This series covers how the Bible impacts the KJV Only Debate. It is designed to be a positive presentation of what Scripture actually says about preservation and other issues. I don’t want it to be just an “anti-KJVO” position. Yet interacting with the KJVO interpretation of passages is inevitable and necessary.
We have only begun looking at preservation, having tackled Ps. 12:6-7 in the last post. That passage, at best, is merely a general promise that God would preserve His words. Yet it is likely, especially in light of this recent comment, that those verses have no direct bearing on the doctrine of preservation (of Scripture) at all.
Now we turn to a look at other pertinent Scriptures on this issue.
He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath to Isaac;
Italicized words are words added to help explain the text, but they aren’t in the Hebrew text. I say that because verse 9 has “covenant” as an explanatory word. If you take that word out, this is the flow of the verses: “God remembered his covenant…the word he commanded…which he made with Abraham…” From this it should be clear that “word” refers to the covenant specifically. It does not refer to the Bible or Scripture, but rather to God’s covenantal promise made with Abraham. That promise extends to everyone who is in Christ, by the way (cf. Gal. 3).
So this verse does not directly apply to preservation. Instead, it declares that God’s covenant with Abraham is sure and lasts forever, essentially.
The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.
The context of this psalm is all about God’s works being sure. His “righteousness endureth for ever”. His works are “to be remembered”. “He will ever be mindful of his covenant”. “He hath commanded his covenant for ever”. And finally, “His praise endureth for ever”. What God has done, in promising His blessings for His people, is a sure thing. It lasts forever. It is authoritative. His commandments or precepts/statutes, these “stand fast for ever and ever”. And they are “done in truth and uprightness”. This last phrase points to our understanding this verse as relating to the sureness and goodness, the permanence of what God has promised and established in His Word.
What God says is sure and final. This seems to be what the passage is stressing, rather than the fact that all of God’s words will endure perfectly for ever with no threat of textual corruption. It’s not talking about whether all of God’s words stay together on one manuscript or in one family of manuscripts, it is affirming that whatever God says and does is faithful and authoritative.
This passage therefore informs us as to God’s character and the character of God’s Word, but it doesn’t directly bear on the preservation discussion. At best this is merely a general promise that God’s words are permanent and endure forever. No specifics as to how and to what extent they will be preserved are mentioned or alluded to.
For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
In examining this verse, we must remember that “word” may or may not be referring to Scripture. Often in the OT, God’s word refers to his commands or decrees — His will. This includes God’s promises and indirectly applies to God’s written Word. The following 2 verses in the context of this verse, lend support for seeing this understanding of “word” to be what is meant in vs. 89.
Even if God’s written word is expressly in view here, the verse itself does not tell us anything as to the quality and status of that word here on earth. It says nothing about the preservation of that word. Just because the perfect archetype of the Temple exists in Heaven, does not necessitate that the earthly copy of it is exact and that it should remain. And in fact, the earthly copy of the Temple has been destroyed. Similarly, just because a Heavenly pure copy of Scripture exists, it does not follow that a perfect copy of it must always remain on earth. [See footnote 1 for an extended quote from John Gill.]
I’ll conclude discussion on this verse with a quote from God’s Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us, “…the Psalmist has asserted the immutability of God’s truth. Still, he has not actually said anything about the durability of the text of Scripture.” 
Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
With this verse, there is little question that “thy testimonies” refers to Scripture. This is clear from the overall context of Ps. 119 as well as the section this verse is in. Also, “founded them for ever” can be understood as the NIV has it, “established them to last forever”. So at face value this could very well be a direct promise of the preservation of the text of Scripture.
But what is the emphasis here? Is the emphasis of the passage that God’s words are all of them made to last forever, that none of them would be lost. Or even more directly, that none of them would be cease to be accessible or identifiable? While possible, this does not seem to be what the context would indicate.
From the context of the immediate section, we see the psalmist in a dire situation. He is pleading with God for God to help him. He is also encouraging himself concerning God’s faithfulness. The last two verses (151 & 152) end the section on a note of triumph. God is near. What he has promised is sure (because his commandments are truth). And God’s promises are always true. 
