Priesthood of All Believers


Causes of Corruption New Testament Text

In my personal library, I've got, besides copies of the King James Bible, a J.B. Phillips New Testament, The Living Bible, and one other version--that a lot of people use. Most Christians know to not to take the first two seriously, and I've put warnings on the outside of the last to clue in the unwary. Maybe these books will be useful for something, the authoritative King James Version notwithstanding.

stand-in believer A friend of mankind.

Today we want to look at a hypothetical preacher-man:

The Interpersonal361

The oversocial person tends toward extroversion. He seeks people and wants them to seek him out. He is also afraid that they will ignore him. ... His unconscious attitude is summarized by, "Although no one is interested in me, I'll make people pay attention to me in any way I can." His inclination is always to seek companionship, for he is the type who can't stand to be alone. All of his activities will be designed to be done in a group.
    The interpersonal behavior of the oversocial type of person is designed to focus attention on himself, to make people notice him, to be prominent. ... A subtle technique is to try to ... be well-liked, but it is still for the primary purpose of gaining attention.
    The overpersonal type attempts to become extremely close to others. He definitely wants others to treat him in a very close way. ... Being liked is extremely important to him in his attempt to relieve his anxiety about being always rejected and unloved. ... The subtle technique is manipulative and possessive, to devour friends and subtly punish any attempts by them to establish other friendships.
    The basic feelings for the overpersonal [cause] responses ... motivated by a strong need for affection, accompanied by a strong anxiety about ever being loved and basically about being unlovable.

The questions we are asking about this sociable preacher have to do with possible conflicts between his motivation to gain "attention to me in any way I can" and his calling to be faithful to God's word. He wants to be close to people in the language he uses, so on occasion has used a generic she construction--favored by some academics--in his sermons to help relate to the vanishingly rare feminist in his audience. The problem with that, of course, is God's word specifically forbids women to worship with their heads uncovered "because of the angels" who undoubtedly understand our custom of pronoun usage to suggest woman's subordinate role.

Okay, that would be bad enough, but then bearing in mind, "The Lib female really doesn't hate men; she hates the women men love,"362 and one member of the congregation seeks to establish friendship with the (submissive) "women men love" by criticizing a publication using the generic she, taking his criticism through all stages of Matthew 18, and the preacher responds by disbanding the men's group which had but furnished the two witnesses needed in the biblical process, might we not then wonder if he were not "subtly punishing any attempts by him to establish other friendships"?

Okay, the crux probably has to do with that publisher having printed a bible version--in my library with warnings--that the preacher uses as one of his many means to establish friendly rapport with his audience by using language familiar to them as opposed to the King James Version which is a better vehicle for God's word, but not in day-to-day use. Can a preacher use such a newer version and not somehow fail in his calling to preach God's word?

First, as I understand scripture, our very human speech and hearing habits might be at variance with the pure word of God He wants to convey. (Exodus 6:12-13) "And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips? And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt." (Isaiah 6:5-8) "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." (Jeremiah 6:10) "To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it." It seems to me that unless God has touched the lips or given His charge, then in vain would man hold forth His word.



    In order, therefore, to discover the true principles of New Testament textual criticism we must turn neither to the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church nor to the equally arbitrary dicta of the naturalistic critics but to the teaching of the New Testament itself. The following is a brief outline of this teaching which will be developed more fully in the chapters that follow.

(a) The Universal Priesthood of all Believers

    As we have seen, the study of the Old Testament indicates that the Old Testament Scriptures were preserved through the divinely appointed Old Testament priesthood. The Holy Spirit guided the priests to gather the separate parts of the Old Testament into one Old Testament canon and to maintain the purity of the Old Testament text. Have the New Testament Scriptures been preserved in this official manner? In the New Testament Church has there ever been a special, divinely appointed organization of priests with authority to make decisions concerning the New Testament text or the books that should belong to the New Testament canon? No! Not at all! When Christ died upon the cross, the veil of the Temple was rent in sunder, and the Old Testament priesthood was done away forever. There has never been a special order of priests in the New Testament Church. Every believer is a priest under Christ, the great High Priest. (1 Peter 2: 9, Rev. 1: 5-6).
    Just as the divine glories of the New Testament are brighter far than the glories of the Old Testament, so the manner in which God has preserved the New Testament text is far more wonderful than the manner in which He preserved the Old Testament text. God preserved the Old Testament text by means of something physical and external, namely, the Aaronic priesthood. God has preserved the New Testament text by means of something inward and spiritual, namely, the universal priesthood of believers, through the leading, that is to say, of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individual Christians of every walk of life.

