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Lower Criticism, Higher Criticism,

and the King James Version


Many discussions about the Bible take place today without an understanding of the basic issues of interpretation. This introduction is not intended to provide a complete review of these issues but to introduce the material in an attempt to inform orthodox Lutherans and curious outsiders. Lower criticism deals exclusively with the manuscripts of the Bible. Higher criticism (literary criticism, the historical-critical method) concerns itself with the content of the text. Translation issues concern both areas of interpretation, since the text and the translation of the text both reflect to some extent the doctrinal perspective of the individual. The Authorized Version, commonly called the King James Version, came into being because of doctrinal conflicts and the need for one, superior Bible in the English language.[1]


Lower Criticism


No one should consider this topic without realizing a basic and indisputable fact—the Bible is the most reliable ancient text we have. The Biblical manuscripts are quite numerous and precise with very few problems. Most of the problems are from obvious causes, such as misspelled words, or lapses from confusing similar words and phrases. We hear similar lapses every day on TV, when someone reads from a text. His eyes wander ahead, since he can read faster than he can speak, and he blends two words together. When he corrects himself and reads on, it is often easy to discover why he made the mistake. He may say “awful” instead of “often” because he is reading awful to himself in the next line. The initial lapse may sound like this: “This awful repeated sentiment has been expressed by the governor.” Not everyone catches his own errors, especially when we omit “not” or “un” from the spoken or written word. In the process of copying, the same kinds of errors creep into texts, although less frequently with works of great import and among scribes who work with great precision.[2]

Almost all the Biblical text problems fall into the categories mentioned above. Nevertheless, the total number of manuscript variations are quite small, a fraction of what we find in other ancient works. If the Bible has relatively few manuscript problems, in comparison with works of the same age, and most of those errors can be explained as copying mistakes, then we end up with a tiny fraction of the entire Bible having any word, phrase, or verse disputed. In the New Testament, one tenth of one percent of all the words are disputed. The text is 99.9% certain.

Lower criticism is a legitimate concern for scholars, but it should not be carried out in an arbitrary, capricious manner in order to support preconceived, political notions.


Old Testament

Those who previously scorned the precision of the Biblical texts were dealt a severe blow by the accidental discovery of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts in 1947. A boy threw a rock at an errant goat in a cave near the Dead Sea. He heard pottery crash, investigated, and stumbled upon the greatest Biblical find of the century. Previously, the most ancient Old Testament texts were dated about eight centuries after Christ. The Old Testament texts found at the Dead Sea site were dated at the time of Christ or before, older by 800 years. This discovery generated a number of interesting questions. For example, how much did the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea area differ from the next oldest one? The difference was almost zero, showing that the zeal of the copyists, during a time of great stress for Judaism, prevented Isaiah’s text from being corrupted. When Hebrew texts were copied, every word and letter was counted to make sure the copy matched the master document. Anyone who has seen errors multiply in the printed page can appreciate the meticulous care required to preserve the Word in manuscripts for centuries.

Most scholars realize that the text of the Old Testament is extremely reliable. Some words remain a mystery to translators today. The language is so far removed from modern English that the exact meaning of certain phrases can be debated. If we can compare the same words and phrases in another document from the same era, the work is easier. The Old Testament has many ancient translations, which help us understand what earlier scholars thought. The Old Testament was translated into many languages, including Greek (the Septuagint) and Latin (the Vulgate). Early translations and paraphrases also introduce variations in the text, but they give us many more examples of the disputed words. The amount of actual data for the Old Testament text is quite remarkable, considering the relative obscurity of the language and the instability of the nation.




Most scholars have never looked at or touched an ancient manuscript. Notre Dame hired one professor, Gene Ulrich, who specialized in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He worked with the actual text (most likely through photographic images). The rest of the theology department did not, and that included New Testament Professor Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, who founded a feminist theology journal and became a professor at Harvard University.[3] Manuscript work is very specialized, so few academic positions are funded. Bruce Metzger at Princeton University was famous for working with the New Testament manuscripts. He enjoyed a near monopoly in that area. For this reason, people should remember that few statements about manuscripts, whether from pastors, theologians, or church officials, are based upon actual experience with them. I took an interest in Biblical manuscripts and studied the issue for some time but never worked with manuscripts or photographic reproductions, even while earning four degrees in theology.[4] Therefore, liberal claims about Biblical manuscripts are almost always based upon lecture notes, wisecracks, and light reading. To coin a phrase, an oral tradition has sprung up, mythological in origin, not entirely divorced from fact, but quite fanciful and misleading. Bits and pieces from lower criticism have been fashioned into a minor religion about all the manuscript errors in the New Testament. However, the Biblical manuscripts are the most reliable of all the ancient texts, a fact usually left unstated when liberal critics wage their war on the Bible.


New Testament

Textual evidence from the New Testament era is vast and harmonious. The New Testament was written in Greek and completed no later than 100 AD. Liberals used to date the New Testament as late as 300 AD to accommodate their theories about pagan influence upon the writers. John’s Gospel was a frequent target of the late-date theorists. Once in the Revelation class at Notre Dame, E. Fiorenza stated that conservatives dated the Gospel of John early while liberals dated the work around 300 AD. The earliest physical evidence from the New Testament comes from John’s Gospel and dates that fragment no later than 100 AD, making it very difficult for the Gospel to have been written two centuries later. Decades after everyone knew about the fragment of John’s Gospel dating it as early as 100 AD, if not earlier, Fiorenza offered a possible date 200 years later. I am not claiming that as her own opinion but illustrating the latitude of Biblical dating in the academic world.

Use of the Greek New Testament gave way to the Latin version, the Vulgate, in the Roman Empire, but Greek continued to be used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Roman Empire gradually came unglued, so the western empire was ruled from Rome with Latin as its language. The eastern, the Byzantine Empire, was ruled from Constantinople, the Greek language and Eastern Orthodoxy dominating. The Greek New Testament was preserved by Eastern Orthodoxy and edited by Erasmus in 1516, just as the Reformation began. In fact, the printing of the Greek New Testament was a catalyst for the Reformation, for Biblical studies, and for the study of the Greek language. The text of the traditional New Testament is based upon the Majority Text, because almost all manuscripts agree upon the wording of the New Testament books. Other names associated with the King James Version are the Received Text (Textus Receptus, sometimes abbreviated as TR) or the Byzantine Text (since the text was preserved in the old Byzantine, or Greek empire).

The miraculous spread of the Gospel was accompanied by many different translations of the text, as well as church lectionaries or pericopes for reading the appointed lessons. Our congregation has an old Missouri Synod lectionary, which preserves those King James texts for the entire church year but contains nothing else from the Bible. The early church lectionaries were very much the same. Until lately, worship has been very traditional, so liturgical texts much later in date are considered very reliable, as if they were copied centuries earlier. That is because worship was very slow to change in ancient times. When people do not own books, they memorize great works. Memorization makes it difficult to slip changes into the Church. The Christian Church was not assaulted with a new slang translation and faddish theme every month.

Although the Christian Church has endured many persecutions, the manuscripts of the Bible were preserved. Some were scattered and burned. One of the best manuscripts was erased to make room for the writings of one Ephraem, since manuscript paper was rare and expensive. Ephraem is remembered now, not so much for his writings, but for the New Testament text underneath, which can be brought out through photography. The manuscript is named Ephraem Rescriptus (Ephraem re-written).

We can compare the care of copying the New Testament with the reverence given the Old Testament. Jews and Christians copied and kept their Scriptures diligently in the face of many trials, travels, persecutions, sects, and heresies. Translations, versions, and paraphrases abounded. Old manuscripts were not tossed away when worn and old, but carefully preserved. This kind of care is difficult for our society to imagine, since anyone can have a huge library or obtain books for little or nothing at special sales. The apostolic church did not ask a new mission, “Do you have a building yet,” but “Do you have a Bible yet?” Their capital expense, borne by the mother church, was to get a copy of the Old Testament. Copies of the apostolic letters were sent around, copied, and read. The labor involved made manuscripts extremely valuable and treasured. Before the printing press was invented, hand-copied books were chained to the library shelves. The Bible was chained to the pulpit in Medieval cathedrals. Now the Bible is unchained and in the language of the people’s republic, but gathering dust on the shelf, unread and unloved.


Evolution Was the New Thrill


The development of New Testament text criticism should be viewed in light of the new intellectual thrill of the 19th century – evolution. Religious leaders thought in terms of the evolution of religion. Man evolved, they thought, from the primeval ooze and worshiped many gods among the creatures of the earth. Then he evolved into a monotheist. Later, Christianity emerged as an ethical system, although burdened by excessive interest in the Person of Jesus rather than in the good works of Jesus. In time, Christians would give up their primitive worship of Jesus and once again worship as gods the creatures of the earth. Those happy fantasies have been fulfilled today in the mainline denominations of the National Council of Churches.

In that light, it was impossible for these religious leaders to think of Jesus as anything other than a good person mistakenly (but with good intentions) preached as God incarnate. The liberal leaders looked upon Trinitarian orthodoxy as a perversion of Jesus’ original mission of teaching the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.[5] They looked at Christianity as a core of humanistic truths covered with a veneer of Jesus worship. Liberals taught each other, and still insist, that the Church did not believe in the Trinity until 500 years after Christ! Although modern literary criticism of the Bible is often seen as the primary force in setting the Great Apostasy into motion, one might say that evolutionary philosophy sought and found its expression first in textual criticism and later in the historical-critical method.[6]


Modern New Testament Text Criticism


The same Majority Text manuscripts were used for the New Testament until a revolution, marked by two discoveries, took place. The Vatican published Codex Vaticanus officially in 1889-90. Vaticanus was catalogued in 1481 but has no history before that date. Erasmus knew of it and Napoleon carried it off to Paris for a time. Konstantin von Tischendorf (1815-1874) got to see the manuscript in 1843. He got into trouble for not obeying the Vatican’s rules about copying, but he was finally able to produce an edition in 1867. In 1844 at a monastery on Mt. Sinai, Tischendorf found another manuscript, which came to be named Codex Sinaiticus. The two manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) are sometimes called the Egyptian texts because of their origin. Codex means that the text was bound more like a book rather than rolled up as a scroll. Although the two codices disagree with each other in many readings, they were hailed as superior to the Majority Text. The differences between the Majority Text and the newly discovered codices are illuminating when examined in the cool light of reason.


  1. The Majority Text manuscripts were dominant and in agreement with one another, but the Egyptian manuscripts were not used throughout the ancient church and were not in agreement with each other. Very few manuscripts agree with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and the Egyptian texts do not always agree with each other.[7]
  2. The Majority Text manuscripts were used in worship for centuries, establishing their acceptance in the early Christian Church, which was closer to the original events than we are. In contrast, the two Egyptian texts popped up rather mysteriously and were not distributed and used in a huge family of copies within the Christian Church.
  3. Many strange, arbitrary, and subjective rules were made up to promote the new readings of the codices, but the Majority Text has authority based upon vast use throughout the ages. Some call tradition the “democracy of the dead,” meaning that we should pay attention to the reasons why faithful Christians favored one manuscript family for almost two thousand years.


The two Egyptian manuscripts did not by themselves change the New Testament text used by modern translators. B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, both from Cambridge University, accomplished this by publishing a two volume work in 1881. They rejected the Majority Text in favor of the Egyptian manuscripts, especially Vaticanus. Their work vastly influenced the English Revised Version of 1881 and all subsequent translations. All the modern New Testament translations follow Wescott and Hort to a great extent, except for the revisions of the King James Version.



“The Westcott Hort text, along with the new translation, dealt the final blow to the old type of text (Received Text) upon which the King James Version is based.”

            Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, p. 80.


The Rules


Many a novice text critic has been initiated in the rules of the science. It could be a science. The actual text does not need to be a philosophical issue, but we can see that people refuse to keep their skeptical agendas out of the issue. We should only ask, “What is the purest form of the original text?” Various rules of doubtful value have been promoted to determine whether one reading is better than another:

  1. The shorter reading is preferred.
  2. The more difficult reading is preferred.
  3. When in doubt, favor tradition.

When we examine these rules, we can see that they are infinitely flexible and no more scientific than examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. The rules were first applied during a time when all ancient works were considered a patchwork by many different authors and editors.


The Shorter Reading Is Preferred


One can guess the attitude behind this rule. Some people make their stories longer and longer, the more they tell them. Others abbreviate a story they have heard before, depending on the circumstances. As far as being a reliable guide for one reading or another, determining the better reading by length is no better than walking to the hardware store with arms outstretched and saying, “I need a door this wide.”[8]

We should think over the implications of this single rule. It suggests an arbitrary attitude setting itself against the data. Implied in this rule and others is the notion that the Christian Church suppressed the true text, changing it with additions to express a Trinitarian orthodoxy foreign to Jesus and the apostles. It is more likely that heretics edited their manuscripts to fit their pet doctrines, introducing some variant readings easily detected. For example, one man was trying to prove his case at a church meeting. He read from a document in a loud and outraged tone of voice, but when he came to a section that reflected poorly on him, he skipped it entirely. Later, his friend read a transcript from an audio tape. Once again, when material came up not supporting their cause, it was omitted. In these two cases, the shorter version was the corrupt version.[9]

The More Difficult Reading Is Preferred


This rule abandons all pretensions of science, when considered thoughtfully. One question we must ask is, “Difficult for whom?” The answer is, “Difficult for believers.” This rule is a formula for replicating false doctrine. The Christian Church has determined through the study of the Scriptures that dozens of heresies are misinterpretations of God’s Word. One example would be an attack upon the hypostatic union of the two natures (divine and human) of Christ. Some deny the human nature of Christ. Others deny His divine nature. Still others are confused about the union of the two natures, as Zwingli and Calvin were. Applying this rule would mean that a reading denying the divine nature of Christ would be preferred to one affirming it.

The arrogance of this rule is amazing. It simply assumes that the very first Biblical texts taught the favorite heresies of the liberals. Then, they think, over a period of time, the copyists inserted a newly minted orthodoxy into the pure text. If we choose to believe this liberal fantasy, this plan must have been a massive and overwhelming conspiracy. Only a few manuscripts preserved the original, mixed up, heretical Christianity. Liberals can pick those few examples out, elevate them to a new status, and create another New Testament based upon them. That is exactly what Wescott and Hort did in England. They were asked to modernize the King James Version to some extent. They created a different Greek New Testament, a two-volume work so massive that no one could easily supplant it with another. A country raised on Shakespeare, Milton, and the King James Version rejected the new translation based upon their text, but their Greek New Testament persisted. Today, all modern translations of the New Testament reject the Majority Text and follow the trends of Wescott and Hort.

All modern translations, not some of them, but all of them, favor the Egyptian manuscripts and reject the Majority Text. The New King James Version, which is really a modest revision rather than a new translation, does not follow the Egyptian texts and argues against them. The New KJV does provide variations in footnotes, but these actually help the reader see where the RSV and NIV omit verses. The omission of words and entire verses is the issue. The new editions edit out a significant amount of the New Testament. The omissions are seldom noted in the modern translations, so the verses and words are forgotten. In time they seem foreign.


When in Doubt, Favor Tradition


This rule may or may not be applied. The radical scholars generally work against tradition. For instance, they dismiss the reliability of the New Testament, but they anchor all their dates in the Acts of the Apostles. This is a contradiction. However, if a scholar cannot fix a particular date in time, such as the trial of Paul, then he cannot date anything else in New Testament history.[10]

What does “in doubt” mean? What does “tradition” mean? Obviously, if all three rules are applied at the discretion of the scholar, the resulting text may become anything he imagines it must have been. Because the Bible is ancient, many contradictory traditions exist about many different subjects. We have very late traditions (5th century) about the Assumption of Mary. Does that mean that the silence of the New Testament about the death of Mary implies her Assumption? The Church of Rome has read the Assumption of Mary into the “First Gospel” (Genesis 3:15), making Mary’s the foot that will crush Satan. The Church of Rome has used the text of Genesis 3:15 that says “She will crush his head.” Thus, Catholic art often shows Mary trampling the serpent. The Church of Rome has admitted the error in the translation, but I can go to any major theological library and still find the error in print.

Liberals will argue correctly that there are almost no complete New Testament manuscripts. Every Greek New Testament published is a composite of the ancient witnesses. However, if the available manuscripts overlap, the complete New Testament is easily assembled. The composite argument works both ways. Every single printed Greek New Testament today is also a composite. It is not simply Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, but some of each, plus Majority Text readings. Various readings are voted upon and graded, introducing even more subjective opinion into the discussion. Please note that all ancient works and many modern works have also been gathered and edited from various manuscripts with gaps, contradictions, and misspellings. The difference is that the Biblical texts are far more numerous, reliable, and precise.


Textual Work: the Ending of Mark’s Gospel


Let us look at one text in Mark and see what the manuscript evidence is. An ordinary Bible will not help. Footnotes mention some ancient witnesses, as if they were people. The witnesses are manuscripts. Details explaining the changes are missing. No explanations are offered. And yet, this is not a difficult matter to discuss.

I was told by my Harvard trained college professor, a Lutheran Church in America pastor, that the early Church noticed that the ending of the second Gospel was rather abrupt, stopping at Mark 16:8, so they made up another ending, Mark 16:9-20. Liberals said, “Thank God we now have better manuscripts than the King James Version had, so we can get rid of the manufactured ending and stop the Gospel at 16:8.” The liberals could not explain why anyone would end a Gospel with the word “for.” The Greek word gar (“for”) is never found at the end of a sentence, let alone at the end of a book. This adverb gar is post-positive, meaning that it is not used as the first word in a phrase. Like the contemporary question, “And?” it assumes completion.


KJV Mark 16:8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


BYZ Mark 16:8 kai. evxelqou/sai e;fugon avpo. tou/ mnhmei,ou ei=cen de. auvta.j tro,moj kai. e;kstasij\ kai. ouvdeni. ouvde.n ei=pon( evfobou/nto ga.r.


One theory held that the Gospel was mysteriously broken off at Mark 16:8, letting people imagine death or persecution. Given the value of written texts in the early Church, the abrupt ending is difficult to explain adequately. According to Bruce Metzger, the best known textual expert in America, one 12th century manuscript of Mark broke off at Mark 16:8 with the Greek letter tau indicating the end of a lection and more text following.[11] For this reason he rejects that particular manuscript as evidence for the abrupt ending. Nevertheless, Metzger argues very strongly for excluding the traditional ending of Mark, giving little evidence against his view, but he offers three alternative explanations for the ending at Mark 16:8 –

  1. The author intended to end his work with “they were afraid.”
  2. The Gospel was not finished.
  3. The Gospel lost its last leaf before it was copied. (The most probable in his opinion.)[12]

Justin Martyr used vocabulary from the traditional ending in his Apology, written about 155 AD. Although we do not know exact dates for the New Testament Gospels, it is likely that the entire New Testament was completed before 100 AD. That makes the possible allusion to the traditional ending extremely early. A website about Justin Martyr and other saints made the observation that the early Roman emperors persecuted the Christian Church because they were trying to preserve the old Roman ways. The active persecution of an impoverished and illegal religion might explain the problem with the ending. Justin Martyr was beheaded with six of his students, one of them a woman.

