The translation [King James Version] was published in 1611 and very rapidly went through several editions, nearly all of which had some changes in the text....Although never formally authorized by King or Parliament, the name "The Authorized Version" became attached to it, and that is how it is known in Great Britain....In 1870 the Church of England authorized a revision of the KJV....The work was carefully, not to say pedantically, done, and in the NT alone about 30,000 changes were made, over 5,000 of them on the basis of a better Greek text....The complete Bible appeared in 1885, with an appendix which listed the changes preferred by the American scholars. The American Standard Edition of the Revised Version was published in 1901......the Revised Standard Version, authorized in 1937 by the International Council of Religious Education...... Mention should be made of John Wesley's revision of the KJV NT (1755) "for unlettered men who understand only their Mother Tongue." In 1833 Noah Webster published a complete KJV in which he corrected some 150 words and phrases that were either misleading or wrong....Many Bibles and perhaps as many as 250 NTs in English have appeared since 1611....The RSV was condemned as unfaithful by the vast majority of American conservatives, and several translations have been made with the purpose of providing conservatives a translation they would accept, such as the Amplified Bible (1965), the Modern Language Bible (1969) and the New American Standard Version (1971). The culmination of this process was reached in 1978 with the publication of the New International Version, produced by an international team of conservative Protestant scholars.... No translation can ever be perfect, but better translations can help achieve Tyndale's goal of enabling readers to "see the process, order, and meaning of the text."
Harper's Bible Dictionary
Adherents of the restoration movement have often been criticized for their use of the Inspired Version of the Bible. The restoration under Joseph Smith is often noted for its boldness in affirming an open canon of scripture. This includes adding the prophecy of Enoch to Genesis or failing to recognize the Song of Solomon as divinely inspired guidance for the church in all ages or claiming that the Apocrypha contained writings that were not inspired. But this process of canonization has continued for centuries in the Christian community. As late as the 1500s, Martin Luther wanted to remove the book of James from the scriptural canon. The restoration rejects the idea that the scriptural canon is closed and that God no longer speaks to man. The passage that is most often quoted in response to this is:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Joseph Smith believed that doctrinal error had already crept into the Bible of his day. In 1608 to 1611 the King James Version (KJV) translators, who were fallible men, used manuscripts (ie. Masoretic text) that were also fallible to render the best translation that they could. By the 1800s, as mentioned in Harper's above, thousands of changes were made to the KJV, and there were hundreds of Bibles to choose from. To the believers in Smith's day, it was obvious that not every version of the Bible could be right. It was apparent that the warning given in Revelations above had already gone unheeded. No one version could claim to be the sole repository of truth.
Out of all the many versions that existed at that time, the King James Version was the most widely used and even referred to as the "authorized" version. It remained in a position of prominence for hundreds of years. F. Henry Edwards was a member of the Presidency of the RLDS Church who commented on the role of the KJV and the IV in the restoration movement:
Important though the Inspired Version was, it was not vital to the faith of the Saints of the early Restoration. The fact that it was not published during the lifetime of Joseph Smith was regarded as a serious handicap, but the King James Version was nevertheless treasured and used. When the ministers were instructed to "teach the principles of my gospel which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon" [D&C 42:5a], the Bible which they used without hesitation was the King James Version. (F. Henry Edwards, What Is the Inspired Version?, Reprinted by Herald House in 1990, p. 16)
The King James Version (KJV) was venerated as an authoritative guide for the first 37 years of the restored church's existence. Since that time, the Inspired Version (IV) has become an authoritative resource to govern conduct and belief. But the restoration has never subscribed to theories of infallibility or inerrancy regarding either version.
