A Recent Interaction With Mark Ward

Whether on YouTube or a blog you can always listen to/read what the author has to say and then you can scroll down to the comments. Depending on the topic and the people that make their way to the comments section, sometimes the comments can be helpful and sometimes you can read threats of bodily violence. In short, if the internet is the Wild West then the comments section is the O.K. Corral. You can watch but the longer you do the chances of getting hit with a stray shot or two begin to escalate. Peruse at your own risk.

In a recent post I critiqued Mark Ward’s broader thesis as well as several specifics. First, Ward’s comments are always welcomed here. We disagree and quite sharply on several points, but I am thankful for his interactions. Second, occasionally Ward does make his presence known here in the comments section. Over the last couple days we have had, I think, a profitable back and forth which aptly shows each of our positions and subsequently the differences of our positions regarding his thesis of false friends and the casting off of the AV. The discussion to this point went as follows:

WARD: I am mostly content for people to listen to what I say, listen to what you say, pray, read their Bibles, and come to their own conclusion.

The only place I’d like to offer follow-up is on what you said here:

“The reason why the KJV is archaic is not because it is archaic in itself but because for the last 150 years scholarship and her ecclesiastical acolytes have variously redirected the attention of God’s people to other Bibles and as such the language of the standard sacred text has fallen out of use both in the church and day-to-day living.”

If this is the case, Peter, why did Noah Webster complain of many of the same false friends—in almost precisely the same way I did—way back in 1833, when the KJV was still the universal standard? Webster actually updated the KJV, and he wrote in the preface to his update:

“Some words have fallen into disuse [dead words]; and the signification of others, in current popular use, is not the same now as it was when they were introduced into the version. The effect of these changes, is, that some words are not understood by common readers, who have no access to commentaries, and who will always compose a great proportion of readers. While other words, being now used in a sense different from that which they had when the translation was made, present a wrong signification or false ideas [false friends!]. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced, and different from that of the original languages, they do not present to the reader the Word of God.”

A substantially less godly source, Benjamin Franklin, said something similar 50 years prior to Webster:

“It is now more than 170 years since the translation of our common English Bible. The language in that time is much changed, and the stile being obsolete, and thence less agreeable, is perhaps one reason why the reading of that excellent book is of late much neglected.”

Language changes over time, my friend. It isn’t my lack of sanctification or Christians’ past apostasy that led me to be ignorant of the words “fitches” (Ezk 4:9), “flakes” (Job 41:23), and “furbish” (Her 46:4). The reason I did not know these words was that I don’t speak the same English used by the KJV translators.

VAN KLEECK: Mark, as always it is good to have you make your presence known on the blog here.

Unfortunately your appeal to Webster and to a lesser degree Franklin is to really betray your position’s rather myopic approach to history and specifically the Bible in history. I do not doubt Webster said those words and sincerely carried that sentiment regarding the AV. What it seems you have wholly missed is that by the time Webster gives that quote the ground and structure for modern textual criticism was already built by Lochmann and Griesbach. What is more Wescott and Hort’s work is only a couple decades in the future from Webster’s quote. The world at that time was ready to mistreat the Bible. Webster is merely a symptom of that reality.

Furthermore, by offering this historically uncontextualized quote simply to try to leverage an appeal to authority it seems clear to me that you have not read Carl Trueman’s Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Else you would have realized that the mid-19th century was the place where the soul of Expressive Individualism came to be. Expressive Individualism regards the Bible and Christianity as a thing to be admired then conquered – a Deathwork. Right around the time you pull this quote from Webster, Marx is writing making the case that religion is a drug and must be overthrown. Rousseau has already laid the ground for Emotivism. The Bible is already under attack by the work of Greisbach and Lochmann and soon by Wescott and Hort. This time also included the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley which popularized the idea of sexual freedom, emancipation from religion, and the rise of Expressive Individualism. Only 20 years after your quote here the world of science was ready to hear Darwin’s theory of Biological Evolution. What is more, because of the men here named, in a generation or so the socio-cultural religious ground would be ready for Freud and his insistence that religion is mere wish fulfillment.

