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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Jesus mediated the New Testament.

Paul the Apostle, so I believe, wrote about a testamentary covenant in his letter to the Hebrews in Jerusalem. Six times (9:15, 16, 17, 18, 20) the KJV translates the Greek word diatheke as “testament,” not “covenant” in the KJV rendering of chapter 9. No more modern version follows the KJV translators, but settles for “covenant.” That is a serious loss to Christian teaching on the meaning of this chapter.

Why did the KJV use the word “testament,” in translating Paul’s thought here? Because he makes it clear in verse 16, as he writes he has a will (a testamentary disposition) in mind.

In v. 16 he said:
KJV Hebrews 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
However, in order to isolate the thought of a will in verse 16 from the wider context, thus allowing the word diatheke to be otherwise translated as “covenant,” the NIV adds to verse 16 the words, “in the case of a will.” But, these are words which the Holy Spirit never spoke!
NIV Hebrews 9:16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it.

The whole passage (9:15 – 20) runs as follows:

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

What is a testament? The key idea contained in the word is that it is a witness to something. Thus, we speak of a witness in court as testifying to the truth when giving his testimony, that is, saying what he heard and saw. [Lat: testari: to bear witness). When you write a will, you establish its power to determine what will happen after you die, by the validity of the witnesses who signed the written instrument in proper form. At the point of signature it becomes your “last will and testament,” unless you change your mind before you die. Change is evidenced by a new written will, which replaces the old one, and it shows what should happen to your property after you’ve gone.

The Greek word diatheke, however, does not have to refer to a written will. It’s basic meaning is “a settlement,” (1) - whether orally agreed or written – as when God entered into covenant with Abraham, promising to do certain things for him and for his progeny after he’d gone. Gal. 3:15-16 refer to God’s promise to him that in the covenant, he would receive the inheritance of the land of Canaan, Gen 15:18. However, we human beings are often untrustworthy creatures, and usually need something written, to give clear unambiguous evidence of what has passed between the parties to a covenant, and to hold us to do what has been promised. Interestingly enough, the book of Genesis is itself, not only a written covenant, but a testamentary one at that. Both the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic one were ratified by the death of a sacrifice:

“a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”

The bloodpath of Genesis 15
And in the case of the Mosaic covenant,
Exo 24:8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

The sacrificial death of an animal had to occur before the promise of God could be put into effect, just as you and I have to die before the promises of our “last will and testament” can be carried out. The promise of the Abrahamic covenant was the land of Canaan, which will one day become Israel’s property (in the exact boundaries laid down in Gen 15:18) to fully enjoy. The promise of the Mosaic covenant was that God would make Israel His own peculiar possession, Exo.19:5-6. Paul says in Hebrews 9:15 that the sacrifices involved in these covenants looked forward to the one perfect sacrifice of Christ, when He would become the mediator of a new testament, put into effect at the point of His death - when he gave His blood for our sins, Matt, 26:28.

The new covenant is therefore, God’s determination to put those He has called into the possession of the inheritance He has bequeathed. The Abrahamic covenant promises a legal bequest of actual land, and is yet to be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to this earth - although the conditions for its fulfilment have already been met in the death of Christ. Isaiah 53 expounds the latter fact in a prophetic way. The new covenant will be literally fulfilled on Israel’s behalf, as explained in Heb. 8:10. Its significance is more than material, and is spiritual, Heb 8:10. Meanwhile, as the body of Christ, we enter into all the benefits and privileges of that new covenant, not because we deserve to do so, but because it is an unconditional testamentary covenant. It witnesses to the death of the Son of God, which enables all the promises of God to be fulfilled to us. Matthew Poole puts it this way:

So that for what was spoken, v. 14 [the purging of the conscience from dead works ] even the effects of his sacrifice, the justification and the sanctification of sinners, is he the great gospel High Priest, the mediating person between God and sinners, confirming and making effectual by His death God’s testamental covenant, which is for the very administration of it the very best and last, in which God bequeathed pardon, reconciliation, righteousness, holiness, adoption and heirship to an eternal inheritance to penitent believing sinners. (Heb 9:15)

F.F. Bruce sums up the evidence for retaining the word “testament” in Hebrews 9:15 -20 as follows:

As used elsewhere in the epistle, the particular kind of settlement which diatheke denotes is a covenant graciously bestowed upon his people, by which he brings them into a special relationship with Himself: in other words it is used . . . as the equivalent of the Hebrew berith. But in verses 16 -17 [of chapter 9] it is used of another kind of settlement, a last will and testament, in which property is bequeathed by the owner to various other persons on the understanding that they have no title to it until he dies. There are, in fact, some scholars [refs. given], who have maintained that “testament” is the sense of diatheke throughout this epistle if not throughout the Greek Bible. “Testament” is certainly the predominant sense of the word in Hellenistic Greek . . . On the other hand, there have been exegetes who have endeavoured to retain the meaning “covenant” even in Heb. 9:16f . . . . But it simply is not true to say that “where a covenant is there must of necessity be the death of him that made it” – nor of necessity the death of anyone else. . . . The death of him that made it” is . . . “the death of the testator”; a testament is the only kind of diatheke which depend for its ratification on the death of the person who makes it.(1)

You may say, ‘well, all right, you have shown at least that “testament” is a valid and helpful way of translating diatheke, but why is it actually necessary to translate it that way?’ How does the idea of a testamentary covenant add anything to the simple word “covenant”?

The essential point is that every testament is a covenant, but not every covenant is a testament. Therefore omitting the idea of “testament” diminishes the meaning, if the writer had “testament” in his mind – and we have shown (from the obvious reference in v. 16) that he did so have it in mind. There are several Old Testament examples which prove the point of this difference. The first three major covenants of Scripture (with Noah, with Abraham and with Moses) all had a testamentary aspect. A death of an animal sealed the covenant in each case by the shedding of blood. However, this is not true of the Davidic promises. When God said, Psa 89:3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, He was referring to His everlasting promises to him in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. God spelled out these specific benefits to undeserving David, who had simply to respond in faith and say ‘thank you,’ which he did, 7:20-29. No death took place, and no sacrifice. It was ‘merely’ a covenant, though a very important one for the world’s destiny. “Covenant” is also used to describe marriage, in Ezek. 16:8; Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:17.

Similar one-sided promises are made every day of the week. When my neighbour purchased his property, he bought it subject to a covenant to allow me to use his land to access my garage. When he signed up on his property, he impliedly entered into covenant with me, giving me the stated right to use his drive, even though I was not a party to the purchase. But this covenant was not a testament. No death took place. It was merely a promise witnessed to, when he signed off on the property. It was not a contractual promise, for I had no legal interest in the property. But, it was nevertheless a promise made for my benefit - a covenant, not a conrtact.

“Testament” is the correct and proper translation in Hebrews 9:15-20, because v. 16 proves a specific testamentary instrument (i.e. a written will) is in the Apostle’s mind, as an essential part of the discussion. For the NIV to add “In the case of” a will denies the natural context of the passage, which focuses on the death of Christ. That death is the means by which the promised inheritance is bequeathed. A mere glance at the passage proves this: verse 12 refers to blood, so does v. 13, and see v.14 and v. 18, and again in v. 19, and v. 20 and v. 21, and finally v. 22! The verses surrounding v. 16 (this verse refers to a will) discuss death in each verse. The whole passage is about a ‘will and testament’, and not merely the reference in v. 16. Also, “in the case of” is not a translation, for there are no Greek words in the Text, which correspond to it. They are thus added words, and we are told not to add to God’s words, lest we incur the plagues described in the book of Revelation (Rev 22:18).