My United Bible Society Greek New Testament (Aland third edition) has notes for the variant readings. Similar decisions about which words or sections to include or exclude are made about Shakespeare and all important authors, but most people are not aware of it. The Shakespeare Variorum is an enormous work with variant readings of the dramas. The Yale Shakespeare, in one volume, is the result of many different editorial decisions. Although Shakespeare belongs to the modern age, scholars still argue about the authorship of the plays. Did he write some or all of them? Or did the Earl of Oxford? Or Bacon? If a Shakespeare play began with as much uncertainty as many sermons, no one would pay attention to Shakespeare either. The actor would begin, “Scholars are not sure whether William Shakespeare wrote this play. We chose which lines we would use in performing the play, but no one agrees which words are actually his, or Oxford’s, or Bacon’s, depending on which book you read.”[13]

The Aland edition of the New Testament omits the traditional ending of Mark, supporting this reading with Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and a few additional witnesses. The traditional ending is supported by Alexandrinus, Epraemi Rescriptus, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, and many others. The position of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus looks very lonely, but aha, do not they agree with each other? Are they not better and earlier? Can we not find it in our hearts to forgive that forgotten scribe who added a few verses to Mark, just to improve the Gospel?

Vaticanus does not include the traditional ending of Mark, but the copyist left more than a column of space blank. That was long before the days of “this page intentionally left blank.” At the very least we can assume that the scribe knew of the traditional ending. That leaves Sinaiticus stranded. It is one thing to say that Mark’s Gospel ended abruptly, for no known reason, and that an ending was added. But, if two major witnesses against the traditional ending do not even agree completely with each other, then snipping off verses nine through twenty seems arbitrary, arrogant, and deceitful. St. Jerome knew about manuscripts omitting Mark 16:9-20, but he was convinced of the authenticity of the traditional ending. W. R. Farmer concluded: “In fact, external evidence from the second century for Mark 16:9-20 is stronger than for most other parts of that Gospel.”[14]

Now we have a great dividing line on this subject. Most of the conservatives have surrendered to Westcott and Hort, abandoning the Majority Text. And yet, an author who accepted the modern theories about the New Testament text, said this about the ending of Mark:



“In favor of Mark 16:9-20 there are a host of witnesses: the Alexandrian Manuscript, the Ephraem Manuscript, Codex Bezae, other early uncials, all late uncials and cursives, a number of old Latin authorities plus the Vulgate, one Old Syriac manuscript, the Syriac Peshitta version, and many other versions. Besides, there is a plain statement from Irenaeus (early Christian writer) which clearly shows the existence of Mark 16:9-20 in the second century and the belief that Mark was its author. In brief this is the negative and positive data on the question. On one hand is the unparalleled reliability of the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts; on the other hand is almost all of the other evidence. J. W. McGarvey wrote a capable defense of Mark 16:9-20 in his Commentary on Matthew and Mark. It was first published, however, in 1875, before the great work of Westcott and Hort on the Greek text was completed. Yet McGarvey’s, with a few minor modifications, can stand with credit today.”

            Neil Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, pp. 74f.


Vaticanus and Sinaiticus have “unparalleled reliability,” except in one of the most important passages of the New Testament—the ending of Mark. If the claim does not match up with the data, then the claim is wrong.[15] In light of the concessions made by Lightfoot above, the treatment of the traditional ending of Mark in the New International Version is worth noting. After Mark 16:8, a line appears in the text, indicating a break. The following heading appears above Mark 16:9-20:


“[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses

do not have Mark 16:9-20.]”[16]


Someone who has not read the research on the ending of Mark—and this material is fairly difficult to find—would conclude from the NIV that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible. He would not know that the only major manuscript unambiguously omitting the ending is Sinaiticus and that this “most reliable manuscript” suddenly appeared without a so-called family of copies to back it up. Since Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod professors participated with the liberals and tongue-speakers of the NIV translation team, a conservative Lutheran would assume that the bracketed information is in harmony with orthodox Lutheran doctrine. In fact, no other Bible translation is so brassy in disdaining the traditional ending of Mark.

If a modern scholar’s training goes against the traditional ending of the Second Gospel, and he still supports the Majority Text conclusion of Mark, then the untrained person can see that the case against Mark 16:9-20 is very weak indeed. For the sake of comparison, consider what Westcott and Hort have done to millions of Christians. The Beck Bible published by Christian News has also omitted the traditional ending of Mark with a footnote, following Westcott and Hort.[17] When a faithful Lutheran reads this Bible, after being exposed to the King James Version, he is led to believe that the Christian Church was deceived for centuries. Luther was wrong. Tyndale was wrong. All the Reformers were wrong. How can the average Christian check the facts? In front of him is the latest Bible printed by a conservative Lutheran. He has no way of discovering, apart from a theological library, that the manuscripts favored in the new edition have no history at all. If a farmer bred cattle or pigs without knowing their genetic heritage, he would be considered lazy or foolish. The ultimate result of Westcott and Hort enthusiasm has planted doubt about the entire New Testament text.[18] Ironically, the Majority Text is rejected by liberals today because of its heritage, its careful preservation in the Christian Church, its thousands of manuscript witnesses, its consistency, its harmony in many different forms. Even the mysterious Vaticanus tips its hat to the Majority Text, by making room for the traditional ending of Mark.


“We must conclude that fidelity to the New Testament text has been abandoned since the publication of the Revised Version in 1881.”[19]


Biblical Canon


The canon is also used by liberals in arguments against the Scriptures. Liberals declare that the Bible “did not come down from heaven.” That argument is a straw man logical fallacy, because no one has ever said that the Scriptures floated down from heaven. Liberals assume a pose of being scandalized that various men made pronouncements upon what was Scripture and what was not. However, this information can be used to create a false impression. More than one liberal Lutheran has even said in a sermon that the Bible could have only 20 books in it or 100 books in it, since men made decisions about what should be included.

In the apostolic age, the canon included only the Old Testament. When Jesus spoke of what was promised in the Scriptures, He referred only to the Old Testament. The apostles wrote letters first and finally certain authors wrote down the Gospels. Of course, the spirit of the antichrist had already begun, and many false teachers arose to make various claims. Not surprisingly, false scriptures were created to counter the actual scriptures. However, not everything was written with evil intent.

After the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Old Testament canon was fixed by Jewish scholars at Jamnia, around 90 AD. The extra books of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, were not accepted as equal to the 39 that are accepted as inspired. Christians accepted the same 39 books as canonical, not by voting for which books were inspired, but by setting aside whatever failed to measure up. Later, when Jerome was asked to translate the Old Testament apocryphal books into Latin, he refused, stating that they did not belong with the inspired books.

I was in a group of Protestant boys who came upon an old Bible in the attic of a garage. We were filled with a sense of mystery we ran across strange names we had never seen in a Bible: Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, and so forth. We ran home, telling our parents of this exotic Bible, only to learn that it was a Roman Catholic Bible and fairly common. The lesson reinforced the concept that Catholics were very different from the rest of the world. In fact, few people now read or refer to these books. The Reformation did not accept them as belonging with the 39 books of the Old Testament, as having an equal status. However, Luther published the books of the Apocrypha in a separate section of the Bible. The Book of Concord accepts the Apocrypha as edifying and useful to read, but not equal to the canon. The books are uneven in quality. First Maccabees is valuable as a history, but Second Maccabees is considered quite inferior. The Wisdom of Solomon is cited often.

The New Testament canon was gradually established over a period of time when the Christian faith was illegal and persecuted in the Roman Empire. The debates closed with the Easter letter of Bishop Athanasius in 367, when the 27 books we now have were accepted as the New Testament. They do not all have the same status in historical documents. Seven (James, 2 Peter, Hebrews, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation) were anti-legomena “spoken against” by some early church fathers as not being of apostolic origin. Believers should not be shocked by this fact of history. The origin of James, for instance, is obscure. Hebrews does not claim an author. Revelation is strange and difficult to interpret. Luther dealt with the arguments about Hebrews, considered that Apollos might be the author, and still referred to Paul as the author.[20] The effect of the Easter letter was to exclude those works falsely claiming to rank with the New Testament. Another kind of canon was created when a subway train had a crash in Chicago. Many people arrived at the site and climbed onto the train, hoping to share in the proceeds of a juicy lawsuit. They had to be excluded from all claims. Therefore, the first step was not voting on who was in the crash but getting rid of those who were not.

The spoken against (anti-legomena) books have fueled many silly arguments. The Christian Church has always recognized some New Testament works as more significant than others. Romans is the most important doctrinal epistle. Philemon is not. Yet Paul wrote both letters and both are found in the canon. Romans is at the beginning of the list of Pauline letters, because of its doctrinal importance. In the Church, Matthew is generally favored over Mark and Luke, but not in the sense of excluding the second and third Gospels. Liberals have pitted one book of the New Testament against another and left many with the impression that the documents of Christianity are unreliable. For example, one ELCA pastor preached from the pulpit that the Bible could have 20 books in it or 100. “The books included in the Bible are purely a matter of human decision,” he claimed. The canonical issue has also encouraged professors to question whether Paul wrote the letters attributed to him, especially 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, called the Pastoral Epistles. Liberals consider the Pastoral Epistles too conservative and churchly to be Paul’s.

The Gospel of John has the greatest claims to apostolic authorship, but it has also been used most by heretics and scorned by liberals as inauthentic. John’s Gospel, in supplementing Matthew, Mark, and Luke, leaves out much of what we find in the synoptic (seen together) Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke. The synoptic Gospels have a relationship with one another because of their similar structure and many identical or nearly-identical verses. The relationships between the first three Gospels have been studied for 15 centuries. Nevertheless, one of the greatest New Testament scholars of this century, Nils A. Dahl, said at Yale, “I don’t think we will ever know how the synoptic Gospels were composed.”[21] We have four different Gospels about Christ; yet these four voices have the same message. The Gospels are remarkably different; yet they agree in substance and in detail without conspiring to tell the same story verbatim, as liars always do.[22]

James has served as an excuse for the anti-canon arguments of the liberals. Although liberals never pay attention to the main body of Luther’s works, they misquote him on this subject, fail to acknowledge the use of polemics, and try to make believers think that the New Testament is expandable and collapsible. Luther did call James a “right, strawy epistle” but he said that “compared to the others.” If we read James next to Ephesians, the second work is simply brimming with Gospel proclamation. In contrast, James is more of a letter admonishing the churches about their sinful behavior. James does not lack the Gospel, but cannot compare in glorious Gospel declarations to Ephesians. Luther also reacted to James because the work was misused by the Roman party to advocate salvation through works. Thus many were misled by the citation of James on this subject. Therefore, it is not shocking that Luther would “throw Jimmie in the fire.” Obviously, he did not. Critics of Luther and the Epistle of James would be well advised to study James as thoroughly as Luther did and watch their tongues.

The New Testament canon accepts only the Four Gospels, even though many more Gospels were written in later times. The knowledge of other Gospels is exciting to people, until they read a few, showing Jesus sliding down a sunbeam or killing childhood friends. False books were circulated to advocate doctrinal positions, so they were relatively easy to discern as being discordant. In addition, apostolic letters were preserved with great care. They were valuable as possessions, since so much time was expended upon copying them correctly. But they were valued even more for their inspired message. No one confused an apostolic letter from Paul with an ordinary message. In addition, messages were sent without the formality of an epistle. Not every letter was preserved. Not every letter was considered Scripture.

Initial arguments against the Bible were used by the Church of Rome to make the pope the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Liberals use the same kind of arguments to make themselves little popes in the Christian Church. Most of the Biblical scholars of Christianity reject the divinity of Christ altogether and teach their enthusiastic charges to speak about Biblical matters without believing in them. Some of this heresy began developing through lower criticism but reached its highpoint of apostasy through higher criticism.[23]

Higher Criticism – The Historical Critical Method


One may practice a legitimate form of Biblical study, the historical-grammatical approach, or an illegitimate form, the historical critical method (often abbreviated as HCM). The historical-grammatical approach to the Scriptures seeks the clearest possible understanding of the Word of God, based upon our knowledge of the times and the language used. Liberals provided a great deal of energy for conservative studies of all areas related to the Bible, from archeology to textual criticism, simply by their constant promotion of old heresies. A student of the Bible—he does not need to be a Ph.D.—will face questions of apparent contradictions and errors in the Scriptures and address them.

Liberals whine that those who advocate the traditional approach to the Scriptures are engaged in begging the question. Believing Christian students of the Bible begin with the understanding that the Holy Spirit has inspired the Scriptures, that the Word is one unified truth without any errors or contradictions. They allow the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures and do not place any book by man above the Bible. They assume that difficult passages may be illuminated by the clearest passages and that any difficulties are due to the limitations of the reader rather than the deficiencies of the Author.

One might be forgiven for thinking that a book written for faith might be understood best through faith. However, liberals cry out that they are scientific, rational, and interested only in finding out the truth. They begin with their own assumptions. The Bible is just a book created by men, they say. For that reason, they argue that the Bible tells us a lot about the individual authors but little about God. That is like claiming that Moby Dick is a book about whaling. The liberals dismiss traditional Biblical studies as prejudiced, they view the Old Testament as primitive, the Son of God as a bastard child, the entire Bible as mythological, and believers as pathetic stooges. And yet, the liberals do not blush to make a living from the Biblical piety of the American people. Their theories are riddled with actual contradictions rather than apparent contradictions. For instance, they agree that the Gospels began as preaching texts. They also claim that their historical-critical method will discover the original meaning of the text. Nevertheless, they admit that the historical-critical method is useless for the preparation of sermons.[24] The only practical use seems to be for the training of future seminary professors. In fact, the historical-critical method is sterile and fruitless, a fact being quietly admitted in academic circles. In the face of the new radicalism of seminaries, the historical-critical method seems rather tepid.

Most people think that the Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod defeated the historical-critical method in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, doctrinal indifference has allowed the same influences back into the Lutheran Church, now with the opiate that “The good guys won and there is no longer a problem!” In his arrogantly titled and horribly written Biblical Interpretation: The Only Right Way, Wisconsin Synod seminary professor David Kuske has a bulleted list that might have been copied from the liberal textbooks I threw away many years ago: “Situations that may be important as background to what a passage says and means:…”[25] Kuske also participated in the Biblical translation disaster variously titled God’s Word to the Nations and the New Evangelical Translation.

Kuske’s colleage, John Jeske, one of the godfathers of the NIV, promoted the Calvinist interpretation of Genesis 3:15 in his People’s Bible Commentary on Genesis. In this case, the issue is the interpretation of “seed” in the verse.


KJV Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.


NIV Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."


Jeske agrees with John Calvin’s interpretation, claiming that the enmity will exist between “coming generations of both Satan’s offspring and Eve’s offspring.”[26] Luther and the Confessions interpret the word as applying to Christ alone.[27] Indeed, Jeske allows for Christ as well, but the First Gospel is watered down considerably by dreaming that God predicted general enmity between snakes and people or even between Satan and people in general.[28] The point of the First Gospel is that Satan will hate the future Messiah and pursue Israel until he finds Him. We see that fulfilled, according to Luther, in the gradual destruction of Israel and the appearance of Satan as the antagonist of the temptation in the wilderness. Jesus is not one more opponent of the devil in Genesis 3:15, as Calvin and Jeske teach, but the One who will oppose and defeat Satan.[29]


Origin of the Historical-Critical Method


Higher criticism can be given many labels, including that of literary criticism. The new approach began in the Church of Rome shortly after the Reformation, as described by Martin Chemnitz. This is an extremely important quotation to remember, because Lutherans are now using the same Roman view of the Scriptures. (See Chapter 10)



"The method of debate on the part of the papalists is far different now than it was at the time of Eck, Emser, and others like them. These men did not refuse to fight with us with the weapons of the Scripture. Pighius, however, has perceived that this arrangement has done the papal kingdom more harm than good. Therefore he has shown a different and shorter way by which, provided they stuck to it, they could obtain practically anything without trouble. It consists in this that they bring together every oratorical device and then declaim loudly about the shortness, the incompleteness, the insufficiency, ambiguity, and obscurity of the Scripture and strenuously fight for the necessity, authority, perfection, certainty, and clarity of the unwritten traditions."

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 71.[30]



"The Catholic Church existed before the Bible; it is possible for the Catholic Church to exist without the Bible, for the Catholic Church is altogether independent of the Bible. The Bible does not give any systematic, complete, and exhaustive treatment of the doctrine of Christ. In many respects it is, like a stenographer's notebook, partial and fragmentary, to be supplemented later on in more elaborate detail by other agencies. Christ never wrote a word of the Bible. One might naturally expect Him to have set the example by writing at least some portions of the Bible as if He intended His followers to take their entire religion from it." [Thomas F. Coakley, Inside Facts about the Catholic Church, Catholic Truth Society, p. 21f.]

Cited in Edwin E. Pieplow, "The Means of Grace," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 338.


Irenaeus described this approach to the Bible, which was not new.



"When they are proved wrong from the Scriptures, they turn and accuse the Scriptures themselves, as if they were not correct and were without authority, both because they speak now one way, now another, and also because the truth cannot be found from Scripture by those who do not know the tradition; for (so they say) the truth was not given through epistles, but through the living voice, etc." [Irenaeus, Contra haereses, chapter 2]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 82.


Zwingli and Calvin

Although the Church of Rome invented modern Biblical criticism, the Vatican did not have a direct influence on Protestants until recent decades.[31] Nevertheless, both Zwingli and Calvin began the momentum toward Unitarianism by introducing rationalism into their doctrinal systems. The strictest Calvinist will never denounce rationalism, since the magisterial use of reason is essential to Calvin’s theology. In short, the magisterial use of reason places it above the Word of God, judging it. Both in understanding and teaching, the effort to make God’s Word reasonable is the first step in abandoning the Scriptures and turning them into a rabbit’s foot.

