostles; and after the form of this one all other churches should be modeled. The churches so organized are to continue in the world until the kingdoms of this earth shall become the kingdom of our Lord, even Christ. Prophecy was full of the enduring character of the kingdom of Christ (Dan. 2:44, 45). Jesus maintained a like view of his church and extended the promise to all the ages. He said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The word church here is doubtless used in its ordinary, literal sense as a local institution; and in the only other passage where it is found in Matthew (18:17) it must be taken with the same signification. The great mass of scholarship supports the contention that this passage refers to the local, visible church of Christ (Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew).

The critical meaning of the word does not differ from this (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 197). The word “church” was used by our Lord and the apostles not so much in contra-distinction to the Jewish Theocracy, as to the Jewish synagogue, and the synagogue was always local (Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament Greek, pp. 330, 331). The Roman Catholics have always denied the existence of a universal spiritual church (Alzog, Universal Church History, Vol. I. pp. 108, 109). Until the German Reformation there was practically no other conception of a church. When Luther and others split off from the Roman Catholic Church, a new interpretation of this passage was adopted to suit the new views; so they held that Matthew 16:18 merely pointed to the ultimate triumph of Christianity. But manifestly this interpretation was remote from the meaning of the Lord.

Paul gives a large promise: “Unto him be glory in the church of Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). Ellicott translates the passage: “To all the generations of the ages of ages.” The glory of Christ was to exist in all of the ages in the church. The church was, therefore, bound to exist in all of the ages. Even the redeemed in heaven are described in the Scriptures as a church.

The author believes that in every age since Jesus and the apostles, there have been companies of believers, churches, who have substantially held to the principles of the New Testament as now proclaimed by the Baptists. No attempt is made in these pages to trace a succession of bishops, as the Roman Catholics attempt to do, back to the apostles. Such an attempt is “laboring in the fire for mere vanity,” and proceeds upon a mistaken view of the nature of the kingdom of Christ, and of the sovereignty of God, in his operations on the earth. Jesus himself, in a reply to an inquiry put to him by the Pharisees (Luke 17:20-24), compares his kingdom to the lightning, darting its rays in the most sovereign and uncontrollable manner from one extremity of the heavens to the other. And this view corresponds to God’s dealings in the spiritual realm. Wherever God has his elect, there in his own proper time, he sends the gospel to save them, and churches after his model are organized (William Jones, The History of the Christian Church, xvii. Philadelphia. 1832).

The New Testament recognizes a democratic simplicity, and not a hierarchical monarchy. There is no irregularity, but a perpetual proclamation of principles. There is no intimation that there was not a continuity of churches, for doubtless there was, but our insistence is that this was not the dominant note in apostolic life. No emphasis is put on a succession of baptisms, or the historical order of churches. Some of the apostles were disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35), but there is no record of the baptism of others, though they were baptized. Paul, the great missionary, was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:17, 18), but it is not known who baptized Ananias. Nothing definite is known of the origin of the church at Damascus. The church at Antioch became the great foreign missionary center, but the history of its origin is not distinctly given. The church at Rome was already in existence when Paul wrote to them his letter. These silences occur all through the New Testament, but there is a constant recurrence of type, a persistence of fundamental doctrines, and a proclamation of principles. This marked the whole apostolic period, and for that matter, every period since that time.

This recurrence of type is recognized even where error was detected. The disciples desired Jesus to rebuke a man who walked not with them (Mark 9:40), but this Jesus refused to do. The church at Corinth was imperfect in practice and life. The Judaizing teachers constantly perverted the gospel, and John the Evangelist, in his last days, combated insidious error, but the great doctrines of the atoning work of Christ, conversion and repentance, the baptism of believers, the purity of the church, the freedom of the soul, and the collateral truths, were everywhere avowed. At times these principles have been combated and those who held them persecuted, often they have been obscured; sometimes they have been advocated by ignorant men, and at other times by brilliant graduates Of the universities, who frequently mixed the truth with philosophical speculations; yet; always, often under the most varied conditions, these principles have come to the surface.

