Paul and Barnabas

Two Roads Diverged

Now we get to the place in Acts (15:36-41) where Paul and Barnabas have a strong disagreement--but they ultimately survive it. I am going to break with form here by quoting some sources on the trustworthiness of the King James Version text. I don't want my reader to think that all my objections to the New International Version are trivial. They are not. I've just not been focusing on some of the weightier issues. Now I shall give my reader an inkling of what's at stake while looking at the ethics of Paul and Barnabas diverging.

First an example of an anything-goes mentality so long as one likes what he is doing (reading):

At four o'clock in the morning, oncoming traffic is sparse, but each set of headlights purls through the fine hairs in Edgler Vess's ears. This is a pleasant sound, separate from the passing roar of engines and the Doppler-shift whine of other vehicles' tires on the pavement.
    As he drives, he eats one of the Hershey bars. The silkiness of melting chocolate on his tongue reminds him of the music of Angelo Badalamenti, and the music of Angelo Badalamenti brings to mind the waxy surface of a scarlet anthurium, and the anthurium sparks an intensely sensual recollection of the cool taste and crispness of cornichons, which for several seconds completely overwhelms the actual taste of the chocolate.
    Listening to the murmur of oncoming headlights, engaged in this free association of sensory input and memory, Vess is a happy man. He experiences life far more intensely than do other people; he is a singularity. Because his mind is not cluttered with foolishness and false emotions, he is able to perceive what others cannot. He understands the nature of the world, the purpose of existence, and the truth behind the Big Lie; because of these insights, he is free, and because he is free, he is always happy.
    The nature of the world is sensation. We drift in an ocean of sensory stimuli: motion, color, texture, shape, heat, cold, natural symphonies of sound, an infinite number of scents, tastes beyond the human ability to catalogue. Nothing but sensation endures. Living things all die. Great cities do not last. Metal corrodes and stone crumbles. Over eons, continents are reshaped, whole mountain ranges vanish, and seas run dry. The planet itself will be vaporized when the sun self-destructs. But even in the void of deep space, between solar systems, in that profound vacuum that will not transmit sound, there is nevertheless light and darkness, cold, motion, shape, and the awful panorama of eternity.
    The sole purpose of existence is to open oneself to sensation and to satisfy all appetites as they arise. Edgler Vess knows that there is no such thing as a good or bad sensation--only raw sensation itself--and that every sensory experience is worthwhile. Negative and positive values are merely human interpretations of value-neutral stimuli and, therefore, are only as enduring--which is to say, as meaningless--as human beings themselves. He enjoys the most bitter taste as much as he relishes the sweetness of a ripe peach; in fact, he occasionally chews a few aspirin not to relieve a headache but to savor the incomparable flavor of the medication. When he accidentally cuts himself, he is never afraid, because he finds pain fascinating and welcomes it as merely another form of pleasure; even the taste of his own blood intrigues him.
    Mr. Vess is not sure if there is such a thing as the immortal soul, but he is unshakably certain that if souls exist, we are not born with them in the same way that we are born with eyes and ears. He believes that the soul, if real, accretes in the same manner as a coral reef grows from the deposit of countless millions of calcareous skeletons secreted through the course of a lifetime. In Vess's considered opinion, if one wishes to have a formidable soul--or any soul at all--one must open oneself to every possible sensation, plunge into the bottomless ocean of sensory stimuli that is our world, and experience with no consideration of good or bad, right or wrong, with no fear but only fortitude. If his belief is correct, then he himself is building what may be the most intricate, elaborated---if not to say baroque--and important soul that has ever transcended this level of existence.
    The Big Lie is that such concepts as love, guilt, and hate are real. Put Mr. Vess into a room with any priest, show them a pencil, and they will agree on its color, size, and shape. Blindfold them, hold cinnamon under their noses, and they will both identify it from the smell. But bring before them a mother cuddling her baby, and the priest will see love where Mr. Vess will see only a woman who enjoys the sensations provided by the infant--the scrubbed smell of it, the softness of its pink skin, the undeniably pleasing roundness of its simply-formed face, the musicality of its giggle; its apparent helplessness and dependence deeply satisfy her. The greatest curse of humanity's high intelligence is that, in most members of the species, it leads to a yearning to be more than they are. All men and women, in Vess's view, are fundamentally nothing other than animals--smart animals, indeed, but animals nonetheless; reptiles, in fact, evolved from whatever fish with legs first crawled out of the primordial sea. They are, he knows, motivated and formed solely by sensory stimuli, yet unable to admit to the primacy of physical sensation over intellect and emotion. They are even frightened of the reptile consciousness within, its needs and hungers, and they attempt to restrict its sensation seeking by using lies such as love, guilt, hate, courage, loyalty, and honor.
    This is the philosophy of Mr. Edgler Vess. He embraces his reptilian nature. The glory of him is to be found in his unmatched accretion of sensations. This is a functional philosophy, requiring its adherent to endorse neither the black-and-white values that so hamper religious persons nor the embarrassing contradictions of the situational ethics of the modern atheist and those whose religion is politics.
    Life is. Vess lives. That is the sum of it.
--Dean Koontz, Intensity401