The point seems to be that what is contained in the Scripture — the message (promises, declarations, truths) — is unchanging and permanent. What Scripture says can be trusted and relied on always, because it is unchanging and sure. It is eternally stedfast. Gill brings this idea out when commenting on this verse:
…that the things contained in them are sure and certain, established and eternal truths; the moral law and the precepts of it are eternal, and of perpetual obligation; not one jot or tittle of them shall ever fail; the Gospel, and the truths of it, are everlasting, and shall ever remain; in spite of all the opposition, craft and cunning, fury and force of men, to undermine and root them out; see Ps 119:89 [you can reference Gill’s comments on vs. 89 at footnote 1 below]. 
Based on this contextual teaching, I lean toward the view that this verse is not teaching that the very text of God’s Word is promised to be fixed and always in an inviolable state, in regards to its textual purity.  The point seems to be that the message doesn’t change and is always applicable. God intends His Word to always be authoritative and sure.
However, William Combs’ point in regard to this verse is not easily dismissed. “But since the Psalmist would have come to know these ‘testimonies’ from the written Torah, probably through his own reading, it is difficult to imagine that he could divorce their being ‘founded,’ established, or caused to ‘last forever’ apart from a preserved written form, the written form from which he was reading.”  And yes the meaning of the Scripture, which meaning is stedfast, always applicable, always true and faithful — that meaning must stay around and be able to be understood and seen. That would necessitate the eternality of the text of Scripture — its preservation.
So I am ready to conclude that this verse is a promise or declaration that God’s Word will remain stedfast forever. And this includes the text of God’s Word — it will endure. The meaning and authority of Scripture, tied up to the text as they are, will surely be preserved since they are “founded… for ever”.
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
The first clause of this verse could also be understood as “the sum of Thy word is true”. The Hebrew has a word for “head”. It often means “beginning” but can mean “sum total”. In opposition to the NIV’s translation of “all your words” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary argues that the phrase in Hebrew is literally “the head of your word”, and this would mean “from the beginning God’s word is true” — very much like the KJV’s rendering.  The second part of the verse refers to Scripture when it talks of “thy righteous judgments”. We see this from the context of Ps. 119 and this passage particularly.
Based on the literal understanding of the text, we see the passage teaching something very similar to what vs. 152 stressed: that God’s words are everlastingly stedfast and faithful, they’re sure. Calvin shows how this verse is understood in this way:
These two clauses hang very well together — that God has been true to his word from the beginning, and that he will continue to be so everlastingly and immutably….Let us then retain this sense, That from the time when God began to speak he has always been faithful to his promises, and has never disappointed the hope of his people; and that the course of this faithfulness has been so uniform, that from the beginning even to the end his word is true and faithful. 
So again, the main point of the passage is the eternal truth and goodness and applicableness of God’s Word. Just as with vs. 152, this seems to imply that the text of God’s Word — His righteous judgments — is also eternal, so as to witness to the eternality of the truth of the message of Scripture.
At this point, I do see what may be a helpful parallel with Ps. 12:6-7. There, the psalmist declares the purity or truthfulness (the sure-ness) of God’s words in vs. 6. And he concludes from the fact that God’s word is pure, that God will keep his promise and thus preserve the psalmist (along with all of God’s oppressed, yet godly people). “Preserve” is used of people, and the fact that God’s word is pure was declared. In Ps. 119:159-160, we see the same kind of an argument. In vs. 159, the psalmist asks that God would preserve his life. Vs. 160 is the basis for his request. Because God’s word is true and righteous (from the beginning and even for all time), the psalmist is confident to trust that God will preserve his life. Once again, a fact about God’s Word (It’s trustworthiness and permanence) becomes the basis for believing that God would preserve His people. In neither passage does “preserve” explicitly become connected to “God’s words”. This fact makes clear that both passages are at best indirect teaching on preservation. Preservation can be implied from their teaching, but it is not explicit in the text. 
Summary and Preview
We have tackled at least half (if not more) of the key texts dealing with preservation of the text of Scripture. Since this study is coming one post at a time, and since I’m going to have to conclude this post, I thought it would help to summarize where we are so far, and give a little preview as to what’s coming up.