Secondly, “testament” is not a mere option in Hebrews 9, because only that word brings out the meaning and nature of the new covenant. It is a promise effected on the death of Christ. That promise has been solemnly witnessed to, by two classes of men: the prophets of the Old and the apostles of the New (Eph 2:20). The Testament is in written form, evidencing the meaning of the death of Christ - it leaves mankind without excuse.

By refusing the word “testament,” we too easily overlook we need all the help we can get, to enable us to appreciate the meaning and value of the Cross – especially when it comes to actually reading Scripture. That’s why the early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week, on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10). We need to be constantly reminded that we are sinners, even while we are at the same time saints.

The apostle Paul said:

Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer,
But this I know with all my heart,
His death has paid my ransom.

How deep the Father's love for us!!

Bishop Frank Houghton used to say, “We should never let a day go by without thanking the Lord Jesus for Calvary.”

(1) FF Bruce,(1964) The epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, MI: Grand Rapids. pp. 210 -212

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Thomas Holland – Deep learning, strong conviction.

Thomas Holland was born in Ludlow, Shropshire in 1538/39, and was one of the older translators of the King James Version. He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford and became chaplain and Fellow of Balliol College in the same University.

Exeter College, Oxford

He was made Doctor in Divinity in 1584. The next year, when Robert Dudley, the well-known Earl of Leicester was made governor of the Netherlands – having just then been set free from Spanish rule - Dr. Holland went with him as chaplain, in 1585.

A man of solid learning

In 1589, Holland became the King’s Professor of Divinity at Oxford, for no obscure reason:

McClure says he was “so celebrated for his preaching, reading, disputing, moderating, and all other excellent qualifications, that all who knew him commended him, and all who heard of him admired him.”

He adds that under his leadership many distinguished scholars were trained up. Later in 1592 he served as Rector of Exeter College for twenty years. As a student, it was said of him, that he was so “immersed in books,” that academic pursuits overshadowed and dominated his entire life. The same could be said of many, perhaps all of the translators.

[This] office he filled with great reputation for twenty years, being regarded as a universal scholar, and a prodigy of literature. His reputation extended to the continent, and he was held in high esteem in the universities of Europe. These were the leading events in his studious life.

In his funeral sermon Dr. Kilby said of our translator:

that he had a wonderful knowledge of all the learned languages, and of all arts and sciences, both human and divine. He was mighty in the Scriptures; and so familiarly acquainted with the Fathers, as if he himself had been one of them; and so versed in the Schoolmen, as if he were the Seraphic Doctor [Thomas Aquinas].

The antiquarian Anthony Wood referred to him as “another Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures,” and besides, “a solid preacher, a most noted disputant, and a most learned divine.”

Contending for the Faith

Dr. Holland preached with gravitas and was intensely serious. When he discoursed off the cuff, he held an audience better than when he relied on the smaller details of an elaborate script.. For Holland, “contending for the faith” meant opposing Roman Catholic errors and expounding the Bible from John Calvin’s perspective. The latter’s teachings from Scripture formed the backbone of Holland’s Christian character, and in all his studious work he maintained an ardent devotion to God. He was a decided Puritan appealing against the prevailing standards of church ceremony and discipline.

He enjoyed debating difficult questions in the public University arena. For example, when he visited Oxford in 1604, the King, no mean scholar himself, liked to listen to a good academic argument with plenty of heat - all part of the royal entertainment. Holland and two other KJV translators, Giles Thomson and John Harding, argued for the negative when discussing the theological question, “Can the saints and angels read the thoughts of our hearts?” Dr John Anglionby, chaplain to the King (and to Elizabeth 1st before him) - yet another helper in the KJV translation - argued for the affirmative: yes, they can! Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, yet another translator, was the dialogue moderator in all this.

Paine says of this debate:

Though an appropriate choice for men of many minds, all on their good behaviour, the virtue of the question was that no one could answer it. It was therefore a perfect subject for a heated debate, a drill in what passed for logic, in the manner of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages. (1)

A fierce Puritan

“Fierce” is what Nicolson calls him (2). This is doubtless because of the famous contretente he had with the future Archbishop William Laud, as to whether bishops should rule the Anglican Church, rather than it be governed by elders.

William Laud

Archbishop Richard Bancroft (and Laud later on) had laboured all too successfully to introduce ‘popish innovations ‘at Oxford. Holland maintained against all comers that “bishops are not a distinct order from presbyters, nor at all superior to them by the Word of God. Thomas Holland had attempted to persuade the young Laud to a different opinion when the latter was taking his Divinity degree in 1604. Laud as a student contended “that there could be no true churches without diocesan episcopacy.” Dr. Holland issued a sharp public rebuke to him for what he foresaw as a prescription for a divided church, written by “one who sought to sow discord among brethren, and between the Church of England and the Reformed Churches abroad.” At that time the Calvinist party was strong in the Church of England. Laud's later insistence on the authority of ‘apostolic succession’ was unpopular in many quarters. His diminutive stature was satirised in the pun, "give great praise to the Lord, and little laud to the Devil."

But the bishops let him alone, as just Dr. Holland and harmless – a renowned old codger [now in or beyond his 60’s] whom all Oxford loved.

Thomas Holland must have been very preoccupied with the errors and idolatry wrapped inside Roman dogma, for Kilby - in the same funeral sermon – tells how whenever the scholar set out on a journey, he would first convene the Fellows of his College, and give them his favourite parting charge, that is, never failing to end with, Commendo vos dilectioni Dei, et odio papatus et superstitionis!! “I commend you to the love of God, and to the hatred of all popery and superstition!”(1)

A worthy translator

Holland was a member of the "First Oxford Company", responsible for the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, in the royal aim to create an ‘authorised version’ of the Bible for reading in the churches. He took a prominent part in what was the crowning work of his life.

Once translation days were over, Holland spent most of his time meditating and praying. Through his life, he had published several learned orations, also one sermon. Many manuscripts were ready for posthumous publishing, but they fell into unfriendly hands opposed to Puritan teaching, so were never published.

Sickness and the weakness of old age drew him closer to his eternal destiny and quickened the prospect of heaven. His biographer writes:

He loved and he longed for God, for the presence of God, and for the full enjoyment of Him. His soul was framed for heaven, and could find no rest till it came there. His dying prayer was— ‘Come, O come, Lord Jesus, Thou Morning Star! Come Lord Jesus; I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Thee!’ (1)"

He died and was buried with great solemnity in the chancel of St. Mary’s, Oxford on 16th March, 1612. Richard Kilby published his funeral sermon on Thomas Holland, in 1613. This was just a few months after the Bible was completed and published. He was 73: it was a religious age.

(1) Paine, Gustavus S. (1977/1959) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, p. 85, 46-47, 155.
(2) Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. p. 254.

This is 12/52. Previous Next Index

Friday, 18 March 2011

Laurence Chaderton – a saintly scholar

Laurence Chaderton was born in Lancashire, England, 1536, son of Thomas Chaderton, a Roman Catholic. His family were wealthy and devoted papists. Under the tuition of Laurence Vaux, a catholic priest, he became an able scholar. His father pushed him into law, and he was trained in the London Inns of Court, where he studied and practised for some years.

