Friday, May 29, 2009

Blog changes: Bible versions getting its own blog

This is my "flagship" blog as it were, and it's collected material on many different subjects. That's fine until a topic starts threatening to take over the whole blog. I already started a separate blog for 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 on the woman's head covering because there's so much I'd like to gather in one place on that subject. I'm glad I did that because it keeps things a lot neater around here.

Now I'm thinking I really need to do the same for the Bible versions topic. By now I have some forty or fifty posts on that topic, however, so moving all that is not going to be an easy task. Maybe I won't move all of it but I'm going to start moving some and see how far I get.

My blogs have never been models of neatness and easy travel from one place to another and it's probably going to get a bit worse as I attempt this new project, with links here and there that don't go where they should and that sort of thing.

When I started all this I had in mind collecting links to blogs by many others on the same subjects, too, but that proved to be beyond me partly because it involves me in even more organizational problems, not to mention discussions over differences of opinion that I'm already having trouble keeping up with. I still hope to get to that.

Anyway, this is just to say a new blog about the Bible versions is my next project, and much of what is here I hope to transfer there.

Here's the new blog, The Great Bible Hoax.

SECOND THOUGHTS: I may be doing much less transferring than I expected to do, and mostly just linking back here, while I go on to post new information there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

If you really want it, It's going to cost

One thing I know: to have the power of God it's going to cost. Death. Dying to self that is. Seriously laying oneself on the altar rather than playing at it.

Read about the great revivals of the past -- or individuals who experienced great empowerment by God (think of Hudson Taylor for one of many) -- and you have to appreciate what it cost to bring it about. Hours of prayer into the night, or begun very early, some on knees or face. Hours. Five, six, seven hours. The whole eldership of a church in one case meeting for such protracted prayer two days a week while an elderly lady of the congregation and her sister prayed in concert with them at their home. (Notice something here. Since both men and women met together in the Upper Room, separating the sexes is no doubt not necessary in all circumstances, but I think it's interesting that in this case the men prayed separately and the praying women didn't join them. But then it was specifically the elders of the church. It is not said but I suppose the women covered their heads in those days. This was in Wales or Scotland, I forget, I just remember a few of the particulars.)

They prayed like that for months before God answered but He did answer in great power, the kind of power that moves people to seek God without a word's being spoken to them. They showed up at the church drawn by a power they knew not what.

Such exertions of individuals for the power of God are often not described as the reason God empowered them, or not described in terms of dying to self at least. We may hear about what they were doing before the blessing came, praying and studying the Bible for instance for long hours at a time, or what they were asking for in prayer, or how many got together. And sometimes their actions aren't even given as explanation, just as descriptive fact, but it seems to me the key in all the cases is the dying to self that they went through, the hours spent, the comforts abandoned.

There is sometimes a specific giving up of comforts mentioned in some of the stories, sleeping less, eating less or less luxuriously for instance, much fasting. Or there is the story how under the prompting of the Holy Spirit a man is moved to give up his last dollar to help someone else in need although having himself no prospects for his next meal. Thrown absolutely on the Lord's care at such a time the man learns that He provides -- in a way that is never really learned until all human means are exhausted. It always happens that way.

Revival can come to individuals as well as whole congregations and communities, though that's not usually the word for it. It's the same phenomenon though.
John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Burgon said the Textus Receptus was not perfect

This is a footnote in a discussion of the reasons why the Textus Receptus should have been made the foundation for the Revision of 1881 instead of abandoned as was done by the Revising committee. The Revision Revised, page 21:
Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text. We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject. Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the Textus Receptus needs correction. We do but insist, (1) That it is an incomparably better text than that which either Lachmann, or Tischendorf, or Tregelles has produced: infinitely preferable to the 'New Greek Text' of the Revisionists. And, (2) That to be improved, the Textus Receptus will have to be revised on entirely different 'principles' from those which are just now in fashion. Men must begin by unlearning the German prejudices of the last fifty years; and address themselves, instead, to the stern logic of facts. [his italics]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eclecticism, madness? What a collection of doctrines I pursue.

Been reading around in some of the websites about the Bible versions. What a huge task it is just to grasp the basics of the dispute. Found more books I'd like to have. Need to pray about it. No point in buying books I won't get around to reading, or that won't be of use for anyone but myself if I do read them. I'm doing this because I want to be among those who are doing what they can to broadcast the problems with the modern Bibles.

