Dr. Edward Hills on The Logic of Faith
1. The Logic of Faith – How It Leads Us To The True Bible Text
From the study of the Bible and of Church history two conclusions may be safely drawn. First, spiritual darkness and apostasy always begin with false notions concerning faith. Second, reformation and revival always require the correction of these errors and always result in an enlarged conception of what it means to believe in God savingly. For example, by pointing out the difference between true faith and heathen idolatry and superstition, the Old Testament prophets laid the groundwork for the spiritual revival which took place among the Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah after their return from the Babylonian captivity. In like manner John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of Christ by denouncing the vain self-confidence of the Pharisees and Sadducees and showing how it differed from true, repentant faith. Similarly, by opposing the errors of the Gnostics and other heretics and especially the tendency to confuse faith with mysticism, the early Church fathers made possible the tremendous creedal advances of the Nicene age. Then more than 1,000 years later, Martin Luther brought in the Protestant Reformation by insisting on the difference between faith and works.
Today, if we wish to bring in a New Reformation, we must seek to follow in the footsteps of these great men of God. We must live by faith in this age of unbelief, and proclaim to all men everywhere the difference between believing and doubting. Because God is most real, let us believe in Him as such. Let nothing else be more real to us than God. Let us take God and His revelation of Himself as the starting point of all our thinking. Otherwise we are not believing, but doubting.
(a)The Difference Between Faith and Doubting -Why a Believer Cannot Doubt
Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee (Psa_73:25). If I truly believe in God, then God is more real to me than anything else I know, more real even than my faith in Him. For if anything else is more real to me than God Himself, then I am not believing, but doubting. I am real, my experiences are real, my faith is real, but God is more real. Otherwise I am not believing, but doubting. Yet even in my doubting I do not doubt as unbelievers do. My doubts are real, my sins are real, my fears are real, my discouragements are real, my anxieties are real. But God is more real even than all of these dark shadows. I cast myself therefore on that which is most real, namely, God Himself. I take God and Jesus Christ His Son as the starting point of all my thinking. For this is faith. To ignore God and take my own experience as my starting point would be doubting.
(b) Jesus Died for Me – How I Believe This
The core and center of my belief in God is my faith that Jesus died for me. But how do I believe this? How do I come to Christ? Many good Christian brethren have a theory in regard to this matter. They say, in effect, that I must come to Christ through a syllogism, by an exercise in logic. First, I must take as my major premise, the proposition, “Christ died for all men.” Then I must supply the minor premise, “I am a man.” Then I must draw the conclusion, “Hence Christ died for me.” Then on the basis of this conclusion I must receive Christ as my Saviour.
But this exposition of the way of salvation is faulty in three respects. In the first place, I cannot first believe that Jesus died for others and then as a consequence believe that Jesus died for me. For how can I really be sure that Jesus died for others unless I first am sure that He died for me? In the second place, if I believe this proposition, “Jesus died for me,” merely as the conclusion of a logical syllogism, then I do not truly believe it and hence have no basis for receiving Jesus as my Saviour. But on the other hand, if I truly believe that Jesus died for me, then I have already received Him as my Saviour. In the third place, I cannot first believe that Jesus died for me and then on this basis receive Jesus as my Saviour. For repenting, believing, and receiving are all aspects of one act of faith. They go together and cannot be separated from one another. I receive Jesus as my Saviour by repenting and believing that He died for me. If I try to receive Him in any other way, then I am not a Christian but a mystic.
Hence it is a mistake to tell a sinner first to believe that Jesus died for all human beings numerically, then to believe that Jesus died for him because he is a human being, and finally to receive Jesus as his Saviour on this basis. For this implies that there is no difference between believers and unbelievers from the standpoint of faith. Both believers and unbelievers could unite in the same confession, “Jesus died for all human beings. Therefore Jesus must have died for me because I am a human being.” In this case both the believer and the unbeliever would believe the same thing, and the only difference between the two would be that the believer receives Christ as His Saviour while the unbeliever doesn’t. And this would imply that receiving Christ as Saviour is not a matter of believing but of something else, of yielding to Him perhaps, or of surrendering to Him, or of “turning over our lives to Him” (as is often said). But all this is salvation by works. For the Bible tells us that to receive Christ as Saviour is to believe on Him. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Act_16:31). We are justified by faith (Rom_3:28). Hence we believe that Jesus died for us not before we receive Him as our Saviour, but when we receive Him as our Saviour. When I truly believe that Jesus died for me, then I do receive Him as my Saviour.
