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.