11 April 2016
This writing contains a critique of Chick Publications (aka Chick, J.T.C.), the company that produces the popular cartoon Gospel tracts.
I’m sure almost everyone has read a Chick Tract at one time or another. Many have probably read one after removing it from under their car’s wiper blade while being parked in a supermarket or mall parking lot. Undoubtedly, they are catchy, clever, and almost impossible to put down once you started reading them.
While Chick Tracts are effective at reaching people with the Gospel, I take issue with their King James Only advocacy; with certain aspects of their anti-Catholic bias; and with their doctrinal position on salvation and the rapture.
King James Only
The King James Only movement is based on the mistaken premise that the 1611 King James Version of the Bible (KJV) is the only version that can be trusted. Many have even gone to say that it is the only version that has been inspired and preserved by God.1 Their arrogance in this matter even extends to the point of inferring that the Bible in English is the only language in which God has chosen to preserve His Word.2 What about other languages? Are non-English speaking people second class citizens with God? Another common statement made by people in this movement is that the King James Bible of 1611 is the only “authorized” version implying that it was God who did the authorizing.
Chick always stops short of saying that the KJV is inerrant. Inerrancy is the doctrine that the Scripture is “without error or fault in its teaching,” which only applies to the original autographs or manuscripts. The problem is that not a single shred of the original manuscripts have survived.3 All manuscripts available to us today are copies, so translators must work with the most reliable copies available—the oldest copies being the most reliable. This implies that if the manuscripts are subject to scribal errors then the resulting translations from those manuscripts are also subject to error. Hence, the KJV underwent over 400 changes in the three or so years since its first publication in 1611 with some 2,000 changes being incorporated since its inception.4 Since the KJV has been revised numerous times in the past, why should we be so skeptical of other versions today?5
Nevertheless, where I draw the line with Chick Publications (Chick) is when they say (or strongly imply) that all modern translations are influenced by Satan.6
Chick is against modern translations of the Bible.7 However, the KJV was not the first English Bible; many translations preceded it, notably: Tyndale (1530), Coverdale (1535), Geneva (1560), and the Bishop’s Bible (1568)8 therefore, the KJV was a modern translation in 1611. Is it just coincidence that the King James Only movement is most strongly opposed to any translation which contains the word “New” in its name?
King James Only advocates like to consider themselves biblical purists in that they oppose any version that adds or takes away any content from the manuscripts. I’m looking at my Zondervan KJV that I purchased in 1973 and I see chapter and verse divisions which are not in the manuscripts. And what about maps and illustrations? Let’s take this argument a little further, the title page in my New Schofield Reference Bible says (emphasis mine): “Authorized King James Bible With introductions, annotations, subject chain references and such word changes in the text as will help the reader.” According to Chick, only the translators of the KJV can be trusted, therefore, all subsequent Bible translations are rejected. That being said, then why doesn’t Chick oppose the C.I. Scofield KJV which admits that word changes were made in the text?
It’s also interesting to note that in the Chick tract, The Word Became Flesh there is a proud reference to 1 John 5:7 from the KJV on page 5.9 It’s interesting because 1 John 5:7, also known as the Johannine Comma, is considered by all scholars to be a spurious verse added by the translator(s).10 In other words, the verse isn’t in the oldest manuscripts; and if it’s included in a translation at all, it should be in a marginal note, but certainly not in the text. But obviously, the KJV Only crowd doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Even C.I. Scofield in his KJV reference Bible that I referred to earlier also rejects this verse with the following note: “It is generally agreed that this verse has no ms. authority and has been inserted.”11 When Scofield says the verse has no manuscript (ms.) authority, what he’s really saying is that the translator wasn’t inspired by God to include this verse:
For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.12
By accepting that 1 John 5:7 in the KJV is inspired, Chick is in violation of its own teaching that a translation should have nothing added that wasn’t in the manuscripts or have nothing taken away that was in the manuscripts. This teaching particularly applies to a literal translation such as the KJV. By the way, the Johannine Comma also appears in the Who Is He? tract. Is there a double standard in the Chick organization?
Okay, so if a gloss is added to the text of a supposedly literal translation and it agrees with your own belief system then it’s allowed. Isn’t that like picking and choosing which verses in the Bible you want to believe?