(c) The Death of Christ – Sufficient for All Men, But Efficient for the Elect
An accurate analysis of saving faith can be made only when we recognize that the message of the Gospel is not that Christ died for all men quantitatively, that is to say, numerically. It is rather that Christ died for all men qualitatively, that is to say, for all kinds and conditions of men. Jesus died for sinners of every sort. O sinner, believe that Jesus died for you! Hearken to the Saviour calling, Come unto Me (Mat_11:28).
When I hear this message, I respond to the gracious invitation of the Gospel. I come to Jesus as a suppliant, emptied of all human wisdom, knowing nothing but that I am a sinner, sure of nothing except that I need a Saviour. Then, not by a process of human logic but by an act of faith, I repent and believe that Jesus died for me. It is in this way that I receive Jesus as my Redeemer and Lord. Or if I have already so received Him, it is in this way that I rededicate myself to Him with all my heart.
But how do I perform this act of faith? How am I able to believe that Jesus died for me? This I do not know exactly. I only know that the Holy Spirit makes me able. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (1Co_12:3). I am saved through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Tit_3:5). The Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father, draws me to God’s Son and teaches me that Jesus died for me. No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every one therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me (Joh_6:44-45). Thus it is the Holy Spirit that introduces us to the logic of faith.
We see, then, that the death of Christ is sufficient for all men. The Lord Jesus Christ commands all men everywhere to repent and believe (Mar_1:15). But only the elect obey this command, only those to whom God sends the Holy Spirit to bring them the gift of faith. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph_2:8). Hence the death of Christ is efficient only for the elect. This is a very mysterious doctrine which no one can understand completely. It is one of God’s secrets (Deu_29:29). But it is nevertheless a very practical doctrine. It shows us what it is to believe in Christ, and thus it corrects the present tendency toward unbiblical mysticism. It teaches us that we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour only by repenting of our sins and believing that He died for us upon the cross.
(d) Our Union with Christ – The Holy Spirit, Our Teacher
I do believe, I now believe, that Jesus died for me! When I come to Jesus repenting and believing this, then His revelation of Himself in holy Scripture enters my mind, fills my thoughts, stirs my emotions, and awakens my love. Then Christ dwells in my heart by faith (Eph_3:17), and I become conscious of my union with Him. The Bible teaches us that this union is a three-fold union. In the first place, we are united to Christ by God the Father before the foundation of the world. Glorify Thy Son, Jesus prays, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him (Joh_17:1-2). In the second place, we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, who indwells all true believers. If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (Joh_14:15-17; Joh_14:20). And in thethird place, as believers we are united to Christ through His divine Word. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (Joh_15:7).
The purpose of believing Bible study therefore is to know more and more of Christ and of our union with Him. Hence we are exhorted to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Pe_3:18). Hence also it is God’s will that we should attain intellectual maturity in our Christian life so that we shall no longer be deceived by the errors of unbelievers. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Eph_4:14-15). Therefore God has given us a Teacher to guide us toward the attainment of these goals, namely, the Holy Spirit. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things…But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him (1Jn_2:20; 1Jn_2:27).
(e) The Testimony of the Holy Spirit – How We Know the Bible Is True
If we are true believers, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He is our divine Teacher in our study of the holy Word. But what then? Is our faith perfect? Are we henceforth delivered from all doubt? No, the same Satan that beguiled Eve in the Garden of Eden assails us daily with temptations to disbelieve (2Co_11:3). But even when we believers doubt, we do not doubt as unbelievers do. Our anxieties are real, our sins are real, our doubts are real, but God is more real even than these man-made mists which we throw up against Him. Why is this so? Because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Rom_8:16). This assurance that we are God’s children is the divine antidote for all our doubts and fears. If we are God’s children, then our daily needs will all be met. Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things (Mat_6:32). If we are God’s children, then our eternal future is secure. No man can pluck us out of our Father’s hand (Joh_10:29). And if we are God’s children, then we know that our Father’s Word is entirely true. Thy Word is truth (Joh_17:17 b).
