Monday, December 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quotes against Westcott and Hort from scholars of their time

INVENTION UPON IMAGINATION UPON CONJECTURE: Prebendary Scrivener, assessing the textual theory of Westcott and Hort that defends the use of the Alexandrian Greek texts in the revision of 1881:
1) There is little hope for the stability of their imposing structure, if its foundations have been laid on the sandy ground of ingenious conjecture. And, since barely the smallest vetige of historical evidence has ever been alleged in support of the views of those accomplished Editors, their teaching must either be received as intuitively true, or dismissed from our consideration as precarious and even visionary.

2) Dr. Hort's System is entirely destitute of historical foundation.

3) We are compelled to repeat as emphatically as ever our strong conviction that the Hypothesis to whose proof he has devoted so many laborious years, is destitute not only of historical foundation, but of all probability...

4) "We cannot doubt" (says Dr. Hort) "that S. Luke 23:34 comes from an extraneous source." Nor can we, on our part, doubt, (rejoins Dr. Scrivener) that the System which entails such consequences is hopelessly self-condemned.
[quoted in Burgon's Revision Revised as the frontispiece, from Scrivener's "Plain Introduction, 1882 edition].
The "System" he is talking about is the same reasoning that is now enshrined as Text Critical gospel in such ideas as that the texts underlying the KJV were "conflated," which is an idea they made up in order to support the other ideas they made up, such as that the Alexandrian texts they favored were closer to the original [Burgon denounces them as corrupted], and, to explain how it is that it wasn't the Alexandrian texts that got passed down through the centuries, but the texts that fed into the Textus Receptus, they added the further ingenious conjecture that eminent leaders of the early churches must have gotten together to decide on the text that came down to the translators of the KJV, now called the Textus Receptus, which ingenious conjecture was treated as fact by them. [Burgon has a lengthy section in Revision Revised demonstrating the utter stupidity of such a conjecture for supporting W&H's ideas, and showing how in fact if it were true it would demonstrate the authenticity of the Textus Receptus instead]. There isn't a shred of support for their insane historical fantasy/theory, it is all "ingenious conjecture" as Scrivener says. But over and over on Christian radio I hear otherwise good preachers reject the KJV's choice of a word ON THE VERY BASIS OF HORT'S insane purely imaginary theory.*

Bishop Wordsworth, another of their contemporaries, commenting on the English translation of the Westcott and Hort revision:

I fear that we must say in candour that in the Revised Version we meet in every page with small changes, which are vexatious, teasing and irritating, even the more so because they are small; which seem almost to be made for the sake of change . . . .

[The question arises,] -- Whether the Church of England, ---, which ... sanctioned a Revision of her Authorized Version under the express condition ... that no Changes should be made in it except what were absolutely necessary, could consistently accept a Version in which 36,000 changes have been made; not a fiftieth of which can be shown to be needed, or even desirable.
-- Bishop Wordsworth, Address to Lincoln Diocesan Conference (quoted in Revision Revised, p. 368)
Just as I hear good preachers on the radio rationalize preferring a false word based on the 1881 fraud over the KJV's, I also cringe abd groan over the multitude of UNNECESSARY WORD SUBSTITUTIONS I hear in every quoted portion of scripture that comes from one of the modern versions.

But hey, it's supposed to be just WONDERFUL that we have all these OPTIONS. Who needs a standardized Bible anyway, that all English-speaking people could share with each other without stumbling, could memorize and trust? Who cares that centuries of English preaching not to mention literature of all sorts QUOTE THE KJV where these idiotic substitutions now reign in its place and make a confused wreck of English history? Who cares that language has been trashed like this? Who cares that the Bible has been turned into a Babel of awkward phrasing and meaningless word downgrades anyway?

Excuse me while I scream and tear out my hair.

After that rant I realize I have to add, to make it clear again, that I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF KEEPING THE KJV AS OUR STANDARD JUST AS IT IS. THERE NEEDS TO BE AN UPDATING OF SOME OF ITS LANGUAGE AND A REVISION OF SOME OF ITS ERRORS, which they COULD have done in 1881 but didn't. I've been wondering if perhaps Scrivener detailed what he thought were the NEEDED CORRECTIONS to the KJV in the 1881 revision because that might be the place to start. The revision that is needed would be as conservative as the revision of 1881 was supposed to be. It would respect the historical value of the KJV and not affect the best known of the KJV's expressions unless there is some absolutely compelling need for such a change. There would not be anything like 36,000 changes, probably less than a tenth of that many, even only a fiftieth if Bishop Wordsworth is correct, in the revision that is still needed. And the Alexandrian texts would have no part in it but go back to the wastebasket to be burned where Tischendorf found one of them anyway. And of course all the modern versions that have built upon Westcott and Hort need to be retired.

* I've been getting the impression for some time now that we might as well think of the 19th century as the century of fantasy being taken for theory. That's what Darwinianism is -- just pure conjecture off the top of his head that is now enshrined as fact, and that's what Marxism is too, utterly out of touch with reality but the darling of way too many who think of themselves as scholarly, intellectual and compassionate. Same with Westcott and Hort, who were true to the mindset of the 19th century when they concocted their view of textual criticism and the history of the texts out of hot air, based only on their feelings about it and the one and only fact that the Alexandrian texts happen to be older copies, and somehow it's now THE scholarly position and the ENTIRE CHURCH follows them, with few exceptions.

This post is intended to be a reminder of the theme of this blog since I haven't been getting to it lately. These quotes alone ought to alert anyone who is half awake that there is something very very wrong with today's W&H-contaminated Bibles.

When I can get to it I want to add some quotes from Burgon I've also posted elsewhere, showing the corruption of the Alexandrian texts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Conspiracy Thinking or actual tampering with scripture by early heretics?

I once mentioned Burgon to a pastor who responded that Burgon was a conspiracy thinker. I don't think he'd ever read anything of Burgon's but he had that idea about him from somewhere.

The accusation no doubt comes from the fact that Burgon did attribute some of the errors in the Alexandrian manuscripts to tampering by heretics in the early centuries of the church. He also made it clear that this was the consensus of others besides himself, and he documented the reasons for thinking this, including the fact that some of the early fathers specifically testify of those they knew to have altered the texts of scripture to suit their heretical views. This is no mere supposition of a conspiracy, but something known to have occurred.

Edward Hills in his book The King James Version Defended reports that the story of the woman taken in adultery whom Jesus forgave was left out of some early manuscripts by some who objected to it on moral grounds, as condoning adultery, and gives much evidence that this actually occurred. He also shows in the case of the last twelve verses of Mark -- another passage that is omitted from those Greek texts preferred today by those under the spell of Westcott and Hort -- a strong likelihood of its having been eliminated by early followers of Docetism (the heretical doctrine (associated with the Gnostics) that Jesus had no human body and his sufferings and death on the cross were apparent rather than real).

The arguments for these historical occurrences take up many pages in both Hills and Burgon and gleaning the most pertinent quotes for my blog is beyond me at the moment, so this has to be just another post strongly recommending that these arguments be read, though I'd like to come back and give some more information if I can.




These are the ones who have the evidence and the right perspective, not White, not Wallace, not any of the rest of the defenders of the modern versions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Burgon's Revision Revised OUGHT to set the terms of the debate

It continues to puzzle me how it could ever have happened that the Westcott and Hort production of 1881 came to have such influence in the churches -- of course it was first accepted in the seminaries and then later by the churches, but I have the same question about that --how? What sort of blindness led so many to accept it?

Most discussions of Bible transmission and reliability assume the validity of their work; the anti-KJV-only literature also assumes the validity of their work. Westcott and Hort's Greek text is not used in its totality any more but is accepted at least to the extent of forming part of the Critical Texts in use today, such as Nestle-Aland. Even their textual theory with its purely invented claim of "conflation" in the Textus Receptus is taken seriously, and much of their English translation even continues to be carried over in subsequent translations.

After reading Burgon this all strikes me as such a dreadful mistake I mourn for the churches. I can't help thinking that if Burgon's work had been made generally known from the beginning this could not have happened. Hardly anyone reads Burgon now -- he's become pretty much the property of KJV-onlyism and few others read him. He gets footnotes in just about every discussion of Bible translation and transmission but an actual quote from his Revision Revised is a very rare find, let alone a discussion of anything he said.

Was it also the case at the beginning that Burgon was simply ignored? What happened back then? How did all that prodigious work of Burgon's get so utterly and completely buried and forgotten? Was it that the propaganda about the 1881 Revision managed to get itself falsely disseminated as the legitimate updating of the KJV it was supposed to be but never was, simply bypassing such criticism as Burgon's?