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Barnabas, "son of exhortation"
This name was applied to the associate of Paul, who was originally called Joses or Joseph (Acts 4:36), as a testimony to his eloquence. Its literal meaning is "son of prophecy" (bar, "son"; nebhu'al, "prophecy"). Compare word for prophet in Genesis 20:7; Deuteronomy 18:15,18, etc. This is interpreted in Acts 4:36 as "son of exhortation" the Revised Version (British and American), or "son of consolation" the King James Version, expressing two sides of the Greek paraklesis, that are not exclusive. The office of a prophet being more than to foretell, all these interpretations are admissible in estimating Barnabas as a preacher.

Acts study on
Paul and Barnabas Bible Versions by David B. Loughran403

    Before we consider the King James Version (KJV) and a few of the modern translations in use today, let us first consider certain Greek texts from which all New Testament translations are derived. Foremost amongst these is the Traditional Received Text (Textus Receptus), also called the Byzantine Text or the Majority Text because it is based on the vast majority of manuscripts still in existence. These extant manuscripts (MSS) were brought together by various editors such as Lucian (AD 250-312), Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza and the Elzevir brothers to form the text known as Textus Receptus, the name given to the Majority Text in the 17th century. The most notable editor of all was Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) one of the greatest scholars the world has ever known. When the early Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries decided to translate the Scriptures directly from Greek into the languages of Europe, they selected Textus Receptus as their foundation Greek document. It is vitally important to understand why they did so.
    Wilkinson writes in his book Truth Triumphant:

Quote: "The Protestant denominations are built upon that manuscript of the Greek New Testament sometimes called Textus Receptus, or the Received Text. It is that Greek New Testament from which the writings of the apostles in Greek have been translated into English, German, Dutch and other languages. During the dark ages the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. It was restored to Christendom by the labours of that great scholar Erasmus. It is altogether too little known that the real editor of the Received Text was Lucian. None of Lucian's enemies fails to credit him with this work. Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament. However, Lucian's day was an age of apostasy when a flood of depravities was systematically attempting to devastate both the Bible manuscripts and Bible theology. Origen, of the Alexandrian college, made his editions and commentaries of the Bible a secure retreat for all errors, and deformed them with philosophical speculations introducing casuistry and lying. Lucian's unrivalled success in verifying, safeguarding, and transmitting those divine writings left a heritage for which all generations should be thankful."404

Two Bibles

In his book Which Bible? David Otis Fuller says this about Textus Receptus. Carefully note Fuller's first point that all churches (we could now add all Bible students) fall into one of two basic study categories:

  • Those who use a variety of Bibles influenced by the Minority Text (the Nestle/Aland Text). For 45 years I was in this camp: but I thank God I had my eyes opened.
  • Those who only study Bibles based on the Received Text (Textus Receptus). I have now joined this camp.
Fuller writes:

Quote: "First of all, the Textus Receptus was the Bible of early Eastern Christianity. Later it was adopted as the official text of the Greek Catholic Church. There were local reasons which contributed to this result. But, probably, far greater reasons will be found in the fact that the Received Text had authority enough to become, either in itself or by its translation, the Bible of the great Syrian Church; of the Waldensian Church of northern Italy; of the Gallic Church in southern France; and of the Celtic Church in Scotland and Ireland; as well as the official Bible of the Greek Catholic Church.

All these churches, some earlier, some later, were in opposition to the Church of Rome and at a time when the Received Text and these Bibles of the Constantine type were rivals. They, as represented in their descendants, are rivals to this day. The Church of Rome built on the Eusebio-Origen type of Bible; these others built on the Received Text. Therefore, because they themselves believed that the Received Text was the true apostolic Bible, and further, because the Church of Rome arrogated to itself the power to choose a Bible which bore the marks of systematic depravation, we have the testimony of these five churches to the authenticity and the apostolicity of the Received Text."405

Why did the early churches of the 2nd and 3rd centuries and all the Protestant Reformers of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries choose Textus Receptus in preference to the Minority Text? The answer is because:

  • Textus Receptus is based on the vast majority (90%) of the 5000+ Greek manuscripts in existence. That is why it is also called the Majority Text.
  • Textus Receptus is not mutilated with deletions, additions and amendments, as is the Minority Text.
  • Textus Receptus agrees with the earliest versions of the Bible: Peshitta (AD150) Old Latin Vulgate (AD157), the Italic Bible (AD 157) etc. These Bibles were produced some 200 years before the minority Egyptian codices favoured by the Roman Church. Remember this vital point.
  • Textus Receptus agrees with the vast majority of the 86,000+ citations from scripture by the early church fathers.
  • Textus Receptus is untainted with Egyptian philosophy and unbelief.
  • Textus Receptus strongly upholds the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: the creation account in Genesis, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, his miracles, his bodily resurrection and literal return.
  • Textus Receptus was - and still is - the enemy of the Roman Church. This is an important fact to bear in mind.
Reverend Gipp comments further:

Quote: "The Majority Text has been known throughout history by several names. It has been known as the Byzantine text, the Imperial Text, the Traditional Text and the Reformation Text as well as the Majority Text. This text culminates in the TEXTUS RECEPTUS or Received Text which is the basis for the King James Bible, which we know also as the Authorized Version .... We describe this text with the term "Universal," because it represents the majority of extant MSS which represent the original autographs. Professor Hodges of Dallas Theological Seminary explains, "The manuscript of an ancient book will, under any but the most exceptional conditions, multiply in a reasonable regular fashion with the result that the copies nearest the autograph will normally have the largest number of descendants."406

Continuing from page 66 in Gipp's book:

Quote: "Professor Hodges concludes, 'Thus the Majority text, upon which the King James Version is based, has in reality the strongest claim possible to be regarded as an authentic representation of the original text. This claim is quite independent of any shifting consensus of scholarly judgment about its readings and is based on the objective reality of its dominance in the transmissional history of the New Testament text.' "407

In his book God Wrote Only One Bible, Jasper J Ray pens the following testimony about Textus Receptus:

Quote: "Wonder of wonders, in the midst of all the present confusion regarding manuscripts, we still have a Bible we can trust. The writing of the word of God by inspiration is no greater miracle than the miracle of its preservation in the Textus Receptus. All criticism of this text from which was translated the King James Bible, is based upon an unproved hypothesis: i.e. that there are older and more dependable copies of the original Bible manuscripts. No one in nineteen hundred years, has been able to prove that one jot or tittle has been inserted or taken out."408

