KJV vs NIV
by Earl Gosnell
Holy Bible Translation
"Junior was educated. He wasn't merely a masseur with a
fancy title; he had earned a full bachelor of science degree with
a major in rehabilitation therapy. When he watched television,
which he never did to excess, he rarely settled for frivolous game
shows or sitcoms like Gomer Pyle or The Beverly
Hillbillies, or even I Dream of Jeannie, but
committed himself to serious dramas that required intellectual
involvement—Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Fugitive.
He preferred Scrabble to all other board games, because it expanded
one's vocabulary. As a member in good standing of the
Book-of-the-Month Club, he'd already acquired nearly thirty volumes of
the finest in contemporary literature, and thus far he'd read or
skim-read more than six of them. He would have read all of them if he
had not been a busy man with such varied interests; his cultural
aspirations were greater than the time he was able to devote to
We shall use "Junior" in a sample letter to the "elders" discussing his personality characteristics similar to those of an otherwise faultless minister we shall call "Right-on."
Sept. 9, 2002Dear Elders,
Let me see if I understand our status quo: We have a minister who is educated, not merely a preacher with a fancy title, but someone with a degree in theology. He, and for that matter the rest of our leaders, is a cut above average intellectually, and continually improving. He is familiar with the whole of the classic King James Bible and quotes or skim-quotes from it in some of his sermons. He'd read us the whole thing if we had the time.
What we are fed religiously, though, is a modern version, the NIV, which constitutes "the most thoughtful, most rewarding, most reliable guide to life to be found anywhere. When [we are] confused or troubled we can turn to it and never fail to find enlightenment, guidance. When we are happy, we find in" the NIV confirmation of our winsome witness. And we are not so gullible as to believe the reports that there are serious problems with the NIV but recognize such as a conspiracy.
Then I think of my own relations with the Bible. When I was in high school our family went to a Presbyterian church which used the RSV a lot, but my Dad gave me a J.B. Phillips for my birthday so I'd have it in modern English. Unfortunately, I didn't have a very deep-rooted faith and fell away when I went to college.
One day during some discussion in the dorm we felt we needed to read what the Bible had to say on a certain matter, and we asked around to see if anyone had one. I proudly went over to my bookshelf, extracted my Bible there, made a great show of blowing the dust off the cover, and looked it up.
It's probably not ever a good idea to mock God or his holy word. A lot of strange events followed. I got into a cult which studied Edgar Cayce and reincarnation. We also read from the Bible and decided the King James Version was the superior one. Although I felt I was on the right religious path for myself, I noticed the Bible had a way of not going along with it. One major problem that I brought up in our Edgar Cayce discussion group was that the cross of Christ seems to have a great deal of importance in the Bible but we pretty much totally ignored it.
There were other problems too. According to the religion I was following getting close to perfection involved eating the right kinds of foods. But then I'd read in the Bible that not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of his mouth, which made a lot of sense.
Well, eventually I was graduated from college and ended up in Seattle in a cult where we just sat around all day and felt love for each other. We had Bibles scattered around the room and every so often one of the older brothers would pick one up and read a passage at random, like the one about, this we command you that if any would not work, neither should he eat. You know, I've spent a lot of time with religions that incorporated the Bible but didn't do anything about the disagreements they had with it.
Eventually I ended up in Eugene, Oregon where I was having real difficulty with the part that said that a good tree brings forth good fruit and vice versa. You see, I felt I was a good tree, but if I were honest with myself, I'd have to admit that my fruit was the bad kind which just doesn't come from a good tree. I decided I'd try real hard to be good, but that didn't work either. Bummer!
In the end I just sat on my stairs reading my Bible, because that was the only thing I could think of to do. Quite a difference from the college kid who left his Bible on the shelf to gather dust.
I was reading St. Paul in Romans who seemed to be having the same kind of problem that he wanted to do good but didn't seem to be able to no matter how hard he tried. It was at this point that some Shiloh brothers returning to their commune after witnessing on campus saw me reading my Bible there and invited me to their home where I received timely guidance much like the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip found. I received Christ as my savior, was baptized in their bathtub upstairs the following week, and the next year met a brother from this my current church who invited me over to their ministry where we came to the understanding that baptism should be full emersion and I got re-baptized where there was adequate water.
I more or less figured that if I were to have a religion that counted, it shouldn't be one in disagreement with the Bible, and that to know what the Bible says, I'd better be reading it, like maybe every day, and certainly enough so that it doesn't collect dust. That's not an extraordinary task, and it's a good book to read. In the process of regular reading, I end up picking up things from it. I went to a movie a while back which was a cartoon takeoff on the story of Moses. There was a disclaimer at the beginning saying it didn't strictly follow the biblical account; that if we wanted that, we should read the Bible for it. I was able to pick out the various discrepancies as I watched the movie, where a lot of it had to do with giving Miriam a more exalted role than she had in the Genesis account. I figured I must be learning the Bible okay to pick out that stuff without looking at the Book.
On my way home in the bus I was talking to a sister I knew from church who was on the bus with her husband. I told her about the movie and the places where it disagreed with the bible, and I found that she knew the subject every bit as well as I did. I guess I don't have any monopoly in understanding the Bible.
I'm at a church made up in part of people I'd known from my earlier days, only while our former preacher used the KJV, now it's mostly the NIV.
The objections against a multitude of sectarian translations are very serious. The dialect of the English Bible is also the dialect of devotion and of religious instruction wherever the English language is spoken, and all denominations substantially agree in their sacred phraseology, with whatever difference in interpretation. There are always possibilities of reconciliation, sympathies even, between men who, in matters of high concernment, habitually use the same words, and appeal to the same formulas; whereas a difference of language and of symbols creates an almost impassable gulf between man and man. When, therefore, we have, not different churches only, but different Bibles, different religious dialects, different devotional expressions, the jealousies of sectarian division will be more hopelessly embittered, and the prospect of bringing about a greater harmony of opinion and of feeling among English-speaking Protestants proportionally darkened.2
A number of years ago I'd started going to a newly formed church.
When I asked what kind of a church it was, they told me they'd all
come from so many different church backgrounds they didn't rightly
know themselves. So we went around in a circle and everyone told
his church background. No two were the same. Then we went around
again and everyone stated which Bible version he used. Everybody
used the King James Version except for the pastor who used the
Revised Standard Version. then we went around and told when we'd
come to the Lord. I was the oldest one in the Lord in
that church, except for one other man who didn't come all
Now, if anyone were to bring up the matter of Bible version to the pastor, it would be I the (near) eldest in the Lord. Nobody else would. It was sort of like the pastor's son who brought in his chess board and wanted to play me. They told me he'd beat everyone else in the church and now it was my turn. Now, I'm not a serious player by any means, but the advantage of age is that even as a recreational player I've got a few games under my belt. There was the time I was walking across the downtown mall past the chess club playing outdoors on the little concrete tables. They had an odd number of players, so the odd fellow out wanted to engage me in a game. I told him I wouldn't be much of a challenge; I hadn't played in a long time, and he was always playing chess, that or reading up on it. But he really wanted a game, so I sat down with him. He put down his tome on chess and really concentrated on our game, all the right moves and all. Of course, I beat him, but after I showed him what he was doing wrong, he beat me the second game. See, those tables were small with the seats close at a fixed distance, and instead of using the imbedded chess board on the table, he had unrolled his larger cloth board over it. Then when he was leaning over concentrating, his back row was outside his field of vision. so later in the game all I had to do was develop some threat from his back row, and he didn't see it coming—literally.
Otherwise he was a good player, probably played in tournaments, but I doubt if he won any. No, but I've played someone who has. In college in Cincinnati the Ohio state champion lived in my dorm, and one night he played me a game. When it wasn't going well for him, he resigned. He was playing blindfolded and furthermore he was intoxicated (we both were) and all I had to do was make a series of disjointed moves to confuse him. No big deal.
The big deal, that was the time I was in the student union trying to think of an excuse not to go home and study, when I noticed a bulletin saying the chess club had invited a grand master to play them an exhibition game that evening. I went over. They had a long table with chess boards set up on both sides. The whole chess club was there to play him at once, and they had some extra boards for visitors. I sat down on the end.
They introduced him listing a number of his past accomplishments. He had once beat someone who had beat the world champion, which I guess put him in that class. Now he was playing all of us, going around the table a move at a time. This was no mere state champion here, and I held no illusion about being able to beat the guy, but all I'd wanted to do was kill time, so when I captured his bishop early in the game giving him neither pieces nor position in return, he was forced to develop a long term strategy to eventually beat me, and all I had to do was keep up a good game in the meantime. As the other players were eliminated in turn, they circled the table to see how their friends were doing and when they came to me they stopped upon seeing someone amazingly having the upper hand. I had quite a crowd of fans, all of whom were better chess players than I, some of them perhaps capable of winning from my position, but all I'd done was exploit a vulnerability early. He assumed I was member of the chess team, and I used it against him. You see, the early moves of the game, called the opening, follow certain guidelines established by long play. All the chess club knew them, he knew them, so for the first few moves he (and they) were playing mainly by rote. The opening he was using meant he would bring out his bishop at a certain point to a square that is never then guarded because that would be suicidal to his opponent. Look, I wasn't going to beat him by playing any better opening, or any other way for that matter, so if I bring out my piece to guard that square, which he could then take, well, I'd lose anyway even if I played it standard, so why not? By the time he got around to me he was so used to playing the rote moves with the team, perhaps even using the same opening with one of the others, that he placed his bishop right where I could take it. Could you do better?
Sure, the preacher's kid could try to beat me at chess, but I wasn't particularly intimidated by either his record or confident air; I'd played a game or two of chess in my time. Fact is, I did beat him, hands down, but then I think he'd have a better attitude if he didn't win every game.
Likewise I wasn't particularly intimidated by the pastor there as he, along with about everyone else, was my younger brother in Christ and I'd had enough experience not to let myself be cowed by him, which I guess is the advantage of having elders, to have someone who doesn't mind bringing up issues with the minister. So, I inquired why he wasn't using the KJV like everybody else. He agreed with me it was an excellent translation, but he had various other reasons for using the other one, all of which I could pretty well refute—even before I found my current reference work2. Eventually I got to the heart of the matter when he gave as his reason, "But that would be the spirit of conformity!"
Aha! Where have we heard that expression before? Of course, back
in the fifties the beatniks' constant criticism of society was we
were all conformists. And we were. And all the Protestant
churches used the KJV,
and then under the beatnik influence society started to change, at
which time the RSV
(This pastor's version) came into vogue. While the KJV Bible is the most popular English
book of all time, the RSV
has sold a phenomenal 50 million copies, opening the way for variety to
where the NIV has sold
1 2/3 million. Of course, I understand that pastor's choice of version
to be an expression of his liberty, so I am not surprised when our
minister "Right-on" claims the freedom to use the NIV, and an elder relegates it
all to the freedom of a minister of the gospel to paraphrase scripture.
None of this surprises me. What I do note is that this freedom's
development away from the KJV
is part of the general liberation of society under the
beatnik/hippie influence, so it behooves us to examine the scriptural basis of hippie
freedom, I mean, to look at our versions-away-from-the-KJV freedom from that particular
More that 30 years ago (a "generation," as Karl Mannheim reckoned social time, two generations as Jose Ortega y Gasset reckoned it, and three, four, or more as contemporary journalists and other grabbers of the main literary chance reckon it), the literary critic Malcolm Cowley wrote Exile's Return, a book about the experience of American literary expatriates in Europe in the 1920's. In it he treats to some extent the history of bohemianism, starting back in the middle of the 19th century with that important document of bohemian history, Henry Murger's Scenes of Bohemian Life. By 1920, Cowley says, bohemia had a relatively formal doctrine, "a system of ideas that could be roughly summarized as follows" (and as I go through these eight basic ideas, please keep in mind the hippies—and the fact that these ideas were formulated 33 years ago about phenomena that were then more than a hundred years old):
But these eight doctrines go back a lot further than just two centuries, back to Job, in fact, the oldest book in the Bible. In a list of eight common animals each animal corresponds to a point in the bohemian/hippie doctrine (but in a different order). The one for self expression is (ch. 39:19-25), "Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth forth to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha! And he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting." There was an article in "National Geographic" about the amazing fearlessness of the horse. It will rush into battle, no worry. It's not afraid to dive from heights into water. It's just amazing how fearless the horse is, and the example from the animal kingdom of not being afraid to do one's thing is the horse, (Jer. 8:6b) "... every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle."
When I read Job I see a bunch of relentless whiners complaining about the fairness of God in the face of a righteous life, and I see as part of God's response from the whirlwind a suggestion in the form of eight common animals, that there are things we mortals can do, and perhaps have not been doing, that could increase our happiness without compromising our righteousness. One of them is that we don't have to be conformists afraid to do our own thing. If Jesus bids us consider the fowls of the air, maybe God would like us to consider the horse. You don't like the King James Version, well, step out in faith and produce a version you do like. At any rate that's what's happened.
So, I was invited to watch a video enactment of one of the gospels. What version was it in? The NIV. I don't normally read the "New Idiots Version," but then I rarely watch the idiot box either, so I joined them, figuring it wouldn't kill me. A businesswoman asked me to recommend a Bible verse to advertise her business. I didn't feel like casting pearls before swine, so I gave it to her from the NIV figuring advertising is idiotic to begin with, so I what difference would an NIV verse make. I had a difference of opinion with some people who decided to trivialize God's name, and I wanted to quote the commandment, (Ex. 20:7) "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain," but I used the NIV "...the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless ..." to emphasize the point that their position in the community wouldn't excuse them in what they were doing. Those being the only times I've ever preferentially used the NIV, we can take them as simply an expression of liberty.
But the thing is the hippies and all have developed their concepts
embraced by our society without strict control from the church, so
what we have inherited might be beyond the advice in Job.
