One of Peter Ruckman’s views which is often rejected except by the most loyal of his followers is his teaching on “double inspiration.” The historic and biblical view is that inspiration took place once (over a period of time, as each canonical book was written), never to be repeated again once the canon was closed. Therefore the term “double inspiration” has the tendency to raise a red flag for many people, for good reason. Our experience is that many who otherwise tend to agree with Ruckman on Bible translations shy away from this controversial term.
We have presented the title to this article as a question because some questions remain about Ruckman’s position on the double inspiration of the KJV. If you disagree or if you have another explanation for Ruckman’s views on double inspiration, we welcome your respectful comments. We will start off with what is known and can be documented about his position.
We will allow Ruckman to explain his concept of double inspiration in his own words. The following summarizes his teaching on this matter in a concise manner:
What blank, freshman fool didn’t know that there are more than 150 quotations from the Hebrew Old Testament that pop up as a translation (the Greek New Testament) in every copy of the New Testament ever printed? The first time they were “inspired” was in the Hebrew language, and the next time (“double!”) they were inspired again in the New Testament “original autographs”! They were inspired in a different language, and many times the translations did NOT match “the original Hebrew” or the “original Old Testament manuscript” or “the Hebrew text.” ([No author listed, but bears Ruckman’s unmistakable style] Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Jan. 2008, p. 9)
Briefly, what Ruckman teaches is that since the Greek New Testament portions that originally come from the Hebrew Old Testament are inspired, we have a precedent for “double inspiration.” If the term “double inspiration” was used in that restricted sense alone, most Christians probably wouldn’t have a problem with the term. However, Ruckman uses this “double inspiration” argument as a springboard in an attempt to prove his view that Bible translating subsequent to the closing of the canon can be inspired. The problem is that he applies select translation work done uniquely by the Holy Spirit moving the writers (Hebrew to Greek of select portions) to routine translation (Bible versions). He tries to blur or overlook the distinction as if there were no difference between the Holy Spirit translating select Old Testament portions through the Biblical writers compared to fallible men translating the whole Bible without Holy Spirit inspiration. Ruckman also points out that when Hebrew portions appear in the Greek New Testament they are not always translated literally. Sometimes words are added or left out. He uses this to go a step further in pointing out that the KJV would not have to match the originals for it to be inspired. He therefore teaches or at least strongly implies that a legitimate case of double inspiration has occurred with the KJV.
This Holy Ghost type of translation that Ruckman is bringing into the picture was an extremely limited situation under which some statements in the New Testament as well as portions of Old Testament Scripture were translated uniquely under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This was to never happen again after about 90 A. D when inspiration ceased at the time the Scriptures were completed. Ruckman is bringing it up to be argumentative, to portray others as liars for saying that a translation cannot be inspired. Since in virtually every case that a believer states “a translation cannot be inspired” he is speaking in reference to Bible translating after 90 A. D., the believer is not being dishonest or disingenuous for saying this, as the unique internal translating under Holy Spirit inspiration can never be repeated. Ruckman is obfuscating, he is muddying the waters when he does this, and it demonstrates that he does not have a cohesive argument.
Ruckman also uses “reinspiration” and “secondary inspiration” as synonymous terms. Here is another quote from Ruckman’s perspective:
Third lie: “No translation can be inspired.” The liar has just denied more than 100 verses in the New Testament in any set of Greek manuscripts, from any “family,” in any time, by anybody, any place, anywhere. There are more than 100 quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, which were originally written in Hebrew and then TRANSLATED into Greek. If you say “no translation could be inspired,” you’ve thrown more than 100 verses out of the New Testament in all the manuscripts, including the “original manuscripts.” The “original manuscripts” of the New Testament were written in Greek, and their Old Testament quotations were TRANSLATIONS of the Hebrew. (Ruckman, Peter. “The Sound Mind.” Bible Believers’ Bulletin, May 2008, p. 14)
When non-Ruckmanites make statements to the effect that “translations are not inspired,” they do not do so with internal translations within Scripture in mind, as we do not know of any Christian whatsoever who teaches that the entire Bible is inspired in the originals except internally translated portions. Ruckman knows this, but on a technicality, he brands his opponents as liars and heretics in order to make himself look good:
Every Old Testament quotation in the New Testament is a translation of some other language. And if a “good, godly scholar” would lie about that —like all thirty-five in the above list did— he would steal your Bible, your church, your school, your ministry, and your faith … (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 2000, p. 12)
… those who deny “double inspiration” are Bible-rejecting heretics … those who deny the inspiration of “any translation” are genuine heretics who have denied even the inspiration of the “original autographs” of the New Testament. (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1993, p. 10)
When the statement “no translation can be inspired” is made in theological discussions, in virtually every case it would be in the context of translations that were done since the Bible was completed. For Ruckman to accuse the person making the statement of being a liar is part of his unethical tactics. What Ruckman is doing is as unreasonable as accusing a person of being a liar for referring to an aircraft “black box” by its common colloquial name, even though in recent decades the color has changed to yellow or orange to make it easier to spot when searching a crash site.
It is likely that Ruckman came up with his double inspiration argument sometime after 1972, as it is not mentioned in his books The Bible Babel, (1964) The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence, (1970) nor Satan’s Masterpiece: The New ASV (1972). Up till the early 1970’s, Ruckman said very little along the lines of the KJV being “given by inspiration of God” or inspired. This changed drastically with his double inspiration argument coupled with his new twist on interpreting 2 Tim. 3:16 later in the decade (See Ruckman’s self-serving interpretation for 2 Timothy 3:16).