(b) The Writing of the New Testament Books

    The writing of the New Testament as well as the preservation of it was a fulfillment of the promises of Christ that His Word should be forever preserved. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matt. 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21-33). As the Saviour was about to return to His heavenly Father, He left His Apostles this blessed assurance: These things have I spoken unto you being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:25-26). Here we see that both the agreements of the Four Gospels with one another and their differences are due to the inspiration which the Apostles received from the Holy Spirit and the control which He exercised over their minds and memories.
     In the Gospels, therefore, Jesus reveals Himself through the story of His earthly ministry. The rest of the New Testament books are His divine commentary on the meaning of that ministry, and in these books also Jesus reveals Himself. These remaining books were written in accordance with His promise to His Apostles: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself: but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come (John 16:12-13). It was in fulfillment of this promise that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, filled their minds and hearts with the message of the risen, exalted Lord, and sent them out to preach this message, first to the Jews at Jerusalem and then to all the world. Then followed the conversion of the Apostle Paul and the Epistles which he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Then James, Peter, John, and Jude were inspired to write their Epistles, and Luke to tell the story of the Acts of the Apostles. Finally, the Revelation proceeded from the inspired pen of John on Patmos, announcing those things that were yet to come. Volumes, of course, could be filled with a discussion of these sacred developments, but here a bare statement of the essential facts must suffice.

(c) The Formation of the New Testament Canon

    After the New Testament books had been written, the next step in the divine program for the New Testament Scriptures was the gathering of these individual books into one New Testament canon in order that thus they might take their place beside the books of the Old Testament canon as the concluding portion of God's holy Word. Let us now consider how this was accomplished under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.364
    The first New Testament books to be assembled together were the Epistles of Paul. The Apostle Peter, shortly before he died, referred to Paul's Epistles as Scripture and in such a way as to indicate that at least the beginning of such a collection had already been made (2 Peter 3:15-16). Even radical scholars, such as E. J. Goodspeed (1926),365 agree that a collection of Paul's Epistles was in circulation in the beginning of the 2nd century and that Ignatius (117) referred to it. When the Four Gospels were collected together is unknown, but it is generally agreed that this must have taken place before 170 A.D. because at that time Tatian made his Harmony of the Gospels (Diatessaron), which included all four of the canonical Gospels and only these four. Before 200 A.D. Paul, the Gospels, Acts, 1 Peter and 1 John were recognized as Scripture by Christians everywhere (as the writings of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian prove) and accorded an authority equal to that of the Old Testament Scriptures. It was Tertullian, moreover, who first applied the name New Testament to this collection of apostolic writings.366
    The seven remaining books, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, were not yet unanimously accepted as Scripture. By the time the 4th century had arrived, however, few Christians seem to have questioned the right of these disputed books to a place in the New Testament canon. Eminent Church Fathers of that era, such as Athanasius, Augustine, and Jerome, include them in their lists of New Testament books. Thus through the Holy Spirit's guidance of individual believers, silently and gradually--but nevertheless surely, the Church as a whole was led to a recognition of the fact that the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, and only these books, form the canon which God gave to be placed beside the Old Testament Scriptures as the authoritative and final revelation of His will.
    This guidance of the Holy Spirit was negative as well as positive. It involved not only the selection of canonical New Testament books but also the rejection of many non-canonical books which were mistakenly regarded as canonical by some of the early Christians. Thus the Shepherd of Hermas was used as holy Scripture by Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, and the same status was wrongly given to the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles by Clement and Origen. Clement likewise commented on the Apocalypse of Peter and the Epistle of Barnabas, to which Origen also accorded the title "catholic." And in addition, there were many false Gospels in circulation, as well as numerous false Acts ascribed to various Apostles. But although some of these non-canonical writings gained temporary acceptance in certain quarters, this state of affairs lasted for but a short time. Soon all Christians everywhere were led by the Holy Spirit to repudiate these spurious works and to receive only the canonical books as their New Testament Scriptures.