In 1564 Laurence entered Christ's College, Cambridge, where the Puritans were strong. After a short time, he became convinced of reformed doctrines. He wrote to his father for some financial support but the reply he got was an offer of thirty pounds a year if his son would quit Cambridge: (1)

Son, Laurence, if you will renounce the new sect which you have joined, you may expect all the happiness which the care of an indulgent father can assure you: otherwise, I enclose a shilling to buy a wallet. Go and beg.”
Thus was Chaderton disinherited of a large estate. However, he quietly summoned up courage, and went on as a Puritan. His strong Christian character and academic dedication gained him a scholarship, which replaced the need for a begging bag. He must have felt like the apostle Paul who sustained his mind by laying hold on the promises of God his Saviour - having "suffered the loss of all things ,” that he may win Christ (Phil 3:8). Chaderton eked out his means with some teaching, and his father may have helped him a little, in spite of the threat.

Student years at Cambridge

Chaderton attained a thorough knowledge of the three ancient languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He also learned French, Italian and Spanish, and made time for some botany too (1). He liked to join in the playful famous Town-n-Gown fights with fellow students, though in his case this was tempered by a genuine piety and seriousness. Archbishop Richard Bancroft owed his life to Chaderton, and the latter had risked his right hand to save him from a mob of enraged citizens. (1) In 1567 he was elected a fellow of his college, when taking his first degree; then followed by an M.A in 1561, and Bachelor of Divinity in 1578/1584. He was made doctor in Divinity in 1613.

His interest in the Old Testament was deep. McClure explains:

Moreover he had diligently investigated the numerous writings of the Rabbis, so far as they seemed to promise any aid to the understanding of the Scriptures. This is evident from the annotations in his handwriting appended to the Biblia Bombergi, [1518 Hebrew edition] which are still preserved in the library of Emanuel College. His studies were such as eminently to qualify him to bear an important part in the translating of the Bible. (2)

A famed preacher

Chaderton was successful in his teaching, but his fame lay in his preaching.
In early seventeenth century England, endlessly and repetitively, the word of God was preached in the 8,000 or so pulpits across England. It was the ocean in which everyone swam. Attendance at sermons was compulsory. Many people would hear two or three on a Sunday in which every last echo of meaning would be squeezed from the words of the Bible. And week after week, preachers would occupy their pulpits, analysing texts, pursuing moral and theological arguments, exercising the difficult and demanding skills that hold a congregation’s attention. They were clearly good at it. (3)
Says McClure:
It is stated on high authority, that while our aged saint was visiting some friends in his native country of Lancashire, he was invited to preach. Having addressed his audience for two full hours by the glass, he paused and said,--"I will no longer trespass on your patience.” And now comes the marvel; for the whole congregation cried out with one consent,--"For God's sake, go on, go on!" He, accordingly, proceeded much longer, to their great satisfaction and delight.
Coleridge said the best moral criterion of the character of an age is found in its sermons - their tone, their themes, their substance and how they identify with the emotional issues of the age. See the crowded congregations of those times, and note the intense interest sustained through one-hour-and-two-hour-long sermons. Here is sure evidence of moral and intellectual progress on the part of many. Not that today’s audience is any less uninterested, for our contemporaries too like to hear preaching which really is preaching. But, said Coleridge, ‘where shall we find men for the work like those who gave us our version of the Bible?’ (quoted in McClure)

A disciple of John Calvin

Chaderton started a series of afternoon lectures or sermons in 1567 at St. Clement's Church, Cambridge that continued for fifty years, attended by admiring audiences. Through the influence of his preaching many young men began to study the Bible and practise godliness. (3) They liked his plain and cogent way of explaining the way of salvation. He taught God’s predestination of the believer was unconditional, while our moral responsibility for choosing Christ remained intact. The juxtaposition of these statements may not sound reasonable, yet it is what the Bible teaches - therefore to be believed. He counted among his friends men of more extreme views like Thomas Cartwright and William Perkins. When “Chaderton decided, at eighty-two, to cease preaching he received letters from forty clergy begging him not to and testifying that they owed their conversion to his preaching.”(5)

Dr Peter Baron, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity publicly debated with him in 1576 over the Calvinist-Arminian divide. Dr. Chaderton held to his view with good grace, showing his learning and ability to notable advantage.

[This issue] was dividing the whole Protestant world..... [I]t was not a new problem. Scholars had for centuries applied themselves to what was a central paradox of the faith: how can God be all-powerful and all-loving? If he desires all men to be saved why does he not arrange it so that they are? If some of his creatures resist his grace, then his power must be limited. Calvin had taken the sovereignty of God as his starting point. The divine will cannot be thwarted. Therefore the distinction between the saved and the damned can only be explained by election. – God preordains those who are ordained for heaven and hell (6 ) .
Two years later (1578) he was appointed preacher of the Middle Temple. This gave him opportunity to preach the gospel to a flock of lawyers, as one who had been himself trained to know the temptations of their calling.

Strong Christian character

In 1576 he married Cecilia Culverwell, daughter of the Queen’s wine merchant. This entailed giving up his fellowship. He was married for fifty-three years, and they had one daughter. During all that time he showed consistent spiritual concern for his domestic servants. He saw they needed to be in church, and so he never allowed food preparation or other household duties to take priority over their presence at public worship. Rather, he said, --"I desire as much to have my servants to know the Lord, as myself." He had high ethical standards for them, and dismissed a servant regardless of his hard work, once convinced he was a habitual liar, or was morally delinquent in some other respect. Although Chaderton had come from a wealthy family, he showed “a living affection for the poor” in their material need.(1)

Founding of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Chaderton’s reputation was well established after eighteen years of University teaching and preaching. This led Sir Walter Mildmay (Chancellor of the Exchequer) to choose him as the first master of Emmanuel College in 1584, which he reluctantly accepted after Mildmay convinced him he was the best qualified man for the task. The purpose of this foundation was to train “godly ministers.” Sir Walter was not thought to be a high Churchman, and when the Queen suggested he had “erected a Puritan foundation," of dubious legal standing, Chaderton replied,
No, madam, far be it from me to countenance anything contrary to your established laws, but I have set an acorn, which, when it becomes an oak, God alone knows what will be the fruit thereof." And truly, it pleased God, that it should yield plenteous crops of Puritan "hearts of oak;" and afford an abundant supply of that sound, substantial, and yet spiritual piety, which stands in strong contrast with all superstition and formality.(1)
Chaderton was subtle and never allowed his advocacy of deep reform . . . to emerge in public. There was clearly something canny about him and the entire strategy of the Emmanuel project was not open revolution but a silent seeding of the Church of England to bring it, as by stealth, to a more reformed condition.(3)
Nicolson gives an extraordinary exposition of the “astonishly loving atmosphere at the college.” A surviving manuscript in the Bodleian library records a correspondence between two Emmanuel students, which, when read in today’s context would suggest (wrongly) a homosexual relationship existed between them. One of the two men was William Sancroft, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury!
There is no suggestion of sex but the passion between these boys is unmistakable. . . . They lived together, read together and slept together. . . . This extraordinary and passionate atmosphere is one of the governing qualities of the time. The age was at ease with unbridled but apparently quite unsexual love between men. . . . We can no longer imagine that erotic passion and religious intelligence can be bound together into one living fabric.
Chaderton’s team produced the KJV translation of the Song of Solomon, and Nicolson shows that Chaderton’s annotated notes of the erotic aspects of the poem breathe an air of frank innocence. The notes show a mind free from any perverted sentiments. A dysfunctional approach would be detectable in the way they dealt with the poem, had these men ever believed that homosexuality was a valid moral choice for the Christian. (3). In consequence, the correspondence recorded between Sancroft and his ‘lover’ should make someone very reluctant to accuse King James himself of closet homosexuality.(3)

During the radical Puritan movement of the 1580’s the college became a centre of its teachings, and thus Chaderton’s influence on the movement was great.