Ruckman’s endorsement of a book teaching that the KJV was the third inspiration
One of the glowing endorsements in Ruckman’s Bible Believers’ Bulletin for a book by the title The New Athenians does not list an author for the endorser, but it is written in Ruckman’s characteristic style (Sep. 1992, p. 3). However, there is another promotion for the same book in the March 2008 issue which clearly lists Ruckman as the author of the endorsement. The book in question, written by James Son, is sold by Bible Baptist Bookstore as product KJ-1740. It states the following about “triple inspiration:”
I believe that the Authorized Version is the inspired, infallible, inerrant, immutable, pure word of God to English speaking people. (I not only believe in DOUBLE inspiration [which the NEW Athenians reject], but, also, I believe in TRIPLE INSPIRATION. I believe that God not only inspired the writers in the original languages, but also the New Testament writers when they TRANSLATED the Hebrew passages into the Greek, and the translators of the Authorized Version as they made their selection of English words.) (Son, James H. The New Athenians. Lubbock, TX: Praise Publishing, 1992, p. 25)
Ruckman declares that “the infallible Elizabethean English” is doubly inspired
Ah, the unsearchable riches of the infallible Elizabethean English! How profound are its revelations, and its “double-inspiration” past finding out! (No author listed, but it bore Ruckman’s unmistakable style. Bible Believers’ Bulletin, June 2006, p. 19)
Ruckman’s double inspiration is not so much a teaching as an argument. The teaching is that the KJV is inspired, and the double inspiration argument is only brought up in an attempt to refute the historical view that “a translation cannot be inspired.” He surfaces with this little-thought-of issue in order to confuse and catch people off guard who have not given much thought about the originals containing portions that are inspired but had been translated.
The problem with Ruckman’s argument is that he seems to want you to think that when a fallible man translates a Bible (after the closing of the canon about 90 A.D.) of which Ruckman approves, it is just as inspired as if the Holy Spirit had translated it. However, when a man translates a given word in the Bible, it is not God breathing out his word in the new language as when the Holy Spirit inspired Biblical writers. There are some God-breathed words in Greek and Hebrew that man may not be able to translate precisely without losing some of the nuances and implications of the original language. There is also the possibility of a man translating the wrong meaning when a given Greek or Hebrew word has many possible meanings. What the Holy Spirit can do flawlessly cannot be compared to what a man can do with all his limitations. Ruckman is aware of the fallibility of man in as simple a matter as copying manuscripts, but for this he suggests a novel way of sidestepping the issue: “A copyist can ‘miscopy’ a word and it still be INSPIRED.” (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Psalms. Volume 1. Pensacola: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1997 reprint, p. 127) The absurdity of this attempt to create his own self-serving illogical rules is beyond words!
While reading Ruckman’s books, we do not recall a case in which Ruckman stated outright that the KJV was an extra inspiration, but he strongly implies such by applying the double inspiration argument to those who say the KJV cannot be inspired. Adding to the complexity in the analysis of Ruckman’s views is that he at times denies what he seems to affirm about double inspiration of a translation: “We cannot claim direct inspiration in the original Biblical sense for the King James text…” (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies. Booklet 15, 1988, p. 15). This seems contradicted by the following, which implies a second inspiration occurred with the KJV: “The Holy Spirit has thrust Himself into the AV committee of 1611 and said, ‘WRITE…!'” (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Acts. 1974, 1984, p. 356). Ruckman often makes statements along the lines of “Advanced revelation given by the Holy Spirit in the English text of 1611…” (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Exodus. 1976, p. 186) and “an invisible hand on the Authorized Version” (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. Feb. 1996, p. 6) that reveal a belief in re-inspiration in 1611. That Ruckman openly endorses The New Athenians, which teaches outright that the KJV translators were inspired of God as they made their selection of English words (as documented earlier in this article), contributes to Ruckman’s view of double inspiration in the KJV.
There are many good people who claim not to hold to Ruckman’s double inspiration but teach that the KJV is inspired. My question for them is: If they do not wish to identify with Peter Ruckman, and if they do not believe that God breathed out the words of the KJV, and that the Holy Spirit did not inspire the KJV as he did the original manuscripts, why even state that the KJV is inspired to begin with? Why make such statements that are susceptible to misunderstanding? We believe that if they insist on using such terminology, they should explain in detail why their conclusions coincide with Ruckman’s (that the KJV is inspired) if they disagree with Ruckman’s double inspiration view.
When God breathes out words, they are inspired, regardless of whether those words in Greek match Hebrew Old Testament quotes or not. They are inspired because God himself breathed out the words in both languages. However, when human translators translate, the divine act of the Holy Spirit breathing out words does not take place. No double or secondary inspiration takes place when human translators do their work because they are not being inspired in the process as were the Biblical writers. We are not saying the Holy Spirit’s influence is totally absent, or that He is disinterested in translation, but his role is different than in the inspiration of the originals, and part of the evidence is how different Holy Spirit filled translators have reached different conclusions. This is evident in the differences between foreign translations based on the Masoretic Text/Textus Receptus and also Reformation-era Bibles in English before the KJV.
Ruckman proved there is translation within the Scripture itself that is inspired (because it contains internal translation, and “all Scripture is given by inspiration”), but that is not the same as proving the KJV itself is inspired, considering it was not given by inspiration as were the original manuscripts. This would be a fallacy known as hasty generalization. It no more makes the KJV inspired than it would the NIV or Bishops Bible. And if the Bishops Bible had been inspired, there would have been no need for the KJV, as the Bishops Bible came first.