I can't help thinking that so many great men of the church who have accepted the Westcott and Hort position can't have read Burgon, such as B B Warfield, J Gresham Machen, John Warwick Montgomery, James I Packer, R C Sproul, John MacArthur and John Piper. How was it first presented to them? As above I suppose, as the legitimate updating it was supposed to be but wasn't, bypassing the criticism as if it didn't even exist. Only the one voice was heard in other words. I can only guess that must have been the case.

So is it that the horrific errors and stupidities of Westcott and Hort are unknown because nobody reads Burgon? Or, depressing thought, is it that they have read him and decided against him in favor of Westcott and Hort? In that case I would have to have a very bad opinion of their judgment, which I'd rather not have. But in either case I'd like to know what really happened, how it came about as it did.

The Bible Versions debate that has raged for a few decades now is miscast, it seems to me, it gets fought around the fringes of what's really important. Somehow from the anti-KJV-only side the debate has been cast in Westcott and Hort's own terms. They have been made the standard, simply assumed, not open to question. Burgon's work should set the standard. He should be the one who has to be answered, he should be the one whose thinking defines the terms of the debate.

As I understand it, KJV-onlyism rose up in reaction against the early uncritical acceptance of the translations that followed on the Westcott and Hort production, and skewed the focus of the debate in the wrong direction from that time on. It became a doctrinal war when it really ought to be recognized as primarily a problem of scholarship. Of course there are doctrinal issues involved but Burgon's arguments are focused on the bad scholarship of the revising committee of 1881, on their superstitious and irrational judgment of the Greek texts, their reliance on pure speculation and assumption instead of evidence, their inadequate understanding of both Greek and English, and on and on.

To read Burgon is to become acquainted with a man of careful scholarship who DOES rely on evidence and put in prodigious work mustering his evidence, but also a man of solid biblical spirituality whose judgments come across as trustworthy in a way his opponents' simply do not. He SHOWS the Westcott and Hort textual decisions, English decisions and insane Theory to be unworthy of anyone's consideration. He PROVES it.

Yet that very Westcott and Hort Trojan Horse of incompetence, bad judgment, literary philistinism and spiritual obtuseness is what is now dominating our English Bibles, while the debate rages on about a hundred irrelevancies or at least secondary issues instead.

How I wish I had the ability to do this subject justice.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Doulos -- Wrongly translated by ALL the English Versions but one?

This isn't going to be a well-researched post, just off the top of my head, so I may have to eat some of it later, you never know.

Heard part of an interview with John MacArthur on Christian radio recently, about a new book of his titled Slave -- first time I'd heard of it -- in which he apparently goes into great detail about this particular Greek word doulos that is translated "servant" in all our English Bibles (but one I'll get to), but which he insists should have been translated "slave." He seems to believe that a great deal of modern theological error that has Jesus being at OUR beck and call rather than we being at His, might never have developed if this word had been properly translated "slave." It's an interesting point.

Of course there is a technical side to this that I am not in a position to judge. I looked up the word in Burgon's Revision Revised to see if he had anything to say about it, and found him mentioning it in a paragraph about many Greek words the 1881 Revisionists had glossed with marginal notes, in the case of doulos notes that point out that it means "bondservant" although apparently in the text they had rendered it "servant" in keeping with the King James. Burgon's comment in effect was that there was no need to bother the reader with such an obvious piece of information, which implies that he thought the implication of "bondservant" quite apparent in the term "servant" already.

And perhaps it was more apparent in the English-speaking mind then than to us today, that's a historical and linguistic question, but now it doesn't carry that connotation so clearly. A servant now is someone who is hired, paid money for his work to spend as he sees fit, and independent of the employer when off duty; but a slave, and I think also a bondservant, is bought, not hired, and always at the command of the owner.

Perhaps Burgon had this in mind as attaching to the word "servant" but I don't know. In any case, John MacArthur makes some very good points in favor of the word "slave" since we are told in scripture we were "bought at a price" and are OWNED by our Lord Jesus, not merely hired by Him, and certainly we don't tell Him what to do but we are always to be like good slaves (or servants) who "wait upon" our Lord to understand His command and execute it promptly.

MacArthur is certainly right that Christians don't often live as if this were the case, but instead pray for Him to do OUR bidding more often than not rather than waiting upon HIS will. And there is this horrible contemporary theology that has sprung up that describes the Christian life as trusting Jesus to take care of what WE want and what WE think we need, to make our lives happy, improve our marriages and our finances and so on, that even objects to the idea that we are to submit to Jesus as Lord, and makes Him into our servant. I do think that this ought to be clear enough from scripture apart from however the term doulos is to be translated, but it's always good to hear this way of thinking put down and John MacArthur is always good at doing this sort of thing.

SO. Perhaps doulos would be clearer if translated "slave," if only because "servant" may have lost in our time important connotations of absolute submission to the Lord that it used to have, and perhaps that is one to put on the list for the revision of the King James I keep wanting to happen but suspect won't.

MacArthur says there is only one English Bible version that translates doulos as "slave" and that is the Holman Bible. He calls it a "wonderful" translation but it would have to have a lot more going for it than merely getting one word righter than other translations for me to consider it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Aion: Burgon's answer to the currently popular Westcott-and-Hort-inspired mistranslation

Finally I'm getting around to a topic I've wanted to cover here for some time. The impetus for doing it now came from something I heard on Christian radio yesterday. I heard only a part of a presentation by someone who was going to argue for a Preterist interpretation of Biblical references to the end times, that is, the interpretation that all or most of the prophecies of events understood by others to refer to the end of time are in reality already in the past, so those of us who look for a yet-future fulfillment are wrong. I couldn't listen to the whole thing and didn't even get the presenter's name (well, I'm not very favorable to the Preterist point of view, though I may eventually have to grapple with it). But he made one comment that stuck in my mind and leads me back to this topic I've wanted to cover here. Perhaps in fact it illuminates the kind of thinking Preterists do -- after you read the following you may agree that it's the mistranslation by the modern Bibles itself that gives them license for their erroneous eschatology.

Ah, yes, the Greek term AION, one of those terms whose translation into English has been embattled since the Westcott and Hort Bible Revision of 1881 -- embattled for those who object to that Revision anyway; otherwise the excruciatingly bad W&H rendering has been enshrined in seminary after seminary as if it were a needed correction to the King James.

Of course all I can do is present J W Burgon's view of it to the contrary as I am not a Greek scholar, but as usual I find his remarks to have the feel of truth and a depth of understanding that is lacking on the other side.

The gist of the dispute is that the King James translates "aion" in certain places as "world" while the revisers of 1881 and Greek students who followed them insist that it should be rendered as "age." So where the KJV says "end of the world" all or most of the new translations of the last century have "end of the age."

The speaker on the radio made the remark that the King James is a very bad translation, that "aion" means "age," not "world." Sigh.

My first take on this kind of remark is always to wonder how on earth anyone can take such a position against the King James as if its immensely learned and God-fearing translators were such idiots that they did not understand that the Greek term literally does mean "age" so that if they rendered it "world" in some contexts THEY HAD EXCELLENT SCHOLARLY AND BIBLICAL REASONS FOR DOING SO!

This is probably a large part of why I found I didn't have time to listen further to the Preterist, I must admit. This attitude is just so offensively ignorant it hardly seems worth making the effort to find out whatever might be of value in what such a teacher has to say. But of course the ignorance goes back to Westcott and Hort themselves. It is an Ignorance that has been elevated to the status of Knowledge in the minds of generations of students of Greek, while the superior and nuanced understanding of Greek -- and English -- of the KJV translators is treated as trash. Sigh.

Well, let's get to what Burgon had to say about it. Unfortunately he didn't discuss it in much detail but what he said does as usual demonstrate his greater grasp of the issues of Greek-English translation than Westcott and Hort and their legions of miseducated followers.

On page 182 of his Revision Revised, Dean Burgon has a paragraph in which he demonstrates the inferior understanding of the Greek by Westcott and Hort in a number of different instances, starting with a comment about a three-word Greek expression I can't reproduce here which he says:
"is quite an ordinary expression for 'always,' and therefore should not be exhibited (in the margin of S. Matth. xxviii 20) as a curiosity, -- 'Gr. all the days.'"
This is the kind of comment Burgon makes throughout his book that to my mind demonstrates that he knows what he's talking about while the revisers of 1881 whom he is criticizing were klutzy ignoramuses by comparison. Sad to think their inferior knowledge of Greek is now the basis of all the new Bibles.

Burgon goes on in that paragraph to say:
"--So with respect to the word aion, which seems to have greatly exercised the Revisionists. What need, every time it occurs, to explain that [five Greek words here including a form of "aion" it would take me too long to transliterate] means literally 'unto the ages of the ages.'? Surely (as in Ps. xlv. 6, quoted Heb. 1.8,) the established rendering ('for ever and ever') is plain enough and needs no gloss!"
Does this suggest to anybody besides me that the Revisers had a klutzy flat-footed shallow understanding of Greek that ought to have disqualified them from any position of authority over the translation of the Bible?