Baptist churches have the most slender ties of organization, and a strong government is not according to their polity. They are like the river Rhone, which sometimes flows as a river broad and deep, but at other times is hidden in the sands. It, however, never loses its continuity or existence. It is simply hidden for a period. Baptist churches may disappear and reappear in the most unaccountable manner.. Persecuted everywhere by sword and by fire, their principles would appear to be almost extinct, when in a most wondrous way God would raise up some man, or some company of martyrs, to proclaim the truth.

The footsteps of the Baptists of the ages can more easily be traced by blood than by baptism. It is a 1ineage of suffering rather than a succession of bishops; a martyrdom of principle, rather than a dogmatic decree of councils; a golden chord of love, rather than an iron chain of succession, which, while attempting to rattle its links back to the apostles, has been of more service in chaining some protesting Baptist to the stake than in proclaiming the truth of the New Testament. It is, nevertheless, a right royal succession, that in every age the Baptists have been advocates of liberty for all, and have held that the gospel of the Son of God makes every man a free man in Christ Jesus.

Books for further reading and reference:

George P. Fisher (Congregationalist), A History of the Christian Church, pp. 1-44.

Philip Schaff (Presbyterian), History of the Christian Churches, Vol. I.

John Alzog (Roman Catholic), Manual of Universal Church History, 4 volumes.

Thomas J. Conant (Baptist), The Meaning and Uses of Baptizein.

John T. Christian, Immersion, the Act of Christian Baptism.

Edwin Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Churches.

King James Of The King James Version Versus Baptists And Others

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

The King James Version is a good Bible translation. I have read it at least 40 times, and continue to read it once a year. Unfortunately, many sincere Christians in our day, including many fellow Baptists, have gone to extremes about the King James Version, and make many false claims about it. One false claim is that it alone is the Word of God in English. Some of these persons seem to think that the Word of God was not in English until the publication of the King James Version. But if they admit the Bible was in English  prior to the King James Version, they must admit that those translations still are the Word of God. We know for a fact that those earlier translations are still in print. Some of them, and maybe all of them, can be found online. So, since we still have access to those English Bible translations that preceded the KJV, they must still be the Word of God. And here is something else to consider: since the Word of God was in English prior to the KJV, and in English through the publication of the KJV, by whose authority is the claim made that no English Bible translation since the KJV can be considered the Word of God? By whose authority is the claim made that the KJV alone is God’s preserved Word for the English speaking world? Baptists, of all persons, should not make such a claim, for they do not believe there is any ecclesiastical authority that legitimately can make such a claim. Baptists do not believe in State churches, popes, magisterium, or that any denominations can legislate such matters for the rest of the world.  Another false claim made by such persons is that the current KJV has the same words as the original KJV. This is provably false. I have documented such word changes on this blog. The number of word changes might be relatively few, but they are nonetheless real.   Other false claims about the KJV can be considered, but these are the only ones I wish present at this time.

What all King James-only Christians, especially Baptists, need to consider is the fact that the King James Version was produced by a denomination that was/is  a State church, something contrary to and abhorrent to Baptist beliefs. Moreover, that  State church, the Church Of England, was at the time a persecutor of Baptists and others that did not bow to its ecclesiastical authority. The men who did the translating work to produce the King James Version were a part of that persecuting denomination, and in the introduction to the King James Version, they lavished great praise upon King James as a defender of the Christian faith, in spite of the fact that he, with their full knowledge, led the opposition to Baptists and others. Proof of these facts about King James and his denomination is abundant. Besides others providing such proof, so do Baptists who document Baptist history. One such Baptist historian is J. M. Cramp. What follows is from his old book on Baptist history. It gives ample proof of the persecutions suffered by Baptists in England at the hands of King James and his State church, which, remember, included the translators of the KJV. Knowledge of these facts will help us moderate our views of the King James Version, and especially of the men who produced it. The quote is given with permission of its source, The Reformed Reader, a great resource on Baptist history, beliefs, and etc. Here is a link to its website:


Severity of Elizabeth’s Government—Bigotry of James I.—The Hampton Court Conference—Emigration—John Smyth’s Church—Their Confessions—Bartholomew Legate—Extracts from Baptist Publications on Liberty of Conscience—The King’s Distress at their Increase

So great was the severity of Elizabeth’s Government, that the Separatists of all classes were scattered about, and forced to hold their meetings in the utmost privacy. The Baptists, having been especially marked out for expulsion, could scarcely meet at all. Consequently, but little is known of them during the remainder of this reign. There is no doubt, however, of their continued existence. One writer refers to “Anabaptist Conventicles” in London and other places. Another intimates his suspicion that there were some, even in the Church of England, who held their sentiments. A congregation was discovered in London in 1588, whose views and practices point them out as “Anabaptistical.” Strype says, that they were accustomed to meet together on Lord’s Days, and listen to exhortations from the Word of God; that they dined together, collected money to pay for the food, and sent the surplus to such of their brethren as were in prison; that they used no form of prayer; that they refused to regard the Church of England as a true Church: that they denied the authority of the Queen, and of all magistrates, in religious affairs; and that they held it unlawful to baptize children. At a still later period a Baptist is mentioned as being in prison at Norwich, and in peril of death, solely on account of his religious opinions.1

James I. was as bigoted and despotic as Elizabeth. While in Scotland he had affected great zeal for Presbyterianism. When he subscribed the Solemn League and Covenant, in 1590, “he praised God that he was born in the time of the light of the Gospel, and in such a place, as to be king of such a Church, the sincerest [purest] kirk in the world. ‘The Church of Geneva,’ said he, ‘keep Pasch and Yule [Easter and Christmas; what have they for them? They have no institution. As for our neighbour Kirk of England, their service is an evil-said mass in English; they want nothing of the mass but the liftings. I charge you, my good ministers, doctors, elders, nobles, gentlemen, and barons, to stand to your purity, and to exhort the people to do the same; and I, forsooth, as long as I brook my life, shall maintain the same.’”2 But on his rising to the higher dignity of King of Great Britain he suddenly became enamored of Episcopacy. Kingcraft, in which he thought himself an adept, harmonized better with bishops than with presbyters. Bishops seemed to be the natural allies of sovereigns. “No bishop, no king,” was James’s motto. Like all new converts, he evinced remarkable fervor of attachment, and was ready to do anything on behalf of the cause. The Puritan clergy, that is those who wished for more liberty, and desired to assimilate the government of the Church to the Genevan model, asked for a hearing. The result was, the event known in history as the Hampton Court Conference. It was no conference, however, for the King had made up his mind beforehand. His behavior was rude and overbearing. Nine bishops, with other dignitaries, appeared in support of the Church of England and of things as they were; Dr. Raynolds, with three other ministers, represented the Puritans. Their demands were comprised in four particulars : “1. That the doctrines of the Church might be preserved pure, according to God’s Word. 2. That good pastors might be planted in all churches, to preach in the same. 3. That the Book of Common Prayer might be fitted to more increase of piety. 4. That Church government might be sincerely ministered, according to God’s Word.” In support of these requests, Dr. Raynolds adduced many weighty considerations, and argued with great modesty and forbearance, though often interrupted and insulted by the King. “Well, Doctor,” said James, “have you anything else to offer?” “No more,” Dr. Raynolds replied. “If this,” rejoined the King, “be all your party have to say, I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land, or else worse.”3

The Puritans saw that there was nothing to hope for from the Government, and took measures accordingly. Many crossed over to Holland. Among them were some of the Brownist persuasion, afterwards called Independents, and now Congregationalists. Churches of that order were established at Leyden, Amsterdam, and other places. Such as could not leave their own country worshipped God in private, and kept themselves quiet, hoping, though as it were against hope, for better times. Of that class were many Baptists. Enoch Clapham, a writer of that age, speaks of them as “leaving the public assemblies, and running into woods and meadows, and meeting in bye stables, barns, and haylofts for service.”


