CTBHHM: What is a “help meet”? (In the KJV)

Created To Be His Help Meet, p. 24

Debi finishes this her first chapter with a memo on the background of the word “help meet.” I sort of feel like this should have come earlier, given that most people I’ve mentioned the book to find the term odd.

The word help meet appears in the KJB just two times – Gen. 2:18 and 20. However, it is the translation of one word – ayzer – which is found 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. Other than being translated “help meet” two times, it is translated just plain “help” 19 times. The Hebrew word studies tell us that it means to succor or one who helps. My proofreader kept trying to get me to join the two words with a hyphen (help-meet), which is commonly done. but throughout this book I have written it just as it appears in the Word of God – two separate words (help meet), which is to say Eve was created to be a helper (noun) who was meet (adjective), suited to Adam’s words.

For an eploration of the meaning of the Hebrew words in Genesis 2:18 and 20, start here and here. I’m going to focus instead on Michael and Debi Pearl adherence to the King James Only movement (see this and this). Michael and Debi Pearl believe that the King James version of the Bible is the divinely inspired English translation, and all of the other English translations are fatally flawed and should not be used. In fact, it’s curious that Debi refers to the Hebrew at all. Regardless, this adherence to the King James Version of the Bible explains why she continues to use the term “help meet” even though most English Bibles today translate it “suitable helper.”

As I was digging around for information on the Pearls’ views on the King James Bible, I found an extremely pertinent article by Michael Pearl on the topic. In this article we learn a lot more about Michael’s Bible college education and the evolution of his views of the Bible.

I graduated from an independent Bible College with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Bible and theology…

Now we know that Michael’s Bible college education was indeed a full four years, a bachelor’s degree (though remember that the college was not accredited), and that he did, like I inferred earlier, major in Bible and theology.

When I was a young man, my pastor had often emphasized the passage, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s what I wanted to be, taught in correct doctrine and furnished unto good works. The inspired Scripture was the avenue.

As a young preacher, I would hold up a King James Bible and confidently say, “This is God’s Word, perfect and infallible.”

And here begins the classical narrative repeated so many times by fundamentalists and evangelicals. They started out believing the Bible was the inspired word of God, and then they went off to college, to Bible college no less, to have their faith shaken by the very “intellectuals” who were supposed to be strengthening and enriching it. It seems to me that these evangelicals and fundamentalists take one of three paths: they leave religion entirely, move to a more liberal Christian tradition, or they simply reject all of that “intellectual” knowledge as a conspiracy.

The independent evangelical Bible College I attended advertised that it boldly stood for the “plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.” Plenary means “full and complete and not limited in any way,” and verbal, means “every single word was inspired, with none added and none missing.” But in my very first college class, I was informed that the King James Bible was poorly translated. Therefore, in class we would use a “better” translation—the American Standard Version, along with several others when the ASV didn’t say what the professors wanted it to say. I asked, “What about ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable…’?” They quickly pointed out that the KJV was in error there also. The ASV reads, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching…,” implying that not all Scripture is inspired of God.” Only that which is inspired is profitable for doctrine. So, my next question to my teachers was, “Which Scripture is inspired of God; which one can I read and know it is the words of God with no mixture of the words of men? Is the ASV the real Word of God?” Their answer: “No, it is not Scripture inspired of God either; no English translation is. Only the original languages were inspired of God.” That presented a difficulty, but not for long, for I started out my first semester taking Greek. So I would just learn Greek, and then I would be able to actually read the Scripture that is inspired of God and is profitable for establishing doctrine.

Michael did study Greek. I wasn’t sure, since I’m not sure whether every fundamentalist Bible college teaches Greek and Hebrew or not. Note that I use the term “fundamentalist.” Michael calls the college he attended “evangelical,” thus attesting to how the term “fundamentalist” has fallen in reputation even among those most would consider fundamentalists. Most today consider the term “evangelical,” which they consider more positive in tone.

It felt good, knowing that I would be able to uncover the riches of the original language. Daily in our classes the professors corrected the KJ Bible with “the Greek.” But they corrected the other many translations as well, pointing out the poor qualities of each. I kept wondering why someone didn’t just make a translation that was correct and then let it alone so we could learn from it. But, several new translations came onto the market during my four years in college. There are over 200 of them now. Very quickly, I lost faith in the prospect of reading any English Bible and believing it to be the plenary, verbally inspired, written Word of God.

So there I was, a young preacher with his faith in the old book momentarily shattered. But, I had a new hope of once again recovering that sweet ground of assurance and trust where I could actually sit down and read God’s Word, believing all that I read without having to approach the text critically.

I jumped into my Greek studies with a zest, and in a few weeks of Greek grammar and memorizing the definitions of Greek words, we were actually “reading” from our 25th edition of the Aland Greek New Testament. And then it hit me. I was not reading an “inspired” Greek text any more than when I read another English translation. Every definition, every phrase, every noun and every verb were defined for me by one man—the man who compiled our Greek grammar. With a shock, I realized that after 20 years of Greek study, I would still be relying on definitions found in some book written by other men. In time, I would have enough information catalogued to be somewhat “original” in my scholarly opinions, but I would still just be one man with an opinion, colored by the school of thought in which I was raised.