The strictest Protestants would say. “Have we not argued inerrancy? Have we not proved the errors of evolution? Have we not published enormous works of orthodoxy? How can you paint us as traitors when we have done so much to make Christianity reasonable?” The Calvinist defense is the indictment. As soon as human reason is placed above the Word, or equal with the Word, the process of displacing the Word begins. For example, if the exotic and amazing bombardier beetle is used to prove Creation and disprove evolution, then our faith in Creation rests upon a bug that makes and mixes explosive chemicals in his tiny bowels. Although knowledge about our natural world is important, our Christian faith rests upon the revelation of God in the Scriptures and not upon the chemical factories we find in bugs, earthworms, herbs, and fish.

One creationist wrote that the Trinity can be proved with mathematics! One can easily see that John Calvin himself was a rationalist, so we should not be surprised that his followers have carried out his program. For instance, Calvin could not understand how the risen Lord appeared in the locked room. His assumption, that the finite could not contain the infinite, did not allow God Incarnate to pass through walls. Instead, Jesus had to come into the locked room through a secret passage.





"Reformed theologians, in order to support their denial of the illocalis modus subsistendi of Christ's human nature, have sought, in their exposition of John 20, an opening in the closed doors, or a window, or an aperture in the roof or in the walls, in order to explain the possibility of Christ's appearance in the room where the disciples were assembled."

            Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans., Walter W. F. Albrecht, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, II, p. 127. John 20:19.


In his Institutes, Calvin made fun of the Real Presence of Christ in communion. Zwingli and Calvin both rid their churches of God acting through Baptism and Holy Communion, making the sacraments symbolic. Of course, the sacraments are symbolic, but they are not merely symbolic. The sacraments also give what God promises in the Word. Once Zwingli and Calvin introduced these rationalistic elements, a defense of divine activity became increasingly muted until it was extinguished by human reason. The seduction was magnified in its power by several elements. Satan encourages our sinful flesh to rebel against God’s Word. In addition, as Western Europe developed, the highly trained theologians were surrounded by the new priesthood of science and technology. It became doubly appealing to defend the Scriptures in a way which might satisfy the doubts of the new intellectuals. If human reason is placed above the Scriptures, one longs for approval from the ultimate advocates of human reason today, the scientists.


Ministerial versus Magisterial Use of Reason


Siegbert Becker’s great work, The Foolishness of God, distinguished between the ministerial and the magisterial use of reason in the work of Dr. Martin Luther. The ministerial use of reason does not abandon or oppose human intelligence and higher learning, but subordinates the intellect to the Word of God, following Luther. One can spend a lifetime learning the meaning of the Scriptures, studying the ancient languages, reading historical works, comparing passages. And yet, no one can explain the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the miracles, the forgiveness of sins, or the resurrection. One of the simplest acts of the believer, the silent prayer, transcends all human reason. How can God hear our thoughts, or for that matter, our quiet table prayer? The ministerial use of reason should be viewed as another expression for the traditional Christian view of the Scriptures, as the Book above all books, the judge of all human wisdom. Whatever powers and abilities God has given us should be placed in the service of God’s Word, subject to the Holy Spirit, as Isaiah spoke.


KJV Isaiah 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.



"Melanchthon lacked the simple faith in, and the firm adherence and implicit submission to, the Word of God which made Luther the undaunted and invincible hero of the Reformation...Melanchthon, devoid of Luther's singled-minded and whole-hearted devotion to the Word of God, endeavored to satisfy his reason as well."[32]

F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 105.


The magisterial use of reason places an emphasis upon human understanding and seeks to answer doubt with rationalism. That is like drinking brine to satisfy thirst. Allowing human reason to rule over the Scriptures, or even to defend the Word of God, introduces a cancer that will not stop growing until it has completely taken over the faith. Those who defend the Scriptures with reason do not realize that they have also placed the human mind on an equal basis with God, as if He did not say:


KJV Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Triumph of Rationalism


The historical-critical method crept into Christianity on little cat’s feet. The three influences during the 16th century Reformation era were: 1) Calvinism; 2) the Church of Rome; 3) the Socinians, who were early Unitarians. Although the weeds were planted during the Reformation and immediately afterwards, little effect was seen until the 18th century. Several key publications marked the beginning of the historical-critical method during the Age of Rationalism. Note that Schweitzer was later acclaimed throughout the world for making the heretics Reimarus and Strauss acceptable. Schweitzer was lauded for his “sanctity of life” teaching until the abortion age dumped him, for obvious reasons.


  1. The Reimarus Fragments. The author was Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768). The work was published posthumously, for fear of reprisals, in 1774 and 1778, through the famous German author Gotthold E. Lessing (1729-1781). The book, reprinted by the liberal Lutheran Church in America, argued that the disciples turned Jesus into God after His death, so they would not have to return to their former occupations. Lessing used his enormous influence to defend the publication of the work, and this began the process of making Germany the center of the historical-critical method. Scholars today consider the Fragments the pioneering work in the Life of Jesus research.
  2. The Life of Jesus, published in 1835, by David Friederich Strauss (1808-1872). Strauss became famous for the work, but his career went into an immediate decline because of the controversy. Scholars consider the Strauss work more subtle than that of Reimarus, because this two volume Life of Jesus introduced the concept of mythology, allowing apostate theologians to talk about the meaning of the text without accepting the historical basis of the Scriptures. Strauss’ discussion of myth in the Bible began a process that eventually permeated all denominations. Two Roman Catholic theology students in the Ph. D. program at Notre Dame were furious that a visiting lecturer attributed myth to the Old Testament, but not to the New Testament! Both men were angered that I believed in the resurrection and Virgin Birth of Christ. They are typical of Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy in America today.[33]
  3. The Life of Jesus, by various authors, culminating in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 1906, by Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). The original title of Schweitzer’s work was much duller: History of the Life of Jesus Research. Schweitzer reviewed the many lives of Jesus and threw in a few pet theories of his own. Because Schweitzer was a media hero for decades through his organ concerts in Europe and his medical missionary work in Africa, his seldom read but often mentioned work had great credibility.


Classical Scholarship and Biblical Research


Dr. Robert Preus, an expert in Greek and Latin, made a good point about the influence of classical studies (Greek and Latin literature). He said, and I paraphrase, “The classical scholars tore apart all the Greek and Latin works. When they had nothing left to work on, they applied the same methods to the Bible.” In fact, the classical scholars dithered and argued over the authorship of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to such an extent, with so many authors and editors proposed, that one wit finally declared, “The Iliad and Odyssey were not written by Homer, but by another man with exactly the same name.” The fodder for a Ph.D. in classical studies is rather limited, so the modern scholars had little to add to research in order to claim their doctorates. Once they wore out the subject matter, it was easy to apply the same theories to the Bible. Experts in ancient languages are very specialized and uniquely talented. Once they learn a few languages, additional languages are relatively easy. Even now a man may earn a Ph.D. in Greek literature and teach New Testament studies at a seminary. If he is trained in Hebrew, he will probably know quite a few ancient languages as well. The Yale Ph.D. in Old Testament is more of a language degree than anything else. Dr. Robert Wilson described his graduate study at Yale as working on a number of ancient languages and texts until it was time to graduate.

Concentrated scholarship in a narrowly defined field of study can make people bored rather easily. The orthodox positions were well established by Reformed and Lutheran scholars of the past. It was more interesting to ask, “Was Paul married?” or “Was Jesus a homosexual?” The highly acclaimed Society for Biblical Literature became “a creative writing seminar” according to one Lutheran professor, David Scaer, Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne. Anyone could make up any theory, publish it, and add the article to his resume list.

The spread of rationalistic influence was given great impetus by the prestige of the degree, the university, and the country where it was earned. American scholars in the late 19th century wanted to earn a degree in Germany, where the historical-critical method was fully developed. Relatively few could study in Germany. When they returned to America, they could claim a prestige position at a great university. The few who earned a doctorate under the American professor would also have a claim to a top position. Princeton, Harvard, and Yale trained seminary professors from the mainline denominations. The Lutherans were slower to covet an ivy league degree, but they also arrived on the scene.

The process of graduate education in America tends to mold a fraternity out of its graduates, not surprisingly. The small group of doctoral students share the same classrooms, the same section of the library, the same lounges, the same housing, and attend the same parties. These bonds continue throughout life, even if classes do not overlap. Having the same dissertation advisor is sure to create some bond, even if it is based upon complaints or funny stories. Hamma Divinity School was looking for a young New Testament professor. Someone visited Krister Stendahl, the Lutheran dean at Harvard Divinity at that time. Stendahl pointed out a man in the cafeteria and said, “That’s Ben Johnson. Take him.” That is how Ben Johnson was hired to teach New Testament at a Lutheran seminary. The process can be more complicated, but one cannot overemphasize the impact of a well known leader making a personal reference. These contacts also lead to publishing opportunities, research grants, and other perks of academic life.

Although much is made of academic freedom, the doctoral student must obtain his references from his professors, who often have an axe to grind. One must agree with the professor in order to earn a good grade and finish. When I wrote a paper about Paul Tillich, who taught the head of my program when he studied at Harvard, I dared to say Tillich was a pantheist who rejected all the doctrines of Christianity.[34] The professor said, “If this is your paper, you will fail this course. Rewrite it.” I wrote a second paper dealing with some of Tillich’s favorite fads in psychology. That received a sullen passing grade, but my goose was cooked. I made similar points in class with the professor’s colleague, another Tillich fan, by reading out loud from the official Tillich biography. That earned me double jeopardy, and I was condemned by two members of the faculty who were friends. When I disagreed with the wife of one of these men, one student sadly bid me goodbye, assuming I would be kicked out for expressing my own opinion just once in her class.[35]

My sainted dissertation advisor, John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite pacifist, was visibly disturbed that I received a call to Midland, Michigan, where Dow Chemical was headquartered. He said, “Midland is where they used to demonstrate how to make napalm.” I thought to myself, “This is taking guilt by association to a new level.” Yoder delayed my work repeatedly, pointing out that his degree was not granted for 15 years for lack of publication. The old rule in Europe was that a man did not earn a doctorate by writing a dissertation, but by getting it published as a book. When I got to wear the heavy black robe, rented of course, I learned that Yoder had whisked a pacifist Mennonite through the program in half the time.[36] The man was headed for Goshen to teach at the Mennonite college there.

The personal details are not offered as a complaint, but to give some perspective about the way in which the historical-critical method invaded America. Pioneers such as Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) studied in Germany and brought back the reinterpretation of the Bible, Unitarian philosophy dressed in the words of Biblical piety. Although it was not likely that the average person would read Adolph Harnack’s What Is Christianity, 1899-1900, they could read the same thoughts in Rauschenbusch’s Theology for the Social Gospel, his famous Yale lectures.[37] More importantly, they could hear similar thoughts in the sermons of liberal Protestant ministers trained in the Social Gospel Movement by Rauschenbusch and other professors.[38] Later, Rauschenbusch became a litmus test for whether a Lutheran leader was sensitive about political concerns. If he read and quoted Rauschenbusch, and adopted the Kingdom of God concept of Rauschenbusch, he was a progressive, intelligent, sensitive leader. Mutatis mutandi, the same thing could be said later about the Church Growth Movement and the Baptist C. Peter Wagner, except that the key phrase became “Church Growth Eyes” instead of the Kingdom of God.[39]


Rudolph Bultmann

Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) is by no means the greatest of the historical-critical method authors, but he became the best known. He was not very original and tended to use what others had written before him. As Nils Dahl, a student of Bultmann, pointed out, the famous professor gained in reputation by outliving many other European professors. The late Donald McGavran, father of the Church Growth Movement, has proven that one may be a little known failure for decades and yet become famous by outliving and out-publishing others.[40]

By living to the age of 92 and training many American professors, Bultmann established himself as normative for New Testament scholarship. Anyone who doubted the historical-critical method was pitting himself against the invulnerable army of Bultmann students. Some of them were second generation trainees, not studying under the master himself, but earning a doctorate from one of his famous students at Harvard. In addition, because theological fads take so long to die away, a German professor of the Victorian Age with archaic ideas about science could influence New Testament professors in America in the 1970s and beyond. Bultmann argued that the New Testament claims about Jesus were mythological, good in their dealing with universal truths, but not able to stand the scrutiny of modern (that is, 19th century) science. One of his famous sentiments was that “any schoolboy knows a body cannot resuscitate itself and rise from the grave.” Obviously, from this statement, someone who believes in the resurrection of Christ is dumber than any schoolboy.

The mythological interpretation of the Bible, begun as a scandal by D. F. Strauss, was promoted by Bultmann and his followers as a way to talk about the events of the Bible without believing in them. The mythological approach takes itself very seriously but does not deal with the text or content of the Bible except as an anchor for its pagan philosophies. For someone who accepts the mythological view of the Scriptures, inerrancy is a joke. The old Missouri Synod knew the Bultmann school was wrong and rejected it during the Seminex crisis, which had its beginnings in the 1930s and reached its public relations glory in the 1970s. Soon after, the newly revised Lutheran Church Missouri Synod adopted Fuller Seminary as its Mecca, even though Fuller advocated unionism and rejected Biblical inerrancy with scorn and derision. WELS had already broken with the Missouri Synod in the 1960s over the issue of unionism and inerrancy, then adopted Fuller as its favorite seminary for training world and home missionary leaders.[41] The American Association of Lutheran Churches broke with The ALC over the issue of inerrancy and officially adopted Fuller Seminary as its own seminary.[42] The so-called Church of the Lutheran Confession broke with WELS over a lax attitude toward unionism but later made criticism of the Church Growth Movement in WELS a reason for doctrinal discipline and expulsion.[43] Although the Church Growth enthusiasts are more interested in graph paper than New Testament studies, The Battle for the Bible and its sequel prove that Fuller has been a hotbed for the historical-critical method—and worse—even before the installation of the McGavran Church Growth faculty.[44]


Biblical Studies as a Toxic Influence


If John or Mary goes to a major school and earns a Ph.D. in Biblical studies, whether Old Testament or New Testament, most people will be impressed and think something good has happened. Not every graduate is a ranting Bultmann advocate. Various names enter and exit the approved list of authors, even in Biblical studies. The style of the historical-critical method lends itself to remaining in the “about mode,” as Paul L. Holmer described it.[45] Doctoral students at Notre Dame were more vivid in their description of the dissertation process, calling it “digging up bones to be gathered so they can be buried again.” Few academic theologians have anything original to write, but they must publish or get a parish. In Biblical studies, considerable time and energy are expended in describing and comparing previous theories about every subject. If an article or book is written about the Gospel of Mark, for example, all previous major works must be addressed, and then supported or critiqued. For those who have trouble keeping track of all these works, there is a journal providing a Reader’s Digest view of the literature on many topics, albeit with the stately name of Theologische Rundschau (theological overview). Some summaries are 100 pages long. This style of addressing a topic means that the student must deal with a verse in Talmudic style, commenting on a commentary of a commentary of a commentary. He does not need to believe anything, because he can remain in the about mode. In fact, he is almost compelled to remain in the about mode. As Holmer observed, the author does not need to address the actual content of the Gospel of Mark, but writes about Gospel of Mark research with a few tidbits of his own added.

Once a Ph.D. in Biblical studies is hired for the college or seminary classroom, he is wedded to a style of thinking. If he wrote his dissertation arguing that Mark was written after Matthew and Luke, then lift holy hands in prayer for the student who suggests otherwise. Because the professor is saturated in the literature about Mark, he may teach his classes mostly by talking about the theories involved in the Synoptic Gospels. If the reader is lucky enough to own Ylvisaker’s The Gospels, he will see that a genuine Lutheran approach is quite different. Luther, too, could argue theories, but he spent little time on them and did not draw himself into the fine points of Medieval scholarship unless he wanted to destroy a faulty position, as he did for 100 pages in his Galatians commentary, dealing with congruent grace.

Professorial tyranny is not limited to Biblical studies. Nevertheless, what is more dangerous than a system that keeps professors and students focused on the history of research on a given topic rather than on the main topicGod? Nils Dahl gave a paper to the Yale Divinity faculty, pointing out that Biblical professors seldom deal with God, even though He is a significant figure in the Bible. Dahl was ignored by the faculty. In fact, the Lutherans on the faculty of Yale Divinity School were so conservative, compared to the rest, that the dean vowed never to hire another Lutheran.[46] A famous worship expert lost his chance to teach at Yale because of the conservative reputation earned by his fellow Lutherans.[47]

Another factor in the spread of error is professorial laziness. Orthodoxy requires study, thought, and prayer, but apostasy floats along on greed, sloth, and ambition. Dr. Robert Wilson, an Old Testament professor at Yale, did a study about a peculiar citation. He found that the original work cited in a footnote was The Birth of Israel. A typographical error turned this footnote into The Bird of Israel. Obviously, the misprinted title of the book was silly, but no one seemed to notice as numerous scholars copied the footnote rather than look for the original work. Using a footnote suggests that the author read the work cited, not that he copied someone else’s footnote, giving a false appearance of scholarship without the work involved.



The King James Version

Many people think of the King James Version, or Authorized Version, as the first and only English Bible for a long period of time. Also, when we talk about the translators, we think of a group of men creating a completely new translation. In addition, some claim that the King James Version we use today is exactly the same as the one produced in 1611. All these notions need some correction.

England enjoyed the only Reformation based upon a king’s need for a male heir. King Henry VIII married six wives in his ambitious life and moved from being Defensor Fidei (defender of the Faith) to wresting control of the English Catholic Church from the pope.[48] The messiness of the English Reformation makes the history of the English Bible equally complicated. Much more could be written than the brief remarks in this section. “But we weary the unlearned, who need not know so much, and trouble the learned, who know it already.” (Original Preface, 1611 edition of the KJV)

Luther was not the first to translate the Bible into German, but his translation became the official translation used by everyone, forever shaping the German language. Luther did not work alone in translating the Bible, but he was the guiding genius of the work. Even today German Bibles acknowledge Luther’s work by name on the title page, a tribute to his astonishing work. Similarly, the King James Version was not the first or only English Bible. The purpose of the work was to create a Bible for all English people to use. The translators were remarkably successful in accomplishing this purpose, not only for unifying the English Bible, but also for creating a masterpiece of the English language. Shakespeare and the King James Version are credited with being the two great forces that originally molded our language and continue to influence our mother tongue today.

God moved Gutenberg in Germany and Caxton in England to invent the printing press. The Greek New Testament of Erasmus in 1516 created enormous excitement for all Christians involved with Biblical studies. The Greek New Testament was made possible by the fall of Constantinople to Moslem forces in 1453. Greek scholars fled into Europe from the Byzantine Empire and brought their ancient texts with them. Suddenly the Church was faced with the Greek text of the New Testament at a time when each nation was discovering its own language and breaking away from Latin. The Latin Vulgate, the Latin liturgy, and Latin as the universal language of theology—all this changed in a relatively brief time.