The Preservation of the New Testament Text

    Thus the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to gather the individual New Testament books into one New Testament canon and to reject all non-canonical books. In the same manner also the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to preserve the New Testament text by receiving the true readings and rejecting the false. Certainly it would be strange if it were otherwise. It would have been passing strange if God had guided His people in regard to the New Testament canon but had withheld from them His divine assistance in the matter of the New Testament text. This would mean that Bible believing Christians today could have no certainty concerning the New Testament text but would be obliged to rely on the hypotheses of modern, naturalistic critics.
    But God in His mercy did not leave His people to grope after the True New Testament Text. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit He guided them to preserve it during the manuscript period. God brought this to pass through the working of His preserving and governing providence. First, many trustworthy copies of the original New Testament manuscripts were produced by faithful scribes. Second, these trustworthy copies were read and recopied by true believers down through the centuries. Third, untrustworthy copies were not so generally read or so frequently recopied. Although they enjoyed some popularity for a time, yet in the long run they were laid aside and consigned to oblivion. Thus as a result of this special providential guidance the True Text won out in the end, and today we may be sure that the text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts is a trustworthy reproduction of the divinely inspired Original Text. This is the text which was preserved by the God-guided usage of the Greek Church. Critics have called it the Byzantine text, thereby acknowledging that it was the text in use in the Greek Church during the greater part of the Byzantine period (452-1453). It is much better, however, to call this text the Traditional Text. When we call the text found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts the Traditional Text, we signify that this is the text which has been handed down by the God-guided tradition of the Church from the time of the Apostles unto the present day.
    A further step in the providential preservation of the New Testament was the printing of it in 1516 and the dissemination of it through the whole of Western Europe during the Protestant Reformation. In the first printing of the Greek New Testament we see God's preserving providence working hiddenly and, to the outward eye, accidentally. The editor, Erasmus, performed his task in great haste in order to meet the deadline set by the printer, Froben of Basle. Hence this first edition contained a number of errors of a minor sort, some of which persisted in later editions. But in all essentials the New Testament text first printed by Erasmus and later by Stephanus (1550) and Elzevir (1633) is in full agreement with the Traditional Text providentially preserved in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. This printed text is commonly called the Textus Receptus (Received Text). It is the text which was used by the Protestant Reformers during the Reformation and by all Protestants everywhere for three hundred years thereafter. Hence the printing of it was, after all, no accident but the work of God's special providence.
    The special providence of God is particularly evident in the fact that the text of the Greek New Testament was first printed and published not in the East but in Western Europe where the influence of the Latin usage and of the Latin Vulgate was very strong. Through the influence of the Latin-speaking Church Erasmus and his successors were providentially guided to follow the Latin Vulgate here and there in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Hence the Textus Receptus was a further step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin speaking Church of Western Europe.
    Thus God by His special providence has preserved the New Testament text in a three-fold way through the universal priesthood of believers. In the first place, during the fourteen centuries in which the New Testament circulated in manuscript form God worked providentially through the usage of the Greek-speaking Church to preserve the New Testament text in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. In this way the True New Testament Text became the prevailing Traditional Text. In the second place, during the 16th century when the New Testament text was being printed for the first time, God worked providentially through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church to influence Erasmus and the other editors and printers of that period to follow the Latin Vulgate in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Then in the third place, during the 450 years which have elapsed since the first printing of the New Testament, God has been working providentially through the usage of Bible-believing Protestants to place and keep the stamp of His approval upon this God-guided printed text. It is upon this Textus Receptus that the King James Version and the other classic Protestant translations are based.

(e) Alternative Views of the Providential Preservation of the New Testament

    We see now how Christ has fulfilled His promise always to preserve in His Church the True New Testament Text, namely, through the universal priesthood of believers. In the special providence of God believers down through the ages have been guided to reject false readings and preserve the true, so that today the True New Testament Text is found in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, in the Textus Receptus, and in the King James Version and the other classic Protestant translations. But because of the opposition of unbelievers conservative Christian scholars have become increasingly reluctant to adopt this view and have offered various alternatives in place of it. Let us therefore consider briefly these alternative views of God's providential preservation of the New Testament text.
    The alleged agreement of all the New Testament manuscripts in matters of doctrine.
In dealing with the problems of the New Testament text most conservatives place great stress on the amount of agreement alleged to exist among the extant New Testament manuscripts. These manuscripts, it is said, agree so closely with one another in matters of doctrine that it does not make much difference which manuscript you follow. The same essential teaching is preserved in them all. This reputed agreement of all the extant New Testament manuscripts in doctrinal matters is ascribed to divine providence and regarded as the fulfillment of the promise of Christ always to preserve in His Church a trustworthy New Testament text.
    This is the thought that was emphasized by Richard Bentley (1713) in his celebrated reply to the free-thinker, Anthony Collins, who asserted that New Testament textual criticism had made the sacred text uncertain. This charge, Bentley rejoined, was baseless. "The real text of the sacred writers does not now (since the originals have been so long lost) lie in any single manuscript or edition, but is dispersed in them all. 'Tis competently exact indeed even in the worst manuscript now extant; choose as awkwardly as you can, choose the worst by design, out of the whole lump of readings.... Make your 30,000 (variant readings) as many more, if numbers of copies can ever reach that sum: all the better to a knowing and serious reader, who is thereby more richly furnished to select what he sees genuine. But even put them into the hands of a knave or a fool, and yet with the most sinistrous and absurd choice, he shall not extinguish the light of any one chapter, nor so disguise Christianity but that every feature of it will still be the same."367
    Since the days of Bentley countless conservative scholars have adopted this same apologetic approach to the study of the New Testament text. New Testament textual criticism, they have affirmed, can do no harm to the Christian faith, because the special providence of God has brought it to pass that the differences which exist among the extant New Testament manuscripts do not affect any essential point of doctrine. This theory, however, presupposes an extremely mechanical and unhistorical conception of the providential preservation of Scripture. According to this theory, God in some mechanical way must have prevented heretical scribes from inserting into the New Testament manuscripts which they were copying readings that favored their false views. Or, if God did now and then allow an heretical reading to creep into a manuscript, He must have quickly brought about the destruction of that manuscript before the false reading could be transferred to another manuscript and thus propagated. But the testimony of history indicates that God's providential preservation of Scripture did not function in any such mechanical fashion but organically through the Church. Heretical readings were invented and did circulate for a time, but they were rejected by the universal priesthood of believers under the guidance of God.
,br>     (2) The true reading preserved in at least one of the extant manuscripts.

