Number of Visitors to site

Your 'avatar' tells me you follow my blog

Monday, 31 January 2011

William Bedwell – not "eccentric"!

Personal background

William Bedwell was born in 1561/2, He was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge and became a scholar of Trinity in May 1584, though he was never fellow of his college. He was Rector of St. Ethelburgh's, Bishopsgate Street in London, and was selected by Lancelot Andrewes in 1604 to be one of his Westminster company of translators. These men worked without remuneration (!), so as a reward Andrewes introduced him to a ‘living’ in 1607, becoming vicar of Tottenham High Cross, London.

Bedwell was known as the father of Arabic studies in England, and his scope included all the oriental languages. He made translations of the Scriptures into Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee and Arabic. Bedwell produced a Persian dictionary, which is among Archbishop Laud's manuscripts, still preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. However, he was especially dedicated to Arabic, because it was very little known in northern Europe.

The value of Arabic

Bedwell said the practical importance of Arabic was seen in that, from the Fortunate Islands (possibly Madeira, Canary Islands, Azores, Cape Verde and Bermuda) to the China Seas it was the only language of religion and was the chief language of diplomacy and business.

He also believed Arabic had real value because the literature was rich in theology, medicine, and mathematics. Many ancient authors had also been translated into Arabic. He knew that Arabic, being a cognate (= cousin) language of Hebrew, was a significant resource in trying to discover the meaning of unusual Hebrew words in the Old Testament.

His influence on other scholars

Thomas Van Erpe (Erpenius), was a most renowned professor of Oriental languages at Leiden, Holland. He visited England in 1606. Bedwell’s reputation for Arabic learning was so great, that Erpenius sought him out for guidance and direction in his studies. Erpenius was only 22, and not yet professor, whereas Bedwell’s influence was well established by this time. Alex. McClure says Erpenius is often reputed to have been the first to promote and revive the study of the Arabic language and literature in Europe, but the older English scholar was, in fact, ahead of him.

Dr. Edward Pococke ” filled the first chair of Arabic at Oxford in 1636. Bedwell had been tutor to him also. “His rare scholarship and personal qualities brought him influential friends, foremost among these being John Selden and John Owen.”

Arabists on the European continent rated Bedwell highly, either visiting him or corresponding with him. They waited keenly for the publication of his Arabic Lexicon in three volumes, which was the first of its kind.

Bedwell too, went travelling to discover Arabic manuscripts, as there was a dearth of such materials in England. He went to Holland to examine the collections of the Huguenot Joseph Scaliger who “from his throne at Leiden ruled the learned world.”

Whilst in Antwerp Bedwell published the epistles of John in Arabic and Latin in 1612. This was a book where the two languages are printed on the same page, side by side.

After his death Bedwell's manuscripts - useful for their numerous notes - were loaned to the University of Cambridge, and with a font of types for printing them. Here they were consulted by Edmund Castell during the creation of his monumental Lexicon Heptaglotton (1669). This was a combined lexicon of Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Persian and Arabic produced over 18 years by the Cambridge Prof. of Arabic.

The influence of Islam

In his study of Arabic literature, Bedwell translated an 'Index' of the Suras of the Koran, which he had derived from comparing the manuscripts. He wrote “The 'Trudgeman'"' an interpretive work which explains how Arabic words were being used by Western writers, when describing the world of the Near East. It bears evidence of very wide reading in all such works, from the Byzantines downwards.

Bedwell had none of the illusions, which are quite widespread today, about the teachings of Mohammed. He refused to simplistically identify Muslem scholarship with a manuscript written in Arabic! In 1615, he published his book, "A Discovery of the Impostures of Mahomet and of the Koran."

A.N.(1) implies Bedwell called the Koran blasphemous, and Mohammed - the amanuensis of a supposed divine revelation - a "seducer." Such a description he says reactively is "vituperative," such conduct is "eccentric." Notwithstanding, Bedwell's judgements were based on first-hand study of the Koran in Arabic, not on a pre-occupation with political correctness. For example, there are a number of verses in the Koran (2) where the Sonship of Christ is specifically denied, such as Q 4:171 and especially Q 19:34-35:

Such was Jesus the son
Of Mary: (it is) a statement
Of truth, about which
They (vainly) dispute.
It is not befitting
To (the majesty of) Allah
That He should beget
A son.

Q4: 156-158 also denies that Jesus Christ was crucified - at the last moment someone else took his place. No wonder then, if Bedwell considered the Koran not noble, but blasphemous. For a 16th century Christian minister, the deity and atoning death of Jesus was central to the Christian faith. Indeed, Lancelot Andrewes and others had Bartholomew Legate and John Wightman shamefully put to death for denying these basic truths of Christianity. "Eccentric" means 'off-centre,’ ‘on-a-tangent.’ To "seduce" is to lead astray. Bedwell was not being eccentric in his value-judgements; rather, they conformed to the established orthodoxy of the day. When Mohammed was commanded by an angel in the cave to “recite!’ what he heard, he protested that he was completely illiterate.”(3) It’s not surprising therefore that he confused begetting a son, with the result of a sexual relationship. Whereas, for the Christian who should know better, Jesus Christ is at the very centre of his thinking - all else is eccentric. Do we infer from this criticism of Bedwell, that A.N. writes not as a Christian?

Practical effect of knowing Arabic

Donald Waite (4) explains why he believes Bedwell’s specialist knowledge put the scholar in a different class from today’s translators:

William Bedwell, with his Arabic, Persian, and other Oriental languages, was greatly superior to our modern translators. Many modern “translators” come up to a word, and in a footnote somewhere, or in an index at the bottom of the page, they’ll say the meaning of this Hebrew word is uncertain; so they’ll have some other rendition of it. Well, the meaning of it is uncertain, perhaps, to these men who were living . . . when the NIV came out. ...; but these men who translated the KING JAMES BIBLE knew their cognate languages well. They understood these references and there was no question in their mind about what most of these words meant. . . . Cognate languages are simply sister languages related to Hebrew like Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic and so on. They are related like brother and sister.

A word may be clear, or maybe the word is what they call a hapaxlegomenon. Hapax means "once” and legomenon means “spoken or written.” This particular word was used once only in all the New Testament Greek or Old Testament Hebrew. So it is difficult to tell sometimes what these hapaxlegomena (in the plural) mean. They go to other sources to try to understand the meaning. The translators of the KING JAMES, who knew Arabic, Persian, Aramaic, Coptic and all the various cognate languages, could go to these languages and understand very clearly. But the men living today, because they don’t know these cognate languages as well [they don’t know fifteen languages like Andrews for example], just throw up their hands and say the meaning of the Hebrew is not certain.