The Bible was no longer a book I held in my hand. It could only be accessed by jumping through the many hoops of Greek word studies, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, commentaries, and theology books. I was uncomfortable quoting any passage of Scripture and saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” “Thus saith A.T. Robertson” was more like it. So, my final authority was no longer the Bible I could confidently convey to the congregation and tell them to go home and study it, believing every word in it. My final authority for the moment was a select group of Greek scholars—the ones I chose to believe over the others. The differences in the “bibles” they were publishing testified to their inability to agree on the meaning of the “original Greek.” But somehow, I knew that there would come a time when I would not have to trust them in determining what the words of God were; I would become informed enough to trust no one but myself—and the leading of the Holy Spirit, of course. (I fully expect you to detect the subtle note of cynicism and sarcasm.)

Many of my young preacher friends, who were members of my home church and went off to other Bible Colleges at the same time I did, were more disturbed than I. One of them became a Sodomite, one an atheist, and one an agnostic. One, who was already pastoring a Southern Baptist Church, divorced his young wife and quit the ministry before he even finished Bible College. Out of seven of us who started in the ministry, only two survived the four years still “in the faith”.

I graduated with less faith in the Bible than when I started. With no more classes to attend, and less time spent traveling, I found time to investigate the Bible for myself. At first I tried the study method that I had learned in college. When I came to a difficult passage, I opened all the commentaries to see what they said. They differed greatly. I also went through a stack of different English translations, finding that they differed as much as the denominations differ in their understanding. I then got out my Greek and Hebrew lexicons and word studies to see if they would shed any light. More confusion. The Greek scholars disagree significantly. How was I to be so bold as to know which one to believe and which ones to reject?

Again, this is the classic trajectory. Realizing the problems of Bible translation, Michael jumped into studying Greek and Hebrew with zeal, excited with the prospect of reading the Bible in its original languages, only to become disillusioned with this approach as well. And as Michael himself points out, not all theology students make it though this with their faith intact. Some throw up their hands, their simple belief in Biblical inerrancy shattered by the complexity and complicated nature they find when delving into it.

Then someone gave me a book called, Which Bible, by David Fuller. I was blown away. I acquired a dozen other works on the same subject, by John Burgon, Wilson, Dr. Peter Ruckman, and others. Why didn’t they tell me this in Bible College? Surely they weren’t ignorant of it. Did they intend to deceive me? The Greek Bible that I was using was not the original Bible. It was created—manufactured—less than 100 years earlier by two unbelieving infidels and pawned off on the Church as authentic. It is just one of 24 different Greek texts. Furthermore, it is not even the same Greek text from which the King James Bible was translated. To correct the KJ based on this new text was like trying to update a 1935 Ford according to the pattern of a 1965 Volkswagen. Somebody was fooling somebody. There was a real conspiracy to deprive me of the words of God and replace them with the words and opinions of men. I discovered that this modern Greek text differed from the traditional text of the King James Bible in over 6,000 places.

This corrupt text is the standard Greek text of nearly every Bible College in America, and the basis of all late 19th, 20th and 21st century English translations. In other words, the ASV and the New International Version, and 200 other translations are not based on the same Greek text as is the King James. The reason that a 90-year-old text could be in its 26th edition is because the owner of it changes it every few years. Between the 26th and 27th editions there were over 600 changes. When you hear a preacher say, “The original Greek text says…”, you must ask him “Which Greek text? There are 24 of them. Which edition?” Here today, gone tomorrow. They are standing in the pulpit and correcting your English Bible based on a Greek text that changes every few years. Where is the standard? Where is God’s Word? Where is the jot and tittle that will not pass away? Was God mistaken about preserving his word forever? Can you hold a book in your hand, any book, any language, and say it is “Scripture inspired of God”?

Here is where Michael starts to go awry. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I am indeed aware that there are different Greek texts of the Old Testament, and I believe also different Hebrew texts. But the conspiracy he speaks of is no conspiracy. I studied Greek under a theologian in high school, and he told me that the King James Bible was translated from what Greek texts the translator had on hand at the time, but that more Greek texts have become available since, both through archaeological finds and through the opening of various monasteries and the increasing internationalization of the scholarly community.

The trouble was that these texts didn’t always match perfectly, and indeed had many discrepancies. Those “unbelieving infidels” Michael refers to were simply scholars trying to piece together the most authentic of all of the Greek texts available to get the closest to the original. And yes, they used scholarly methods rather than simply relying on divine inspiration or going with what they wanted the texts to say to determine which texts were most authentic. It’s only natural that today’s Bible translations strive to rely on the most authentic of all of the Greek texts available, and it’s not surprising that those texts are not the same exact ones the translators of the KJV happened to have on hand.

