My Amazon Review of The King James Only Controversy
This is my review of White's book, as found at Amazon.com. I’ve noticed that Amazon tends to drop reviewer identifications after a period of time has passed (hence the attribution to simply "A reader," which is perhaps not surprising since this was posted over five years ago). Also, because this also appears buried among many other reviews on Amazon's site, it is made accessible here for the reader's convenience, with the addition of some italics and a few helpful links to other areas on my site.
I still stand by the substance of what is said here. The one detail of wording that I would change (if I had not determined to give the text without change here) is in point #2, where I would change “readings found in the ‘Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation’” to “a reading found in the ‘Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation’”—since only one such reading is mentioned by White. I suppose it is only natural to have second thoughts about how something is phrased more than five years after writing a piece—although as I mentioned in my Introduction, to the best of my knowledge, we are ten years and counting in waiting for any such reconsiderations to come from the author of The King James Only Controversy! If he has rethought any of his language, he has hidden the fact remarkably well….
cares about facts? It's good propaganda!,
James White's book claims to be "a plea for understanding" in the continuing discussion over Bible versions (p. 249). However, it is marked by its author's profound misunderstanding of those who differ with him. The substance of White's charges is much less impressive than the smooth writing. He assures us, on p. VII, that he has endeavored to be fair, but time after time, we find a double standard laid down by the author: the rules are generous when modern versions are questioned, but strict and even unfair when applied to the KJV or its adherents. This may seem severe but is easily documented:
1. White recommends: "Whenever you encounter a supposed 'change' in the Bible's text [in modern translations], take time to look carefully at the available information. You will discover that there are reasons for the differences..." (p. 146). But our author has failed to allow the same latitude to the KJV. Mr. White often blames the KJV for the fact that he himself does not understand a rendering and did not bother to check an unabridged dictionary to educate himself (e.g., pp. 145-6 [2 Tim. 3:12], p. 233 [Acts 12:4--"Easter" means "Passover"], p. 226 [1 Cor. 4:4]), p. 225 [Lk. 18:12], p. 238, note 3 [Mk. 6:20: the "inferior" KJV reading means exactly the same thing as the NAS reading!], ). White also writes that "while it is true that heretics down through the ages have appealed to this text or that, we must not allow the misuse of biblical texts to determine the readings we choose for the text of Scripture" (p. 258); however, Acts 9:7 & 22:9 in the KJV are to be condemned based on the understanding of Mormons, and Matt. 13:18 & Rom. 13:9 based on that of a "nationally known atheist" (pp. 228-9).
2. White complains that Gail Riplinger associates modern scholars with Charles Manson, "the Mormon prophet Brigham Young," Jehovah's Witnesses, and New Agers (p. 122, note 5). Yet how is White's linkage of KJV adherents to "Roman Catholics" looking to an "infallible pope," to Mormons seeking guidance from "the Prophet and Apostles in Salt Lake City," and to Jehovah's Witnesses looking to their Watchtower headquarters (pp. 93-4) any different? Or his association of "KJV Only advocates" with readings found in the "Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation" (p. 267)?
3. White complains that in Peter S. Ruckman's writings "those who present the facts are to be insulted, belittled, and identified as 'Alexandrians,'" (p. 115), but asserts his own right to use pejorative terms ("KJV Only," "KJV Onlyism") because they are not "insulting" or "inaccurate"--according to him!--but represent a group which uses modern translations "only to point out how bad and inaccurate they allegedly are" (p. 248). He also complains of "Blustery words and insulting invective" (p. 247) from Ruckman, but indulges in some notable bluster of his own: "The [KJV] position is, by its nature, anti-intellectual, anti-scholarship, and anti-freedom" (p. 151).
4. Numerous other faults of research, authorial grasp, and presentation might be cited if space allowed. E.g., White seems to grossly misrepresent Aland's concept of "tenacity" of the New Testament text to mean that "once a variant reading appears in a manuscript, it doesn't simply go away" (p. 48)--which would mean that every scribal miscopy in every Greek manuscript ever written has been providentially preserved, something far more against the odds that the beliefs White attacks. Also, White defines "conjectural emendation" as a change "made to the text without any evidence from the manuscripts" (p. 63)--a gross oversimplification, since "evidence" can be more than the fact that a text at a given point doesn't read X; an editor can make a case for copyist eye-skip or transposition of letters, or draw on analogous passages in the edited work, all of which draw broadly on the ms's "evidence." Such emendation is used literally thousands of times in Greek and Latin classical authors, and while one might argue as to whether or not it is appropriate for the Bible, an author who, like White, is not overly concerned about precision in defining this critical term forfeits the reader's confidence in other areas.
White has not only a bias--reasonable in an apologetic work--but an outright prejudice against the KJV adherents' position. It may be that the author resents KJV apologetics so much, and is so convinced that they smack of double standards (and not always without cause, since some are poorly reasoned, as are a portion of writings on any controversial position), that he is overcompensating without even realizing it, taking "revenge" with some double standards of his own by writing this seriously flawed polemic.
George Orwell's observation in writing about the Spanish Civil War--"The truth, it is felt, becomes untruth when your enemy utters it"--certainly reflects the attitude of some of White's partisans, as does the converse: that inaccuracy becomes "truth"--or 'good enough'--as long as it serves its purpose against "KJV Onlies." (See the book cover blurbs, by men who should have had enough scholarship to know better, for proof of this.) White shows himself in this book to be to the "controversy" what Jackie Collins is to great literature. Unfortunately, too many on White's side of the aisle are trying to make him out to be Ernest Hemingway, which is much more profound a statement on the "controversy" than anything in White's book. Some of his backers seem interested in nothing but scoring points, fair or not, off the opposition; White's inaccurate but highly polished writing will no doubt be useful as propaganda to this end.