The Inspired Version (IV) simply represented the attempt of a fallible man, Joseph Smith, to utilize a prophetic gift in restoring truths once lost. This idea of restoring lost doctrine through divine intervention was promulgated by Roger Williams 200 years earlier in the 1600s:
For Williams, who wrote of the "restless unsatisfiedness of my soul," found no enduring peace, not even in the church molded by his own hands. What authority did he have to be baptized or to baptize others? What line of apostolic continuity could be traced to that score of Bible believers who agreed to worship together? What biblical commission or divine command set this church apart or perhaps even above all others?....After Constantine, a true ministry no longer existed, and none but God could now bring it back. Williams did not come to this position easily, nor did he find it easy to persuade others that recreating the true church of Christ was a vain pursuit -- apart from direct divine intervention.....In trying to cleanse the church of centuries of corruption, the witnesses and prophets helped prepare for the millennium. But apart from the miracle of divine intervention, no true church was possible again. (Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America, Edwin S. Gaustad, Eerdmans Publishing, 1991)
It is this principle of divine intervention that characterizes the entire restoration movement and that results in a bold message of "restoration" rather than simply attempting to reform what Williams called a "corrupted church". If Christ's doctrine or His church have been corrupted, it is our belief that the only way to restore either of them is by divine intervention as well.
Errors crept into what would eventually become the KJV either through mistakes on the part of the original authors or centuries of manuscript copying and translation. By the 1800s they had already added to and taken away from the word of God many times. In evidence of that fact I will enumerate just a few of the errors in the KJV that the IV attempted to correct.
1) Can men see God?
I John 4:12 - No man hath seen God at any time.
Exodus 33:11 - Moses and God talk face-to-face.
Exodus 33:20 - Moses can't see his face or he would die.
Exodus 33:23 - Moses can see back parts, but not face.
I Timothy 6:16 - No man can approach God in his glory and see Him.
Exodus 24:9-10 - Moses and 73 men approach God and see Him.
John 1:18 - No man has seen God.
Genesis 32:30 - Jacob saw God face-to-face.
2) Did Paul's friends hear a voice?
Acts 9:3-7 - They heard a voice, but saw no man.
Acts 22:9 - They heard no voice, but saw a light.
3) Did both thieves revile Christ?
Luke 23:39-43 - One railed against him & the other said "Lord
Mark 15:31-32 - Both reviled him (no mention of repentance).
Matthew 27:38-44 - Both reviled him (no mention of repentance).
4) How old was Ahaziah when he became king of Israel?
II Chronicles 22:2 - says 42 years old.
II Kings 8:26 - says 22 years old.
5) Do evil spirits and lying spirits come from God I Samuel 16:14 - "an evil spirit from the Lord" I Samuel 16:15 - "an evil spirit from God"
I Samuel 16:23 - "the evil spirit from God"
I Samuel 18:10 - "the evil spirit from God"
I Samuel 19:9 - "the evil spirit from the Lord"
II Chronicles 18:20-22 - "the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets"
6) Does God repent?
Genesis 6:6 - "And it repented the Lord that he had made man...."
Exodus 32:14 - "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people"
I Samuel 15:11 - "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king"
II Samuel 24:16 - "The Lord repented him of the evil...."
I Chronicles 21:15 - "the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil"
Psalm 135:14 - "For the Lord will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants"
Jeremiah 18:8 - "...I [God] will repent of the evil that I thought to do..."
Jeremiah 26:3 - "...that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them...."
Joel 2:13-14 - "...for he [God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger,
and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent....."
Amos 7:3 - "The Lord repented for this"
Amos 7:6 - "The Lord repented for this"
Jonah 3:9-10 - "Who can tell if God will turn and repent....And God
repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them...."
Numbers 23:19 - "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
I Samuel 15:29 - "And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent."
7) Did God harden Pharaoh's heart?
Exodus 4:21 - "I [God] will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go."
Exodus 7:3 - "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart...."
Exodus 7:13 - "And he hardened Pharaoh's heart, that he hearkened not unto them..."
Exodus 9:12 - "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh...."
Exodus 10:1 - "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart..."
Exodus 10:20 - "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart"
Exodus 10:27 - "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart"
Exodus 11:10 - "....and the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land"
8) Was David righteous?
I Samuel 25:42-43 - "....and she [Abigail] went after the messengers of David, and became his wife. David also took Ahinoam, of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives."
II Samuel 5:13 - "And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem...." (I Chronicles 3 - he had 19 sons just from his wives).
II Samuel 11:3-15 - "...Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her. And she came in unto him, and he lay with her....And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.....And when David had called him [Uriah], he did eat and drink before him [Uriah]; and he made him drunk....in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
I Kings 3:14 - "....keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk...."
I Kings 11:4 & 6 - "....and his [Solomon] heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father."