John Smyth had been a clergyman of the Church of England, and held the living of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. On leaving that Church he became a minister among the Brownists, who esteemed him so highly that Bishop Hall calls him their “oracle in general.” After a toilsome and perilous service of about fifteen years, during which he and his friends had suffered much from Elizabethan tyranny, it was deemed necessary to abandon the field, in order to preserve life and liberty. In the year 1606 he joined a party of emigrants who settled in Amsterdam. There they united with an English Church which had been formed some time before. But Mr. Smyth’s connection with that Church was not of long duration. He had left “the Church of England for the Brownists, and now more mature reflection led him to take another step. The Brownists denied that the Church of England was a true Church, and therefore they re-ordained all ministers who went over to them from that Church, accounting its ordinances null and void. But they did not re-baptize. This appeared to Mr. Smyth an inconsistency. He thought that if the ordination was invalid, the baptism was no less so. Investigation followed, which was extended to the whole question of baptism, and issued in the conviction that believers are the only subjects of the ordinance, and that immersion is essential to it. Some of Mr. Smyth’s friends shared in the conviction. There has been much dispute respecting the manner in which they proceeded, some maintaining that Smyth baptized himself and then baptized the others. It is a thing of small consequence. Baptists do not believe in Apostolic succession, as it is commonly held. But the probability is, that one of the brethren baptized Mr. Smyth, and that he then baptized the others. The number of these brethren soon increased greatly. A Church was formed, of which Mr. Smyth was chosen pastor. At his death, which took place in 1611, Mr. Thomas Helwys was appointed in his place. In the above-mentioned year, before Mr. Smyth’s death, the Church published a Confession of Faith, in twenty-six articles. We will transcribe those which relate to the constitution of a Church, and to the ordinances.

“10. That the Church of Christ is a company of faithful people, separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, being knit unto the Lord, and one unto another, by baptism, upon their own confession of the faith and sins” (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; 2 Cor. 6:17; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 8:37; Matthew 3:6).

“11. That though in respect of Christ the Church be one, yet it consisteth of divers particular congregations, even so many as there shall be in the world; every of which congregation, though they be but two or three, have Christ given them, with all the means of their salvation, are the body of Christ, and a whole Church, and therefore may, and ought, when they are come together, to pray, prophesy, break bread, and administer in all the holy ordinances, although as yet they have no officers, or that their officers should be in prison, or sick, or by any other means hindered from the Church” (Eph. 4:4; Matthew 18:20; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 3:22, 12:27, 14:23; 1 Peter 4:10, 2:5).

“12. That as one congregation hath Christ, so have all. And that the Word of God cometh not out from any one, neither to any one congregation in particular, but unto every particular Church, as it doth unto all the world. And therefore no Church ought to challenge any prerogative over any other” (2 Cor. 10:7; 1 Cor. 14:36; Col. 1:5, 6).

“13. That every Church is to receive in all their members by baptism, upon the confession of their faith and sins wrought by the preaching of the Gospel, according to the primitive institution and practice. And, therefore, Churches constituted after any other manner, or of any persons, are not according to Christ’s testament” (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:41).

“14. That baptism, or washing with water, is the outward manifestation of dying unto sin, and walking in newness of life; and therefore in nowise appertaineth to infants” (Rom. 6:2, 3, 4).

“15. That the Lord’s Supper is the outward manifestation of the spiritual communion between Christ and the faithful, mutually to declare His death until He come” (1 Cor. 10:16, 17, 11:26).

“19. That every Church ought, according to the example of Christ’s disciples and primitive Churches, upon every first day of the week, being Lord’s Day, to assemble together, to pray, prophesy, praise God, and break bread, and perform all other parts of spiritual communion, for the worship of God, their own mutual edification, and the preservation of true religion and piety in the Church (John 20:19; Acts 2:42, 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). And they ought not to labor in their callings, according to the equity of the moral law, which Christ came not to abolish, but to fulfill” (Ex. 20:8, &c.).

“20. That the officers of every Church or congregation are either elders, who by their office do especially feed the flock concerning their souls; or deacons, men and women, who by their office relieve the necessities of the poor and impotent brethren, concerning their bodies” (Acts 20:28; 2 Peter 5:2, 3; Acts 6:1, 4).