This then is the basic reason why I know the Bible is true. The Bible is true because it is true for me. The Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am a child of God and that therefore all the promises of holy Scripture are true in my case. With Jesus Christ I am joint heir, because His death by faith is mine (Rom_8:17). But what more precisely do I mean when I say that the Bible is true? The Bible itself tells me that I mean four things. First, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. Second, the Bible is eternally established. Third, the Bible is infallibly inspired. Fourth, the Bible is providentially preserved.
First, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. God is the Truth itself, the Supreme Reality on which all other realities depend, the Amen!, the unshakable firmness, the ultimate faithfulness. In nature, in human history, in the preaching of the Gospel, and above all in the holy Scriptures the God of Truth reveals Himself objectively to all men. Not doctrine only, not mere information concerning Himself, but HIMSELF. In the Scriptures especially God reveals Himself in a threefold way as the almighty Creator God, the faithful Covenant God, and the Triune Saviour God. The God of Creation, the God of History, the God of Salvation!
Second, the Bible is eternally established. For ever, O LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven (Psa_119:89). Jesus Christ came down from heaven to deliver this eternal Word unto men. I have given them Thy Word (Joh_17:14). Hence although the Scriptures were written during a definite historical period, they are not the product of that period but of the eternal plan of God. When God designed the holy Scriptures in eternity, He had the whole sweep of human history in view. Hence the Scriptures are forever relevant. Their message can never be outgrown. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever (Isa_40:8). In the Scriptures God speaks to every age, including our own. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Rom_15:4).
Third, the Bible is infallibly inspired. The Holy Spirit persuades us to adopt the same view of the Scriptures that Jesus believed and taught during the days of His earthly ministry. According to Jesus, all the individual Old Testament writings combined to form one divine and infallible Book which He called the “Scriptures.” Jesus believed that these Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Mar_12:36), that not one word of them could be denied (Joh_10:35), that not one particle of them could perish (Mat_5:18), and that everything written in them was divinely authoritative (Mat_4:4; Mat_4:7; Mat_4:10).
Jesus also promised that the New Testament would be infallibly inspired just as the Old had been. I have yet many things to say unto you, He told His Apostles, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come (Joh_16:12-13). The Holy Spirit, Jesus pledged, would enable the Apostles to remember their Lord’s teaching and understand its meaning (Joh_14:26). And these promises began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when Peter was inspired to declare for the first time the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection (Act_2:14-36). Paul also was conscious of this same divine inspiration. If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1Co_14:37). And in the last chapter of Revelation, John the Apostle asserts the actuality of his inspiration in the strongest possible terms (Rev_22:18-19).
Fourth, the Bible has been providentially preserved. Because the Scriptures are God’s revelation of Himself, eternal, forever relevant, and infallibly inspired, they have been guarded down through the ages by God’s special providence, preserved not secretly but in a public way. The logic of faith leads us to this conclusion, and this logic is confirmed by the promises of our Lord and Saviour. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Mat_5:18). And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail (Luk_16:17). Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Mat_24:35; Mar_13:31; Luk_21:33). The true Bible text, therefore, has been preserved in the majority of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, in the printed Masoretic Hebrew text and the Greek Textus Receptus, and in the King James Version and other faithful translations. When we read this text believingly, then the Holy Spirit assures us by His testimony that we hold in our hands the true Word of God.
(f) How the Bible Has Been Providentially Preserved
As has already been stated, the Old Testament text was preserved by the Old Testament priesthood and by the scribes that grouped themselves around this priesthood. After the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile, these scribes established schools at Jerusalem for the study of the Hebrew language and of the Scriptures. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., these schools were set up anew in various Palestinian cities, especially Tiberias, and from the end of the 2nd century in Babylonia. Driven out of Babylonia by the Mohammedans, the Jewish rabbis moved westward in the 10th century and again organized their schools in North Africa and Spain. Expelled from Spain in the 15th century, they finally moved to Germany. It was here that Hebrew learning became naturalized among Christians, and it was here also that the Protestant Reformation began. Thus in the preservation of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures the hand of God’s preserving providence is plainly seen.1
The New Testament text, on the other hand, was preserved through the universal priesthood of believers, that is to say, by true believers in every walk of life. It is probable that this was done especially in Asia Minor, since, according to Harnack (1914),2 the Four Gospels were first gathered together in Asia Minor early in the 2nd century. And according to Goodspeed (1926)3 and G. D. Kilpatrick (1946),4 the first collection of Paul’s Epistles had been made in Asia Minor even earlier. We may well suppose, at any rate, that because most of the New Testament books were either written in Asia Minor or sent to the churches of that region, the New Testament text was copied more carefully there. In other words, it was there that the Traditional text was preserved.
