/ King James only / Jeffrey A Stivason

Edward Hills & a Strange Providence

Anyone familiar with debates over Bible translations knows that they can become intense. However, those who advocate that the King James Version of the Bible is the only faithful version can treat the rest of us with suspicion, disdain and even vitriol. Not every King James advocate treats their siblings in Christ this poorly, but it happens all too often.

However, this article is not a color commentary on the debate. I have a specific concern to develop here. I have found that advocates of the King James version only position contend that they are the only party that believes God has providentially preserved his word.[1]Edward F. Hills even lays out an argument presuming to tell us God’s plan.  After developing God’s step by step process, Hills tells us that “God placed the stamp of His approval on this first printed text.”[2]He then states, “Hence, as orthodox Protestant Christians, we believe that the formation of the Textus Receptus was guided by the special providence of God.”[3]These claims to know how to interpret the providence of God are staggering in themselves. However, they are clear. The Textus Receptus is God’s text. It has his stamp of approval. It was put together by his special providence. What is more, the other text families are either corrupt or heretical and likely both.

However, I want us to think for a few minutes about the providential preservation of the Textus Receptus. Hills admits that there were errors in the text but only minor errors.  Nonetheless, Hills argues, “[the] few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin speaking Church of Western Europe.”[4] Now, what does it mean that errors of consequence were corrected by providence operating in the Latin speaking Church?

It is itself intriguing that Hills would admit an “error of consequence” in the text. What could that be? And how was it corrected? About one hundred pages later, Hills supplies the answer. When Erasmus put his text together, he discovered that the last six verses of Revelation 22 (vv. 16-21) were not in the Greek manuscript he was using. So, says Hills, “According to almost all scholars, Erasmus endeavored to supply these deficiencies in his manuscript by retranslating the Latin Vulgate into Greek.”[5]This is the “error of consequence” of which Hills spoke. What is more, the “Latin speaking Church of Western Europe” that saved the day was the Latin Vulgate of the western Church.

But Hills claimed earlier that this error of consequence was later corrected. How? Hills explains, “In his 4th edition of his Greek New Testament (1527) Erasmus corrected much of this translation Greek (if it was indeed such) on the basis of a comparison with the Complutensian Polyglot Bible…but he overlooked some of it, and this still remains in the Textus Receptus.”[6]

Wait a minute.

Did you read what I just wrote?

Erasmus corrected “much” not all of his translation from Latin to Greek. Hills continues, Erasmus “overlooked some it, and this (read “overlooked portion”) remains in the Textus Receptus.” First, I thought Hills said one hundred pages ago that “errors of consequence were corrected by providence.” This does not look like correction. What is more, how can Hills harangue others about not believing in the preservation of Scripture when he knows an “error of consequence” exists in the Byzantine text?

How does Hills answer?

He takes the role of victim. According to Hills, “It is customary for naturalistic critics to make the most of human imperfections in the Textus Receptus and to sneer at it as a mean and almost sordid thing.”[7]This is striking because not only does Hills take the role of a victim, but he seems to admit that there are human imperfections in the Textus Receptus!

But what about Hills’s earlier claim that the errors of consequence were corrected by providence? Hills believes that Erasmus was “guided providentially by the common faith to follow the Latin Vulgate.”[8]In other words, Erasmus was guided by special providence to decide in favor of his retranslation.  But not only that, he chose to leave uncorrected words that only occur in the Latin Vulgate.  In other words, the Textus Receptus agrees with the Latin Vulgate but not the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Why?  Because, says Hills, Erasmus was specially guided by providence.  That, my brothers and sisters, is not only unbelievable, but it exposes a great deal of hypocrisy that surrounds this whole debate.

[1] Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended (Des Moines, Iowa, The Christian Research Press, 1984), Hills had to agree that Warfield believed and taught that God providentially kept his word pure throughout the ages.

[2] Ibid., 193.


[4] Ibid., 107.

[5]Ibid., 202.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Ibid., 203.


Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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