I Kings 14:8 - "....my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart to do that only which was right in mine eyes."
I Kings 15:5 - "Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite."
Incidentally, the Book of Mormon takes a much stronger stand against David's and Solomon's polygamy than we see in the KJV verses above: "Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives, and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord" (Jacob 2:33).
9) Does God tempt people?
Genesis 22:1 - "....God did tempt Abraham....."
Matthew 6:13 - "And lead us not into temptation...."
James 1:13 - "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."
10) How many possessed with devils?
Matthew 8:28 - "....there met him two possessed with devils"
Mark 5:1 - "....there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit...."
Luke 8:27 - "....there met him out of the city a certain man, who had devils for a long time..."
In light of the myriad changes that occurred and different versions that arose by the 1800s, it is difficult to defend the proposition that "the Bible" is the infallible word of God. In such a case, which of the hundreds of bibles that have been written does the protestant world defend? For example, if the KJV was infallible and without error in the 1800s, how could the New International Version (NIV) of the 1900s improve upon it? It can be said that language has changed since that time, so the NIV is merely an attempt to make the Bible more understandable.
But this is not the only purpose for the NIV. There is disagreement in the larger Christian community between adherents of various versions. It is claimed by some that the NIV was taken from an older set of manuscripts and is therefore superior. There are whole sections of scripture that NIV scholars say should not be included in the scriptural text because there is desagreement between the original manuscripts. There are many errors by copyists in each of the original manuscripts, and these are freely admitted to by most Bible scholars. So when it is said that "the Bible" is infallible, I think we need to designate which Bible we are talking about. As to the Inspired Version, it has never been restoration dogma that the IV is without error.
There are numerous examples where different versions of the Bible that are now in use delete or add to God's word. To give a few examples where popular versions differ greatly as to what they accept as scripture, I will use four popular versions of the Bible: the King James Version (KJV), the Amplified Bible (Amp), the New American Standard (NASB) and the New International Version (NIV).
1) My first example is a simple numerical discrepancy that I used in question four above. I asked the question: How old was Ahaziah when he became king of Israel? Our four versions of the Bible give the following answers in II Chronicles 22:2:
KJV -- 42 years old Amp -- 42 years old
NASB -- 22 years old NIV -- 22 years old
On closer examination, if Ahaziah was 42, he would have been older than his father. Therefore two versions could be correct, and two must be wrong!
2) Because numerical discrepancies are easy to discern, I will use another from I Samuel 6:19. How many men did God slay at Beth-shemesh because they looked into the ark of the Lord?
KJV -- 50,070 men Amp -- "seventy men of them[50,000 men]"
NASB -- 50,070 men NIV -- "seventy of them"
Hebrew numbers are written with the larger number appearing first. But in this case the original manuscript reversed this order by saying "seventy men fifty thousand men". The NIV translators felt that it was unrealistic for there to even be 50,000 men in this area, so they guessed. But the fact remains, when dealing with a number like this, not all versions are correct!
3) In I Samuel 13:1 there are four different ways used to describe when Saul began to rule as king and how long he reigned:
KJV -- "Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel...."
Amp -- "Saul was [forty] years old when he began to reign; and when he had reigned two years over Israel...."
NASB -- "Saul was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-two years over Israel...."
NIV -- "Saul was [thirty] years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel [forty] two years."
The problem with this text is that the Masoretic text reads "Saul was the son of .....years when he became king, and he reigned two years over Israel." Where there is no number given they all simply take a guess, and only the Amp and NIV have footnotes explaining this. The point once again is that not all versions can be correct. Some must be wrong!
4) In verse five of the same chapter, another error is perpetuated. It is stated that the Philistines gathered chariots and horsemen to fight Israel. But how many?
KJV -- 30,000 chariots Amp -- 30,000 chariots
6,000 horsemen 6,000 horsemen
NASB -- 30,000 chariots NIV -- 3,000 chariots
6,000 horsemen 6,000 charioteers
At 30,000 chariots, this would have been a larger army of chariots than ever existed in the entire Bible. It is highly unlikely that they ever had 30,000 chariots! In addition, the ratio of chariots to horsemen is ridiculous. This could not have been. Knowing this, the NIV decided to guess that the author must have meant 3,000 chariots.