The position I'm in sometimes amuses me. I think of myself as a Calvinist but I'm finding the best sources on this subject are Fundamental Baptists. I appreciate very much what they have done in exposing Westcott and Hort and their work. Yet some of them are aggressively anti-Calvinist.

David Cloud and Brandon Staggs' are the best internet sources of information against Westcott and Hort and for the KJV. Donald Waite is the source for books by Dean Burgon but also gives as a source, where you can find secondhand copies at a good price. He also has the website of the Dean Burgon Society. Here's an excerpt from Waite's Four-Fold Superiority of the King James Version at the AV1611 site. Cloud also has a page on Waite that is worth reading.

There's also the women's head covering issue, and none of these sources agree with me about this. For the most part the Calvinists don't either, but "Bible Researcher" Michael Marlowe does, though he disagrees with me about the Bible versions. I haven't read all his material on women but suspect I'll agree with most of it; and Mary Kassian, whose book is at the website of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, also believes Paul is calling for a literal head covering.

Those I feel the most affinity with these days are some who put great weight on the writings of the early church fathers as evidence of the doctrines and practices of the early church, and also tend in the direction of the old Anabaptist groups, the Mennonites and the Hutterites and so on, though many of them are ex-Church-of-Christ themselves. There are disagreements among them, but on the whole they are strong on the head covering and modest dress and a strict position against remarriage under all circumstances excepting the death of the spouse, and have pretty much persuaded me of their position on nonresistance as well. I've found some strong KJV-only people among them, but they aren't in the majority and for the most part they don't pay much attention to the Bible versions conflict. The best source of material for this line of thought I've found to be David Bercot and Scroll Publishing. Bercot's A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, published by Hendrickson, is a great reference and a revelation and interesting to read on its own.

I found that Fundamental Baptist David Cloud has an interesting-looking book on modest dress, though he believes the head covering is a woman's hair. I'm considering getting his book on dress, but he has others out that are just as interesting or more so, on the Bible versions problems: a history of the dispute itself for instance, going back to the year 1800, and another about the views of individual defenders of the versions, from before Westcott and Hort through today, demonstrating their rationalism over faith. Links to his site stop working before long but here's another try, to his page of Topical Books.

On top of all this I still have a special fondness for the Holiness preachers, for the teachers of the "second blessing" or the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate experience after conversion, and strongly feel that there is something missing along these lines in most of the churches, though it may never have been given the right name. I reject the way the Pentecostals and charismatics think about it and am still looking for the most trustworthy understanding of it. I have two or three sources for this but will have to look them up and post them here later.

I also still appreciate some of the contemplative and the mystical tradition, as did A. W. Tozer, while agreeing that there is a lot of heresy among them to be recognized and avoided and that today's versions have gone badly wrong.

One thing that is probably true about all this is that you couldn't make a denomination out of it.

But then considering the history of the church maybe that shouldn't be counted on.

And on third thought, maybe this would be the true denomination.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Oh that the churches would rethink the Bible versions problem

I continue to read in Burgon's Revision Revised. Mastering Burgon is no doubt beyond me but he continues to inspire -- and sadden -- me as I read. Reading him makes me cry. I feel the force of his truthfulness and his knowledge, even the Holy Spirit in his work. But what his writing reveals is a state of the Lord's church so misled by profane minds, the word of God worked throughout now with a leaven of doubt and corruption to such a degree the grief overtakes me at times. He himself did not expect that such a thing could occur. He maintained that the flaws in the Revision could not stand the scrutiny of sane minds, which he supposed would prevail. That the corrupted work should prevail instead he regarded as a terrible thing to contemplate, but he didn't allow that it could prevail. To read him now of course is to recognize that it was his warnings the churches discarded while accepting the corrupted Bibles that have come down from Westcott and Hort.

How is it that their text of the Bible got to be so accepted by so many pastors and churches? I puzzle over this a great deal as I read through Burgon again. What explanation is there but that it's God's judgment against the Church, judgment beginning at the house of God? The Anglican Church that commissioned the revision in the first place was already beginning to be infected with the 19th century rationalism which threw much of the Bible into doubt. Burgon comments that some of the new revision reflects this infection.

