Monday, December 10, 2012

Poisoning the well

The poisoning the well fallacy is a form of ad hominem argument: that is, it is directed against the person, rather than his arguments. Poisoning the well occurs when a debater attempts to bias the audience against his opponent by presenting negative, and probably unrelated, information about him.


I frequent the conservative news/chat forum Free Republic. Occasionally, someone will post an urban legend as news. Inevitably, another poster will point out that the rumour was debunked at, the Urban Legends Reference Pages; inevitably, someone else will dismiss the snopes research because the site is "liberal." At this point, it has become irrelevant that is one of the better-researched sites on the Web. Conservatives would not want to associate with their liberal views, thus it's best just to ignore the whole site.

Today on the CARM KJV-only forum, which is rapidly becoming my new favourite repository of all bad KJV-only arguments, an exchange with poster "JDS" began with him saying, in response to a statement that KJV-onlyism was a false way:

No, it is the narrow way and the strait gate. (Source)

To which I responded (and yes, admittedly used a little more snark than the author of a fallacies blog might be entitled to):

Oh, good grief. Jesus was speaking of himself as the way, not the KJV.

Do you have so little respect for the sacred that you can never treat the Bible with the care it deserves? Your interpretations are universally pitiful. (Source)

(Matthew 7:13 may, at some point, make it into my "eisegesis" category, if and when I get around to one.)

JDS responded thusly:

This from a man who thinks John 6:44 & John 15:16 applies to himself and whose salvation depends on it.

give [sic] me a break please. (Source)

What an odd response. Some context will help. JDS, in addition to being rabidly KJV-onlyist, is rabidly anti-Calvinist. By contrast, I have never made a secret of my Calvinist theological leanings, and in fact on CARM my user avatar consists of the word "REFORMED," that being the most concise summary of my beliefs from the small pool of avatars the site makes available. John 6:44 and 15:13 could be taken as key texts in support of Calvinism.

JDS' retort has nothing to do with his shoddy hermeneutics; it's just a sudden change of subject intended to bias people against me, in essence: "That RansomOttawa is a Calvinist, and you know what they're like."


Point out how the poisoining the well fallacy works in the given argument, and note that it is actually an ad hominem fallacy: the debater has changed the subject from his opponent's arguments, to his opponent's character.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Proof by tautology

A tautology is a statement that says the same thing twice (often as a result of poor word choice), or which logically is formulated in such a way that it is necessarily true. Examples of the first type of tautology include legal phrases such as cease and desist or last will and testament. Examples of the latter type might include If you gotta go, you gotta go, or Either it's going to rain, or it isn't.

Despite their complexity, tautologies don't convey any useful information.1 They do have the benefit of being true no matter what, however. So, on either count, it's not surprising to see KJV-onlyists using them.

On the CARM forums, KJV-onlyist "marke" posted this litany of tautologies:

You can keep whatever standard you are using to grade bibles, I find the KJV is perfect according to the standard I go by, which is the KJV. . . .

I find the KJV is perfect, however, when compared to the standard of perfection, the KJV. . . .

But, like I said, I find the KJV perfect according to the standard, which is the KJV. . . .

Well, there you go. When you compare the KJV to itself, amazingly there are no differences between them! Wow! It's magic!

Problem is, it really proves nothing, because it proves too much. Why should this proof be limited to the KJV? Set any other Bible translation up as the "standard," and compare it to itself. Not surprisingly, it turns out to be perfect!

In fact, by the very same logic, I can declare any arbitrary book to be the "standard": let's say It, by Stephen King. When I compare It with It, I find to my great astonishment that they agree perfectly in every detail! Astounding! By marke's reasoning, this must be evidence of divine inspiration. There is no God but Pennywise the Clown, and Stephen King is Its prophet!

It surprises me, incidentally, that to date I haven't blogged the most common of all KJV-only fallacies: petitio principii, better known as "begging the question" or "circular reasoning." You certainly can't get any more circular than marke's outright declaration that when he assumes the perfection of the KJV from the outset, he inevitably discovers it to be perfect.


1 Tautologies may, however, be used figuratively conveying non-propositional truth. For example, If you gotta go, you gotta go simply expresses resignation to the inevitability of a bathroom break. And the infamous quadruple tautology in Unam Sanctum, the papal bull of Pope Boniface III—"We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff"—is there for emphasis.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Proof by Theft

It's well known that aberrant religious groups (for example, Mormonism and various "New Age" movements) like to take Christian terminology and redefine it for their own use. For example, Ron Rhodes argues that for the Theosophy school of New Age thought, "the Christ" is actually a "Supreme World Teacher" who "enters the body of a disciple in order to assist and guide the spiritual evolution of man." Thus the "the Christ" entered into the man Jesus his baptism. Jesus was but the fifth inacarnation of "the Christ," the first four being Buddha, Hermes, Zoroaster, and Orpheus.1 (New Age religion is nothing, if not syncretistic!)

Obviously, this concept of "the Christ" is a far cry from the Jewish doctrine of Yahweh's anointed one, the Messiah ("Christ" is simply the Greek synonym for "Messiah"), or the Christian doctrine of Jesus Christ as Yahweh himself clothed in human flesh from his conception. New Ageism is full of "stolen" Christian jargon, repurposed to present Eastern pantheism to a Western audience.