Many English Bibles were created during this time. Some of the better known versions are the Wycliffe translation, the Coverdale, the Geneva, the Bishop’s, and Tyndale’s. All these existed before the King James came into being. William Tyndale was the pioneering genius who first translated the Greek New Testament of Erasmus into English and also translated much of the Hebrew Old Testament. He tried to work with church officials, but he was spurned. The English Bible was actually banned from the realm. Translating the Bible was associated with Martin Luther, and Luther refused to go along with the marital merry-go-round of Henry VIII. Tyndale, though not a Lutheran, studied under Luther and Melanchthon at Wittenberg for a year. Tyndale moved around Europe, had his work printed, and smuggled it into England with the help of friends. He had to translate, raise money, print, ship, and escape the authorities, all to give us the Bible in our tongue. As always, the religious enemies proved to be the most dangerous. A friend betrayed Tyndale, who was arrested, strangled to death, and burnt at the stake. Before he died in 1536, Tyndale cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”


The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 KJV[49]


A lifetime passed before Tyndale’s dying prayer in 1536 was answered through another king in 1611. England and Europe suffered terrible religious conflicts. Finally, when James of Scotland became King of England, the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 was called to deal with problems in the English church.[50] Dr. John Reynolds, a prominent Puritan, asked for a new translation of the Bible. Not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea. Bishop Bancroft of London exclaimed, “If every mans humour should be followed, there would be no ende of translating.”[51] The bishop’s dour prediction was fulfilled in the 20th century, where we not only have a growing collection of translations, but also ever new editions of those versions. The Revised Standard Version and the New International Version both have their feminist improvements. An American Translation has had five different versions: 1) the original Beck translation, 2) the revision published by Pastor Herman Otten, 3) God’s Word to the Nations (also known as the New Evangelical Translation), 4) God’s Word—largely disowned by its Lutheran sponsors, and 5) yet another version of the Beck.[52]

Only a minority of the clergy at the Hampton Court Conference supported the new translation. The work began after a delay of a few years. Groups of scholars were gathered together. Their intention was to unify and purify the collection of English work available. That intention does not demean their effort at all. Anyone who has worked on a minor project with a synodical committee can only marvel that the Authorized Version was even finished, that the project was completed in a few years, and that the new Bible was a masterpiece instead of an Edsel.[53]


Double Inspiration


Some people, with good intentions, argue for a second inspiration, saying that the King James Version was inspired in the same way as the Bible. This false claim is not fair to the Scriptures or to the King James translators and editors. We can certainly see God’s hand in the work, but we have to distinguish between the work of men faithful to God and the revelation of God to man. When we use the term inspiration loosely, the Biblical sense of the word is lost. One Baptist held up his Bible in class and said, “I believe even the covers of this book are inspired.” In Greek, inspiration means God breathed. The word inspiration is based upon the Latin root for the same concept: God breathed. The Bible tells us that all Scriptures are inspired.


2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:


BYZ 2 Timothy 3:16 pa/sa grafh. qeo,pneustoj kai. wvfe,limoj pro.j didaskali,an pro.j e;legcon( pro.j evpano,rqwsin pro.j paidei,an th.n evn dikaiosu,nh|


Only the God-given Scriptures are called inspired in this sense, so applying the term to anything other than the Bible implies a power and infallibility that belongs to the revealed Word alone. Advocating a double inspiration also fails to acknowledge the various changes in the King James Version since it was first published. These changes are slight, involving spelling and punctuation, as well as a few words, but they nullify the theory of double inspiration. A Lutheran does not argue double inspiration because of his faith in the efficacy of the Word. A bad translation diminishes the power of the Word; a good translation reflects the original sense of the Word. The only questions we need to ask are:

  1. Is this the best text available?
  2. Is this the most precise translation?


It is much fairer to the King James translators to say that the work was blessed by God and providential. God saw to it that the pioneering—but persecuted—work of Tyndale would be preserved in a new form, thus honoring the man who gave his life for the English Bible.


The Luther-Centric Reformation


Before we turn to actual translation comparisons, let me emphasize something lost on most people today. The Reformation was Luther-centric.[54] Many other Reformers had a significant influence in their territories and countries, but Luther dominated the Reformation through the force of his writing, both in quality and quantity. Luther’s influence also permeates the efforts of his opponents, even when they argue against him. His collected works equal the size of a 100 volume set of encyclopedias. If he had maintained his publishing rights, he would have been one of the richest men in the world. His works were best sellers and immediately translated all over Christendom. Luther’s work was the gold standard in theology, especially when lesser lights fought against him. Therefore, the King James Bible reflects that influence, just as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress does.[55] Some WELS pastors have argued fatuously that the King James Version was not a Lutheran translation, therefore the Reformed and Pentecostal New International Version is no worse for being non-Lutheran. This particular talking point is worthless, because the issue is the accuracy of the text and translation.[56] The NIV fails miserably in both areas. The KJV is clearly superior and belongs to an age when Puritans, too, read Luther with delight and edification. The King James scholars labored to create a Bible that would be read from the pulpit, used in the liturgy, paraphrased in sermons, cited in essays and books. They sought to employ the majesty of the spoken Word as well as precision of language. The King James is a triumph of the Tyndale translation effort. Pastor Henry A. Koch cited the English scholar F. F. Bruce, stating that 90% of the King James is from Tyndale, and that the revisers in 1881 returned to the Tyndale language which had been changed.[57] Because Tyndale studied and worked in Germany during the Reformation, he was directly influenced by Luther and his translation. In other words, the King James Version has a direct, historical relationship to Luther’s Bible.[58]


The Revised Standard Version

The Revised Standard Version arrived after World War II, at a time when the mainline denominations were enjoying their swan song: building new additions on churches, starting new missions, glorying in their ability to fool most of the people most of the time. The National Council of Churches worked with academic stars of the Left to produce a translation promised to be faithful to the substance of the King James Version but with “much needed improvements in the text and wording.”[59] The Bible no longer said, “A virgin will conceive” in Isaiah 7:14, but a “young woman” would conceive. I was in grade school when the new Bible came out, and I remember the RSV being promoted and the muted discussion of the Virgin Birth error. We heard, and this was repeated later, in college classes, that the Hebrew word (almah), always translated previously as virgin, really only meant young woman. Liberal experts claimed, “There is no word for virgin in Hebrew.” This error has also influenced conservative Lutherans to some degree.[60]

The RSV has been overshadowed by the flood of new translations, but it accomplished as much for the modern versions as the King James did for unifying the English Bible. The RSV reversed the work of the KJV, even though the KJV continued to outsell it for many years. Church leaders defended the elimination of the Virgin Birth prophesy, as if all the translators in history had been universally wrong about the meaning of almah. Any bad translation, any fad was hailed as a progression of newer translations came off the presses. A few in my memory, the biggest hits of the moment were: Cottonpatch (Southern dialect), New Jerusalem, New English, Living Bible, Good News For Modern Man, and New American Bible. Bibles were printed and sold by the boxcar, in the name of making God’s Word come alive for the first time. However, even though we have a motley collection of new versions, Biblical literacy has plummeted during the same period, especially among the young, who were the intended beneficiaries.

Feminist language is the newest fad in Biblical translating, to use the term in its broadest possible sense. Whenever possible, male terms for God the Father and God the Son are avoided. Male pronouns also disappear. Mega-churches like Willow Creek are encouraging the trend by demanding feminist translations for their parishes. The Wisconsin Synod took this to a new level in their new hymnal, Christian Worship, by replacing “and became man” in the Nicene Creed with “fully human,” a term that falls harshly on the un-waxed ear. Only a generation of Lutherans fed the NIV could tolerate a confession of faith so completely corrupted.

King James versus New International Version

In the following comparisons, the New International Version will be used, because the NIV is widely used and typifies the worst of what is happening in modern translations, including the adoption of feminist language.

Matthew 28:19-20

KJV Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.


NIV Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


BYZ Matthew 28:19 poreuqe,ntej maqhteu,sate pa,nta ta. e;qnh bapti,zontej auvtou.j eivj to. o;noma tou/ patro.j kai. tou/ ui`ou/ kai. tou/ a`gi,ou pneu,matoj 20 dida,skontej auvtou.j threi/n pa,nta o[sa evneteila,mhn u`mi/n\ kai. ivdou. evgw. meq u`mw/n eivmi pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj e[wj th/j suntelei,aj tou/ aivw/noj VAmh,nÅ


Lutherans of the Church Growth persuasion love the NIV rendering, “make disciples,” turning a Gospel mandate into Law.[61] They believe that the key to numerical growth is “making disciples.”[62] They claim that a disciple is a soul-winner, a better Christian than ordinary Christians.[63] They would like to argue that the verb translated as teach in the KJV has the same root as disciple, so the word disciple should be used. Actually, the root of the word is teach and the noun form suggests learning, or, to use the same root, a teacher has students who are taught. The grammar of the sentence is clear enough. The direct object of teach is all nations. We could make better sense of the Greek by saying, “Go and disciple all nations.” Then it would be clear that God will accomplish His will through His Word. Jesus did not tell His disciples to “make disciples,” and yet this is explained by Church Growth experts as the true meaning of the closing of St. Matthew. That translation has placed a terrible burden on ministers and members. The WELS Church Growth guru and former seminary professor said this about the passage, after studying at Fuller Seminary:



"Jesus did not send his disciples out to make disciples without first making them disciples. He gave them a course in disciple making by making them disciples. He knew that you have to be a disciple yourself before you can help someone else to become a disciple."

            Pastor Joel C. Gerlach, "The Call into the Discipling Ministry," Yahara Center, April 24-25, 1987, p. 6.[64]


Those who defend bad translations can blame themselves for the way in which false teachers use the modern versions to destroy the meaning of a text.[65] One is forced to conclude from the following dictum that the Great Commission involves making something.



"But when our Lord told us what our mission should be, he was quite clear: Make disciples.”

Lawrence Otto Olson, D. Min., Fuller Seminary, The Evangelism Life Line (WELS), Summer, 1988, p. 3.


A sincere student of the Scriptures will ask what the word disciple means in the New Testament. The Valleskey/Gerlach spin cannot possibly be correct, since we have many examples that are contrary to their agenda. In John 9:28, disciple simply means a student or follower, not specifically a Christian or a “soul-winning” Christian.


KJV John 9:28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.


BYZ John 9:28 evloido,rhsan auvto.n kai. ei=pon Su. ei= maqhth.j evkei,nou h`mei/j de. tou/ Mwse,wj evsme.n maqhtai,\


John 1:35 portrays disciples as followers of yet another confession of faith.


KJV John 1:35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;


BYZ John 1:35 Th/| evpau,rion pa,lin ei`sth,kei o` VIwa,nnhj kai. evk tw/n maqhtw/n auvtou/ du,o.


If disciples are a special kind of Christian, then why did some disciples stop following Jesus?


KJV John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.


BYZ John 6:66 VEk tou,tou polloi. avph/lqon tw/n maqhtw/n auvtou/ eivj ta. ovpi,sw kai. ouvke,ti met auvtou/ periepa,toun.


Most modern translations—including the New King James Version—have employed “make disciples” in the Great Commission, In contrast, Luther’s Bible and the Vulgate render the passage “teach all nations,” while one modern German translation has “make disciples,” a clumsy phrase in German. A feeble excuse for “make disciples” is preventing the use of “teach” twice in two verses, even though Gerlach used “disciples” seven times in two sentences! The issue is not the repetition of a single word, but whether the original text is obscured or clarified by the translation. An orthodox rule of Biblical study, “Scripture interprets Scripture,” reveals how erroneous the translation “make disciples” is.


Acts 14:21

The Fuller enthusiasm can also be found in the following passage. The NIV is once again deceptive, because the participles simply say that the apostles preached the Gospel and instructed many. The text does not suggest “winning disciples,” because the passage in Greek does not contain a word for winning nor does it use disciples as a direct object.[66] The object of teach is many. In brief, they taught many.


Jackson Literal Acts 14:21: After gospeling that city and after teaching many, they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch.


KJV Acts 14:21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,


NIV Acts 14:21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,


BYZ Acts 14:21 Euvaggelisa,menoi, te th.n po,lin evkei,nhn kai. maqhteu,santej i`kanou.j u`pe,streyan eivj th.n Lu,stran kai. VIko,nion kai. VAntio,ceian


Matthew 13:52

This verse uses the same Greek word for “teaching” or “being taught” that we find in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 14:21. The strain of using an instruction or teaching verb as a making disciples verb can be seen in the key passage, Matthew 13:52. The NIV cannot shoehorn the word disciple into this verse so the translation must give in to good English. If the NIV followed the pattern of the previously discussed passages, this verse would have to say “every scribe discipled about the kingdom of heaven,” or “every scribe made into a disciple about the kingdom of heaven.”


KJV Matthew 13:52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.


NIV Matthew 13:52 He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."


BYZ Matthew 13:52 o` de. ei=pen auvtoi/j Dia. tou/to pa/j grammateu.j maqhteuqei.j eivj th.n basilei,an tw/n ouvranw/n o[moio,j evstin avnqrw,pw| oivkodespo,th| o[stij evkba,llei evk tou/ qhsaurou/ auvtou/ kaina. kai. palaia,


1 Corinthians 10:16

The vast majority of NIV translators reject the Means of Grace, because all non-Lutheran Protestants reject the Means of Grace.[67] Baptism and communion are symbolic acts to them, ordinances they must obey as a witness to their faith, not sacraments through which God imparts the forgiveness of sin. The Greek word for communion, koinonia, is commonly but wrongly used in the church today. One bad use of the term is for Pietistic cell groups. A koinonia group sounds Biblical. However, the New Testament uses the term only in the sense of fellowship with God. Therefore, communion is an excellent term to use. For that reason, the Reformed have avoided the word. They seldom use the term Holy Communion, preferring the Lord’s Supper instead. This is not a minor passage, but a key doctrinal passage. Interpretation of it has divided the Lutherans from the Reformed. Switching from “communion” to “participation” obscures the meaning and impact of the passage. Communing with God is the Gospel, while participation is Law in the guise of human cooperation.

We should not be surprised that the same section of 1 Corinthians is used for the dreadful term “Church Growth Eyes.” The Fuller students think, in their foolishness, that “discerning the body” refers to the visible Church. They are blinded by their own ignorance from seeing that the passage concerns the Real Presence of Christ. It is comical to read their blather about Church Growth Eyes.[68]


KJV 1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?


NIV 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?


BYZ 1 Corinthians 10:16 to. poth,rion th/j euvlogi,aj o] euvlogou/men ouvci. koinwni,a tou/ ai[matoj tou/ Cristou/ evsti.n to.n a;rton o]n klw/men ouvci. koinwni,a tou/ sw,matoj tou/ Cristou/ evstin.


1 Peter 3:20-21

Many times the Reformed side-step the issue of Holy Communion, preferring to damn the sacrament with faint praise and infrequent usage. Baptism fills some Protestants with a special rage. That attitude is not true of all the non-Lutheran Protestants, but one can find a remarkable animosity among the Pentecostals, especially against infant baptism. Once again, a key doctrinal passage is altered by the NIV to obscure or eliminate what God’s Word clearly teaches. In this case, the clear teaching of God is eliminated entirely, turning a sacrament into a symbol, cutting out the word Baptism and adding “symbolizes” without cause or merit! At this point, the Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod men should have tossed down their pens and stormed out. They did not. They stayed on the team, giving a tremendous boost to the marketing of the NIV in both synods, which have tied all their instruction material to the NIV. Several WELS pastors who objected to this betrayal were kicked out of the synod. It is ironic that being KJV-only is reason enough for removal from the ministry, although the leaders who do this are NIV-only.

WELS and the Missouri Synod should have waited for the New King James Version, if they had to have a modern Bible. But that would not have served the agenda of the Church Growth agitators in both synods. They wanted the Means of Grace passages erased to further their unionistic efforts. That is why the Pentecostals and the so-called conservative Lutherans can agree that Jesus told us to “make disciples.” My database can identify many different denominational quotations about making disciples, but only Lutheran authors speak about the Means of Grace and the efficacy of the Word.


KJV 1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:


NIV 1 Peter 3:20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you alsonot the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,


BYZ 1 Peter 3:20 avpeiqh,sasi,n pote o[te avpexede,ceto h` tou/ qeou/ makroqumi,a evn h`me,raij Nw/e kataskeuazome,nhj kibwtou/ eivj h]n ovli,gai( tou/t e;stin ovktw. yucai, diesw,qhsan di u[datoj 21 o] avnti,tupon nu/n kai. h`ma/j sw,|zei ba,ptisma ouv sarko.j avpo,qesij r`u,pou avlla. suneidh,sewj avgaqh/j evperw,thma eivj qeo,n di avnasta,sewj VIhsou/ Cristou/.


When I joined WELS as a pastor, the NIV was relatively new to me. Everywhere I looked, the NIV was the official Bible of WELS and the Missouri Synod, in spite of their denials. Fresh from the Lutheran Church in America, I saw that the NIV readings were no different from what I had learned in liberal schools. Writing Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant made me aware of the doctrinal problems of the NIV, as shown above. Finally, an elderly engineer in St. Louis asked me why I used the NIV in articles and not the KJV. I said, “I have an NIV Bible program and nothing else. When I need to search for citations, the computer program is easy to use.” Instead of attacking me, he said, “I will give you my computer copy of the King James, if you will use it.” I accepted his gift and began using the King James Version in all my publications. At the same time my son was learning Greek and Hebrew. He often commented on what a terrible translation the NIV was. A third reason for avoiding the modern versions came up during the writing of another book. If an author uses a modern translation extensively, such as in writing a commentary, he must pay royalties to the company owning the translation. This converts into big money for publishers. They have not only the Bible sales to swell their coffers but also a stream of money from Biblical books using their version. The NIV used great cunning in gathering all the so-called conservative denominations together. The joint project enabled one publishing company to dominate the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Lutheran markets and to link all the catechetical works together with the same translation.

Previously, one translation, the King James Version, kept all the English speaking churches closer to Luther and orthodoxy. Now the successful marketing of the NIV has united all Protestant denominations in a dumbed-down, inaccurate, anti-Means of Grace Bible. The capitulation of the conservative scholars to the theories of Westcott and Hort paved the way for the apostasy and mainline malaise we find in all denominations today.


Wordiness as a Warning Sign


As we can see from the 1 Peter 3:21 NIV example, a translation must become wordy and vague when the clarity of the Holy Spirit is being obscured. The same symptoms can be seen when a guilty person tries to explain everything away without saying yes or no to questions demanding a simple “yes” or “no.” When a fad rolls through the Christian Church, authority for the fad must follow. What better way to support a fad than to change the Bible? Once upon a time, church leaders read 1 Timothy 2:12 as preventing women from teaching men and from replacing men in positions of leadership. The sentence structure is quite clear in Greek. Two infinitives express what is not allowed by the apostle. Paul does not allow a woman “to teach” or “to usurp authority over a man.”