Many conservative scholars seem to feel that God's providential care over the New Testament text is adequately defined by the saying that the true reading has been preserved in at least one of the extant New Testament manuscripts. Theodor Zahn (1909) gave expression to this point of view in the following words: "Though the New Testament text can be shown to have met with varying treatment, it has never as yet been established from ancient citations, nor made really probable on internal grounds, that a single sentence of the original text has disappeared altogether from the text transmitted in the Church, that is, of all the manuscripts of the original and of the ancient translations."368 In other words, the true reading is always to be found in some one or other of the extant manuscripts. The only question is, which one.
    Zahn's doctrine seems to be comforting at first glance, but on closer analysis this comfort soon disappears. Has the special providence of God over the New Testament text done no more than to preserve the true readings somewhere, that is to say, in some one or other of the great variety of New Testament manuscripts now existing in the world? If Christ has done no more than this, how can it be said that He has fulfilled His promise always to preserve in His Church the True New Testament Text? How can His people ever be certain that they have the True New Testament Text? For not all the extant New Testament manuscripts have yet been discovered. No doubt many of them still remain in the obscurity into which they were plunged centuries ago, concealed in holes, ruins, and other unknown places. How can we be sure that many true readings are not hiding in these undiscovered manuscripts? And even if this is not the case, how can we be certain which of the known manuscripts contain the true reading in places in which these manuscripts differ? For Christians troubled with doubts like these Zahn's theory is no help at all.

    (3) Are naturalistic New Testament textual critics providentially guided?

Many conservatives have adopted the theory that it is through textual criticism, and especially through the textual criticism of Westcott and Hort, that Christ has fulfilled His promise always to preserve in His Church the True New Testament Text. In regard to this matter J. H. Skilton (1946) writes as follows: "Textual Criticism, in God's providence, is the means provided for ascertaining the true text of the Bible."369 And half a century earlier Dr. B. B. Warfield (1893) expressed himself in a very similar manner. "In the sense of the Westminster Confession, therefore, the multiplication of copies of the Scriptures, the several early efforts towards the revision of the text, the raising up of scholars in our own day to collect and collate manuscripts, and to reform them on scientific principles--of our Tischendorfs and Tregelleses, and Westcotts and Horts--are all parts of God's singular care and providence in preserving His inspired Word pure."370
    Dr. B. B. Warfield was an outstanding defender of the orthodox Christian faith, so much so that one hesitates to criticize him in any way. Certainly no Bible-believing Christian would wish to say anything disrespectful concerning so venerable a Christian scholar. But nevertheless it is a fact that Dr. Warfield's thinking was not entirely unified. Through his mind ran two separate trains of thought which not even he could join together. The one train of thought was dogmatic, going back to the Protestant Reformation. When following this train of thought Dr. Warfield regarded Christianity as true. The other train of thought was apologetic, going back to the rationalistic viewpoint of the 18th century. When following this train of thought Dr. Warfield regarded Christianity as merely probable. And this same divided outlook was shared by Dr. Warfield's colleagues at Princeton Seminary and by conservative theologians and scholars generally throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Even today this split-level thinking is still a factor to be reckoned with in conservative circles, although in far too many instances it has passed over into modernism.
    Dr. Warfield's treatment of the New Testament text illustrates this cleavage in his thinking. In the realm of dogmatics he agreed with the Westminster Confession that the New Testament text had been "kept pure in all ages" by God's "singular care and providence," but in the realm of New Testament textual criticism he agreed with Westcott and Hort in ignoring God's providence and even went so far as to assert that the same methods were to be applied to the text of the New Testament that would be applied to the text of a morning newspaper. It was to bridge the gap between his dogmatics and his New Testament textual criticism that he suggested that God had worked providentially through Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort to preserve the New Testament text. But this suggestion leads to conclusions which are extremely bizarre and inconsistent. It would have us believe that during the manuscript period orthodox Christians corrupted the New Testament text, that the text used by the Protestant Reformers was the worst of all, and that the True Text was not restored until the 19th century, when Tregelles brought it forth out of the Pope's library, when Tischendorf rescued it from a waste basket on Mt. Sinai, and when Westcott and Hort were providentially guided to construct a theory of it which ignores God's special providence and treats the text of the New Testament like the text of any other ancient book. But if the True New Testament Text was lost for 1500 years, how can we be sure that it has ever been found again?