Presbyterianism in 1580’s Cambridge played the role of communism in the same 1930’s colleges. All young men with any brilliance or vitality were apart of the movement. Chaderton certainly was, as were his co-Emmanuel men and co-Translators, Frances Dillingham and Thomas Harrison. These young apostles were burning with the idea of a renewed, reformed and holy world.” (3)
Chaderton as Master of Emmanuel worked for thirty-eight years with zeal and industry, building a high reputation for the college. During his rule he made provision for twelve fellows and above forty scholars in Emmanuel College. In 1622, now eighty-five years old, he resigned prematurely (so he felt) hoping thus to avoid an appointment of a successor who held Arminian doctrines. He successfully saw appointed Dr. John Preston, a champion among the Puritans - yet Chaderton outlived him!

Likewise Chaderton survived the next succeeding Master, William Sancroft. When he finally died in 1640 yet another Master of the College had succeeded to the post. This was Richard Holdsworth, who preached at his funeral. At the great age of 103, the old patriarch continued to read without spectacles, and was still consulted about the affairs of the College!

Launching the King James Version

At the Hampton Court Conference, in 1603, Dr. Chaderton was one of the four divines appointed by the King as being "the most grave, learned, and modest of the aggrieved sort," to represent the Puritan interest. Dr. Chaderton was a great friend of Bancroft’s from student days, and remained so in spite of their differences. They used to wrestle together when they met, both men being from Lancashire where wrestling is a traditional sport. Problem was Bancroft as Bishop of London was an arch-opponent of the Puritan doctrine and “all but wrecked [the Conference] by his belligerence and intransigence.” (3) Here, however, Chaderton took no part in the verbal sparring, and was accused of being ‘mute as any fyshe.’ He felt the Conference was somewhat farcical, given that King James would never surrender his claims to absolute power, which claim undemined a proper bsis for discussion and compromise. The Puritan sympathies towards eldership rather than episcopacy meant the four of them were at a disadvantage, though their erstwhile advocacy of Presbyterian government had become muted by the Elizabethan settlement. Yet, Chaderton was of a moderate temperament and did not object to the customary ceremonies, which his more extreme Puritan friends opposed: the ceremony of confirmation, the use of the cross in baptism, wearing a ring in the wedding service, kneeling to receive communion, and wearing a surplice.

Two of the other Puritans John Knewstubbs and the charming mild-mannered Laurence Chaderton had been at Cambridge with Lancelot Andrewes,[the influential Dean of Westminster] and used to have ‘constant meetings’ with him there. Their lives had certainly diverged . . . but even so there was a great deal uniting them. They had all studied the ancient languages together, read the Bible together and teased out the details of ‘Grammatical Interpretation’ together, ‘till at last they went out like Apollos, eloquent men, and mighty in the Scriptures. (3)

Chaderton was now approaching seventy years, and Master of Emmanuel College, “one of the most loved of all men in that University.” (3) Edward Lively was the director of the first Cambridge Company of translators. However, he died within months of taking the position, so Chaderton provided the direction. They translated the Old Testament books from 2 Chronicles to the Song of Songs. We owe the beauty of the Psalms to their work, as they took Coverdale’s translation and made it more immediate and fluent. Take for example Coverdale’s version of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd: therefore can I lack nothing
He shall feed me in a green pasture: and lead me
forth beside waters of comfort.
He shall convert my soul: and bring me forth
In the paths of righteousness, for His Name’s sake.
Now recall the Psalm 23 you learned by heart as a child! Which is the better?

McClure says of Dr. Chaderton:

He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one. Having reached his three score years and ten, his knowledge was fully digested, and his experience matured, while "his natural force was not abated," and his faculties burned with unabated fire. Even to the close of his long life, "his eye was not dim," and his sight required no artificial aid.

On November 13th 1640 Laurence Chaderton “died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.” (Gen 25:8)

1. Paine, Gustavus S. (1977/1959) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, pp. 26 – 27; 140 – 141; 165 – 166
2. Vita Laurentii Chadertoni, a W. Dillingham, S. T. P. Cantab. 1700. Pp. 15, 24
3. Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp. 45 – 47, 130 – 134, 181 – 182.
4. Douglas, J.D. (1974) Dictionary of the Christian Church Exeter: Paternoster.
5. Packer, J D (1990) A Quest for godliness ILL: Crossway. p. 57.
6. Wilson, Derek (2010) The People’s Bible: The remarkable history of the King James Version, Oxon: Lion pp. 83, 93, 96-98.

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

When evil thoughts molest.

Recently I was reminded of the words of the hymn “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries . . .” Verse 4 goes as follows:

When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear
When this sweet chant they hear,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Evil thoughts are no respecter of age or gender, and they arrive like sudden unwelcome visitors to disturb the soul. I thought to myself, ‘what does the late Selwyn Hughes have to say about it? – ‘Is there really a remedy, or are we doomed to repeat the same sins until we shuffle off, or Christ first comes?”

In his Christian Counsellor’s pocket guide (1) Selwyn assures us there is a remedy, if we are willing to take the medicine:

This is a battle of the mind. To win it you must heed the Apostle’s words, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’ To have a mind like Christ in this evil world may not be easy but all heaven is on your side in the issue. , God is not merely concerned with getting you out of evil but in getting the evil out of you. This is how it can be achieved. Firstly, read much of your Bible. Fill your mind with the clean healthy, positive statements of Scripture. Dwell long on the purity of its inspiration. Secondly, concentrate your thought life on Christ. Evil thoughts are not expelled by dwelling upon them; they must be outwitted and to do that there is no better way than by letting the Lord come right into your mind. Evil thoughts will not stay long where He is present. Thirdly, you can outmanoeuvre evil by blasting it in prayer. Prayer can bulldoze a way through sinful thoughts right into the clear presence of the Throne of God. There you breathe a purer atmosphere. Remember in all this that the battle is not yours but Lord’s. Your own strength will fail. He never fails

I found this helpful, because reading it oriented my mind immediately away from myself to Jesus Christ (“May Jesus Christ be praised”!). Secondly, the emphasis on “Read much of the Bible.” Yes, we pride ourselves on reading the Bible daily, say, for 20 minutes. I wonder whether that qualifies as reading “much”. Thirdly, “dwell long on the purity of its inspiration.” For me, the changes in the latest critical text of the Bible - where words are added, left out, or changed – do not speak of the purity of God’s inspiration. They speak of the opposite – corruption. We need to be able to trust every word that God says, and know it comes from the Throne room. So, when I read KJV Luke 9:56

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
I trust it is an accurate saying of Jesus my Lord. That’s what the Church has always believed, until 1881. Doubtless, the Holy Spirit did not let us down in preserving His very words. Purity of inspiration is not much use, without purity of preservation. Textual critics admit they lack a proper history of the Greek Text to explain satisfactorily how changes came into the original Text through the centuries. Believe the “Received Text” of the sixteenth century, when it was first committed to the printing press. You’ll find it in the KJV, and 99.9 % of it also is in the NKJV. Better still; study the Greek and Hebrew for yourself, then no one can accuse you of supposed myopia - of being a “King James only” Bible reader.