(Again, this is the short version – I’m not a Bible scholar and don’t want to spend several posts hashing this out, which I most certainly could if I wanted to really get into this subject.)

I have a hard time believing in conspiracy theories. But I quote from the 1990 book, The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years. It is the transcript of four scholars speaking at a symposium to their peers. For a moment, they were quite candid. James Sanders, Ph.D., who served on the committee that put out the New Revised Standard Version, and author of many other scholarly works, on pages 70-71 says, “I think it is time for us to stop fooling the people, making them think that there is just one Bible and that our Bible committee got closer to it than their committee did.” But then he goes on to voice his reluctance to do so, because of the impact it would have to tell the truth. He says, “I have been told by some that that would just destroy the Bible, because lay folk still want to think of the Bible as somehow ‘inerrant.’” The greater context makes this look even worse. That was over sixteen years ago, as of this writing, and still they have not told you the truth about what they believe. They don’t want to shatter your misguided faith that the Bible is “somehow inerrant.” They don’t think it is wise to let you know that there are actually two different Greek Bibles, and that all their modern versions are based on a corrupted minority text that has been historically rejected by God’s people down through the ages. The King James Bible is accurate to the text from which it was translated. It is the Word of God to English speaking people. You can believe every word in it without resorting to anyone’s opinion about the validity of the text. On that ground, you can read and study your Bible and learn from it.

Michael seems to think these are some sort of “gotcha” quotes. Let’s look at exactly what he quotes the scholars as saying:

“I think it is time for us to stop fooling the people, making them think that there is just one Bible and that our Bible committee got closer to it than their committee did.”

“I have been told by some that that would just destroy the Bible, because lay folk still want to think of the Bible as somehow ‘inerrant.’”

Now what is Michael’s interpretation of these statements?

They don’t think it is wise to let you know that there are actually two different Greek Bibles, and that all their modern versions are based on a corrupted minority text that has been historically rejected by God’s people down through the ages.

Um, no, that’s not it at all. There aren’t simply “two” Greek Bibles, there are a myriad of Greek texts that each differ from each other in points ranging from irrelevant to theologically important. Scholars who work with these texts try to establish which are most reliable and authoritative. This process is both complicated and brilliant. I know a bit about the process from studying Greek in college and from reading books by scholar Bart Ehrman, and let me tell you, it’s fascinating. What the scholars Michael quotes are saying is that most laypeople think somehow that the Bible they hold in their hands was essentially handed to them by God, and are unaware of all of the vast and complicated process behind it. But Michael’s idea that all modern translations use a “corrupted minority text” is both hogwash and chock full of conspiracy theories (think how many people would have to be in on that, including extremely devout Christians!)

It is absolutely true that understanding the vast and complicated process it took to create the simple Bible text in one’s hands can be challenging to a person’s faith. Some, like Bart Ehrman, do lose their faith through studying it. Others, like James McGrath, don’t. And some of those who learn about all of that complication respond by not actually dealing with it and instead rejecting it entirely.

Note Michael’s conclusion when he is informed that all of that complicated higher criticism of the Bible he encountered in Bible college (and to be honest, I doubt his Bible college did more than scrape the surface of higher criticism) is a vast conspiracy to lead devout and honest simple folk astray:

The King James Bible is accurate to the text from which it was translated. It is the Word of God to English speaking people. You can believe every word in it without resorting to anyone’s opinion about the validity of the text.

This is the heart of the King James Only movement. All other texts, including all the Greek texts, are corrupted, but God has preserved the King James Bible for his people, er, I mean, his English-speaking people. One rationalization I have heard is that just as Greek was the common international tongue of the first century, even so English is the common international tongue today, so it only makes sense that God would preserve an English text as perfectly inerrant for the use of present day Christians.

Note also the anti-intellectualism here. Having been confused by and having had his faith shaken by intellectuals, Michael has concluded that all that intellectualism is actually a conspiracy to erode the faith of good, honest, ordinary Christians. He therefore instructs his readers that they don’t have to listen to anyone’s – meaning, of course, scholars’ – “opinion of the validity of the text.” He has rejected his study of the Greek and Hebrew and concluded that all he needs is a good old fashioned copy of the King James Bible, intellectuals and their highfalutin opinions be damned.

When I discovered the evidence confirming that the King James Bible is indeed accurately translated and is the preserved Scripture inspired of God, Bible study became simple and a pure joy! Just read what it says, and believe it. All you need is a King James Bible without notes, a Strong’s Concordance (hard copy or computer), a Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition or earlier (see panel to the right for more info). You must learn the Bible by learning the 66 individual books. Books are learned by understanding paragraphs. Paragraphs are learned by understanding sentences, and sentences are understood by knowing the meaning of individual words. Very often, doctrines hang on the meaning of a single word. You arrive at the meaning of an individual word by using your concordance to find and read every time that word is used anywhere in the Bible. The Bible will define its own words by the multiple contexts in which it is used. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is just a giant center-column cross-reference. It will lead you to similar passages anywhere in the Bible. This dictionary is a quick reference to the definition of words as they were used in the seventeenth century, when the King James Bible was translated, so you won’t have to worry about “archaic” words.