KJV 1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.


God’s Word to the Nations (Revision of the Beck Bible, AAT) 1 Timothy 2:12 I do not allow a woman to teach in such a way as to have authority over a man; rather, she is to conduct herself quietly.


NIV 1 Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.


NRS 1 Timothy 2:12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.


BYZ 1 Timothy 2:12 gunaiki. de. dida,skein ouvk evpitre,pw ouvde. auvqentei/n avndro,j avll ei=nai evn h`suci,a|.


Once again, this is not a difficult passage for anyone to understand in Greek. There is no excuse to multiply words. Nevertheless, a new way of translating the passage has been invented, in a project promoted, rather loudly, as a way to give the world an orthodox Lutheran Bible: “I do not allow a woman to teach in such a way as to have authority over a man.” The two simple infinitives have been replaced with a smokescreen of verbiage. What does it mean? The Lutheran feminist version, God’s Word to the Nations, funded by the Schwan Foundation, could easily be interpreted as supporting women’s ordination. Subjective opinion has replaced objective truth. The original NIV translated the verse correctly and concisely, but Church Growth ministers are demanding feminist Bibles. Look for the continually changing modern versions to adopt the GWN reading and call it “the most accurate rendition.”


Arguments against the King James Version Refuted


Statements against the King James Version are many and varied. Some of those frequently heard are:


  1. New translations have a better text.

Answer: All new translations, outside of the King James updates, have a text shortened by arbitrary and contradictory rules. Textual research has proven the remarkable precision of manuscript transmission, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Enthusiasm for Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is no longer so great, although the modern translations still follow the quirky approach of Westcott and Hort. Because the modern New Testaments have trimmed verses and words away, people generally do not know what is missing. An honest text would offer the traditional readings and identify where the Egyptian manuscripts differ.


  1. The Authorized Version uses old-fashioned English.

Answer: So does Shakespeare. And yet, Shakespeare remains the English author most appreciated in the Western world. I have found very few Shakespeare editions lacking information about the meaning of unusual words. A gentleman does not mind being challenged to learn Shakespeare’s vocabulary, cadences, and images. He may start with a children’s Shakespeare as a youth, but he will insist on the complete plays when he matures. A Christian always uses old-fashioned English in worship, especially in hymns. No one has found a way to worship in a solemn and dignified way using the latest English.


  1. Modern versions are easier for children to follow.

Answer: The Bible was the first major work to be dumbed-down for children. So many easy versions of the Bible are now in print that children and adults cannot remember any given verse the same way...or at all. Rather than simplifying matters, the unending supply of new translations has created the exact situation which the KJV was created to solve. Someone who prefers modern verb endings for children can use the New King James and keep the child or the family in the same Tyndale-Luther style of precise Biblical readings.


  1. The Authorized Version is a challenge to read.

Answer: A challenging work is usually more interesting over a long period of time, increasing our capacity to understand. Changing from the Revised Standard Version to the NIV is easy. Using the King James Version and going back to the New International Version is something like drinking warm dishwater.[69]


Poor arguments for the King James Version have stigmatized the translation, but the Authorized Version should not be blamed for its less enlightened advocates.


  1. The King James Version has never changed since 1611.

Answer: This is not true. Modest changes have been made from time to time, since spelling has changed and punctuation is different, using fewer commas. One can buy the 1611 version from Christian Book Distributors.


  1. The Lutheran Church began going downhill with the abandonment of the Authorized Version, so the King James Version will keep us orthodox.

Answer: Many Protestant groups advocate inerrancy without being Lutheran or orthodox. Many use the King James Version exclusively without being Lutheran. Obviously, inerrancy and the King James Version alone will not preserve the truth. Lutherans need to have a genuine love for the best Scriptural materials and a thorough understanding of their confessions. Forcing the KJV with the Law reminds me of the man who beat his children when they did not learn their catechism properly. The son said, “It worked,” but I am afraid it worked in turning Luther’s doctrine into a grim hell of the Law alone.


  1. We should never read any other translation than the King James.

Answer: This is a Fundamentalist rather than a Lutheran position. Few insights can be gained by using many different translations, but other versions do need to be consulted at times for various reasons. One of the strangest ideas, opposite of this argument, is to have a book filled with all the variant translations, inducing a type of Scriptural motion sickness upon the reader. Those who prefer a modern translation can use the New King James Version. In time they will feel comfortable with the Authorized Version. Rather than pour hatred and contempt on those who use other translations, we should point out why the King James Version has stood the test of time. Many KJV advocates do not know the history of their favorite translation and therefore fail to motivate others with the Gospel. When I moved to Canada with my wife, I enjoyed our adopted country, where we were landed immigrants (without land). However, we developed a special appreciation for the United States, a love we did not forget upon returning to America. In the same way, while I grew up with the KJV and moved with the tide to the RSV and NIV, I later gained a new respect for the Authorized Version, especially since I tried translating on my own.


Biblical Inerrancy


David Preus, Bishop of The American Lutheran Church before it merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, observed once that Biblical inerrancy was a new term, never used by Lutherans until the 1930s. The context was a brief and failed effort to have The ALC carry forward its inerrancy position into the ELCA constitution, perhaps as a way of honoring the dead, since the denominational leaders no longer even paid lip service to the issue. Preus, first cousin of Dr. Robert Preus, said less than he must have known.[70] Inerrancy was a new term for Lutherans, but it was new for a reason. Before the 1930s, Lutherans always used the term infallible for the Bible and knew what it meant. The influence of the historical-critical method and quirky textual criticism influenced Lutheran leaders to teach that the Bible was infallible in its doctrinal content, while crossing their fingers over such issues as history and geography. Confessing the Bible as the infallible Word of God no longer meant very much, so the term inerrant was used. Someone who used the term infallible loosely would quail at the thought of using inerrant. Similar games were played with the concept of inspiration, as if certain parts of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit, while the rest was filler. The term plenary inspiration came into fashion to explain that the entire Bible was inspired.

The behavior of the Lutheran synods since the 1930s has been nothing less than disgraceful. Not one, but all of the synods have abandoned the authority of the Scriptures, at least in practice. In spite of the posturing of the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, inerrancy has become a minority position, irrelevant and an obstacle to church growth. Many Lutherans have chattered endlessly about which politician to elect next or which program to promote to reverse the obvious decline of their synod and congregations, but few seem to realize that genuine reform depends on the Word rather than the man or the program.

The inerrancy of the Bible does not need to be debated here. Many liberals have acknowledged that the inerrancy of the Scriptures was the clear teaching of the entire Christian Church until the modern era. In the mid-19th century, Yale Divinity School taught the historical reality of Adam and Eve and the apostolic origin of John’s Gospel. By the turn of the century, the leading New Testament scholar, Benjamin Bacon, was given a mock trial by the students, where he was accused of believing in the Virgin Birth of Christ. It must have been a funny skit, enjoyed by all present, the future leaders of Protestantism in America.

One of the shameful traits of the Lutheran leaders has been a willingness to accept inerrancy as a bad characteristic of a hidebound Lutheran orthodoxy that hardened and ossified after the death of Luther. Anyone who claims such a position is unfamiliar with Luther’s work and the Book of Concord. Luther’s Large Catechism is drawn from his sermons. The Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord do not argue the issue of inerrancy because it was not disputed at that time. Nevertheless, inerrancy is implicit throughout the Lutheran Symbols and explicit in the following statement by Luther.



"Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err." [Ego et proximus meus et in summa omnes homines errare possunt et fallere, porro autem Verbum Dei nec potest errare nec fallere.]

Large Catechism, Infant Baptism, 57, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 747. Tappert, p. 444. Heiser, p. 208.


The Latin version of this statement contains the roots of the words we use to define the inspiration of the Scriptures: inerrant and infallible. Man errs and deceives. The Word of God cannot err or deceive. Anyone who excludes Biblical inerrancy from Luther and the Book of Concord commits fraud. Doubtless many liberal scholars believe Luther rejected inerrancy because they have been taught this way. Therefore, they err. Others know better but lead Lutherans away from the truth about Lutheran doctrine. They deceive.


Quotations about the Scriptures


KJV Psalm 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.


KJV John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;


KJV Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.


KJV 2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.



"The Bible is...the actual word of God to be taken literally, word for word, laity 13.5%, clergy .7%. Inspired word of God without errors but some verses are symbolic, laity 46.5%, clergy 18.2%. Inspired word of God but with historical and factual errors, laity 34.1%, clergy 80.3%. Not inspired word of God but best understanding of God's nature, laity 4.4%, clergy .7%. Ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts, laity 1.5%, clergy .1%."

            David L. Miller, "Is there any word from the Lord?" The Lutheran (ELCA), March, 1995 p. 8-9.[71]



"It is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit which is set forth in the canonical writings, and if the councils declare anything against it, I hold it to be wicked." [Jerome, commenting on Galatians]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 152.



"All things are clear and plain from the divine Scriptures; whatever things are necessary are manifest." [Chrysostom, commenting on 2 Thessalonians 2]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 152.



"The holy and divinely inspired Scriptures suffice for all instruction in the truth." [Athanasius, Contra gentes]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 152.



"What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher." [Augustine, De bono viduitatis, chap. 2]   

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 152.



"Wherever the place has been determined, let us see to it that the canonical codices are on hand and if any proofs can be produced on either side, let us set everything else aside and bring so important a matter to a conclusion." [Augustine, Letter no. 163, about private disputations about religion]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 154.



"And Cusanus writes that the custom of the ancient ecumenical synods was to place the holy Gospels in their midst."

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 154.



"For the book of the evangelist and apostles and the oracles of the ancient prophets plainly teach us what we are to think concerning divine matters. Therefore let us cease our hostile discord and take the solutions of the questions out of the divinely inspired sayings." [Constantine at Nicea]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 154.



"If anything is said without Scripture, the thinking of the hearers limps. But where the testimony proceeds from the divinely given Scripture, it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of the hearer." [Chrysostom, commenting on Psalm 95]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 156.



"Whatever is required for salvation is already completely fulfilled in the Scriptures." [Chrysostom, commenting on Matthew 22]

            Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 157.



"There is a short way for pious minds both to dethrone error and to find and bring out the truth. For when we return to the source and origin of the divine tradition, human error ceases." [Cyprian, Ad Pompejum]

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 158.



"He speaks with us in this way, that we may understand his speech." [Ambrose, Book 3, Letter 5]

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 167.



"God wanted this same word to be complete and brief, and not obscure: brief, lest men should not have time to read it; clear, lest someone might say: I could not understand it." [Augustine]

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 167.



"In Contra Faustum, Book 13, chapter 5, we read that although the Manichaeans did not accept the Scripture, they maintained that they believed the report concerning Christ. Augustine replies: 'If you believe the report about Christ, see whether this is a proper witness; consider what disaster you are headed for. You reject the Scriptures which are confirmed and commended by such great authority; you perform no miracles, and if you performed any, we would shun even those in your case according to the Lord's instruction, Mt. 24:24.' He wanted absolutely nothing to be believed against the confirmed authority of the Scriptures, etc."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 172. Matthew 24:24.



"However, it had slipped my mind that the faith of the papalists stands outside of and beyond the Scripture; therefore they are able to teach without a translation of Scripture into vernacular languages."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 200.



"Beautiful is the statement of Cyprian, which Augustine declares to be the best without any doubt, showing what ought to be done when examples and customs are held up to us which do not have the authority of the canonical Scripture. 'If,' says he, 'we return to the head and origin of the divine tradition, human error will cease. For if the channel of water, which before flowed copiously and purely, either fails or brings muddy water, then certainly one goes to the source in order to find out whether there is something wrong in the veins or in the source, or whether something got in midway.' So also it is rightly, necessarily, and indeed safely done when things that happened in later times in matters of religion must be examined."

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, III, p. 237.



"Don't let the world paint us into a corner of antiquarianism on subjects like a six-day creation or verbal inspiration."

Rev. Paul Kelm, WELS, "How to Make Sound Doctrine Sound Good to Mission Prospects," p. 13.[72]


"We resent unnecessary distractions; we resist unbiblical diversions.. Can anyone believe that all other activities should be suspended until all evangelicals agree on precise doctrinal statements? We certainly cannot."

David Allan Hubbard, "What We Believe and Teach," Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary.



"Where inerrancy refers to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches through the biblical writers, we support its use. Where the focus switches to an undue emphasis on matters like chronological details, the precise sequence of events, and numerical allusions, we would consider the term misleading and inappropriate. Its dangers, when improperly defined, are: 1) that it implies a precision alien to the minds of the Bible writers and their own use of Scriptures; 2) that it diverts attention from the message of salvation and the instruction in righteousness which are the Bible's key themes;...5) that too often it has undermined our confidence in the Bible we have... 6)that it prompts us to an inordinate defensiveness of Scripture which seems out of keeping with the bold confidence with which the prophets, the apostles and our Lord proclaimed it."

David Allan Hubbard, "What We Believe and Teach," Pasadena, California: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1-800-235-2222.



"The New Testament is the inerrant record of the revelation of Jesus Christ in word and deed, and of the truths and principles proceeding, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, from that revelation. The Old Testament is in like manner an inerrant record, having the express and often repeated testimony and authority of Christ, of the preparatory and partial revelations made concerning Him before His coming. Hebrews 1:1."

Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 3. Hebrews 1:1.



"The Holy Scriptures are the infallible and inerrant record of God's revelation of His saving grace to men."

Henry Eyster Jacobs, The Elements of Religion, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1997, p. 23.



"Holy Scripture carries with it its own evidence of its divine source and authority. While the historical evidence of its claims is to be gratefully cherished, and affords the proof of highest probability, Holy Scripture speaks with absolute certainty to those to whom it portrays the deepest secrets of their hearts, and whose felt wants it completely supplies. The inner testimony of the Spirit is the strongest and most convincing of all arguments. The fact that this is always at hand and universally applicable, raises it above all arguments that depend upon the researches of the learned. Here is an argument that the humblest and most unlettered apprehend with no less force than the profoundest of scholars."

Henry Eyster Jacobs, The Elements of Religion, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1997, p. 28.



"As no man ever spoke like this man Jesus (John 7:46), so no book ever spoke like this Book. None was ever scrutinized down to its every particle like this one; none has had such intensive and extensive commentaries written about it, the last of which is not yet in sight. None has experienced such assaults and has after every surge of attack appeared only the more as 'the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture' (Gladstone), a Gibraltar that only smiles at attack."

R. C. H. Lenski, Peter, John, Jude, Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1945, p. 300. 2 Peter 1:21.



"Finally our congregations everywhere must learn thoroughly that they are built upon God and God's Word only, and not upon men and human ability and work. Though thousands fall and err, God and His Word remain unchanged to all eternity. The world ever seeks something new. What is praised as progress today, it casts aside as old-fashioned tomorrow. But the foundation of our faith, the rule and norm of our life as Christians and children of God remains the same for all ages and all time."

R. C. H. Lenski, 1909. R. C. H. Lenski, cited by his nephew or great-nephew, Trinity Seminary Library, unpublished essay.



"Modernists regard the whole Bible as outmoded Jewish literature, and pick and choose from its contents what they need for their moralizing lectures."

R. C. H. Lenski, James, Columbus: Lutheran Book Concern, 1938, p. 524. James



"Rationalists want to be rational; but is it rational to select a single sentence out of an epistle or a discourse and ignore the context?"

R. C. H. Lenski, James, Columbus: Lutheran Book Concern, 1938, p. 570.



"Paul offers no excuse for preachers who desire to eliminate certain teachings of the gospel on the plea that they can thus reach and attract more people than if they insisted also on these teachings. Paul intends to omit, even in his own mind, any addition to the gospel, any admixture, any sugar-coating of it by human, worldly wisdom."

R. C. H. Lenski, Corinthians, Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1946, p. 89. 1 Corinthians 2:2.



"It is the same thought as that expressed in 2:17. Some preachers, like hucksters, are ready to dicker about the Word of God as though they can discount something to make a sale, as though the deal is between them and men alone. This is what Paul also means by adulterating the Word of God, mixing in unrealities to make the Word acceptable to men."

R. C. H. Lenski, Corinthians, Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1957, p. 957. 2 Corinthians 4:2. 2 Corinthians 2:17.



"Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err." [Ego et proximus meus et in summa omnes homines errare possunt et fallere, porro autem Verbum Dei nec potest errare nec fallere.]

Large Catechism, Infant Baptism, 57, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 747. Tappert, p. 444. Heiser, p. 208.



"It is written in the book of Nehemiah (chapter 4) that the Jews, in rebuilding Jerusalem, wrought with one hand and with the other held the sword, because of the enemy who sought to hinder the building. Paul in Titus 1:9 carries out the thought of the symbol in this teaching that a bishop, a pastor, or a preacher, should be mighty in the Holy Scriptures to instruct and admonish as well as to resist the gainsayers. Accordingly, we are to make a two-fold use of the Word of God: as both bread and weapon; for feeding and for resisting; in peace and in war. With one hand we must build, improve, teach and feed all Christendom; with the other, oppose the devil, the heretics, the world. For where the pasture is not defended, the devil will soon destroy it; he is bitterly opposed to God's Word."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 113.[73]



"Therefore we must cling alone to the Scriptures and to the Word of God, which say He is not here or there. Where He is, there I shall be...Now whoever teaches me otherwise deceives me..."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 V, p. 376. Matthew 24:15-28.



"Observe, however, what the devil has accomplished through the Papists. It was not enough for them to throw the Bible under the table, to make it so rare that few doctors of the holy Scriptures possessed a copy, much less read it; but lest it be brought to public notice they have branded it with infamy. For they blasphemously say it is obscure; we must follow the interpretations of men and not the pure Scriptures. What else is their proceeding but giving Paul the lie here where he says the Bible is our manual of instruction? They say it is obscure and calculated to mislead."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 41. Romans 15:4-13.



"Other books may have power to slay us, indeed, but no book except the holy Scriptures has power to comfort us. No other bears the title here given by Paul—book of comfort—one that can support the soul in all tribulations, helping it not to despair but to maintain hope. For thereby the soul apprehends God's Word and, learning His gracious will, cleaves to it, continuing steadfast in life and death."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 43. Romans 13:11-14.



"Mark you, the real mission of the Scriptures is to comfort the suffering, distressed and dying. Then he who has had no experience of suffering or death cannot at all understand the comfort of the Bible...It is the province of the Word alone to comfort. It must therefore meet with patience first. It is jealous and will not permit human relief on a level with itself, which would be to frustrate the purpose of patience and suffering."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 44. Romans 15:4-13.