(g) The Protestant Reformers and the Old Testament Text
The Hebrew studies of the Protestant Reformers were aided greatly by the labors of their immediate predecessors. One of the most important of these was Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Although not himself a Jew, he became interested in Hebrew learning and lore and studied these subjects intensively under the direction of Jewish scholars. In 1506 he published a Hebrew Grammar written in Latin. He was the great-uncle of the learned Melanchthon, Luther’s friend and co-worker. Another famous Hebrew scholar was Sebastian Muenster, who at first was a Franciscan monk, but later became a Protestant. Muenster became a professor of Hebrew at Basel, where he published an improved edition of Reuchlin’s Hebrew grammar in 1537.5 Another Hebraist of note was Leo Jud, whose Latin version of the Old Testament (1543) seems to have been consulted by Calvin and followed rather closely.6
Guided providentially by their Hebrew studies, the Protestant Reformers took their stand with the Jewish scribes upon the Hebrew Old Testament canon and text and rejected the Apocrypha, namely, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 and 2 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasses, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel. The Reformers regarded these books as helpful but not inspired. Hence they placed them between the Old and New Testaments in their translations of the Bible. It was to oppose this Protestant position that the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1546) declared all the apocryphal books (with the exception of 1 and 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses) sacred and canonical and pronounced a solemn curse against all those that would not receive them as such. They also adopted the Latin Vulgate of Jerome as their official Bible. These two actions were inconsistent, however, since Jerome was one of those that had rejected the Apocrypha.
(h) The Protestant Reformers and the New Testament Text
In their dealings with the New Testament text the Protestant Reformers were guided by the common faith of Christendom, by the general belief, that is, that the currently received New Testament text was the true New Testament text which had been preserved by God’s special providence. This common faith in the current New Testament Scriptures was the result of the providential preservation of these Scriptures during the Middle Ages by means of the universal priesthood of believers. Hence it was not produced by the Protestant Reformation but preceded the Reformation and made it possible. If this common faith in the current New Testament text had not existed, the Reformation could never have succeeded. The appeals of the Reformers to the authority of the Bible against the usurpations of the papal system would have fallen upon deaf ears. It is to this common faith that the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England allude in their section on the New Testament canon. “All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical” (1562).7
It was this common faith which guided Erasmus providentially in his task of editing the first printed Greek New Testament (1516). Although he was not himself outstanding as a man of faith, yet in his editing of the New Testament text he was guided by the faith of others. He was desirous of publishing an edition of the New Testament which would be well received and offend no one. Hence in his labors on the New Testament text Erasmus was probably expressing not so much his own views as the views of his contemporaries, views with which he would have become very well acquainted through his correspondence and his travels. In short, as editor of the first printed Greek New Testament, Erasmus was providentially controlled by the common faith in the providential preservation of the Scriptures.
Luther, Melanchthon, Stephanus, Calvin, Beza, and the other scholars of the Reformation Period who labored on the New Testament text were similarly guided by God’s special providence. These scholars had received humanistic training in their youth, and in their notes and comments they sometimes reveal traces of this early education. But in their actual dealings with the biblical text these humanistic tendencies were restrained by the common faith in the providential preservation of Scripture, a faith which they themselves professed along with their followers. Hence in the Reformation Period the textual criticism of the New Testament was different from the textual criticism of any other book. The humanistic methods used on other books were not applied to the New Testament. In their editions of the New Testament Erasmus and his successors were providentially guided by the common faith to adopt the current text, primarily the current Greek text and secondarily the current Latin text.