The other place where Burgon discusses "aion" is on page 208:
What means also the fidgetty anxiety manifested throughout these pages to explain away, or at least to evacuate, expressions which have to do with ETERNITY? Why, for example, is 'the world (aion) to come, invariably glossed 'the age to come'? (See the margin of Rom. ix. 5. Are we to read 'God blessed unto the ages'?) Surely we, whose language furnishes expressions of precisely similar character (viz. 'for ever,' and 'for ever and ever'), might dispense with information hazy and unprofitable as this!
The KJV translators ONLY translate "aion" to mean "world" in expressions that refer to the "END OF the world," or ETERNITY, as Burgon says. "End of the age," on the other hand, today's favored mistranslation, implies something time-limited, the opposite of what the Bible means in those places. Take a look at Strong's Concordance. "Aion" is ALWAYS used with this meaning in those particular places. OTHERWISE, there are two other Greek words for "world" that refer to the globe itself, the planet, or to land.

ALSO, there are TWO places in the New Testament where the KJV DID translate "aion" as "age" or in this case "ages" -- see Ephesians 2:7 and 3:21. They also translated it by other words in different contexts. You can go check it out on the Concordance pages for "aion" at Blue Letter Bible. THE KJV TRANSLATORS KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING, and since that is the case it raises much doubt that the Westcott and Hort team had any clue at all as to how to read ancient Greek.


I noted when I was checking this out at Blue Letter Bible that the New King James also uses the W&H "age" instead of "world" but I didn't recall that from the list of the NKJV's taking over of the W&H wording that I covered a while back. I checked on two different discussions of the NKJV in this light and didn't find it. This is very strange since this particular change is one of the worst that could have been done.

COMING SOON: THE GREEK AORIST TENSE. I'm sure that most Christians have been in Bible studies or heard sermons that make a big deal out of the Greek "aorist" tense. Supposedly a recognition of this Greek tense helps us clarify the meaning of some Biblical texts the KJV translators supposedly couldn't grasp. Sigh. Burgon nails it as a pedantic insensitivity to both Greek and English. More klutzy bogus scholarship from Westcott and Hort through the modern Bibles down to us.
(Sorry, Burgon's discussion of the aorist is too lengthy and varied for easy digesting for blog purposes, and not well focused on the issues I had in mind that I've heard discussed in church and Bible study. I may nevertheless try to take it on at some point but I realize that for now with so much else occupying my time that it won't be for a while).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The basic argument against the new versions

A talk given at the Trinitarian Bible Society in 2007 by Pastor John Thackway, The English Standard Version, covers all the basics.

I have a good impression of Pastor Thackway from having heard part of his series on the Song of Songs, which he recognizes as about the spiritual life of a Christian in our relationship with Christ.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Updating the KJV - Why It Should But Probably Won't Happen

From an appreciation of the King James Bible by Kevin Bauder, an anti-KJV-Only, an author of a book against KJVOnlyism. I agree with everything he said except his appreciation of the modern versions. Perhaps he's right that most of them have something to contribute but until the Alexandrian texts are no longer regarded as "the earliest and the best" I can't agree. However, since I do agree with most of what he says, it's really amazing that I keep being called a KJVO myself, even recently a "Ruckmanite" of all things. I've never read a word of Ruckman (seen him quoted quite enough, thanks) and I've posted against Riplinger in this blog. Good grief.

Anyway, this is a nice statement, pretty much exactly what I've said many times myself about the KJV still needing the revision it didn't get in 1881, both how it should be done and that it won't be, and how the proliferation of translations is bad for the church:

In the case of truly obsolete language, the King James Version can and should be updated. It has been before. It can be again. The work should be undertaken with reverence, not merely for the content of what is revealed, but for the locutions of the King James Version itself. No more should be changed than is really necessary. The people who would perform this task would place all readers of English in their debt.

It will never happen.
The New King James Version fails by making changes that are unnecessary and sometimes banal. It is the worst of all possible worlds. No other translation, however, is likely to do better. The problem is that a version incorporating only necessary changes could never obtain an exclusive copyright. No publisher could hold exclusive rights to it. With no large sums to be made from a gentle revision, the printing houses will distribute and the pious will receive only a continuing stream of translations du jour.

Therein lies the real problem with the proliferation of modern translations. Few of them are objectionable in their own right. Most of them contribute something, and most are worthy of being consulted by readers who cannot understand the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the multiplication of translations, however, today’s Christians have lost significant intelligibility in sharing the Scriptures with one another.

...How many Christians appreciate the irony that most new versions include the word Standard in their title? The fact is that the English language has only ever had one standard version, and that is the King James. Beginning with the publication of the New American Standard Bible, the English-speaking evangelical world has lost any semblance of, and probably any hope for, biblical standardization. How could anyone not see this as an evil?

...In sum, a good version of the Bible will be accurate, but it will not oversimplify. It will choose elevated language because it aims to shape feeling as well as thinking. It should be widely used and readily shared. It must leave the reader with the impression that the book wasn’t just written yesterday. It ought to be just a bit archaic.

In my opinion, the King James Version is the only translation of Holy Scripture into English that meets these criteria. It is not just a good version, it is a great one. It is both a great translation and a great work of literature. For me, the use of the King James Version is not simply a matter of nostalgia or sentimentality. It is unsurpassed for use in the corporate church setting, and it is as good as any for private devotional reading.

I like that -- "It ought to be just a bit archaic."

SOLVING THE PROBLEM (Getting the money problem out of it): There should be a coalition of Bible-believing churches that can agree on the desirability of a minimal updating/revision of the KJV, who get together and appoint a large committee of the best scholars to do the work of revision, who must all meet spiritual standards as well, and the project should be inaugurated and sustained by prayer and financed by donors. It could perhaps be done roughly according to the pattern of the KJV translators.

Their Bible wouldn't belong to anyone, anyone would be able to publish their own edition of it, but that could only be good for the Church at large even if not financially rewarding for those who did the work. Yet donors could pay them for their work and pay for the costs of publication. Isn't that how the Church is supposed to operate anyway?

They'd have the job of meticulously comparing ALL the versions ever made in arriving at every single change to be made to the KJV. Changes to the Textus Receptus as needed could be part of the project too, but NO Alexandrians allowed. Unlike the revisers of 1881 they'd be required to make USEFUL notes in the margins and keep careful notes of their work, for instance concerning disputes and how they resolved --or were unable to resolve --them. Etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Burgon on dealing with errors in the KJV

Finally I found a place where Burgon refers to the "blemishes" in the King James, specifically to the translators' feeling that it's good to vary the English even when the writer hammers away at a particular Greek word, which some debaters I've encountered also emphasized. I'd even marked the page on a previous reading but had forgotten about it. The link to the book online is in the margin so anyone can check it.
But if the learned men who gave us our A.V may be thought to have erred on the side of excess, there can be no doubt whatever, (at least among competent judges,) that our Revisionists have sinned far more grievously and with greater injury to the Deposit, by their slavish proclivity to the opposite form of error. We must needs speak out plainly: for the question before us is not, What defects are discoverable in our Authorized Version? -- but, What amount of gain would be likely to accrue to the Church if the present Revision were accepted as a substitute? And we assert without hesitation, that the amount of certain loss would so largely outweigh the amount of possible gain, that the proposal may not be seriously entertained for a moment. As well on grounds of Scholarship and Taste, as of Textual Criticism (as explained at large in our former Article), the work before us is immensely inferior. To speak plainly, it is an utter failure. [p. 190, Revision Revised]
And then he goes on to discuss how the Revisers refuse to vary the English even when it's necessary.

If their revision hadn't been so horrible overall, and their policy of change so irresponsible, I suppose he'd have seen the point of changing some of the KJV's blemishes.

Changes in the New King James that derived from W-H-influenced translations

The reason for this post is that the NKJV is billed as simply an updating of the KJV, based on the Textus Receptus and so on, but then it turns out it contains all kinds of influence from the Westcott and Hort revision, in its footnotes and apparently also in changes in wording that follow their pattern.

I found this list of some of those changes online , and it looks like the typical list of changes in the NKJV that were influenced by the Westcott and Hort revision. Yes, it's from an extreme KJVO website.

(By the time I got through this post, by the way, I found myself not agreeing much with the KJVO point of view on this. I'd never personally investigated any of this before, so that was a discovery).

As I go through the list, checking each briefly with Strong's and with the other versions, it's clear that the NKJV did come up with renderings that agree with the Westcott-Hort-influenced translations, whether they took them directly from them or not. The modern versions defenders claim the changes were not copied from the other versions, and perhaps they are right, but judging from Strong's it appears that very few could actually be claimed to be more accurate translation so that their similarity to the others doesn't seem to be the accidental result of independent work.

