When discussing topics regarding text and translation with those who object to the TR and KJV invariably my interlocutor reminds me that “You can get saved out of other versions” or some variation of this truth. This claim seems to imply that all credible versions [whatever that means] are equal because they each contain the Gospel. Overall this is true, but the bar is set so low. A Gospel tract for example could meet this criteria of, “Does it contain the Gospel?” Does that make a Gospel tract equal to the Scriptural canon?
Then there are those of the opposing persuasion who take this argument a step further and make the claim that no major doctrine is fundamentally changed between any two Greek texts or “reliable” translations. To expand on that, the claim is that none of the ten major doctrines of the Christian faith are adversely affected by a change of a word here or there between Greek manuscripts. These doctrines are: the doctrine of God, doctrine of Christ, doctrine of the Holy Spirit, doctrine of Scripture, doctrine of man, doctrine of sin, doctrine of salvation, doctrine of the Church, doctrine of angels, and the doctrine of last things.
This gets more complicated because it seems that some Christians believe in a God that gave 1 John 5:7 by inspiration and some Christians believe in a God that did not. This is a doctrine of God issue. As a result, some Christians believe 1 John 5:7 is Scripture and some Christians believe 1 John 5:7 is not. This is a doctrine of Scripture issue. It seems then that the claim that no major doctrine is adversely affected given the deliverances of modern textual criticism does not entirely hold water.
That said, the apostle Peter tells us that Scripture contains all things that pertain to life and godliness which extends beyond the confines of the Gospel message proper and a carful articulation of the ten major doctrines of the Christian faith. Scripture is centrally about the Gospel but human life and godliness extend beyond the moment of adoption into the family of God.
So how broad is the category of “life and godliness”? Into how many sectors does Scriptural teaching extend? It seems impossible that a careful and complete list could be constructed. In the West though, some have concluded a provincial list which can be found in the two volume Syntopicon of the Great Books of the Western World. These terms and the ideas they represent lie at the foundation of Western thought and as such at the foundation of all life in the West. The list is as follows:
Angel – Animal – Aristocracy – Art – Astronomy and Cosmology – Beauty – Being – Cause – Chance – Change – Citizen – Constitution – Courage – Custom and Convention – Definition – Democracy – Desire – Dialectic – Duty – Education – Element – Emotion – Eternity – Evolution – Experience – Family – Fate – Form – God – Good and Evil – Government – Habit – Happiness – History – Honor – Hypothesis – Idea – Immortality – Induction – Infinity – Judgment – Justice – Knowledge – Labor – Law – Liberty – Life and Death – Logic – Love – Man – Mathematics – Matter – Mechanics – Medicine – Memory and Imagination – Metaphysics – Mind – Monarchy – Nature – Necessity and Contingency – Oligarchy – One and Many – Opinion – Oppression – Philosophy – Physics – Pleasure and Pain – Poetry – Principle – Progress – Prophecy – Prudence – Punishment – Quality – Quantity – Reasoning – Relation – Religion – Revolution – Rhetoric – Same and Other – Science – Sense – Sign and Symbol – Sin – Slavery – Soul – Space – State – Temperance – Theology – Time – Truth – Tyranny and Despotism – Universal and Particular – Virtue and Vice – War and Peace – Wealth – Will – Wisdom – World
To know these terms and to have some sense of their interconnectedness is the ground and foundation of a truly liberal arts education. As such it is no accident that so many of the words here are found in the Bible, directly addressed by the Bible – the perfect law of liberty. When we begin to ask what the Bible teaches us, we find that it teaches us about the 102 ideas expressed above as well as aggregates of these ideas. Touching the text and translation issue, God’s word teaches us about God’s view of Truth, Sign and Symbol, Language, and Opinion. Thus when you change a Scriptural word here or there or claim that one word is not as important as another you run up against at least five major ideas as presented in Western thought and that’s without referencing Gospel and theological considerations.
So we began with the Gospel, with the one major and central head. We then moved onto the ten major doctrines of the Christian faith and briefly saw that even there the claim that no major doctrine has been adversely affected does not seem to entirely hold water. But when we look into the 100 great ideas of the Western World we find that a robust Christian worldview must be exceedingly broad and interconnected if it is to properly address, at a minimum, the Western mind.
Given the incredible breadth and interconnectedness of these ideas, how much does one of God’s words, an seemingly innocuous word of Scripture matter in the formulation of Christian worldview that addresses these ideas?
In sum, the words of Scripture exist to teach us godliness and all of life and unless any one of us has a perfect grasp on “all of life” perhaps we should refrain from saying that this or that word of Scripture doesn’t affect doctrine. Even if that were true, it seems quite impossible that this or that word of Scripture doesn’t affect some aspect of “all of life.”