William Bedwell died aged 70, in 1632. Let’s give McClure the last word on his significant contribution to the KJV:

Some modern scholars have fancied, that we have an advantage in our times over the translators of King James's day, by reason of the greater attention which is supposed to be paid at present to what are called the "cognate" and "Shemetic" languages, and especially the Arabic by which much light is thought to be reflected upon Hebrew words and phrases. It is evident, however, that Mr. Bedwell and others, among his fellow-laborers, were thoroughly conversant in this part of the broad field of sacred criticism.
(1) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp. 101, 192.
(2) Sookhdeo Patrick (2001) A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam, UK: Christian Focus, p. 38.
(3) Rogerson, Barnaby (2003) The Prophet Mohammed, Lon: Abacus, p. 89.
(4) Waite, D. A. (1992/2004) Defending the King James Bible NJ: Bible For Today, p. 69.

This is 5/52. Previous Next Index

Thursday, 27 January 2011

He giveth songs in the night.

I often wake in the night thinking, “I’m going to be dead soon!” ("Soon" is an elastic term!) Yes, I realise, not exactly a song in the night, (Job 35:10 But none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?). But, it forces me to ask, “Am I focusing enough on the all-important issues, which affect people’s lives for eternity?” So, I wake up once again determined to put more time in daily studying God’s Word on my knees (like Matthew Henry did), and to put some beef into private prayer.

A good way to go about Bible reading is to listen daily to several chapters of the Word through earphones. By that method, we can concentrate on the words, and don’t have to worry about finding the place or keeping it. With eyes shut, we find no obvious distractions to actually listening to what God says in the Bible.

This morning I dug out a past method I have used, which follows the advice of the ex-principal of Wycliffe Hall, Toronto. In his summary of study methods, Griffith-Thomas says we should use two Bibles, one for knowledge and the other for spiritual life and power. We need a separate unmarked Bible for daily devotional purposes alone.

WHGT offers the following suggestions for devotional study:

1. Open all such occasions with prayer for the Holy Spirit’s light (Psalm cxix.18)
2. Ask to be guided to some definite thought for yourself.
3. Dwell prayerfully on this thought thus given –Is it a counsel? A precept? A warning? A promise? An experience? A command?
4. When its meaning is clear, use it as the basis of a prayer for grace to realise it in experience.
5. Yield the whole soul in full surrender to its truth and power.
6. Link it on to truths already known, and thereby strengthen the chain of experience.
7. Trust God to reproduce it in your life that day.

This year, I am following Harry Ironside’s daily meditations called The Continual Burnt Offering. (2) For January 29th, he comments on Deuteronomy 33:1-18,. Specifically verse 3:

KJV Deut. 33:3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.

This verse speaks of how God relates to us, and how we should relate to Him. First, we are on his heart: Yea, he loved the people. I am challenged by this to love people. Second, we are safe and secure in His love – He looks after us, as He said He would (John 10:28 neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.). Lastly, we need to sit down at His feet, by getting down on our knees before Him. That’s where we are true disciples, like Mary in the home at Bethany:

Luke 10:39 And . . . Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. . . . 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It is here we learn whatever it is He wants to teach us - away from public view and mere human influences. May God reproduce these truths in our lives today!

Ironside has this lovely little poem, which encapsulates Deut 33:3, as applied:

Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus,
This is the place for me;
There I have learned sweet lessons,
Truth that has set me free.

Free from myself, Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men.
Chains of thought that once bound me
Never shall bind again.

None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered my wayward will;
But for Thy grace, my Saviour
I had been wayward still.

(1) Griffith-Thomas, WH (1926) Methods of Bible Study, Moody Press. p. 118.
(2) Ironside HA (1941/1994) The Continual Burnt Offering. NJ: Loiseaux, Jan. 29.

This is 5/52. January Entries 1-4 are dated 3rd, 11th, 18th, 23rd, 29th

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Lancelot Andrewes: Adding beauty and grandeur.

Sir Lancelot Andrewes

Personal background

Andrewes was born in 1555 in Barking, Greater London, and like his contemporary Thomas Harrison (see Jan. 2) studied at Merchant Taylors' School, under Richard Mulcaster. He graduated from Cambridge 21 years old, In 1571. He became a fellow (teacher) of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and a clergyman four years after that. Teaching undergraduates over a thirteen year period, he gradually rose to become Master (Principal) of his College in 1589. By this time he had already become chaplain to the Archbishop, and was a great favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, whom she appointed her chaplain. By 1601, he was Dean of the Abbey at Westminster. Before the KJV was published, he had also been appointed Bishop of Chichester, and then of Ely. near Cambridge. Seven years after the great publishing event, Andrewes became bishop of Winchester, once the home of English Kings. Finally, he distinguished himself as Dean of the Chapel Royal. This is a body of singers and priests, which served to meet the spiritual needs of the Royal family at St James’ Palace and Hampton Court. Such a succession of significant offices meant there were few Englishmen more powerful in his day! He died in London, 1626, aged sixty-one, and a monument marks the spot where he was buried. Having never married, he bequeathed his property to charity. The poet John Milton, then but a youth, wrote a glowing Latin elegy on his death. The well-known poet T. S. Eliot wrote an essay about him, “ considering him "an important figure in the history of the church, distinguished for the quality of his thoughts and prose."

Academic achievements.

According to Alex. McClure Andrewes acquired most of the modern languages of Europe. At the University, he gave himself chiefly to Oriental languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac) and to divinity. One brave old chronicler said, such was his skill in ancient languages that had he been present at the confusion of tongues at Babel, he might have brought some order as Interpreter-General! Others taking up a similar thought applied it to the coming Day of Judgment!(1) In his funeral sermon, Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester declared him conversant with fifteen languages.

His manual of Private Prayers has long been a source of private devotion for High Church Anglicans. It was Andrewes’ own, and written entirely in Greek. The on-line English edition (translated by JH Newman) has been accessed more than 50, 670 times since March 24, 2006! Says Donald Waite, “Many Christians today don’t even have private daily devotions. Of those who do, how many do you know who have made up private devotions' manuals? And of the people who have made up private devotions manuals, how many do you know who have written them wholly in the Greek language?”(2). Andrewes’ fame was due mainly to his passionate eloquence in the pulpit, but modern taste would dismiss his style as stiff and artificial. Nevertheless, there is that extraordinary beauty and profundity of the Elisabethan age, which filter through. Twenty-one of his sermons are lovingly reproduced on-line. Little did I know as a boy, that as every year came around (Nov. 5th) we were celebrating the seventeenth century trauma (the foiled Gunpowder Plot) at Andrewes’ instigation. There are fourteen accessible essays and articles about him.