While the modern versions defenders always ask whether it is more accurate or not, I always want to ask whether the change was really needed or not since preserving the KJV as much as possible is what the revising committee of 1881 was supposed to do, and the NKJV as well. This shouldn't sacrifice accuracy of course. As I went through them I found a few that could be justified as clearer, and quite a few that didn't make enough of a change to qualify as necessary, simply change for change's sake. There are also some changes I just don't get. The KJVO commentary seems overheated for the occasion on many of them, and to miss the point on some.

[FUCHSIA = I agree with the KJV; RED = I prefer the change; GREEN = I can't decide]

Genesis 22:8: One of the greatest verses in the Bible proclaiming that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh: "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:" The NKJV adds that little word "for": "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering" And destroys the wonderful promise! Where'd they get their little "for"? From the NASV!
It's possible I'm missing the whole thing here as I don't see how the change destroys the promise, but I also don't see any need for the change either. The original reads just fine. Checking Strong's it appears that "himself" isn't even in the Greek but added in the translation, though all the versions include it and I don't know Greek so all I can say is it looks like that from Strong's breakdown of the Greek words. The "for (himself)" was also added in those that have it -- the ESV, the NASB and the NKJV. Was there really no influence here?
Genesis 24:47: The "old" KJV reads: "I put the earring upon her face". But the NKJV has different plans for beautiful Rebekah: "I put the nose ring on her nose". Where did it get the ridiculous idea to "cannibalize" Rebekah? Just take a peek at the NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV!
According to Strong's it can be a ring, an earring or a nose ring. "Nose" is also a possible translation for the word the KJV translated as "face." Putting it on the "face" does seem very odd and I can see how the translator would prefer "nose" in that place; on the other hand the bracelets were put on her "hands." Are there any other reasons for calling it a nose ring? But also Strong's shows that there are other places in the Greek text where a specific reference to the ear is made when referencing this same piece of jewelry. I can't be sure in this case which is better, and since I trust the KJV translators on such a basic translational point, which the W-H committee didn't, and can't see any necessity for the change, I'll tentatively say it should have been left as "earring."
Ezra 8:36: The KJV reads, "And they delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants. . ." The "much clearer" NKJV reads, "And they delivered the king's orders to the king's satraps. . ." Who in the world thinks "satraps" is "much clearer" than lieutenants? The NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV - they do! They put in the same "much clearer" word!
I noticed this one years ago. I certainly agree that "satraps" conveys absolutely nothing to the English reader. Some ENGLISH word for the kind of officer referred to is needed, so I see nothing wrong with "lieutenants."
Psalms 109:6: removes "Satan". (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV).
And puts in variations on "accuser," "adversary" etc. I'm going with the KJV. The translators knew what they were doing and this is not one of those places where it could be improved with a change.
Matthew 7:14: change "narrow is the way" to "difficult is the way". There's nothing "difficult" about the salvation of Jesus Christ! Jesus says in Matt. 11:30, "For my yoke is EASY, and my burden is light." THE EXACT OPPOSITE! Boy, you talk about a contradiction!
This one I find hard to resolve. I don't think the meaning is so completely lost by "difficult" myself since I believe it's probably referring more to the walk with Christ than justification by faith, but I also don't think it improves the meaning at all and perhaps blurs it. "Strait" is a bit archaic on the other hand. This is one for my Dream Team Translation Committee. (Really, they all are; I wouldn't want my own impressions to prevail).
Matthew 12:40: change "whale" to "fish" (ditto NIV) I don't guess it matters (what's the truth got to do with it?), the Greek word used in Matthew 12:40 is ketos. The scientific study of whales just happens to be - CETOLOGY - from the Greek ketos for whale and logos for study! The scientific name for whales just happens to be - CETACEANS - from the Greek ketos for whale!
I totally agree with this KJVO's observation. While a "big fish" COULD be the better translation in some contexts, according to Strong's, this context doesn't require it and the change seems irritatingly unnecessary.
Matthew 18:26 & Matthew 20:20: The NKJV removes "worshipped him" (robbing worship from Jesus) (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
The Greek word definitely implies worship, changing the English word is completely unnecessary.
Mark 13:6 & Luke 21:8: removes "Christ" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
I'm going on my memory for most of these and I think these are places where "Christ" is in italics in the KJV, which indicates that it isn't in the Greek but strongly implied in the context. I trust the KJV translators, see no reason for any change.
John 1:3: change "All things were made BY him;" to "All things were made THROUGH Him" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
There is a difference in meaning from this change that could affect doctrine. I also can't grasp what it means to say anything was made THROUGH a person. Things are made BY a person. Again I trust the KJV translators. Burgon has plenty to say about this substitution and changes to the other part of this verse in other versions as well (pages 132, 135, 174, Revision Revised), but I'm not going to take the time to copy it out here right now as I'm just running through my own impressions.
John 4:24: change "God is a spirit" to the impersonal, New Age pantheistic,"God is spirit" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
At first I couldn't see any big difference but Strong's clearly shows the article with the noun -- yes, in English, not in Greek, but the two languages aren't exactly equivalent after all -- and with such examples as an angel, an evil spirit, the human soul and so on it seems very clear leaving off the article must be wrong and it does suggest a pantheistic idea of spirit. Since the article is indicated in Strong's I don't see how anyone would independently think to remove it based on the Greek, and that suggests that the NKJV was influenced by the other translations.
John 14:2: (NKJV 1979 edition) change "mansions" to "dwelling places" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
I didn't look this one up for some reason but off the top of my head it seems a completely gratuitous unnecessary change, so leaving the time-honored word in place is my first choice. But then I think it does imply something perhaps unintended, at least to our ears today, a KIND of dwelling place that's unnecessary, so I may end up going with the change.
John 14:16: change "comforter" to "helper"(refers to Holy Spirit) (NASV)
"Helper" looks more accurate to me from a glance at Strong's but I have to ask why the KJV translators would prefer "Comforter," which they did in four of the five places parakletos is found in the Greek text, choosing "Advocate" in the fifth. So I tentatively vote that it should have been left alone. No, I do like "helper" better and it seems to fit the Greek better.
Acts 4:27, 30: change "holy child" to "holy servant" (refers to Jesus) (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
One of those changes where the new versions seem to have chosen the least likely from Strong's list of possible renderings. "Child" is the first rendering listed, somehow more lovely too, and here I go clearly with the KJV. No need for this change.
Acts 12:4: change "Easter" to "Passover" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
While modern versions defenders think this is an obviously necessary change I'm not completely convinced. Something to do with historical usage. One for the Dream Team Translation Committee.

Acts 17:22:changes "superstitious" to "religious" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)