(f) The Principles of Consistently Christian New Testament Textual Criticism

    Bentley, Zahn, Warfield, and countless others have tried to devise a theory of the special providential preservation of the Scriptures which leaves room for naturalistic New Testament textual criticism. But this is impossible, for the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Naturalistic New Testament textual criticism requires us to treat the text of the New Testament like the text of any other ancient book, in other words, to ignore or deny the special providential preservation of the Scriptures. Hence if we really believe in the special providential preservation of the Scriptures, then we cannot follow the naturalistic method of New Testament textual criticism.
    For a believer, then, the only alternative is to follow a consistently Christian method of New Testament textual criticism in which all the principles are derived from the Bible itself and none is borrowed from the textual criticism of other ancient books. In the preceding pages we have striven to present such a consistently Christian New Testament textual criticism, and now we will recapitulate and summarize its principles briefly:
    Principle One: The Old Testament text was preserved by the Old Testament priesthood and the scribes and scholars that grouped themselves around that priesthood.
    Principle Two: When Christ died upon the cross, the Old Testament priesthood was abolished. In the New Testament dispensation every believer is a priest under Christ the great High Priest. Hence the New Testament text has been preserved by the universal priesthood of believers, by faithful Christians in every walk of life.
    Principle Three: The Traditional Text, found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, is the True Text because it represents the God-guided usage of this universal priesthood of believers.
    Principle Four: The first printed text of the Greek New Testament represents a forward step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe. In other words, the editors and printers who produced this first printed Greek New Testament text were providentially guided by the usage of the Latin-speaking Church to follow the Latin Vulgate in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading.
    Principle Five: Through the usage of Bible-believing Protestants God placed the stamp of His approval on this first printed text, and it became the Textus Receptus (Received Text). It is the printed form of the Traditional Text found in the vast majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts.
    Principle Six: The King James (Authorized) Version is an accurate translation of the Textus Receptus. On it God has placed the stamp of His approval through the long continued usage of English-speaking believers. Hence it should be used and defended today by Bible-believing Christians.

Okay, let's take a smaller task; we find our preacher going through the book of Acts. Fine, that's a history, so let's ask how we must maintain a history apart from corruption by uncircumcised lips.

I should measure out my facts, so that all who read can discern the pattern of events with clarity. This, in my opinion, is what proper history should be. I know what the philosophers say, that the purpose of history should be to illustrate the noblest deeds of the greatest men, to give examples for the present generation of debased inferiors to emulate, but I do believe that great men and noble deeds can look after themselves; few, in any case, stand up to much close examination. The view is not unchallenged anyway, I think, as the theologians wag their fingers and say that truly the whole purpose of history is to reveal the wondrous hand of God as He intervenes in the affairs of man. But I find this a doubtful program as well, at least as it is commonly practiced. Is His plan truly revealed in the laws of kings, the actions of politicians or the words of bishops? Can we easily believe that such liars, brutes and hypocrites are His chosen instruments? I cannot credit it; we no not study the policies of King Herod for lessons, but rather seek out the words of the least of his subjects, who finds no mention in any of the histories. Look through the works of Suetonius and Agricola; study Pliny and Quintilian, Plutarch and Josephus, and you will see that the greatest event of all, the most important happening in the entire history of the world, entirely passed them by despite their wisdom and learning. In the time of Vespasian (as Lord Bacon says) there was a prophecy that one who came out of Judaea should rule the world; this plainly meant our Savior, but Tacitus (in his History) thought only of Vespasian himself.
--Iain Pears, An Instance of the Fingerpost371

My thought is along similar lines, that if secular historians missed the story of the gospel completely, then how are we to trust unbelievers like Westcott and Hort whose natural textual criticism was used to collate the inferior Greek texts used by virtually all modern versions? Might we not rather want to trust the providence of God as developed above in maintaining a viable history of the spread of the gospel in Acts in the King James Version? The historian's starting point was, "I should measure out my facts, so that all who read can discern the pattern of events with clarity." According to the NIV Preface, "the Committee on Bible Translation held certain goals for the New International Version: ... that it would have clarity." Let's see how well the NIV compares to the KJV here.