"But here you come to the Word of God which is sure and infallible, where you shall certainly find Christ and the Holy Spirit, and can be and remain firmly fortified against sin, death, and the devil."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 51. Luke 2:41-52.



"The Bible, or Scripture, is not the kind of book which human reason and wisdom produce. The jurists' and poets' arts derive from human reason and are by the same token to be understood and grasped by reason. But Moses' and the Prophets' teaching does not originate out of human wisdom and reason."

            Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, 3 vols., ed., Eugene Klug, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, II, p. 20. Easter Tuesday Luke 24:13-35.



"I have undertaken to translate the Bible into German. This was good for me; otherwise I might have died in the mistaken notion that I was a learned fellow. All those who think that they are learned ought to do some such work."

Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 105.



"It is most scandalous for us to attempt to defend God's Word with our reason, whereas we are to defend ourselves against all enemies with the Word of God, as St. Paul teaches (Ephesians 6:7). Would he not be a great fool who in battle would seek to protect his helmet and sword with bare hand or head? But that is the situation when we try, with our reason, to defend God's Law, which is our weapon."

Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1475. Ephesians 6:7.



"This Mr. Wiseacre is a shameful, disgusting fellow. If he is able to discover a word that we perchance have overlooked (for who would be so presumptuous as to maintain that he has not erred in any word, as though he were Christ and the Holy Spirit?)....

Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 64.




"If every form of verbal inspiration...is to be eliminated from Luther's theology...that simply does not agree with the facts."

M. Reu, Luther and the Scriptures, p. 115. Cited in Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 65n.[74]



"It is not the Word of God because the church says so; but that the Word of God might be spoken, therefore the church comes into being. The church does not make the Word, but it is made by the Word."

Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 87.



"The Holy Scripture is God's Word, written and, so to speak, lettered and put into the form of letters, just as Christ, the eternal Word of God, is clothed in humanity. And men regard and treat the written Word of God in this world just as they do Christ. It is a worm and no book compared with other books; for the honor people accord other writings of men by studying, reading, pondering, keeping, and using them they do not accord Scripture. If it is treated well, it lies there in neglect. Others tear it to pieces, scourge and crucify it, and subject it to all manner of torture until they stretch it sufficiently to apply to their heresy, meaning, and whim...It is a good sign, therefore, if a man has the precious gift of loving and liking Scripture, of gladly reading it, of highly esteeming and treasuring it. Such a man God, in turn, will surely honor....

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. p. 71f. Psalm 22:6.



"For him who believes and keeps Christ's Word heaven stands open and hell is locked. The devil is also taken captive, sin is forgiven, and the believer is a child of life eternal. This is taught by this Book, Holy Scripture, and by no other book on earth. For this reason let him who would live forever study in it diligently. He who does not do so and does not want to do so is and remains in death eternal."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. p. 82. John 8:51.



"It is self-evident that if the perfectio, or sufficientia, of Scripture be surrendered, the Scripture principle is given up. If a deficiency in the Bible must be supplied from some outside source, the Christian Church is eo ipso moved off its foundation, the Word of the Apostles and Prophets, and based on the Ego of the alleged supplementers."

Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, I, p. 319.



"Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear, must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this [pure] doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved."

Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 2, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 777. Tappert, p. 465. Heiser, p. 216.



"We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament alone, as it is written in Psalm 119:105: 'Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.' And St. Paul: 'Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed,' Galatians 1:8."

Formula of Concord, Epitome, Part I, 1, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 777. Tappert, p. 464. Heiser, p. 216.



"...and He has revealed it in His Word, as much as is needful for us to know of it in this life. Now, everything for which we have in this instance clear, certain testimonies in the Scriptures, we must simply believe, and in no way argue against it, as though the human nature in Christ could not be capable of the same."

Solid Declaration, Article VIII., Person of Christ, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1033. Tappert, p. 601. Heiser, p. 279.



"That is the reason why nearly all of them reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible and subject all books of the Bible to criticism such as only enemies of the Bible would engage in. Of course, they are not conscious of being enemies of the Bible. They have turned the Christian religion into a religious philosophy."

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 235.




Lower Criticism


A Christian is in a better position now to understand the Bible than ever before. First of all, he can be completely confident about the text of the Scriptures. At one time our earliest manuscript of the Old Testament was born approximately 800 years after the time of Christ. Although no one needed to doubt the credibility of the Old Testament text, many scholars questioned whether a group, which they viewed as primitive, could transmit literature accurately. They imagined how easily a manuscript could be corrupted, disregarding the value of the written word at that time, forgetting how the Scriptures were treated with awe and reverence. Many different discoveries after World War II have shown us how accurate the text of the Bible is. The Dead Sea Scroll copy of Isaiah moved the date of our earliest Old Testament manuscript to the time of Christ. In addition, the Isaiah scroll proved that Jewish scribes copied the Scriptures with amazing precision for 800 years, at a time when no advantages were available to the nation. In contrast, a modern printed book about textual criticism had this obvious mistake on its cover page: “Sovereign Grace Trsut [sic] Fund.”[75]

The twentieth century saw an accumulation of ancient evidence, from the earliest text of the New Testament, a fragment of John’s Gospel, to the tablets of Ebla. Although these discoveries did not have the dramatic appeal of Noah’s ark, they meant much more than the elusive ship. We now have a mountain of information about the ancient world and perhaps a new sense of humility about what we still do not know. Lutherans do not need to search out facts to prove that the Bible is actually true. They do get some satisfaction from seeing the restless rationalists confirming what Luther knew and the ancient Church Fathers confessed: God’s Word never lies or deceives.

We can set aside the old cowardly claim of believing that only the lost “original text” of the Bible was inerrant. We have the original, inerrant text of the Bible, Old and New Testament. The worst liberals concede that 99.9% of the Bible is undisputed, and they love to tilt at every imagined problem, especially those solved centuries ago by their moral and intellectual superiors. When we look at the New Testament manuscripts, where the attacks have been the most savage, the worst we can say is that two recent discoveries, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, both lacking a history, have some significant omissions but do not even agree with each other. It is much more likely that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus originated among heretical groups.[76] Ideologues like to remove material. When I was leaving the Lutheran Church in America, the denomination asked me to review a book for their pastoral magazine, Partners. I used the opportunity to make a pro-life statement in the review. My anti-abortion statement was removed from the book review by the editor. If two copies of the review were compared by a modern liberal scholar, he might say that the pro-life statement was added in a later copy rather than admitting it was cut out of the original. A true liberal would probably debate whether I ever existed.[77]


Higher Criticism


Modern criticism of the Bible has fallen on hard times, at an inauspicious time, with so much new data in harmony with the Scriptures. One seminary professor conceded, “No one believes in the historical-critical method anymore. It is sterile. Everyone knows it.” The parade of fools was rather comical. After World War II, Bultmann was still alive, sounding forth his musty scientific views of the Bible. Unfortunately, his concept of science came from the 19th century. Bultmann and his colleagues wanted to “de-mythologize” the Bible, reflecting the program of D. F. Strauss. If we can set aside for a moment our own faith in the Scriptures, we can see why this method was bound to be sterile. Any schoolboy knows that the Bible was written from faith to faith. If another approach is used, ignoring the intention and the faith of the authors, the results will be pathetic. I might as well look for great literature in my computer manual for MS Office 97.

The only scholars who gain from studying the Scriptures are those who begin and end with the meaning of the original text, in its historical context, trusting in the Word. This approach can be used by anyone, even without knowledge of the ancient languages. “Scripture interprets Scripture, and the clear passages of the Bible are used to illuminate those which are more obscure.” For instance, we have clear testimony that Jesus was born of a Virgin. Therefore, when we read Genesis 3:15, we can see that the phrase “seed of a woman” implies the Virgin Birth. Later, in Isaiah 7:14 the Virgin Birth is explicitly foretold. Many centuries later, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, as described in two different but harmonious accounts, in Matthew and Luke.

If we study all the best Biblical scholarship of the higher critics in this century, we will learn a host of contradictory theories but very little content.

a)     In one area, for instance, we might line up with the old Two Source hypothesis and argue that Matthew and Luke used a document nicknamed Q, adding parts of it to the Marcan outline, but in a different way, to create their Gospels. The proponents of this theory saw Mark as the earliest Gospel, preserving a basic story about a miracle worker who was fashioned into God’s Son by the later church. The key to knowledge is finding the original “kernel of truth” behind Mark’s Gospel.[78]

b)     Or, we might fall back on the old Griesbach hypothesis and claim that Mark conflated Matthew and Luke, editing a harmony of the two Gospels. This group of scholars view Mark as very late in origin, with obvious Latinisms. In other words, Mark knew more Latin than Greek, so he tended to use a Latin form of a Greek word. Centurion is one example.

c)     Or, we might use the apostolic tradition of John’s authorship, the poetic structure of the sermons of Jesus, the Aramaic behind the Greek text, the geographical details, the early date of the fragment of John, and theorize that “The Fourth Gospel was the first written.” In my office, I have an entire book devoted to theories about John’s Gospel by Benjamin Bacon, a Yale professor who was humorously charged during a student skit with believing in the Virgin Birth. His book is: The Fourth Gospel in Research and Debate, A Series of Essays Concerning the Origin and Value of the Anonymous Writings Attributed to the Apostle John, 1910. This is simply one of hundreds of titles concerning the authorship of the four Gospels.

In my studies at Augustana College, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Yale University, and Notre Dame, I found various authors and professors who agreed with one of three theories and argued against the others.

At Yale, Nils Dahl stunned our doctoral seminar in New Testament Christology by asking, “What do we know for certain about the New Testament?”[79] In the 1970s, all of us had been thoroughly trained in the radicalism of Rudolph Bultmann, who stated that almost nothing could be said for certain about anything in the New Testament because of its mythological view of the world. Dahl knew this question would strip our gears and leave our mouths hanging open, since he studied under Bultmann, S. Mowinkel, and many of the great scholars of Europe. After staring around the seminar table in the decrepit room, Dahl exclaimed, “The text! The text! We have the text of the New Testament.” Stuttering and shoving his glasses in his mouth to obscure his words even more, he said, “Why spend all our time on what we do not know when we could spend it on what we do know – the text.” He asked our class to study and compare theories about the New Testament, but he insisted that our papers concentrate on the actual text.

Abraham Malherbe taught the Thessalonians class at Yale, succeeding Dahl as Buckingham Professor. Malherbe was trained by skeptics at Harvard, but he said in class, “All the Biblical scholars make fun of the reliability of the New Testament, don’t they?” We had to agree. He then asked, “We cannot trust the Acts of the Apostles, they say. But what do they use for all their dates? The Acts of the Apostles!” The rest of the semester was devoted to the Greek text of Thessalonians, word for word, phrase for phrase. The course was a classic example of the traditional historical-grammatical interpretation of the Scriptures.

Robert Wilson taught the Genesis class. He was then a new Ph.D. and fresh from an eyeball-rolling year of teaching at the radical left-wing Union Seminary in New York, nicknamed The Devil’s Playground. One student said, “Professor Wilson. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the names for God should be consistent with certain texts.” Wilson asked, “And what have you found?” The student went on, “Well, the names for God do not match up the way they should.” Wilson asked, “And what do we say when the data does not support the theory?” The student replied meekly, “The theory is wrong?” Silence hovered in the air as we thought about the implications. All of us had been trained in mainline schools where we were informed that Moses did not write the books of Moses.[80] One author used Jahweh as a name for God. Another used Elohim for God. Another author was the Deuteronomist. And then the Priestly editor put it all together, rather well, so adroitly that no one discovered this patchwork until the Germans revealed it to the scholarly world in the 19th century. Old Testament scholarship called this the Documentary Hypothesis, and Americans tended to use JEDP as shorthand for the theory.[81] Wilson allowed the blasphemy to be spoken. He was brilliant in the Biblical languages, earning a position in a school where language ability mattered most. He knew the theories and yet he allowed the foundational theory of Biblical studies to be sliced up. Furthermore, he graded papers down for dwelling on theory. Like Malherbe and Dahl, he insisted on knowledge of the original text.

Although faith is required to understand the meaning of the Bible, using the text and its historical setting as the norm for study has a profound effect on any theory about Biblical origins. When theories are foremost, the content is irrelevant. Expressing faith in the message of the Bible, among modern Biblical scholars, is tantamount to being the village idiot. Creative scholars are not bogged down by content and creeds. They walk on the clouds and soar in the wind. For that reason it is doubly tragic that the conservative Lutherans synods—the Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod—not only allowed but encouraged their leadership to attend Fuller Seminary, where inerrancy was ousted in favor of the bankrupt historical-critical method.[82]

Fuller Seminary flattered the conservative Lutheran leaders by promising them unbelievable membership growth[83] and teaching them that the Lutheran Church was not evangelistic. The conservative Lutherans created their own little Masonic Lodge by sending people through Fuller Seminary. Their pan-Lutheran network, which includes the radical Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is secretive and difficult to identify, but the Church Growth leaders know their opponents.[84]

Anyone who thinks that the historical-critical method was repudiated and rejected by the Wisconsin Synod in the 1960s and the Missouri Synod in the 1970s is delusional. The doctrinal apostasy of the old Synodical Conference, and its break-away groups, includes an embrace of the dying historical-critical method, but it is not limited to that area of theology. This trend cannot be countered simply by identifying what is wrong and denouncing it. If the conservative Lutheran pastors and laity are not willing to apply themselves to the Word and apply the Word to themselves, the cause is lost. Various informants have told me that their pastoral conferences refuse to deal with doctrinal issues, because the participants are terrified of the conflict that will surely follow.


King James Version

The King James Version is triumphing over its competition, chiefly because the alternative translations published with increasing frequency are so bad. The existence of five different Beck Bible versions in my lifetime—including a feminist version—argues persuasively for one reliable translation and stable translation, the Authorized Version. Most of the successful new translations also have their newer versions as well. However, each publisher changes a particular translation whenever it seems to be a good idea, so two Bibles with the same label will not necessarily have the same readings. Once, when I was leading two worship services in two different towns every Sunday, I tripped over the first lesson from the New King James Version. I wondered if I remembered the wording correctly from the first service, so I checked the New King James Version Bibles in each church the next Sunday. Each NKJV had a slightly different version of the epistle lesson. That may not seem to matter to most people, but since millions of people are using dozens of translations that vary from printing to printing, we have a new Tower of Babel, a confusion of tongues created by our own careless handling of the Word.

The post-WWII Bible business has also promoted a new philosophy of translating. The standards for the King James Version were: precision of language, elegance in the spoken Word, and a single English Bible. This benefited the publication of Biblical works, since theologians and laity could refer to the same standard Bible. Today, the doctrinal passages are translated in so many different ways that no one can make sense of 1 Peter 3:21. Does Baptism now save us? Or is the water symbolic? We know which scholars were assigned to the King James Version, but we do not usually know who translated the new versions, or the nameless editors who continue to change the new translations in subsequent printings. Many people have complained that the King James Version is difficult, but how can anyone memorize a translation that changes from year to year? Grade school children used to memorize all the state capitals. What if some states changed capitals every so often? The teacher would say, “No, the capital of Michigan is no longer Lansing. It is now Saginaw.” That would end any effort to learn the state capitals. For the same reason, memorization of the Bible has declined among all age groups because of our modern Tower of Babel.

The former standard was precision, but Bibles are now being marketed the way vacuum cleaners and autos are. Therefore, Bibles do not need to be accurate. They need to be trendy. The standards are so pathetic among Bible publishers that they are responding to demands for feminist language. The New Revised Standard Version is willing to change words to avoid using “his.” One of many examples is listed below.


KJV John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.


NRS John 3:20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.


BYZ John 3:20 pa/j ga.r o` fau/la pra,sswn misei/ to. fw/j kai. ouvk e;rcetai pro.j to. fw/j i[na mh. evlegcqh/| ta. e;rga auvtou/\


How far we have strayed from the memory of William Tyndale, who sacrificed his life to give us the English Bible!  King James Version is not preferred by orthodox Lutherans because it is old—many versions are older—but because it is better than all the alternatives. The Authorized Version established the wording and cadences of Tyndale, a brilliant man who studied under Luther. Just as Luther established the German language by the force of his Bible, so Tyndale created the English language through the Authorized Version. The question is not whether Tyndale was a Lutheran or whether the King James scholars were Lutherans, but whether they were faithful in their task. No translation is infallible or clear to all who read it. But all of us have a responsibility to study the Scriptures. Ministers should be especially diligent in studying the Scriptures and in explaining the Bible for young and old alike.



Appendix One: Make Disciples

The False Translation That Unites

Church Growth Advocates

of All Denominations



"Lutheran Parish Resources, Inc. (LPR) is dedicated to the concepts of the Church Growth movement only insofar as they agree with the Scriptures and as taught by the WELS—that is, Church Growth with Lutheran theology rather than Evangelical, and without the typical Church Growth emphasis on quantitative measurement of growth. Kent R. Hunter's definition of 'Church Growth' justifies the use of this term in describing LPR: 'Church Growth: That science which investigates the nature, function and health of Christian churches as they relate specifically to the effective implementation of God's commission to make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:19). Church Growth is simultaneously a theological conviction and an applied science,....' Foundations for Church Growth, p. 187.

David G. Peters, "Lutheran Parish Resources: Pilot Program in Church Growth," Mequon: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, April 27, 1987 p. 1.



"In the Great Commission, Jesus makes clear that the command to 'go and make disciples' includes the concept of winning. Today the term discipling has almost universally evolved to mean the process of spiritual perfecting—tutoring, learning, growing, maturing. Few 'discipling' programs in churches today accurately reflect Christ's vision to make disciples, or measure their success on the basis of new disciples they produce."

Win and Charles Arn, The Master's Plan for Making Disciples, How Every Christian Can Be an Effective Witness through an Enabling Church, Pasadena: Church Growth Press, 1982, 10. Matthew 28:19.



"His words, now called the Great Commission, were simply a restatement of His entire life and teaching, as He endeavored to make the matter as simple and easy to understand as possible...'go and make disciples.'"

Win and Charles Arn, The Master's Plan for Making Disciples, How Every Christian Can Be an Effective Witness through an Enabling Church, Pasadena: Church Growth Press, 1982, p. 20. Matthew 28:19.



"While the goal of the early Christian was, as Christ had commanded, to make disciples, there was a definite process by which the early church grew so explosively. The means of church growth was through the individual Christian's interlocking social system—the family, friends, and associates."

Win and Charles Arn, The Master's Plan for Making Disciples, How Every Christian Can Be an Effective Witness through an Enabling Church, Pasadena: Church Growth Press, 1982, p. 25f.