“21. That these officers are to be chosen when there are persons qualified according to the rules in Christ’s Testament, by election and approbation of that Church or congregation whereof they are members, with fasting, prayer, and laying on of hands; and there being but one rule for elders, therefore but one sort of elders” (2 Tim. 3:2, 7; Titus 1:6, 9; Acts 6:3, 4, 13:3, 14:23).


Shortly after the publication of the Confession, Mr. Helwys, accompanied by most of the members of the Church, returned to England. They feared that if they remained longer abroad in a foreign country their conduct would be regarded as cowardice. They considered, too, the circumstances of the brethren who had continued in their own land, and who were “as sheep without a shepherd.” So they went back to their native shores, and established themselves in London, meeting for worship in strict privacy. They had encountered a great risk in returning at such a time. The fires of persecution had been lighted again, and men burnt to ashes for heresy. On the 18th of March, 1612, Bartholomew Legate, an Arian, suffered at the stake in Smithfield; on the 11th of April, in the same year, Edward Wightman was put to death at Lichfield, in the same manner. This man, if the warrant for his execution may be believed, was a wholesale heretic, for he was charged with “the wicked heresies of Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, of Manes, Photinus, and of the Anabaptists, and other arch-heretics; and, moreover, of other cursed opinions, by the instinct of Satan excogitated, and heretofore unheard of.” He maintained “that the baptism of infants is an abominable custom,” and “that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but in part.” There was his real delinquency. But the public, even in those days, would have protested against burning a man merely for his Baptist and anti-Church of England principles. It was found necessary, therefore, to blacken the victim to such an extent that he might appear perfectly hideous and fit only for the fire. But Bishop Neile, of Lichfield, and his coadjutors, who acted as Royal Commissioners on the occasion, were manifestly “forgers of lies.” No sane man could possibly hold the multifarious opinions imputed to Wightman. Crosby appropriately remarks that “many of the heresies they charge upon him are so foolish and inconsistent, that it very much discredits what they say;” and that “if he really held such opinions he must either be an idiot or a madman, and ought rather to have had their prayers and assistance than be put to such a cruel death.”


Another person, said to be a “Spanish Arian,” was also condemned to die; but so much sympathy had been expressed by the people at the other executions, that “he was suffered to linger out his life in Newgate, where he ended the same;” for “King James politically preferred,” says Thomas Fuller, “that heretics hereafter, though condemned, should silently and privately waste themselves away in the prison, rather than to grace them, and amuse others, with the solemnity of a public execution, which in popular judgment usurped the honor of a persecution.” Fuller had before observed that “such burning of heretics much startled common people,” and that “the purblind eyes of common judgments looked only on what was next to them (the suffering itself), which they beheld with compassion, not minding the demerits of the guilt, which deserved the same.”7 Thus wrote a Protestant clergyman of the seventeenth century; but murder is murder, however perpetrated, whether by the sword, the fire, or the slower process of the dungeon.

Though the Baptists were debarred the use of the pulpit, the press did them good service. Two tracts, published by them soon after the events just recorded, were honorable alike to their good sense and pious feeling. The first appeared in 1614. It was entitled, “Religion’s Peace; or, a Plea for Liberty of Conscience,” and is the earliest published work on the subject in the English language. Of the author, Leonard Busher, no account has been preserved. It may be gathered from the tract itself, that he had formerly belonged to the Brownists. He was acquainted with the Greek original of the New Testament, and was a diligent student of the sacred volume. Two other tracts were written by him, which poverty prevented him from printing. One of these was entitled, “A Scourge of Small Cords, wherewith Antichrist and his Ministers might be driven out of the Temple of God!” the other, “A Declaration of certain False Translations in the New Testament.” Our Authorized Version had been published but three years, and here was revision already threatened! Many of these works were very ably written, and if we had room for extracts from them, they would serve to show that our Baptist forefathers were distinguished for mental vigor and independence. They had shot ahead of their religious contemporaries, too many of whom, instead of sympathizing with them, caricatured their principles and excited popular fury against their persons.