#3 "The idea of paganism.—The body is a temple in which there is nothing unclean, a shrine to be adorned for the ritual of love." Contemporary paganism, by no means limited to the hippies but especially prevalent among them, is manifest in the overpowering eroticism that their scene exudes: the prevalence of female flesh (toe, ankle, belly, breast, and thigh) and male symbols of strength (beards, boots, denim, buckles, motorcycles), or the gentler and more restrained versions of these, or the by now hardly controversial assumption that f___ing will help set you free.3
A single gal I know who purports to be Christian recently had a baby saying she was only showing her boyfriend "hippie love." I think that when the hippie acceptance of the body goes as far as fornication, they have exceeded the suggestion in Job. Hippies get married, and hippies use the King James Version too, and if the liberty to do one's own thing in selecting Bible versions results in different Christians, different churches using different versions—even though they are all English speaking Protestant (/derivatives)—to the extent that they no longer have the single reliable version that everyone may consult, then something valuable has been lost in the process. I believe in liberty to do one's own thing, but shouldn't that liberty be tempered by consideration of whether it's being used to profit or detriment?
It comes down to: (I Peter 5:1-11) "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. ..." If we consider as elders the men who gave us our Bible, not having done so for gain but willingly, and receiving their heavenly reward, then the rest follows. "... 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. ..." We are submitting to our elders, the ones who brought us the Bible, when we read the Bible and obey it. We are submitting to one another when we all read the same Bible, translated from the Textus Receptus into our respective language, and the younger are submitting to the elder by desiring the sincere milk of the word. This mutual submission is reinforced by habitually reading the word and having it preached from to us weekly. Furthermore, any brother may come up to a fellow believer and ask him why he isn't conforming to such-and-such from the Bible and that other brother would want to consider it, answer him, and/or perhaps change something in his walk. Thus the Bible is ipso facto the submission to our elders-way-back, to one another, and from the younger.
Now, if we somehow fail to learn and apply God's word to our lives, it is not just the fault of our religious leaders but the laity in the congregation are for their part partially accountable also: see my addendum #1. If, say, a group of scholars gets together and translates the Bible their way, not God's way, and our preachers in our churches start to use it, sure, God would hold them accountable big time, but I wouldn't get off scott free either if I ignored an acceptable translation and just went along with whatever was or wasn't preached.
It is a curious point, this wish to keep abreast of language
changes rather than retain its old forms, as:
According to Caesar Zedd, one cannot be strong until one first learns how always to be calm. Strength and power come from perfect self-control, and perfect self-control arises only from inner peace. Inner peace, Zedd teaches, is largely a matter of deep, slow, and rhythmic breathing combined with a determined focus not on the past, or even on the present, but on the future.4
That is in contrast to:
From what I have said it will of course be understood that I see no sufficient present  reasons for a new translation, or even for a revision, of the authorized version of the Bible; but there are certain considerations, distinct from the question of the merits of that version, which ought to be suggested. The moral and intellectual nature of man has few more difficult practical problems to resolve than that of following the golden mean between passion for novelty and an ultra-conservative attachment to the time-honoured and the old. Both extremes are inherently, perhaps equally, mischievous, but the love of innovation is the more dangerous, because the future is more uncertain than the past, and because the irreverent and thoughtless wantonness of an hour may destroy that which only the slow and painful labour of years or of centuries can rebuild.5
And let us not forget (Ecclesiastes 1:9f) "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us." I'm reminded of the game of chess where my opponent played an excellent game on the seven rows away from him but kept row 1 outside his field of vision. We can miss the whole point if we don't understand our history. That being the case, let's look at the development of languages of old. In (Genesis 10:5,20,31) the families from the three sons of Noah on the ark were to spread out "every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations; ... after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations; ... after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations." The differences in languages we see today are the result of it (see Addendum #4.)
Furthermore, righteous Noah was behind this plan, anointed by God to develop the postdiluvian world, sending out his sons and their families including "a plan for introducing the Semitic and Indo-European languages in which the Bible, the written 'word of God,'is incarnated." (Addendum #5)
Basically, it is from Shem's line that the linguistic lines for both Greek and Hebrew came, God's chosen languages for the Bible, through his chosen vessel(s), but from Ham came the rebellion of the tower of Babel which prefigures antiChrist (see Addendum #6), so this business of unifying us to speak just one dialect in our church, a modern one, some see as a device to bring on the AntiChrist (Addendum #3) having a precedent back when languages were just starting and they didn't want to split them into different ones. I think we should look as best we can at the happenings back then, so we can avoid similar mistakes.
Evidently, instead of spreading the various new languages, it was a fairly easy matter for the teachers to substitute the Hamitic tongue, thus unifying them all under one tongue (See Addendum #7). But that is exactly what is happening today; it is a fairly easy matter for our teachers and preachers who would ordinarily teach us the ins and outs of the old Bible dialect, the portions that we can't pick up easily on our own, to instead teach from the modern versions so that we no longer use two dialects, regular and Bible, but only one. That's nothing new.
Then in the midst of the status quo arises a small group that insists that the KJV is the way to go when it comes to English Bibles. We're rocking the boat. But that's nothing new either; out of the midst of the confused society back then came Abram and then his pesky sons with their own way of doing things. See Addendum #8.
Then there was the battle of the titans. I was going to a church where they no longer used the King James Version except rarely in some ceremonies. We no longer spoke scripture in the Bible dialect but in a modern one, exclusively NIV. I decided to fix that. I signed up as a lector in rotation, one who reads the scripture printed in the bulletin at the beginning of the service. All I had to do was get the secretary to print it in KJV and I'd read it that way, and we'd at least still have the Bible dialect in our congregational service, not just the modern one. I was able to convince the secretary, so it seemed to be working. I thought I could win that battle, which is all it would take. Then the secretary retired and we got a new secretary who would only print the bulletin from the computer which had only NIV. So my last Sunday there, not having looked at it beforehand, I got up to read and it was in NIV. It was embarrassing, but I read it that way; I had to.
But that's not new either, if you check out Addendum #9. Someone used a similar strategy back then, which would have thrown a monkey wrench into the work of unifying the language, but in a duel of champions, like me and the secretary, he got humiliated and it didn't work. And he wasn't very forgiving.
Then I tried to get some retribution, against the NIV, or to be more precise, against the publisher Zondervan. I figured the NIV had twisted the words of the apostle Paul all around and made him look bad, so that if he had a 2000 year copyright he could sue them. That's not likely, but in our men's group we were studying another book published by Zondervan in which they twisted a Walt Disney song around, without crediting the source, and in so doing put down the founder himself, Mr. Disney. I sent complete documentation to Walt Disney, along with a letter from Zondervan admitting their knowledge of it. I don't know if Disney will actually sue Zondervan—their investigation is confidential—but it wouldn't surprise me.
But retribution is not a new phenomenon. Seems that Esau mixed it up with Nimrod and in so doing tired himself in the hunt so that he didn't negotiate well with his birthright and lost something valuable to himself (see Addendum #10). I seem to have likewise lost something valuable to me when the men's group was terminated after it was learned Zondervan was being sued over a book we were studying. You know, maybe I should have studied up on Esau beforehand, but it's too late now.
When we come to the actual confusion of tongues, the analogy is to a confusion of translations, which here I'll go into with but one verse in three translations, otherwise we'd not have time.
It's a lot like making a chess move which seems sacrificial or which would put you at a disadvantage, but in the long run can pay dividends. A Christian marrying a nonbeliever is seemingly placed at a disadvantage, but as it can lead to a spouse's salvation, it might not be a bad move in every case.
In the early nineties I went to Bible School. In class one day the teacher-elder explained that Christians are only allowed to marry other Christians. He ended his teaching by mocking some churches who believed in "missionary dating." I spoke to him after class, saying that I believed in missionary dating. He firmly stood his ground, and when I countered his scripture quote with one of my own, he said that there was a huge number of passages that support him, so there was no use my trying to argue it. It's pretty easy to lose an argument to someone in authority, so I gave in; I was not allowed to date a non-Christian. I just had one question that needed clarification. My girlfriend in town. I had asked out a non-Christian and she agreed for the next Friday. During the week she went to a revival meeting and came forward to receive the Lord—baptism and all—so that when we went out she was a Christian, although she wasn't when I asked her. My question was, since I had asked her, and she agreed, before she was saved, did we have to repent? He thought a moment, then smiled and said that wasn't necessary. He and his wife were not simultaneously saved; these things happen at different times.
During the nineties I was going to a Chinese Church. They preached that a Christian was not permitted to marry a non-Christian. In their members' testimonies they made a big deal of their marriages to fellow Christians. In the midweek (English speakers) Bible study, they read in their New International Versions that a widow, and presumably anybody else, must marry only to another Christian. I looked at my J.B. Phillips Bible which didn't say that, but that the widow must marry by the guidance of the Lord. It said nothing about him having to be Christian. That started an argument. I wanted to use my King James Version to straighten it out, but they were not at all familiar with it. They argued that their version used better manuscripts than the KJV. According to my textbook chapter on Bible translation, it is difficult for those holding different interpretations to reconcile their points of view, and it is well nigh impossible if they are using different versions to support their beliefs. I could make no headway with them.
A certain level of objection to the NIV's rendering of "only in the Lord" comes from (Eph. 5:3) "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints." Our high standards against fornication require that we keep the door to marriage open, not closed for frivolous reasons. Homosexuality is a prohibited uncleanness. The attack by homosexuals is directed at the issue of diversity, and although theirs is more precisely a perversity, we should take our stand from a position of honoring legitimate diversity such as mixed marriages. As for covetousness, that's a foundation sin to many others as Americans covet many rights, e.g. freedom of choice, which are not even legitimate, let alone unalienable, including "equal pay for equal work" which somehow got twisted in a certain parable we shall discuss. Paul continues, (vs. 4) "... but rather giving of thanks," which should be our attitude when we read that God has sanctified mixed marriages, and what we watch out for is (vs. 6) "Let no man deceive you with vain words."
The vain words that deceive are actually in the preface to the
NIV, which if we compare to
the foreword of the J.B. Phillips Version, and a lecture on
the science of translating, we'll see how they went wrong on that
verse, and on how many others we can only imagine.
What's happened is we start with a vague concept of yoked animals and then try to iron out all seeming inconsistencies in Paul's letters without regard for how the Corinthians themselves would have seen it, and without regard for harmonizing it with the rest of the canon of which these two letters are but a part, and so we end up with the NIV's rendering. I think it must go like this: Paul says mixed marriages are sanctified, then he tells us not to be unequally yoked which looks like he's telling us not to marry an unbeliever after all, so we'll just make "only in the Lord" refer to marrying a Christian so that way we've harmonized the two sayings. God will sanctify the marriages entered into before conversion, and once one is converted he will obey the commandment not to marry an unbeliever. This is what Paul must have meant, so we'll reword our translations that way with confidence in our studied effort. Bravo!
Okay, let's try something now. Let's put "unequally yoked" in
The essence of conflict seems to be disagreement, contradiction, or incompatibility. Thus, conflict refers to any situation in which there are incompatible goals, cognitions, or emotions within or between individuals or groups that lead to opposition or antagonistic interaction. This definition recognizes three basic types of conflict:
Let's try to apply them one at a time to modern situations:
"Goal conflict is a situation in which desired end
states or preferred outcomes appear to be incompatible."
He could still remember the day of her graduation, summa cum laude, in Hebrew studies. Raful had stood side by side with her mother, tears streaming down both their faces, while the strains of "Hatikva" floated beautifully, gravely, above the throng; dinner afterward; the stunning blow she had delivered over nightcaps in the Baka apartment: no government service, not one hour on a kibbutz, no boyfriends, no life in Israel ... but to London! She would go to London, there to study fashion design and spend the rest of her life making clothes for rich Goyim.
In our times lifestyles are goals. The government seeks to promote certain lifestyles that Christians oppose. This resulted in conflict when the California Salvation Army, to secure some government financial support, agreed to provide benefits for domestic partners and the Christians supporting that ministry withdrew their support.
What about goal conflicts in marriage? Well, the ultimate
goal of marriage is children, and Paul in
1st Corinthians 7 said the children of a mixed marriage
are holy, which means the marriage itself is sanctified,
so we go to the next conflict: "Cognitive conflict
is a situation in which ideas or thoughts are inconsistent."
Certainly the ideas and thoughts of homosexuals/
In modern terms of conflict we can see how the Salvation Army's compromise results in it in ways that we cannot apply to mixed marriages to condemn them.
Okay, let's now take a look at a situation of the Corinthians where
they could apply the "unequally yoked" teaching, and with
their understanding of yoked oxen, we'll see if it would
tend to forbid them mixed marriages.
At the time of his letter to the Corinthians, sin was rampant in Corinth.In fact, idol worship was rampant. Towering above the ruins of old Corinth is a two-thousand-foot-high mountain fortress called Acrocorinth. In Paul's day, the Temple of Aphrodite sat atop that hill. Aphrodite, goddess of fertility, was worshipped by the people of the day. In Aphrodite's temple, as many as a thousand prostitute priestesses would carry on their immoral activities, all in the name of worship, of course. History records that these prostitute priestesses would walk through the streets of Corinth, wearing specially designed sandals that left the words "Follow me" imprinted in the sand. Many citizens of Corinth did just that. They followed the priestesses to the high places, where their pagan temple was located, and they "worshipped" Aphrodite—an excuse to commit adultery, idolatry, and immorality.9
How will he extricate himself? Well, he remembers Paul's letter that says marriage is a way to avoid fornication. Fine. In Corinth where Christians are a real minority, he does have at least one marriage option, but to an unbeliever. That's fine too, according to Paul's letter. Maybe he marries her to avoid fornication, and maybe she becomes a Christian herself through association with his people. At any rate, he is not going to see the unequally-yoked exhortation as opposed to mixed marriage.
Our modern rendering of conflicts does not oppose mixed marriage as Biblically taught, and the way Paul phrased it does not oppose mixed marriage as the Corinthians would have understood it in their situation. The way I see it being applied to oppose them is by sleight-of-hand using our very vagueness about both the conditions in Corinth and an agrarian symbol. I don't think we can do that, at least not without some sound corroborating parallel passages.
The unequally-yoked image likely derives from the OT: (Deut. 22:9-10) "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together." I keep pointing out that it is labor being addressed, as from "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together," not the holy offspring of marriage written about in the previous epistle, or Paul would have incorporated the verse prior to it, "lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown be defiled."
Going next to the widow marrying "only in the Lord," the parallel passage reads (I Tim. 5:11-12) "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith." Man hungry. Marrying in the Lord means keeping one's first faith in the process, I would think. Nothing is mentioned about the husband at all.