This raises a question: Once the New Agers have "stolen" a word or phrase from Christians, are the Christians allowed to have it back? The unspoken assumption of this "goofy proof" is no: Christian terminology co-opted by New Agers is now off-limits. This is, of course, absurd. Nonetheless, it is used as a serious argument by more than one KJV-onlyist.

This forum of argumentation is used frequently by Gail Riplinger who, in the original edition of New Age Bible Versions, wrote: "Liberty University's Dean Norman Geisler adds: 'We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as "the Christ . . ."'"2 She then excoriates several modern versions for using the title "the Christ" of Jesus. Of course, as is typical with Riplinger, she is guilty of quote mining: what Geisler actually wrote was, "We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as 'the Christ spirit' or 'Christ-consciousness.'"3 Riplinger has done more than merely identify Christian language co-opted by the modern pagans: she has manufactured it (so as to make modern Bible translations look worse).

Following in Gail Riplinger's dishonest footsteps is author Lisa Ruby. Her biggest claim to fame so far is God's Wrath on Left Behind, a critique of LaHaye and Jenkins so appallingly inane that she spends most of the time scolding the novels' fictional characters for what she feels is inappropriate speech or behaviour. Her "discernment ministry" (basically herself) branches out somewhat into other territory, including the Bible version debate.

She writes: "The ecumenical, one world church serves another Jesus and another spirit that is preparing them to serve the World Teacher (the One). It is no coincidence moern versions refer to their Jesus as 'the One' and 'the Coming One'" (Source, emphasis in original). As evidence, she quotes one of those ever-reliable, tertiary source, KJV-only Web sites:

The New Age Movement and the occult are longing for one called the Maitreya . . . In the [sic] "The Great Invocation," a "prayer" highly reverenced among New Agers and chanted to "invoke" the Maitreya, says, [sic] "Let Light and Love and Power and Death, Fulfil the purpose of the Coming One." (Source)

This is in reference to the wording of the NKJV at Luke 17:19-20, which reads:

And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" When the men had come to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'"

The King James Version originally used the phrase, "he that should come" - which is a perfectly adequate rendering of the Greek word erchomai, which means "a person who is coming." Of course, "the Coming One" is also a perfectly adequate rendering.

Jesus replies by citing Isaiah, showing that his coming is the one fortold by the Scriptures themselves. In context - again, happily ignored by KJV-onlyists - it is obvious that this "Coming One" is the Jewish Messiah himself, not some fruity, revered New Age guru. But forget context. It's not important, right? And never mind the everyday meanings of words; we know better than to believe the Bible was written in ordinary language instead of secret code-words known only to KJV-only and "discernment ministry" Gnostics. The NKJV speaks the magic word "Coming One," and so it is a New Age Bible.

Here is another example to show how over-the-top Ruby's arguments become:

[T]he ESV equates Jesus Christ with Antichrist via another TITLE. They do this by using a title of the New Age Christ - the Righteous One" in reference to Jesus Christ. This is no accident. This is a marking - an occult marking. (Source)

She follows this up immediately with:

What's wrong with the term, the Righteous One?

This title is not in the real Bible. It is, however, in this Interfaith (One World Church) poem that I have pasted below. . . .

Know that all the Great spiritual redeemers

of bygone ages were all by the self same cosmic spirit informed,

from Moses to Osiris, from Hermes to Zoroaster

Jesus and Mohammed, all by the One divine, omniscient spirit led.

Known through the ages as the Righteous One,

the nameless and limitless radiance,

the Christ and the Iman Madi,

His influence and light is all of life's reality.

Through the millenia, in many guises has he walked

teaching and healing in perpetual serenity. (Source)

SYNCRETISM is "the attempt to reconcile contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought." That is the goal of the new Bibles. The new Bibles like to use TITLES of the New Age Christ in reference to Jesus Christ. This is necessary conditioning to bring about a One World Church - a "church" that is inclusive of every one's [sic] idea of "Christ." (Source)

Once again, this is a simple matter of accurate translation. "Righteous One" is a valid translation of the Greek word dikaios, an adjective that describes one who is morally upright and obedient to God's laws. The KJV translates this term as "the Just One" frequently when referring to Jesus; it (like the ESV) adds the pronoun "One," rendering the adjective as a noun, for the sake of good English. "Just" and "righteous" are synonymous, so if the KJV can refer to Jesus as the "Just One," then certainly the ESV may call him the "Righteous One."

Think it through. Was Jesus Christ righteous? Of course - perfectly so. Has anyone else been perfectly righteous? Of course not - of all men, Jesus is the only one ever to have been sinless. Therefore, he is quite accurately called "Righteous One." New Age nuts have not "stolen" titles of the Lord Jesus from Christians, except in the imaginations of the more superstitious kind of KJV-onlyist.

What kind of twisted thinking could turn orthodox Christology on its head and argue that Jesus Christ cannot be called the "Righteous One," because that title is reserved for the Antichrist?

Ruby's superstitious attacks on the Bible take an even worse turn, however, one that would undermine traditional Christian terminology, even that used in the KJV itself:

Cyrus I. Scofield, editor of the Scofield Reference Bible (1909, 1917), associated the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ with "at-one-ment," which is an occult term straight out of the New Age Movement. . . .

At-one-ment is New Age/occult "salvation":

At-one-ment, or absorption into the One energy that is God, is a prominently held view of most New Agers' understanding of salvation. It is the unfolding of one's consciousness to the point that the "True Self," the divine nature, is realized. As a flower unfolds petal by petal, so too does spiritual evolution unfold, revealing the deeper realms of God-consciousness. . . .