How he influenced the KJV

Andrewes was invited by a senior bishop (together with the two senior Professors of Hebrew and Greek at ‘Oxbridge’) to name suitable persons qualified for the translation task. He also handled the details in implementing the fifteen guiding principles drawn up in direct response to the King’s specific requirements. Of the six companies, Andrewes chaired the first Westminster group, translating Genesis - II Kings. Perhaps he did more of the work than we would imagine, as he said of his translation ‘team’ – “Most of our company are negligent.” A. N. gives us an insight into the way Andrewes developed the openness of Tyndale’s version in Genesis 1:1-3, the first verses of the Bible. These had already been improved in the Geneva Bible, but he made of them “something larger, more three dimensional, more operatic . . . a baroque form.” “Andrewes introduced two new qualities: an aural fluency . . . and . . . a pace of deliberate and magisterial slowness. . . . It is as solemn and orderly as the beginning of a steady and majestic march.” A second example given is from St. Mark 14:4, “Why was this waste of ointment made?” Here the KJV improves on previous Bibles, though using the best of the past - whether Protestant or Catholic: “[The KJB] is both clear and rich. It both makes an exact and almost literal translation of the original and infuses that translation with a sense of beauty and ceremony. . . . No one could fault the Translators in their meticulous attention to detail of the original texts; and yet in doing so, more than any other English translators, they enshrined a high moment of Christian meaning. . . . This is the central paradox of the translation: the richness of the words somehow represents a substance that goes beyond mere words and that is its triumph.” (3)

His spirituality

This is defined by his Prayer Manual more than anything. As to this, HB Swete explains:

The private prayers of Bishop Andrewes were not written for publication. They grew up under the hands of the author in hours of solitude, perhaps when he was on his knees. That they are written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin confirms this view of their origin; for others he would have used the English tongue; to Andrewes himself the three learned languages were as familiar and more expressive than English. There are other indications that we have here the genuine outpourings of the saint's heart. Personal recollections are numerous:
Just a cursory reference to this manual of devotion shows there was in Andrewes a quiet spirit, someone steeped in Scripture, with an intimate knowledge of early writers (“the Fathers”), and with a broad outlook.

Was Andrewes a saint?

His piety was that of an ancient saint, semi-ascetic and unearthly in its self-denial, but rooted in a deep and glowing love for his Lord. No shadow rests on his beautiful and holy life.
Not all agree on the final statement. There was a shadow, as there is in many lives. In terms of the Biblical definition – being someone set apart by God to live a holy life and who sought to live a holy life – Andrewes was a saint. But, like the rest of mankind, (including St. Paul, 1 Tim. 1:15-16 !) he remained a sinner, also! It comes as an unwelcome surprise to learn that – reminiscent of the burning of Michael Servetus with John Calvin’s approval at Geneva, 1553 – Andrewes condemned two men to burn for denying the deity of Jesus. “In Smithfield Market on March 18, 1611, at the urging of Andrewes, Abbot and other firmly irate divines, the king’s agents burned Bartholomew Legate at the stake.”! (4). Stephen Neill calls this “the one serious blot on the fair fame of Andrewes.” But, is this quite accurate? Andrewes added his weight against the more extreme Puritans, who considered each congregation a self-governing church of Christ. These believed that each soul could converse directly with God through faith in the crucified Saviour and Risen Lord, and that the mediation of a sacramental priesthood was unnecessary. Indeed, he himself had said that only a blind man could fail to see that salvation was to be found in churches other than the Anglican! (5).

Andrewes the persecutor?

Andrewes’ treatment of Henry Barrow is a clear example of prejudice. Barrow was a ‘separatist’ detained on the authority of the Archbishop. A. N. describes Andrewes’ conversation with Barrow in prison as “shocking,” “despicable” and “patronising.” The poor man [Barrow] was lonely, longing for his friends and for a sight of the sky, from which the intolerance of the state had excluded him,” but in response to his plea for mercy, what he got was a cold “reply, witty, supercilious, a pastiche of the sympathetic confessor.

Three years later, along with his friend and fellow ‘separatist’ John Greenwood, Henry Barrow was executed at Tyburn, early morning 6th April, for publishing literature which undermined established religion.(6)

KJV Zec. 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

The Mayflower

Justification by faith

Truth is, for all his learning and influence, Lancelot Andrewes never understood St. Paul’s teaching (Romans 5:12 ff.) that eternal life is a present gift, and a permanent gift of righteousness. The postscript to this blog proves Andrewes did understand and believe the concept of imputed righteousness. But he didn’t see that its application had an immediate and direct relevance, bringing joy - as St. Paul said it should (Rom. 5:11). The footnoted extract (below) shows it was consolation for Andrewes as he prepared to stand before God’s Judgement seat, not more. Perhaps this accounts for the comment of Richard Baxter, after hearing Andrews’ preaching: “When I read such a book as Bishop Andrewes’ sermons or heard any such kind of preaching, I felt no life in it; methought they did but play with holy things.” Commenting on this, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “As people in past days would go to a political meeting or hear a political orator, so people went to hear and to listen to preachers because they were interested in oratory and eloquence and ornate balanced sentences and cadences and beautiful illustrations.”(7)

A.N. also suggests Andrewes abandoned his pastoral responsibilities towards the sick and the dying in his parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, during the great plague of 1603. This averred dereliction of duty aimed to preserve his health intact. Meanwhile, so many were suffering horribly (6). As American Christians like to ask, “What would Jesus do?!” Would I have done any differently, I ask myself? - possibly not. Yet, such instances, highlighting that most of us have clay feet, are a healthy antidote against another human failing: the tendency to idolise those we admire.

(1) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 86 - Abbreviated as A.N. in the body of the Text
(2) Waite, D.A. (1992/2004) Defending the King James Bible NJ: Bible For Today, p. 67
(3) Nicolson, pp. 193-194, p. 196 – 197
(4) Paine, Gustavus S. (1977/1959) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, p. 142.
(5) Neill, Stephen. (1958) Anglicanism. Lon: Penguin, p. 136 – 137.
(6) Nicolson, p 91 - 92. Pp. 26 - 29
(7) Lloyd-Jones, D.M. (1987) The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors. Edin: Banner. p. 383

Postscript on Justification by faith: extract of Andrewes’ sermon,

Text Jeremiah xxiii: 6
This is His Name whereby He shall be called. The Lord our righteousness.

[His Name is] Jehova. Touching which word, and the ground why it must be a part of this name, the prophet David resolveth us: I will remember saith he, you alone are just. Because His righteousness, and only His righteousness, is worth the remembering, and other's beside, His is not meet [fit] to be mentioned. For as for our own 'righteousness' which we have without Him, Isaiah telleth us 'it is but a defiled cloth,' and St. Paul that it is 'but dung.' Two very homely [i.e. ugly] comparisons, but they be the Holy Ghost's own; yet nothing so homely as in the original, where they be so odious! As [to] what manner of defiled cloth, or what kind of dung [Isaiah speaks of], we have not dared to translate.