How severely the Baptists suffered in the reign of James I., may be gathered from a statement made by one of them in 1620. “Our miseries are long and lingering imprisonments for many years in divers counties of England, in which many have died and left behind them widows, and many small children; taking away our goods, and others the like, of which we can make good probation; not for any disloyalty to your Majesty, nor hurt to any mortal man, our adversaries themselves being judges; but only because we dare not assent unto, and practice in the worship of God, such things as we have not faith in, because it is sin against the Most High.” This passage is taken from a tract entitled, “A most Humble Supplication of many of the King’s Majesty’s loyal subjects, ready to testify all civil obedience, by the oath of allegiance, or otherwise, and that of conscience; who are persecuted (only for differing in religion), contrary to Divine and human testimonies.”

8 After an interval of several years, a parliament was about to assemble. The “Humble Supplication” was written on that occasion, and it was hoped that the patriotic men, who had signified their intention to seek redress of all grievances and the restoration of freedom, would hear the complaints of persecuted Christians. The treatise was probably written by the author of “Persecution Judged and Condemned;” but the arguments are more systematically arranged than in that work.

“The author of these arguments against persecutions,” says Roger Williams, “as I have been informed, being committed by some then in power close prisoner to Newgate, for the witness of some truths of Jesus, and having not the use of pen and ink, wrote these arguments in milk, on sheets of paper brought him by the woman, his keeper, from a friend in London, as the stopples of his milk bottle.”

“In such paper, written with milk, nothing will appear; but the way of reading it by fire being known to this friend who received the papers, he transcribed and kept together the papers, although the author himself could not correct nor view what himself had written.”


This appeal was presented in vain. The persecution continued. Messrs. Dodd and Cleaver, two authors of the time, who published in partnership a pamphlet, in 1621, entitled, “The Patrimony of Christian Children,” assign as reasons for engaging in this controversy, “that those of the contrary opinion were very industrious, and took great pains to propagate their doctrine; that divers persons of good note for piety had been prevailed upon by them; that several had entreated their help and assistance; and that they had been engaged already in private debates about this matter.”10 Another person, writing in 1662, states, “that they [the Baptists] separated from the Church, and writ many books in defense of their principles, and had multitudes of disciples; that it was their custom to produce a great number of Scriptures to prove their doctrines; that they were in appearance more holy than those of the Established Church.”11

It would appear, therefore, that the Baptists were an active and growing body. This is further evident from a letter addressed to the clergy by Archbishop Abbot in 1622, in which he tells them that his Majesty was “much troubled and grieved at the heart, to hear every day of so much defection from our religion, both to Popery and Anabaptism, or other points of separation, in some parts of this kingdom;” and that he attributed these defections, in great measure, to the lightness, affectedness, and unprofitableness of that kind of preaching which bath been of late years too much taken up in court, university, city, and country. “The usual scope of very many preachers,” it is added, “is noted to be a soaring up in points of divinity, too deep for the capacity of the people, or a mustering up of much reading, or the displaying of their own wit, or an ignorant meddling with civil matters, as well in the private of several parishes and corporations, as in the public of the kingdom, or a venting of their own distastes, or a smoothing up of those idle fancies, which in this blessed time of a long peace do boil in the brains of unadvised people; or lastly, a rude or indecent railing, not against the doctrines (which when the text shall occasion the same is not only approved, but much commended by his royal Majesty), but against the persons of Papists and Puritans. Now the people bred up with this kind of teaching, and never instructed in the catechism, and fundamental grounds of religion, are for all this airy nourishment no better than ‘abras?tabul?’ new table books, ready to be filled up with the manuals and catechisms of the Popish priests, or the papers and pamphlets of Anabaptists, Brownists, and Puritans.”


We think the King was right. The preachers of the day had not been educated, for the most part, in the best school, and knew not how to engage the sympathies of the people. Puritans and Baptists were much more likely to gain the popular ear. It was said of our Lord, that “the common people heard Him gladly.”