Cyrus Scofield did not provide the correct meaning of the word, "at-one-ment" nor did he warn his reader that this word has a specific occult connotation. Instead, he set the stage for the insertion of the word, "at-one-ment," in place of the proper word, atonement in a doctrinal statement about the Cross of Jesus Christ. . . . C. I. Scofield's switch to New Age terminology linked the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross with the work of the New Age "Christ," who purposes to bring the planet into what New Agers call at-one-ment: "absorption into the One energy that is God."4

Oooh, spooky!

Here's the problem, though. Scofield - and, for that matter, the New Agers - get the etymology of the word atonement right. It comes from at-one-ment and has been a part of English since at least the early Middle Ages, well before there was any New Age movement to worry about. As some more mainstream theological helps explain:

The meaning of the word is simply at-one-ment, i.e., the state of being at one or being reconciled, so that atonement is reconciliation. Thus it is used to denote the effect which flows from the death of Christ.5

The English word is derived from the phrase "at one," and signifies, etymologically, harmony of relationship or unity of life, etc. It is a rare instance of an [Anglo-Saxon] theological term; and, like all purely English terms employed in theology, takes its meaning, not from its origin, but from theological content of the thinking of the Continental and Latin-speaking Schoolmen who employed such English terms as seemed most nearly to convey to the hearers and readers their ideas. . . .

The basal conception for the Bible doctrine of atonement is the assumption that God and man are ideally one in life and interests, so far as man's true life and interest may be conceived as corresponding with those of God. Hence, it is everywhere assumed that God and man should be in all respects in harmonious relations, "at-one." Such is the ideal picture of Adam and Eve in Eden. Such is the assumption in the parable of the Prodigal Son; man ought to be at home with God, at peace in the Father's house (Luke 15). . . .6

The derivation of atonement is indubitably at-one-ment. Understood in its orthodox Christian context, it is synonymous with reconciliation. Christian theologians have always understood the term to mean men are "at-one" with God in the sense that sin had broken the relationship between them, and it was the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross that healed the breach. However, pagans and unbelievers of all kinds have always "stolen" Christian terminology and redefined it for their own purposes. For certain New Age proponents, "at-one" means not a unity of relationship, but a pantheistic oneness of being with the Divine.

If Ruby were merely warning Christians that unbelievers sometimes co-opted Christian jargon for their own use, there would be no argument. Unfortunately she goes way too far in her reaction. She not merely criticizes New Age abuse of Christian terminology, but she essentially claims it has been completely stolen from the Christian vocabulary. In doing so, she undermines traditional theology and Christology. We need zeal for Christ. We don't need Lisa Ruby's brand of zeal.


1 Ron Rhodes, "The Christ of the New Age Movement," (accessed Jul. 29, 2011).

2 G. A. Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions, 650. (As always, page numbers for NABV refer to screen numbers of a hypertext version that a Pensacola-based KJV-onlyist made available from his BBS for a time in the early 1990s. Anyone wishing to see a more authoritative edition cited is welcome to donate one.)

3 J. Yutaka Amano and Norman L. Geisler, The Infiltration of the New Age (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1989), 142.

4 Lisa Ruby, "Cyrus I. Scofield: 'The Cross . . . Made At-One-Ment," (accessed Jul. 29, 2011).

5 M. G. Easton, "Atonement," Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Thomas Nelson, 1897), (accessed Jul. 29, 2011).

6 William Owen Carver, "Atonement," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Eerdmans, 1915), (accessed Jul. 29, 2011).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quote mining

Quote mining or the fallacy of quoting out of context, occurs when an author selectively quotes a passage, in such a way that he distorts its original meaning to create an authority favourable to his argument.

Quote mining might result in a number of fallacies: straw man arguments, because they can misrepresent an argument the author is opposed to; appeals to authority, because they give the false impression that a secondary source agrees with the author when he may not; or fallacies of accent, since the incorrect emphasis of parts of the passage change its meaning from the intended one.


Back in 2001, on the Bible Versions Discussion Board, Brent Riggs, aka "Mitex," posted the following quotation from C. I. Scofield, the editor of the famed reference Bible:

After mature reflection it was determined to use the Authorized Version. None of the many Revisions [RV, ASV, Darby, Webster, Young's, etc.] have commended themselves to the people at large. The Revised Version, which has now been before the public for twenty-seven years, give no indication of becoming in any general sense the people's Bible of the English speaking world. C.I. Scofield, The Holy Bible, The 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, Preface.

(Source, emphasis in original)

At the time of writing, I was home for Christmas, and my grandfather's 1917 edition of the Scofield Bible was in my parents' library. Turning to the preface, I read:

After mature reflection it was determined to use the Authorized Version. None of the many Revisions have commended themselves to the people at large. The Revised Version, which has now been before the public for twenty-seven years, gives no indication of becoming in any general sense the people's Bible of the English-speaking world. The discovery of the Sinaitic MS. and the labours in the field of textual criticism of such scholars as Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Winer, Alford, and Westcott and Hort, have cleared the Greek textus receptus of minor inaccuracies, while confirming in a remarkable degree the general accuracy of the Authorized Version of the text. Such emendations of the text as scholarship demands have been placed in the margins of this edition, which therefore combines the dignity, the high religious value, the tender associations of the past, the literary beauty and remarkable general accuracy of the Authorized Version, with the results of the best textual scholarship.1

A little context makes a whole lot of difference. Mitex selectively quoted Scofield's introduction in such a way that he suggests Scofield was an advocate of the KJV; he stops short of quoting the next sentence, in which Scofield commends the practice of textual criticism, including the work of favourite KJV-only bogeymen Westcott and Hort! In context, Scofield is saying merely that the KJV is his best choice because of its overwhelming popularity, which newer versions of the time had never matched. Unless Mitex was quoting secondary sources without checking his facts, he couldn't have missed the significance of these words, and must have realized that Scofield is not saying is not what he was suggesting.