All you need to understand the Bible is, well, the Bible. Period. Note that the dictionary is not even meant to be used to understand the meaning of words, but rather simply to understand how they were used in the seventeenth century. The meaning of words is to be derived from the context (“You arrive at the meaning of an individual word by using your concordance to find and read every time that word is used elsewhere in the Bible”). What Michael describes here is characteristic of the fundamentalist approach to the Bible. He rejects intellectualism or scholarship and instead suggests that all you need to understand the Bible is the Bible itself. No need to study anything else at all. Ever. No need to even study Greek (no indeed, that might just serve to “confuse” people!).

(As a side note, I’m honestly not sure what Michael sees wrong with the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Maybe it got corrupted too.)

Anyway, to bring this wandering post back around to where it started, all of this explains not only Debi Pearl’s confusing use of the archaic construction “help meet” but also tells us a lot about how Debi approaches the Bible (since, given her beliefs about the role of the wife I’m going to assume that she approaches the Bible in the same way her husband does).

CTBHHM: A Young Wife Should Be "Bored and Lonely"
CTBHHM: Why Was Marian's Husband So Loving?
CTBHHM: Blessings and Vessels
CTBHHM: What "Companionship" Means in Pearl World
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://busterggi@aol.com Bob Jase

    It all boils down to he found the version of the bible he likes best so nonny-nonny-poo-poo to all the others.

    Intellectual Christianity at its finest.

  • Anonymouse

    American fundies are very different from religious people in the rest of the world. Could part of the problem be that most Americans speak just one language? As I was reading Pearl’s words, it kept jumping out at me that this man has *absolutely no idea* how languages are translated.

    Also, how could he possibly miss the political and petty mistranslations King James had inserted into his version of the bible? It’s a very flawed book for many reasons.

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      American fundies are very different from religious people in the rest of the world. Could part of the problem be that most Americans speak just one language?
      That thought has also occurred to me in connection with the KJ-Onlyists. Islam has a similar attitude to its founding text, ie. the Koran was inspired word-for-word, but their solution is to require the devout Muslim to learn classical Arabic so they can read the true word of God (and Islam is just barely starting to face up to the problem of variant texts). It’s typical of the anti-intellectual culture of American fundamentalism to instead just grab the currently dominant English translation of the Bible and baptize it as the One True Word Of God In English.

  • machintelligence

    If you are interested in the flip side to this evolution of belief, I recommend to you a talk by Daniel Dennett entitled the Evolution of Confusion, which is about clergy who have lost their faith in God. Since it is about an hour long, you might want to skip to 17:25 where he talks about attending seminary and being introduced to textual criticism of the bible.
    You will see why Michael Pearl had some difficulties with this class.

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    I’m a bit amazed at his ability to learn a second language and still think that ANY translation is perfect.

  • Cathy W

    One rationalization I have heard is that just as Greek was the common international tongue of the first century, even so English is the common international tongue today, so it only makes sense that God would preserve an English text as perfectly inerrant for the use of present day Christians.

    …maybe so, but wasn’t French the “common international tongue” in 1611? or German? Even Latin still had some traction, I think, but I don’t think English was commonly spoken outside England until they started putting their empire together in the 1700s. So what about the Christians of the day when the KJV was actually put together? Did God just not care about them?

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      Beat me to it. And if God had any foresight, he would have inspired the definitive Mandarin version.

      • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com D Johnston

        You mean the Chinese version, right? Mandarin is a spoken language, not a written one.

        Sorry, pet peeve.

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Oops. I really did know that, too.

  • Christine

    But… if he understands the concept of the language changing how can he reject the need for multiple translations (even with the same source material)? If he understands that reading the Bible isn’t some magic spell that allows you to see the mind of God (which is honestly the only explanation for the anti-Bible knowledge attitude that makes any sense to me), why would you need a dictionary and concordance? And why are later texts valued more highly than early ones? Ok, that last is because God magically said that those must be better (I’m assuming that any changes were corrections then?), but if that’s the case, shouldn’t you be getting the benefit of that magic no matter what, as long as you read it?

    How can you pretend to value something if you refuse all knowledge about it?

    • neadods

      If he understands that reading the Bible isn’t some magic spell that allows you to see the mind of God

      But that seems to be *exactly* what he was looking for. Look at how he goes on and on about how he wanted to have one “perfect” translation that he could “believe” and not have to “approach critically.” He wanted to have someone spoon-feed him The One True Word of God without him being challenged in any way. And now he makes a living out of spoon-feeding his beliefs as The One True Word of God to other people.