Anyway, back to the Selwyn Hughes quote. I like the way he said: “Evil thoughts . . . must be outwitted.” This makes the point they often come unbidden into our minds, and seemingly against our will. This applies to fantasies of the imagination, negative thoughts towards others (how they look, how stupid we may judge them to be, how superior we may feel– or the opposite, or our anger about them or towards them). Unkind or untrue words expressed, simply prove to ourselves we are harbouring evil thoughts, and that these do not pass the tests, which the Apostle gives us in 1 Corinthians 13. We outwit these evil thoughts by first confessing them to God as wrong, secondly praying for the person victimised by them, and also turning our thoughts towards Christ. Think about him! Why did He suffer so much, when in a sense he didn’t need to? What drove him to the Cross? Have you plumbed the depths of the greatest most significant event to ever occur on this planet? Why aren’t we thinking about it more, then?

Why did He love me, I never can tell!
Why did he suffer to save me from hell?
Nothing but infinite grace from above,
Could have conceived such a story of love.
(1) Selwyn Hughes’ Christian Counsellor’s pocket guide is (1972) now out of print.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

John Rainolds - the father of the King James Version

John Rainolds (also Reynolds) was born about Michaelmas, 1549, in the village of Pinhoe, near the city of Exeter, Devonshire. He was one of five sons born into the Roman Catholic family of Richard Rainolds. John adhered to his father’s loyalties until his attempt to convert his brother William from Protestant views had precisely the opposite effect intended. Each convinced the other that his view (the other’s view) was correct!! (McClure). While William lived and died loyal to the papacy, John developed strong if moderate puritanical convictions. These led him to champion the Reformation in England, and his initiative makes him the true father of the King James Version of the Bible.

A dedicated scholar

Rainolds entered Oxford University in 1562 aged thirteen, and spent his entire life within its precincts. Beginning at Merton College, he soon moved to Corpus Christi College, where he became a Fellow three years later, at the early age of seventeen! There he “wholly addicted himself” to the study of the Holy Scriptures. After six years of tutoring, he was made Greek Lecturer there in 1572. One of his students was Richard Hooker, another Exonian from the English west- country. Hooker’s work is still studied today for its explaining (to many at least) what Anglicanism is about – distilled into fine English prose.

Richard Hooker
Exeter Cathedral Churchyard

Rainolds himself read all the Latin and Greek fathers, and all the ancient records of the Church that he could come by. He studied Aristotle and wrote a commentary that was highly praised. Also he practiced a style of writing, later called Euphuistic . . .based on alliteration and classic patterns of formal balance.(1)

Says McClure:
Nor did this flood of reading roll out of his mind as fast as it poured in. It is stated that “his memory was little less than miraculous. He could readily turn to any material passage, in every leaf, page, column and paragraph of the numerous and voluminous works he had read.” He came to be styled “the very treasury of erudition;” and was spoken of as “a living library, and a third university.”

A champion of reformation

The year 1578 was a significant landmark in Rainold’s career, as he debated contentious theological issues. This was after John Hart, a Roman zealot, challenged all the learned men in the nation to public debate. Reynolds contended against the authority of the papacy, at the instigation of one of the Queen’s privy councillors.

Among six conclusions which he propounded, expounded and defended in public disputation at Oxford was a statement that “the authority of the Holy Scripture is greater than the authority of the Church.” (2)
Rainolds composed some doggerel to fill out this proposition. It concluded as follows:
And these books hath the Holy Ghost set sooth for mortal wightes
That we in counte of faith and light might follow them as lights.
Avant all ye, who braine-sick toyes and fancies vain defend:
Who on humane traditions and Fathers favours depend.
The holy written word of God doth show the perfect way
Whereby from death to life arise, from curse to bliss we may.
Which being interpreted is:
And the Holy Ghost hath set forth in these books truths for the mortal but strong
That we, believing them to be true by faith in the revealed word, might follow them as lights to guide us.
Be off with you! You, who vainly defend your brain-sick toys and fancies:
Depending on mere human traditions and approval of ‘the Fathers’
The holy written word of God doth show the perfect way
By which we may arise from death to life, and from the curse to an eternal bliss. (2)
After several rounds, the Romish champion acknowledged defeat and left the field. These debates were recorded and widely published, and they put Rainolds in higher public standing.

A gifted teacher and pastor

In 1586 Rainolds moved to Queen’s College, appointed by the Queen to be Royal Professor of Divinity, the express purpose being to strengthen the English Church against the Church of Rome, and to widen the breach between them. A series of lectures was founded by Dr Francis Walsingham so that Dr. Reynolds could use his knowledge in strenuously opposing Romish corruptions. To do this, he had to resign his fellowship in Corpus Christi, which was much closer to Rome in spirit. Anyway, he was tired of all the “dissentions and factions there,” as he says, “having made him weary of the place.” He was Master at Queen’s; nevertheless he returned later to become President of Corpus Christi in 1598.

In 1593 the Queen had appointed Rainolds Dean of Lincoln. However, Elizabeth was no lover of the puritan mind, and she “schooled Doctor Reynolds for his obstinate preciseness, willing him to follow her laws and not run before them.” (3) Nevertheless, she did not refuse to recognise his teaching gifts, and formidable theological knowledge. But, when the Queen offered to make him a bishop, he declined it in preference for the studious academic life. He questioned the hierarchical value of episcopacy, as being then set forth:

In a letter to Sir Francis . . . Dr. Reynolds observes, --”All who have labored in reforming the Church, for five hundred years, have taught that all pastors, whether they are entitled bishops or priests, have equal authority and power by God’s word; as the Waldenses . . Wiclif and his scholars, afterwards Huss and the Hussites; and Luther, Calvin, [and others]. . . (McClure)

Rainolds was keen to pass on his knowledge to younger minds. Energetic, patient and sharp-witted, he engaged his students at will, conversing with them “so familiarly and so profitably that whatsoever men desired to learn from him in any kind of knowledge,” they could daily draw from his mouth “as an ever springing and never failing well.” (3)

A man of initiative

Hampton Court Palace
When King James called Rainolds to head up the Puritan delegation at the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, Rainolds was President of Corpus Christi College. The delegation included Laurence Chaderton, John Knewstubbs, and Thomas Sparke. These four were carefully selected as more compliant Puritans, who would ‘know their place’ in the presence of an Archbishop, eight senior bishops, six cathedral deans and four privy councillors,’ - none of whom was particularly friendly to the Puritan viewpoint. (4). Rainolds argued for no surplice, no unbiblical confirmation, no use of a cross as some magic talisman, no kneeling at communion. King James enjoyed demolishing their arguments for reform in a five hour dialogue, dismissing Puritan reasoning with an “I have spoken’ approach, designed to humble them, or humiliate!
Poor, dignified, generous Reynolds and Chaderton stood as if in the stocks, the royal squibs falling around them. . . . James was treating them like extreme schismatics from the outer reaches of Anabaptist lunacy. Nothing like this had happened under Elizabeth . . . . [A] more distant less engaging monarch, basing her authority on the aura of that very distance, would not have countenanced it. James enjoyed the roughness of theological argument.
Into this fierce overheated atmosphere, where the mild divisions in the Church of England were being whipped into extremity by the quick, intellectual, joky, combative, slightly unsocialised banter, argument and bullying of the King . . . the first suggestion, the seed of the King James Bible, dropped.(5)