In his book Final Authority, William P Grady provides further interesting details about Textus Receptus, the Received Text:

Quote: "For instance, over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament exist today ranging from small fragments containing two or three verses to nearly entire Bibles. Their ages vary from the second to the sixteenth century; the manuscripts are ending with the arrival of printing. By comparison, there exist only ten quality manuscripts of Caesar's Gallic War composed between 58-50BC "Once again, the outstanding feature of the Received Text is its high percentage of agreement among so many thousands of independent witnesses. This agreement is often placed at about 90 percent; in other words, 90 percent of all existing manuscripts agree with one another so miraculously that they are able to form their own unique text

If the critic of your King James Bible is correct in his rejection of the underlying Textus Receptus, then he is also under the greatest pressure to account for its existence. To complain of fabrication is one thing, but to account for its universal prevalence is quite another. Whenever a large body of ancient documents are seen to be in agreement, this inexplicable harmony becomes their greatest evidence for legitimacy. Simple arithmetic confirms that the nearer a particular reading is to the original, the longer the time span will be for descendants to follow. The longer the family is, the older the original source must be."409

I've gathered from the preacher's sermon of 5/23/2004 that Barnabas's example of taking the low road while Paul takes the high road (so to speak) shows conflict resolved by going on two different roads, which along with leaving the conflict within its original bounds, and with the neutrality of the church, is how we're to deal with (some) conflicts. According to his sermon if I've correctly understood it.

Personally, I believe we should use the KJV and not these modern versions, but mostly I hear modern versions (NIV) in our church, so I want to look at the above application of conflict resolution.

First there is the boundaries of the conflict. The worst kind would be where we'd hear modernized versions that dilute our core beliefs--"the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: the creation account in Genesis, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, his miracles, his bodily resurrection and literal return"--for the sake of camaraderie in hearing modern language from the Bible. According to Deut. 13.6, we're not to spare one another's feelings when it comes to worshipping the correct God, the first commandment--to love God--takes precedence over the second--to love thy neighbor. I don't think that's the actual issue here as the preacher avoided using his regular NIV in his sermon on prayer last church-in-the-park-ing-lot, because it omitted the teaching. And on 4/18/2004 he again used older versions rather than the NIV to preach on Mark 16, because the newer ones leave something out. Ideally, I believe we should be hearing only the reliable KJV as not everyone will be able to sort out the faults of the newer versions, but I don't think we place hearing faulty critical passages in modern English above hearing correct important passages in KJV English.

The next level of conflict has to do with: (II Cor 6:14a) "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ..." Unbelievers (Westcott and Hort in particular) were involved in selecting the Greek text used in modern versions.

(d) Westcott and Hort--The Light That Failed410

Westcott and Hort professed to "venerate" the name of Griesbach "above that of every other textual critic of the New Testament."411 Like Griesbach they believed that the orthodox Christian scribes had altered the New Testament manuscripts in the interests of orthodoxy. Hence like Griesbach they ruled out in advance any possibility of the providential preservation of the New Testament text through the usage of believers. But at the same time they were very zealous to deny that heretics had made any intentional changes in the New Testament text. "It will not be out of place," they wrote, "to add here a distinct expression of our belief that even among the numerous unquestionably spurious readings of the New Testament there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes."412 The effect of this one-sided theory was to condemn the text found in the majority of the New Testament manuscripts and exonerate that of B and Aleph. This evident partiality, however, did not appeal to Rendel Harris (1926), who condemned all the manuscripts, including B and Aleph. All of them, he asserted, were "actually reeking" with "dogmatic falsifications."413

In places where it's a judgment call how to render a reading, are we to trust an unbeliever who put together the text we read in English?

Still, I think our church recognizes that sincere intelligent Christians will hold different beliefs on non-critical matters, and we can with grace all be accommodated, and funny Bible versions will not be used to refute the brother who works it out from reliable texts though the language isn't modern. Not every Christian everywhere has that maturity, and supporting faulty Bible versions that may agree with him doesn't help maintain the peace, yet for our part it's not a problem.