5) In I Samuel 17:50-52, all versions agree that David slew Goliath. But in II Samuel 21:19, there is a blatant discrepancy between the various versions. Here it says that Elhanan slew someone:
KJV -- slew the brother of Goliath Amp -- slew Goliath
NASB -- killed Goliath NIV -- killed Goliath
Even though the original Hebrew text does not say "the brother of". It does say "killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam." The KJV translators chose to insert these words on the basis of I Chronicles 20:5 that says, "and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite , whose spear shaft was like a weaver's beam."
6) In I Chronicles 18:4, it says that David captured 7,000 horsemen, but in II Samuel 8:4 the four versions tell us that David captured:
KJV -- 700 horsemen Amp -- 1700 horsemen
NASB -- 1700 horsemen NIV -- 7,000 charioteers
How can all four versions be correct in this case?
7) In II Samuel 23:11, it describes a field as a field of lentils. All four versions say this:
KJV -- lentiles Amp -- lentils
NASB -- lentils NIV -- lentils
Then I Chronicles 11:13 turns around and refers to this same field as a field of barley:
KJV -- barley Amp -- barley or lentils
NASB -- barley NIV -- barley
8) In II Samuel 24:1, we are told that God moved David to number Israel and Judah (same in all four versions). But in I Chronicles 21:1, all four versions tell us that Satan moved David to number them.
9) In I Chronicles 21: 12, the prophet Gad gave David a choice between three years of famine or three months of fleeing from his enemies. But in II Samuel 24:13, Gad is said to have given the following choices:
KJV -- 7 yrs. famine or 3 months of fleeing
Amp -- 7 yrs. famine or 3 months of fleeing
NASB -- 7 yrs. famine or 3 months of fleeing
NIV -- 3 yrs. famine or 3 months of fleeing
Not every version can be right.
10) II Chronicles 9:25 says that Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen. But I Kings 4:26 says that he had:
KJV -- 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen
Amp -- 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen
NASB -- 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen
NIV -- 4,000 stalls for chariot horses, and 12,000 horses
11) In II Kings 24:8 it says that Jehoiakim was 18 years old when he became king. But II Chronicles 36:9 says that he was:
KJV -- 8 yrs. old Amp -- "eight[teen] yrs. old"
NASB -- 8 yrs. old NIV -- eighteen
12) In Matthew 1:8 and I Chronicles 3:11 all four versions give us a genealogy from Joram to Uzziah as follows:
I Chronicles 3:11-12 Matthew 1:8
Uzziah Uzziah (Ozias)
In one, Joram is the father of Ahaziah, and in the other he is the father of Uzziah.
13) In Matthew 8:5 all four versions tell us that a centurion came to Jesus beseeching him to heal his servant. But in Luke 7:3, we are told that the centurion sent Jewish elders to beseech Jesus.
14) In Matthew 8:28-34, it tells us when Jesus reached the Gadarenes (KJV calls it Gergesenes), that two people possessed with devils were healed. They said, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?" But in Luke 8:26-39 it says that Jesus arrived at the Gerasenes (KJV calls it Gadarenes), that only one person with a devil was healed. In this passage he said, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?"
15) In Matthew 20:29-34, as Jesus was leaving Jericho, two blind men cried out to him two times saying, "Have mercy on us". But in Mark 10:46-52, three versions say Jesus was coming to Jericho (KJV says leaving). In this passage all four versions say one blind man cried out to him two times saying, "Have mercy on me".
16) Mark 16:9-20 is a point of controversy for the various bible translators.
Translators for the NIV and Revised Standard Version say that it is not found in more reliable manuscripts and should not be included in the Bible. So they set it apart from the main text and enter a note such as "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20".
But translators of the KJV, Amp and NASB insist that it should be included because most manuscripts include this passage. How do we know, in this case, whether we are in keeping with Revelations 22:18-19? Who is "adding unto" and who is "taking away from the words of the book"? Again the main point being that not all versions can be right!
