One of the distinctives of Ruckmanism that raises eyebrows is the unusual claim that the KJV is superior to the originals. Ruckman seems to think that his list of reasons are irrefutable, as demonstrated in the following boast:
Not one apostate Fundamentalist in America or Europe, in the last fifty years, has ever dared publish Ruckman’s “reasons” for saying the AV text is a “better” text than a pile of lost manuscripts… (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. April 2004, p. 14)
The following is an unedited list of reasons taken from page 17 of Ruckman’s book Bible Study Charts and Outlines, published in 1997 by Bible Baptist Bookstore:
Why the AV is Superior to any set of Greek or Hebrew Manuscripts, Including the so-called “Originals”
- It is available. The originals are not and have not been for seventeen centuries.
- It has born more fruit than the originals, including the two hundred years after they were written.
- It has word and sentence separation, which the originals were not supposed to have had.
- It is written in the universal language of the twentieth century, and the originals were not.
- It has chapter and verse numbers for locating passages easily and for checking out false documents and perversions of the Bible. The “originals” had none.
- The Old Testament is set out in the premillennial order, whereas the Hebrew “originals” were not.
- The promise of the church that kept the word was given to the Philadelphia church (1500-1900), not the early Apostolic church (A.D. 90-200).
His list of reasons does not really prove the KJV is superior to the originals, but rather that the KJV is more practical for English-speaking laymen who do not know the original languages and have no intention of learning them. There is an element of truth in that a translation in one’s own language is more practical than a foreign language original that is no longer in existence. However, just because something is more practical for a class of Christians in certain parts of the world does not make it superior overall. Ruckman is equating practicality with superiority. The KJV would not be more practical to everyone, however. The KJV would not be more practical than the originals for someone trained in the original languages who was translating the Scriptures into another language, for example.
Every reason given could be said of English Reformation Bibles that preceded the KJV as well as many foreign translations. Yet believers before 1611 or those speaking other languages never made the absurd claim that their translations were superior to the originals. Let’s analyze each reason one at a time:
1. It is available. The originals are not and have not been for seventeen centuries.
This can be said of any Bible version in print. Would this not mean that all Bibles in print are superior to the originals?
2. It has born more fruit than the originals, including the two hundred years after they were written.
This is mere speculation. Ruckman has no way of knowing how much fruit came directly from the originals. We do not know even how long the originals remained in existence.
3. It has word and sentence separation, which the originals were not supposed to have had.
This can be said of any Bible in print. Would this not mean that all Bibles in print are superior to the originals?
4. It is written in the universal language of the twentieth century, and the originals were not.
Many modern translations he rejects were written in what he calls "the universal language of the twentieth century." Do Bible colleges and seminaries around the world teach English so their non-English-speaking students can study the KJV? Absolutely not. Greek and Hebrew are still the standard in seminaries worldwide. English may be the most influential language of trade and technology at this time, but there are close to three times more Chinese speakers than native English speakers. Although English as a second language is quite popular, it is very common for those who know English only as a second language to desire to read and study the Bible in their native language.
5. It has chapter and verse numbers for locating passages easily and for checking out false documents and perversions of the Bible. The “originals” had none.
The KJV was not the first Bible to introduce chapter and verse numbering. Virtually all Bibles in print today utilize chapter and verse numbering. Would this not mean that all such Bibles are superior to the originals?
6. The Old Testament is set out in the premillennial order, whereas the Hebrew “originals” were not.
His "premillennial order" is baseless, as no doctrine is related to the order of books in the Bible, and we can only speculate as to the exact order in which all the books of the Bible were issued via inspiration. But going along with it for now, what is being claimed for the KJV can be said of some Bibles before 1611 and virtually any Bible in print today, except special use editions such as chronological Bibles. Would this not mean that all Bibles in print are superior to the originals?
7. The promise of the church that kept the word was given to the Philadelphia church (1500-1900), not the early Apostolic church (A.D. 90-200).
The interpretation that the promises to the Philadelphia church applies only to 1500-1900 A.D. (the period in which the KJV appeared) seems to be a case of interpreting the Bible in such a way as to make it fit one’s own theological presuppositions. Even so, many Bibles were produced from 1500-190 (including some Ruckman sharply disapproves of), and no one is claiming they are superior to the originals.
Although Ruckman’s list of reasons only deal with practicality, it doesn’t mean that he only means the KJV is superior to the originals in a practical sense. The following are quotes in which he badmouths the originals in order to elevate the KJV:
Maybe the Lord doesn’t want you to have the exact force of the original. Maybe he wants you to have the exact force of the English!…If I had the originals right here in my pulpit tonight, I wouldn’t teach them to you—and I mean it. (Ruckman, Peter. A Survey of the AV. 1978, 2003, p. 17)
To say that the AV was not equal to the originals in view of what God did with the originals and what He did with the AV, is PREPOSTEROUS…The originals are followed by APOSTASY (100-325 A.D.) (Ruckman, Peter. "Absolute Authority Abandoned" Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1979, p. 5)
If they produce the original manuscripts tomorrow night, God wouldn’t bother to spit on anyone using them. (Ruckman, Peter. Greek Manuscript Evidence. Circa 1970’s [CD audio recording, about 41 minutes into track 4])
When examined objectively, Ruckman's claim that the KJV is superior to the originals can only be applied in a limited sense, and his same reasonings can be applied to the very translations he deplores!