Rick Norris, The Unbound Scriptures: A Review of KJV-only Claims and Publications. Fayetteville, NC: Unbound Scriptures Publications, 2003. ISBN 0974546208. 552 pages (viii, 544).
The author of this work, Rick Norris, is a fundamental, independent Baptist. He maintains the website UnboundScriptures.com: Bible Version & King James Only Controversy Information. He spends a great deal of time working actively in internet discussion forums and Facebook groups to promote his views, especially with long copy and paste sections from or similar to his book.
Norris states that one purpose of his book “is to advocate the need for consistent principles that would result in Scriptural, balanced view of this issue” (p. 1). He claims an “additional aim of this book is to provide information concerning the history of our English Bible as it relates to the translation issue” (p. 2).
The Unbound Scriptures consists of a “Foreword” by James D. Price, author of King James Onlyism: A New Sect, and chairman of the New King James Old Testament translation committee. This is followed with an Introduction” by Norris, 18 chapters about the King James Bible and King James Only controversy, five appendices, a bibliography, and an index.
Norris’s book provides some interesting information for which he has exerted much effort in compiling. However, it is very thick, dense reading – like trying to navigate through a canebrake. Piling on quote after quote after quote, and presenting lengthy paragraphs of “unformatted” information (see the information on differences in various editions, pp. 113-131, for example) has a way of wearing out the reader. It is not clear whether Norris is oblivious to this, or whether it suits his agenda. The modus operandi includes quote after quote, source after source, with little to no distinguishing of the weight they give to the matter at hand. For example, in attempting to charge Richard Bancroft with perpetrating fourteen changes on the translation authorized by King James (pp. 92-95), he has no primary sources with which to work. There are two mid-17th-century sources that claim prelates, plural, (not Bancroft) made some editorial changes to the translation. Over a period of time, this charge morphed from prelates plural to Bancroft only. Rather than focus on the early and unique claims, Norris fills the pages with all sorts of extraneous material – author after author after author who is simply referring to what some other author – often a tertiary source – says about Bancroft changing the Bible in 14 places. This style of being heard for much speaking (Matthew 6:7) will surely frustrate many readers. Further, Norris does not address conflicting claims. He does not even mention a primary source that is at odds with his premise – the translators’ report to the Synod of Dort in 1618, which states that Thomas Bilson and Miles Smith put the finishing touches on the translation before it went to publication.
He makes other errors of presentation, such as the discussion of “originals” on page 366-367. Norris confuses quotations that reference the apographs (original language copies) and other quotations that reference the autographs (original media of the penmen) as if they are equivalent. This may be by mistake, but it sends a mixed message nonetheless. Additionally, the first full paragraph on page 367, beginning “If there were no inspired originals…” seems to suggest that KJVO advocates do not believe the original were inspired.
Clearly, Norris has put in a great deal of research on the subject. He provides some useful data that the has compiled. He shows inconsistencies among different KJV-onlyists (of course, there are inconsistencies among anti-KJV-onlyists as well). The comparisons of verses in the KJV in Appendices A and B might be handy and helpful reference tools. The pages of differences in certain editions/printings of King James Bibles can be instructive as well, if the reader is armed with a sharp sickle to cut through the dense cane.