"Superstitious" is fine in context, but so is "religious." I personally LIKE "religious" better but this is another I'd leave to the DTTC.
Acts 24:14: change "heresy" to "sect" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Another place where context makes the difference and "heresy" is more appropriate, the change was not necessary.
Romans 1:18: change "hold the truth" to "suppress the truth" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
The change in this case seems to me to be clearer but I defer to the Dream Team Translation Committee.
Romans 1:25: change "changed the truth" to "exchanged the truth" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
No need for this change, the original is quite clear.
Romans 5:8: change "commendeth" to "demonstrates" (NIV, NASV)
Strong's doesn't give any warrant for "demonstrates." "Commends" may be somewhat archaic, however, and yet the KJV used it in a majority of places for the Greek word. I can't think of another alternative either. I'd leave it as "commends" until the Dream Team can deal with it.
Romans 16:18: change "good words and fair speeches" to "smooth words and flattering speech" (NIV, NASV, NRSV)
The change is clearer to my mind, though the original wording wasn't hard to understand. I'll go with the change on this one.
1 Cor. 1:21: change "foolishness of preaching" to "foolishness of the message preached" (ditto NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV) There's nothing foolish about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless you're not saved! 1 Cor. 1:18 says: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish FOOLISHNESS. . ." I wonder where that leaves the translators of the NKJV, NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV?
I don't see a problem with the change as far as meaning goes, as the gospel IS foolishness to the world as scripture says elsewhere, but I also don't see a reason to change it, the original is clear enough.
1 Cor. 1:22: change "require" to "request" (NASV)
Seems to me like one of those completely unnecessary changes. Strong's makes either acceptable. I like "require" if my likings count.
1 Cor. 6:9: removes "effeminate" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
Here's a case where I think the modern changes in the last words are clearer for today's readers, to "homosexuals" and "sodomites," and I don't see that anything is lost in the meaning.
1 Cor. 9:27: change "castaway" to "disqualified" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
The change translates the Greek more literally, but I'm not sure I see anything seriously wrong with "castaway" as far as meaning goes. Wonder what inspired that word. I like "disqualified" better myself.
2 Cor. 2:10: change "person of Christ" to "presence of Christ" (NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Both are OK by Strong's, don't see that the change improves things. I go with the KJV.
2 Cor. 2:17: With all the "corruptions" in the NKJV, you'd expect 2 Cor. 2:17 to change. IT DOES! They change, "For we not as many which CORRUPT the word of God" to "For we are not, as so many, PEDDLING the word of God" (ditto NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
Strong's gives "corrupt" as a fair translation, derived from the peddler's adulteration of their wares. "Peddling the word of God" doesn't evoke anything very clear. I strongly prefer the KJV's "corrupt."
2 Cor. 5:17: change "new creature" to "new creation" (NIV, NRSV, RSV)
Both are OK, need to hear arguments pro and con.
2 Cor. 10:5: change "imaginations" to "arguments". Considering New Age "imaging" and "visualization" is now entering the church, this verse in the "old" KJV just won't do. (NIV, RSV)
I like "imaginations" myself, but I could go with "reasonings" better than "arguments" which is another possibility from Strong's. Another for the DTTC.
2 Cor. 11:6: change "rude in speech" to "untrained in speech" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Rude" is MUCH better than "untrained." Simpler, more direct.
Gal. 2:20: omit "nevertheless I live" (NIV, NASV, NRSV, RSV)
According to Strong's this phrase is very clearly in the Greek of the Textus Receptus. Perhaps this is a change due to the substitution of the Alexandrians in the critical texts that underlie the modern versions? If so that would demonstrate a definite influence from them to the NKJV.
Phil. 2:6: (NKJV 1979e.) change "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" to "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped". (robs Jesus Christ of deity) (NIV, NASV, RSV)
I've always thought the changed reading is incomprehensible. I don't know if it denies Christ's deity or not, it just doesn't make sense. The KJV rendering is a lot clearer.
Phil. 3:8: change "dung" to "rubbish" (NIV, NASV, NRSV)
Both are acceptable according to Strong's, neither is more accurate, but again, that being the case, why change it? Tender sensibilities? Would like to hear pros and cons.
1 Thess. 5:22 change "all appearance of evil" to "every form of evil" (NASV, RSV, NSRV)
Since I do give the KJV team much more credit than the modern versions defenders do I'm inclined to go with "appearance." Again, both are acceptable according to Strong's, so it's a matter to be determined by the judgment of the best Greek scholars. I've seen arguments that there's no way to abstain from the "appearance" of evil, it's too much to ask of us, but that doesn't hold water to my mind. There's no way to avoid sin either as long as we are in the flesh but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be making every effort.
1 Timothy 6:5: The NKJV changes "gain is godliness" to "godliness is a MEANS OF gain". There are NO Greek texts with "means of" in them! Where, oh where, did they come from? Care to take a wild guess? YOU GOT IT! The NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV!

There's nothing wrong with rewording a phrase if it's needed to convey the meaning better to the reader, but in this case I don't see the need for it. "Gain is godliness" appears to be an exact literal translation of the Greek of the Textus Receptus and I go for the neatest simplest rendering.

1 Timothy 6:10: The NKJV changes "For the love of money is the root of all evil:" to "For the love of money is a root of all KINDS OF evil". The words "KINDS OF" are found in NO Greek text in the world! Where did they get them? Straight from the NIV, NASV, NRSV!
The KJV wording appears to follow the Textus Receptus exactly as far as I can tell from Strong's. The commenter says the phrase "kinds of" isn't in any Greek text, in which case it must have been added because the translator felt it made it clearer. Seems to me that if "a root" is permissible, as opposed to "the root" no other change is needed for those who are sure the love of money couldn't be THE root of ALL evil: so it would read "a root of all evil." "All kinds of" doesn't improve it.
1 Tim. 6:20: change "science" to "knowledge" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Science" MEANS "knowledge" or it did originally. Now it's acquired a more specific meaning that doesn't fit well, so "knowledge" is the better word -- an updating rather than a correction.
Titus 3:10: change "heretic" to "divisive man" (NIV)
This one is a really terrible change, and I even did a post on it a while back. It can be translated "divisive" or "factious" or "heretic," all of them implying a holder of false doctrine, but the problem with the first two is that today they all too easily suggest the reverse, condemning a person who IDENTIFIES a heretic, as someone who raises such questions these days is likely to be called "divisive." It's akin to the false theology of "love" or the command to "judge not," that claims "love" would never judge even the worst heresy. I have definitely encountered this misreading in action. Perhaps this change in the text is even the cause of this reversal of meaning. At best this is a case of softening and blurring the meaning. Stick to the strong clear word, "heretic." (If there is no influence from the other versions it's just odd that the NKJV would prefer this much less desirable reading since it's supposed to be preserving the KJV wherever it can. Very odd).
Hebrews 4:8 & Acts 7:45: "Jesus" is changed to "Joshua". (NIV, NASV, RSV)

Yes, very bad change, like all those changes that treat the original Hebrew as better. {Later, I see I misunderstood this because I didn't check the verse. It is referring to Joshua son of Nun, right-hand man and successor to Moses. "Jesus" was used to refer to that Joshua in the KJV and that IS confusing so it's a GOOD THING it was changed.

But back to my general point about retaining the original languages even though it turns out it was off topic: } Retaining names in Hebrew also feeds the Hebrew Names heresy. Such as "Yahweh." Completely unnecessary change that causes more problems than it solves. I also object to changing the KJV's "Hell" back to the Greek or Hebrew term, Hades or Sheol or Gehenna or whatnot. I've seen where some confuse Hell with the lake of fire and make that the argument for retaining the original words, but this makes no sense to me. If there's some reason in scripture for the confusion I'm not aware of it. Meanwhile there is nothing wrong with "Hell." "Hell" is the English word so it belongs in English Bibles. Nobody really knows what Hell entails anyway, and using foreign words only compounds the mystification. All the owlish discussions of the different cultural notions of abodes after death add nothing to the understanding of the reader who comes across the foreign word in the scripture, but "Hell" at least has some meaning in English, however vaguely apprehended. Let individual pastors do the detailed study to discuss the shades of meaning for their congregations if they want to. Nobody is going to know what it's all about until the End anyway.]

2 Pet. 2:1: change "damnable heresies" to "destructive heresies" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
"Damnable" is apparently read as implied by the KJV translators, and Strong's treats it as an option though "destructive" is higher on the list. I'd say the new versions are softening and blurring the meaning and the strong word "damnable" is far better, clearer and more pointed.
1 John 3:16: remove "love of God"; (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
They remove "of God," which is in italics or parentheses in the KJV. This is a matter of what exactly the Greek says, and I don't know, but again I wouldn't dismiss the KJV's choice lightly.
1 John 5:13: The NKJV reads: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may CONTINUE TO believe in the name of the Son of God." They add "CONTINUE TO" without any Greek text whatsoever! Not even the perverted NIV, NASV, NRSV and RSV go that far! A cruel, subtil (see Genesis 3:1) attack on the believer's eternal security!
I don't see how this is an attack on eternal security. If those who believe are addressed it makes sense that John is saying he wrote so they might continue to believe, but it seems there is more going on here that I'm not able to judge. Strong's has the KJV reading clearly based on the Greek. I wonder if this is one of those places as discussed by Burgon, where the incompetence of the 1881 revisers in dealing with Greek grammar, tenses and so on, has reared its ugly head. That would mean the idea of continuing is simply a wrong reading of the tense that would have been learned through the bad examples of Westcott and Hort, and somehow the NKJV followed up on it while the other modern versions for some reason didn't. Just a speculation of course.
Rev. 2:13: change "Satan's seat" to "Satan's throne" (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)
Does seem unnecessary. "Seat" implies this is his base of operations, "throne" doesn't improve it as far as I can see, in fact it gives an overly literal image for what is meant to be metaphorical. Both are reasonable renderings according to Strong's.
Rev. 6:14: "Heaven" is changed to "sky" in (NIV, NASV, RSV, NRSV)

NO need for this change at ALL. "Heaven" is sometimes synonymous with "sky" anyway.

* * * * * *

As I went through the list I got caught up in deciding whether I thought the reading was more or less accurate, or necessary, and lost track of the claim that the changes reflect the Westcott and Hort influence. So when I'm up to it I hope to go back and make a few more comments in that direction.