Reynolds was hoping the recent Bishops’ Bible would be acknowledged as inferior, at least to the Geneva Bible. As a close student of Calvin’s commentaries, he would like to have heightened its authority under the new King. Problem was the Geneva Bible had annotated notes which statedly limited the King’s authority, much to the King’s displeaure. Rainolds asked,“May your majesty be pleased that the Bible be new translated, such versions as are extant not answering to the original?” The aim was that ‘one only translation of your Bible be seen as authentic and read in your church.’(6)
Geneva Bible

Rich linguistic resources had been published since the earlier sixteenth century Bibles had appeared. There was greater access as a result to not only the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin Text, but also to new grammars and lexicons in those languages. This was thanks to such scholars as Immanuel Tremellius and Theodore Beza.

The labours of these masters inspired a whole generation of biblical scholars and Reynolds was, in all probability, among those who, party issues aside, wanted to see an English Bible which was as accurate as it could possibly be. The existing situation was unsatisfactory to many(6)

A disciplined man

Rainolds became a member of the first Oxford company who translated the Old Testament prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and the Twelve Minor prophets. Also Lamentations.

Work on the new Version was not easy for Rainolds as he had health problems. “He had long been less than robust, coughing more than he liked. Some of the Oxford translators began to meet weekly in John Reynolds’s rooms in Corpus Christi College, to perfect the work, notwithstanding the said Doctor, who had the chief hand in it, and all the while sorely afflicted with gout.” (5)

When the King visited him in 1905 at Corpus Christi College, normal group translation work stopped temporarily. Rainolds would return to his rooms, having delivered a lecture to the King, only to resume private study. He believed in taking extreme pains – and took them - poring over the biblical sources, crafting shapely English phrases to suit the majesty of the Text. (7)

Creative Commons/James-Flickr
Students at Oxford

A godly man

One of the letters which have come down to us from Rainolds explains his estimation of the Bible. For him, the sum of the New Testament was contained in Paul’s letter to Rome, and the Gospel of the apostle John. The sum of the Old Testament was found in the Psalms and in the prophet Isaiah. Having said that, he then explains how we obtain true Biblical wisdom:

Divinity, the knowledge of God, is the water of life. . . . God forbid that you should think that divinity consists of words, as a wood doth of trees. . . . True divinity cannot be learned unless we frame our hearts and minds wholly to it. . . . The knowledge of God must be learned of God. . . . We have to use two means, prayers and the reading of the holy Scriptures, prayers for ourselves to talk with God, and reading to hear God talk with us. . . . We must diligently give ourselves to reading and meditation of the Holy Scriptures. . . . I pray God you may.
In this context he urged study of the word of God in the Hebrew and the Greek, “out of the very well-spring, not out of the brooks of translations.” (7)

It was Rainolds’ godliness, which put him off-side with his generation on the question of stage-plays, writing a pamphlet against them:

They meditate how they may inflame a tender youth with love, entice him to dalliance, to whoredom, to incest, inure their minds and bodies to uncomely, dissolute, railing, boasting, knavish, foolish, brainsick, drunken conceits, words and gestures.” (7)
Mocked by some in their day and ours for their closure of the theatre, the Puritans’ successors lived to see them open again in the reign of Charles II, who shocked even the French with conduct unworthy of a King (Spivey's Kings and Queens of England). Stage plays had become more corrupt and obscene than ever. (7)
the Globe theatre

Rainolds died on the 21st of May 1607, leaving a great reputation for scholarship and high character.

1. Paine, Gustavus S. (1977/1959) The men behind the King James Version, MI: Baker, pp. 22-23.
2. Paine, pp. 170 - 171.
3. Paine, pp. 24 -25.
4. McGrath, Alister (2001) In the Beginning Lon: Hodder. See the 3 minute video (The Bible revolution: King James Conference) of the King James Bible Trust.
5. Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp. 57, 148
6. Wilson, Derek (2010) The People’s Bible: The remarkable history of the King James Version, OX: Lion. p. 205, note 3; p. 86.
7. Paine. Pp. 84-86; 24.

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Richard Thomson – Bringing back the lost sheep

Richard Thomson (also Thompson) was born in Holland of English parents, probably around 1569. (1) Nicknamed ‘Dutch Thomson,’ he became a fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, 1587. Nine years later he took his Master’s degree at Oxford. By then he was probably 27 years old. This was ten years before the Hampton Court Conference, which authorised the making of a new translation, in 1604.
[Thomson] . . . travelled widely on the continent, and mastered several modern as well as ancient languages.(1)
Personal reputation
Richard Thomson’s personal reputation is tainted by controversy:

Thomson lived hard and fast and although a fellow of Clare Hall in Cambridge, was also part of a much racier and riskier London set.(2)
When in England he seems to have preferred the London social scene where Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, and Thomas Dekker drew large audiences to the playhouses and the young bucks of the Jacobean court set the tone of conspicuous consumption and display. (1)
Professional skill
Thomson made his name as a brilliant linguist by translating and editing the epigrams of the Latin poet Martial. Martial’s short witty poems cheerfully satirise the pretentious city life of first-century Rome and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances. In so doing his descriptions overstepped the bounds of decency – it would take another 300 years before the State sanctioned Christian sexual mores. The obscenity which stains the epigrams of Martial has thereby tainted the name of Richard Thomson, for his unwise perpetuation of lewd literature in English translation. However

. . . Martial has a great deal to teach any writer. Everything he composed was honed to exactness. Every sentiment he expressed had been examined by a fierce intelligence. There is nothing lax, soft or expected in Martial’s epigrams: they are the product of a mind that has worked.(2)
Richard Thomson’s translation of Martial was renowned for its wit, and amid other more amateurish attempts, some thought Thomson to be ‘the great interpreter.’
Anyone who could match Martial in his art, who was also a man of the church, and an acknowledged linguist, with correspondents in Italy, France and Germany, was a man to have in your company. The disciple of Martial would not accept the second-rate; and his mind would be bright enough to summon the best.(2)
Richard Montague,Bishop of Norwich and chaplain to the King - himself a linguist assisting Sir Henry Savile’s editing - called Thomson "a most admirable philologer." He said, however, Thomson was "better known in Italy, France, and Germany, than at home."
Did Thomson work hard on the Translation?
Lancelot Andrewes headed up the team of Old Testament translators at Westminster. As such, he dominated his fellows and felt let down by their disposition: “Most of our company are negligent,” he wrote in a letter in 1604. (2) However, the work of translation had hardly started in 1604, so was this hubris at work? Or, did he speak with premonition about men like Thomson, whose expertise was not Hebrew but Latin, and who may have attracted a dark taint from publishing ‘the full Monty' of Martial’s epigrams for a new generation . If several (or most) of Andrewes' team were negligent, that would have left the way open for him, as one of the great preachers of the age, to take Tyndale’s work and exercise to the full his “feeling for enrichment, and a layered dense , baroque sensibility,” making these qualities “sit alongside other contemporary demands for secretarial exactness and clarity.”(2) But, given the date 1604, we do not really know whether Andrewes’ premonition (if such it was) later proved correct.
Should he have been appointed?