17) John 7:53-8:11 is another passage that evokes controversy among bible translators. It is the story of the woman caught in adultery. All four versions include it, but the NIV sets it apart from the other text and inserts the following note: "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11". The NIV translators did not believe that it should be included without a note expressing their reticence to accept it as part of the Bible. The NEB places this story at the end of the gospel with a separate heading! Since 1971, the RSV and NRSV have used a different type of print and separated it from the rest of the text. The KJV, Amp and NASB include this story of the adulteress woman. The Amp even has a footnote saying this passage "is not found in the older manuscripts, but it sounds so like Christ that we accept it as authentic, and feel that to omit it would be most unfortunate".
In most of the above examples, instead of citing some of the more important doctrinal discrepancies, I have attempted to use those statements where there was an objective, straightforward statement of fact. Numerical discrepancies provide an excellent way to illustrate the fallibility or error in the Bible. In other examples I simply attempted to show that there have always been a wide variety of opinions in the christian world as to what should be canonized as scripture.
Most of my friends in the evangelical community have told me that differences of this kind are acceptable and not of great concern as long as they are agreed on the "fundamentals" of the gospel (eg. Christ's death, burial and resurrection). But in Ephesians 4:5 we are called to more than just agreement about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism. If christians' inability to agree on these issues does not bother them, it should! In fact, contentions of any kind among the body of Christ are not acceptable to the Lord:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
I Corinthians 1:10
The hundreds of Bible versions that have come into existence are usually defended with arguments such as, "My Bible uses the oldest known manuscripts" or "there are more of the original manuscripts that agree with my Bible." But in every version that has come forth, there remains some conjecture or interpolations of men. Where information is missing, the translators have chosen to guess claiming no inspiration from God.
For those who assert that their Bible is far superior to the scriptures of the restoration, please consider the writing of the following protestant authors:
Saint Jerome, in his commentary upon the 40th chapter of Ezekial, says: "When we translate the Hebrew words into Latin, we are sometimes guided by conjecture." Saint Jerome makes frequent mention of the additions, corrections and subtractions made in the versions of the Septuagint, by Origen....Saint Jerome says with reason, that in his time the version of the Septuagint was nowhere to be found in its purity. It is mere assumption to assert, as some authors do, that the Hebrew text which we have at present is not corrupted in any place, and that there is no fault, nor anything left out, and that we must indisputably follow it at all times. (Doctor Ray in the Baptist-Catholic debate in the American Baptist as found in Parsons' Textbook, Herald Publishing, Lamoni, IA, 1902)
He [Erasmus] had thus no documentary materials for publishing a complete edition of the Greek Testament. The consequence would have been that some verses must have been left wanting had not Erasmus taken the vulgate and conjecturally retranslated the Latin into Greek. Hence has arisen the remarkable fact that in the text from which our Authorized Version was formed, and in the ordinary uncritical editions of the Greek current at the present day, there were, and are, words in the professed originals, for which no divine authority can be pleaded, but which are entirely due to the learning and imagination of Erasmus." (Alexander Roberts, D.D., The Companion of the Revised Version of the English New Testament, pages 39-41, as found in Parsons' Textbook, page 221) Mr. Roberts served on a committee to revise yet another version of the Bible.
When it is said that Scripture is divinely inspired, we are not to understand that God suggested every word, or dictated every expression. From the different styles in which the books are written, and from the different manner in which the same events are related and predicted by different authors, it appears that the sacred penmen were permitted to write as their several tempers, understandings, and habits of life directed: and that the knowledge communicated to them by inspiration on the subject of their writings, was applied in the same manner as any knowledge acquired by ordinary means. Nor is it to be supposed that they were even thus inspired in every fact which they related, or in every precept which they delivered. They were left to the common use of their faculties, and did not, upon every occasion, stand in need of supernatural communication; but whenever, and as far as divine assistance was necessary, it was always afforded. In different parts of Scripture we perceive, that there were different sorts and degrees of inspiration. (Biblia, June 1890 as found in Parsons' Textbook, page 222-223)
How often do we see men seeking out isolated passages of Scripture, and triumphantly saying that such expressions are unworthy of God, and could not have proceeded from him. They are unskillful, the mode of thought is faulty, they are illogical, in bad taste, the reasoning is not conclusive, the narrative is liable to exception. God has not put himself on trial before us in that way in the Bible, any more than he has in the creation -- any more than he has promised that the Bible shall always be printed for us on the best of paper with the best of type and perfect freedom from typographical errors, and that after it is printed, it shall never be torn, nor soiled, nor any leaf lost; or that apostles and preachers shall be regularly handsome, men of fine forms and beautiful faces, and faultless elocution. It is always to be remembered that the writers of the Bible were "God's penmen, and not God's pens.".....It is not the words of the Bible that were inspired, it is not the thoughts of the Bible that were inspired; it is the men who wrote the Bible that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words, not on the man's thoughts, but on the man himself; so that he, by his own spontaneity, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and gives utterance to them in certain words, both the words and the thoughts receiving the peculiar impress of the mind which conceived and uttered them, and being in fact just as really his own, as it could have been if there had been no inspiration at all in the case. (Professor C. E. Stowe, History of the Bible, page 18-19, as found in Parsons' Textbook, page 226)
I believe that the answer to Christianity's doctrinal divisions lies in the guidance that Roger Williams gave us earlier: the only way to cleanse the body of Christ from the "corruption" that he described is "divine intervention". Roger Williams was a fallible man, but he also was one of the great spiritual leaders of his day. There is no doubt that he looked forward to the day when God would "restore the ancient order of things" through divine intervention.