Our own [righteousness] then being no better, we are driven to seek for it elsewhere. 'He shall receive His righteousness,' saith the Prophet; and 'the gift of righteousness,' saith the Apostle. It is then another, to be given us, and to be received by us, which we must seek for. And whither shall we go for it? Job alone despatcheth this point. Not to the heavens or stars; for they are 'unclean in His sight.' Not to the Saints; for in them He found 'folly.' Nor to the Angels; for neither in them found He any steadfastness. Now if none of these will serve, we see a necessary reason why Jehova must be a part of this Name. . . . (final para. follows) [Imputed righteousness is] the greatest benefit that can be received for importance in itself, and the greatest in respect of the most dreadful place and time wherein we shall need to receive it [the day of judgement], wherein heaven and earth and all in them shall not be able to stand us in stead - but 'Jehovah our righteousness' only. (explanatory notes added in brackets)

This is 4/52 - Previous Next Index

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Miles Smith – a “chosen vessel.”

Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, in this centennial year, calls on the Christian English-speaking world to rediscover the KJV. Miles Smith would be so proud to know – could he fast forward 400 years – that the Bible he had so much to do with, more than any other KJV translator, would be celebrated so enthusiastically in 2011 with special events in the Commonwealth and beyond.

His academic career

Miles Smith was born In 1554 in Hereford, where he spent most of his entire life. He started his schooling in the Cathedral. He came from a well-to-do family. Miles is said to have soaked up learning like a sponge - an infant prodigy. By the time he was 14-15 years, he was ready for University and went to Corpus Christi and Brasenose College, Oxford. After twenty years of further study he became a ‘doctor divine’.

Smith was exceptionally industrious in applying himself constantly to the reading of ancient Greek and Latin authors. He ‘lusted after no worldly things so much as books’. McClure says: “He went through the Greek and Latin fathers, making his annotations on them all.” Donald Waite points out, “There were 100 Church Fathers that wrote extensively from 100 – 300 A. D. There were 200 or more that wrote from 300 – 600 A.D. He read through them all of them in Greek and Latin and made his own comments on each of them.”(1)

Such was Smith’s reputation that Anthony Wood said of him that ‘Chaldaic, Syriac and Arabic were as familiar to him as his own native tongue.’ “Hebrew he had at his fingers’ ends.”

He was also much versed in history and general literature, and was fitly characterized by a brother bishop as “a very walking library.”

At evensong one day in Hereford Cathedral, so the story goes (2), the Dean asked him to read the first Scripture lesson. He happened to have with him a little Hebrew Bible, so he delivered the allotted chapter by reading it fully and in plain unfaltering English! Such was his skill says John Tiller “that I suspect he thought of Scripture in Hebrew and Greek, and only subsequently in an English translation. He belonged to an age of great flowering in the study of ancient languages in the English universities.”

Hereford Cathedral library

The chancellor continues: “At his death he left to Hereford Cathedral Library several of his books, consisting of works in Hebrew, Chaldee and Arabic, and these contain a number of marginal notes in his own hand, mostly in Latin but including some in Hebrew. There are the copious cross-references in his Arabic lexicon of 1613, and the masses of marginal notes in his Arabic NT of 1616 and his Arabic Pentateuch of 1622 to demonstrate his assiduousness as a Biblical scholar. Furthermore his scholarship extended beyond the text of the Old Testament to the Targums and rabbinic commentaries.”

By now you may be asking: “Can we find this level of scholarship today?” I don't believe it's possible, as today's educational priorities are so different. You have to go back to the seventeenth to find it!!

Miles Smith was described in a report on the translation presented to the Dutch Synod of Dort (1618), as “a distinguished man - deeply occupied in the whole work from the beginning, who put the finishing touch to this version." Says Valerie N. Walke (Victoria, Australia) “He was chosen to write the Preface and the Dedication to King James I, which is still to be found in our Bibles. . . . Surely [he] was a man raised up by God and specially equipped for the great task which was to be given him. Just as the Apostle Paul was a chosen vessel so might we view Miles Smith who was endowed with such extraordinary scholastic ability and love for learning.”

The work of translation

Smith was one of the Oxford committee of seven who translated the Major and Minor prophets. He then became one of the 12 revisers who reworked all the drafts submitted to them. Then again, with Bilson (Bishop of Winchester), he was the final reviser of the entire Bible. C.P Hallihan says “he was one of two required . . . to examine the whole work for consistency and integrity.” He also prepared the page and chapter headings of the 1611 editions, and was asked to write the extensive preface to the Bible. “The style of the Preface is so different from that of the 1611 Bible that I . . . hope that you will agree . . that this is more the style of our beloved Bible, herein are the echoes of Tyndale, Coverdale and the Geneva Bible." To illustrate Hallihan quotes the section, "Our sins do threaten . . ." The preface shows such literary skill that we could infer from it the process of final revision - after it had been reworked by the Revision committee - may have been more than a simple tidying-up process. Perhaps Smith added his personal skill to enhance the literary quality of the final result. (3)

The Translators’ Preface

The Preface abounds with metaphor and imagery, and shows the writer is very well acquainted with ancient authors and especially those Christian writings going back more than a thousand years - those ‘fathers’ who quoted Scripture so abundantly when they wrote. The KJV translators’ intimate and detailed knowledge of these writings doubtless influenced their textual choices, when deciding between variant readings in Greek manuscripts. Miles Smith was well aware of many opposing critics, and was keen to justify their task, as well as the methods they used. Alister McGrath (4) analyses the Translator’s preface and summarises Miles Smith’s six principles, which explain the aims and objectives of the translators:

Alister McGrath

1. To provide the best possible distillation of the wisdom, grace, and beauty of existing translations, corrected where necessary against the original biblical documents in their original languages.” See The Purpose of the translators

2. To keep the Bible in the central place of Christian life and thought by a strategy which stresses “the importance of direct access to the Bible for Christian spiritual growth, personal integrity and doctrinal correctness. See The Praise of the Holy Scriptures

3. To be a means of spiritual nourishment. This is highlighted by a series of images. “Translating the Bible is the essential means by which the people of God could gain access to the spiritual nourishment found in the Bible.” See Translation necessary

4. To build on the substantial foundation laid by others, such as William Tyndale. See A Satisfaction to our brethren.

5. To alert readers to difficulties or uncertainties in translation, for example, in understanding certain rare Hebrew words. For this reason, the translators inserted marginal notes in which alternative translations were suggested. See Reasons moving us to set diversity of senses in the margin.

6. To avoid a wooden approach, which uses the same English word to translate a Greek or Hebrew word each time it occurs. They saw themselves as free to enhance the beauty of the text by using a variety of words. See Reasons . . not to stand . . upon an identity of phrasing.

A godly man

Concerning his fellow translators, Smith wrote: “There were many chosen who were greater in other men’s eyes than their own, and who sought the truth rather than their own praise.” In the great Bible translation, another says of him: he ‘began with the first of the laborers, and put the last hand to the work. Yet he was never known to speak of it as owing more to him than to the rest of the Translators.’

At Smith’s funeral, the preacher Thomas Prior, sub-dean of the Cathedral, recalled how he ‘heard him discourse sweetly of the certainty of salvation, and of perseverance in grace' - a "chosen vessel."