We might also add that if a widow rejects the proposals of ninety nine Christian men to marry the one lost sheep who asks her, and we criticize her for not marrying in the Lord, it could be that we just don't understand the Lord's priorities.
So, what passage do we use to enlighten the teaching in I Corinthians that specifically addresses mixed marriages? We don't use any. It is a principle of Biblical hermeneutics that the more direct, the more specific passage is used to throw light on the vague or periphery ones. But I hardly ever hear anyone refer to Paul's direct teaching when they're condemning mixed marriages.
The NIV has substituted "but he must belong to the Lord" for "only in the Lord." That passage was then used to convince a newly born-again international student to break up with her fiancé of nine years. That was an act of cruelty. She was a kind hearted sister, at least until then. So we now have a NIV Bible that has combined two acts of cruelty into one, a sin of omission and a sin of commission, as it were.
Paul does say, for example, that it's permissible for a Christian
to marry a non-Christian. Some Christians contort the verse "only
in the Lord" to try to refute Paul's clear teaching, but that's not
honest exegesis. I really don't think the apostle meant the widow
had to marry only a Christian man.
"But," said the Lady Matilda, "is there no duty on the part of the true Christian to try to convert and lead to safety those who are going down the paths of damnation? Is Sir Dermot always to be condemned to the presence of the women of the tavern and the inn—the wenches of St. Germain? Does Mother Church forbid any other kind of women to associate with him? Are we to gain Heaven selfishly, ignoring the perils and struggles of others? Or are we to gain Heaven risking Hell—out of a Christian regard for the welfare of our fellows?"10
The New International Version, and a few others, have tampered with the permission list in taking mixed marriages off it, using what passes for scholarship to rewrite the Bible. To support such a version is to support a corrupted list of permissible sexuality so that one is rejecting some forms based not on apostolic authority but on later "scholarship." We're safe, though, with the King James Version.
As far as I'm concerned, that a widow can only remarry "in the Lord" should be left as is in our translations. It's a somewhat vague expression and for that reason applicable to many situations where marrying might seem to take one away from the Lord. I mean, maybe some widows couldn't marry at all without leaving their first love, while others could do okay married but only to another Christian, while still others might be in the Lord only to certain kinds of men, be they Christian or no, and maybe there are some men it would be dangerous for any widow to marry. Since there's another NT passage dealing with widows falling away through marrying, perhaps Paul's exhortation in I Corinthians is especially applicable to widows nevertheless it should be taken generally, in my opinion.
If I had to make a stronger statement about being "in the Lord" I'd
likely quote the radio preacher who said, "You're in the Lord when
the Lord is in you."
"And I must say what comfort there is to be found in the words of the Twenty-third Psalm. Because it is not only the boasting of David in the power and majesty of God and in David's belief that God will uphold the faithful; it is in the certainty that God will surely comfort us in our moment of trouble, as we walk 'through the valley of the shadow of death.' What shall we fear? Nothing but our fear of God. Comfort is what He brings us in that terrible hour. Such a cozy word, 'comfort'; it conjures up the image of a friendly fire at the end of a long and damp day in the fields...
A second place I'd refer "in the Lord" to is (Ephesians 6:10ff) "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. ..." If a widow were in the shepherd's care per Psalm 23, and strong in the Lord per Ephesians, I wouldn't further concern myself with telling her whom to marry.
But there are a thousand passages (at least) that one could relate to being in the Lord, so maybe there is no single correct answer. There is, however at least one wrong answer that I know of. Paul in I Corinthians gives the strongest statement that mixed marriages are sanctified. In II Corinthians he tells us he is not using handling the word deceitfully. In Genesis we see the sons of Jacob answering their neighbor deceitfully that they are allowed to intermarry when they are not; they wanted revenge for Dinah. Therefore Paul's II Corinthians statement not to be unequally yoked in Christian ministry cannot be applied directly to mixed marriages.
The J.B. Phillips translation makes "only in the Lord" say that the widow should be guided by the Lord, which if it's a bit of a paraphrase, at least it is consistent with the context of Christians seeking guidance. The NIV makes "only in the Lord" say that the widow should marry only another Christian, which flies in the face of Paul's in-context teaching on mixed marriages and seeks to import the "unequally-yoked" passage which it's own context disallows.
Let's see what we'd read in a historical novel:
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, p. 338, "...the oxen...are symbols of friendship and goodness, because every ox at his work turns to seek his companion at the plow; if by chance the partner is absent at that moment, the ox calls him with affectionate lowing. Oxen learn obediently to go back by themselves to the barn when it rains, and when they take refuge at the manger, they constantly stretch their necks to look out and see whether the bad weather has stopped, because they are eager to resume work."
When the apostle Paul, encouraging the Corinthians to follow his lead in Christian labor, told them to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, he used the very symbol of friendship and goodness familiar to his audience but obscure to our postindustrial society unless we read historical novels or the like. The oxen are friends with each other and how can coworkers manage with different concepts of goodness?
Next, if we are at all familiar with the nature of our own work,
we'll understand it to have social dimensions.
Work, since time immemorial, has been the means to satisfy man's need for belonging to a group and for a meaningful relation to others of his kind. When Aristotle said that man is a zoon politikon, i.e. a social animal, he said in effect that man needs to work to satisfy his need for community.12
Evidently, Paul was referring to this same dimension when discussing Christian ministry which I understand from my various reading but which some have expanded upon in their study to cover such broad territory of application that the primary focus has been lost resulting in the yoking exhorted against.
Perhaps an example would be helpful: There was a guest on a show telling of his experience. He was a young high school teacher. He waited until a female student was graduated and then wrote her a letter saying she could disregard it if she wanted but he thought she was his ideal woman. They courted and married, and on the show looked like they were doing fine.
Say you're a principal of a high school and one of the teachers wanted to marry a student, "only in the Lord." He probably couldn't until she was graduated.
Okay, I'm not giving a teaching here, only some examples, so let's
look at Ireland in the seventh century:
'Fidelma,' she said with a sudden rush, 'I am disposed to take a husband.'
Maybe you and I don't completely understand "Brehon law and custom," not to mention the laws and customs throughout time and in every place, including Corinth in the early Christian era, but we should be familiar with our own in whatever situation we find ourselves and to marry contrary to it is questionable at best, and without extenuating circumstances not, strictly speaking, in the Lord. Mind, I haven't taught why this is, just that we'd better figure it so.
I don't think that exhausts the matter because even if I'm
following all the customs and laws, I'd better "Be sure it's true
when you say, 'I love you.'/ It's a sin to tell a lie." Marrying in
the Lord means being sincere with one's partner-to-be. The
basis of courtship has largely changed from Bible times:
One of the clearest indications of the change is in the area of courtship and marriage. In most horticultural, herding, agrarian, and maritime societies, marriage was thought of largely in economic terms (and in the governing class, in political terms as well). This was reflected in the practice of arranged marriages, in which the parents took the major responsibility for deciding whom their son or daughter would marry, and in the requirement of a bride price or a dowry. ... ¶ By contrast, people in industrial societies view marriage largely in romantic terms.14
I would think that even in arranged marriages there would need to be a certain sincerity among the people involved if the marriage were to be "in the Lord," because, after all, "It's a sin to tell a lie."
Even if the couple has got it together with each other and with contemporary law and custom, there's still the vertical dimension, as J.B. Phillips renders marrying only in the Lord, "but let her be guided by the Lord." I would think that having a world renowned prophet sanction a marriage would be a good indication, and although we don't use prophets much these days, I'm told they were more common when Paul wrote his Corinthian letter(s), so perhaps marrying in the Lord to them meant having a prophet bless the arrangement. I suspect that even today with our reliance on a written scripture (but who reads it?) a lot of people going down the road to matrimony look for signs along the way. Be that as it may, our policy today to get the guidance of the Lord is to have the church counsel a couple that wants to marry, so they at least have an idea of what they are getting into, what marriage to a believer is about. It is here in this expected counsel, I believe the long string of objections I hear raised concerning marrying an unbeliever should be addressed. If it is in fact too much of a problem to face, then they'd decide not to go through with it, right? I just don't see the need to eliminate this step, to throw out a nonbeliever before giving him a chance.
Now, when I read I Corinthians, I see Paul addressing folks who are somewhat on the ball, (ch. 1:5) "That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge," so that they'd pretty much be expected to follow the guidelines above without having them spelled out, so that I cannot ignore them even though they are not specifically mentioned here. And if he does mention to the widow to marry only in the Lord, he is only nudging a weak vessel so that she doesn't ignore what she knows better than to do because she is man hungry. Paul doesn't mention it to the rest and doesn't elaborate to the widow, so I just use the brains God gave me to see what he was getting at.
Now, when I read the first letter to the Corinthians, I see (ch. 3:21f) "For all things are yours, ... whether the world, ... or things present, or things to come." The Bible does say that. In the context of the same letter Paul explains that a marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian is sanctified, an instance of the world being ours. The sanctification is derived from the offspring of such a union being holy, which is the case whether one was a converted after marrying the unbeliever or was a Christian beforehand, "things present or things to come."
Then further down the page when Paul is discussing widows, after he has moved past the mixed marriage issue, he reminds the widow of what everybody there already knows, as I've discussed above, but doesn't elaborate. He is not addressing mixed marriages here. He specifically addressed them earlier and is now on other issues.
Sometime months later, maybe years later, maybe never, I'm reading
Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians. I've got it under my belt
that a Christian is allowed to intermarry with the unsaved.
I read that Paul is (ch. 4:2) "not handling the word
of God deceitfully." I remember from the OT where (Gen. 34:13-16) "And the sons of
Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said,
because he had defiled Dinah their sister, ... If ye be as we
be, that every male of you be circumcised; then will we give our
daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we
will become one people." They went back on their word which
is why they were deceitful. I don't expect Paul to suddenly
reverse himself, and when I read about not being unequally yoked,
I don't relate it to marriage.
The nature of the difference [between Jesus and the Pharisees] is made clear only in the light of the two opposing understandings of God. For the Pharisees, God is primarily one who makes demands; for Jesus he is gracious and compassionate. The Pharisee does not, of course, deny God's goodness and love, but for him these were expressed in the gift of the Torah [Law] and in the possibility of fulfilling what is there demanded. ... Adherence to the oral tradition, with its rules for interpreting the law, was seen by the Pharisee as the way to the fulfillment of the Torah. ... Jesus' elevation of the double command of love (Matt. 22:34-40) to the level of a norm of interpretation and his rejection of the binding nature of oral tradition ... led him into conflict with Pharisaic casuistry.15
I'm starting from the position that God is "gracious and compassionate." He has already forbidden fornication for some very good reasons. Marriage is the normal way to escape such sin. But on that side he has forbidden divorce, except as a lesser evil for unbelievers with an unregenerated heart. Being gracious and compassionate he allows believers a wide scope in selecting mates they can live with; he even sanctifies mixed marriages; God is gracious and compassionate. That's the normal way to interpret Paul's exposition in I Corinthians 7.
From the Pharisee's starting point of a demanding God, Paul's
command in II Cor., to be not
unequally yoked extends back to marriage, nullifying Paul's earlier
From a study of Biblical and secular evidence, we can conclude that the Pharisees thought highly of themselves as guardians of the public good and the national welfare. They were not satisfied that God's law was fundamentally clear and easily understood. Wherever the Law seemed to them to be unspecific, they sought to plug apparent gaps with defined applications to eliminate any need for conscience. These religious leaders attempted to devise a precept to govern conduct in all issues, even trivialities.16
That the widow (and the rest of us) marries "only in the Lord" is a public good and general welfare that the religious leaders seek to promote, and with such an unspecific expression they are not going to leave it to our conscience—that's for sure—, but will plug the gap with a defined application such as we read in the New International Version, "but he [her husband selection] must belong to the Lord," at which point I cry foul! From our Romans 14 (to 15:7) framework the brother who eateth not is not supposed to judge him that eateth. If he rewrites a Bible version (NIV, etc.) to forbid what the scripture allows we cannot use that version as the standard of faith in that matter.
But, wait. Understanding "only in the Lord" means having a broad general understanding of m-f relationships, and lacking that, a man is not qualified for high office, (I Timothy 3:5) "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" Therefore I cannot trust the NIV (and its ilk) as a standard for faith in any matter.
The matter of mixed marriages is given us from the perspective of (I Cor. 7:12a) "But to the rest speak I, not the LORD:..."; Paul did not have a direct commandment regarding it; he only spoke as a spiritual man would come to understand it. For the translators of the NIV to miss this understanding and then come across with their own commandment against it, shows they are not qualified to bring us God's commands in general, lacking the understanding of a spiritual man.
If we want to select our main Bible with at least as strict criteria as used for a bishop, then by I Timothy 3, we'd have to select a Bible that was "given to hospitality" as well as "apt to teach." The KJV is often faulted for not being apt to teach, being hard to understand, but it comes through nicely on given to hospitality. The second commandment is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Choosing a Bible that is easy to understand is how we love ourselves, but picking one that gives hospitable renderings is how we love others. I appreciate the use of the hospitable version when apropos.
There is one place where the NIV tags itself for being inhospitable. Among the KJV, RSV, ASV, NIV only the NIV in I Corinthians 7 tells a widow that she must remarry only to someone belonging to the Lord; the others just say she must do it in the Lord. It seems to me that it would be inhospitable for any group one joins up with to force a woman to break up with her fiancé of nine years. That's how I once saw the NIV used.
I don't think one has the authority of Paul to do so. I mean, he clearly tells us the mixed marriages are sanctified, and then if he makes some general statement that a widow is to remarry only in the Lord, well, he expected the people he wrote to understand it, perhaps from their earlier letter to him (which we don't have) or perhaps by their own circumstance, which we might at most apply to ours. When he told them in II Corinthians not to be unequally yoked, again, he expected them to understand it from their familiarity with yoked oxen working together. If some later Christians take those two letters and put them together into a Bible and then use the second letter as a context for the first—which is what the NIV translators did in their interpretive rendering—, then that does not come from apostolic authority and it's inhospitable.
That's actually my main concern, and when I see the NIV being used to support sermons, it
looks like the fox guarding the chickens.
