Book Review: If The Foundations Be Destroyed

If The Foundations Be Destroyed: What does the New International Version of the Bible have against Jesus? By Chick Salliby

I have two particular ironic notes to make that will frame my view of this particular book and provide at least some idea of what group of people would create such a book or appreciate it the most greatly. This 1994 book comes from what appears to be a small Protestant outfit in Massachusetts, and it represents a particularly strident KJV-only sort of message, making a strong condemnation of the NIV translation of the Bible and its textual heritage (the author gets good mileage here out of condemning Hort and Westcott, the people largely responsible for these Alexandrian text-based traditions, with their own statements about pro-Catholic and anti-Protestant sentiments). That said, I do not have any KJV Bibles among the many Bibles that form part of my various library collections, despite the fact that I am very much a supporter of the Aramaic and M-text view that would in general support much of the textual basis of the KJV (though by no means all of it).

This gives me a somewhat mixed view of this book and its efforts. At its core, this book examines with a great deal of stridency and sarcasm, the differences between the NIV and KJV in a large variety of key texts, looking at ways that the NIV downplays the deity of Christ, doctrines such as redemption, eternal judgment, the incarnation, the priesthood, lordship, grace, return, eternal existence (past and future), virgin birth, worship and commission, and various titles of Christ. These verse comparisons take up about two thirds of the book, and contain a great deal of very strong language against the translators of the NIV, criticizing them in the harshest terms as being favorable to heretics, as Laodiceans, and as being an even greater threat to Christianity than various lamentable and ungodly cultural trends that the author also treats with a lot of sarcasm.

This is an angry book. It is a book, though, that deals mostly with the end results of various textual choices made, and its degree of anti-intellectual spirit and its lack of knowledge of biblical languages at the root source (or any interest in lexical discussions) means that it is likely to gain most of its appeal to the most offensively traditional and anti-intellectual parts of Christian culture, which I view as being particularly and personally hostile to people like myself. This does not in any way endear me to this text, even though in many ways it has a valid point, even if that valid point is taken to excess and viewed in very extreme ways. It is likely that those readers who do not share the particular narrow and blinkered view of the author will likewise view this book as something distasteful even if they too share the author’s hostility toward the Alexandrian texts [1], as I do.

It is striking that this particular book carries a perspective that has a strong bias to the KJV text, even to the extent where it supports the textus receptus (a happenstance collection of a few Byzantine texts that fortuitously was brought to the West after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, and that allowed for thoughtful Western scholars to critique the Vulgate text that had long been supreme in the West, and to find it lacking) rather than the larger body of the M-text where it is known, a particularly offensive case being its support of the legitimacy of the Johannine pericope (a spurious late addition to 1 John 5:7-8) in order to support the spurious and unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity despite the widespread recognition that this was a fraudulent addition to bolster the Trinity by a late Greek monk. Aspects of obvious bias and a lack of technical skill in dealing with issues of manuscripts hurts the credibility of this work, even though the people the author critiques have the same sort of weaknesses in their own choice of favorite texts in the Gnoistic-influenced Alexandrian texts that form the basis of the RSV and NIV and other related contemporary translations.

So, how does one deal with a book like this? For one, this book can be seen as representing a particular stratum of American Christian thought within traditional Protestantism, which places particular importance on the KJV text itself (despite the fact that the KJV text was itself a largely unattributed theft of the superior Geneva Bibles without the politically relevant, and therefore offensive, footnotes that these Bibles contained). Seeing as the KJV is itself based on theft in an atmosphere of political repression, those who view this text as the foundation of their faith do not have a leg to stand on in condemning those whose texts are based on lies and fraud, as is the case here. That said, a wise reader may view this book (and others like it) as an entrance into the contentious field of textual criticism especially insofar as it attempts to influence the publishing of Bible translations [2] and as a form of very critical analysis of the consequences of deeper textual choices and assumptions (in favor of supposedly “old texts” rather than a support of the “majority text”) on the subtle influence of doctrinal bias of translators on the translations they make. This is a salutary lesson to take, to reflect on our own assumptions and the way that they influence our interpretation, which ought to encourage believers in general to become more familiar with deeper study aids like dictionaries and lexicons that allow the reader to wrestle with the original biblical languages rather than duel with shadows in translation wars, as this author is content to do.


[2] Unsurprisingly, this is an area of great interest for me:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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