Then you quote Franklin who was at best a Deist who would regard the Bible as a hinderance to certain of his moral choices shall we say. Simply put, he would have an axe to grind with the Bible.

So are we to believe that Webster was untouched by the sinister evil rising up all around him in economics, textual studies, psychology, biology, and poetry? Trueman, a world renowned Church Historian says that all of us, including those in the present day Church are Expressive Individualists and don’t know it. So I infer, “No, Webster did not remain untouched by the evil around him.”

So all you’ve done by quoting Webster and Franklin is show that your arguments are strongly in line with those in the 1800’s who sought to diminish and destroy the power and value of God’s word for the Church and for the West and whose work has indeed done that and caused the Church great harm. And what is worse, you don’t appear to have the slightest idea that you have done so.

I fear your attempt to support your position by “proof-texting” Webster and Franklin has only shown that you neither understand your position nor do you understand mine.

WARD: Here is my published review of Trueman’s book: https://seminary.bju.edu/files/2021/04/JBTW1.2-Book-Reviews.pdf

Now: can I get some clarity? Are you saying that the word “besom” changed to “broom” ultimately because of the rise of unbelief in post-Reformation Europe? That the phrase “by and by” once meant “immediately” and now means “eventually” in part because of expressive individualism? That English would not have changed—we’d all be speaking and writing like the Elizabethans now—if the English-speaking world had remained consistently as Christian as it was in 1611?

How about words and phrases that do not occur in the KJV whose meanings have changed? Were those changes morally licit? To pick an example I noticed recently on a BBC show my wife and I enjoy, was it wrong for some English speakers to start calling a “slaughterhouse” an “abattoir” instead? Or, probably a little more germane, you used the word “enthusiasts” in this post, and you used it (quite naturally, as I would expect) in its contemporary sense: “a person who feels or displays keen interest in, passion for, or enjoyment of a particular activity or subject” (OED). But the OED says that this sense is comparatively recent, that in 1611 the word would have normally been used to refer to “a person who falsely or erroneously claims to receive divine communication or inspiration.” Or perhaps “a person (supposedly) possessed by a god, demon, spirit.” The use of “enthusiast” has changed over time. You used it in a modern sense that came about only after the rise of the various kinds of unbelief you’ve named. Shouldn’t you insist on using it in the historical way, and reject any new sense(s)? With proper time, I feel quite certain I could repeat this exercise dozens of times—probably hundreds—using words from your blog. Language changes, Peter. Sometimes ideological forces push it, but usually not. I read an entire detailed Greek grammar in seminary (Nigel Turner on Syntax) that repeatedly said the same thing: “This construction used to have a more specific meaning in the Attic period, but this meaning had eroded by the Κοινή period.”

Peter, these are honest questions as far as they go. Not honest in the sense that I’m open to persuasion to the view I believe you are putting forward: I find your view of language change to be so baffling, so counter to everything I know about language, that I find it impossible to imagine entering your world. What you’re saying is, frankly, to me, completely bizarre. I don’t think even you can live in the world you’ve created, hence my argument about “enthusiast.” But my questions are honest in the sense that I’m open to the idea that I’m just misunderstanding you.

A final note: I ask that you get into specifics and not generalities. Talk about individual KJV words. I have 57 false friends on my YouTube channel. I talk specifics. To your credit, you’ve done some of that, too—more than almost all my opponents in this debate. And I do still hope to offer some thoughts on your lists of archaic words found in contemporary Bible translations. I think that is a fair argument strategy. And it gets into details in a way this philologist can appreciate. Help me understand you here, Peter.

VAN KLEECK: > “Are you saying that the word “besom” changed to “broom” ultimately because of the rise of unbelief in post-Reformation Europe? That the phrase “by and by” once meant “immediately” and now means “eventually” in part because of expressive individualism? That English would not have changed—we’d all be speaking and writing like the Elizabethans now—if the English-speaking world had remained consistently as Christian as it was in 1611?”

No, I’m saying something far more modest. I’m saying that these old words should still bear their meaning in addition to the meanings they currently have. For example, “by and by” would mean “immediately” and “eventually” depending on the context. Thus the English would become more robust, more diverse, and more beautiful.