Its [KJV] relations to the English language are, for a variety of reasons more important than those of any other volume; and it may be said, with no less truth, that no Continental translation has occupied an equally influential position in the philology and the literature of the language to which it belongs. The English Bible has been more universally read, more familiarly known and understood, by those who use its speech, than any other version, old or new.17
In taking the KJV over other versions, especially the NIV, I go roughly by the qualifications of a bishop (I Timothy 3) as can be applied to collections of writings, a Bible version. "A bishop then must be blameless." The version must be doctrinally sound, of course, blameless. The King James Version has a good reputation in this respect. One place where I don't go along with the NIV, minor in significance, is the name of Barnabas, as I think Son of Consolation [KJV] gives a better example of preaching style than what the other versions render it. A friend's given me a list of differences between the KJV and the NIV that his daughter used to convince her Ass'y of God church to return to the KJV from the NIV. It's probably a more serious list than my example.
"The husband of one wife." The Bible is married to the culture in which it was produced, which is no reason not to take it seriously, witness the lesson of Miriam and Aaron murmuring against Moses because of his wife. If my culture says the seat of the soul is the heart and another culture says it's the belly, and we make a multicultural translation that says David was a man whom God could stomach, it's lost something in the translation. International Bibles should not be our major authority.
"Vigilant." That's a quality the paraphrases lack in translating their material, and to their credit they tell Christians not to use them as their main Bible.
"Sober." Bible translation is to be a serious enterprise if the fruits are going to be respected as ultimately authoritative. I recall a chess match with a worthy opponent who lost because he was both blindfolded and drunk. To undertake the translation of God's Book without his involvement, without his Spirit, is like translating blind: it can be done if you're good enough. But if Satan is trying to mess you up at the same time, it's like being drunk besides.
"Of good behavior." That's why it's called the Good Book, and if a translation doesn't rate that appellation, we don't need to highly regard it.
"Given to hospitality." The Gideons have left countless KJV (and perhaps others) Bibles out at hotels and motels. Some version locked away in some library only accessible to scholars is not the one for us.
"Apt to teach." The main criticism I hear of the King James Version, but I think the difficulty is overrated; it's not that hard, and besides, this isn't the only criterion on the list; there are plenty more that the other versions would have to live up to.
"Not given to wine." Ah, take a little wine for thy stomach's often infirmities, Timothy. If a translation allowed too much boozing, though, we'd have to devalue it.
"No striker." Here I believe this means a Bible version that's ultimately authoritative is not to be one put out by some denomination or other to take cheap shots at promoting their particular viewpoint. That's why the advantage of a mixed group of translators to guard against it, although a rightly motivated single translator could still succeed here. The New International Version, fails this test: "Edwin Palmer was the "coordinator of all work on the NIV"18 and "selected all of the personnel of the initial translation committee."19 He also edited the NIV Study Bible which Zondervan says includes the "liberal position."20
"Not greedy of filthy lucre." The major motivation of an acceptably authoritative Bible should not be the financial success of its publisher. New versions can only be profitable if the publisher has a copyright and copyrights are given only if a work is substantially different from other works.
"But patient." Good authoritative versions come about over a long process.
"Not a brawler." It should not encourage militant applications. The NIV fails this, of all tests, in (Revelation 13:10) "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." That turns the traditional reading into a tautology and a carte blanche for a militant group to do its thing.
If he can't take care of his house, he can't rule the church. The NIV mistakes whom a Christian may marry, so I can't trust it on spiritual matters.
"Not a novice." That rules out all the "New Whatever" versions.
"Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without." The KJV is most highly regarded. On talk radio they call the NIV "The New Idiot's Version."
I have such problems with a high place for the NIV.
Now, the internet sites I've visited concerned with Bible versions
have not employed the bishop qualification list, but nevertheless
use some of the same criteria.
I was reading an autobiography of a woman who'd married a Mormon. Part of the condition of her divorce was that she was to write to their bishops detailing her sexual experiences both before her marriage and after her divorce. She finally wrote and told them she was a virgin when she married, faithful during her marriage, and abstinent afterwards. I have a real question in my mind why those bishops needed to know the details of a divorcee's sexual experiences.
I think that as an authority our Bibles (esp. KJV) do well to tell the widow wishing to remarry that she may do so "only in the Lord." Evidently some widows were remarrying for wanton reasons, but the Bible leaves it up to us to figure out the details of "only in the Lord," which I think we're quite capable of.
J.B. Phillips expands on the concept to say, let her be guided by the Lord. I've nothing in particular against the Lord's guidance, but I think that "only in the Lord" has other dimensions. Our last James Dobson insert in our bulletin gave us a warning example of a precipitous marriage based on an intuitive leading, a leading such as might be overly encouraged by Phillips. I wouldn't use Phillips for a general teaching in this area, but if I knew a couple open to modern versions about to marry blissfully unaware of the requirements, I might use Phillips to get them to seek guidance through counsel. It would be a judgment call. However, I think marriages have been made in the Lord without either party feeling a particular inspiration from God to select each other.
We are given the consolation in (Rev. 13:9,10) "If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." I believe Jesus explained the concept to Peter (Matt. 26:52, John 18:11) "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. The cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Jesus took his cup; we bear our crosses likewise and lay off violence because that brings its own retribution. The NIV remakes it to read, "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." Those are tautologies.21
The word is sometimes applied to identical propositions such as 'I don't like my tea too hot'; for such statements see the truism section of COMMONPLACE. A truism in the strict sense is a statement in which the predicate gives no information about the subject that is not implicit in the definition of the subject itself. What is right ought to be done; since the right is definable as that which ought to be done, this means What ought to be done ought to be done, i.e. it is a disguised identical proposition.
Rupert Murdock the tabloid king knows the formula for (monetary) success, and the horse he's backed is such a winner. Of course, following a tabloid line of approach, the NIV has a good readership, because that's what tabloids strive for is readership at all costs. It's that popularity among the young that induces ministers to adopt the New International Version in their preaching, but that popularity is due to tabloid formulas.
I feel that the continued use of a certain Bible version implies it
has a lot of authority, so that it should be subject at least to
the criteria used to recognize a bishop, to the extent it can be
applied to such writings. Jerry gave me his list of problem
verses in the NIV; he also
loaned me his book on the subject which you could order if you're
interested. The fact that he's reading such material
indicates some question about the NIV, so I'll pass along his list with
For me the words of a song22 have such exquisite symbols:
Pitter-patter, don't ya flatter me with words. I see your eyes. Clock is mockin'. You've been rockin'. Tickin'-tockin' with the guys. Don't look away or try to tell me that you're mine. You'd sooner sell me up the river in a shot glass fulla' gin fizz and lies ...Taking the lines one at a time, "Pitter-patter, don't ya flatter me with words." The hype for and the introductions to the new versions flatter themselves regarding their ability to communicate clearly the truth of God's word:
At the intersection of Bible Boulevard, Madi$on Avenue and Wall $treet, there are many crooked turns of the truth. Advertising campaigns create a cloud of confusion, calling the KJV "obscure, confusing and sometimes incomprehensible," while they crown the NIV's "clarity and ease of reading" and the NASB's "contemporary English." Christians are coerced by full color ads written to color the plain facts by advertising, not English majors.23
That doesn't work on me. Though not an English major, I studied English at one of the best high schools in the country, got an engineering degree from a college with a reputation for teaching us how to write a good engineering report, and have tutored international students in English.
"I see your eyes." I went to a Chinese church for years where the sermon was given in Chinese with an English translation. That means when the Bible was quoted the preacher would give the reference, then read it in Chinese and the translator follow reading from the NIV. While the preacher was reading the Chinese Bible, I'd read my King James and then compare it to the NIV when the translator read that. I know there's something deficient with the NIV the same way that fellow knows something's not right with his girl when he looks in her eyes, and no amount of flattery changes that knowledge.
"Clock is mockin'. You've been rockin'./ Tickin'-tockin' with
The transition from the Authorized King James Bible to a recent version is usually based on the contention that the KJV is old and difficult to understand. The real gap is one of distance between God and man, not a lapse between us and 'Father Time.'24
Clock is mockin'. They say they're updating the English dialect but end up updating God's word.
Tickin'-tockin' with the guys. I don't think the guy felt any consolation that she was unfaithful with several men rather than one; neither do I feel any relief that such a version was corrupted by a committee rather than an individual.
"Don't look away or try to tell me that you're mine. You'd sooner sell me up the river in a shot glass fulla' gin fizz and lies ..." The girl was trying to mix him up, whence the symbol of the mixed drink. I feel the same about the NIV. Some passages of the Bible have been crucial to me, what my Christian lifestyle is to be. Girls I date, and presumably might marry some day, should be dated "in the Lord" which has a meaning different from dating only Christians. I should be patient in the face of violence and not resort to it myself. And in street preaching I need to consider Barnabas the son of consolation and not encourage unfruitful confrontations. While I'm trying to work out what the Bible says, these churches have been preaching a mixed-up version where Paul contradicts himself first saying a mixed marriage is sanctified and then telling us not to enter one, where Barnabas gets a name change from what we've always known him as, and where an important statement regarding the sword is made into a tautology. Because that would interfere with my biblical examples and sayings guiding my life, I'd say I was being sold up the river, being mixed up by newer versions.
Because these lifestyle considerations are themselves less serious
than some other problems in the new versions, addressed by other
books, I stick with the vessel of the shot glass compared to the
cup or glass of more serious problems with these versions.
"So what's the problem?" I asked her.
It is a big problem. It's about trust and faith. It's almost metaphysical. If people start seeing our Bibles as fakes, they might not select our Christian canon as their reading material any more.
I myself lost faith in the modern versions on account of the advice
given to the widow on whom she may marry. The New International
Version says she must marry only to a Christian, but J.B. Phillips
says she should marry only with the Lord's guidance. I would pick
Phillips for a modern one if I had to for the same reasons others
do the NIV: it's an easy
modern English for me to understand.
Equally informal and idiomatic is the translation prepared by the noted English clergyman, J. B. Phillips. His decisions on how to render a particular passage may not carry as much authority as those reached by a committee of experts, but the Phillips Translation has a consistency of style which is possible only when the whole job is done by one man.26
James Dobson tells of the results of a couple getting into a bad marriage because the man had some pseudo revelation she was "the one." Phillips' stress on the Lord's guidance can be counterproductive. Likewise I know of a sister from abroad who was forced to give up her fiancé of nine years because the NIV said he had to be a Christian. She was devastated also. This lack of credibility of one version pitted against another has caused me to reject the whole notion that our English Bibles must be in the same dialect as everyday English. Because God is supposed to guide the translators and here he has guided them into awful contradiction. But that is so similar to the confusion God generated in their tongue at the tower of Babel so that they realized they would have to maintain the different languages (see Addendum # 12) , just as I've concluded we're supposed to maintain a separate sacred English dialect for our Bible.
That's not the only reason people may, and some have, lost faith and trust in our modern English Bible versions. My friend's daughter showed her Assembly of God church a list of places the NIV changed it, and they switched back to the KJV. One new convert was given a New King James Version which he got rid of because he could only understand the King James Version.
In the final analysis God saw to it that through Shem came the languages of both the Old and New Testaments (see Addendum # 14) and per Galations 4:4-5 we understand that Christ came in the fullness of time so that the Biblical languages were the ones God wanted and in the stage of development He wanted them to be to have penned his holy word.
Now I'm reading it in the king James Version English. The King
James Version that I go by came out in 1611; that's four centuries
ago. But when I read it, I'm reading something older:
In fact, with here and there an exception, the difference between Tyndale's New Testament and that of 1611 is scarcely greater than is found between any two manuscript copies of most modern works which have undergone frequent transcription; and Tyndale's, Cranmer's, the Bishop's, the Genevan, and the [King James] version coincide so nearly with each other, both in sense and in phraseology, that we may hear whole chapters of any of them read without noticing that they deviate from the text to which we have always been accustomed. When, then, we study our Testaments, we are in most cases perusing the identical words penned by the martyr Tyndale nearly [five] hundred years ago; and hitherto the language of English Protestant faith and doctrine may fairly be said to have undergone no change.27
Okay, that makes what I'm reading half a millennium old for the
most part. But it's older than that.
The difference between the version of Wycliffe and that of Tyndale was occasioned partly by the change of the language in the course of two centuries, and partly by the difference of the texts from which they translated; and from these two causes the discrepancies between the two versions are much greater than those between Tyndale's, which was completed in 1526, and the standard version which appeared only eighty-five years later. But, nevertheless, the influence of Wycliffe upon Tyndale is too palpable to be mistaken, and it cannot be disguised by grammatical differences, which are the most important points of discrepancy between them. If we reduce the orthography of both to the same standard, conform the inflections of the fourteenth to those of the sixteenth century, and make the other changes which would suggest themselves to an Englishman translating from the Greek instead of from the Vulgate, we shall find a much greater resemblance between the two versions than a similar process would produce between secular authors of the periods to which they belong. Tyndale is merely a full-grown Wycliffe, and his recension of the New Testament is just what his great predecessor would have made it, had he awaked again to see the dawn of that glorious day of which his own life and labours kindled the morning twilight. Not only does Tyndale retain the general grammatical structure of the older version, but most of its felicitous verbal combinations, and, what is more remarkable, he preserves even the rhythmic flow of its periods, which is again repeated in the recension of 1611. Wycliffe, then, must be considered as having originated the diction and phraseology which for [six+] centuries have constituted the consecrated dialect of the English speech; and Tyndale as having given to it that finish and perfection which have so admirably adapted it to the expression of religious doctrine and sentiment, and to the narration of the remarkable series of historical facts which are recorded in the Christian scriptures.28
So to look at the translation of the KJV means looking also at Tyndale and
In a lecture on the principles of translation I laid down the rule that a translator ought to adopt a dialect belonging to that period in the history of his own language when its vocabulary and its grammar were in the condition most nearly corresponding to those of his original. Now, when the version of Wycliffe appeared, English was in a state of growth and formation, and the same observation applies, though with less force, to the period of Tyndale. The Greek of the New Testament, on the other hand, was in a state of resolution. It had become less artificial in structure than the classical dialect, more approximated to modern syntactical construction, and the two languages, by development on the one hand, decay on the other, had been brought in the sixteenth century to a certain similarity of condition. Besides, the New Testament Greek was under the same necessity as Early English, of borrowing or inventing a considerable number of new terms and phrases to express the new ideas which Christianity had ingrafted on the Jewish theology; of creating, in fact, a special sacred phraseology; and hence there is very naturally a closer resemblance between the religious dialect of English, as framed by the Reformers, and that of the New Testament, than between the common literary style of England and the Greek of the classic ages. It will generally be found that the passages of the received version whose diction is most purely Saxon are not only most forcible in expression, but also the most faithful transcripts of the text, and that a Latinized style is seldom employed without loss of beauty of language, and at the same time of exactness in correspondence. Whatever questions may be raised respecting the accuracy with which particular passages are rendered, there seems to be no difference of opinion among scholars really learned in the English tongue as to the exceeding appropriateness of the style of the authorized version; and the attempt to bring down that style to the standard of to-day is as great an absurdity, and implies as mistaken views of the true character and office of human language, and especially of our maternal speech, as would be displayed by translating the comedies of Shakespeare into the dialect of the popular farces of the season.30
In other words, "If it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it's
good enough for me." Our King James Version is the closest English
we've got to the language and its condition that God chose to
reveal his holy word in. That's because of how it came about:
In the first place, then, the dialect of this translation was not, at the time of the revision, or, indeed, at any other period, the actual current book-language nor the colloquial speech of the English people. This is a point of much importance, because the contrary opinion has been almost universally taken for granted; and hence very mistaken views have been, and still are, entertained. respecting the true relations of the diction of that version to the national tongue. It was an assemblage of the best forms of expression applicable to the communication of religious truth that then existed, or had existed in any and all the successive stages through which English had passed in its entire history.31
Thus God's chosen vessels, the English translators of the Bible,
the elder ones of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the appointees of King
James, built on each other's work and used in humility the best
forms of English for their purpose, as we are instructed: "...