Here is a print example, from Sam Gipp's Gipp's Understandable History of the Bible, in a section titled "Westcott's Mariolatry":

Another Roman Catholic doctrine is the adoration of Mary. Here also Dr. Westcott did not let the Roman Catholic Church down, as he reveals in a letter to his fiancee Sarah Louisa Whittard.

"After leaving the monastry, we shaped our course to a little oratory which we discovered on the summit of a neighboring hill . . . Fortunately we found the door open. It is very small, with one kneeling-place, and behind a screen was a 'Pieta' the size of life (i.e., a Virgin and dead Christ) . . . Had I been alone, I could have knelt there for hours."2

Westcott's own words, as presented by Gipp, certainly seem to suggest that Westcott was a devotee of the Virgin Mary. But is that really the case? Here is the entire letter as published in Westcott's Life and Letters. I have put Gipp's citation in boldface, and italicized a certain portion of it myself:


2nd Sunday after Epiphany, 1847.

My dearest Mary - As I fancy that we shall go out to-morrow, I will begin my note now without a longer preface. Yesterday we had a splendid walk to the monastery, going the same road as you went in summer; but now all the trees and hedges are covered with a delicate white frost, and the craggy rocks seemed gigantic in the mist, and all the country looked more lovely and wild and un-British than I have ever before seen it. We went into the chapel, but I cannot say that I was so much pleased with it as before, and the reason was that I did not hear the solemn chant of those unearthly voices which seem clearly to speak of watchings and fastings, and habits of endurance and self-control which would be invaluable if society could reap their fruits; as it was, the excessive finery and meanness of the ornaments seemed ill to suit the spiritual worship which we are told should mark the true church. After this we went round the cloisters and into the Refectory, but I felt less than ever to admire their selfish life. After leaving the monastery we shaped our course to a little oratory which we discovered on the summit of a neighbouring hill, and by a little scrambling we reached it. Fortunately, we found the door open. It is very small , with one kneeling-place; and behind a screen was a "Piéta" the size of life. The sculpture was painted, and such a group in such a place and at such a time was deeply impressive. I could not help thinking on the fallen grandeur of the Romish Church, or her zeal even in error, on her earnestness and self-devotion, which we might, with nobler views and a purer end, strive to imitate. Had I been alone I could have knelt there for hours. On leaving, we followed a path across beautiful rocks fringed by firs loaded with hoar-frost, and, passing by many a little deepening glen, came to the road, above which stood a large crucifix. I wish it had been a cross. I wish earnestly we had not suffered superstition to have brought that infamy on the emblem of our religion which persecution never could affix to it. But I am afraid the wish is vain.

I thought I had spoken to you of the fearful distress in Ireland (and in parts of Scotland too). I am sure you will feel as I do. I have very little money to spare, but if there is any collection I wish you would give five shillings for me, and I will pay you when I return; and let us not only think of the temporal wants of our unfortunate sister isle, but also of her spiritual degradation, which is, I am sure, closely connected with its present miseries. . . .3

Again, seeing Westcott's words in their original context makes all the difference. Whereas Gipp would have us believe that Westcott was secretly loyal to the Roman church and a devotee of the Virgin Mary, Westcott is actually strongly criticl of the "spiritual degradation" in the "Romish church," calling its traditions "superstition." Gipp suggests that Westcott knelt in front of the Piéta out of devotion to Mary, but Westcott himself says that he was driven to prayer by contemplating the errors of the Romanists. He further discusses the current "distress in Ireland" (the potato famine then under way) and links it to the "spiritual degredation" of the Irish Catholics. Are these the sentiments of a devoted Roman Catholic?

This raises a question: why has Gipp tried to make Westcott say practically the opposite of what he obviously meant? Unless Gipp was himself working from a secondary source that misquoted the letter, he cannot claim ignorance: he couldn't have read the letter without seeing the parts he omitted. Unfortunately, it looks like Gipp is being deliberately dishonest in an attempt to discredit Bishop Westcott, and thus also discredit modern Bible versions based on Westcott and Hort's Greek text.


Research is your friend. Go to the source, find a fuller quotation of the same material, and provide enough context to represent the original's point accurately.


1 C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford UP, 1917) i-ii (emphasis added).

2 Samuel C. Gipp, Gipp's Understandable History of the Bible (Miamitown, OH: DayStar, 1987), (accessed July 21, 2011).

3Arthur Westcott, ed., Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1903) 80-81.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Proof by "Monkey See, Monkey Do"

This is one of my favourite "goofy proofs" for KJV-onlyism (probably second only to proof by time travel) because you see it fairly often, and it's almost always a source of fine unintentional comedy.