On the point of “enthusiast”, I hold all the definitions you mentioned to be viable definitions because such definitions are used regularly in the writings of the translations of the Reformers. Turretin comes to mind here [1]. Again, you seem bent on excluding definitions for a given word while I am for the broadening of definitions. A word can have more than one meaning. The context limits the meaning of a word.

It seems to be a manifest truth that we are closer now to 1984’s Double-Speak than we are to Shakespeare’s English. I attribute this to, among other things, the rise of Rationalism and specifically the Enlightenment and its fruits. Trueman observes such downgrade in the fields of politics, sexuality, economics, biology, and psychology. His conclusions seem equally applicable to Post-Enlightenment textual criticism of which your position seems to be of the same species though more tepid.

Mark, it seems to me that the reason you cannot “enter into my world” is because your entire position is bent on the supposed virtue of truncating the English language. My response is that all the words you have referenced could be and in many places still are used e.g., in pulpits where the KJV is preached out of. Indeed, the real virtue is in retaining the words and in retaining the meaning of the words in the KJV along with the words and meaning of the words currently held.

In the end, my position contra yours has little to do with textual criticism. Rather, my opposition to your arguments is grounded in my philosophy of education. Part of that philosophy is that having less words in the English language is a bad thing. Having more words is a good thing. Less meaning given to a word is a bad thing. More meanings given to a word is a good thing. It is virtuous/excellent to expand our vocabularies, expand our understandings of words. Your position on the other hand recognizes the deterioration of the English language and instead of trying to stem the tide you are simply going with the flow which I think is bad enough. But then you ask others to follow your lead and question the reliability of the KJV while your at it.

On another point regarding my philosophy of education, the word for school comes from the Latin, scholae. Scholae means leisure. Only those who have leisure have time to go to school. When you aren’t fighting for your life, constantly hunting for food, or searching for clean water you have time for scholae. The American Church has more scholae than any other Church in the history of mankind. But instead of learning more words and more meaning of words, the American Church finds other more important things to do like calling the Creation story mytho-history, or binging Netflix, or watching hours of every sport imaginable and on and on. Many Christians can hardly use their scholae to attend one church service a week, or hand out one track or say one word for Christ or pray over their food in a public place.

Then comes your arguments which make excuses for why the Church’s misuse of scholae has nothing to do with why they don’t understand the KJV. In fact, anytime myself or Riddle challenge your suppositions with “study more” you treat our challenge with nothing more than a hand wave. In this sense, your arguments contribute to the American Church’s misappropriation of scholae and do so without even touching the breaks.

And why is it that the American Church so regularly misappropriates her scholae? Consumerism, Expressive Individualism, political entities have become her socio-cultural savior [Obama or Trump depending on which side of the isle you affiliate with], church-hopping, pastor-hopping, church services centered on emotionalism, and on and on are all culprits in the degradation of American culture, society, and church. And instead of resisting this degradation, your arguments make way for it with something like, “Hey if the plowboy of this degraded American culture, society, and church can’t understand the KJV the answer is not to employ the plowboy’s scholae in learning it. No, the answer is absorb the plowboy’s degraded American culture, society, and church, and choose a Bible more consistent with that degradation because then he’ll understand the Bible.” Which of course only kicks the can down the road where your kids will have to fight the next downgrade, but such things don’t appear to be on your radar.

There is so much more I have to say on this topic. I am disappointed that “everything you know about language” does not seem to include the broad reaching socio-cultural and ecclesiastical affects of your arguments. The assault on the KJV is more than an assault on a version of the Bible, it is an assault on the very precondition of truth for Western society of the last 400 years.

[1] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. 1, 71. “Unless unimpaired integrity characterize the Scriptures, they could not be regarded as the sole rule of faith and practice, and the door would be thrown wide open to atheists, libertines, ENTHUSIASTS and other profane persons like them for destroying its authenticity (authentian) and overthrowing the foundation of salvation. For since nothing false can be an object of faith, how could the Scriptures be held as authentic and reckoned divine if liable to contradictions and corruptions? Nor can it be said that these corruptions are only in smaller things which do not affect the foundation of faith.” [Capitalization and italics are mine]

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