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. ..."
They were not so proud as to use their current colloquial English
of the day, but submitted themselves to the best forms of English
for God's purposes of revelation. I mean, if we are supposed to be
clothed with humility, that clothing should include covering our
feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which means
we don't exalt our own way of doing things above God's.
(Jeremiah 2:25) "Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and
thy throat from thirst: but thou saidest, There is no hope: no; for
I have loved strangers, and after them will I go." We aren't
supposed to thirst after that which is not good for us either. And
if we do, we're not supposed to regard ourselves as stuck with it.
Our elders the translators whom God chose did not keep their foot
unshod with humility. They translated according to wisdom (Prov. 8:12-13) "I wisdom dwell
with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. The
fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the
evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." And we younger
are supposed to submit to these elders clothed with humility as in:
(Ecclesiasticus 51:13-28) "¶ When I was yet young, or
ever I went abroad, I desired wisdom openly in my prayer. I
prayed for her before the temple, and will seek her out even to the
end. Even from the flower till the grape was ripe hath my
heart delighted in her: my foot went the right way, from my youth
up sought I after her. I bowed down mine ear a little, and
received her, and gat much learning. I profited therein,
therefore will I ascribe the glory unto him that giveth me
wisdom. For I purposed to do after her, and earnestly I
followed that which is good; so shall I not be confounded.
Humility, Caesar Zedd teaches, is strictly for losers. For the purpose of social and financial advancement, we must pretend to be humble—shuffle our feet and duck our heads and make self-deprecating remarks—because deceit is the currency of civilization. But if ever we wallow in genuine humility, we will be no different from the mass of humanity, which Zedd calls "a sentimental sludge in love with failure and the prospect of its own doom."32
We must only pretend that we are humble, for to apply humility to
which Bible version we take up would "for the purpose of social and
financial advancement," make us losers. Socially we'd be losers
because those with modern versions would not appreciate our
sticking with the King James, and we'd lose financially because
those with the modern versions would have to retool, buy the
Authorized Version. That's in contrast to:
Too often Christians, in attempting to present the gospel, weaken the message to the point of no longer declaring the truth. ... A softer message may increase church membership, but it will decrease the number of true conversions.33
These soft versions come across like Junior's project:
Junior had come to believe that every well-rounded, self-improved person ought to have a craft at which he excelled, and needlepoint appealed to him more than either pottery-making or decoupage. For pottery he would require a potter's wheel and a cumbersome kiln; and decoupage was too messy, with all the glue and lacquer. By December, he began his first project: a small pillowcase featuring a geometric border surrounding a quote from Caesar Zedd, "Humility is for losers."34
One day when I was living at a commune the sisters decided to wash our bedding. After they'd washed my pillowcase, they discovered the inscription from Job embroidered on it, something about, "When thou liest down, thy sleep will be sweet." It couldn't be seen before washing because it was too dirty. Anyway, the sisters decided they liked it and wondered if I would part with it. Sure, I didn't mind; it was just a pillow to lay my head on; I didn't care what it said.
I believe these new Bible versions are like that, for putting aside the sacred dialect of the authorized in favor of what we are used to, it's like embroidering "Humility is for losers" on it. Some people are blissfully unaware of this state of affairs, like the dirty pillowcase being unreadable. Some don't care one way or the other just so long as the message delivered makes sense. But I am like the sisters who paid attention, that I am not going to meditate on verses in the NIV no more than a sensitive sister would sleep on a pillow that said, "Humility is for losers."
It harks back to a previous day: "The colossal massif of the
Tower, which the Jew of the Old Testament considered to be the
epitome of human arrogance."35
Uniting their society with
their own language instead of maintaining separate languages
including the ones to eventually produce the original Bible was an
arrogance associated with the tower of Babel project, and today we
find a similar arrogance in wanting just one dialect to convey both
everyday affairs and our Bible reading. It has something to do
He was a future-focused, focused man. The past is for losers. No, wait, humility is for losers. "The past is the teat that feeds those too weak to face the future." Yes, that was the line from Zedd that Junior had stitched on a needlepoint pillow.36
It seems that those too weak to move on to the newer versions are
stuck with the KJV. We need
to be strong to move with the flow.
Zedd teaches that the present is just an instant between past and future, which really leaves us with only two choices—to live either in the past or the future; the past, being over and done with, has no consequences unless we insist on empowering it by not living entirely in the future. Junior strove always to live in the future, and he believed that he was successful in this striving, but obviously he hadn't yet learned to apply Zedd's wisdom to fullest effect, because the past kept getting at him.37
If we accept a need to make new versions on a whim, we are always
going to be making new versions, whence the future, otherwise we
are stuck in the past, KJV
etc. We are going for the
future, but obviously we haven't mastered it yet because the past
keeps getting at us.
We should be so reminded, for a part of our thinking and feeling derives from Babylon. More accurately: from Babylonia, as a geographic entity, though not necessarily from the Babylonians as such.
I think there's a misconception
about what we're attempting to exchange for what. The NIV and its ilk want to update our
English from 1611 until now, and they put forth an effort to do so,
but the KJV dialect is older
than that and more valuable for having been incorporated into the
hearts & minds of the English-speaking people for six and a
half centuries. It's like:|
"Like the RAF in the Battle of Britain. Their problem wasn't so much Spitfires and Hurricanes. It was experienced pilots. Every civilian who got killed in London meant a load of bombs that should have been dropped on airfields. The Germans had the RAF on the ropes and switched from attacking airfields to cities."
But wait, isn't the whole idea of coming out with the NIV to make an easier-to-understand English? That's nonsense. I was a member of Shiloh Youth Revival Centers, the largest Christian communal organization in the history of America, and we were not for the most part scholars. We were an organization of disenfranchised youth with our share of high school dropouts. All we used was the King James Version, no problem. One fellow didn't even know how to read so he taught himself to read form that Book. I remember our Bible studies going through Acts in the KJV with about 130 young people whose English was way behind that at this current church and we didn't need any NIV.
Then I went to a Chinese church for a few years where they had a
bilingual service, and they'd give the Bible readings in both
Chinese and NIV English.
When the Chinese version was being read, I'd read the KJV and then compare it with the
NIV. The NIV never seemed easier to me, Sunday
after Sunday, month after month, year in, year out.
At the intersection of Bible Boulevard, Madi$on Avenue and Wall $treet, there are many crooked turns of the truth. Advertising campaigns create a cloud of confusion, calling the KJV "obscure, confusing and sometimes incomprehensible," while they crown the NIV's "clarity and ease of reading" and the NASB's "contemporary English." Christians are coerced by full color ads written to color the plain facts by advertising, not English majors.
KJV NIV NASB TEV NKJV Grade Grade Grade Grade Grade Level Level Level Level Level Gen. 1 4.4 5.1 4.7 5.1 5.2 Mal. 1 4.6 4.8 5.1 5.4 4.6 Matt. 1 6.7 16.4 6.8 11.8 10.3 Rev. 1 7.5 7.1 7.7 6.4 7.7 Grade Level 5.8 8.4 6.1 7.2 6.9 Average
To extend the inquiry, one each of the three book-types (Gospel, Pauline epistle, General epistle) were surveyed. The resulting data confirms the readability of the KJV.
Good KJV NIV NASB News NKJV (TEV) John 3.6 3.6 4.2 5.9 3.9 1:1-21 Galations 8.6 9.8 10.4 6.7 8.9 1:1-21 James 5.7 6.5 7.0 6.0 6.4 1:1-21
Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases. The perceived difficulty has to do with adjustment to the Bible dialect. Remember [per Marsh] that a sacred dialect had been developed for our English Bible. Others confirm that it is a separate Bible dialect, as opposed to, say, a 1611 dialect.40
That sounds about the norm for dialects.
Within the territory of a language, wide deviations of dialect may be found ... Such deviations disturb communications, they do not completely disrupt it. And they are, in all known languages, past and present, a constant feature, like archaisms (e.g. in religious or legal terminology)...
Generally we understand the KJV well enough even though at times we may encounter difficulties. Communication is disturbed, not disrupted, so we don't need to retranslate it as if it were a different language we couldn't understand. We go back to the passage: (I Peter 5:1-11) "... Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. ..." After we've humbled ourselves in not exalting our own current dialect above the Bible dialect developed by our elders of old, we cast our care on the Lord who helps us master it, through study and prayer, through helps, and also through our ministers who know it better and preach from it. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." It's a steady process that works while we are being careful not to let this valuable Book in valuable form get stolen form us. It is funny how the new versions all compare themselves with the KJV saying they improve upon it, not with each other so much; as if it is the KJV only that is being supplanted, not the newer versions.
Outside, he discovered that some worthless criminal wretch had broken into his Suburban during the night. The suitcase and Book-of-the-Month selections were gone. The creep even swiped the Kleenex, the chewing gum, and the breath mints from the glove compartment.
As an engineer uses a model to discern the workings of a complicated system, I was once part of a multi-denominationally derived church whose members, all but the pastor, used the KJV. I was able to get a clue about the transition when the pastor defended using the RSV so as not to partake of the spirit of conformity. That was the beatniks' cry, not to conform, right about the time the RSV came out, and carried into the hippies "do your own thing" our whole society has been transformed. Yesteryear we were so conformed it would be hard to imagine all the different Bible versions being used that we see now.
In his book, McCleary says he spent the past eight years working on it because "I contend that the hippie era was the intellectual renaissance of the 20th century." He knows that some may believe that romanticizing an era "that produced rampant free sex and drug usage and contributed to the breakdown of conservative family values does not deserve a place in our history."
Now, I'm sure there is some merit to the hippies' point of view, even honoring the body that bears an image of God, but the church might do well to impose righteous limits on it. As an example of true righteousness:
In a remarkable apologia Job vindicates his character further as he reacts to the cutting jibes and unjust accusations of his "friends." He has shunned the evil of adultery; he has acted democratically in his relations to his servants."46
He was democratic with his servants and faithful to his wife, not the converse: "Jack adhered to the lofty view that adultery was merely the application of democracy to love."47 Likewise we want to be faithful to reporting the word of God, not democratic to the point of bringing in ever newer and more inferior versions as our ranks swell with newcomers of undeveloped reading skills. The Bible is a mechanism for us younger to be subject to our elders-of- old who brought it to us, and each to one another in adhering to the same Book. It is only in that each is subject to each other that the elder can go along with a younger if that's a legit enough way to go, and such liberty as all liberty is subject to the criteria, (I Cor. 10:23) "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
Okay, it's a good idea to look and see to what extent Biblical writers employed their liberty to paraphrase, but remember this: "I am a minister, I have been dealing with a canon all my career—the canon of the Hebrew scriptures and that of the early Christian Church—called the Bible."48 Since the New Testament was written by the early church, it does not deal with changes in Greek over time, because there hadn't been enough time for Greek to change all that much. "All of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were written within about sixty-five years after Jesus ascended back into Heaven."49 The Hebrew scriptures, on the other hand, were developed over time enough for their language to change some. "Over centuries, the Bible fashioned the Hebrew tribes into a nation: Israel."50 Looking at the Old Testament gives us a more precise gauge about dealing with language change. To ignore it is like the chess player leaning over the board so he couldn't see the bottom row; he might play a fine game otherwise, but even a mediocre one may defeat him by developing a threat on that row. Okay, there is one instance of a word change being dealt with by an OT writer: (I Samuel 9:9) "(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)" The old word was defined and from then on the two were used interchangeably, i.e. (II Sam. 24:11) "... the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying ...," (II Kings 17:13) "Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers ...," (I Chronicles 29:29) "... behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer," (II Chronicles 9:29) "... are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer ...," (II Chron. 12:15) "... are they not written in the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and Iddo the seer ...," (Isaiah 29:10) "... the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered." There are a few places where seer is used all alone: (II Sam. 15:27) "The king said unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer?" (II Chron. 33:18) "... and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD ...," (Amos 7:12) "Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away ...," (Micah 3:7) "Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded ..." And, of course, the word prophet is used extensively in the Bible, but even in our secular reading we still grasp the meaning of the old word: "Like a seer I know what's running through his mind—a visit to his mom."51
Then we may follow a progression:
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. ... ¶When the powerful Greek leader, Alexander the Great, conquered the known world of his day, Greek became the universal language. Within two or three generations many Jews, who like others used the Greek language, had lost knowledge of their own native Hebrew tongue. They could speak and read and write Greek but not Hebrew. In order to provide a way for them to be able to read their Old Testament Scriptures, which were in Hebrew, seventy learned Jews, who knew both Hebrew and Greek, translated the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint and is often represented by the Roman numerals LXX, which means "Seventy." It was completed by at least 200 B.C.52
This all makes it difficult and iffy for the preacher: "The moral and intellectual nature of man has few more difficult practical problems to resolve than that of following the golden mean between passion for novelty and an ultra-conservative attachment to the time-honoured and the old."54 Be that as it may, we've been tackling the Book of Acts, chapter by chapter in church. Eventually we got to where 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 sonnne 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." Since this is the same mechanism whereby the old word seer was defined by the new one prophet—here Barnabas (Hebrew) being defined by The-son-of-consolation (from the Greek55)—, we can compare the two. (Evidently Luke, being a physician, liked to name things; "She'd called him her thirty-four-year-old cynic. Miriam labeled everything. He supposed medicine did that to you."56) Barnabas is used extensively through the NT, but the-son-of-consolation never again, so we see that names are more stable than ordinary words like seer/prophet. Only in one other place is Barnabas called something different, (Acts 14:12) "And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker." I guess Barnabas was the strong silent type. Because names are more stable, resistant to change, this gives us a place to look when we hear complaints that the preacher is leaning too much towards novelty. From our own knowledge of naming things, we'd see such a name as part of the bonding process in the church making itself felt, like with policemen, or soldiers, and with a staying power.