Proof by "monkey see, monkey do" occurs when a KJV-onlyist attempts to turn the tables on his opponent: substituting "KJV" for a key term in the original argument, he throws it back at him, then leans back and waits for him to go completely to pieces at such a clever retort. Unfortunately, rather like a trained monkey, the KJV-onlyist usually didn't understand the nature or purpose of the argument being made, so these would-be show-stoppers usually end up being unintentionally hilarious.

Here's one of my favourite examples of "monkey see, monkey do." Several years ago on the BaptistBoard, a poster named "Swordsman" began a thread titled "Is the KJV of God or man?" He remarked, "I thought that this question should get to the root of the version issue." More recently, on the Bible Versions Discussion Board, another Riplingerite KJV-onlyist named Keith Whitlock pulled this classic out of his hat as well.

It's easy to see where it comes from. The question alludes to the one Jesus posed to the priests in Matt. 21:25, when they challenged his authority:

And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? (Matt. 21:23-25 KJV)

The priests talk amongst themselves, and realize that Jesus' question has trapped them:

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. (25-27 KJV)

Jesus had impaled the priests on the horns of a dilemma, and they knew it. Either alternative forced them to admit that John the Baptist carried a lot more authority than they did, and they didn't want to acknowledge it.

"Aha," thinks the KJV monkey-boy. "All I have to do is take out 'the baptism of John' and replace it with 'the King James Bible'! Then I've got those godless Bible correctors over a barrel for sure!" The only problem is: Jesus had the priests trapped because his question exposed an inconsistency in their thinking. But the question doesn't make that dilemma; it only works if there is a dilemma to be exposed.

Non-KJV-onlyists stand to lose nothing here. The KJV came from God: it is a faithful and accurate translation of the God-breathed Scriptures. The KJV also came from men, because translation is a human work, and because the quality of the translation sometimes shows up the limitations and fallibility of human knowledge where the Scriptures are concerned.

You can't just slap a "KJV" into a good argument and automatically expect to get another good argument. You have to understand the context of the original argument, and how it may or may not apply to the current issue. Unfortunately, as we see all too many times, KJV-onlyism and context are rarely on speaking terms.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I can be a very stubborn person sometimes. I'm sure many people who know me can attest to this, when it comes to arguing a particular point. I appreciate viewpoints that are succinct, and conversely have little tolerance for arguments that wander down endless rabbit trails - and little patience for those whom I feel are missing (or avoiding) the point. I want people to be concise, I want them to focus, and I'm not afraid to say so. "Answer the question" is often repeated on many forums. I'm stubborn that way.

But I am not stubborn in this way, I hope: the bullheaded refusal to accept facts that militate against a position I hold. I would like to think I am intellectually honest enough to change my opinion when it is clear it has become untenable in light of the facts. Unfortunately, this is not so for everyone.

By doggedness, I mean the stubborn refusal to accept what everyone else considers to be adequately proven. We could also call this "pigheadedness." When you can actually imagine your opponent saying, "Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up," then he is being dogged.


A good example of contemporary doggedness comes from flat-earthers, geocentrists, and other proponents of alternative cosmologies. The Earth is a giant spheroid; that has been obvious since Eratosthenes devised a method to measure its circumference in the third century BC. It's an observable fact and an empirically testable one. When NASA engineers send probes to Mars, their calculations assume a heliocentric (i.e. sun-centred) solar system. The space agency's occasional failures are not attributable to a flawed cosmology! Nonetheless, flat-earthers, geocentrists and the like refuse to accept what everyone else believes has been pretty well established for centuries. Some groups, such as the Association for Biblical Astronomy, claim this is the biblical understanding of the universe - as though humanity's biblical significance depends on where we are, rather than who we are in relationship to the One who fashioned us and put us there.

I see a similar stubborn streak in many KJV-onlyists, particularly those who lend a lot of credence to the claims of Gail Riplinger. Her first book on the subject, New Age Bible Versions (NABV), purports to expose a conspiracy to corrupt the Bible with New Age thought. However, it doesn't take very long at all for a careful fact-checker to discover that the whole argument is a house of cards, built with half-truths, faulty generalizations, circular reasoning, out-of-context quotations, character assassination, and just plain dishonesty. NABV is, in short, a 690-page intellectual fraud. A comprehensive review of Riplinger's misrepresentations would be a book in itself. Even other KJV-onlyists, such as Daivd Cloud and D. A. Waite, have remarked on Riplinger's deceit.

But in the 18-odd years since NABV was first published, I can't count the number of times some KJV-onlyist has said something to me along the lines of, "Yeah, but never mind all that. You people focus way to much on the details of what Mrs. Riplinger has said about whom. Look at the bigger picture, and you have to admit that she has exposed a clear pattern of New Age influence and/or corruption in the modern Bible versions."

Well, actually, I don't have to admit anything of the sort. A conclusion is only as good as the premises that support it. Pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf talks about a debating tactic he calls "raising the roof." Just as a roof needs walls, an assertion needs good evidence to support it. If an opponent makes an assertion, you are entitled to demand evidence for it. If the evidence does not support the conclusion, then it comes crashing down. Riplinger's smorgasbord of sophistry does not support her conclusion that there is a New Age conspiracy against the Bible.

Riplinger's supporters are dogged: they agree with her conclusions not because of the evidence but in spite of the evidence. Once the flimsy, paper-thin walls of misrepresentation are kicked down, they expect the roof to magically float over their heads.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Special pleading

Special pleading is an informal fallacy, in which the author attempts to exempt his own arguments from standards to which he holds his opponents. This may take various forms: for example, appealing to some irrelevant difference between his own arguments and his opponent's, or dismissing arguments or evidence that weakens his case.