But how did it spread so far? It's astonishing how so many well-known teachers today seem to take it for granted, as well as many thousands of unknown pastors. In their sermons they may depend on a favorite variation on the W&H text but refer to other variations (even to the KJV which is not such a variation but an entirely different Bible) to resolve sticky points of interpretation. They ponder the principles of Greek that have been passed down from Westcott and Hort, apparently unaware that Burgon refuted them with great care and demonstrably great knowledge. In principle there's nothing wrong with comparing texts for the sake of clarity, I suppose, although isn't there something wrong with the simple fact that pastors are put in this position at all? In any case it demonstrates the degree to which the status quo of multiple Bibles is taken for granted, and the degree to which W&H's thinking prevails, and if these are seriously in error then the pastors and their churches are unfortunately the victims of a great hoax.

Occasionally I search for new editions of the Bible I might consider as a replacement for my King James, since I've been holding to the view that an updating would be a good thing -- I mean, of course, the Bible based on the same Greek texts as the King James, known as the Received Text or Textus Receptus, before Westcott and Hort substituted their preferred texts that Burgon has shown to be corrupt. I've also considered the Geneva Bible that preceded the King James because it was the Bible of the Puritans, but I don't want another Bible with archaic language and I believe the best opinion is that the King James was an improvement over the Geneva despite the political machinations that went on over its commissioning. There are a couple of modern translations from the Textus Receptus, but the problem is that they were done by individuals, and however well-intentioned those individuals no doubt are I don't want to tie my understanding of God's word to a source that doesn't have some recognizable church authority behind him. And I don't want a Bible that is VERY different from the King James, either. I want one that preserves its basic rhythms and patterns intact. I want FEW changes, the fewer the better, which was also the philosophy of the KJV translators themselves as they set about revising the previous work by Tyndale and others. Just the updating of the worst archaisms that stumble people. OR really good footnotes. Nothing I've seen sufficiently meets my criteria.

So I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the King James it's going to have to be. Or I suppose I should call it the Authorized Version. I've read on the one hand that King James himself was a bad man, even a "sodomizer," and on the other that such accusations are politically-motivated slander, and I'm not in a position to judge any of that, BUT surely we all know that the king did not do the translation himself and that the best scholars in the realm were called in to do that work. BUT calling it the Authorized Version would nevertheless be no doubt a good habit to cultivate if I can.

It would be a major help to all of us if at least it were always made clear that the King James and its predecessors were translations from a different set of Greek (and Hebrew) texts than the vast majority of Bibles produced since Westcott and Hort. Really, it's quite strange that this is not often made clear. For instance, it is just about never brought up when the reliability of the Bible texts is discussed, although their reliability certainly depends on WHICH texts are taken as authoritative.

Just for one example, Ron Rhodes on Manuscript Support for the Bible's Reliability makes not one mention of the "textus receptus," or "received text" or "king james" in this connection.

He quotes the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) on the reliability of the scriptures without mentioning that they had no knowledge of any scriptures other than the King James and its predecessors.

The Westminster Confession makes a very important point here.
The fact is, the God who had the power and sovereign control to inspire the Scriptures in the first place is surely going to continue to exercise His power and sovereign control in the preservation of Scripture.
Actually, God's preservational work is illustrated in the text of the Bible.
By examining how Christ viewed the Old Testament, we see that He had full confidence that the Scriptures He used had been faithfully preserved through the centuries.

Because Christ raised no doubts about the adequacy of the Scripture as His contemporaries knew them, we can safely assume that the first-century text of the Old Testament was a wholly adequate representation of the divine word originally given.

Jesus regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the originals in their message that He appealed to those copies as authoritative.

The respect that Jesus and His apostles held for the extant Old Testament text is, at base, an expression of the confidence in God's providential preservation of the copies and translations as substantially identical with the inspired originals.
Hence, the Bible itself indicates that copies can faithfully reflect the original text and therefore function authoritatively.

This is all misleading since it completely ignores the sea change that was brought about by Westcott and Hort in 1881.