Cops always use nicknames for each other. Wexler's is Wex, Sean's, Mac. It's some kind of tribal bonding thing. Some of the names aren't complimentary but the cops don't complain. I know one down in Colorado Springs named Scoto whom most of the cops call Scroto. Some even go all the way and call him Scrotum, but my guess is that you have to be a close friend to get away with that.57
Let's see if some Bible versions don't upset the balance here somehow, if they are used in this Acts study. "Paraphrases translate the New Testament into the language and idiom of the street scene."61 Living Bible: "For instance, there was Joseph (the one the apostles nicknamed 'Barney the Preacher'! He was of the tribe of Levi, from the island of Cyprus). He was one of those who sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for distribution to those in need." There seems to be a lack of information; I mean, not all descriptions are descriptive.
Sure,"Barney" is a preacher, but what kind of a preacher? If one
were to try to emulate his preaching, he'd be at a loss, like that
story where a friend of a detective invited him to a lecture
without telling him he the detective was the lecturer.
"We've all been waiting so anxiously for you to get here," the elderly woman exclaimed as she glanced down at her wristwatch. "Oh dear, we really do need to get going. You know, everybody is just absolutely dying to hear all the fascinating things you're going to be telling us this evening," she added as she took his free right arm in a firm grasp.
That would be as if you were studying to preach up a storm like the
Apostle Paul, then you go before an audience where you're required
to preach consolation like Barney the Preacher but you've just
figured that out having never read it in your paraphrase Bible.
Not big on description in some matters.
Honey, so few men have eyeballs for anything except the profit margin and is the lawn mowed. That was my Captain. A stranger, looking for a child of ours, once asked Marsden to please describe our little girl. Cap went, "Well," and held up fingers of one hand like for counting off the features of his well-loved flesh and blood, "Well, she's kind of ... she's about the size you would expect of a person her particular age and weight. Now her hair is in between brown and not, only lighter, and the eyes ... what are her eyes, honey? —But why am I trying this. Her own mother's standing right here. Men shouldn't have to describe."63
We have the King James Bible. Why should we expect a paraphrase to
describe something? And if we were fed the Living Bible
on this verse in a comprehensive study of Acts, we would be missing
a meaning of the name, which meaning is important.
We cannot understand a society unless we are able to see the meaning of what its members do — and see the meaning as they see it.64
In the end we cannot allow The Living Bible to be our serious frame of reference in church. We know that anyway, but Acts 4 supplies a quick and easy chapter and verse to verify it.
Many people have difficulty understanding the plays of William Shakespeare because the language they're written in is old-fashioned. Now, for the first time, the youth of America can fully appreciate the beauty and significance of his works as MAD66 , in its campaign to bring culture to all, presents ...
MARC ANTONY'S FUNERAL ORATION
JULIUS CAESAR ACT III SCENE II67
THE OLD VERSION Friends, Romans, countrymen, THE MAD VERSION Lend me your ears; Friends, Romans, hipsters, I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Let me clue you in; The evil that men do lives after them; I come to put down Caesar, not to groove The good is oft interred with their bones; him. So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus The square kicks some cats are on stay Hath told you Caesar was ambitious; with them; If it were so, it was a grievous fault, The hip bits, like, go down under; And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it. So let it lay with Caesar. The cool Brutus Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, Gave you the message Cæsar had big eyes; --For Brutus is an honorable man; If that's the sound, someone's copping a So are they all, all honorable men,-- plea, Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. And, like, old Caesar really set them He was my friend, faithful and just to me; straight. But Brutus says he was ambitious; Here, copasetic with Brutus and the studs, And Brutus is an honorable man. --For Brutus is a real cool cat; He hath brought many captives home to So are they all, all cool cats,-- Rome, Come I to make this gig at Caesar's Whose ransoms did the general coffers lay down. fill; He was my boy, the real and most gone to Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? me; When that the poor have cried, Caesar But, like, Brutus pegs him as having big hath wept, eyes; Ambition should be made of sterner stuff; And old Brutus is a real cool cat. Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; He copped a lot of swinging heads for And Brutus is an honorable man. home, You all did see that on the Lupercal Which put us way out with that loot; I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Does this give Caesar big eyes? Which he did thrice refuse; was this When the square cats bawled, Caesar ambition? flipped; Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; Big eyes should be made of more solid And, sure, he is an honorable man. megillah; I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, Yet Brutus pegs him as having big eyes; But here I am to speak what I do know. And Brutus is a real cool cat. You all did love him once, not without You all dug that bit at the Lupercal scene cause; Three times I bugged him with the King's What cause withholds you then to mourn lid, for him? And three times he hung me up; was this And men have lost their reason. Bear with big eyes? me; Yet Brutus pegs him with big eyes; My heart is in the coffin there with And, sure, he is a real cool cat. Caesar, I don't want to double-O what Brutus And I must pause until it come back to me. gummed, But, like, I only dig what comes on straight. You all got a charge out of him once, So how come you don't cry the blues for him? Man! You are real nowhere, You don't make it anymore. Don't cut out on me; My guts are in the pad there with Caesar, And I gotta stop swinging till they round- trip.
Okay, The Living Bible is a bit of an extreme, so let's look at just a contemporary English translation. I'm of an age that when in high school my dad gave me J.B. Phillips as the contemporary English Bible. It had the good English style from a single translator that helped me improve my own English.
Now, because there's such an impetus any more for really modern translation I also have in my library, the J.B. Phillips New Testament, which I only use on the rare occasion that quoting a modern English version rather than the King James has some benefit. Phillips says, "It was at this time that Barnabas (the name, meaning son of comfort, given by the apostles to Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus) sold his farm and put the proceeds at the apostles' disposal." Barnabas here is given to mean son of comfort rather than of consolation. My dictionary defines consolation 1. comfort. 2. a comforting person, thing, or event. So Phillips gives the same thought with an easier word. In fact Phillips' introduction states that he is translating so that his version has the same effect on the reader as the first Greek manuscripts did way back when. Since Barnabas was a single nickname, not several, and since modern readers are already, and had been for centuries, familiar with the name the son of consolation, Phillips could hardly give him another name and expect it to have the same effect; the most he could do was a variation.
There's probably little reason in my opinion to quote the son of comfort instead of the more widespread the son of consolation; the latter doesn't seem at all a difficult word. Except, say, I had a real slow learner to whom I was trying to convey that Barnabas was a fulfillment of Isaiah 12, "And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee."
But just because I am cozy with J.B. Phillips, doesn't mean it will be accepted by others. The itinerant campus preacher brother Jed sure doesn't want preaching on that comfort level.
If brother Jed expects the comfort to be coming out of exhortation,
then he'd rather the son of comfort be called the son of
consolation in the first place. That's similar to James Dobson
advising dating couples not to be too carried away with
pseudo-visions leading them to precipitous marriages as would be
encouraged by Phillips' "let her be guided by the Lord"
rather than simply marrying "in the Lord." Both these
translatings by Phillips illustrate Marsh's warning:
Whoever substitutes for an old word of well-understood signification a new vocable or phrase, unsettles, with the formulas into which it enters, the opinions of those who have habitually clothed their convictions in those stereotyped forms, and thus introduces, first doubt, and then departure from long received and acknowledged truth. Experience has taught jurists that in the revision or amendment of statutes, and in sanctioning and adopting by legislative enactment current principles of unwritten law, it is a matter of the first importance to employ a phraseology whose precise import has been fixed by a long course of judicial decisions; and it has been found impossible in practice to change the language of the law, for the purpose of either modernizing or making it otherwise more definite, familiar, or intelligible, without at the same time changing the law itself. Words and ideas are so inseparably connected, they become in a sense connatural, that we cannot change the one without modifying the other.69
Because the Phillips translation of the Bible keeps giving us suspect renderings that look good on the surface but find objection from those familiar in their respective areas, we must in the end use it as commentary, not as authority.
Then there would be the purists who might go all the way back to the (2nd) Wycliffite version (mid 1300's), "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."
Let's try The New English Bible: "For instance, Joseph, surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means 'Son of Exhortation') a Levite, by birth a Cypriot, owned an estate, which he sold; he brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet." Here Barnabas means son of exhortation rather than the son of comfort/consolation.
Occasionally brother Jed, based in Ohio, hits our campus and raises the roof, speaking unto men to exhortation after the fashion of the familiar"Bible Jim" here shown sharing the gospel with a physics major at the U. of O.:
Brother Jed tells his fellow Christians who happen along not to criticize him but to remain available to answer questions of the people standing by. Me, that's what I do, just hang around and answer any concerns addressed to me.
One day a heckler was shouting Jed down. To bolster his position, he decided to ask someone from the audience to agree with him that Jed was a phony. He asked me, "Isn't he a phony?"
I replied, "You're the phony." That's all I said. I didn't preach at him (unto exhortation), or he would have overwhelmed me too. When he tried to debate the point with me, I said not a word (unto edification), or that would have prolonged the distraction. I was just speaking unto men to comfort them that we didn't have to put up with phonies. The heckler slinked off and brother Jed resumed his preaching.
Another time brother Jed was preaching against sin and a homosexual made some comment to me about the Christians' intolerance of sexual diversity. I ended up in a discussion with him about human sexuality, its various expressions, ones that Christians tolerate well enough and ones that are forbidden. Both he and his homosexual friends standing there were impressed that he could have an actual conversation with a sympathetic Christian who nevertheless stuck with the gospel message. His friend even suggested that the fellow might want to join the Christians, they were so reasonable, at which point he made himself scarce. he was rejecting the gospel not the messengers.
The Book of Acts balances some firebrand preachers with Barnabas the son of consolation. To make Barnabas into a son of exhortation too is to unbalance the book from what it was. And how are we to reconcile the two. Well, edification, and exhortation and comfort are brothers just as faith, hope and charity are sisters in the word. According to brother Jed, "a rebuke, a strong, or even a harsh word (exhortations) are also edifying and comforting, when received and acted upon." In other words comfort is a son of exhortation. So Barnabas is the grandson of exhortation but the son of comfort, and since in the Bible sometimes a son is actually a grandson, the two names correspond.
Or we might try the Catholic approach. Since exhortation and comfort are brothers, the son of exhortation and the son of comfort are cousins. We know, or at least the Catholics tell us, that Jesus' brothers were really his cousins. So if we may call these two cousins brothers, we're saying they have the same father after all and the son of the one is the son of the other.
I Timothy 1:4 tells us: "neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do." To track various words and their genealogical relationships over and over again so we can accommodate each and every new Bible version moves us away from godly edifying, and at any rate it probably is just not expedient to change the names all of a sudden, although son of exhortation does at least rhyme with the son of consolation, so we'd still have the mutually edifying bonding with names from both versions.
The other question is suppose it's those putative better
manuscripts that prompted the change? I don't know, maybe there
are better manuscripts somewhere, but they sure haven't found their
way into our modern versions. "Wilbur Pickering, author of the
Identity of the New Testament Text and recipient of a
TH.M. in Greek Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary and M.A.
and Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Toronto says:
The distressing realization is forced upon us that the 'progress' of the past hundred years has been precisely in—the wrong direction—our modern versions and critical texts are found to differ from the Original in some six thousand places, many of them being serious differences... [They] are several times further removed from the originals than are the A.V. and TR [King James Version and its foundation, the Greek Textus Receptus]. How could such a calamity have come upon us ... much of the work that has been done is flawed ...70
"Dean John Burgon, the scholar who has collated the most early New Testament witnesses (87,000), says of the changes in one of the 'new' versions and Greek texts:
Ordinary readers ... will of course assume that the changes result from the revisor's skill in translating—advances which have been made in the study of Greek. It was found that they had erred through defective scholarship to an extent and with a frequency, which to me is simply inexplicable. ... Anything more unscientific ... can scarcely be conceived, but it has prevailed for fifty years. We regret to discover that ... their work is disfigured throughout by changes which convict a majority of their body alike of an imperfect acquaintance with the Greek language.71
"Edward F. Hills, author of The King James Version Defended and graduate of Yale University, Westminster Theological Seminary and Recipient of the Ph.D. from Harvard and the TH.M. from Columbia University says:
Modern speech bibles are unscholarly.72
"The late E.W. Colwell, past president of the University of Chicago and the premier North American New Testament Greek scholar, authored scores of books, such as Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament. He confesses his 'change of heart' concerning the reliability of readings in the new versions:
... [S]cholars now believe that most errors were made deliberately ... the variant readings in the New Testament were created for theological or dogmatic reasons. Most of the manuals now in print (including mine!) will tell you that these variations were the fruit of careless treatment. ... The reverse is the case.73
"Zane Hodges, professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Dallas Theological Seminary and co-editor of a Greek New Testament refers to new versions as,
[M]onstrously unscientific, if not dangerously obscurantist. The average well-taught Bible-believing Christian has often heard the King James Version corrected on the basis of 'better manuscripts' or 'older authorities'. ... Lacking any kind of technical training in this area, the average believer probably has accepted such explanations from individuals he regards as qualified to give them.74
"William Palmer, scholar and author of Narrative of Events on the Tracts, says:
[Ordinary Christians have little idea [concerning the New Greek text] ... it rests in many cases on quotations which are not genuine ... on passages which when collated with the original, are proved to be wholly inefficacious as proofs."75
But I don't personally know Greek or have done manuscript research,
so let's say for sake of argument that better Greek scholarship has
demonstrated that Barnabas was actually the son of exhortation
rather than of consolation. But that's a big issue.