We've been comparing such words as scorn, mock, taunt. We find wisdom lamenting--KJV--: (Proverbs 1:22) "Scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge." And let's look at some uses of scorn :

He was one of those who considered everybody to be his inferior, no matter what their station, attainments or quality. No monarch was as adept as he at ruling kingdoms, no bishop as well versed in theology, no lawyer as subtle as he at preparing a case. Oddly, the one area where his arrogance did not rule was the one where it might have been justifiable, which was in his skill at chemical experimentation.
    The other curiosity about him was that, although he treated everybody with scorn, he gave tirelessly of his time and effort once his curiosity was engaged. Human beings he could not deal with, but set him a problem and he would work to exhaustion. Although he should have aroused little but disgust, I nonetheless developed a cautious regard for the man.372
    ... My discretion was not because I was ashamed to consort with her; it was too precious to be the occasion of laughter in a tavern. I know how other people consider me; the ridicule of my fellows; even those I have helped, is a cross I have borne all my life. Cola, in his manuscript, repeats the remarks of Locke and even Lower, both of whom were pleasant to my face, and whom I still count almost as friends. Prestcott took my help and laughed behind my back, Wallis did the same. I would not tarnish my affections with the scorn of others, and my regard for that girl would certainly have excited great ridicule.373
    It made no difference to me either. I take no pride in my captivity, and recall it with pain, and do not intend to defend or excuse myself. I state it as it was, and to those who scorn me (as I would do myself, were I another) I can say only this: you were not there, and do not know what magic she wrought. ...
    ... Sarah was a prophetess. Only a few hours earlier the notion would have elicited the utmost scorn from me, for the country had been benighted by such people for years, thrown into the light of day in the way that wood lice become visible when a stone is overturned.374
    "Strange," she said. "What do you think? Am I cursed or mad? Perhaps you think I am both."
    "There is no harshness or cruelty in what you say; no threats or warnings. Nothing but gentleness and love. I think you are blessed, not cursed. But blessings can be even heavier burdens, as many people in the past have discovered." I found that I was talking as quietly as she, so that I might have been talking only to myself.
    "Thank you," she said. "I did not want you of all people to scorn me."
    "Your mother knows of all this?"
    "Yes, of course. At first she thought it was just a prank, because I had always been scornful of fanatics ..."375

Let's look at wisdom's lament of how long (Proverbs 1:22) "scorners delight in their scorning," using such examples of scorn. Well, such a scorner might "consider everybody to be his inferior, no matter what their station, attainments or quality. No monarch was as adept as he at ruling kingdoms, no bishop as well versed in theology, no lawyer as subtle as he at preparing a case." He might but outwardly receive wisdom, "took my help and laughed behind my back." A scorner treats wisdom as a false prophet, "for the country had been benighted by such people for years." A scorner treats as being strange, this peaceable wisdom where, "there is no harshness or cruelty in what you say; no threats or warnings. Nothing but gentleness and love." That's enough to cause wisdom's lament.

The NIV changes wisdom's lament to be directed not at scorners, but at mockers. What's the difference?

A friend of mine was telling me how he was riding the bus with a girl who has trouble focusing. She had laid her woman's billfold on the seat next to her, so he suggested she put it in her purse before she forgets it. He could see how she didn't like him telling her what to do, so she left it there beside her.

After they had got off the bus, and walked to their destination, she realized she had left her woman's billfold on the bus. A perfect example of a scorner of wisdom coming to calamity.

He told me another story of a professor lecturing about the English language. The professor said that in most languages double negatives are allowed for emphasis, but in English they are not permitted because the second negative cancels the first. The converse, he said, is not true, two positives do not cancel each other.

At that point a voice was heard to call out, "Yeah, right!"

I'd say that is an example of mockery, in this case somewhat deserved. I've been to, say, Negro churches where it is the custom to respond to good preaching with vocal "amen's" or "preach it, brother!" I've also seen street preaching elicit sarcastic remarks.

The big difference between scorn and mockery is the one is or can be passive, but the other only active. A person can scorn wisdom silently, but must actually do something to demonstrate mockery. Wisdom's lament ties together the two attitudes, (Proverbs 1:22) "Scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge," hatred of knowledge also being an attitude.

