Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dean Burgon's blasts at Westcott & Hort's Bible Revision (Famine of God's Word Pt. 7)

I want to quote some remarks by Dean John William Burgon, the earliest critic of the revision of the Bible done by Westcott and Hort in 1881, on which the most popular Bibles today are based.

He was eminently qualified to make such a criticism of their effort, and he pulls no punches.

Burgon is not of the KJV-only school, who believe that the KJV is perfect as it is, although they often claim him as their own. He appears to have supported the original intention to produce an updating of the King James, which is what Westcott and Hort were commissioned to do, so he is not of the opinion that it did not need some revision.

When he saw the revision that was actually produced, however, he was appalled at the liberty taken by the revisers, first in substituting what he denounces as an outrageously corrupt text in the place of the text on which the KJV was based, and second in undertaking not just a revision and updating, but a whole new translation. In the quote I reproduce below, he uses strong language in denouncing their work, such as "calamity" "vicious" "untrustworthy" "gravest errors."

A brief biography of Dean John William Burgon from Christian Classics Ethereal Library:

A lengthier biography by the Dean Burgon Society:

What I've quoted below comes from this page:

Burgon's Revision Revised is excerpted at links on the lower left margin. The other links on the margin are also very much worth reading.

From his Preface to The Revision Revised

It requires to be demonstrated by induction from a large collection of particular instances, as well as by the complex exhibition of many converging lines of evidence, that the testimony of one small group of documents, or rather, of one particular manuscript, (namely the Vatican Codex B, which, for some unexplained reason, it is just now the fashion to regard with superstitious deference,) is the reverse of trustworthy. Nothing in fact but a considerable Treatise will ever effectually break the yoke of that iron tyranny to which the excellent Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol and his colleagues have recently bowed their necks; and are now for imposing on all English-speaking men. . . .

In the end, when partisanship had cooled down, and passion had evaporated, and prejudice had ceased to find an auditory, the 'Revision' of 1881 must come to be universally regarded as what it most certainly is, the most astonishing, as well as the most calamitous literary blunder of the Age.

I pointed out that 'the New Greek Text' which, in defiance of their instructions, the Revisionists of 'the Authorized English Version' had been so ill-advised as to spend ten years in elaborating, was a wholly untrustworthy performance, was full of the gravest errors from beginning to end, had been constructed throughout on an entirely mistaken theory. Availing myself of the published confession of one of the Revisionists, I explained the nature of the calamity which had befallen the Revision. I traced the mischief home to its true authors, Drs. Westcott and Hort, a copy of whose unpublished Text of the N.T. (the most vicious in existence) had been confidentially, and under pledges of the strictest secrecy, placed in the hands of every member of the revising Body. I called attention to the fact that, unacquainted with the difficult and delicate science of Textual Criticism, the Revisionists had in an evil hour surrendered themselves to Dr. Hort's guidance, had preferred his counsels to those of Prebendary Scrivener, (an infinitely more trustworthy guide) and that the work before the public was the piteous (but inevitable) result. All this I explained in the October number of the Quarterly Review for 1881.

In thus demonstrating the worthlessness of the 'New Greek Text' of the Revisionists, I considered that I had destroyed the key of their position. And so perforce I had. For if the underlying Greek Text be mistaken, what else but incorrect must the English Translation be? But on examining the so-called 'Revision of the Authorized Version,' I speedily made the further discovery that the Revised English would have been in itself intolerable. even had the Greek been let alone. In the first place, to my surprise and annoyance, it proved to be a new translation (rather than a revision of the old) which had been attempted.

Painfully apparent were the tokens which met me on every side that the Revisionists had been supremely eager not so much to correct none but "plain and clear errors", as to introduce as many changes into the English of the New Testament Scriptures as they conveniently could.

That's how I would expect it to seem to anybody who makes the simplest comparisons between the different Bibles, as I discovered from doing the casual comparison of the versions on psalm 91 as I have shown here. Since the revisions have some 36,000 changes from the KJV, most of them of the sort I discovered in psalm 91-- that is, absolutely unnecessary, nuisance changes just to make them read differently from the KJV-- that alone ought to make people question the motives of W and H, and the revisions themselves. Then when you see the comparisons that have been done of the passages where actual words have been left out and even whole verses, which is the result of using the corrupted Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, what's amazing is that so many of the church have accepted these new versions and defend them. They are not a revision of the KJV which is what was originally intended, they are entirely new versions, based on corrupt Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, and full of ridiculously unnecessary changes in the English as well.

In all this, the KJV never did get the originally intended MINOR revision, and now it's probably too late.