Who appointed Richard Thomson to be one of the company of translators, which translated the Old Testament from Genesis to II Kings inclusively?
[In appointing Richard Bancroft as the project coordinator] the King did not, in fact, wait for his new archbishop to assemble a team of translators. By the summer of of 1604 he had personally designated fifty-four scholars to be involved. . . He had already informed Bancroft that “so religious a work should admit of no delay and the chief translators should with all possible speed meet together. . . . The King left absolutely nothing to chance. He supervised the drawing up of a list of very precise guidelines.” (3)
Richard Thomson was a member of Lancelot Andrewes’ team at Westminster. Andrewes’ disapproval of Thomson might not have been enough to overrule James’ personal appointment of Thomson, if it had been made at the King’s instigation. King James himself has been accused of being a closet homosexual – the result of his being starved of normal familial affection in earlier childhood. (4) If the royal Court itself was seen as dysfunctional in sexual matters, it’s hardly surprising if Andrewes was willing to see Richard Thomson’s appointment as a potential start to a healing process in “bringing back the lost sheep on the shoulder.”
God’s majesty and love, his willingness to forgive, said Andrewes’, in his Manual of Private Devotion

. . . is tender, sweet, better than life;
Hating nothing that it hath made,
Neglecting neither the young ravens,
Nor the sparrows,
Bringing back the lost sheep on the shoulder,
Sweeping the house for the piece of silver,
Binding up the wounds of the half-dead,
Opening paradise to the thief
Who is standing at the door and knocking.
Caught in the crossfire?

Thomson would probably be esteemed by many Aussies as a larrikin. Long after he had died, Thomson was accused by William Prynne of being ‘a debosh'd drunken English Dutchman, who seldom went one night to bed sober.' McClure says this accusation applied to Thomson’s later years, after he had been given a ‘living’ as a reward for hard work in a comfortable village called Snailwell, in Lancelot Andrewes’ diocese of Ely. Prynne was a next-generation lawyer who was only 13 years old when Thomson died. He was a Puritan leader and a severe disciplinarian. Archbishop William Laud, leader of the opposing Arminian party, had put Prynne in the pillory and branded him on the cheeks with the letters S. L., signifying 'seditious libeller' - and his ears were cropped. This was recompense for Prynne opposing Laud’s high churchmanship. Prynne finally had William Laud tried and beheaded for ostensibly treasonable persecution of Puritan leaders. Doubtless Prynne saw Thomson of a previous generation as part of the enemy he had spent his life opposing - the Presbyterian divines had called Thomson "the grand propagator of Arminianism” (McClure). In this troubled context, Prynne’s comment about Thomson’s drinking habits sounds suspiciously like a partisan overstatement made well after the event on the basis of hearsay. Perhaps it describes how Thomson, in retirement, fell into Noah’s trap (Gen. 9:20), whilst cultivating a vineyard in his back garden! (2)
grapes in an English vineyard

Richard Thomson was buried at St. Edward's, Cambridge, on 8th January 1612–13.
1. Wilson, Derek (2010) The People’s Bible: The remarkable history of the King James Version, OX: Lion. pp. 94 – 95.
2. Nicolson, Adam. (2003) Power and glory: Jacobean England and the making of the King James Bible, Lon: Harper. pp. 99 - 101, 194-195
3. Wilson, p. 88.
4. Fraser, Antonia (1974) King James I of England, Lon: Book Club Associates, pp. 36-37.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"Let your light so shine . . . "

I was visiting a nearby local church last Sunday, and the minister asked the congregation to suggest how to resolve an apparent contradiction between two sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5 and 6. The first saying is in Mat 5:16:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Compare this with Mat. 6:6 . . .
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Open prayer

In the second quotation, Jesus asks the disciples to keep their prayers secret behind closed doors. The same applies to giving money to the needy, or fasting to strengthen their link with God. However, in the first (Mat. 5:16) Jesus says that the disciples should do good works openly for God, because this glorifies God when others see and know God is at work in them, and so they praise God for them.

The implied assumption here is that prayer, and giving and fasting are all ways of letting our light shine before men. However, is this true? William Kelly, commenting on this verse, says the light which shines before men is our confession of Christ as Saviour and Lord:

This light is what comes from Christ. It is not, Let your good works shine before men. When people talk about this verse thinking of their own works, they are generally not good works at all; but even if they were, works are not light. Light is that which comes from God, without admixture of man. Good works are the fruit of its action upon the soul; but it is the light which is to shine before men. It is the confession of Christ that is the point before God. It is not merely certain things to be done. The light shining is the great object here, though doing good ought to flow from it. If I make doing good everything, it is a lower thought than that which is before the mind of God. An infidel can feel that a shivering man needs a coat or a blanket. The natural man may be fully alive to the wants of others; but if I merely take these works and make them the prominent aim, I really do nothing more than an unbeliever might. . . . This is what the Lord warns the saints against. They are not to be thinking about their works, but that the light of God should shine. . . . . Let your confession of what God is in His nature and of what Christ is in His own person and ways — let your acknowledgment of Him be the thing that is felt by and brought before men; and then, when they see your good works, they will glorify your Father which is in heaven. Instead of saying, What a good man such a one is, they will glorify God on his behalf — connecting what you do with your confession of Christ.

A mutilated sermon?

It is disappointing to see the critical Greek Text has excised three times the word “openly” from Jesus’ words (vss. 4, 6, and 18). Other passages in Matthew 5-7 get similar treatment. Jesus certainly is contrasting here, between a secret gift and a public reward, (1)

Leave the word “openly” in, and it is readily seen that Jesus is referring to the effects of “giving with simplicity” (Rom 12:8), both in this life and the next.

Others [who give secretly] shall have their reward from God, who seeth in secret and so needeth not such a publication of our good deeds; and he will reward them openly before men and angels at the last day, chapter xxv. 31, 32, 34, and ordinarily in this life, Psa. xxxvii.25; xli.1; xcii. 9,10. (2)

The entire context of the Sermon on the Mount has this eschatological perspective in mind. The Kingdom is present in Jesus, the open manifestation of that kingdom is future (Matt 6:10). Meanwhile the disciples are to expect it, to look for its in-breaking and get ready to be members of it:

Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

In this context, the coming reward is real and public (Mat 5:12), and is offered as a motive (6:1) for action (“reward” is mentioned seven times in ch. 6). In Mat. 16:27 the reward is given in the presence of others. The reason for offering a reward as an incentive is to offset the cost and sacrifice involved, from which the disciple naturally and honestly shrinks. Jesus’ own personal reward (Heb 12:2) was the joyful prospect of union and communion with those the Father had given him (John 17:24) – for that reason He endured the cross, despising the shame . . . Likewise, the disciples are sustained by the prospect of a reward in Luke 6: 23 35:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest:

Here in Luke 6:35 there’s a distinction between “hoping for nothing again” and “your [coming] great reward.” The cost of unconditional love can be very great, and may be accompanied by loneliness and misunderstanding. But the ultimate prospect of vindication and reward on that Day (a public day before angels and men) makes it more than worthwhile. Rev 11:18 and 22:12 abundantly prove the eschatological perspective of the New Testament:

. . . and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great;
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Rev 22:12 12

Has the critical Greek text taken away from God’s words?