Suppose the preacher's preaching with genuine wisdom (something I hope he does a lot) and some of his audience is scorning that wisdom, but not mocking it; he doesn't hear any sarcasm, but he doesn't see them following his good wisdom either. The question is, will the calamities predicted in vs. 26ff come only on those who actually mock wisdom, or also on the quiet scorners?

Looking at the whole context, I would say on scorners period, whether they mocked or not. The woman on the bus who scorned the wisdom to put her billfold in her purse did not magically discover it there when she needed it for the sake of her have avoided saying, "Yeah, right!" She scorned the wisdom, she reaped the consequences.

It seems that the NIV doesn't make clear what the problem is. But we might discern a motivation for the change of wording. These translators in taking on such a project were themselves scorning the wisdom of the KJV, and the followers of their translation did likewise. I mean, they "considered everybody to be their inferior, no matter what their station, attainments or quality." The gifted men who gave us our Bible dialect-- Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the KJV translators--were most qualified, way more so than modern translators, I'd say. Just as the one man arrogantly considered "no monarch was as adept as he at ruling kingdoms, no bishop as well versed in theology, no lawyer as subtle as he at preparing a case," so the modern translators consider their "older" manuscripts to be better than the majority text. They were two-faced in keeping certain verses when people complained when they were missing, but putting them into footnotes, "took my help and laughed behind my back." They treated the King James Version as a false prophet needing to be silenced. And they treated the old sounding verb endings and pronouns as being strange, this peaceable wisdom where, "there is no harshness or cruelty in what you say; no threats or warnings. Nothing but gentleness and love." The King James Bible is in an elegant, peaceable dialect not deserving of such scorn.

Perhaps it was due to a troubled conscience that the translators redirected wisdom's lament to be against mockers--as they themselves at least didn't mock that translation--, because they've scorned it in spades.

The place in my KJV Bible where mocking occurs got displaced by taunting, in one sermon at least, in (I Kings 18:27) "At noon, Elijah began to taunt them. ..." Taunting displaces the mockery of the KJV, (I Kings 18:27a) "And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them ..." Let's look at usages of both words.

I straightway went to my room and subjected myself to the most intimate of investigations, for the danger of becoming pox-ridden loomed large in my mind. I found nothing but was scarcely reassured, since I did not know anything at all of the malady. So I summoned all my courage and, red-faced with shame, took myself off to see Lower.
    "Dick," I said, "I must ask you the greatest favor, and beg for your complete discretion."
    We were in his rooms at Christ Church, a commodious apartment in the main quadrangle which he had occupied now for some years. Locke was there when I arrived, and so I forced myself into idle conversation, determined to wait as long as necessary before I got him on his own. Eventually Locke left, and Lower asked what it was I needed.
    "Ask away, and if I can oblige, I will willingly do so. You look in great distress, my friend. Are you ill?"
    "I hope not. That is what I want you to determine."
    "And what do you think it may be? What symptoms do you have?"
    "I have none."
    "No symptoms? None at all? Sounds very serious to me. I shall examine you thoroughly, then prescribe the most expensive medicines in my pharmacopoeia, and you will be well instantly. By God, Mr. Wood," he said with a smile, "you are the ideal patient; if I could have a dozen like you, I would be both rich and famous."
    "Do not joke, sir. I am deadly serious. I fear I may have caught a shocking disease."
    My manner of speaking convinced him I was in earnest and, good doctor and kind friend that he was, he instantly dropped his bantering tone. "You are certainly worried, I can see that. But you must be a little more frank. How can I tell you what your illness is unless you tell me first? I am a doctor, not a soothsayer."
    And so, with great reluctance, and fearing his mockery, I told him all. Lower grunted. "So you think this slut may have lain with everyone in Oxfordshire?"

Well, the doctor already mocked him by saying he would himself be rich and famous for instantly curing a symptomless disease. It's embarrassing to think you have a shocking disease, or an impotent god. You don't want the doctor or the prophet to mock you.

Made curious by the sound, I peered down the alley and saw a group of young oafs gathered in a semicircle against a wall. They were laughing and shouting, and I half expected to find in the center of the crowd some charlatan or raree man whose wares and tricks had failed to please. But instead it was Sarah, her hair astray, her eyes wild, her back against the wall, and they were taunting her mercilessly. Harlot, they said. Traitor's bastard. Witch's daughter.377

(Jeremiah 24:9) "And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them."

(Ezekiel 5:15) "So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I the LORD have spoken it."

(Habakkuk 2:6) "Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!"

Taunting is somewhat stronger than mockery, and I suppose the prophets of Baal would be in a similar category as "Witch's daughter," but I think nevertheless that Elijah was more in the category of the good doctor who mocked at a symptomless disease than that of young oafs hurling insults. Regardless, there is a better example for taunting the followers of a powerless Baal: (Judg. 6:31) "And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar."