(1) Waite, DA 1992/2004 Defending the King James Bible, NJ: Bible For Today, p. 70.
(2) From the author of the biographical preface to the published sermons of Miles Smith (1632)
(3) Paine, Gustavus S. 1959. The Men Behind the King James Version, MI: Baker. p. 123
(4) McGrath, Alister, 2001. The story of the King James Bible, Lon: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 191 - 194

PS. This is 3/52. Previous Next Index

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Greater love hath no man than this

It was 2.00 pm on Monday 10th January in Toowoomba, Queensland, when Donna Rice was driving two of her children, Jordan 13 and James Blake 10, on their way - just minutes away - from picking up a third brother, Chris. It was not raining heavily – its seemed sort-of-safe to travel. They were on their way to celebrate Jordan’s birthday that evening with a party. However, the car became stuck in the waters near the intersection of James and Kitchener Sts. The water was only up to the car wheels, when the engine stopped.

The local courier-mail goes on with the story . . . .

After making a 000 call, the local emergency services told Donna to stay put ‘til they were rescued. Soon the water was flooding through the doors, so Jordan and his ten-year old brother Blake responded to the desperate cry of a mother, doubtless something like: “Quick, get on top of the car: it’s the only way!”

Bystanders looked on until a truck driver - a ‘good Samaritan’ - went to save them. He wrapped some rope around himself and jumped in. The anonymous saviour went to grab the older boy first, but Jordan had other ideas: 'Save my brother!' he said. So, the truck driver rescued Blake first. But then, as he returned to get the other two, who were clinging desperately to a tree . . .

Young Jordan was “a good kid who loved music and drawing, a very quiet kid,” said his father John Tyson. He saw the floods rising around him and knew there was danger, especially as “he couldn't swim and was terrified of water! I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body.'' Tragically, Jordan lost both his footing and the haven of the tree to which they were clinging. Donna tried to grab Jordan as he was swept away, but in vain. “Donna just let go, you know trying to clutch at him and they just both drowned,'' his father said.

Jordan's heroic end has captured the hearts of some Queenslanders and Australians on the social networking sites Face book and Twitter, as well as some among the social media services. What explains Jordan’s sacrificing himself for his younger brother, when his deliverer went to rescue him first? He gave his life for him because he loved him.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. KJV Song of Songs 8:7

Jesus referred to his own battle with death in the same way:
Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. KJV John 15:13
The Psalms, which Jesus loved to read in the synagogue of Nazareth as he grew up, described the coming ordeal He would experience at Calvary, in terms of uncontrollable irresistible water.

A thousand years before it happened, King David (who was also a prophet) predicted in Psalm 69 the Messiah’s sufferings in such terms:

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. . . .

14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. 15 Let not the water flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. 16 Hear me, O LORD; for thy loving-kindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. 17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. 18 Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it:

The key to understanding why the Bible uses water as a metaphor to describe what was happening around Jesus when he died, is found in 2 Samuel 22:

4 I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. 5 When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; 6 The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me; 7 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.

The human race is pictured throughout the Bible as a mighty restless sea, which at times becomes highly dangerous and uncontrollable – hence world-wars! It was the mob around Jesus as he hung there, which provided the human ‘flood’ dimension of “the passion of the Christ.” The crowd was composed of, maybe a dozen or more Roman soldiers. Then there were two other condemned criminals, a centurion, and “the people beholding,” with “many women afar off,” whilst the general soldiery also “mocking” throughout. Not to speak of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who taunted him: “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matthew 27:42). But, the divine dimension was worse than all this: it made his sufferings unbearable, and it literally broke his heart. The nature of those pains are hidden from us, though reflected in the words of KJV Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
These are words which he cried from the cross. The fourth Gospel teaches us that Jesus was the unique Son of His Father, born from eternity and become man: there never was a time that he was not.

The four Gospels record unanimously a description of the experience of the Apostles, to whom Jesus (they claimed) appeared in a new risen body, after His death – now the risen Lord. That event put the seal on His teaching that he had come to this planet to die, to vicariously bear the retribution which our sin and wrong doing deserve. As St. Peter recorded it:

Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. KJV 1 Pet 2.

He came from his blest throne
Salvation to bestow,
But men made strange
And none the longed for Christ would know.
But O, my friend, my friend indeed
Who at my need
His life did spend.

So, the Apostles invite us individually to thank Jesus Christ for dying for our sins, and to recognise Jesus as our Saviour in that individual way - in the same way that St. Paul did, when he said:
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. KJV Gal 2:20
Thank him today for being that rescuer, who appears from nowhere, as it were, to save you:

Where is Jordan today? We trust he is in heaven with his heavenly Father, but we don’t know. We leave that to the angels, as Jesus implied we should (Matt 13:49). What we can know is that heaven (which is called in the Bible “eternal life”) begins now:

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. KJV St. John 17:3.

Jesus is recorded as saying:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. KJV John 5:24

That’s present possession, guaranteed!

This new life gives us confidence in times of acute trial, so we can face whatever life throws at us. This is what King David said, after having confessed his murder and adultery directly to God, his Saviour:

For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. KJV Psalm 32: 6-7

Jordan’s life was precious, for it illustrates to us the true meaning of sacrifice!

Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild restless sea.
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth
Saying, Christian follow me!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A white lie in the White House?

My family tend to see me as a defender of George Dubya Bush, even though he long since departed the Oval office. In response to this perceived aberration, I have been reading the account of Dubya’s Press Secretary for many years - Scott McClellan, who wrote his account of "What Happened," a 2008 New York Times bestseller. (1)

Two truths stand out as prominent in McClellan’s account. First, Dubya’s determination to invade and remove Saddam was directly inspired by his intention to free the Middle East from tyranny and to establish democracy. The supposed fear of WMD (2) was an afterthought, something he could ‘sell’ to the American public. Bush, he says, believed very few Presidents achieve greatness, and those who do, usually do so because they have waged some significant war which allows them to shape and reconfigure national and international life, at home and abroad.(3) Secondly, Bush ‘bought’ into the methods of secrecy and evasion, which were characteristic of the modus operandi of his close colleague Dick Cheney [and Donald Rumsfeld, though perhaps less obviously]. These methods were learned during the days of ‘Tricky Dickie’ and Watergate. The reliance on deception to keep the journalists at bay meant that Bush was more easily susceptible to self-deception. (3)

To quote Scott McClellan,

“’The media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,’ I heard Bush say [in 1999]. ‘You know, the truth is I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not. . .’ I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn’t make a lot of sense. . . . I know Bush, and I know he genuinely believes what he says. He isn’t the kind of person to flat-out lie, particularly when speaking to a supporter or friend. So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It’s the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that was probably not true and that, deep down, he knew it was not true. . . . In the years to come, as I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself. So he says, ‘I do not recall.’ . . . In other words being evasive is not the same as lying in Bush’s mind. The former is acceptable, but the latter is not. I’ve seen it happen during other private moments, around people he trusted, as well as at times during press availabilities and news conferences. Self-deceit is a human quality, and we all engage in it at times.” (4)

What McClellan describes here must be a sign of split-level thinking, and certainly not worthy of a professing Christian. No doubt, we’ve all done it at some time or other. Is there such a thing as a white lie, anyway? In theory, a white lie is a lie told for the good of someone else, for someone else’s benefit, rather than our own. But, who decides on whether the criterion applies in any particular case? Could not Dubya have said, “Well, OK, it was a lie, but I considered it was better for my American neighbour to have me winning the presidential election, rather than have some other loser getting into the White House! Had I told the strict truth, it may well have finished me as candidate for President.”

