Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Catholic Redemptive Reading of KJV-Onlyism



Protestant Fundamentalists who adhere exclusively to the King James Bible are often quite mean-spirited people who use very harsh language. Calvinists who take more moderate position, defending the Textus Receptus underlying the KJV tend to be quite anti-Catholic. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that there is something positive in fundamentalist loyalty to the King James Bible.

When I was a student, I attended a Reformed Baptist church for a while. They instilled in me a love for the King James Bible. Students are prone to adopt extreme positions and for a while I was a radical KJV-Onlyist and a fan of Gail Riplinger. As I matured, I drifted to a pro-Textus Receptus position and then to a position favoring the Byzantine Majority Text. As a Catholic, I read both the KJV and the Douay-Rheims Bibles along with modern versions. Catholic scholarship accepts the Critical Text, though I still feel slightly inclined towards the Majority Text.

Despite the repulsiveness of KJV-Onlyism, I think there is something positive in Protestant support for the King James Bible. At a basic level, it is a rare example of Protestant Evangelicals thinking aesthetically. Protestant Fundamentalists are not renowned for their aesthetic sensibilities, yet here we find them appreciating and defending a beautiful work of English language.

The King James Bible is also undeniably part of the Anglican patrimony. King James fundamentalists cannot forget or ignore this. In fact, there is a fundamentalist organisation called the Dean Burgon Society, named after a High Anglican defender of the Byzantine text of the New Testament (it has been questioned whether Dean John Burgon would be allowed to join the society bearing his name if he were alive today). I am sure there must be some King James Bible Believers who have come to an appreciation of Anglicanism via the KJV. One who loves the KJV will feel very at home with the language o the Book of Common Prayer.

There is also the fact that the Textus Receptus is of Byzantine origin. This led me to take a certain intellectual interest in Eastern Orthodoxy as a fundamentalist Protestant. The argument for the authority of the Received Text holds that God preserved His New Testament through the hands of believers. That was somewhat troubling to me, as I viewed the Eastern Orthodox Church as being in apostasy. How could the Byzantine Church preserve God's Word while being in apostasy? This dilemma about how to deal with pre-Reformation church history eventually broke down my Protestant assumptions. Behind the concept of the providential preservation there is an underlying assumption of catholicity and tradition. This is perhaps a potential tool to develop for Catholic apologists.

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