I am still pondering parts of this post and it is still subject to change. I would like to add at this point though that it's interesting how little I side with the KJVO point of view and find the changes congenial when I get into the specifics. I'm still going to end up far more conservative about these things than the modern versions defenders but I think maybe this exercise of going through these verses has made it clear that I start off accepting more of the KJVO position than I really agree with when I get into the particulars. Well, there aren't many in the middle of the road as I am from whom to draw information and arguments, and the KJVOs do often have some good ones. In this case, though, I'm glad to find out that the NKJV wasn't quite the disaster I'd been led to believe it was, especially since I used it for years. I could certainly do without the footnotes to the Alexandrian - based critical texts, however. And there is still more to explore about it.

Another discussion of the NKJV changes is here.

7/25/11: I don't see the change from "world" to "age" that I discuss in my post on "aion" yesterday. That's one big error that does derive from the poor scholarship of Westcott and Hort that should get top billing in these discussions.

Early Attempts at Revising the KJV -- good or bad?

At KJV-Only Debate this morning Erik DiVietro has a very interesting post on the various attempts at improving the KJV in the century or so before the 1881 revision, which he gleaned from Philip Schaff's Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version. He reproduces Schaff's list of prior translations which is really very eye-opening. I was aware there had been SOME earlier attempts to correct the KJV along these lines, mostly by individuals, but nothing like this great number of attempts.

I was also aware of this book by Schaff but it was way down my list of resources to check out because I knew Schaff was one of those in favor of the 1881 revision, a position I figure I've heard enough of to last me a couple more lifetimes. However, this list IS very interesting to think about, and I have a prior positive acquaintance with Schaff I'd like to mention too, through his History of the Christian Church which is a great read to take in small bites from the linked online copy at CCEL. I don't have to agree with him to appreciate some of his work.

DiVietro quotes Schaff:
It may well be said, without the least disparagement of the merits of the Revising Committees, that the great majority of the changes of text and version (probably more than four fifths) which they finally adopted had been anticipated by previous translators and commentators, and had become the common property of biblical scholars before the year 1870. But these improvements were scattered among many books, and lacked public recognition. They had literary worth, but no ecclesiastical authority. They were the work of individuals, not of the Church. (p 368)

Interestingly I was just on a debate forum where Schaff's estimate of the number of changes made by the Revised Version was mentioned as extremely small compared to other estimates, "by half," the number 36,000 showing up enough to be recognized as the true number. (See Comments; apparently I misremembered this). It would be a huge undertaking but it would be great to know just how many of the changes in these pre-Westcott-and-Hort revisions really did have "literary worth," were really "improvements." I don't doubt that some were.

That so many had felt a need to update and/or correct the KJV for such a long period before the revision of 1881 was commissioned to my mind reflects exactly my own state of mind NOW. I wish there WERE a good revision of the KJV, a really GOOD one. (Maybe it exists but the task of finding it would be overwhelming, certainly impossible for me). I also wish of course that it would be taken up by some sort of authoritative body -- of a majority of the orthodox Bible-believing churches, and become the new Standard, ousting all the modern pretenders. Surely I'm allowed such an unrealistic wish since it would obviously be the ideal situation, whereas all these lone-wolf attempts at revision are of no value to the church at all.

So I would like to know a lot more about all those pre-Revised Version attempts -- an assessment of how many changes were made in different versions and of what kind and how much they tried to preserve the feel of the KJV, and of course a good sample of the changes.

I also have the question how much of this clamor for revision might have been prompted by the burgeoning rationalism of the day, the influence of the liberal German Tubingen school of textual criticism, Deism and so on because it could be that some fair proportion were influenced from that direction (some followed Tischendorf for instance) just as the revision of 1881 itself is said to have been. Yet I doubt that was the only or even the majority influence. Still, this trend was a reality during that period, Burgon being one who fought it on many fronts, and it is a problem that still needs to be dealt with.

It would be great to see all that taken into account by a NEW revising committee with the ecclesiastical authority I so unrealistically wish for, a revising committee that rejects the Alexandrian texts as corrupted and rejects all the modern versions based on the critical texts that incorporate the Alexandrians, and appreciates Burgon's assessment of both Greek and English grammar and idiom. My Dream Team Translation Committee that probably can't exist.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Restatement of Position

I would like to make a few things clear if at all possible.

This blog is intended to be about what the revising committee of 1881 did and the effect it had on all the modern Bible versions, as learned mainly from what I've read by Dean John William Burgon but also from others who share his views.

My opinion that what they did has been a disaster for the church comes mainly from Burgon -- is deduced from his judgment of the 1881 revision, that is -- and what I know of its effects on the modern versions. I am sure he must have been wrong about some things but overall his judgment simply reads true and I've made him the center of this blog.

As for my judgment of the King James Bible, I do try not to get into that because it distracts from my main objective as stated above, but it is NOT because it is old that I trust it over the modern Bibles, it is because of the quality of the translators and the known high quality of the Bible itself as judged by all kinds of people for its 400 years of existence, which is only brought into sharper relief by the contrast with the debacle of 1881. I believe it still needs revision. I accept what Philip Mauro wrote about how the 1881 revision did make some needed changes in the KJV, I only wish he had specified them.

After some experiences of debating some of these things I've concluded that I hate debate and want nothing more to do with it. You'd think debating other Christians about a specifically Christian concern would be less of a nasty business than debating evolution or politics, but I've now had experience of all of it and I see little difference -- except if anything the attacks on personality are even worse. I'm too old to want that kind of conflict any more and I'm heartily sorry for my own contribution to it. Best to keep to my blog and add to it as I keep learning.

This will probably not clear up anything for those who are determined to class me according to their own system, but perhaps it will be of some value to others.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Deterioration of Biblical Scholarship the necessary result of the acceptance of the 1881 Greek and English texts

I've often asserted that Biblical scholarship in the last century has most likely declined terribly since the acceptance of the work of the revising committee of 1881 -- to the point that errors in Biblical Greek are accepted as good Greek instead, and bad English translation is regarded as the most accurate. I deduce this from Burgon's criticism of the Revision and its underlying Greek texts, from his claim that the majority of the revisers were incompetent in textual criticism -- which they themselves admitted -- and in Greek scholarship, and from the fact that the majority prevailed over those who were competent, and that it is their work that has been passed down in the seminaries, while Burgon has been relegated to silence.

If it is true that what is being taught is error and not accurate Greek or English it wouldn't be a criticism of any particular scholar to suggest that his scholarship is deficient because of this. He could be the most industrious and knowledgeable student of Greek and nevertheless have learned error instead of true Greek.

Simply because that is now what is taught, the BAD Greek of Westcott and Hort.

Burgon makes a poignant remark in Revision Revised that implies this is unfortunately what must have happened. He makes this remark after criticizing the revisers' promotion of what he calls a well-known blunder in the Greek text, a blunder they nevertheless accepted as authentic instead and used to change the reading of John 4:15. But I'd say the occasion is incidental; I think his remark sadly applies to ALL their errors which he wrote book after book documenting:
Ordinary readers, in the meantime, will of course assume that the change results from the Revisers' skill in translating, -- the advances which have been made in the study of Greek; for no trace of the textual vagary before us survives in the English margin. [RR, p. 408]
Sure sounds like what is generally accepted today, a high assessment of the skill of the scholars behind the modern versions, the advances in Greek study, the discovery of better texts, all in the service of demoting the KJV and promoting the versions that are based on the Critical Texts which incorporate Westcott and Hort's false Greek texts. Today's scholars are even held to be better than those who worked on the KJV, though they have been trained on those same suspect Greek texts and in the principles of translation that come down from W and H that Burgon's laborious work SHOULD have sent to oblivion.

They left no record so there is nothing that could prove them wrong. Throughout their work there is little to prove them wrong. There is Burgon and there are other critics, but somehow his greater wisdom was buried while their incompetence survived and became the authoritative foundation for all Biblical scholarship after them, and most of their other critics now have been relegated to the dismissible category of "KJV-Only" by the defenders of the modern versions.

Who are the "ordinary readers" Burgon refers to? These must include not only the sheep in the congregations but all the shepherds as well, some of the very best of the shepherds too, who have accepted the modern versions as superior to the KJV, having no training that would enable them to see through such a deception if it occurred, and nobody EVER reads Burgon. But today's scholars must also be included since they have only the arguments in favor of the Alexandrian texts and the modern versions to go on, plus the din of discrediting smears against Burgon along with other critics.

Of course I'm criticized for my dependence on Burgon about these things, but a nonexpert has to depend on someone, and Burgon's qualifications and obvious demonstrable knowledge make him a solid source, the very best. I have found that here and there I am likely to disagree with him about a particular translational choice nevertheless, but the time hasn't come to get into all that yet. Meanwhile as long as I have the time and the energy I hope to go on producing quotes from him to show up the fraud that he spent the last years of his life trying to expose.