A belief in the white lie is endemic to the post-modern mindset. All is relative, and there is absolutely no absolute. But, if there is no ‘God of truth’ who revealed His nature and attributes in the Bible, and expects the truth from us - then anything goes. However, Jesus laid every lie at the door of the Devil, whom he knew from experience was very real and existed:

“Ye are of your father the devil . . . . He . . abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (KJV John 8:44).

The Psalmist said,

KJV Psa 86:11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

Or did he? The NIV rendering of this verse is:

NIV Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Compare the two phrases emphasised. Which verb did the Holy Spirit use (in the Hebrew)? Was it “give,” or was it “unite”? He used the verb yachad in the imperative, meaning ‘unite.’ Says Derek Kidner, “[David’s] concern is not with unifying his personality for its own sake; the lines meet at a point beyond himself, the fear of the Lord:”(5)

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers , with all their might,
In thy sole glory may unite. (6)

The prayer “Unite my heart” focuses not on the person, but on God. It is in the act of prayer that we experience a new and a whole heart. Without prayer we soon find we have a divided heart. The prayer “Give me an undivided heart” focuses on the therapeutic effect of such a prayer, on its human result. In contrast to this, when I pray “Unite my heart,” the line of my mind on the one hand, and the line of my will on the other - these meet and unite at a point beyond myself. I am aware in the event that God is hearing my prayer, and that He is more important than the prayer, more important than me. I am accepted and loved in the Beloved; I am forgiven for every divided moment; I am healed.

There is no room for any lie (white or otherwise!) in the healed heart, united in the LORD. If we know we are prone to distort the facts, or resort to spin, or hide behind the phrase, “I don’t recall,” we should pray daily, as David did,

KJV Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

(1) McClellan, Scott (2008) What happened, NY: Public Affairs. 341 pp. Dedication: “To those who serve.”
(2) Weapons of mass destruction (e.g. biological & chemical weapons, nuclear material)
(3) What happened, pp. 129 – 131; 72-73.
(4) What happened, pp. 48 – 50.
(5) Kidner, Derek, (1975) Psalms 73 – 150. Leicester: IVP.
(6) Hymn by Thomas Ken, ‘Awake, my soul.’

John Bois – Boy genius!

John Bois was the son of a Suffolk clergyman, William, who was exceptional for being equally learn-ed in Hebrew and Greek. William had lost several children, and was determined to pour his knowledge into his son from the beginning. “He taught John so well that he had read the whole Bible through, surely at his mother’s knee, by the time he was five. .”(1) Says, Alex McClure,“By the time he was six years old, he not only wrote Hebrew legibly, but in a fair and elegant character. Some of these remarkable manuscripts are still carefully preserved.” Such a high-pressured, intellectual upbringing made him ready for University (Cambridge) by the time he was 14! He at once made himself at home by writing letters in accomplished Greek to the Master of his College (St. John’s), and to the “fellows” who taught there. Most of us, who have studied some Greek have trouble even reading it, let alone writing letters in it. His Greek professor was another highly accomplished translator of the KJV. “Andrew Downes’ eyes sparkled at the arrival of such a boy. Bois already knew more Greek than any other scholar in the college. And Downes clearly loved and nurtured him.” (1)

McClure tells us more: “In addition to his lectures, which Dr. Downes read five times in the week, he took the youth to his chambers, where he plied him exceedingly. He there read with him twelve Greek authors, in verse and prose, the hardest that could be found, both for dialect and phrase. It was a common practice with the young enthusiast to go to the University Library at four o’clock in the morning, and stay without intermission till eight in the evening.” Which of our contemporary translators were studying in Greek the works of Hesiod, Homer, Plato, Aristotle and St. Paul by the time they were 16? When a boy starts reading ‘in the dark’ at four in the morning, and skips his meals for the sake of sixteen hours of intense language study, this shows a voracious appetite for exact scholarship.

In the interests of exact grammar, he had read through sixty grammars (2). John Bois became chief lecturer in his college for ten years and expected his fellow teachers to attend his own Greek lecture every week in his rooms, usually at four in the morning, with the men sitting round the candlelight!

John Bois was chosen to translate the Greek Apocrypha in one of the two Cambridge groups of translators. [See “Translating and Revising” for the value of the Apocrypha.] Bois also came to the rescue of the first Cambridge group who were working on the Hebrew Old Testament, when its chairman (Edward Lively) prematurely died. After several years work, the time came for all the newly translated books to be revised. Bois was chosen as the chairman of this group of six to twelve men from the six companies. He left us some valuable notes in Latin. They give us valuable insight into how they did their work, what detailed discussions they had when deciding between different renderings of a word, phrase or sentence. MAV gives several specific examples from these notes as to how they made their textual choices. Nicolson asks, “Was the conversation in the general meeting also in Latin, the lingua franca of international scholarship, in which these men had been steeped for decades? The atmosphere of Bois’ notes at least seems to hint at that. There are long disquisitions in Latin peppered with Greek words and phrases.”(3)

Bois notes show the translators knew Greek so well that they realised interpretation of the Text should be kept to an absolute minimum, if they were to do justice to the New Testament writers. This meant deliberate ambiguity in many places. It is safe to say they considered more options on the meanings of words and sentences than our contemporary translators do today, because their knowledge of the language was so much greater. Whereas the opposite is often assumed. An example of this is the way they translated 2 Cor. 2:17. James White, who is no apologist for the KJV, says for example: “If the KJV translators were alive today they would gladly admit that peddle is a better translation than corrupt, and would adopt it themselves.” (4) Bois notes’ show James White made a serious misjudgement of their linguistic skill in saying this. See the proof in “Knowledge of Greek