That reduces the level of conflict to that of, (I Peter 5:5) "Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." There are places in translation where it's six of one or half a dozen of another. It could be translated either of two ways, in which case I think we should go with those who have come before us, while the modern versions strike out on their own.

Even though the name that Barnabas was called could be rendered either of two ways, I believe we should respect our elder translators by using "son of consolation" per the King James Version, but I keep hearing the preacher preach "son of exhortation" from the modern versions. The King James Version says, (Acts 4:36-37) "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet," and the older (1526) Tyndale version put it, "And Joses which was also called of the apostles Barnabas (that is to saye the sonne of consolacion, beynge a levite, and off the countre off Cipers) had londe, and solde itt, and layde the pryce doune at the apostles fete." The (2nd) Wycliffite version (mid 1300's) has it, "Forsothe Joseph, that was named Barsabas of apostlis, that is to seie, the sone of coumfort, of the lynage of Leuy, a man of Cipre, whanne he hadde a feeld, seelde it, and brou3te the prijs, and leide it bifor the feet of apostlis." Of the two sides of the Greek paraklesis, the "consolation" side in English goes back some 650 years that I can document, so it's the traditional one. The "exhortation" side is the contemporary one.

This is not much of an issue, so one might ask, should we even bring it up? After all, there is no critical issue of faith involved in whether Barnabas is the son of exhortation or the son of prophecy. He could be either one and we'd still be Christians. Neither is there some difference of Christian practice derived from what Barnabas is the son of. If it makes no difference in faith or practice, is it even an issue?

Well, let's look at someone closer to home, ex-president the Ronald Reagan. Suppose we wanted to give him a nickname according to what he represented. Someone suggests that since he wrote his own speeches, he should be called the son of exhortation. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." It's a good idea. Someone else suggests that since in his speeches he made us feel good about being Americans, he should be called the son of consolation. Also a good idea. Either selection would work--they're not going to change history or anyone's politics, so what difference does it make? A lot.

I had a landlady who when the Berlin wall got torn down, she went out to celebrate. She went to a bar, had some drinks, and ended up dancing topless on the bar. Now, this lady was in the entertainment business at one time of her life, a professional pianist on a cruise ship hobnobbing with movie stars. Reagan was once a movie star. So when the son of exhortation gives a successful speech, we see such a stunt, and file it away as such.

But what happens when the son of consolation gives the same speech, and the same wall comes down, and the same lady does her topless number? If it's the son of consolation, we remember that this lady was from Germany and had lived with the oppressive presence of the wall as long as she could remember. When that wall came down it was such a consolation to her that she had to celebrate and did so in the only way she knew how. That doesn't mean we approve of immodest attire, but we do think better of her in the second instance than we did in the first.

It's important in the same way the issue of a "wardrobe malfunction" at halftime at the Superbowl was important. It didn't affect the outcome of the game. It didn't affect anyone's team loyalty. But it was important because it affected the atmosphere of the game. Well, the King James Version has a more reverent atmosphere than modern versions, and that is important.

If you show a priest a mother nursing her infant, you expect him to see love rather than just the physical sensations involved even though they are both technically correct descriptions.

Let's go back to the landlady. I had known her for some time and she wanted a male tenant for safety in her crime-ridden neighborhood, and I needed a mature housemate--she was five years older than I. Her birthday was coming up so I decided to get her something. I discovered in the bookstore a stand of birthday cards with newspaper headlines for the year of one's birth. She was born in 1942, so I looked up that year to find the headline read, "BRITISH INTENSELY BOMB GERMAN CITIES." She was born in Berlin. I did not get her that card.