All arguments aside, I believe the fundamental reason that Chick is King James Only is because of The Epistle Dedicatory which appeared at the beginning of the King James Bible. The Epistle Dedicatory is the translator’s letter of dedication to the king who commissioned it. While The Epistle Dedicatory is not a part of the Scripture, it is a part of the King James Bible.13 Why is this important? Well, The Epistle Dedicatory contains some very strong anti-Catholic rhetoric as follows:
…the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,)…
So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God’s holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness…14
The 1611 King James Bible fits in nicely with Chick’s anti-Catholic bias. And it’s no coincidence that Chick rejects modern translations including the New King James Version (NKJV) which omits The Epistle Dedicatory altogether. For Chick, it’s King James Only because the translators of the King James Bible and J.T.C. all hold the same view of the Roman Catholic Church. I’ll discuss their views in more detail in the Anti-Catholic Bias section below.
If you’ve read the book Can You Trust Just One Bible offered on the Chick website or have seen any of the videos in the Your Answers to KJV Critics series with David W. Daniels and Jack McElroy then you are probably convinced that the KJV really is God’s word preserved in English. However, let me challenge you to get a different perspective from the writings of two learned men: Dr. Allan A. McCrae and Dr. Robert C. Newman. I’ve met Dr. McCrae on at least one occasion while attending the Evening School at Biblical Theological Seminary and I’ve taken many courses from Dr. Newman at the same institution. Dr. McCrae was one of the translators of the NIV. I have no reason to doubt the integrity of either of these two men.
I’ll conclude my arguments with the text of a paper I wrote for a course at Biblical Theological Seminary on March 12, 1991. I believe the points I raised then are still relevant today. The paper is in the form of a letter in response to a letter from a fictitious person expressing concern about different Bible translations. It’s reproduced here, reformatted with some minor edits.
Thank you for writing to us about the problems you are having with the various English translations of the Bible. I agree that there appears to be inconsistencies between various translations. However, if you approach the Scriptures with an understanding of the translation process along with its associated difficulties and problems then I believe your confidence and trust in Bible will be restored.
The Scripture states in II Timothy 3:16-17, from the New King James version:
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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Since verbal inspiration is understood to apply only to the original writings or autographs; does this mean that our Bibles do not accurately represent the revelation given by God to the writers of the Old and New Testaments? On the contrary, we have great confidence in the accuracy of the texts available to us today. For example, the Masoretic text of the Old Testament dated in the tenth or eleventh century was considered to be the most reliable text prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. However, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were compared with the Masoretic text it was found that the Masoretic text was very accurate except for some scribal errors. This evidence testifies to the care taken by the scribes in their transmission of the Scriptures. As far as the New Testament manuscripts are concerned they are not as accurate as the Old Testament texts. However, there are at least 5000 manuscripts known to exist which have been studied and compared by scholars in order to determine the content of the original autographs. These facts show that God has accurately preserved His Word for us throughout the centuries.
As far as translations are concerned, there are many reasons why differences exist among the various translations. The most obvious reason is one that is common to all translation efforts and that is it is impossible to produce a meaningful word-for-word translation from one language into another. In this case the translator acts as an interpreter and adds words or phrases to the translation in order to help clarify the meaning of the text. These words, added by the translator, are printed in italics in our English Bible translations. Another common translation problem is that of the changing usage, over time, of most languages such as English. This is one of the reasons why translations are frequently revised. For example the English of the 1611 King James Version, which was written in the vernacular of that time, is outdated today. For instance, the word “let” in the King James meant to restrain or hinder, but today it means “to allow.”
Another major reason for differences in Bible translations has to do with the sectarian biases and theological prejudices of the translator or translation committee. For example, a theologically conservative translation will be more reliable than a theologically liberal translation. Furthermore, Roman Catholic versions of the Bible such as the New American Bible and the Jerusalem Bible include the books of the Apocrypha which are not accepted as part of the canon of Scripture by conservative Protestant groups. In addition, cult translations can be dangerous since they usually try to deny the deity of Jesus Christ. An example would be the New World Translation put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Lastly, there are different types of Bible translations, three of which are: literal, dynamic equivalence, and paraphrase. Literal translations attempt to preserve a word-for-word rendering of the original language text into English. Some examples of literal translations are the King James Version (KJV), the New King James version (NKJV), and the New American Standard version (NASB). Dynamic equivalence translations attempt to faithfully preserve the meaning of the original language texts into the common language of the day. An example of this type of translation would be the New International Version (NIV). The paraphrase is generally not considered a translation but is closer to a commentary since a paraphrase is an interpretation of the text in the paraphraser’s own words. The Living Bible is an example of a paraphrase.