"If I were asked: What is the key thing in the disciple making process that demands our special attention in our effort to become better disciple makers, without hesitation I'd say it's the role of modeling. We need more disciple maker models in our classrooms. It isn't enough just to tell others to go and make disciples. We need to show and tell them. Modeling is an essential, integral part of showing and telling."

Pastor Joel C. Gerlach "The Call into the Discipling Ministry," Yahara Center, April 24-25, 1987, p. 18. Matthew 28:18-20.



"Jesus did not send his disciples out to make disciples without first making them disciples. He gave them a course in disciple making by making them disciples. He knew that you have to be a disciple yourself before you can help someone else to become a disciple."

Pastor Joel C. Gerlach "The Call into the Discipling Ministry," Yahara Center, April 24-25, 1987, p. 6. [85]



"Firstly, we read that this was the disciple whom Christ loved. This means that faith alone makes the truly beloved disciples of Christ, who receive the Holy Spirit through this very same faith, not through their works. Works indeed also make disciples, but not beloved disciples: only temporary hypocrites who do not persevere. God's love does not uphold and keep them, for the reason that they do not believe."

Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, I, p. 250. John 21:19-24.



"But when our Lord told us what our mission should be, he was quite clear: 'Make disciples.'

Lawrence Otto Olson, The Evangelism Life Line (WELS), Summer, 1988, p. 3. Matthew 28:19.



"Pastors become disciples so they can make disciples. As a proud Pentecostal I thought I had everything because I belonged to a Full Gospel church. Little did I know how much I had to learn until I came together with other pastors—Baptists, Presbyterians, Plymouth Brethren, and Catholics. As a proud Pentecostal I had to become a humble elder of the church."

Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield: Logos International, 1975, p. 100.



"In this way, the entire church is comprised of ministers. The ministers are not a special breed of sheep coming from the seminary. They are simply believers who go on growing. Thus the purpose of the pastor is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples."

Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield: Logos International, 1975, p. 18.



“Make disciples, not members. Our mission is more than baptism, more than bring people in through water and the word. The scripture mandates us to make disciples—to move people into a life of meeting Jesus and experiencing faith.

            Pastor Per Nilsen, Director of Ministry, Prince of Peace, ELCA. Website at:




“Make Disciples,” What would it mean if we were to become disciple-making churches?

            Homiletics website at: http://dev.homileticsonline.com/Installments/jun1696.htm.



Bring A Friend Sunday introduced the Core Process of Making Disciples for Jesus Christ to the North Texas Conference in 1993. Making Disciples 2000 continues the process through the year 2000 with each of the 323 local churches in the conference invited to participate in the four expressions of that Core Process…Making Disciples 2000, Matthew 28:16-20.

            United Methodist Church, North Texas Conference, website,

http:// www.ntcumc.org/ListMake.html.



Making Disciples.

Website for the United Pentecostal Church International.




"Accordingly, when Christ says, Disciple (matheteusate) all nations by baptizing them, matheteusate can mean nothing other than to make disciples, to turn unbelievers into believers; for that is the Spirit-produced effect of baptism."

David J. Valleskey, We BelieveTherefore We Speak, The Theology and Practice of Evangelism, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1995, p. 127. Matthew 28:18-20.



"Is the mission of the church to preach the gospel or to make disciples? The two—preaching the gospel and making disciples—are closely connected. Making disciples is the goal, or end result, our Lord had in mind. He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance and faith. He wants all to be saved, to come to a heart knowledge of the truth. Preaching the gospel (employing the means of grace) is the means by which the Lord will achieve his goal of making disciples and so of gathering in his elect before he returns."

David J. Valleskey, We BelieveTherefore We Speak, The Theology and Practice of Evangelism, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1995, p. 134.



"It is true that only God the Holy Spirit can effect the end result of making a disciple out of an unbeliever; all we can do is sow the seed. But it is also true that our Lord, by speaking specifically of making disciples in his commission to his church, is encouraging it to keep that intended goal in mind when it does its seed sowing."

David J. Valleskey, We BelieveTherefore We Speak, The Theology and Practice of Evangelism, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1995, p. 135. Matthew 28:18-20.



"Church growth is that science which investigates the planting, multiplication, function and health of Christian churches as they relate specifically to the effective implementation of God's-commission to 'make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:19-20 RSV). Church growth strives to combine the eternal theological principles of God's Word concerning the expansion of the church with the best insights of contemporary social and behavioral sciences, employing as its initial frame of reference, the foundational work done by Donald McGavran."

Constitution, Academy for American Church Growth, cited by C. Peter Wagner, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel, New York: Harper and Row, 1981, p. 75.



"Body Evangelism. A perspective which emphasizes the goal of evangelism as making disciples who are incorporated into the body of Christ, the result of which is church growth."

C. Peter Wagner, ed., with Win Arn and Elmer Towns, Church Growth: The State of the Art, Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 283.



"Follow-up Gap. The difference between the number of persons who make decisions for Christ in a given evangelistic effort and those who go on to become disciples."

C. Peter Wagner, ed., with Win Arn and Elmer Towns, Church Growth: The State of the Art, Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 290.



"Church. An assembly of professed believers under the discipline of the Word of God, organized to carry out the Great Commission, administer the ordinances, and minister with spiritual gifts."

C. Peter Wagner, ed., with Win Arn and Elmer Towns, Church Growth: The State of the Art, Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986, p. 283f.



"Your church will grow by God's grace because members will want it to grow in obedience to God's will and because you are using strategy and methodology in making disciples. Then nongrowth will be called nongrowth, and growth will be accepted as a gift from God."

Waldo J. Werning, The Radical Nature of Christianity, Church Growth Eyes Look at the Supernatural Mission of the Christian and the Church, South Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1975, p. 159.


Appendix Two:

Comparison of Translations


The following comparisons reveal the basics of the Reformed tendency to distort the translation away from the Biblical doctrine of the Means of Grace. The New King James Version tends to agree with the New International Version in these passages because a major force behind the use of the King James Version (or the NKJV) is Baptist. Obviously the New King James Version is not merely a modernization of the Authorized Version language in these selections. Something else has happened. These passages are difficult for the Reformed, so the New King James Version provides an attachment to the old language without the Lutheran (they would say Catholic) wording.


Teach All Nations

Briefly, the original text has the verb for teaching and all nations as the direct object. The concept of “making disciples” has been shoe-horned into the translation. The Reformed like the concept of disciples because the influence of Pietism leads them to think that there are levels of Christianity. The Church Growth Movement teaches the gullible that disciples are “soul-winners” and the key to membership growth. WELS leader Joel Gerlach bit on that concept hard and published a wretched essay arguing the point. Thus “make disciples” is an erroneous translation easily used to promote false doctrine.


KJV Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:


NIV Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,


NKJ Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,


BYZ Matthew 28:19 poreuqe,ntej maqhteu,sate pa,nta ta. e;qnh bapti,zontej auvtou.


Jesus Trapped in Heaven

The Reformed deny the Real Presence of Christ because of their doubt that Jesus could be in heaven and yet also in, with, and under the elements of Holy Communion. In this example, the NIV makes it seem as if Jesus is trapped in heaven until the End Times. The verb in the original text is commonly translated as “receive” rather than remain. Note 2 Corinthians 6:1 and 11:16, and many other examples. That is the argument used against Luther’s doctrine, that Christ cannot be in heaven and also on earth. The NIV supports the Zwinglian position, while the King James has an entirely different message. Jesus was welcomed and received into heaven in His glory, but not imprisoned there. The rationalistic attitude toward the Two Natures of Christ, expressed by Zwingli and Calvin, reveals their inability to allow that the divine nature is not limited in any respect by the human nature of Christ. This imaginary limitation has always led the Calvinists into Unitarianism.


KJV Acts 3:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.


NIV Acts 3:21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.


NKJ Acts 3:21 "whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.


BYZ Acts 3:21 o]n dei/ ouvrano.n me.n de,xasqai a;cri cro,nwn avpokatasta,sewj pa,ntwn w-n evla,lhsen o` qeo.j dia. sto,matoj pa,ntwn( tw/n a`gi,wn auvtou/ profhtw/n avp aivw/noj.


Communion with God or Something Vague

The non-Lutheran Protestants all teach that Holy Communion is merely symbolic, an ordinance to be obeyed, the reception of ordinary bread and ordinary grape juice (Pietism motivated the Temperance Movement, which succeeded in removing alcoholic beverages only from worship services, not anywhere else.) Lutherans will use the term “Lord’s Supper,” but the Reformed seldom use the term “communion.” The Greek word koinonia means fellowship with God in the New Testament. (See 2 Corinthians 13:14) It is significant that the Church Growth Movement uses koinonia as a name for Pietistic cell groups, a distinctly anti-Means of Grace institution. “Communion with the blood of Christ” means that the Son of God is present in both natures during the Lord’s Supper. “Participation” lends itself to symbolic interpretation.


KJV 1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?


NIV 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?


NKJ 1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?;


BYZ 1 Corinthians 10:16 to. poth,rion th/j euvlogi,aj o] euvlogou/men ouvci. koinwni,a tou/ ai[matoj tou/ Cristou/ evsti.n to.n a;rton o]n klw/men ouvci. koinwni,a tou/ sw,matoj tou/ Cristou/ evstin;




Everyone a Minister, or the Ministry?

The favorite slogan of the Lutheran Church Growth gurus has been “everyone a minister,” and the Ephesians passage has been their favorite mistranslation. The modern translators discovered to their mock surprise that the KJV had been wrong for centuries, just like the “erroneous” translation of virgin in Isaiah 7:14. Although the King James translators—and William Tyndale before them—did not belong to Lutheranism, they knew enough Greek to realize that Paul did not think everyone was a minister. The more we degrade the Means of Grace and the efficacy of the Word, the more we shun the meaning and value of worship in favor of turning everyone into a jabbering evangelist with a “God-story” to tell. The influence of the unionistic and hyperactive Church Growth Movement has created a hybrid universal confession, merging the Jehovah’s Witness activism with the doctrinal vacuum of the Unitarians, sending people out to knock on doors with nothing to say. One very active laywoman pointed out that the value of the NIV translation is to transfer responsibility and labor from the ordained pastor to the members, blaming them for the lack of growth of the congregation.

The LCMS, WELS, and ELS will use the NIV to move from calling teachers (and everyone else) ministers to ordaining women pastors. The Wisconsin Synod already boasts that its teachers’ college, Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, is their School of Ministry. All MLC students are listed as “ministers” in a WELS brochure in my filing system.

The King James and the original text list offices through which the Means of Grace are administered. Apostles preached, taught, and administered the Sacraments, but they had a greater level of responsibility and were eye-witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. An apostle would train and appoint a pastor through a local congregation. The pastor was educated and bore the responsibility for the flock, but he was not an apostle. Each type of pastoral ministry shared in perfecting the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ. However, the new mode translations make it seem as if the professional clergy are in charge of turning everyone (since saints are believers) into mini-ministers. That is the goal of the cell group swamis: to call each cell group leader, man or woman, a pastor. They are disciples making disciples making disciples making disciples, according to the elegant English of Joel Gerlach.


KJV Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:


NIV Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up


NKJ Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,


BYZ Ephesians 4:11 kai. auvto.j e;dwken tou.j me.n avposto,louj tou.j de. profh,taj tou.j de. euvaggelista,j tou.j de. poime,naj kai. didaska,louj 12 pro.j to.n katartismo.n tw/n a`gi,wn eivj e;rgon diakoni,aj eivj oivkodomh.n tou/ sw,matoj tou/ Cristou./


Drowning Baptism in a Sea of Symbolism

This passage is treated at greater length in the chapter on the Visible Word. The Greek text and the King James clearly teach that baptism, like Noah’s Ark, saves people. The message that “baptism doth now save us” is horrifying to Baptists and Pentecostals. If baptism is a cleansing, a rebirth, a resurrection from death, new life, then the answer of a good conscience is the knowledge of forgiveness wrought by God in the sacrament. But those who deny any efficacy in baptism must make the individual worthy of an initiation rite, so we have a “pledge of a good conscience toward God.” The New King James, with an eye focused on its anti-sacrament market, has an antitype saving us, proof that highly educated people can have every translating tool at their disposal and turn a clear passage into hash.


KJV 1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:


NIV 1 Peter 3:21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,


NKJ 1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,


BYZ 1 Peter 3:21 o] avnti,tupon nu/n kai. h`ma/j sw,|zei ba,ptisma ouv sarko.j avpo,qesij r`u,pou avlla. suneidh,sewj avgaqh/j evperw,thma eivj qeo,n di avnasta,sewj VIhsou/ Cristou,/


Having the best translation does not release a pastor or congregation from diligent study of the Scriptures. In fact, problems and conflicts in translations are good in keeping us aware of the difficulties and the doctrinal causes of variations from the truth. Some advocates of the Authorized Version get frothy about the implication of any difficulty in their favorite translation. That should not be. The same translation will not be equally clear in all places to every person. In addition, no translation has the unchanging clarity of the original text. English has changed for the worse in the last hundred years, but the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible remain exactly the same as they were in ancient times. Many people use the changing nature of our language as a warrant for new translations, and I would be convinced if they did not keep getting more Pentecostal, more gender bender, and more Churchgrowthy.




[1] Purists prefer to call it the Authorized Version, but title pages often designate it as the “Authorized King James Version.” There is some irony in having a king more famous for allowing a new Bible translation than for any other act during his reign.

[2] When the original version of this paragraph was sent around to various readers, one person noticed that a word was missing. The omission was obvious, but it turned the sentence into nonsense. Most of the manuscript “errors” fall into the same category—obvious copying mistakes.

[3] I took her course in Revelation and her husband’s course in Ecclesiology at Notre Dame.

[4] I wanted to study under Metzger at Princeton. Instead, I studied under three professors at Yale who emphasized the text of the Bible: Robert Wilson, Nils A. Dahl, and Abraham Malherbe.

[5] Unitarianism is limited to the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the neighborhood of Boston. That used to be true. Now all the mainline denominations are Unitarian in doctrine, teaching the Bible as mythical, especially in regards to Christ.

[6] Pastor W. Terjesen wrote: “T. Letis, The Ecclesiastical Text, points out that it was B.B. Warfield who brought the presuppositions of modern textual criticism into conservative Protestantism. Francis Pieper didn’t buy into it, as is obvious from his comments in Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1. Warfield’s ideas were brought into the LCMS by William Arndt. Conservatives accepted the assumptions of the liberals in order to defeat the liberals, and failed to beat them.” The faculty of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St. Louis, even the old conservatives, accepted the theories of Westcott and Hort. See Christian News Encyclopedia.

[7] It is difficult to convey the excitement felt by all Biblical scholars concerning the Egyptian texts. Significant text variations from orthodox Christianity fulfilled the liberal agenda of a true text devoid of faith in mythological concepts (as they imagined them), even though the total number of variations was extremely small. In this case especially, the facts did not matter. A capricious attitude toward the text was followed by arbitrary declarations of what really happened in the New Testament, in spite of the text.

[8] We may think of the New Testament characters as primitive and superstitious. They might magnify stories and embroider the details. However, it is more realistic to consider the vast amount of memorization they disciplined themselves to accomplish. In addition, a man who copied manuscripts had to be precise and meticulous in his work. The modern scoffers are the people skilled in the invention of imaginary details.

[9] If we apply a similar rule for judging schools, we would have to say, “The smaller university is the better university.” Some would say erroneously, “No, the older college is the better one.” The shorter reading rule is understandable only when we concede that traditional standards of quality must be omitted because they weigh in favor of the traditional text, which cannot stand, in the opinion of the skeptics.

[10] My New Testament professor at Yale University, Abraham Malherbe, made this point about the skeptics at Harvard. Malherbe treated the text with great respect and expressed contempt for many theories and fads in New Testament studies. My thesis advisor, Nils A. Dahl, argued this point in his doctoral seminar at Yale: “What do we know for certain about the New Testament? The text! Why speculate about what we do not know when we can study what we do know. The text!” (I have paraphrased his comments.)

[11] Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, German Bible Society, 1971, p. 122. This work was used in the textual criticism class at Bethany Lutheran Seminary. Metzger has been extremely influential through his teaching position at Princeton Seminary, his publications, and his work with the United Bible Societies.

[12] Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 126, footnote.

[13] I attended a liberal ordination where a woman introduced the Old Testament reading by stating that scholars were not sure about the origin or meaning of the text.

[14] W. R. Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, Society for New Testament Studies, Cambridge: University Press, 1974, p. 31. Cited in Jakob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978, p. 131.

[15] Robert Wilson pointed this out about the Documentary Hypothesis, in his Genesis course at Yale. Charles Primus, a professor of Judaism at Notre Dame, made me very cautious about the tendency of scholars to favor theories in conflict with the facts.

[16] Holy Bible, New International Version, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1984, p. 760.

[17] One often finds the argument that a man who is a faithful Christian in his work, as Beck was, should also be believed when he adopts the errors of modern textual criticism. However, this is faulty thinking. A man does not receive the crown of infallibility by teaching the Virgin Birth of Christ in opposition to the liberals. That is his duty and not a guarantee of being correct on all other topics. The same may be said for Luther, Lenski, Sig Becker, and all authors. We can love and appreciate faithful authors without giving up spiritual discernment.

[18] When homosexual activists in the LCA studied the issue of sodomy, their New Testament expert suggested in print that they adopt Paul’s authorship of Romans “as a working hypothesis.” One is reminded of the man appointed Bishop of Paris because he was the only cleric left who still believed in God. Paul’s authorship of Romans has never been doubted by any serious scholar, liberal or conservative.

[19] Jakob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978, p. 132.


[20] Professor Josephine Forde, at Notre Dame, taught that the Virgin Mary wrote Hebrews.

[21] Liberals argued that Matthew and Luke built their Gospels upon Mark as a historical framework. Others have argued for the primacy of Matthew, saying that Mark is a Reader’s Digest composite of Matthew and Luke. John has also been put forward as the very first Gospel. It is relatively easy to repeat all the arguments and supporting evidence about authorship without any knowledge of the content of the Gospels.

[22] Police look for verbatim testimony as a sign of a rehearsed story. Two people do not tell the same story in the same words, unless they have worked on a common version. The Gospels do not agree verbatim but their accounts can be harmonized. The more we read the Gospels, the more credit we give to the Holy Spirit for their composition and their miraculous consistency.

[23] Concordia Seminary in St. Louis was comfortable with modern textual criticism first, later with destructive higher criticism. I would argue that a gullible attitude toward the Egyptian texts, the Wescott and Hort pronouncements, and the theory of evolution all contributed to undermining faith in the Word, as Rehwinkel noted in addressing his own colleagues. Concordia in St. Louis capitulated to the spirit of modernism, followed by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary a few years later. The ELCA seminaries began converting in the 1930s.