As I was about to move into her downstairs room, I decided to go over in my mind what disturbed her so we'd get along better living in the same house. Well, I knew she freaked out hearing a door slam, or a window slam, and when a passerby leaned on the wall around her yard, she also freaked out to see the wall move. Then I remembered where and when she was born. She was born in a city that was being bombed and eventually shelled by the advancing Russians. Is it any wonder she grew up intolerant of loud bangs and walls moving! I had to be very careful.

So I was going over in my mind how I'd need to be considerate, and it helped me to picture those bad planes in the air bombing my landlady when she was a baby. As I was doing this I went to the post office to picked up my mail and read a letter from my Dad in which he enclosed a poem from one of his wartime comrades describing a sortie they flew over Germany in which they each downed a German plane. That was pretty cool reading about my Dad's exploits, but then I had to get back to thinking about the bad planes bombing my landlady, and then I read again the poem about the cool planes in the formation my Dad was flying.

You can probably guess what happened next. I started to get confused. Which were the good planes and which were the bad? I was finding it increasingly difficult to separate the two in my mind. Finally I stopped to sort it out. I made the inevitable conclusion: they were the same planes! I don't know if my Dad's fighter actually escorted one of the bombers that dropped its load on Berlin, but they were sure part of the same effort.

The point is our past doesn't magically disappear as we get older. My Dad helped win a war to make the world safe for democracy. Innocent babies got bombed in the effort. Then my Dad had his oldest son whom he named after himself. I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam conflict. I did two years of civilian alternative service. Now I was renting a room from one of the bombed babies grown up with personality disturbances so that people found it hard to get along with her. And I had to ask myself, does being for peace only mean that I don't fight in a conflict, or does it mean I actually live to bring peace? My landlady got along with me. She told me I was like an angel of God for how I helped her out.

My past doesn't magically disappear when I join a church or do this or that. I did all but a month of my civilian alternative service in the Shiloh commune where part of the requirement of membership was we each had to read twenty chapters of the (King James) Bible every week. That was in an effort to familiarize ourselves with scripture so that we wouldn't be diverted by some cult that takes some scripture alone and out of context. I continued to read twenty chapters a week for these years. Nobody ever told me to stop.

Then I ended up in a church where we had a preacher who used the KJV, and when that church folded, some went to various other churches, and I went with a member who preached (from the KJV) at the old folks home. I eventually was with a Negro church where the minister preached from the KJV using a style sometimes found in the South where he would sing the scripture. I was also with a church where every single member came from a different denominational background but we had the same King James Bible to unite us.

And I went to a Chinese Church for a number of years. A new sister in Christ from Singapore had complained to me that her fellowship group had made her break up with her unsaved fiancé of nine years by showing her where it plainly stated in the NIV) Bible that a widow may only marry someone "belong[ing] to" the lord, etc. The Greek manuscripts say only that she must marry "in" the Lord.

I tried to understand her situation. I studied Chinese for a couple of years and then joined a Chinese Church. I got to understand their culture, how their courtships are long term, and they expect to marry at the end. By and by, I started going to their mid-week Bible study. We were studying First Corinthians. We broke up into different language groups, and I went with the English speakers, including sisters form Singapore. They brought out their NIV's and I my KJV. But they couldn't understand the KJV, they wanted modern English. Fine, I brought along my J.B. Phillips.

When we got to the place where the NIV said the widow must marry only to someone belonging to the Lord, I pointed out that J.B. Phillips has it "let her be guided by the lord." I wanted to go to the KJV and look at the context and sort it all out, but they would none of it. They thought I was nuts. They all knew that a Christian can only marry another Christian. They said the NIV uses better Greek. Actually it doesn't, not by a long shot, but here it was not the Greek but the paraphrasing that was in question. I felt under enormous pressure when every Christian in the group says so, and their Bible that they use every Sunday says so too. I can only imagine what it would do to a young Christian who doesn't know any better.