Joseph Smith was also a fallible man who, like Williams, believed that the church had become corrupted and that the only way to restore truths long lost was through inspiration from God. It is in that same bold spirit of restoration, not simply reforming a "corrupted church", that Smith brought forth the scriptures of the restoration.
It has been the habit of fundamentalist evangelicals to dogmatically affirm the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. When referring to "the Bible", evangelicals often fail to explain that they are actually talking about the autographa (original writings) only, not the bibles we have today. In 1978, an International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, made up of 300 evangelical scholars, composed the Chicago Statement on Scripture. Article X of this statement says,"We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manusrcripts with great accuracy." It is misleading to say, as evangelicals commonly do, that "the Bible" is infallible or inerrant when they are actually referring to the original autographs.
Because evagelicals perceive themselves as having a "high view" of scripture they deride Joseph Smith's statement in the 1842 Wentworth Letter that says,"We believe the bible [King James Version] to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." But in Article X of the Chicago Statement, 300 evangelical scholars made the following statement:"We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original." It appears somewhat hypocritical for evangelicals to criticize Smith's statement while they simultaneously maintain an escape clause from their own inerrancy position.
Evangelicals hold that the scriptures were originally given in plenary (ie. full, perfect, unqualified) form -- free from error. Instead of clearly defining inerrancy, Article XII of the 1978 Chicago Statement tells us that Scripture [the original autographs] contained no "falsehood, fraud or deceit." But it is obvious that today's bibles [modern translations] contain at least some factual errors whether intentional or not. It would be wrong to assert that there are no errors in today's bibles, and the theory that the original autographs were inerrant is mere assumption. When fallible men are involved in the revelatory process, there is always a possibility of error.
In Article XI of the Chicago Statement, evangelical scholars say that Scripture [the original autographa] was infallible in that it was "true and reliable in all the matters it addresse[d]." That is an intriguing theory, but the bibles [modern translations] that are extant today all contain some degree of error in addressing sometimes very important issues. To neo-evangelicals, the bibles' purpose is to save, and they are infallible in the sense that they bring salvation to men. The restored church would agree that modern bibles are able to bring honest and searching souls to salvation, but we do not subscribe to the idea of factual infallibility.
Norman Geisler and William Nix are evangelical authors who both affirm the infallibility of the Bible. But even they seem to wrestle with an explanation of the revelatory process by which fallible men could produce an infallible written record:
A final question concerns the means, or process, of inspiration. What means did God's causality employ to produce scriptural authority without interfering with the personality, freedom, and individuality of the prophetic agents? Or, how did God produce an infallible book through fallible men? A frank and forthright answer, yet one often very reluctantly given by biblical scholars, is "We don't know.".... Several solutions have been suggested for this problem, all of which have their own inherent difficulties.... In the whole question of the modus operandi (mode of operation) of inspiration, a balance must be sought between the two extremes of divine dictation and human fallibility. (Geisler and Nix, pp. 45-47)
The restoration believes that Smith achieved that balance when he stated in the 1842 Wentworth Letter,"We believe the bible [King James Version] to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." On the other hand, the evangelical assertion that "the Bible is infallible" is an outright abrogation of a balanced view.