By Don Boys, Ph.D.
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Recently, a highly trained and very successful New Jersey pastor announced that he would be preaching the following week in his Gospel of John series but would not deal with John 7:53-8:11–the woman taken in adultery who was forgiven by Christ. The pastor, very close to me, wrote, “we conclude without doubt that John 7:53-8:11 was not part of the gospel of John as the Apostle wrote it.” I disagree. There is plenty of doubt.
I believe that pastor, far more qualified than I, was wrong. In a discussion with him or other scholars about biblical manuscripts, I would feel like a mule at the Kentucky Derby. But he is still wrong. In fact, he has to be wrong because God promised to preserve His Word. If He did not, then the Bible is untrue, unreliable, and unnecessary.
Even though that pastor is my very special first grandchild (and the father of four precious great grandchildren), he is still wrong! Of course, he knows my position on this issue.
He also suggested that pastors need to know the biblical languages in order to provide correct instructions to church members; however, if pastors know those languages, they must use the correct manuscripts and reject the corrupt ones. But his suggestion smacks of Roman Catholics who made it illegal for members to keep a copy of the Bible in their vernacular. The Catholics were to come to the priest for a “correct” interpretation. One reason God gave us the Bible in our language was so we could all become Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” While it is good to know the original languages, it is not a requirement to be an effective pastor.
Some pertinent questions about the Bible’s reliability will be helpful: Could a sovereign, all-powerful God lead and direct men to write a perfect book? Of course, the question demands a positive answer. Question two: Could a sovereign, all-powerful God, after directing men to write a perfect Bible, then keep scribes and translators from error? Again, the answer must be positive. Third question: Why would a sovereign, all-powerful God direct men to produce a perfect Bible to give mankind directions for life and death, and not preserve its perfection?
Pastors who take the modern approach tell us that the Bible is perfect in the “originals” but they seldom tell their audience that no one has seen the “originals” in 2000 years! Why would God give man the “originals” for a few years and leave following generations with an imperfect book? Why give the human race a perfect book then take it from us?
The disputed passage belongs in the Bible; if the Bible is not reliable in John 7 and 8, it is not reliable in John 3 on which personal salvation rests. The Bible is the Words of the Living God which will stand forever. If our critics are correct and we do not have an available, accurate, and authoritative Word then where on the face of the earth can we find His will?
Admittedly, the issue is one that good, great, and godly scholars have debated for centuries. One of the earliest objections to the John passage is that Christ seems to be abrogating the Old Testament law requiring death for adultery. Ancient Jews were fearful that Christ’s leniency might give succor to their wives about adultery! Ambrose (died 420) mentioned this in a sermon on David and Bathsheba condemning those who were critical of Christ and those who excised the passage. So the passage was in the Bibles of the early 400s.
Many other Latin Fathers including John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo all speak of the passage as being canonical!Augustine (died 430) said some scribes removed the passage because it might seem that Christ was nonchalant about adultery, but Augustine did not advocate removing it from Scripture.
Jerome (died 420), who translated the Latin Vulgate, agreed the passage was legitimate and left it in his translation. Furthermore, he says that the disputed passage was found in “many Greek and Latin manuscripts” in Rome and the Latin West, late in the 4th century.
However, an overzealous scribe decided it would be best to remove the passage rather than cause concern and possibly encourage loose living with scriptural justification! Such scribes were guilty of taking away from the Word of God which is dangerous.
The disputed passage is included in the 1611 KJV, in the 1587 Geneva Bible, 1568 Bishop’s Bible, 1539 Great Bible, 1537 Matthew’s Bible, 1535 Coverdale Bible, 1526 Tyndale Bible, and 1382 Wycliffe Bible. Modern Bibles omit it, footnote it, or bracket it so that readers get the message: it is not reliable. It is fake news, a false story by fallible writers.
All liberals and many Evangelicals teach that the John passage should not be in the Bible, yet the new translations keep putting it in the Bible! The RSV even took it out causing a furor, then replaced it in a later edition to make people happy and to continue selling Bibles! (Is it cynical to suggest that modern translations are all about money?) Modern translators know that removing that famous story would precipitate rebellion, revolution, and ruin in their Bible market. So they knowingly use a passage that practically all their liberal experts agree should not be in the Bible! If a passage does not belong in the Bible (according to their research and convictions), they should do the principled thing, but modern translators have taken a stand like a crippled chicken. They place the disputed passage in their translations because of cash, cowardice, and convenience.
There are some reputable scholars who agree with my grandson about whether or not the passage belongs in John’s Gospel. Among them are: Bruce Metzger, Leon Morris, Merrill Tenney, D. A. Carson, Ed Blum, Colin Kruse, John Piper, R. C. Lenski, Alfred Edersheim, G. Campbell Morgan, and A. T. Robertson.
Some in the above camp consider the defense of the passage and defense of the KJV a “cancerous sore,” “cultic,” “near cultic,” and “deplorable.” Such “scholars” are, in my opinion, “deplorable.”
Other scholars accept the passage as scriptural: Dean John William Burgon, Zane Hodges, D. A. Waite, David Otis Fuller, Edward F. Hills, A. W. Pink, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, James Boice, J. C. Ryle, and John Calvin. So, there are good, highly qualified men on both sides of this issue.
Evidently, there is some doubt. It is not as clear as the critics say.
According to the number of manuscripts that have and don’t the passage, 1,495 Greek manuscripts include the John passage or part of it, and 267 do not include it. Moreover, the 267 manuscripts are very early. Most people are impressed with the “earliest” manuscripts but valid, original manuscripts were in the hands of early church fathers who quoted from them from A.D. 150 forward! They quoted, for example, from the last twelve verses of Mark so how could they quote from manuscripts they didn’t hold in their hands? Manuscript date is part of the equation, but it is non-determinative. Manuscripts should be accepted unless proved defective.