[Later: Relevant to this topic I note that Burgon often takes his critics to task for merely parroting Hort instead of addressing the criticism of him. Since that was happening then and being used against Burgon then, so much the more it would be happening now when Burgon's arguments are no longer heard. The way they are automatically dismissed by people who know of them only by hearsay evidences the acceptance of the W-H framework as the standard. What he feared was happening then has happened -- the inferior scholarship of Hort and the stupidities of the W-H English translation have become the standard.]

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Accuracy versus Tradition in translational choices

A debater complains that I slight accuracy in favor of tradition, in answer to my argument that the many different renderings of a particular Greek word or phrase in the various modern versions demonstrates change for change's sake. He insists that the accurate translation of the word is the main thing and that I overlook that by such a list, as if I treat all the words as identical. Since this is hardly the case the discussion can get very frustrating.

It occurred to me today that perhaps what causes the confusion is that I treat the KJV choice as the most accurate. I assume it. Where I see a need for a change it isn't because the KJV's word is inaccurate, it's usually because its meaning has changed over time so that now it means something different to us.

The word "corn" as in a "corn of wheat," for instance, is not part of our language at all now, and I can't see that anything is lost in this case by replacing it with "grain." There is no question of accuracy versus tradition here, both are accurate. In the case of "strain at a gnat" versus "strain out a gnat" it seems obvious to me that "out" is correct and "at" is not (Orthodox Jews still strain their soup in case they might accidentally swallow unclean meat such as a gnat), and in this case it's not the fault of the KJV translators (who had "out" in their first edition according to something I read), but was a printing error. There are those who argue for "at" on the ground that it's in the language and the culture now, and while I consider that to be a very strong argument in some cases, I don't in this case, especially since the two words are so close in sound there's no chance anyone will mistake the reference when it is quoted. So this is one place where one could say tradition is being wrongly put ahead of accuracy.

We also don't use the word "virtue" as it is used in Luke 8 where Jesus said he felt "virtue" go out of him when the woman touched his garment, and unless "virtue" carries special meaning that is lacking in "power" or "strength" I would like to see it changed to "strength." All are accurate enough, the question is which conveys the meaning best to our ears today. Burgon thinks the RV's "power" is a poor choice over "virtue" and perhaps "virtue" did carry a meaning then that is now lost to us, even because "power" has been substituted in its place. That's a sad thought if so and if that's the case I could be persuaded that "virtue" should be retained.

But the KJV's choice was the most accurate at the time. They were certainly aware of the possible alternatives in "power" and "strength" and in fact that is why I think it's important to be very cautious in making changes to the KJV. What looks like a needed change may simply be the result of our own ignorance of nuances in the KJV term that should be taught rather than replaced by a less accurate word. This is Burgon's argument against substituting "love" for "charity" for the Greek agape for instance, and I think he makes a very good case that "charity" is the most accurate word, and "love" is very inaccurate. Unfortunately, since the substitution of "love" has stuck in many of the new versions, the subtleties in the word "charity" are even more remote to us than ever. But that's a whole discussion unto itself.

In any case I don't put tradition ahead of accuracy, I just don't agree with the debater about which is the most accurate translation, as he would often side with one of the modern versions against the KJV. And since the comparisons of six or eight different versions usually show quite a few different translations for a single Greek word from one version to another, the idea that they were chosen for accuracy of translation rings hollow in any case.

Again, I ALWAYS assume the KJV translators made the most accurate choice. It would be very strange if they hadn't. At the same time I accept that there are some places where the KJV needs to be corrected -- but that becomes an issue only when I come to those places. Otherwise I assume the KJV translation is the superior translation.

But I suspect that this very position means to a defender of the modern versions only that I must be KJV-Only after all since I put the KJV above all the others, and that automatically means to them putting tradition above accuracy. Apparently there's no way to get around their assumption. There's no such thing in their mental set as a fair assessment that the KJV is simply BETTER -- meaning a more accurate translation among other things -- than all the modern versions, because they are so convinced that's not the case. So they have to treat it as an irrational prejudice. With such a clash of basic assumptions fair debate is really not possible.

Just because the KJV is the best doesn't mean it can't be improved. It's best in comparison with the versions which are based on bad Greek texts and translated according to bad Greek and English grammar and misunderstanding of idioms -- according to J W Burgon, whose arguments always impress me with his clear grasp of these things. (This assessment of Burgon gets me accused of "worshipping" Burgon, too, rather than recognized as fairly making a rational assessment of his superior judgment. Really, there is no way to debate any of this, it's all going to be twisted against me). Anyway, since the other versions are that bad the KJV doesn't have to be perfection itself to be better.

But also I do think there are probably some instances in which a KJV reading should be retained simply because of tradition -- that is, because it's been established for so long in English culture and literature -- but I don't know if this necessarily involves a sacrifice of accuracy until I encounter such instances.

added 3/7 - 6 am

I see I'm being discussed by this debater at another forum. A poster has read my blog and opined that the only reason I like "strength" over "power" is that Burgon opposes "power." This is not in fact the case. I don't like "power" myself in that particular place and like "strength" better, based on the context of the passage alone, and I suspect Burgon would not have liked "strength" either, so Euthymius is just making up stuff. I also said I could be talked into "virtue" if there are good reasons for it. I also say, however, that "power" is acceptable. THE NUMBER OF TIMES the KJV translates a Greek word by a particular English word is irrelevant, by the way (7 times for "strength") as it is the context which determines which they choose, not being blind mechanical one-for-one translators as Westcott and Hort were, which is something Burgon criticized them for.

As for "corn" of wheat, I thought it might still be current British and failed to check. My bad, but it did occur to me. So I'm for an Americanized Bible.

Everyone seems terribly concerned about the 36,000 changes Burgon reports -- I run across this number in many places, not just in Burgon. Unfortunately it doesn't show up in the index to Burgon's Revision Revised. I note that someone found it quoted by Bishop Wordsworth there however. The usual way it is phrased is something like "36,000 changes, THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHICH were unnecessary and in fact changes for the worse." If I failed to add that clause it would have been a rare occurrence but of course something someone looking for faults would pounce on. Burgon offers counts for smaller portions of the scriptures as well, such as the gospel of Luke where he finds an enormous number of changes for the worse.

AND A LAST WORD on the fact that the KJV translators ALSO made a great number of similar type changes to the previous Bibles as the 1881 revision made in the KJV. The answer to this is very simple: Accuracy is the important thing, right? And in this case too I assume the KJV translators to have produced the most accurate rendering unless shown otherwise (in the very few instances where that might be the case). This assumption is based on their demonstrable superiority, both the number and quality of the translators, plus their faithfulness to their commission to preserve as much as possible of the Bishop's Bible in particular but the earlier English Bibles in general, which is a RULE THEY TOOK SERIOUSLY AND FOLLOWED, unlike the revisers of 1881.


Oh and somebody comments that "charity" and "virtue" are "Vulgatisms" as if that alone disqualifies them. (The Vulgate was the Latin translation that had survived for centuries.) Odd to my mind how they complain about the fact that this Latin translation was involved in the KJV. English has plenty of Latin influences, it's not as if it's an alien imposition on the language.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Change for the Sake of Change: 2 Peter 1: 5-7

In a discussion of the 1881 revisers' incompetence at handling Greek prepositions, Burgon gives the example of 2 Peter 1:5-7, in which they made 30 changes from the KJV in a passage of 38 words. He is highlighting their lack of skill as translators but this passage also demonstrates their violation of their commitment to make only the most minimal changes where clearly needed.

Burgon comments:
Was it then in order to bring Scripture within the captus of 'a Reader of ordinary intelligence' that the Revisers have introduced no less than thirty changes into eight-and-thirty words of S. Peter's 2nd Epistle? Particular attention is invited to the following interesting specimen of 'Revision.' It is the only one we shall offer of the many contrasts we had marked for insertion. We venture also to enquire, whether the Revisers will consent to abide by it as a specimen of their skill in dealing with the Preposition ἐν [en]? (p. 171, Revision Revised).
2 Peter 1:5-7 (Red shows differences from the KJV)
KJV: And beside all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

RV: Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge temperance; and in your temperance patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness love of the brethren; and in your love of the brethren love.
Burgon continues:
The foregoing strikes us as a singular illustration of the Revisionists' statement (Preface, iii. 2), --'We made no change if the meaning was fairly expressed by the word or phrase that was before us in the Authorized Version.' To ourselves it appears that every one of those 30 changes is a change for the worse; and that one of the the most exquisite passages in the N. T. has been hopelessly spoiled, -- rendered in fact well-nigh unintelligible, -- by the pedantic officiousness of the Revisers. Were they -- (if the question be allowable) -- bent on removing none but 'plain and clear errors,' when they substituted those 30 words? Was it in token of their stern resolve 'to introduce into the Text as few alterations as possible,' that they spared the eight words which remain out of the eight-and-thirty? (p. 172, Revision Revised)
He goes on to discuss their "wooden" rendering of the Greek preposition ἐν but I won't quote him there as my point here is to show the change for change's sake the revisers did against their own assertion that they would only make the most minimal and absolutely necessary changes.