      • Christine

        I seem to have said the opposite of what I meant. I’m not sure exactly how I ended up with the phrasing, but I agree – he seems to be wanting the Bible to be a magic way to know God’s will. Why, then, are there other elements to the spell? You know, ones that almost suggest that thinking might be a good idea?

      • Douglas Coulter

        If the KJV is perfect why did it contain the Apocrapha until 1880′s? You can now buy the original KJV Bible from Barnes and Noble in a new reprint.
        There is no such thing as a good translation of any book, there are some great attempts but each one has some flaws and when it comes to poetry these flaws are magnified. Fundies hate metaphor because it is open to the hearers own ideas.

    • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com D Johnston

      KJV-Only isn’t about the translation in terms of linguistic principles. People who buy into it believe that KJV was divinely inspired, meaning it’s the best version regardless of its technical accuracy. That’s why Michael doesn’t even trust the Greek source material – we can’t be sure that it was divinely inspired, so its suspect.

      • Christine

        A lot of things make more sense now. I’ve always wondered how the idea that the stories in the Bible are written for the modern Western audience (rather than for the audience at the time they were written) was justified. This would explain it.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    Okay, if you want to get into the definition of English words ignoring the Greek and Hebrew, English changes, too. The word “meet” was often used by Shakespeare to mean “equal.”

    He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged
    Cupid at the flight; and my uncle’s fool, reading
    the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged
    him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he
    killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath
    he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.
    Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;
    but he’ll be meet with you, I doubt it not.

    In this excerpt from Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato uses the word “meet” to suggest that Benedick will prove Beatrice’s equal in a battle of wits. That this battle will be a fair fight because Benedick and Beatrice will be on equal footing.

    So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen and androgynous individuals. The One and Only Perfect Translation of God’s Inspired Word says that women were created to be equal to men.

    • Rosie

      The best thing the KJV ever did for me was get me acquainted with antique English, so that when I read Shakespeare in high school I could understand him. I’d be sitting in English class grinning at his jokes while the rest of my class just looked confused.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Amelia

      Which is entirely NOT what King James himself would have wanted… Mysoginist that he was. :P

  • neadods

    ” I had a new hope of once again recovering that sweet ground of assurance and trust where I could actually sit down and read God’s Word, believing all that I read without having to approach the text critically.”

    Wow. Just wow. He’s really laying the rejection of history, language, intellectualism, and education baldly out there, isn’t he? I’m not sure which part of that creeps me out more, the fervent wish to “believe all he reads” or that it’s possible to reach an understanding of anything “without having to approach the text critically.”

    It’s the foundational recipe for gullibility and tribalism, and he’s pretty fast to proudly show off that gulliblity too – does he *seriously* think that confusion over biblical translations is what turned his fellow student gay? You have to be pretty darn gullible to not be critical about that statement!

    (To slightly shift topic, there are a couple of books about the King James Version that I recommend for people who want to learn about it as history and literature. The first is God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicholson, which discusses the history of England at the time and the organization of the group that performed the translation. The second is In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture by Alister McGrath, which discusses the language actually used, including how sometimes words that were archaic even then were included and why. These probably won’t come up in discussions of the idolatric worship of the KJV.)

    • Kodie

      It just didn’t make any sense to me that he worked so hard to understand and uncover the true language breathed specifically by god in a language not many people speak. He went to great lengths to read it as it was intended, a version not made as available and definitely not understood at all unless you already know the Greek language. I am always thinking if the bible is to be understood (and I’ve never read it, not most of it), people would just easily understand it, just like you understand a red octagon means “stop”. Of course language can say things as clearly, and be translated so you get the gist, but the translations of the difficult or metaphorical parts will be up to the translators’ understanding. It seems to me in god’s mysterious ways, there would be no difficulty or error or looking up others’ interpretations necessary – just as Pearl had hoped to achieve. The bible could be written entirely in triangles and readers of any language would come away understanding it exactly the same as someone else. There would be like a “bible chip” in the brain just like the so-called morality or soul or god-shaped hole, that understands god’s triangular-coded message.

      The whole idea there is study involved, classes where a teacher tells you what it means, or 4-year courses of study to become some kind of expert and he still gave up and decided to just pick one that gives him the most satisfaction just boggles my mind. If it’s the complete truth, god’s word for everyone, and simultaneously inaccessible to almost everyone, then you know what that means. It means they need church to reinforce them. And church attendance is a good way for a few people pretending to know everything to make some money – also bible colleges.

      If you happen to notice the bible is cryptic and mysterious and hard to get at, you have to think god’s playing a mean trick on all of us at the very least.

      • Nea

        If it’s the complete truth, god’s word for everyone, and simultaneously inaccessible to almost everyone, then you know what that means. It means they need church to reinforce them.

        And books. And conferences. And lectures. All of them reinforcing specific interpre- I mean, pointing out what the Bible plainly means. All of them putting money for that reassurance into the hands of people willing to do what they claim is the intellectual heavy lifting. Ka-ching!