But there was more to Bois than what some like to refer to as “mere scholarship.” He was evidently a godly and obedient man, though not without flaws and faults, like us all. To the poor he was charitable, to the unlettered in church he was a model of simplicity when teaching God’s Word. He made time in his marriage for good conversation. He prayed with [his seven children] every day, kneeling with them on the bare bricks of the . . . parsonage floor.”(3) One example of his genuineness is shown in the conflict he got into with another translator, Sir Henry Savile. Savile looked to Andrew Downes and Bois for help with his mammoth eight-volumed edition, which translated all the works of the Greek writer St. Chrysostom. But in the process of referral, Savile seemed to give greater credit to Bois, because the author asked him to check the notes of his master Downes. It seems the latter’s jealousy causes a permanent estrangement with Bois. Whereas, Bois - who was all for the peaceful middle way - went on praising his former teacher. In so doing he illustrated the import of his own notes, which recorded the group discussion of Romans 12:10: “In honour preferring one another,” Bois explains this as, “let each one of you strive to prevail in giving honour to another.” See also the final paragraph under Knowledge of Greek for illumination on 1 Peter 5:5 in a similar vein

“Bois, with his finicky precision, the awe-inspiring hours he devoted to his work, his monk-like removal from the world, was as great a scholar as England could provide.” (3) MacClure tells us he had memorised the Greek New Testament by heart!! “He was so familiar with the Greek Testament, that he could, at any time, turn to any word that it contained. . . . . He expired, on the Lord’s Day, January 14th, 1643, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. “He went unto his rest on the day of rest; a man of peace, to the God of peace.”

(1) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 203 - 204.
(2) Paine, Gustavus S. (1959/1977) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, p. 67.
(3) Nicolson, pp. 207, 208, 210.
(4) White, James R. (1995/2009) The King James Only Controversy, MI: Bethany House, p. 158.

PS. This is 2/52 in centennial celebration. Previous Next Index

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Who did Jesus say He was in John 9?

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, January 4th 1809, whose braille gave ‘sight’ to the blind. His invention was occasioned by a self-inflicted wound to his own eye, which drove him to help himself and others by finding an effective remedy. It reminds me of another who gave sight to a blind man, though unnamed, if he would receive it:

KJV John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast [the blind man] out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

For this the NIV reads:

“ . . . When he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"

If the Holy Scriptures are breathed out by God, so as to protect them from all error, it follows that the Holy Spirit also has a vested interest in preserving and protecting every word of Scripture – ever since it was written - so we may know exactly what God said, and enjoy its certainty. The vast majority of preserved manuscripts (MSS) of the Gospel of John testify to the accuracy of traditional text, preserved down through the many Christian centuries. This text reads in 9:35: “the Son of God,” not “the Son of Man.” There are over two thousand (2000+) preserved Greek MSS of John’s Gospel, and all but a mere handful of them bear witness to the exact words Jesus said to the blind man: Dost thou believe on the Son of God? If God the Holy Spirit is in the business of actively preserving his inspired words, where would we expect to find an answer to our question, as to the accuracy of the Text [“Son of Man,” or “Son of God”]. Will we more likely find it in a mere handful of MSS, or in the vast majority?

Accordingly, we find the text “Son of God” throughout the early Latin manuscript tradition in the West (with very little variation), and thus carried into St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. We find it also in the major Syriac tradition (with but one dissenting voice). We find it in the Coptic MSS, and the Armenian, and the Georgian. It is witnessed to in Tertullian’s writings (220 AD). The Scripture reading service manuals of the Eastern Greek churches uniformly contain it – there are 500 of these lectionaries, and they all agree Jesus said, ”Son of God.”

Why, then, do the Bible Society (UBS) editors unite to disagree with this very strong witness, and say of the rendering “Son of Man”: “the Committee regarded the reading adopted as virtually certain”? (1) There are two reasons for this. First, they based their judgements on the work of Professor AF Hort, who hitched his wagon over a century ago to one “star manuscript” (Codex B lodged in the Vatican). This, he said, was the almost only witness among Greek MSS to the purest and authentic New Testament. Dean Burgon pointed out the folly of making such an extreme judgement, but Hort won the day anyway with the great majority of critics, who chose not to argue with him. Hort’s judgements are still followed today, in the absence of a better way of doing textual criticism. The later discovery of two papyri (P66; P76) which support Codex B should still not weight the evidence towards “Son of Man,” because these papyri (dated early to mid 3rd century), both post-date the damaging effects of Gnosticism on the Text.

The second reason for claiming virtual certainty for “Son of Man” is clear in the words of Bruce Metzger, “the improbability of theou (God) being altered to anthropos (Man) is so great . . .” Well, is that really so?

To begin with, there is much uncertainty among well-known textual critics, as to the reading “Son of Man,” if we take their printed Greek Texts as a guide to what they believed. Thus, Alexander Souter left “Son of God” just as it was in the Text! So did JM Scholz. So also did JJ Griesbach. Likewise Dean Alford – to name a few. Wise men all!

Secondly, there is an adequate explanation as to why some unscrupulous scribe changed “Son of God to “Son of Man,” and at an early date. The great enemy of the Faith in the years 150 – 250 AD was Gnosticism. This powerful intellectual movement had infiltrated the churches (as the Apostle Paul had warned, Acts 20:29) and it denied that God could have any direct contact with matter. Matter was evil, as being the source of all evil. Confused or unsound Christians bought into this false idea. However, it entailed the denial that Jesus Christ was God come in the flesh. He may have appeared to be flesh-and-blood human, but it was an illusion. A prominent Gnostic ‘Christian’ teacher in Rome was Valentinus (135 – 155 AD), who overwhelmingly preferred the Gospel of John to the other three Gospels. He and his disciple Heracleon had ample opportunity and motive to corrupt the fourth Gospel in many places, by deliberately ‘dumbing down’ references to Christ’s deity. Codex B - Hort’s star manuscript - does this, in fact, in several places. Dean Burgon lists these places: John 3:13, 31; 8:35, 59; 9:35; 14:14; 16:6; 21:23. (2)

John Burgon explains this wicked behaviour of professing Christians in the second century, as follows:

“Numerous as the heresies were for the first two or three centuries of the Christian era, they almost all agreed in this; - that they involved a denial of the eternal Godhead of the Son of Man: denied that He is essentially very and eternal God. This fundamental heresy found itself confuted by the whole tenor of the Gospel, which nevertheless it assailed with restless ingenuity: and many are the traces alike of its impotence and malice which have survived to our times. It is a memorable circumstance that it is precisely those very texts which relate either to the eternal generation of the Son, - to His Incarnation, - or to the circumstances of his nativity, - which have suffered most severely, and retain to this hour traces of having been in various ways tampered with.” (3)

Bishop JC Ryle says of John 9:35:

We should note that this is one of the very few occasions on which our Lord called himself directly “the Son of God.” (See John 3:18; 5:25;10:36; 11:4) (?)