"Jeremy's birthday is July eighteenth," she said. "Do the math."
Seems to me that if "Right-on" is really using a gift of paraphrase, and this name meaning changes so, that he'd want to give us the straight dope in his sermon, some kind of explanation. I mean, I even wrote to "Right-on" about the name change of Barnabas from my KJV, and since he stopped for several weeks after Acts 4 before picking up with Acts 5, he'd had plenty of time to research it, and the narrative of Acts 5 could easily have been started by recapping the end of Acts 4, giving us a fuller explanation of the shift of fathers in the name of Barnabas. But nada. He went on with the NIV as if it were gospel.
This is not a criticism of "Right-on", because as we've noted, balancing the old with the new is no mean feat, and not everyone can do paraphrases well; I'm just suggesting that maybe there's another mechanism at work here besides the gift of paraphrase.
I had girlfriend who against all my advice not to cave in to this fellow who wanted sex with her, went and got herself pregnant and had a baby by him. Then he split the scene, but I still kept company with her to a lesser degree. Well, her baby has blue eyes, but neither she nor that guy has blue eyes. My friend Doug the street preacher was telling me about her baby and then he noted that I have blue eyes. Then he started jiving me about maybe I wasn't being so good after all, so I made up a proverb for him: "The man who practices celibacy doesn't fear a paternity suit." The Good Book calls Barnabas the son of consolation. Well, maybe he is, despite what other speculative evidence to the contrary.
The introduction to the New International Version Bible says that
their group of scholars has translated the authors.
Now, my lecture book on translating warns that we should translate
the reader, not the author, so that what we read in the translation
will have the same effect on us as the original did on its readers;
otherwise, by translating the author, we could end up with only an
imitation of the original. The NIV in not translating the reader, but
the writer, is not under the rule of Phillips, no, they would give
us a different name from the son of consolation if in their
scholarly opinion it was closer to the Greek even though in giving
Barnabas a second nickname they were affecting the reader
differently than the original writing did theirs in attributing but
one nickname to the man. So in the NIV we read, "Joseph, a Levite
from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of
encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put
it at the apostles' feet." Here, if I'm a contestant for the
Bible quiz, or someone else not familiar with the NIV, and I'm asked, who was the son of
encouragement, my answer would be David from
(I Samuel 30:6b) "but David encouraged himself in the
LORD his God." My second choice would be John the Baptist
from (Matt. 11:12) "And
from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." He's
the one encouraging us to take it. His preaching style is
more like brother Jed's:
In the cobbled market square, she noticed an impromptu evangelist set up his soapbox and start rabbiting on about judgment and sin. It made her feel vaguely guilty just hearing him, and as she went into the station, she contemplated asking one of the uniforms to go out and move him on. There must be a law against it somewhere on the books. Disturbing the peace of an overworked DC?
This contrasted to Jesus' gentler style. (In verse 17 he contrasts their two styles.) Like the lecture book says, the son of encouragement is an imitator of the son of consolation, Barnabas.
Now, my dictionary79
defines exhort v.
urge strongly, and encourage
v. urge on. As Phillips turns the KJV's the son of consolation
into the son of comfort so does the NIV turn The NEB's son of
exhortation into son of encouragement. Bravo!
Easier English, although what's the point? But now we have not
only more familiar terms, but concepts (in this easier English)
that we're liable to come across in day to day life. A fellow gets
invited to visit his old college roommate who is now a publisher in
a distant city. He arrives at his building.
Still lugging his suitcases, he headed through the doors to the pool area. To his immediate right was the Jacuzzi, currently unoccupied. Around the mammoth pool directly in front of him were arrayed countless plastic yellow-and-white chaises lounges, many of which were occupied, by men and women uniformly gorgeous, uniformly tanned, and in uniformly superb physical condition, all of them apparently in their twenties and thirties. There were a few people splashing about and schmoozing in the pool itself, and one blond Adonis in an absurdly skimpy, absurdly bulging bikini swimsuit was perched on the high diving board. Just as Ezra looked up, the man leapt into space, hung there a heart-catching second, and executed a perfect swan dive.
Tessa was assigned to make the guy comfortable, just as one might, by being a perfect specimen of a Christian, make someone (un)comfortable with the gospel—a son of consolation.
Then the guest visits his old friend's work place.
But what seized Ezra's attention was the art on the walls. Handsomely framed, it was a series of lurid, crudely rendered paintings of a grossly sexual nature: One portrayed a bosomy, sneering, black-haired, black-lipsticked woman in some sort of skin-tight leather jumpsuit, holding a whip in one hand and a thick, grotesquely twisting python in the other; another showed a long-haired nude woman from behind, squatting before a grimacing athletic blonde Marine with his tunic in place but his trousers around his ankles, obviously (although not quite explicitly, her shaggy head blocking the view) fellating him; a third featured two unnaturally nubile girls, one chained naked to a dungeon wall in cruciform posture, the other, in boots and hot pants, sucking on the nipple of her companion's gargantuan right breast. And there were four or five more, all along similar lines.
The guy's cover artist has a direct style like brother Jed's that goes straight for the juggler, as a preacher might be encouraging sinners to repent or the cover artist encouraging more sales. I work in sales and I have my own place, so I know what is meant by encouraging sales and what is meant by making a guest comfortable, and I know the son of comfort is not the same animal as the son of encouragement. Look, when I want to read the Bible in modern English, I read J.B. Phillips which isn't ancient but what I had in high school, and when I hear someone reading the popular NIV also in modern English and he's reading son of encouragement when I am reading son of comfort, the ideas clash and we are not communicating. But I've expected God to be preserving his word through translations, so I see His hand in this mixup, like: "Everything that happens in this world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us, which in the end, though its ways and byways are difficult to follow, orders everything for the best,"82 and I think of the earlier lesson at the tower of Babel when the men's speech became confused and they figured they would have to maintain the separate tongues after all; likewise I conclude that God wants us to keep the separate sacred dialect and not have all our English, Bible and current, be in the modern dialect. This conclusion follows from examination of the test verse which can't be brushed off as allowable paraphrase.
There are other objections to tagging Barnabas as son of encouragement.
One of the foremost would be the way tags can backfire.
Prentice Marshall Gates III, known as Skipper, is the San Francisco district attorney. We used to be partners at Simpson and Gates. His father was Gates. He's now running for California attorney general. His smiling mug appears on billboards all over town under the caption "Mr. Law and Order." Two years ago, he won the DA's race by spending three million dollars of his inheritance. I understand he's prepared to ante up five million this time around.
A rich guy with a fancy name has an all-purpose nickname Skipper. He's the district attorney running for attorney general and comes up with another nickname Mr. Law and Order. That name sounds great in his campaign, but when he gets himself arrested and goes through the criminal booking procedure himself, it becomes a liability to be called Mr. Law and Order there in jail.
Likewise Barnabas the son of consolation is a great moniker. Then we start calling him son of exhortation which works well enough as the church is forging ahead, but then he has his falling out with Paul whereupon Mr. Exhortation off somewhere in obscurity doesn't sound so good.
And while son of exhortation might lack the expediency of being the correct term, at least it sounds like the usual one, so we still feel unified as believers reading it, but son of encouragement sounds like a different name entirely and so does not edify, taking away another justification for it as paraphrase.
Finally, perhaps we even have available some writings of Barnabas so we can decide for ourselves. The epistle to the Hebrews was not signed, but judging from its content and audience it could well have been penned by a Levite. Its style is different from any other NT book, so it probably was not written by Luke, Paul, Peter, James, or John. If Paul was "Mercury" the chief speaker, writing all those NT epistles, well, "Jupiter" could well have written one heavy one. Then we notice in Hebrews the one place in the NT that encourages hospitality to strangers. Anyone from Cyprus I've ever known was hospitable to a fault.
Okay, there are exhortations in Hebrews, but even they come with heavy consolation. Sure we must give the more earnest heed to the commandments but they were given by a powerful Lord, higher than the angels and more priestly than the Levites. Yes, without faith we cannot please God, but God definitely rewards those who diligently seek him. Yes, we're to assemble and exhort one another, but that's as the glorious Day approaches. And even those strangers we entertain might well be angels. There is so much consolation given throughout the book of Hebrews that I'll just leave it to my reader to either remember what he's read or go back through it and see. Even if you only pick up only half of it, it's quite enough. As for his exhortation, it is both gentle "as unto children"—(Hebrews 12:5a) "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children"—, and brief,"in few words"—(Heb. 13:22) "And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words."—If he is long on consolation and short on exhortation, then his moniker does not become what the NIV says, but the KJV. I would have no problem naming the writer of Hebrews the son of consolation.
He reminds me of my own writings, the way he goes on and on, example after example. In fact, part of the reason I'm offended with the NIV's treatment of Acts is that it misdirects our understanding of the guy whose ministry I take after while treating the apostles and all better, just as in I Corinthians it misdirects our understanding of mixed marriages, where I date mostly nonbelievers—although some of them get saved—,while leaving other approaches to marriage and all intact. Christians with other approaches can seem to read these books happily, but why should I have to go along with it? And misdirection is dangerous.
I'm thinking about the girl who was forced to break up with
her nonchristian fiancé-of-nine-years because she was given
the light from the NIV,
and of another guy who liked modern versions and became unbalanced by
a prolonged aggressive approach to preaching to the neglect of his
basic needs. Both these people became what might be termed shipwrecked
under the influence of these modern versions in the precise
places where I am raising objections.
The result of trying to "update" the language of our English Bible reminds one of an historical precedent: "Then comes the ill-fated city of Babel, with its problematic urban architecture."84 The NIV has a problematic scholarly architecture. They've imported Paul's admonition to not be unequally yoked from II Cor. into I Cor. so that it nullifies Paul's teaching that mixed marriages are sanctified, and they've taken the son of consolation who introduced the converted Paul to the church at Jerusalem and made him into a son of exhortation, more like Saul himself who breathed out threatenings. From an architectural standpoint, this is problematic, because it's a leader's spirituality in knowing how to run his family that gives us confidence in his vertical connection to run God's church, and it's in sharing a nickname for a group member that gives us confidence we belong to the same group. So we lose confidence in the NIV as a Bible.
And then how are we going to use this book with faulty architecture
to support our position on important doctrinal matters, like the
My drug rundown used up four or five sessions, and then it was on to past lives. I was asked to go back as far as I could to try to remember my earliest incarnation. Sitting across from my auditor, I searched the back rooms of my mind.
Before people take seriously what our Bible says on doctrinal matters, say the afterlife, they may want to know if they can have confidence in the book in the first place. That sister who was made to break up with her fiancé-of-nine-years because the NIV said a Christian is not allowed to marry a nonChristian was quite in despair. In the Old Testament, to be sure, God's people were required to be more separatist, but in the NT those black sails should be exchanged for white.
When I was a young Christian I went around trying to convince everyone to become a Christian. I got so few results and there were so many people remaining to be saved, that I got quite in despair. Then I decided to just abide in the vine, develop my gifts, do my part, and let God worry about who all gets in. if all Christians were required to be exclusively exhorters, it would be cause for despair.
Instead of shelving these modern versions, I find the Christians around me using them quite a bit, some Christians. We even get preached to from the NIV regularly. It's as if we were taking seriously its introduction saying it's "suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing and liturgical use."
He remembered the collection of Caesar Zedd's self-help drivel that had occupied a place of honor in the wife killer's former home in Spruce Hills. Cain owned a hardcover and a paperback of each of Zedd's works. The more expensive editions had been pristine, as though they were handled only with gloves; but the text in the paperbacks had been heavily underlined, and the corners of numerous pages had been bent to mark favorite passages.86
Such a place of honor for mixed up stuff is spoken of in Proverbs, (Prov. 26:1) "As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool." When I hear the NIV preached from in church it's like seeing a snowstorm out my window in the middle of summer, and Christians quoting it is like when we need to finish carrots at the cannery and the farmers can't bring them in for the rain. The one is a snow job and the other of no benefit. Although Christians certainly have liberty in their reading material, and a preacher on his preaching material, it can be abused.
Besides leaning something about a preacher's exemption from conformity when I attended that church where I was about the oldest in the Lord, and everybody used the KJV except the pastor, there were several other beneficial learning experiences. We were studying Classic Christianity in Sunday school. Picture us all sitting in a circle with our KJV's, except the pastor, reading from a book on classic Christianity where the author was quoting from every version but. I eventually spoke up, that if this is supposed to be classic why don't we hear from the classic itself?
Next we started studying 1st John. When we got to love, our pastor told us that our English word love doesn't communicate what's meant, so we would need to use a Greek word agape. He even used it in a sentence, "I agape so-and-so." I protested that what was the point of having the Bible translated into English if we can't use English words? After class we discussed it more; he said that Greek has four words that can be translated love in English and we can't know what is meant unless we read it in Greek. His example was Jesus thrice asking Peter if he loved him, the third time changing the question from agape to philao, a more brotherly sort of love. (Actually, as I understand it, these words for love were used by the Greeks somewhat interchangeably.)
He doesn't understand our English very well. In this language love can mean different things, so we learn to tell from the context. In our language repetition cheapens a heavy word. In the song that Doris Day sang about "The Little Green Man," a space- alien kept following her around saying, "I wuv you; I wuv you," until finally he said, "I don't wuv you any more." Peter's answer that Jesus knows he loves him wouldn't carry as much weight as it would if he'd answered him the first or second time.
Likewise in English if we want to give weight to a word that has been cheapened by repetition, we come up with a synonym. Take the song "Cherish." A guy wants to tell a girl that he really loves her, but because she might misconstrue love, he decides to say cherish instead. The whole song is about it. Similarly in our Bibles, especially in I Cor. 13, to convey the kind of love God has we read love as charity.