The critical Text (UBS) omits the word “openly” on all three occasions (6:4, 6, 18). Why did some scribe omit “openly,” when copying the Text in front of him? Had not Jesus said:

Luk 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

However, uppermost in the scribe’s mind is the question, why would Jesus offer public reward as an incentive, if he has already denied it as a valid motive for action? He thought it was incongruous for Jesus to have said ‘do it secretly,’ while in the same breath saying, ‘you will be praised afterwards, when it becomes publicly known.’ We are the victims of such arrogance where the scribe tampers with the Text, thinking he knows better than the Manuscript (MS) in front of him. Was not the Holy Spirit as keen to preserve every word God breathed out, as He was to communicate it in the first place – with an infallible correctness? Your answer to this question will be ‘No!’ if the Critical Text’s departure from what the Churches have always believed (until the year 1881)is a sound and reliable approach to Scripture. But, ‘yes’ would be a more logical expression of God-honouring faith, rather than ‘No!’ Was the scribe dealing with God’s Word dependent on the power and wisdom of the Spirit in doing his work, or was he intruding his own natural wisdom on to the Text? Was Prof. Hort also so dealing with the Text?!

The evidence supports "openly"

There are over 2000 complete Greek MSS of Matthew’s Gospel. (3) Over 90% of these MSS representing every age of the Church have the words “openly” in (verses 4 and 6). Likewise. there are 500 Greek lectionaries (Daily Service Manuals for public reading of Scripture) and they uniformly have the word “openly” in. It is found in most of the Versions, including the Armenian, the Ethiopic, the Gothic, the Slavic. It is found in the Syriac MSS from an early date. Sheer weight of numbers surely is one significant (if not deciding) factor, in weighing up evidence.

Prof. FJA Hort.

If different witnesses in a court of Law, many from different parts of the world, speaking different languages, and agreeing in their testimony to the exact wording of someone’s statement – are these all to be marginalised, for the sake of a few putatively delinquent MSS?!

The effect of omitting “openly” is debilitating. It perhaps limits the reward to a 1-1 commendation between God and the giver, or with the pray-er, or with the one fasting. Yet the Kingdom parables are not presented as private affairs, any more than was the later teaching of the apostles Paul and John, when describing the judgement seat of Christ, when rewards and punishment will be handed out. Jesus will later go on to tell some parables which make precisely that point – rewards will be public. For example,

Mat 25:22 Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.

So with the parable of the pounds,

Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. Luke 19:16-17

Hardly a private reward!

Critical grounds for omitting “openly.”

The Bible Society editors are confident that “openly ‘was an addition by some scribe, not an omission from the original Text.

Bruce Metzger says:
The phrase en to phanero, which is absent from the earliest witnesses of the Alexandrian, Western, pre-Caesarean, and Egyptian types of texts, appears to have been added by copyists in order to make more explicit an antithetic parallelism with the preceding phrase en to krupto. The point in the whole section, however, is not so much the openness of the Father’s reward as its superiority to mere human approval (compare verses 6 and 18) (4)

Let’s look critically at Metzger’s argument for the omission:

He rightly says the earliest witnesses of the Alexandrian texts Codex B and ALEPH omit it. For most textual critics, still enamoured of Prof. Hort’s theories - which have been shown by Dean John Burgon to be flimsy (5) - this is often enough to make suspect any textual reading which contradicts them. However, these manuscripts so beloved of Hort and Tischendorf, are shown to be untrustworthy witnesses to the original text, despite their great age (Burgon calls these MSS “liars”).

Dean John Burgon

The witnesses ALEPH and B show a far greater number of disagreements between each other, than do the way other MSS interrelate, - between the two they show over 3000 non-trivial disagreements, in the four Gospels alone. Would you trust two witnesses in a court of law who could not agree their testimony in important details, more than 3000 times! Indeed, you would probably trust neither of them! Yet Westcott and Hort put these two MSS both on a pedestal and in consequence ruled the great majority of dissenting witnesses out of court.

An older manuscript is no more a superior testimony to accurate transmisson than are the words of an older person, who bears witness to facts on a witness stand. We might even say it’s inferior testimony, if the witness shows internal inconsistency in what he says. Which is exactly what Cod. B and ALEPH do between them, in thousands of places.

The Western text Metzger mentions is divided in its testimony. Many Old Latin MSS have “openly” in, and even fewer of them have it omitted. Nevertheless, because the Latin Vulgate left it out, the UBS editors seem to assume that is prima facie evidence that Jerome (editor of the Vulgate) found it omitted from the earlier MSS he was using to edit the Text. But, what if he found it as much in as it was out, so he had to make his own decision. Does that make his decision correct?

The pre-Caesarean texts mentioned are not worthy of trust above any other MS. This is because their supposed distinctiveness is based on the existence of a Caesarean Text-type. Yet the existence of the latter is so poorly established, it caused one textual critic - who had published his critical labours in learn-ed journals - to abandon the whole idea, and to seriously question the very existence of Text-types, period! Edward Hills came to believe he had been chasing a chimera, and that it was better to return in faith to the Received Text of the Reformers, and believe that God had so providentially and supernaturally guided those (Erasmus and others) who had given us the first printed Text, that we should trust its wording completely. (6) He who had preserved all His words down through the centuries would not abandon that preservative work in detail, at a crucial moment in the history of transmission of the original Text.

Desiderius Erasmus

The “Egyptian texts” mentioned refers to Coptic MSS which uniformly leave it out (four of them). But, when was anything emanating from Egypt to be relied on? What! The home and fountain head of Gnosticism, remote from the biblical sites, and to which no apostle wrote any NT letter.

Metzger says, “The point in the whole section however, is not so much the openness of the Father’s reward as its superiority to mere human approval (compare verses 6 and 18)"

This comment has no force whatsoever, if the external evidence for omitting the word “openly” is flimsily based. As a comment, it assumes the critical text is correct, and then extrapolates from that.

However, I have shown from various New Testament quotations, that Jesus was very concerned to teach the disciples the difference between behaviour reflecting the hiddenness of the Messianic kingdom (which is present in the physical person of Jesus), and the results of that behaviour, when the Kingdom is finally and openly manifested to the world at the last Day. In such a context, it is only right for the disciples to express their faith in Jesus as Messiah in a secret fashion, whereas Daniel prayed conspicuously at an open window! (Dan. 6:10) One day all will see just who Jesus is, and bow the knee. Meanwhile the disciples must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Mat 10:16)

(1) Stott, John R.W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, The Bible Speaks Today, Lon: IVP. p. 131. Dr. Stott disagrees here.
(2) Poole, Matthew, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Banner of Truth.
(3) Aland, Kurt, (1981/1985) The Text of the New Testament, An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism, MI: Eerdmans. P. 83
(4) Metzger, Bruce M. (1971/75) A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Lon: UBS. P. 15
(5) Burgon, J.W. (1883) The Revision Revised, PA: Conservative Classics, pp. 258 - 262
(6) Hills, Edward F. (1979) The King James Version Defended, IO: Christian Research Press.