They agreed that the children of a mixed marriage are sanctified and thus they sanctify the marriage, but they said that only applies if they were already married when one spouse converts. But according to Matt. 1:18-25 a sanctified child can sanctify an espousal also, so that they may proceed to marry. The Singapore sister's "engagement" was similar to the biblical espousal as there was every expectation to marry. Furthermore she need not have broken it off to better serve the Lord equally yoked to a believer she might find some day, not by the example of (Deut. 20:7) "And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her." No, she should have remained engaged according to (1 Cor. 7:17) "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.", unless he broke it off.

I don't mean to ramble. What I'm saying is that if the new versions zap the KJV dialect to make the world safe for modern English Bibles, like allied bombers bombing the stuffing out of German cities, then that is my Bible dialect being bombed, and as for my friends taking the hits, the NIV is the particular plane that got them.

In summary, although doctrinal matters are not the issue, or the ability to live according to one's own conscience, nevertheless it is important to me at least to be having the KJV used in services.

The second issue is to let them go each on their own way, Paul with Silas, Barnabas with Mark. And in fact I asked the preacher right off the bat if I'd be allowed to go just by the KJV if I wanted, and he said that was fine. He still preaches mostly from the NIV. In Sunday school I quote from the KJV and others will quote from it and from other versions. When there is a KJV word difficult to understand, instead of hearing it from another version, I bring along a concordance and a dictionary. If we see how the word was used the first time in the KJV, we can usually grasp its meaning, and if that fails, then we can get it from the dictionary. In a sermon a preacher may quote a reference book, so that he can preach to a modern audience using no other version than the KJV and get along fine. Our "faith cometh by hearing" series has a KJV option and other options. The KJV is one road to take, the newer versions another. That is not the issue.

The third criterion is the neutrality of the church. Here I believe the philosophy is that since the apostles quoted freely from the Septuagint, rather than the Hebrew or their own anointing, then we should feel free to use whatever translation becomes popular. I don't think that in every instance they used the Septuagint, but there is something to that argument, for a general neutrality in use of translation. I just don't think that's the whole story.

There are particular cases where that general neutrality is not really neutral. For example the greeting cards that use headlines during the year of one's birth that are for the sake of argument neutral. The publisher is trying to make a buck, not offend people. The editor just picks a striking headline for each year. But if I know my landlady got the stuffing bombed out of her as a baby, I cannot justify my neutrality by that editorial decision if I send her that card.

We have two services, a traditional and a contemporary. For the contemporary one, that general neutrality may suffice. That's one road. On the other road we are expecting traditional elements in our service, those pieces from the past that are good and are still with us. At least part of our congregation has a past that includes the KJV, and to me and at least one or two others that is important. The birthday card is chosen ultimately not to please the giver but the recipient. Likewise the service should be at least tolerable to the congregation irrespective of the whims of the preacher.

It is billed as a traditional service. We have some idea what that means as evidenced by the song selection. The King James Bible is known as the traditional version, used by some ministers in their past even, and the preacher has referred to it as the "old King James" on 4/18/2004 preaching on Mark 16, and I don't think he was calling it obsolete. The New International Version makes a lot of claims in the introduction, that it's suitable for liturgy, Bible study, memorization, etc., but it does not claim to be a traditional version (except for following traditional punctuation and sentence breakdowns).

I think it's a legitimate concern to want the King James Version used in the traditional service, and I would like that to occur. Either that or give up having a traditional service, calling them services one and two, and dividing up the songs as seems fit.

It's the old problem of counting the cost before starting construction on the tower. Is there enough money to build it? We want a traditional service, fine, we have the wherewithal to sing traditional songs. But what if there is some traditional element from the past of some of our members that they want to be accommodated? Are we able to continue the building?

Or the general coming upon a stronger city than he expected might have to diverge in his course. We have enough aborted projects. Why don't we proceed to the next stage in the road of a traditional service?


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2004, Earl S. Gosnell III

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have used material from a number of sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

Any particular questions or requests for permissions may be addressed to me, the author.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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