      • ScottInOH

        Kodie writes:

        It seems to me in god’s mysterious ways … The bible could be written entirely in triangles and readers of any language would come away understanding it exactly the same as someone else.

        Nietzsche agrees:

        It was a subtle refinement of God to learn Greek when he wished to write a book – and that he did not learn it better.

  • Karen

    I was most offended at the redundancy of “unbelieving infidel.” I can see how Greek would confuse him since he hasn’t mastered English.

  • Carolyn the Red

    Dumb question – how does it make sense to issue a Bachelor of Science in Bible/Theology?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      To get a Bachelor of Arts you have to have a smattering of classes across several disciplines – this is why all Universities have a required “core curriculum.” I’m guessing that Michael’s Bible college didn’t have that smattering and so didn’t or couldn’t call it a Bachelor of Arts.

      • Carolyn the Red

        Yes, but to get a B.Sc, generally you need to cover a core science curriculum, or at least hit a certain number of other science credits. And generally, most of your credits need to be science-related. That’s part of why I have a B.Math as my undergrad degree – At my school, all I had to take math, and a certain number of “something else” credits with no limits.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Good point. Huh. No idea!

      • lucrezaborgia

        More like Bull Shit

    • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

      Probably because many Bible colleges aren’t accredited and so aren’t held to any academic standards including how they award degrees. They are just a step above diploma mills in credibility of their degree.

    • stardreamer

      At a guess, it’s because his college isn’t accredited and can therefore call degrees anything they wanted, without having to show that they actually include the studies those degrees are supposed to include. The only authority that could stop them is the accreditation agency itself, to which they have not submitted.

  • MM

    Sodomite? So like, he wanted to “know” angels?

  • Uly

    Having seen similar comments about dictionaries, and knowing a bit about linguistic, I can make an educated guess as to his issue with later editions of the dictionary. Spoiler alert: he probably does think they’ve been corrupted by reason and science.

    See, there are two different approaches to the dictionary. There is the prescriptivist approach, which says that there is one right way to speak and the dictionary is supposed to be the final arbiter of the correct way to speak and that lexicographers should not let the way people actually speak slip into the dictionary when it’s just plain wrong; and there is the descriptivist approach, which is actually used by lexicographers, and which says that the correct use of a dictionary is to note which words are used in the language and to let people make their own informed language choices.

    Dictionaries will give usage advice, saying that a word is colloquial or often considered offensive, but they list words, meanings, and usages as people speak instead of omitting the ones they simply don’t like.

    This upsets a number of people no end, because they want to be able to say nonsensical things like “ain’t isn’t in the dictionary, so it’s not a word!!” or “if you look up marriage in a dictionary it is very clear that it only has to do with a man and a woman.” If the dictionary does not agree with them, and it never does, they’ll happily just make things up and hope you’ll never check. Sadly, even if they were correct to state that this or that word or definition isn’t in the dictionary, they’d still be committing a logical fallacy.

    In addition, these same people often feel that modern dictionaries encourage “sloppy pronunciation”, again by showing words as they are said instead of how they might have been said in some prestigious accents several generations ago. Yes, the schwa is evil and will lead to gay marriage, cats and dogs living together, anarchy, and ultimately the downfall of civilization.

    And you can’t ignore the fact that many people simply like old things on principle. It may be obsolete, but if it was good enough for grandma it should be good enough for you. Jesus used 10th edition websters while writing the KJV, so why get fancy?

    How they can reconcile these atttitides with a knowledge that language does change, I don’t understand, especially if they do happen to worship the KJV, but many people do so,

    • Ismenia

      I once had a debate with my aunt along those lines. She was very indignant that a word she didn’t approve of might end up in the dictionary.

    • Don Gwinn

      I’m sorry, but the word “attitudes” is not in any dictionary I can find, so your entire argument fails. It was a valiant attempt, though.


      • Don Gwinn

        DAMNIT! ATTTITIDES! Hoist upon my own petard!

  • C.J. O’Brien

    …just as Greek was the common international tongue of the first century, even so English is the common international tongue today, so it only makes sense that God would preserve an English text as perfectly inerrant for the use of present day Christians.

    Aha, so it follows, then, naturally, that an inerrant text of the Old Testament would be based on the Hellenistic period Greek of the Septuagint, and not on the (Hebrew) Masoretic text, which is in a tiny little minority dialect of West Semitic that never was anything like an international language. No?

  • Penquil

    Remember kids, don’t go to bible college, or it will turn you into a Sodomite.

    • http://findingsnooze.blogspot.com Lina

      As someone who went to bible college and ended up accidentally gay…exactly. ;)

  • http://lanasheartmusings.wordpress.com Lana Hope

    personally I think he’s ignorant on purpose. I also grew up in his teaching too. I think a lot of people blindly follow the Pearls, but I think that many of these leaders fully know there ideas are a stretch but want to believe them anyway.