I took it all for granted myself of course since I encountered it in every church I attended, and Bible studies as well. A particular Bible study quite strongly recommended the NASB as the best, most accurate translation, for instance, as did a couple of churches as I recall, though without mentioning that it's a translation from the Westcott and Hort textual family and not from the Traditional Text of the Authorized Version. That is, it's based on the same set of Greek texts as the NIV, the ESV, the Living Bible, and so on, which is a completely different set of Greek texts than the Authorized Version was based on, as well as the Geneva Bible, the Tyndale and all the other previous English Bibles.

In this typical frame of reference, the King James/Authorized Version is treated as merely one of the many "translations" rather than a completely different Bible, although it is not just another "translation," because it is not based on the same underlying texts. Yet the whole discussion is usually falsely framed entirely as a matter of different "translations" and the most important difference is not even mentioned, the fact that the Greek texts (and the Hebrew as well) are different.

The translations themselves are also a problem as they were very badly done, from an inferior grasp of the Greek and even an inferior grasp of English idiom, but we have to start with the textual problem as the first major problem. What we have is a proliferation of Bibles in the English language, the great majority of which are translations from sets of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts that to one extent or another derive from the texts promoted by Westcott and Hort in 1881. The exact text they promoted is usually modified now in various ways, but it's still basically the same text they came up with, based on the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which Burgon denounces as corrupt.

The Sinaiticus and Vaticanus Greek texts were chosen by W&H as superior to the texts from which the King James Bible was translated merely because they are older. The idea is if it's older it's closer to the originals and therefore more reliable. The fact that they differ a great deal from the texts the KJV and its precursors relied on seems only to add to the esteem in which they are held, as if they show that the formerly trusted texts are inferior, though such a position only serves to undermine faith in God's preservation of His word over the centuries.

Lord, have mercy on Your people and open our eyes to see Your hand in this frowning Providence, to repent of the sins that have brought this disaster upon us, that Your word may be pure among us again and Your glory our utmost concern and Your Spirit our guide.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dean Burgon, the beleaguered white knight of the Bible versions wars

I've been skimming through Dean J W Burgon's Revision Revised again. I still very much enjoy his rather swashbuckling style, which I know others don't like. To me his style reflects the psychological position of someone with superior understanding having to cope with people with far less understanding who are nevertheless set as experts over him.

[added later: Since it is now the politically correct position to dismiss W&H's work as obsolete and Burgon's work therefore irrelevant, having been eclipsed by later and better texts such as more discoveries of old manuscripts, more work at putting together better versions of the Critical Text, etc., it needs to be said up front that this is merely a smokescreen. It may not be recognized as a smokescreen of course, it is no doubt sincerely believed by some as an important truth, but it is a smokescreen nevertheless, because these changes do not touch the fundamental faults of W&H but perpetuate them under cover of merely minor differences. Slight modifications to W&H's work are made, producing new editions of the Critical Text considered a great improvement over W&H, while their major errors continue to be accepted, as the very term Critical Text indicates: first of all the corrupt Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and secondly even their horrifically bad translation, bad Greek, bad English. No, it ALL goes back to Westcott and Hort, it is ALL traceable to their doorstep, and Burgon's critique applies just as much now as ever and should be read as denouncing the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Society's texts as carriers of the original W&H enormity, the same arguments applying.]

Burgon is genuinely astonished that Westcott and Hort and their committee of revisers are taken seriously at all. Their scholarship is so ridiculously deficient he can hardly believe his eyes. I suspect that this is what leads him to employ that strong sarcastic language, hoping, I think, that if he's very forceful in his denunciations this might wake some up to the seriousness of the situation, might persuade some to rethink their acceptance of the inferior Bible produced by the revising committee. This is how he comes across to me. Unfortunately this sort of tactic almost never works. Those who don't have his level of understanding dismiss him as "exaggerating" his case and "arguing like a lawyer more than a scholar" and are not led to rethink their own judgment at all.