John the Apostle gives us his motive for writing the Gospel:

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (20:30-31)

Because he had his mind filled with false Gnostic ideas, Valentinus could not accept that the disciples’ use of that title was actually attributing deity to Jesus. For him, Jesus was the Saviour in the sense that we find healing when we have our ignorance cured, and gain insight into life’s values – Jesus supplied this. There was no need for Jesus to be God, and for God to take the penalty for our sins. Indeed, today’s Jehovah’s Witnesses have the same view as Valentinus concerning Jesus. For them, as for Valentinus, Jesus is the first created being through whom all else came into existence. Any description of Jesus as being actually God come in the flesh was dismissed as impossible. Correspondingly, to call Jesus “Son of God’ must merely be a reverent courtesy title. In John 9:35, however, we have Jesus Himself claiming the title “the Son of God.” This sounds suspiciously like a claim on his own part to be God. Thus, “Son of Man” would have suited the Gnostic better.

In summary, the manuscript evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of retaining ”Son of God.” For today’s textual critics to see this, they would first have to remove the blinders that Prof. Hort has put over our eyes. Codex B is not the purest MS, it is one of the most corrupt, and few existing manuscripts follow it. It survived physically intact, not because it was revered but because it was not used!! It didn’t take long for the Christian churches to see through its specious errors, and they rejected it. As for the internal evidence for reading “Son of God,” I believe I have shown how the heretical movement of the second century would have motivated an intellectual like Valentinus to tamper with this Text, and change it to “Son of Man,” according to Gnostic tastes.

KJV 1 Tim. 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [Gk. Gnosis] falsely so called.

(1) Metzger, BM 1971 A textual commentary on the UBS Greek New Testament, Lon: United Bible Societies.
(2) Burgon JW 1896 The Traditional text of the holy gospels, Lon: George Bell, pp. 288-289.
(3) Burgon, JW 1896 The Causes of the corruption of the traditional text of the holy gospels Lon: George Bell, pp. 196-197.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Thomas Harrison - A remarkable translator!

This is the centennial year of the King James Version. Almost four hundred years ago, one of the most significant events in the history of the English-speaking peoples occurred. It was more important than the campaigns of Waterloo and Gallipoli, more far-reaching than Darwin’s Origin of Species, and more fraught with meaning than 9/11 and the threatened economic collapse.

Leading up to 1611, fifty-two men sat down in groups of 7 – 10, to translate an “authorised version” of the Bible. The result entirely changed the long-term landscape of the English-speaking peoples.

Deo volente(1), I will be examining the linguistic credentials of these 50+ translators, devoting one of these men to each week of the year 2011. What can we learn about him? How much scholarship did he really have? Do our contemporary scholars easily compete with his expertise? Shouldn’t we prefer to use an ‘up-to-date’ translation?

Take, for example, the argument about how to translate Psa. 12:6-7. What did God the Holy Spirit say through King David in Psa. 12: 6?

According to the KJV He said:

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Compare this rendering with that of the NIV:

Psa. 12:6 And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. 7 O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.

In the NIV (as in all contemporary translations of these verses) verse 7 is applied to the people David is writing about, and not to the words which King David was speaking. Those who believe the Hebrew Old Testament is perfectly preserved in the traditional Massoretic Text - handed down through the centuries unto our own day – see these verses encapsulating just what God promised to do, that is, to preserve every word He has revealed to the end of time.

However, all contemporary versions have closed the case on the KJV translation of Psa. 12:6-7 - they conclude it is evidently wrong. Accordingly, it is not thought significant that the KJV here promises us a flawless Old Testament Hebrew Text to follow. Truth is, we don’t actually need the Dead Sea scrolls to determine the Text, nor the Greek Septuagint - though comparisons are helpful in confirming the original meaning. Thus, we don’t need to speculate where the meaning is difficult. In contrast to this, conjecture is now an accepted part of the translation process for many, if not most translators.

The two alternative renderings of Psa 12:7 have long been contended for in linguistic discussion. Here, the KJV rendering is seen as ‘the odd one out’ among Versions (though long time ago Darby, and the ASV 1901 did follow its lead). See the defence of the KJV rendering by Quek Suan Yew. This may or may not convince you. However, it explains why the KJV translators felt justified in translating verse 7 in the way they did.

Let’s look at one of the Hebrew Old Testament scholars in the Cambridge group of eight, which translated this Psalm (and all the Psalms): Thomas Harrison:

Thomas Harrison

Where did he learn his languages? At the age of 15 he went to the largest school in the country, Merchant Taylors' independent school in London. There his headmaster, Richard Mulcaster set out to “establish a rigorous curriculum which was to set the standard for education in Latin, Greek and Hebrew” in England.

We get a glimpse of the unique foundation for later learning embedded in the mind of a teenager, and we are surprised to learn the timetable excluded both mathematics and science!! There was too much language to be studied, for such supposedly less important subjects to encroach on the supreme task - to learn life’s lessons from the ancients, reading the very languages in which they wrote!

One of the school inspectors of Merchant Taylors' School describes how the school classroom operated:

The headmaster was required to open his [Latin] copy of Cicero at random and read out a passage to the Sixth form. The boys had to copy the passage from dictation and then translate it, first into English, then into Greek and then into Latin verse. After this, they had to write a passage of Latin and some verses on some topic chosen for the day. This was for the morning; in the afternoon the process was repeated in Greek, based on the Greek Testament, Aesop's Fables, "or some other very easie Greeke author". The standard in Greek was not as high as in Latin, but Hebrew was also taught.

So, the teenager Thomas Harrison was learning Greek and Latin in depth (with some Hebrew also), well before he got to University. One of his fellow pupils at Merchant Taylors' was Sir Lancelot Andrews, who became the overall Director of the KJV translation project. When at school together, Harrison was said to be second only to his fellow Andrewes in linguistic ability and learning. Yet Andrewes was later held to be one of the rarest linguists in Christendom, having learned fifteen languages (both modern European and ancient Oriental)!!(2) Harrison in his turn became “one of the chief examiners in the University of those who sought to be public professors of these languages.”

When someone applied to teach in one of the University Colleges of Cambridge, he had to prove his academic credentials before Harrison. Alex. McClure says of him, he had "exquisite skill in the Hebrew and Greek idioms.”“ It was this skill that makes him so trustworthy a guide in deciding how to translate Psa 12:6-7. It invites us to look beneath the surface for an idiomatic slant on its strange grammar? Why do our contemporaries ignore the amazing resource from yesteryear, and look the other way?

Harrison became Vice-Master of Trinity College, a College which supplied six of the translators of the KJV. These men ate, drank, breathed and slept LANGUAGES. Our Western educational system has bought into the delusion that newer is invariably better. The evolutionary development of the human mind supposedly guarantees we are ever upward, onward and better than those ‘bad old days’ four hundred years past. For many, this inevitably relegates the KJV to the margins of authority and credibility. But, we miss out on so much, if we ignore the real linguistic authority of the KJV – a unique landmark in English literature.

(1) Deo volente = God willing, in the will of God.
(2) Paine, Gustavus S. 1959. The Men Behind the King James Version, MI: Baker. Pp. 20, 60.

This is 1/52. Next translator Index