We have surveyed the concept of “Word of God” (concluding it often does not refer to written scripture, although it can), and looked closely at Ps. 12:6-7; Ps. 105:8-9; 111:7-8; 119:89, 152, 160. So far, we have concluded that Ps. 119:152 and 160 seem to strongly suggest that the text of Scripture is eternal and hence will be preserved for us by God. Also, Ps. 12 may directly state that God will preserve the words of Scripture. However, we should also stress that none of these verses give explicit statement as to how that preservation will take place. We are not told that the words of Scripture will endure always in one manuscript or family of manuscripts. We are not told if it will happen in the majority of copies or a minority. We are not assured, explicitly at least (we will discuss the topic later), that the preserved Word will always be accessible to all of God’s people. Nor are we explicitly told to what extent the words will be preserved.
But we have not yet examined all the direct teaching in Scripture on this topic. So the next post will hopefully cover the following verses: Is. 40:8 (with 1 Pet. 1:23-25), Is. 59:21, Matt. 5:17-18, Matt. 24:35. We may examine a few others.
When we are done examining the texts of Scripture we will proceed to look at other indirect arguments (Scriptural and logical) for preservation. Then we’ll go on to look at accessibility or general availability. Finally, we will begin to look in Scripture for other examples and teachings which weigh in on this issue. And we will test (with Scripture) some of the assumptions and logical arguments which are vital to the KJV Only doctrine of perfect preservation.
I’m striving to be concise on the one hand, yet I find the need to be thorough on the other. I hope to at a later date compile and edit these posts into a single essay on the topic. And I hope to follow the series with a couple summaries of all the many posts in the series.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this study proves profitable and helpful to you all. It has been for me.
The decrees and purposes of God, what he has said in his heart that he will do, these are firm and sure; these counsels of old are faithfulness and truth; they are mountains of brass settled for ever, and more unalterable than the decrees of the Medes and Persians. The revealed will of God, his word of command, made known to angels in heaven, is regarded, hearkened to, and done by them: the word of the Gospel, published in the church, which is sometimes called heaven, is the everlasting Gospel, the word of God, which lives and abides for ever; what remains and will remain, in spite of all the opposition of men and devils. The word of promise in the covenant made in heaven is sure to all the seed; everyone of the promises is yea and amen in Christ, and as stable as the heavens, and more so; “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away”, Mt 24:35; The firmness of God’s word is seen in the upholding and continuing the heavens by the word of his power, by which they were first made; and the certainty of the divine promises is illustrated by the perpetuity of the ordinances of heaven; see Jer 31:35.
— John Gill’s commentary on Ps. 119:89 (accessed at biblecentre.net)
 The Editorial committee (presumably editors James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor), God’s Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2003), pg. 92.
 Calvin brings this understanding of the text out in the following quote:
[commenting on vs. 151] The concluding sentence of the verse is to this effect, That God never forsakes nor disappoints his people in their necessity, because he is true to his promises…let us retain a settled belief of the truth, that he does not in vain promise in his word to be the guardian of our welfare….[commenting on vs. 152] This indeed is the chief point of faith, That the word of God is not only distinguished for fidelity and steadfastness for a time, but that it continues unchangeable for ever. Were it otherwise, it could not include within it the hope of eternal salvation. That the assurance of this immutabiliy of God’s word may be rooted in our minds, the inward revelation of the Holy Spirit is indeed necessary; for until God seal within us the certainty of his word, our belief of its certainty will be continually wavering.
— John Calvin’s commentary on Ps. 119:151-152 (accessed at biblecentre.net)
 Cited from John Gill’s commentary on Ps. 119:152 (accessed at biblecentre.net).
 The following quote adds to this point:
The word translated “founded” (yasad) means “to be established or set up.” While some assume that this is a promise of God’s continual maintenance of His Word on earth, there is nothing in the word yasad that implies a continuaing relationship. It communicates a fixed condition of stability, not a perpetual activity of sustenance….
— The Editorial committee, God’s Word in Our Hands, pg. 94.
 William Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 5 (Fall 2000): pg. 18, accessible online at http://www.dbts.edu/journals/2000/combs.pdf.
 Willem VanGemeren, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, (edited by Frank Gaebelein), (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991) vol. 5 (Psalms thru Song of Songs), pg. 760.
 Cited from John Calvin’s commentary on Ps. 119:160 (accessed at biblecentre.net).
 This reflects my becoming even more sure that Ps. 12 does not connect “them” in vs. 7 to “words” in vs. 6. The possibility that Ps. 12 is a direct yet general teaching that God will preserve His words, which in my post on Ps. 12, I allowed, is very unlikely. See the comments under that post which discuss other arguments leading me to conclude as I have here.
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