Finally, to answer to your question on which translation is the Word of God, I believe that it would be a translation that was done by a group of conservative Evangelical scholars whose main goal would have been to translate, as faithfully as possible, the Greek and Hebrew texts into English without bias or prejudice. I would select a translation that best fit this description such as the King James, New King James, New American Standard and New International Version. I would suggest that you use a number of these translations in your own personal study of the Bible.
I trust that this letter has helped to answer your questions about the different Bible translations.
When I took the Bible course at Biblical Seminary back in 1991 it would have taken some serious effort to compare verses in the various translations since electronic versions were not readily available. But now, with the availability of Bible study software, almost anyone with a computer can instantly compare the text of the different Bible versions side by side. I personally use and recommend the Biblesoft PC Study Bible, QuickVerse 10, and WORDsearch 11. My advice to you is don’t rely on biased opinions of others, compare the different translations for yourself.
Chick believes, in no uncertain terms, that the future one-world government is going to be none other than the Roman Catholic Church based in Rome.15 So it follows that if the Catholic Church is going to be the one-world government then the Pope who is the leader of the Catholic Church is going to be the “man of lawlessness” as described in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. I believe there are problems with this theory and I base my objections on Mark 13:22 and 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
First of all, the doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are well understood, documented and readily available to anyone willing to look. It is not my intention to discuss any of these doctrinal differences in detail instead I’ll look at some doctrines viewed from a high-level.
Take, for example, the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession as the basis for the authority of the Pope being the Vicar of Christ, interpreted to mean Christ’s representative on earth. Scripture teaches that Jesus himself chose the twelve apostles including Matthias, Judas’ replacement, whom Jesus chose indirectly through the drawing of lots?16 Since all the biblical Apostles were Jewish, how is it that the line crossed over from Judea to Rome? Wouldn’t it have made more sense doctrinally and historically if the Popes were considered in the line of Paul, as disciples not apostles, since Paul was chosen by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles?17 But because Catholic doctrine insists that the Pope is in the apostolic line, tension is created because the Pope is chosen by the College of Cardinals and not by Jesus directly as were the original apostles. In other words, the Pope is chosen by man and not by God.
According to the Catholic Answers website, Chick Publications (aka “J.T.C.”) is a champion in the dissemination of Fundamentalist theology which promotes attacks against the Catholic Church by inculcating paranoia in their readers through claims of countless far-reaching conspiracy theories.18 While there are many so-called conspiracy theories refuted on the Catholic Answers website, my focus in this writing will be the theory that the Pope is the “man of sin”19 and the leader of the one-world government prophesied in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. First of all, you need to ask yourself the question, does the Pope fulfill the requirements for being the “strong delusion” Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians? In my opinion, the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church don’t even come close.
So, are we to accept the notion that the Pope is that “man of sin” referred to by the KJV translators in their Epistle Dedicatory? We may be able to find our answer by taking a closer look at Mark 13:21-22 where Jesus warns His followers about the future appearance of many false Christs and prophets:
And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.20
Jesus clearly teaches that the false Christs and false prophets that will appear will be able to show signs and wonders. That is, they will be able to perform miracles and to project the appearance of possessing Divine wisdom. So, does the Pope, or anyone else in the Catholic hierarchy for that matter, possess any of these attributes? Has the Pope demonstrated that he has the Wisdom of Solomon? Is he capable of performing miracles at will? I think not. In Mark 13:22, Jesus goes on to say that not only will the false Christs and prophets be able show signs and wonders but that they will be so convincing, i.e., appear so authentic, that even the elect could be fooled! Remember, in order for a counterfeit to be convincing, it needs to be almost indistinguishable from the genuine article.
History teaches us that no one has yet appeared that has fulfilled the requirements set forth in Mark 13:21-22 to be considered the “man of sin.”
Salvation and the Rapture
Why group together salvation and the Rapture under one heading? Well, as it turns out, belief in salvation by choice and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture are the politically correct beliefs in the Church today, especially in Fundamentalist churches. If you check out almost any posting on my blog, you will see that I believe in salvation by election and the Post-Tribulation Rapture; therefore, my analysis of select Chick cartoon Gospel tracts will be from the perspective of these two doctrines.