In recent months and years, radio preacher Harold Camping predicted Judgment Day on May 21, 2011. He claimed that the day would be marked by massive earthquakes and millions of deaths: "the Bible guarantees it," he said. Of course, nothing happened, and we're still here. On May 23, Camping held a press conference, claiming that Judgment Day did happen - only it was "spiritual" rather than literal. This is special pleading: Camping ignored all evidence that refuted his original claims (namely, that nothing actually happened on May 21, 2011) and reinterpreted the evidence to maintain that he was right all along.

Perhaps a corporation has a by-law stating that no one who has been bankrupt is eligible to sit on its board of directors. It is discovered that one would-be board member has been bankrupt. "But that was years ago," he replies. This is special pleading because the rule forbids anyone who has been bankrupt from sitting; the time since the bankruptcy happened is not a mitigating circumstance.

Of course, not every exemption from the general rule is fallacious. We recognize, for example, that it is necessary sometimes for emergency vehicles to break traffic laws. There is a relevant difference between everyday motorists and ambulance drivers: the latter may be rushing to save a life. Self-defense is a valid legal defense against a charge of murder, because the law recognizes that lethal force might sometimes be necessary to defend oneself from an attack.

On the Fighting Fundamental Forums, KJV-onlyist "OneBook" has been attempting for several months to discredit the English Standard Version (ESV) by noting similarities between it and the New World Translation (NWT) of the Jehovah's Witnesses. For example:

Does altering the word of God matter? Is it good to ignore red flags? Have you ever seen so much commonality between the ESV and the NWT? A good question at this point would be did the NWT come first or the ESV? Who was copying who? What was lost in the change?

ESV – Romans 5:11

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

NWT – Romans 5:11

And not only that, but we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

KJV – Romans 5:11

And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

[Source; emphasis in original]

This is a textbook case of guilt by association: taking a superficial similarity and using it to draw a connection between two otherwise unrelated things. We can note three things about this argument: First, that just because a particular rendering is to be found in the NWT does not automatically make it wrong; second, that "reconciliation" and "atonement" are synonyms, and thus OneBook is drawing a distinction without a difference; and third, the rendering "reconciliation" dates back to the Revised Version of 1885, as well as the Revised Standard Version of 1952 - which predates the NWT by a decade, and of which the ESV is a revision. In other words, for the ESV to be connected to the NWT, someone would require a time machine.

However, frequently the wording of the KJV agrees with the NWT as well. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right? Not according to OneBook:

John 3:1 in the ESV, NWT, and the KJV read basically the same. What does this prove? It simply proves even corrupt translations like the NWT and the ESV can sometimes get it correct and match the AV1611.


In other words, when the ESV resembles the NWT, it's because the ESV is wrong. When the KJV resembles the NWT, well, that's different - sometimes the NWT gets it right. Ignore the incriminating evidence! Full steam ahead!


Point out the double standard, and restate the counter-argument that incriminates the sophist's own arguments.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fallacy of Equivocation

An author commits the fallacy of equivocation when he uses two or more definitions of a word interchangeably, as though they were identical.

In syllogistic logic, the equivalent fallacy would be the fallacy of four terms.


Puns work because they are deliberate uses of equivocation. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, Romeo's flippant friend Mercutio is mortally wounded by his enemy Tybalt. Mercutio remarks that "to-morrow . . . you shall find me a grave man" (III.i.97-98). Grave means either "serious" (in contrast to Mercutio's usual levity) or "burial plot" (because Mercutio will soon be dead).

Fallacious equivocation, however, is usually much more subtle, and obviously more dangerous than innocent wordplay. Years ago, on the moribund KJB Vs The Modern Version group on Yahoo, I made a remark to one particularly short-fused KJV-onlyist named George Calvas about believing in "the actual God of the actual Bible," or words to that effect. In response, poster "warrior_of_the_sword" asked: "And that would be WHICH BIBLE according to you?" To this, I answered that I was unaware of there being more than one.

This is a subtle example of the fallacy of equivocation. When I referred to the Bible, I meant the literary work known as "the Bible": the anthology of Jewish and Christian works comprising the 66 books from Genesis to Revelation. However, when "warrior" asked me "WHICH BIBLE" I meant, he used the term to mean a particular edition, translation, or version of that literary work. Put another way, my use of "Bible" was universal; his was particular.

Here's another one. KJV-onlyist author Timothy S. Morton has an online book titled Which Translation Should You Trust? A Defense of the Authorized King James Version of 1611. In a section named "Are Translations Inferior?" he attempts to argue that a translation can be superior to its source text by appealing to the Bible:

Another fact concerning translations is that in the three verses the word "translate" (or forms of it) is found in the Bible, the object translated is BETTER than it was to start with! . . . The first verse is 2 Samuel 3:10. There, the kingdom is to be "translated" from the house of Saul to David. When one reads the context of this passage, and of the reign of David after, he finds the kingdom becomes better than it was in its original state! . . . The second translation is found in Colossians 1:13. The translation here is the conversion of a lost sinner to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. No Christian can say this is not a translation for the better! The last mention is in Hebrews 11:5 where Enoch is spoken of as being "translated." Again, no believer in his right mind can say a person would not be better off to bypass death and go directly to Heaven. . . .

