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.
A friend of mankind.
Today we want to look at a hypothetical preacher-man:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
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 (1822-1888)
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 (1822-1888)
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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Copyright © 2004, 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.
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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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