[24] Father Richard J. Neuhaus has conceded this point, even though he has supported the use of the historical-critical method.

[25] Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1997, p. 64.

[26] John C. Jeske, Genesis, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1991, p. 52. Old Testament editor of the series – John C. Jeske. See “The First Promise,” by Martin H. Jackson, an unpublished paper from Bethany Lutheran Seminary. See also Ken Schurb, “Sixteenth Century Lutheran-Calvinist Conflict on the Proto-Evangelium,” Concordia Theological Monthly, January, 1990.

[27] For the descendants of the venerated patriarchs, as also the patriarchs themselves, not only called to mind constantly how in the beginning man had been created righteous and holy by God, and through the fraud of the Serpent had transgressed God's command, had become a sinner, and had corrupted and precipitated himself with all his posterity into death and eternal condemnation, but also encouraged and comforted themselves again by the preaching concerning the Seed of the Woman, who would bruise the Serpent's head, Gen. 3:15..." Concordia Triglotta, Formula of Concord, SD, 5, #23, p. 959. Tappert, p. 562. Heiser, p. 261.

[28] Adie Harstad has taught the Calvinist version of Genesis 3:15 at Bethany Seminary. The students opposed his false doctrine, so Harstad went to other seminary professors, who agreed with Luther. 

[29] Similarly, at Concordia Seminary, Ft. Wayne, the professors teach that Isaiah 7:14 is a general prophesy and not specific to Christ. That means that God announced through the prophet, “Behold, a married woman is pregnant!” ELS Ukraine seminary rector Jay Webber doggedly argued for this interpretation, even though he knew little or no Hebrew. Webber would get very annoyed that Christian News brought up the almah issue. Study of the passage shows that Isaiah 7:14 is a rectilinear prophecy of one, unique Virgin Birth. Watering down Messianic prophesies is the first stage in denying them altogether.

[30] The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Church of the Lutheran Confession both use the Roman view of the Scripture to promote their views, claiming that the Scriptures are not clear about the subject, allowing the synods to invent new doctrines in opposition to God’s Word. This invocation of “gray areas of Scripture” is an obvious attack against the clarity of the revealed Word of God. In addition, WELS and the CLC claim that certain officials have the authority to declare “the synod’s position,” especially when it is erroneous, as if the synod were the ruling norm of faith and practice. The Missouri Synod uses their doctrinal board for the same purpose, an appointed College of Cardinals, to relieve the ministerium of the responsibility of studying the Scriptures and Confessions.

[31] Apostate Lutheran and Reformed scholars developed what the Church of Rome began as a method of interpreting the Bible. Roman Catholics were relatively late in their endorsement and application of the historical-critical method. Now liberal Protestants, liberal Lutherans, and liberal Roman Catholics are united in their lack of faith.

[32] Note Krauth on Melanchthon, p. 291. Schmauk, p. 748.

[33] In the 1970s, Notre Dame’s theology faculty was ecumenical and favored liberal Protestant doctrine, especially Karl Barth (Charlotte Kirschbaum) and Paul Tillich. Karl Rahner was the preferred Roman Catholic theologian, although Hans Kueng was admired. One parish priest summed up the lessons being taught, “How can you call yourselves Catholics and believe that?” My professors were: Mennonite, Dutch Reformed, Jewish, Methodist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic, including two former nuns who were married. More importantly, Joe Montana was the quarterback of the football team.

[34] Two professors at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, where I earned a degree, also studied under Tillich when he was at the University of Chicago. Tillich is largely forgotten today, although he remains famous for his adulterous flings, which included the wives of his own theology students.

[35] In fact, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza later commended me for having an independent opinion. She said, “The mature students are better at thinking on their own than those who have never left school.”

[36] Yoder was an early critic of the Church Growth Movement.

[37] Rauschenbusch was a pacifist in World War I, so he lost a lot of prestige soon after the lectures were published. However, his arguments for social activism in the Church became normative for all mainline denominations.

[38] The Social Gospel leaders organized a group named the Brotherhood of the Kingdom. They worked together to achieve their goals, which were institutionalized in the Social Creed of the Federal Council of Churches and its successor the National Council of Churches.

[39] The Latin expression means that the situation is not exactly the same, but quite similar.

[40] As I recall, McGavran was ready to give up when someone encouraged him to soldier on, according to a Festschrift published in honor of McGavran.

[41] "I did attend a Pasadena forum on Church Growth featuring Win Arn and others." Rev. Norman W. Berg, former District President and Home Mission Executive, WELS Letter to Gregory L. Jackson, 3-27-96. "Incidentally, during my mission counselor days in California during the 80's, I did take a course at Fuller from Carl George and Peter Wagner." Rev. Joel C. Gerlach (WELS) to Pastor Herman Otten, no date. [Gerlach taught at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary] "To the best of my knowledge, only three WELS pastors have ever taken classes at Fuller Seminary: Reuel Schulz in the 1970s, and Robert Koester and I in the 1980s." Prof. Lawrence Otto. Olson, "A Response to Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.," Christian News, 3-28-94, p. 23. "The church growth movement has made inroads into nearly every denomination in America…The LCMS has more pastors enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary, the seedbed of the movement, than are enrolled in the graduate programs at their Fort Wayne and St. Louis seminaries combined, and most of them include church growth as part of their studies." Prof. Lawrence Otto Olson, (D. Min., Fuller), "See How It Grows: Perspectives on Growth and the Church," EVANGELISM, February, 1991, p. 1. "In late 1976, 80 district mission and evangelism executives and board members attended special Fuller Seminary sessions and by the late 1970s, courses on Church Growth principles were taught at both LCMS seminaries." Toward a Theological Basis, Understanding and Use of Church Growth Principles in the LCMS. 1991. p. 1. Cited in Rev. Curtis Peterson, former WELS World Mission Board, "A Second and Third Look at Church Growth Principles," Metro South Pastors Conference Mishicot, Wisconsin, February 3, 1993 p. 10. Peterson left the ministry.

[42] The official designation of Fuller was reversed, but those who won the reversal also left the AALC soon afterwards. Another irony is that a group (Fellowship of Evangelical Lutheran Laity and Pastors) was formed during these stormy years to fight for conservative issues, including inerrancy. FELLP issued a statement on inerrancy, a document signed by a number of men who did not agree with inerrancy! And yet they claimed they left The American Lutheran Church because of doctrinal deception!

[43] No one can make sense of the CLC, except to say that it has definite cult tendencies encouraged by years of inter-marriage and self-congratulation. Certainly one of the oddest characteristics is the need for Dan Fleischer, Paul Tiefel Jr., and David Koenig to defend another denomination, WELS, in Christian News.

[44] "From the beginning it was declared that one of the chief purposes of the founding of the seminary was that it should be an apologetic institution...It was agreed from the inception of the school that through the seminary curriculum the faculty would provide the finest theological defense of biblical infallibility or inerrancy. It was agreed in addition that the faculty would publish joint works that would present to the world the best of evangelical scholarship on inerrancy at a time when there was a dearth of such scholarship and when there were few learned works promoting biblical inerrancy." Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 106f. [Inerrancy advocates left Fuller: Charles Woodbridge in 1957, Wilbur Smith in 1963, Harold Lindsell in 1964, and Gleason Archer in 1965.] "The departure of all four was directly related to the question of biblical inerrancy." Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 111f.

[45] The about mode was treated in Holmer’s summer lectures at Yale. Most academics, he observed, limit themselves to describing the consensus of the moment. Few original thoughts are published, but many publications fill the libraries to earn tenure for professors.

[46] In the 1970s, one progressive put a statue of Buddha in the Meditation Room. The dean found out about it rather late. Holmer was doubly upset, that a pagan statue was installed and that it took the dean so long to find his way to the Meditation Room.

[47] Nils A. Dahl taught Biblical theories but insisted on the study of the text. Paul L. Holmer made fun of popular liberal trends, including Black theology. George Lindbeck and Jaroslav Pelikan were considered conservatives on the faculty. All four attended Bethesda Lutheran Church, where I served as a student assistant. The church history professor, Sydney Ahlstrom, also attended Bethesda. Another Bethesda student assistant was John Stendahl, son of the Harvard Divinity School dean, Krister Stendahl. Roland Bainton, an honorary Lutheran, often gave lectures on the Reformation at the divinity school.

[48] Henry published an essay against Martin Luther to earn the title. When his loyalties changed, Henry kept the title given to him by the pope. Today the English monarchs still use the title.

[49] This is one of many uses of efficacy in the New Testament.

[50] Clergy are more likely to think of Hampton motel conferences than one at a royal residence.

[51] Charles C. Butterworth, The Literary Lineage of the King James Bible, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1941, p. 206.

[52] WELS and the ELS wanted to distance themselves from God’s Word, but WELS bought and distributed large numbers of the translation.

[53] Ford’s Edsel became famous for looking good to management while failing utterly as a car.

[54] In contrast, the ELS, LCMS, and WELS are Fuller-centric. The unionism and Reformed doctrine of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena have become normative for the old Synodical Conference. A few dissent, but the burden is upon them to prove that Fuller is wrong about anything or that the Word alone is efficacious.

[55] Bunyan said of Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, “Next to the Bible, it is the book I have read the most.” How many Lutheran leaders today can say they have read the Galatians commentary once?

[56] Some of the worst examples of poor translating come from the five versions of the so-called Lutheran Bible, the Beck-AAT, GWN, NET, GW, and I fear, the born-again Beck.

[57] Henry A. Koch, “The 450th Anniversary of Luther’s Translation,” Christian News Encyclopedia, Washington, Missouri: Missourian Publishing Company, 1982, II, p. 1662. Christian News, 1-1-73..

[58] I have seen several modern revisions of the King James Version, including The 21st Century King James Version, The Modern King James Version, and the King James Version II. The New King James Version is probably the best known.

[59] The RSV committee, selected from the radical left National Council of Churches, met at Yale Divinity School, where a room was designated “the RSV room.” Yale was embarrassed when the all star committee met and discovered many expensive Biblical reference works had been stolen by Yale Divinity students.

[60] Some pseudo-Lutherans falsely claim that the Isaiah prophesy is not a unique prediction of the Virgin Birth, but a “typological” prophesy that was later applied to Jesus. How easy it is to set aside the Incarnation with a few silken words! Christian News has covered this topic well, with a special almah edition.

[61] See Appendix One for a list of authors and denominations favoring “make disciples.”

[62] "In this way, the entire church is comprised of ministers. The ministers are not a special breed of sheep coming from the seminary. They are simply believers who go on growing. Thus the purpose of the pastor is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples." Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield: Logos International, 1975, p. 18.

[63] I attended the vicarage assignment worship service at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, around 1992. The Lutheran preacher made this distinction, which he had just learned at a Church Growth conference.

[64] These two sentences set broke the record for the use of “making disciples,” previously held by Juan Carlos Ortiz.

[65] WELS seminary professor David Kuske supported "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19 "Exegetical Brief: The Meaning of matheteusate in Matthew 28:19," Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Spring, 1997, p. 115ff. "Accordingly, when Christ says, Disciple (matheteusate) all nations by baptizing them, matheteusate can mean nothing other than to make disciples, to turn unbelievers into believers; for that is the Spirit-produced effect of baptism." David J. Valleskey, We BelieveTherefore We Speak, The Theology and Practice of Evangelism, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1995, p. 127.

[66] One of the Church Growth pioneers, Winfred Arn, chose to shorten his name to Win Arn, a good marketing move for Evangelicals. "a receptivity rating scale (adapted by Win and Charles Arn in 'The Master's Plan for Making Disciples,' p. 91...." Prof. David J. Valleskey, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Class Notes, The Theology and Practice of Evangelism, Pastoral Theology 358A, p. 58.

[67] Some Lutheran-Reformed unions will exhibit Lutheran tendencies for a period of time, but no union has ever been created at the expense of Reformed doctrine. The Reformed have never conceded the efficacy of the Word alone or God working exclusively through the Means of Grace.

[68] "The Institute for American Church Growth has created a card game called 'Church Growth Eyes.' The game may be used in groups to learn how to see through church growth eyes." Delos Miles, Church Growth, A Mighty River, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981, p. 51.

"Church Growth is not another program. It is a process. The pastor and people who have 'Church Growth eyes' make up a church that sees the task of ministry as an outreach process that affects every aspect of the church: from ladies' aid to elders." Kent R. Hunter, LCMS, Launching Growth in the Local Congregation, A Workbook for Focusing Church Growth Eyes, Detroit: Church Growth Analysis and Learning Center, 1980, p. 11.

"As we consider various factors and principles relating to Church Growth we need abundant, accurate information about the members of our churches. This basic principle of Church Growth is called Discerning the Body . Pastors and lay people need to discern the Body in the congregation in which they are serving. For this, Church Growth eyes are essential." Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Arn, Ten Steps for Church Growth, New York: Harper and Row, 1977, p. 61.

"This is not a handbook on how to do certain things, not offering us gimmicks, procedures, models, and the like, although there is much of practical material to be found throughout. It is rather a theology of church growth and missions." [foreword by Robert Preus] Waldo J. Werning, LCMS, The Radical Nature of Christianity, Church Growth Eyes Look at the Supernatural Mission of the Christian and the Church, South Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1975, p. 9.

[69] Pastor William Terjesen wrote: “A young mother in my congregation said a while back: ‘The King James Version is like shooting a bullet; the NIV is like throwing a bullet.’”


[70] The ALC of 1960 attacked Biblical inerrancy with a series of educational forums using a book ironically titled The Bible, Book of Faith. The author later complained about liberalism in the ELCA. More details can be found in the excellent book What’s Going on among the Lutherans?, by Patsy Leppien and Kincaid Smith, Northwestern Publishing House.

[71] The definitions are difficult to understand, but the results show that the majority of laity fall into the first two conservative definitions while the clergy responses are mostly in the second and third categories.

[72] Notice how close this statement is to the one following by David Hubbard, the late impresario of Fuller Seminary.

[73] "Everybody brings his testimony. That is why the cell meetings last four or five or six hours with only five people. We no longer have time for Sunday morning services. We're too busy learning sound doctrine to listen to sermons about Nehemiah." Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield: Logos International, 1975, p. 113.

[74] “Reu’s metamorphosis was complete by 1943. His book, Luther and the Scriptures, in which he alleged that the Reformer was an advocate of ‘inerrancy,’ was the end-point of his theological back-tracking.” E. Clifford Nelson, Lutheranism in North America, 1914-1970, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972, p. 86. Reu traveled to Europe and became an expert on Luther’s Small Catechism, earning international respect as a scholar. He equivocated about inerrancy early in his career, adversely affecting the American Lutheran Church merger of 1930. Apparently his Luther studies converted him to a correct understanding. Luther and the Scriptures, is out of print. Lenski fought the 1930 ALC waffling on inerrancy and was silenced by his synod. Lenski’s successor as a seminary professor opposed inerrancy. Lenski’s commentaries were published by the Ohio Synod, later by The ALC of 1960, and finally by ELCA. However, the bookstore at Lenksi’s seminary did not sell his books, did not know how to spell his name, and did not know that ELCA published his works. ELCA sold or gave away the rights to another publisher. Lenski’s commentaries are now available at a good price from Christian Book Distributors.

[75] Many typographical errors have been found in the early versions of this book, and doubtless some mistakes remain, in spite of the automatic checking of the computer program and strenuous efforts by various readers. Thus we should approach the subject of Biblical manuscript errors with humility about our own limitations and awe about the almost perfect transmission of the Biblical text over the centuries.

[76] Do we know without a doubt that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are genuine and ancient? Vaticanus was logged into the Vatican library in the 15th century. Before that time, the manuscript has no history. Sinaiticus was discovered at a monastery in the 19th century. Why not direct some healthy skepticism toward these late discoveries?

[77] An insightful joke has various liberals reacting to the “discovery” of the body of Jesus in a tomb. No one knows what to say. Finally, Paul Tillich says, “Wonderful. That means He actually did live.”

[78] The obvious failings of the disciples are more vividly portrayed in Mark, leading liberals to conclude that the later writers cleaned up the bad public relations by eliminating some of the harsher details.

[79] Dahl was the Buckingham Professor of New Testament Studies, the same endowed chair occupied by Benjamin Bacon 60 years before.

[80] I first learned this in the adult class at Salem Lutheran Church, Moline, Illinois, where the text was The Mighty Acts of God, by the future LCA president, Robert Marshall, a failed Ph.D. student, Old Testament. Next, I learned the theory again in the required Old Testament class at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, from Arnold G. Levin, an LCA pastor and Harvard Th.D. The same theory was taught at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, LCA, in Ontario, Canada.

[81] One LCMS journal is called Journal of the English District Pastors, so it will spell out JEDP.

[82] "Donald C. McGavran died at home home in Altadena, California, on July 10, 1990. He was 92 years old. Dr. McGavran is widely recognized as the founder of the church growth movement, a movement which has sought to put the social sciences at the service of theology in order to foster the growth of the church. In August of 1989 I borrowed a bicycle and pedaled several miles uphill up from Pasadena to Altadena. I found Dr. McGavran in his front yard with a hose in hand, watering flowers." Lawrence Otto Olson, D. Min., Fuller Seminary, "See How It Grows: Perspectives on Growth and the Church," EVANGELISM, February, 1991, Professor, Martin Luther College (WELS), p. 1. "Make no mistake; I am under no illusions here. I fully expect to be publicly pilloried in print again. You will no doubt do so with some wit, with a good selection of quotations instantly imported into your world processor from your ready-to-go database, and with my own words twisted and used against me. So be it; I can live with that." Lawrence Otto Olson, "A Response to Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.," Christian News, 3-28-94, p. 23.

[83] Unbelievable is the perfect term. When WELS and Missouri adopted the Church Growth Movement, they started rapidly losing members, in spite of general population growth. Kent Hunter, among others, advises congregations to use graph paper to chart their membership trends, asking tough questions. The synods should be a good example and carry out what they have asked their congregations to do.

[84] ELCA graduates of Fuller chatter about the same fads as the conservative Lutherans trained at Fuller: user friendly liturgies, felt needs, receptivity scale, management by objective, how to sermons. Waldo Werning, Forrest Bivens, and David Valleskey have all admitted to studying at Fuller and have all denied studying at Fuller. The Pasadena school will not identify who has studied there. “It’s too controversial,” they said on the phone.

[85] This article supports "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19. David Kuske, "Exegetical Brief: The Meaning of matheteusate in Matthew 28:19," Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Spring, 1997, p. 115ff. Matthew 28:19. Kuske also supported cell groups in another article in the WLQ.