As mentioned before, we agree that no translation can be "word-perfect" with the original, but this in no way means, as scholars assume, that a translation is of a lesser quality. It could just as easily be (as we have just seen) BETTER in quality than the original! The word of God does NOT lose its purity and authority by being translated.1

Here's the problem. In the English of the KJV, the word "translate" is synonymous with the word "transfer." In 2 Sam. 3:10, the "translation" is a transfer of power: Saul's kingdom was given to David. In Col. 1:13, it is a transfer of citizenship: from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son. Finally, in Heb. 11:5 it is a transfer of location: Enoch was removed from the earth and brought, body and soul, into heaven.

In no case in the KJV does the word translate mean, for example, to render a text or speech of one language into another language. When the Bible referred to that kind of "translation," the KJV translators used a form of the word interpret (see, for example, Matt. 1:23 and John 1:41). To say that since Enoch was "translated" to a better place, therefore the KJV as a translation is superior to the texts it was translated from, is an equivocation, and therefore sophistry.


Show how your opponent has redefined a term. Demand that he defines how he is using that term, and make sure he commits to that defition. If he wavers between meanings, call him on it.


1 Timothy S. Morton, "Which Translation...II,", (accessed January 5 2010).

Friday, December 31, 2010

Luke 2:33

Today I'm starting a new category on this blog: "inept exegesis." I'll be using this category to discuss the legion of biblical passages that are abused by KJV-only advocates to prove that modern versions are corrupted and guilty of teaching false doctrine. (Sometime in the future I'll be starting a related category, "eisegesis," to cover texts abused in the KJV to prove that KJV-onlyism is actually taught in the Bible.)

Given that it's the season between Christmas and New Year's Day, it seems fitting to start a new topic with something seasonally appropriate.

Some KJV-onlyists like to argue that modern Bible versions deny, or at least cast in doubt, the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. The proof-text for this shocking revelation is Luke 2:33. Contrast the readings of the KJV and NASB:

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. (KJV, emphasis added)

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. (NASB, emphasis added)

"There, you see?" they say. "modern Bibles call Joseph his 'father,' but the KJV simply calls him 'Joseph.' The modern versions are slyly trying to suggest that Jesus' real father was Joseph, but the KJV says no such thing and preserves both the virgin birth and the deity of Christ." Or, as the KJV-only site Scion of Zion writes,

The effect of changing “Joseph” to “father” will teach that Jesus had an earthly father which completely voids the cardinal doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ. If Joseph was the earthly father of the Lord Jesus, then He would have had to inherit the sin nature which was passed down from Adam. . . . By removing verses which support the virgin birth, it brings Jesus down to the level of just a human being. If Jesus was born with a sin nature, then He was an unqualified candidate for atonement for the sins of His people and therefore we Christians are still in our sins.1

The site further accuses the Gnostics of corrupting the text here (without any evidence, as is the custom with such claims).

Shocking! But not so fast.

As further biblical proofs for the superiority of the KJV (and, conversely, he corruption of the modern versions) get posted, you'll see that I continually harp on a partcular word, over and over again. That word? Context! The Bible is a very large book - three-quarters of a million words - and thus pulling little bits of it out of context can make it say nearly anything. By focusing on this particular turn of phrase, the KJV-onlyists ignore context and thus ignore the bigger picture of the Gospel narrative. They are frequently incapable, it seems, of seeing the forest for the trees.

The context of Luke 2:33, of course, is the greater section of Luke's Gospel that it is part of. Turn back only a page or two, and read Luke 1:26-38:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (NASB, emphasis added)

In this excerpt, Mary is called a virgin three times (vv. 27, 34). Also, the miraculous nature of this birth is mentioned twice more: once in v. 35, where the angel tells Mary that Jesus' conception was by the Holy Spirit rather than a man, and again in v. 36, where Mary's pregnancy is compared with that of Elizabeth, in that both were supernaturally caused.

A little later in the Gospel, LUke records Jesus' genealogy, which he begins, "When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph. . . ." (LUke 3:23 NASB, emphasis added). Why would the author say that Joseph was supposed to be the father of Jesus, unless, in fact, he wasn't?

Finally, Matthew records the intent of Joseph to break his engagement upon discovering that his betrothed was already pregnant, and the angelic reassurance that her child was, in fact, divinely conceived. So Joseph "kept her a virgin" until Jesus had been born (Matt. 1:18-25 NASB).

This argument against the modern versions only works by isolating a single phrase from its greater literary context, thus giving the illusion that it says something other than it does. Worse, it insults the intelligence of readers, by implying that they cannot remember the miraculous story the had read only a few moments earlier!

There isn't a word in the English language for "husband of the mother of a supernaturally conceived child." So call Joseph Jesus' adoptive father, foster father, stepfather, or what you will. Joseph raised Jesus, loved him, cared for him, provided for him, and taught him a trade. He was popularly assumed to be Jesus' father. Aside from biology, Joseph was Jesus' father in any meaningful sense. There's no reason the Bible - having already clearly established the facts of Jesus' birth - shouldn't call him that as well.

Turning the tables

My last argument is a tu quoques. If it's a Bad Thing to call Joseph Jesus' father, then how will the KJV-onlyist deal with these verses in the KJV?

Now his parents< went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. (Luke 1:41 KJV, emphasis added)

"Parents" is a literal translation of the word Luke used, under inspiration, for Jesus' adult guardians. What is a parent? A father or mother. If the "perfect" KJV calls Mary and Joseph Jesus' "parents," and Joseph is not Jesus' father, then is the KJV saying that Jesus had two mothers?