I rather doubt any other tactic would have worked any better, however. He is simply in a thankless position if in fact his ability is so much greater than most of his opponents' which is what I suspect from his own attitude and tone. In that case his ability to judge both the Greek and the English of the 1881 revision is so far beyond that of those who produced it, and most of those today who are regarded as Greek scholars, it's like speaking a foreign language. But the revising committee had managed to gain much prestige in its ten years of producing what Burgon regards as their execrable mistreatment of both the Greek and the English, so that their judgment is accepted by sheer force of popular impression. Pehaps in the acceptance of W&H's work there was also some mixture of relief at the eclipse of the "hard" English of the KJV (no matter that this could have been accomplished with far less damage) and perhaps some infection with 19th century rationalist bias against the supernatural claims of the Bible, which W&H themselves exhibit in their private writings, and which we know subsequently overtook much of the Anglican church down to our day.

I don't know how many of today's students of the Bible versions are even exposed to Dean Burgon's writings at all, I suspect few if any. Some ridiculous things are said against him, slightingly dismissive remarks. To say he argues like a lawyer is true enough in a way, though I think of him as having a more of a literary critic's style than a lawyer's, but to say he doesn't do a scholar's work in refuting W&H is far from the truth. Most of his book is a laborious accounting and discussion of the errors he finds in their revision.

Revision Revised is a hard read unfortunately for someone who isn't prepared to make the comparisons Burgon so carefully brings to the reader's attention. Much of the book is a discussion of the differences between the readings in the texts that were used for the King James translation and those preferred by Westcott and Hort on which all the modern Bibles have been based. Only someone who knows Greek as well as he does could really appreciate it, but I can at least grasp WHAT he is saying even if I can't verify any of it for myself.

In one discussion for instance he objects that the revising committee lacked a grasp of idiomatic Hellenistic Greek so that they clumsily literally translate what was far better and more idiomatically translated by the King James translators. "Aeon" is a case in point. To translate it "age" instead of "world" or "ages of the ages" instead of "forever" is supposed by W&H to be more "accurate" whereas according to Burgon it merely demonstrates their ignorance of both languages. I trust Burgon. His passion for the right things seems indisputable to me. And nobody would make the very specific criticisms he does who didn't have the knowledge necessary; it simply wouldn't occur to him.

But his opponents won. All our present Bibles except the King James are treated as superior and "more accurate" for that very obtuse error among other things. But it would take a higher level of knowledge than most scholars of either language have these days to recognize this. In the days of the King James those who ended up on the translating committee were often men who had been raised from childhood reading Greek, and they certainly demonstrated a superior feeling for English as well. That just doesn't happen today.

He's dismissed as "exaggerating" how much W&H depended on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, although to Burgon ANY dependence on either of them is indefensible. I've seen him denounced as a "conspiracy thinker," apparently lumping him together with some of today's more extreme King-James-only defenders, but he is far from any such thing. Anyone who would say that can't have read him

Burgon wrote other books, among them a lengthy defense of the authenticity of the last twelve verses of Mark. I suppose it's too scholarly for me though I'd like to read it. At 350 pages the level of detail he pursues in his defense has got to be beyond me, but perhaps as with Revision Revised I could appreciate his generalizations. I'm considering investing in it anyway because I like his thinking so much. I got Revision Revised from a second-hand outlet through but the book on the last twelve verses of Mark is a better deal through the Dean Burgon Society.

One continuing confusion in this dispute is the habit of those who defend the modern versions of lumping the KJV in with all of them as just another translation, obscuring the fact that it was done from a completely different set of Greek texts than Westcott and Hort used for their revision. W&H had no authorization for substituting the texts of their own preference for starters, but beyond that the texts they preferred were already considered by competent scholars to be corrupt in multiple ways. Burgon addresses the corruptions in Revision Revised as well as a separate book on the subject. This historical fact is strangely ignored in current discussions of the Bible text. The subject of the reliability of the Bible texts, for instance, will be discussed at great length without the slightest reference to this most crucial distinction between the King James Bible and its predecessors and the majority of current Bibles which are all based on some version or other of the corrupted texts preferred by Westcott and Hort.

Someone I discussed this with also said that the King-James-only people confuse Westcott and Hort's text with the Nestle-Aland text, and exaggerate how much of the N/A is based on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. This just has to reflect some deficiency in how these things are taught, doesn't it? There is no confusion; any textual collection such as Nestle/Aland that makes use of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus AT ALL is following in the footsteps of Westcott/Hort. There are two equally serious complaints against W&H and one is that they used those corrupted manuscripts at all. The other is that their English translation is atrocious.