Now I'll include some of the modern versions' rendering of this passage, which ought to show 1) that the changes made in the RV are carried through in most of them, and 2) that the spirit of Westcott and Hort persists in any case in the making of changes for change's sake. It is possible that for today's readers two or three of the new word choices would be better, but the commitment originally was to make only changes that were needed where the sense was unclear, and I can't see how this applies in any of the changes in this example. (I've put words that are new in a particular translation in magenta.)
ASV: (1901) Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in [your] virtue knowledge; and in [your] knowledge self-control; and in [your] self-control patience; and in [your] patience godliness; and in [your] godliness brotherly kindness; and in [your] brotherly kindness love.

RSV: (1946-52, 71) For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

NASB: (1966-95) Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral *excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

NIV: (1973 NT, OT 1978, Rev 1983) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

NKJV: (1982) But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

Just musing: It is possible that the KJV's "charity" would be better rendered as "love" for today's readers, but Burgon makes a strong case for retaining "charity," (pp 201-2 RR) so that even though it's not used now as it was then it might be worth it to try to resuscitate it by retaining it, partly because of its place in the history of the English church and English literature, but mainly because the English word "love" is too broad for the specificity of the Greek agape -- "a grace of purely Christian growth" as Burgon puts it. (By the way, the Greek word translated variously "brotherly kindness, brotherly love" etc., is philadelphia.) On the other hand, I checked with the older translations, Tyndale, Wycliffe etc., and found that they used "love" for agape and to my mind that makes a good case for the change. Nevertheless, the KJV translators had those earlier versions available to them, and if they saw fit to change it to "charity" that is at least an equally strong argument to retain it now. Something for my wished-for future and probably impossible Dream Team Translators to ponder.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A few of Burgon's objections to the language in the Revised Version

To give some of the flavor of Burgon's criticism of the English changes made in the Revised Version of 1881, I decided to list some of his page headings in his article The New English Version, in The Revision Revised, which indicate the topic covered on that page.

Burgon presents himself as a capable scholar of the Greek, textual critic, and an astute judge of the English language, this particular article being about both the bad Greek and bad English in the Revised Version.

And the point is: Beside the point of demonstrating Burgon's abilities and exposing the mentality of the revisers who gave us the bad Alexandrian Greek tests, I've already done a few posts and hope to do more showing that the modern versions that have sprung up over the last century all take their cue from the Revised Version, sometimes repeating its phrases exactly. Garbage in, garbage out.

Disastrous results of revision
Blunders recorded in the margin
Unfairness of the textual annotations in the margin
Unfair suppression of scripture
Text of S. Matth 1. 18, depraved
First three textual annotations incorrect. -- Text of S. Matth 1. 25
Licentiousness of the revisionists
Changes wantonly introduced
Senseless alterations
Revisionists' notion of making 'as few alterations as possible.'
St. John XIII. 12, --mistranslated
Injudicious or erroneous changes
Changes for the worse
Acts XXI. 37, mistranslated
S. Matthew XXVI. 15, now mistranslated
Unwarrantable change in Acts XXVI. 28, 29.
Specimens of Infelicitous and unidiomatic rendering.
Pedantry of the revisionists in rendering the Greek aorist
Offensive pedantry of the revisionists exposed
The Greek tenses, misrepresented throughout by the revisionists
The Greek article, misunderstood by the revisionists
The particles, tastelessly or inaccurately rendered
Unidiomatic rendering of the prepositions
30 changes in 38 words. -- Violated properties of the English language
Margins encumbered with textual errors
Sorry "alternative renderings"
Useless marginal glosses.
Mistakes resulting from want of familiarity with Hellenistic Greek
Absurd note
Mistaken principle of translation
"Epileptic," why inadmissible.
Socinian gloss on Romans IX. 5

Many of the topics he discusses in this section show to my mind a highly trained and highly refined scholar and judge of language. Unfortunately the decisions made by Westcott and Hort, and their inferior understanding of both Greek and English, now prevail, and there don't seem to be people trained to recognize it. I had a discussion elsewhere with someone who claimed to have seminary training and to be well educated in Greek who insisted Burgon had to be wrong about a particular Greek word which Burgon claims the revisionists misunderstood. Well, you can take today's seminary training as your standard, of course, but I take Burgon's judgment myself, and figure this sort of adamant objection to Burgon's judgment is the result of Westcott and Hort's plot having won -- so that the wrong understanding now prevails and is taken for the standard instead of Burgon's better judgment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Burgon the Perennial Footnote

I continue to be amazed at the near-absolute dismissal of Burgon by defenders of the modern versions. It's as if he doesn't exist. They have NO interest in reading him, they are content with what they've seen quoted from him -- from both sides.

Having spent some time in the last few weeks visiting anti-KJV-only websites, AND reading around in a couple of anti-KJV-only books, I find a near-total blackout on Burgon's contribution which is astonishing to me. Not that his name doesn't come up, but anything he actually argued is not discussed, he's really just ignored. I find footnotes about him, or his name is mentioned in passing in connection with some subject or other, along with others who also wrote on the same subject, while what Burgon himself wrote is known only through those who have quoted him -- or commented on him, sometimes unfairly. There are for instance some references to his "intemperate" manner rather than to anything he contributed to the discussion -- an "intemperate" manner I happen to think is appropriate to the enormity of the offense he is exposing, a passion for the glory of God and the wellbeing of His church against a destructive manhandling of the Bible, a context in which a neutral academic tone is out of tune.

Whatever the cause, Westcott and Hort's claims, which Burgon spent so much time criticizing, largely hold sway while Burgon is ignored.

What is it that happened? As the Revised Version and its new Greek text came out was it simply so rapidly accepted into the halls of academe that its critics were left behind in the dust? Apparently Burgon wasn't even addressed, his arguments weren't criticized, he WAS simply ignored, he simply disappeared from consideration. So W-H's propositions and arguments were studied by new generations without any exposure to their original critics? So whatever criticism came up was a product of that later study and never fed on the earlier?

Is that what happened?

Then perhaps the rise of the KJV-Only movement put the whole thing on such a different footing that their arguments became the focus instead of Burgon's, and that added to the eclipse of his work? He is loved by the KJV-Only movement but the bulk of their work doesn't overlap his. I just skimmed through the lengthy section on Burgon in David Cloud's For Love of the Bible and see that he reproduces mostly Burgon's polemics and his conclusions rather than his arguments themselves, although some of his evidence on the last twelve verses of Mark is included. He also shows the critics' unfairness to Burgon, partial quotes and that sort of thing, exposing the character assassination and lack of discussion of his arguments without himself presenting any of his arguments.

Burgon mustered a great deal of evidence against what Westcott and Hort did, against the Alexandrian texts both in general and with respect to specific verses, and against the English translation they did. He took years making comparisons among all the manuscripts then available in order to show the corruptions of the Alexandrian texts so favored by W-H. The Revision Revised is a collection of three articles he had first published in a scholarly journal, a 110-page critique of The New Greek Text including discussion of Greek terms that I can appreciate only indirectly, a 122-page article on The New English Version, and a 130-page article on Westcott and Hort's New Textual Theory, followed by a lengthy letter (150 pages) answering Bishop Ellicott who had written a pamphlet defending the revision. And this is only one book he wrote on the 1881 Revision. He also wrote a book completely addressed to exposing the corruptions in the Alexandrian texts, and another on the last twelve verses of Mark.

But when James White writes a book on the Bible versions he attacks the arguments of the extreme KJV-Only camp, that Burgon had nothing to do with. Here for instance is a whole page listing various criticisms of KJV and TR-only arguments, all by James White, none of which takes on Burgon. Burgon would not have aligned himself with the extremists like Ruckman and Riplinger and Marrs. (The likelihood that White has read Burgon is very slim; I would also doubt that he's read a book like David Cloud's For Love of the Bible either, but of course perhaps I'm wrong).

When D. A. Carson lists Fourteen Theses some of which were argued by Burgon he does not discuss what Burgon said about any of them; when he lists Seven Arguments in favor of the KJV they are arguments not defended by Burgon as far as I've found. He includes Burgon in quite a few footnotes but I get the impression that he may not have read Burgon himself. I get the same impression from most of the anti-KJV-only arguments I've read.

The controversy today is not the controversy as Burgon addressed it.

I don't know if reading Burgon would change minds of course, although personally I can hardly see how it could fail to do so -- probably not James White, but then who knows? However, I also appreciate other arguments such as DiVietro's which doesn't seem to have swayed anyone.

I hope I'll soon get back to posting quotes from Burgon.