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. (Luke 1:48 KJV, emphasis added)

Well, there you have it. According to the KJV, even Mary herself regarded Joseph as Jesus' father. I have heard some KJV-onlyists claim that when Jesus replied, he "corrected" her on this point. I find this counter-argument completely specious. Remember what I said earlier about KJV-onlyism insulting people's intelligence. Here they insult not merely a random Bible reader, but the very mother of Jesus! Did she forget who the father was? Were an angelic visitor and a miraculous baby something that would easily slip her mind? On the contrary, we're told that Mary was a thoughtful woman who contemplated these significant events in her heart (Luke 2:19,51).

Mary wasn't making a mistake when she called Joseph Jesus' "father," simply because she wasn't talking about his genetic heritage. And when modern Bible versions call Joseph Jesus' father, neither are they.


1"Luke 2:33," Scion of Zion, (accessed December 31, 2010).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Proof by Time Travel

A few years ago, I started collecting a form of argument I called "Goofy Proofs": arguments that might "preach well" in the amen corner of a KJV-onlyist church, where you might find it repeated ad nauseam, but so obviously fragile that it falls apart at the slightest touch of critical examination. These are so plain silly, that they don't even rise to the level of logical fallacy.

Every once in a a while, a KJV-onlyist will advance an argument in favour of the KJV that is so obviously anachronistic, it would require time travel technology to work. Clearly the KJV translators, the apostle Paul, or the ancient Jews knew how to build time machines. The KJV-onlyists certainly do, as arguments like these prove, and the cheapskates aren't sharing this wonderful secret with the rest of us.

A common argument amongst KJV-onlyists, especially those in the Peter Ruckman camp, is that there was no such thing as a pre-Christian Septuagint. The Septuagint (or LXX) is the traditional Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that were in use by Greek-speaking Jews at the time of Christ (and subsequently by Christians). The name comes from the tradition that it was translated by 72 Jewish scholars (rounded to 70) at the request of Ptolemy II, who wanted to include it in the Library of Alexandria. It is generally believed today that there was not one single Greek Old Testament, but multiple translation traditions. Nonetheless, the early Christians made heavy use of the Greek Scriptures: the majority of Old Testament citations in the New Testament are taken from the LXX. It's fairly easy to see why the Ruckmanites would want to discredit it: if even Jesus and the Apostles quoted authoritatively from a flawed translation of the Scriptures and considered it the Word of God, it undermines their most basic assumption, that a corrupt translation cannot be considered the Word of God.

In The Bible Answer Book, Samuel C. Gipp writes:

First, let's define what the LXX is supposed to be. An ancient document called "The Letter of Aristeas" revealed a plan to make an OFFICIAL translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in Greek. This translation was to be accepted as the official Bible of the Jews and was to replace the Hebrew Bible. Supposedly this translation work would be performed by 72 Jewish scholars (?), six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The supposed location of the work was to be Alexandria, Egypt. The alleged date of translation was supposedly around 250 BC, during the 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament in 397 BC and the birth of Christ in approximately 4 BC (due to a four year error in the calendar). . . .

This so called "Letter of Aristeas" is the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document. There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it. Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work being contemplated or performed.

When pressed to produce hard evidence of the existence of such a document, scholars quickly point to Origen's Hexapla written around 200 AD, or approximately 450 years later than the LXX was supposedly penned, and more than 100 years after the New Testament was completed. The second column of Origen's Hexapla contains his own (hardly 72 Jewish scholars) Greek translation of the Old Testament including spurious books such as "Bel and the Dragon", "Judith" and "Tobit" and other apocryphal books accepted as authoritative only by the Roman Catholic Church.1 (emphasis in original)

Basically, what Gipp argues is this: The only evidence for a pre-Christian LXX is a spurious, pseudepigraphal letter describing its origins, and the earliest extant copies of the LXX date from 4-500 years later. Therefore, the Septuagint, instead of being a third-century-BC Greek Jewish translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, is a third-century-AD Greek Christian translation of the Hebrew Old Testament being passed off as a third-century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Ha. Busted!

Or, maybe not. Here's the problem: It is believed that the Letter of Aristeas was written by a Hellenized Jew, to defend the superiority of the LXX over other Greek versions, during the second century BC. But if the LXX didn't exist until the third century AD, then why would anyone write a pre-Christian letter describing its origin? Clearly, pseudo-Aristeas had a time machine, which he used to travel to the future and read Origen's Hexapla.

But Gipp has an answer:

There is little doubt amongst scholars today that it was not written by anyone named Aristeas. In fact, some believe its true author is Philo. This would give it an A.D. date. If this were true, then its REAL intention would be to deceive believers into thinking that Origen's second column is a copy of the LXX. A feat that it has apparently accomplished "in spades".

Philo's real feat is being familiar with Origen's works. He was an Alexandrian Jew who died around AD 50. Origen also lived in Alexandria, but 200 years later. Apparently, it was Philo who had the time machine.

"Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D" (as he styles himself virtually everywhere) is, not surprisingly, a "graduate" of Peter Ruckman's Pensacola Bible Institute. If this kind of sloppy research is typical of PBI alumni, I wouldn't be as hasty to flaunt his academic "credentials."


1 Samuel C. Gipp, The Answer Book (Miamitown, OH: DayStar, 1989), (accessed December 8, 2010).