The Choice (Ontario, Calif., Jack T. Chick LLC, 2002)
In the Gospel tract, appropriately named, The Choice, Chick, in the dialog between two cartoon characters, correctly states that all people are born spiritually dead (pp. 8, 12), while still holding fast to the position that unregenerate people need to make a choice, by faith, to believe in Jesus as their savior (p.14). As I’ve implied in a blog post on the subject of salvation by choice, faith and spiritual death are mutually exclusive concepts.21 That is, a spiritually dead, i.e., unregenerate, person is incapable of self-instantiated faith. The only way a person can achieve the faith required to believe Jesus is their savior is to first be spiritually reborn through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Then, after being “born again,” the spiritually alive person can now respond to the Gospel by faith. The gift of spiritual regeneration is given by God alone and cannot be acquired through one’s own initiative.
Here Comes The Judge! (Ontario, Calif., Jack T. Chick LLC, 2012)
In this Gospel tract, we find a cartoon character trying to explain the Rapture to an unsaved cartoon character who is in the hospital. The Scripture references Chick provided to justify the Pre-Tribulation Rapture are the same oft-quoted verses in 1 Thessalonians (p. 18). The problem with this tract is that our cartoon character has confused “tribulation” with “wrath.” I believe the Scripture teaches that tribulation is intended for believers and wrath is intended for unbelievers.22 Wasn’t it Jesus Himself who said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”23 The differences between the Pre-Trib and Post-Trib Rapture are profound as illustrated below:
Events according to the Pre-Trib Rapture
- Jesus’ partial (1.5) return to earth to gather His saints (in the air)
- The Tribulation
- Wrath upon the earth
- Jesus’ second (2.0) return with His saints at Armageddon
Events according to the Post-Trib Rapture24
- The Tribulation
- Jesus’ second return to earth
- The elect are gathered and then meet Jesus in the air
- Wrath upon the earth
Chick is not alone; I don’t think I’ve ever heard any church preach that believers will go through the Tribulation—it’s not what the modern Church wants to hear. You decide.
Why Should I? (Ontario, Calif., Jack T. Chick LLC, 2012)
In this tract we have the familiar scenario of two cartoon characters having a discussion about salvation and the end times where one character is a believer and the other is an unbeliever. According to the believer in the cartoon tract, the rapture is “the next big event, prophesied on God’s calendar.” (p. 12) Is it really, or is the Tribulation the next big event? On page 14, the heading declares: “The world passes into ‘The Great Tribulation’” which is to imply that both tribulation and wrath are the same, but as I’ve said previously tribulation is for believers not unbelievers.
Chick adds a nice little touch to the discussion wrap up in the tract by providing an illustration of the various end time players which includes a guy wearing a Russian Ushanka military hat with the Soviet star on its front flap and another guy wearing a Papal mitre headdress adorned with the number 666 across the front. Chick may be accused of many things, but being subtle isn’t one of them.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Gerard Sczepura
The Nervous Witch (Ontario, Calif., Jack T. Chick LLC, 2002) . ↩
Tom V. Taylor, “The History of Our English Bible” (course notes, Biblical Theological Seminary, 1991), 29. ↩
Ibid., 22. ↩
Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible From KJV to NIV, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 40. ↩
American Bible Society, Chart of the English Bible (Broadway, NY), 1. ↩
The Word Became Flesh (Ontario, Calif., Jack T. Chick LLC, 1984) . ↩
The New Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967). ↩
1 John 5:7 KJV ↩
“THE DEDICATION LETTER for the KING JAMES BIBLE,” New Albany-Louisville Bible Students Ecclesia, April 2012, http://newalbany-louisvillebiblestudents.com/pages/Article%20of%20the%20Month/4-12%20article-month.htm. ↩
The Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House). ↩
The Last Generation, (Ontario, CA: Jack T. Chick LLC, 1992) . ↩
Acts 1:17-26 NASB ↩
Acts 13:44-52 ↩
“The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick,” Catholic Answers, accessed March 20, 2016, http://www.catholic.com/documents/the-nightmare-world-of-jack-t-chick. ↩
2 Thess. 2:3 NKJV ↩
Mark 13:21-22 NASB ↩
John 16:33 ↩
Sczepura, “The End Times: Arguments in Defense of a Post-Trib Rapture.” ↩