Even Aristotle’s dictum supports that approach. He said, “the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself.” However, modern translators think they are more trustworthy than the document in question, but I wouldn’t trust them to walk my dog!
The fathers of modern Bible translations, Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1903) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892)declared, “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.” These so-called earliest and most reliable manuscripts were polluted at an early age by the Gnostics whose headquarters were in Alexandria, Egypt–the same city where the Vatican manuscript arose. When the Gnostics didn’t agree with some doctrine or passage, they either subtracted it, or changed it in some way to fit their heretical theology. Hence the production of the Vatican and Sinai manuscripts.
Westcott and Hort, like many liberals, gush over the “earliest” and “most reliable” manuscripts but the earliest are not always the most reliable. Both men were unbelieving Anglican priests.
It should also be remembered that the main reason there are so many older manuscripts extant is because they were avoided by the early church leaders because the documents were corrupt. They didn’t get worn out and thus survived to be found and used to confuse Christians today.
Moreover, the “earliest” and “most reliable” manuscripts are identified as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus from the fourth century. Westcott and Hort assumed that both manuscripts were far superior and since those manuscripts did not have the John passage, that was enough for them. However, traditional Greek manuscripts preceded the 4th century manuscripts of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and were quoted by many church fathers such as Irenaeus who wrote from 150 A.D.! Since very early church fathers quoted from Mark 16:9-20 for example, then it is false to claim that the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were the oldest known manuscripts.
But it gets even worse for proponents of modern translations. Dean John Burgon was a famous scholar and Bible defender (died 1888) and he declared that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are among “the most corrupt copies in existence.” Older does not equal reliable.
According to Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, the African Church corrupted the New Testament as far back as A.D. 150! He also declared of the Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) from the 4th Century: “From the number of errors, one cannot affirm that it is very carefully written.”
Of the Codex Vaticanus (B) from the 4th Century, he declares that a marked feature is the great number of omissions and calculates that whole words or clauses are left out!
Not a good recommendation for the much vaunted Sinaiticus and Vaticanus–from a scholar recognized as an expert by both sides of the controversy.
Most readers do not know of this Bible disagreement in Fundamentalist and Evangelical ranks. Most religious leaders do not believe the KJV is totally reliable while many do. However, I have noticed for many years the tendency of both sides to demonize the other. Those critical of the KJV are often very arrogant and vicious in their opposition, even calling us “cultists.” They quickly slide by the fact that many of our persuasion hold degrees just as reputable as theirs.
And on the other side, some in our group give good ammunition to the other side by making irresponsible and ridiculous claims. Some claim the KJV is “better than the Greek”; others declare than the KJV must be used in preaching or a person cannot be born again! There are devoted dummies on both sides of the issue.
If a man tells me he sincerely wants to know about eternal things, I will send him to the King James Bible for the truth. I tell him that it is God’s instruction manual for mankind which was accurately translated into English from the reliable and preserved Hebrew and Greek texts and preserved by God therefore, is totally reliable.
All the modern versions are based on corrupt Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and the work of evolutionists Westcott and Hort, radical unbelievers. They were Anglican scholars who never missed a chance to denounce, deny, and denigrate the Bible; but they did not disprove it. According to Dr. Jack Moorman’s book on Bible manuscripts, Westcott and Hort’s Vatican and Sinai manuscripts of the New Testament contain more than 8,000 differences with the traditional text underlying the King James Bible!
I can’t think of anything more shattering than for congregations to be told that the Bible on their laps is full of mistakes, misquotes, and misinformation. It is not if it is the KJV.
All right, for sake of argument, I could be wrong. If I have placed too much confidence in the Word of God, I will discover that at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I suppose Christ will say, “Don, you were wrong about the KJV being totally reliable. You were too committed to my Word!” I believe He will correct my error but with a smile and nod.
After all, I have only convinced people to place too much reliance on the Word of God–not the worse sin to commit; however, those who burn incense to the corrupt modern translations are guilty of taking away from the Word of the living God who promised to preserve it forever!
If I am to be wrong, it will be in favor of the Word that He promised in Psalm 12:6-7, “The words of the LORD are pure words: …Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Either He did or He didn’t!
So, honest people will look at the issue and come down on the side that is most convincing; however, it takes character to change when one has gone on record for most of his or her life. It’s difficult to admit a mistake. Tolstoy expressed this when he wrote, “I know that most men…can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives.”
However, having a reliable Bible is not a simple issue but it is sublime. I’ve made my decision and if I’m wrong, Christ will correct me. Same with you!
Boys’ new book Muslim Invasion: The Fuse is Burning! was published by Barbwire Books; to get your copy, click here. An eBook edition is also available.
(Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives; ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis, wrote columns for USA Today for eight years; authored 16 books and hundreds of columns and articles for Internet and print media publications; defended his beliefs on hundreds of talk shows. These columns go to newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations and may be used without change from title through the end tag. His web sites are www.cstnews.com andwww.Muslimfact.com and www.thegodhaters.com. Contact Don for an interview or talk show.)
Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives; ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis, wrote columns for USA Today for eight years; authored 15 books and hundreds of columns and articles for Internet and print media publications; defended his beliefs on hundreds of talk shows. These columns go to newspapers, magazines, television, and radio stations and may be used without change from title through the end tag. His web sites are www.cstnews.com and www.Muslimfact.com and www.thegodhaters.com. Contact Don for an interview or talk show.