    • wanderer

      willful ignorance…ah…. he would have gotten along with with Mao and Pol Pot.

  • smrnda

    My brother is a translator so I’ve heard lots of conversations about the difficulty of translating from one language, time or culture to another. It’s a messy process where there’s no absolutely ‘right’ answer since languages are ambiguous and it isn’t like you just swap a word in one with a word in another. You also have a problem of the purpose of translation – if you’re subtitling a movie, you don’t have time to explain the nuances of what was going on ‘in the original’ since you need to render natural sounding dialog as natural sounding dialog in the target language. Scholarly works can afford to go into greater detail.

    Pearl sounds like a typical fundamentalist – he needs a word with answers that are either totally right or totally wrong, so he can quit thinking. He needs one authoritative text since he couldn’t handle knowing that there’s no ‘authorized by the hand of god’ edition of the Bible.

    • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com D Johnston

      Translation is as much art as it is science. People who translate literature often describe themselves as writers, because that’s what they do. The objective is not to give a word-for-word transliteration (which is basically impossible except for very similar languages), but to capture the original meaning in a way that the intended audience will understand. That’s why translations of historical and literary accounts always list the translator – every one of them has a different approach.

      Most people just assume that translation is just a matter of encoding and decoding. That’s clearly what Michael believes, which is why he was so shocked to find multiple Greek versions. It’s hard enough to get people to understand that in the context of a film or a novel, let alone a religious text which is meant to be divinely inspired.

  • Ismenia

    Presumably he therefore believes that badger skins were required in the holy of holies. It’s in the KJV, made me laugh when I read it. Some research revealed a species of badger in the Middle-East, at least in Iraq, but I am told that this is still improbable as it is not a kosher animal and the word in question probably means a type of goat skin.

    • Cassie

      Yes, he would. Because I have heard a ‘sermon’ he gave about how corn (maize) was angels food. Something about how they lived on this planet somewhere, had fields of corn (maize) and a bunch of other really bizarre stuff. Oh and I think that he said manna was corn, since the Bible called manna “corn of heaven” Psalm 78:24 (KJV) Seriously, corn in King James English means all grain, and maize was unknown until the new world was discovered in 1492. Jeez… and I thought he was just a backwoods preacher man, not someone with a BS in Bible and Theology…

      • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

        Hmm… As an English teacher in a non-English speaking country I would be seriously concerned if a student proved such poor reading skills and now we are talking about students about 16 years of age and non-native speakers… A grown native speaker should be able to understand that this word has different meanings and in this context grain is what the text is referring to and not maize… I am almost banging my head against the keyboard right now.

      • Christine

        Actually that one makes some sense – “corn” is used fairly exclusively to mean maize in North America. Just like if you mention “wheat flour” in the UK they assume you mean whole wheat. It’s a difference in the language.

        Not knowing that the KJV was written in a different language is why that approach is stupid, not his assumption that there’s only one meaning for the word.

      • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

        While I agree that corn meaning maize is the main understanding of the word today, basic knowledge of when the text was written make it a clear cut example of when the simplest translation cannot be applied.

        Of course I agree that there are much bigger problems in believing in KJV only and not understanding the process of translation of texts (the bible or any other) but my comment was just to the example in the comment and not that much about the post itself.

      • Christine

        I don’t think that he believes in the idea of context…

  • Alan(UK)

    I presume by, ‘two unbelieving infidels’ he means Westcott & Hort. How he could have got through a a full four year bachelor’s degree course majoring in Bible and theology, especially one based on the American Standard Version and including Greek, without coming across these two gentlemen is a mystery. I suspect that there is less to Michael Pearl than he likes to make out. Why he should want to use an American dictionary to understand an English book is yet another mystery. The KJV and British settlement date from about the same time – American English just did not exist.

    Of course, all his ‘problems’ simply disappear when you stop the struggle called ‘belief’.

  • Noelle

    So how do KJV-onliest fundies reconcile missionaries who travel to remote areas of the world and translate the bible into local languages?

    • lucrezaborgia

      They consider them to be suspect and think that people should learn English so they can read the KJV

    • Kalipay

      actually, there are missionaries who translate the bible from the *ENGLISH* KJV into the local language. the translations often read quite like the KJV, extremely bulky and complicated, very difficult to use.

      the Pearl’s comic book of the Bible has been translated into the language that i grew up speaking in the Philippines as a missionary kid and the bible quotes that they used are just ridiculous: not any of the three translations that i was aware of, and just very incorrectly worded for the grammatical structure of the language. i assume that that was because they were translated directly from the English KJV.