The father of Gideon had more of an edge to his taunts; Elijah used plain and simple mockery. Gideon's story, we might do well to remember. Gideon had thrown down the altar of Baal, cut down his grove, and constructed an altar to Jehovah on which he sacrificed a bullock. The townsfolk wanted to punish him, but his father told them to go punish themselves if they had to defend a powerless god.

That's somewhat applicable to our earlier scenario, where I had taken steps to sue a publisher of a book that puts down men (like Walt Disney) and also of modern incorrect bible versions just as Gideon tore down an altar/grove, and I read a book promoting the KJV in Sunday School class and later published it on the internet through a men's group from an old church just as Gideon had constructed an altar to the true God. If the book that takes feminist jabs at men, the one recommended for us, was truly indefensible for use in a men's TLC (Tender Loving Care) study group, then why try to subtly punish me by disbanding the men's group? Why not rather punish oneself for recommending such books and using such Bible versions?

Isn't the above paragraph more like a taunt, and my other wordy comparisons of the two versions plain mockery?

Okay, we're coming up to the following place in our Acts series, (Acts 17:32) "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." The NIV uses the stronger term, "some of them sneered ..." We've already looked at uses of mock; let's find some for sneer.

He saw his enemies everywhere and trusted no one. Read him. Does he say anything good about anyone? He lived in a world where everyone was a fool, a liar, a murderer, a cheat or a traitor. He even sneers at Mr. Newton, denigrates Mr. Boyle, exploits the weaknesses of Lower.378
    I will not recount the conversation as it actually took place; stripped of his sneering remarks379 about my character, the essence of his version is accurate enough.380
    "Very well then, physician, take your payment."
    And, as Cola says, again with perfect truth, she lay herself down and pulled up her dress, revealing herself to him with the most obscene of gestures. But Cola does not mention the tone of her voice, the way her words trembled with anger and contempt, and the sneer on her face as she spoke.

Nobody called him "Sniper" to his face, only behind his back--the older ones with a taint of envy, the younger ones with a slight sneer. But they all acknowledged that Percy Martins carried weight.
--Gerald Seymour, Condition Black382

It just seems to me that in Athens the people were into hearing new ideas, not sneering at everyone with one, and Paul didn't have character deficiencies to invite sneers, he didn't behave with impropriety to invite them, and he didn't occupy a position of authority to them (load of bricks?) that would make him a target. No, simple mockery à la KJV will suffice.

Or look at some poetic examples:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening383
          Whose woods these are I think I know.
          His house is in the village, though;
          He will not see me stopping here
          To watch his woods fill up with snow.

          My little horse must think it queer
          To stop without a farmhouse near
          Between the woods and frozen lake
          The darkest evening of the year.

          He gives his harness bells a shake
          To ask if there is some mistake.
          The only other sound's the sweep
          Of easy wind and downy flake.

          The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
          But I have promises to keep,
          And miles to go before I sleep,
          And miles to go before I sleep.

                                   Matthew Arnold
The Last Word384
          Creep into thy narrow bed,
          Creep, and let no more be said!
          Vain thy onset! all stands fast;
          Thou thyself must break at last.

          Let the long contention cease!
          Geese are swans, and swans are geese.
          Let them have it how they will!
          Thou art tired; best be still!

          They out-talk'd thee, hiss'd thee, tore thee.
          Better men fared thus before thee;
          Fired their ringing shot and pass'd,
          Hotly charged--and broke at last.

          Charge once more, then, and be dumb!
          Let the victors when they come,
          When the forts of folly fall,
          Find thy body by the wall!

                                   Matthew Arnold

Comparing the two poems, I think the citizens of Athens, the unreceptive ones, were more like the horse mocking by shaking his harness at something he thinks "queer"--the resurrection--than like a sneering crowd: "They out-talk'd thee, hiss'd thee, tore thee," which reception Paul had plenty of elsewhere.

The historian's starting point was, "I should measure out my facts, so that all who read can discern the pattern of events with clarity." The NIV doesn't give us the clear accurate picture as does the KJV. In the final analysis I don't think the NIV is universally accepted as is the KJV, though this last is reported by some to be hard to read, which I somewhat doubt. Our preacher has a noble receptive audience, and if some mock, they are mocking the Bible version he uses, not him so much, while others would want to continue with it. Our advice is for him to challenge his congregation with the KJV in the traditional service--a congregation that responds well to challenges.


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


Copyright © 2004, Earl S. Gosnell III

Creative Commons Licence
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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