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Position of the Bible Department of Bob Jones University on the Scripture

[Bob Jones University Bible Department - Stewart Custer, Marshall Neal]

The dominating concern for all Bible-related courses, from English Bible to Theology and Ethics, in Bob Jones University is what the Bible teaches. This is of paramount importance to us because we believe in the verbal inspiration and absolute inerrancy of the Bible. We believe, as Fundamentalists have always believed, that this inspiration refers to the original manuscripts. "The record for whose inspiration we contend is the original record—the autographs or parchments of Moses, David, Daniel, Matthew, Peter, or Paul as the case may be and not any particular translation or translations of them whatever" (The Fundamentals, "Inspiration of the Bible," p. 127).

When we teach the content of the Bible, we naturally study a passage in the Greek Testament. To aid the students in understanding that passage, we will take to class the King James Bible, which often gives an exact rendering of the Greek. Sometimes we will consult some other conservative translation, such as the American Standard Version of 1901 or the New American Standard Bible (not the liberal R[evised] S[tandard] V[ersion]), which at times gives the most accurate rendering of the Greek. We are always trying to help the students grasp the exact meaning of the original Greek text. There are a few passages in which the delicate shades of meaning in the Greek are missed by all English translations, in which cases we must explain from the Greek text itself those fine shades of meaning. We would not use a liberal paraphrase in class except as an illustration of a mistranslation, which we would at once correct by a true translation. We have no sympathy with any version of the Bible that is not faithful to the Greek text.

Because we believe in the inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, it is important that we have a Greek Testament that will be as close to the readings of the original as possible. Through the carelessness of scribes who copied manuscripts, many varying readings have crept into them. But God in His providence has preserved for us the original reading through the large number of manuscripts in existence that witness to the text of the New Testament. Today there are two Greek texts available. One is the Received Text, edited by [a] Roman Catholic scholar, Erasmus, in the sixteenth century and based on manuscripts of the late Middle Ages. It is often called the "Byzantine" or the "majority text." The other is the Greek Testament, edited by Westcott and Hort in the nineteenth century and based upon the manuscripts of the fourth century, usually called the "Alexandrian text." The King James Version was based upon the "Received Text"; the American Standard Version was based upon the text of Westcott and Hort. We do not believe that either of these texts is "liberal" or "conservative." Not only Erasmus but also Westcott and Hort were seeking to present a close copy of the original text. We are interested in which one is closer to the original text of the New Testament.

Because (1) the Alexandrian manuscripts are much older and closer to the time the originals were written, (2) a careful comparison of these manuscripts with those of the Middle Ages has convinced us that a more accurate and careful job of copying was done by the Alexandrian scribes, and (3) Erasmus had to work in haste and with limited resources, it is our conviction that these Alexandrian manuscripts, which were not known to Erasmus, are, as a rule, the more accurate manuscripts to follow. Therefore, along with the great majority of conservative scholars, we believe that the text based upon the Alexandrian manuscripts is, as a whole, superior to the text based upon manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

The portion of the New Testament that has any substantial variation between the various manuscripts is only about one word in a thousand. These variations in no way change the teaching of the New Testament on any doctrine. Therefore, we consider this not an issue of modernism versus conservatism but a matter of individual judgment on the part of Fundamental Christians. Christians should be free to choose and use either of these texts and still work together in harmony to teach and preach the Word of God to those who are without it.

Source: Bob Jones University. "Position of the Bible Department of Bob Jones University on the Scripture" (mimeograph). Office of the President, no date. Printed in Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University by Daniel L. Turner. Greenville, S.C.: Bob Jones University Press, c1997. Appendix D., p. 322-323.
In addition, "...both the Chancellor and the President issued statements to clarify the school's position." p. 244. And "in keeping with the University's commitment to balance, it is interesting to note that among the Bob Jones University graduate school Bible faculty, there are some who hold to the superiority of the Majority Text and others who hold to the Westcott and Hort Alexandrian Text. None of the Bible faculty accepts the Textus Receptus of Erasmus as superior to either the Majority or Alexandrian texts." p. 245.
Although no date is given for the above document, it was published by "The Flaming Torch" in 1985, indicating that it was written in 1985 or before. This document was also included as an attachment to a letter written by Thurmon Wisdom, dated October 4, 1989.

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