  • Ann

    David Foster Wallace had a fun romp through the dictionary wars that is very much worth reading. http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com Retha

    I cannot figure out why, even if people want to believe in an inerrant Bible, they pick the KJV. Even Pearl did not justify it: He said other Bibles differ from the KJV, but that is only a reason to reject them if you already believe KJV is right.
    I once heard someone claim that God gave His word in English the first time, and other Bibles since are a perversion of it. But the KJV was not the first English Bible. John Wycliffe translated the first full English Bible (1380s), others translated parts of it before him. Tyndale produced the first printed Enlish New Testament (1525). One of Tyndale’s followers produced the first printed OT in English ten years later. John Rogers (1537) also made an English Bible, and Shakespeare sometimes quoted yet another Bible, the Geneva Bible (1560). There was also the Bishops Bible (1568). Why would God only give the English a perfect Bible in the KJV in 1611, after several other attempts?

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com Retha

      And the KJVs sold today is actually a 1769 revision, so that if God gave His word exactly right to the English in 1611, you are still reading an altered version!

      • Nea

        Actually, you can go on Amazon and buy a replica of the 1611 KJV, including the forward in which the translators more or less said “we are frail mortal men crossing our fingers we got it right.”

        Not that it changes your valid point in the least; I just thought that it’s worth knowing that the original is still out there.

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com Retha

      Oops. I left out an important word. I said: I cannot figure out why, even if people want to believe in an inerrant Bible, …
      I should have said: I cannot figure out why, even if people want to believe in an inerrant ENGLISH Bible, …

  • AnyBeth

    Even if the KJV is the most perfect and all, it still doesn’t get you “easy”. Anyone who has a single approach to reading the bible is wrong. The bible is not one book but a book of books (and songs and letters, etc.) If you insist on reading the code of Hammurabi, Greek mythology, Cicero’s rhetoric, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Swift’s satire, Orwellian dystopia and an intimate love letter all the same way, you’ve gone well beyond silly into absurd. The words themselves don’t tell all. That’s a ridiculous notion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thanks for blogging about this – and for mentioning me in your post! I think you do a great job of highlighting the fundamental (pun intended) problem with KJV-onlyism. It actually represents a rejection of the only sort of Bible there is in any meaningful sense, which is a set of texts for the most part copied carefully but nonetheless imperfectly, collected by human beings and turned into a collection to serve as Scripture. For some, this fallible process involving fallible human beings does not meet their own standard which demands a fixed text that is word-for-word precise and can thus be claimed to be inerrant. And so not surprisingly they have to choose a modern text created since the invention of the printing press, because ones copied by hand in ancient times simply will not do.

    This is what Christians who embrace learning and reflection call idolatry – setting up a human image in the place of God, that ultimate which is indescribable and incapable of being tied down in words or images. Because ultimately it is not only the actual Bible that KJV-onlyists have problems with, but also with any sort of God that would fail to provide them with the absolute security and certainty they demand.

    And so despite the Bible-loving rhetoric of KJV-onlyism, it is a stance that is about as antithetical to and opposed to the Bible as it is possible to be.

  • Dr. David Tee

    James Mcgrath speaks lies once again. He also attacks God’s word calling it a human construction which only serves as scripture. How wrong he is but what can you expect from a false teacher. he wants to be the one who dictates to others what is or isn’t God’s word making his efforts exactly what he complains about scripture.

    I am not a KJV only person but God preserved His word so that all people in all ages can know the truth. It is not locked up in ancient languages so only the ‘elite’ can determine what it is.

    P.S. Mcgrath is a hypocrite as well. He demands academic freedom from others yet bars people from posting contrary opinion, thought, or ideas on his own website. What a joke he is.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      There is a difference between being an advocate of academic freedom and allowing anyone to say whatever they want on one’s personal blog. The first is sort of like believing that people should be able to travel freely from place to place while the second would involve allowing anyone who wants to come into your house whenever they want. There is nothing hypocritical about being for the first and not the second.

  • Georgina

    Image being given a bachelor’s degree in Literature based on having read only Shakespeare.
    Shelley, Milne, Göthe, Schiller, Dostoevsky, Chaucer, Paine …. etc. considered unnecessary, they are not Shakespeare.

    The ignorance is embarrassing (Psych:Fremdschämen), but even more difficult to understand is why one would respect the opinion of somebody with such a narrow education.

    • Richter_DL

      I’d rather think all he needs is John Norman.

  • http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/ Sara

    Oh, didn’t you hear? If you start at the end of the section for “F” in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster, and read backwards, it tells you to worship Satan and eat babies.

  • Richter_DL

    Again, this is remarkably similar to the Salafi movement ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement ) – better known in the West as “the terrorists”, though that doesn’t do them, their influence methods and goals justice in the least. The same hatred of intellectualism, the longing for a “pure” scripture that was easy to use and understand, and the same backwards orientation towards simpler times of “purer” faith.

  • Ian

    What is funny is that the King James Only movement is based on a book titles “Our Authorized Bible Vindicated” by Dr. Benjamin Wilkinson- a Seventh Day Adventist missionary and teacher. Here is an interesting article about this: http://www.kjvonly.org/doug/kutilek_unlearned_men.htm

    I wonder what Michael Pearl would say if he knew he was following the beliefs of an Adventest.