Thursday, January 07, 2021

John Dowling and KJVO

Baptist pastor John Dowling (1807-1878) at times is cited as a supporter of the King James Bible. That is certainly true, but from his writing, it does not appear that he approached it from what we might normally consider a “King James Only” point of view.

In 1850, John Dowling was pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in New York City. He published “The Old-Fashioned Bible,” or Ten Reasons against the Proposed Baptist Version of the New Testament (New York, NY: Edward H. Fletcher). He opposed “a corrected version of the English New Testament,” prepared under the supervision of the Spencer Cone, President of the American and Foreign Bible Society, and William H. Wyckoff, Corresponding Secretary. Whatever other changes were conceived, the primary was to changed baptism to immersion, baptize to immerse, and so on. Dowling primarily objected to the “sectarianism” of producing a “Baptist Bible,” on the one hand, and to what he considered the giving up of Baptist principles on the other. He also dissented from doing it under the auspices of the American and Foreign Bible Society. The following excerpts from The Old-Fashioned Bible demonstrate some of this reasoning.
“The fact is that the common version which it is proposed to amend, is, taken as a whole, a wonderful translation, and although it may be conceded that it is not perfect—for what human performance is so?—yet it is exceedingly doubtful, whether a translation has ever been made from any ancient book, Greek, Latin, or Oriental--which in point of faithfulness to its original can be compared with this, or which has fewer errors in proportion to the entire amount of its contents.” (pp. 11-12)
“Yes, my brethren, the precious words of this cherished volume are incorporated throughout our whole religious literature, and treasured in the memories and enthroned in the hearts of all the followers of Jesus; and to attempt to supplant it by a ‘new version,’ or to introduce any material alterations, would be like ‘gilding refined gold,’ and would inflict a painful shock upon the religious sensibilities of the whole of English Christendom.” (p. 13)
“...if generally adopted by the Baptists, would be regarded as an admission that we cannot sustain ourselves with the present version of the Bible, and are therefore compelled to make another.” (p. 24)
“ expunging the word baptize from the New Testament, we give up the word entirely to those who practise pouring and sprinkling, and thus aid in identifying the English word baptize with the idea of affusion or pouring.” (p. 30)
“In conclusion, then, I say, brethren, sisters and fathers, cling to your old-fashioned Bible! Never consent to exchange for that cherished and blessed volume, a book which every other Christian but a Baptist will spurn from him with indignation and grief.” (p. 35)
My conclusion is that John Dowling eagerly supported the King James translation, but did not often couch that support in terms familiar to the “King James Version Debate.”

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