And yet in bible dialect we have four words that can be used for one ordinary English word to give it more precision. You can be thee, thou, you and ye, depending on whether the second person pronoun is subject, object, singular, or plural.87 There is but little value to teach a smattering of Greek vocabulary and grammar to someone who doesn't know Greek and never will, but there is great value to teaching the occasional point of bible dialect to someone who already knows and uses regular English.
A lot of our clergy in general has got this reversed. I met a man who was taught the way the Greeks used three different words for love, who then reprimanded his young son for saying, "I love ice cream." He told the kid to say only that he liked ice cream, but I or anybody could have understood what the kid meant because in our language we color love by its context.
I heard a radio preacher use the expression "you all" in his message quoting the Bible and then say that he did so because in the original it was a plural you, but our Bibles don't have a plural you, so he said, "you all." But our Bibles do have a plural for second person, both subject (ye) and object (you).
It would be bad enough a general ignorance of bible dialect 2nd person pronoun, but the modern translators themselves don't even get it. NIV Preface: "As for the traditional pronouns 'thou,' 'thee' and 'thine' in reference to the Deity, the translators judged that to use these archaisms would violate accuracy in translation. Neither Hebrew, Aramaic nor Greek uses special pronouns for the persons of the Godhead. A present- day translation is not enhanced by forms that in the time of the King James Version were used in everyday speech, whether referring to God or man." Yes, but a good deal has been made of the issue of whether God is just one God singular or a multitude of gods plural, and we've already studied the issue of changing established formulas in language. When a gospel group sings in church and uses songs from the Psalms that I am familiar with and then all of a sudden I hear what in the bible dialect is a plural pronoun—you—for God, I am temporarily shaken up, and although I tell myself they are changing dialect, not case, it still interferes with my enjoyment of the song. It might be that translators of a modern version might want to use modern pronouns, but they should have at least considered first the implications, which the NIV ones did not.
As we went along at our Bible studies at that church where every member was from a different denomination, we eventually got to a spot where a woman there told us her belief related to a passage, where only her particular kind of churches believed that particular way, nobody else. I explained to her why believing that way wouldn't hold water, giving her something to think about, planning to return to the subject again. People don't change their beliefs all at once; it's sometimes a process, and anyway, the pastor later thanked me for making the attempt. But he wasn't content merely to have told it right and then go on, but he took that woman to task right there in front of the class. Of course, she never returned.
My only point here is that patience comes with maturity, not necessarily with being pastor. People are not always going to be changing their cherished false beliefs just because some preacher man lays the right way on them. Oh, he should be preaching it right in the first place, but getting straight a lot of times is more a process of maturity than of convincing arguments, and if we are looking to benefits from the maturing process, then we want to be quoting important matters from the mature version.
The final lesson I learned at that particular church was misunderstood by the ladies, but then I had no idea the pastor's wife would be opening and reading his mail. To the pastor and me a birthday celebration was just something we had to put up with to please the women, and we could use illustrations from it to our hearts' content. The church was trying to develop a leadership structure (from scratch) and was soliciting input from its members. To illustrate ways of slicing up that leadership pie, I used the way the women cut up a birthday cake, an illustration I would have avoided if I'd known they'd be reading it. Oh, well.
I was nearing social overload by the end of church. First I rode with a bus crowd to a dining establishment where I breakfasted with my friends. Then I rode with another bus crowd to the grange where we I started out with the people for Sunday school. After that we had church, and after church our regular love feast where I had my fill of food and more fellowship. After all that, I headed for the door to seek some solitude, but, no, they had one more activity they insisted I stay for: a fellow's birthday celebration. This seemed to me a good example of what the apostle Paul meant when he said he had a desire to depart which was better for him, but to stay was more needful for the rest. I stayed.
So we sang happy birthday to this guy and then we got in line for the cake his wife and the pastor's wife had baked for him. Now, he was an enormous person, and he got the first piece, of course. Then we were each given a piece in turn, cut by the guy's wife down the cake. I was the thin guy at the end of the line, having already eaten my fill at the love feast, but required to stay for cake. Finally she got to my piece which was a corner piece with icing all around. A look of fondness passed between the wife and her husband and she passed that big piece to him, who had already finished his first piece by now.
Well, I had not wanted to be there in the first place, but had acquiesced to their request that I join them. If they were going to pass me by and give my turn at the cake to someone else, then I wasn't going to stay. I headed out the door sans cake.
That seemed to me a good illustration for the leadership discussion. The apostle Paul was required to stay, in print at least, for one final act, his epistles. The passing along of Paul in his writings is that last big piece of cake, taken care of in translation by God's appointed men, Wycliffe, Tyndale, & King James's appointees for our English Bible. That big piece with all the icing on it fell to them. What falls to the pastor, fat with responsibilities, is the little piece that comes after it, making the Bible dialect clear in places where it's fuzzy to the modern ear, which he can easily do as he goes along in his weekly sermons. What has happened, though, is he was given an irresistible temptation of a retranslated Bible in more modern English which is clear already, and he will no more pass that by than the fat man the icinged cake. And the elders, broadly speaking, who traditionally have little enough to do in the church leadership get passed over in their role of bringing us a Bible translated in a suitable dialect. The way I put it, which unfortunately was not appreciated by the pastor's wife for the metaphor it was, was that the woman cutting the cake was a reverse Robin Hood, robbing from the skinny to give to the fat.
As I was decided to leave the party at that point, Paul himself by his own criteria won't back up the leadership at fault with its own house, which is what the NIV does in I Corinthians, nor from Acts is it in solidarity with the other apostles.
If we let the minister have the big piece of cake picking the
version he reads from, then the smaller piece falls to us to try to
make that version functional. The NIV has its virtues. It promotes
That was when he saw the blue car behind him. She wore sunglasses, but he recognized her instantly. Walker only kept his eyes on the mirror for a second because now he was worried, and he didn't want her to notice him staring at her. She was f___ing following him. There was no other explanation. No wonder she looked scared when he walked past the mailboxes. Shit. Why the hell was she interested in him? Whatever the reason, Walker knew it wasn't good.
Primarily, the NIV
takes its many negatives and turns them into positives in its Preface.
The best Greek scholars who have looked at it say the manuscripts used
were perfectly awful. The Preface tells us they used the best
manuscripts. Philologists (and my own observations) tell us it
uses more difficult English than the KJV. The NIV Preface says it's clearer.
Philologists tell us a translator should translate the
reader not the writer, but the NIV preface says they translated the
writers to be sure they were accurate. The NIV fails several of the Biblical
tests for high leadership, but the Preface tells us it's suitable
for the many uses we reserve for a reliable Bible. Its very
popularity says we cannot take seriously books like my friend's
list of its many faults. About the best spin we could put on it is
to take its Preface at face value and disregard its critics for not
following the masses.
She stayed a couple of steps behind him, not too close. Walker was acutely aware that the gun was still cocked. He hoped to hell she wouldn't pull the trigger by accident. Once he crawled through the window, he would make a move when she tried to follow him. No way she could climb in that window and keep the gun on him the whole time. Maybe it was lucky as hell he forgot the key. Eddie Rollins said that all men get their lucky breaks, it's just that not everybody knows how to recognize them.
The real problem occurs when we try to introduce the NIV with all its failings into a traditional service. Even the NIV Preface with all its accolades doesn't go that far, to say they made the NIV a traditional book. I mean, like, I've got my "special commemorative American Bicentennial Second Edition Holy Bible, [hoped to] become a treasured heirloom in your family , to be handed down to your children and grandchildren. ... The text is the beloved King James Version with American spelling and pronunciation aids. Accompanying God's Holy Word, to be illumined by such company, are carefully chosen features. A beautiful Presentation Page identifies with our God and Country theme. There is a convenient eight page Family Register section, ... A special eight-page section reproduces famous Documents in American history. The official portraits of all American Presidents are beautifully reproduced in full color in an outstanding thirty-eight page section that your family will prize. A unique pictorial section dealing with our Bible's development illustrates the Bible as our most precious heritage. Also included is a special section showing the importance of the Bible in the Christian home." Traditional Bibles use the KJV. oh, I've seen shelves full of NIV Bibles at the store, and even NIV study Bibles, but it just hasn't been around long enough to be considered traditional. Even at the Lutheran church I attended before I came here, although they had completely gone over to the NIV, still they resorted to the KJV for their traditional ceremonies.
The reason I am writing to the elders is that "Right-on" wouldn't follow my suggestion to rely mostly on the KJV in the traditional service. Personally, I don't think the NIV should be used in any service, but if he wanted to use it in a contemporary service, I'd allow him the liberty, especially since he does on occasion refer to the KJV. I acknowledge that ministers want some liberty, but they can only take so much with the Bible for the mere nature of the beast. To start with, it's not of any private interpretation. The pastor of the totally mixed church, when he went to pastor his first church found that they all used the KJV and insisted it was the only Bible through whom God spoke in English, but he stuck with his own version so as not to be of a "spirit of conformity." It just doesn't work that way; the Bible is something to which we all conform, as brought to us by the church elders from way back.
He eventually had to leave that church, so he started one of his own from scratch. Every new member was from a different denominational background, but each used the KJV. He stuck with his own version because he said it would be more understandable to the new member. They had a big evangelical drive to get new members, and the only one they got was me. He stuck with his guns. His church fell apart, his wife divorced him, and he moved to Florida, but I still talk to his son sometimes.
A traditional service is similar. "Right-on" exercised his liberty in instituting a traditional service, but the NIV isn't traditional, and it might have trouble qualifying as a Bible. The Bible, and the KJV, is something that's come down to us; we don't have the liberty to change it.
Maybe there are better ways to look at the issue.
"You know who Eddie Rollins is?" He asked he.
You know, a lot of confusion can happen just because we fail to see ourselves in various biblical examples. I mean, do they have to have our names in them?
I was visiting another friend a recent convert who lives up the street from our church. I asked him if he had a Bible. He said he was given a couple of them. I asked if he had one that was the King James Version. He said he had a Gideon's New Testament which was King James and that was the only version he could understand. I showed him my Gideon's New Testament, same as his except a different color.
He asked me if he should be reading it. I told him it was a good idea and suggested he start with John. He told me the assistant minister had suggested he start with Mark because it was easy to understand. I told him they were both good places to start. We made plans to go buy him a full King James Bible one day.
He went and got the two Bibles that were given him, the New King James Version donated by a minister and a Contemporary English Version donated by someone else. He told me he didn't want them and asked me to get rid of them for him. Well, they were his Bibles to do with as he chose, and I sure don't have much respect for those versions, so I did as he asked. Not wanting to carry them all the way home, I dropped them in the church dumpster I passed.
I was discussing a sermon with another friend and mentioned that while I liked the sermon, I would have appreciated it more if it were in the KJV. He said that the NIV and the other modern versions have serious problems. He said his daughter showed a list of changes to her Assembly of God church and that came back to the KJV from the NIV as a result. He loaned me a 700 page book on the subject which enumerates many more serious problems than I was aware of. His whole family seems to be against the modern versions. He'd taken his objection to a higher level than the other, and for different reasons. He has his family actively opposed to them, not just himself.
Me, I've wound up my objections to a higher level still. The way Zondervan twisted the apostle Paul's words, I figure they should be sued, but Paul doesn't have a copyright. No problem. We were studying another Zondervan book in our Friday morning men's group, a book that our assistant minister had recommended, when I found they had plagiarized Walt Disney, and then turned it around to make him look bad. Not good. Well, Disney had a copyright, so I sent the book to Walt Disney, told them where to look, and included a signed letter from the publisher admitting their source. Disney sent me a thank-you letter, although they won't reveal anything about their confidential investigation, but it can't be anything good for that publisher.
On the other hand, "Right-on" and various guest speakers all seem to use the New International Version or ones like it. Furthermore, we have printed on our bulletins that we are a "family of Bible believing Christians." Now, I maintain that it is hard to understand how all three can be true. If our preachers are preaching from the new versions, they are defining them as our Bible, which then some members are going about to trash, at various levels, so how can we as a family say we believe it?
Each following his light has led to a royal mixup, which suggests we are following the course of the builders of the tower of Babel. They didn't want to have separate languages which they were supposed to do to disperse their families upon the earth, so they were teaching everyone to speak the same Hamitic tongue. We don't want to maintain a separate Bible English dialect so we are promoting English Bibles in our regular dialect. (But it was from some of the Shemitic languages that God's word came to us, and the state of those languages in the fullness of time is in English most accurately reflected in our Bible dialect.) God confused their tongues so they had a hard time understanding each other. God has confused our modern Bible translations to where the one I'm most familiar with is in absolute contradiction to the one our leaders are using now, and following our lights has led to a questionable interpretation of being a family of Bible believers. They left off building the tower, and our men's group got suspended too. They realized they would have to maintain separate languages, and I believe maybe we might be starting to realize we should try to maintain a separate Bible dialect too.
Then there's the matter of trusting our leadership.
Finally, he told Denise he was out of gin. She was so suspicious that she went into the kitchen to look for herself, which pissed him off. If he said he was out of gin, why'd she have to search the place? Walker had read in one of Eddie's books that two people can't have a successful relationship if they don't trust each other. He'd have liked to read that to Denise and see what she thought. Probably go right over her head. Walker did have a quart of Gilbey's under the sink, but Denise didn't look there, so then she believed him.91
Sure if they're preaching all those neat ministries in Acts, sounds real good, but what about the name of Barnabas there in the background? I mean, it's supposed to remind us of what Noah's name meant, and so give us a bit of a clue that God considered Barnabas a righteous dude. I wouldn't have so much a problem with trust if a contemporary name were limited to a contemporary service.
And the NIV still says what it says about mixed marriages in I Cor. 7, and people still might read it, and if we give the NIV too much honor they might feel they have to follow it. I mean, the unwarranted honor we give the NIV if we include it in even traditional services can give false confidence in its sayings.
Walker knew that around six Denise would be by. The thought made him shudder. He had to find a way to end things with her. One of Eddie's books talked a lot about screwed-up relationships between men and women and how to improve them. Walker decided he should read that section again, but he really wasn't much interested in improving things with Denise any- more.92
I don't mean to undermine the trust and freedom given a minister of
the gospel, but I feel my request for a traditional version in a
traditional service has some merit too.
When he got in the car Walker said to her, "Eddie Rollins would be proud a us. We're turnin' this situation into something more positive every day."93
Yours in Christ, Earl Gosnell
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Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III
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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