And soon, in the special providence of God, this common faith overcame all doubt. By the end of the 16th century humanism was a thing of the past in orthodox Protestant circles, and the text of Erasmus and the Reformers was received by true believers in every denomination as the true, providentially preserved New Testament text. Thus the logic of faith led true believers of that day, just as it leads true believers today, to the Textus Receptus as the God-guided New Testament text.
2. How The History Of The King James Version Confirms The Logic Of Faith
A study of the history of the King James Version clearly reveals it to be a God-guided translation of the holy Scriptures. It is said that from four-fifths to nine-tenths of the King James Version is taken from the version of William Tyndale, who published the first printed English Bible in 1525 and died a martyr in 1536. Other 16th-century English Bibles which influenced the King James Version are the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishops’ Bible (1568), and (slightly) the Douai Version (1582).
(a) How the King James Version Was Made – The Six Companies
Work on the King James Version began in 1604. In that year a group of Puritans under the leadership of Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, suggested to King James I that a new translation of the Bible be undertaken. This suggestion appealed to James, who was himself a student of theology and of the Scriptures, and he immediately began to make the necessary arrangements for carrying it out. Within six months the general plan of procedure had been drawn up and a complete list made of the scholars who were to do the work. Originally 54 scholars were on this list, but deaths and withdrawals reduced it finally to 47. These were divided into six companies which checked each other’s work. Then the final result was reviewed by a select committee of six and prepared for the press. And because of all this careful planning the whole project was completed in less than seven years. In 1611 the new version issued from the press of Robert Barker in a large folio volume bearing on its title page the following inscription: “The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament & the New: Newly Translated out of the Original tongues; & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesties special Commandment.”8
(b) The King James Translators Providentially Guided -Preface to the Reader
The translators of the King James Version evidently felt themselves to have been providentially guided in their work. This belief plainly appears in the ‘Preface of the Translators’, written by Dr. Miles Smith, one of the leaders of this illustrious band of scholars. Concerning his co-laborers he speaks as follows: “Truly, good Christian Reader, we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one; but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark. To that purpose there were many chosen, that were greater in other men’s eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise…And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own knowledge, or of their sharpness of wit, or deepness of judgment, as it were an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening, and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord, the Father of our Lord, to the effect that St. Augustine did; O let thy Scriptures be my pure delight; let me not be deceived in them, neither let me deceive by them. In this confidence and with this devotion, did they assemble together; not too many, lest one should trouble another; and yet many, lest many things haply might escape them.”9
God in His providence has abundantly justified this confidence of the King James translators. The course of history has made English a world-wide language which is now the native tongue of at least 300 million people and the second language of many millions more. For this reason the King James Version is known the world over and is more widely read than any other translation of the holy Scriptures. Not only so, but the King James Version has been used by many missionaries as a basis and guide for their own translation work and in this way has extended its influence even to converts who know no English. For more than 350 years therefore the reverent diction of the King James Version has been used by the Holy Spirit to bring the Word of life to millions upon millions of perishing souls. Surely this is a God-guided translation on which God, working providentially, has placed the stamp of His approval.
(c) How the Translators Were Providentially Guided -The Marginal Notes
The marginal notes which the translators attached to the King James Version indicate how God guided their labors providentially. According to Scrivener (1884), there are 8,422 marginal notes in the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament, Scrivener goes on to say, 4,111 of the marginal notes give the more literal meaning of the original Hebrew or Aramaic, 2,156 give alternative translations, and 67 give variant readings. In the New Testament 112 of the marginal notes give literal renderings of the Greek, 582 give alternative translations, and 37 give variant readings. These marginal notes show us that the translators were guided providentially through their thought processes, through weighing every possibility and choosing that which seemed to them best.10
The 1611 edition of the King James Version also included 9,000 “cross references” to parallel passages. These are still very useful, especially for comparing the four Gospels with each other. These “cross references” show that from the very start the King James Version was intended not merely as a pulpit Bible to be read in church, but also as a study Bible to guide the private meditations of God’s people.11
As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers: “Many other things we might give thee warning of, gentle Reader, if we had not exceeded the measure of a preface already. It remaineth that we commend thee to God, and to the Spirit of His grace, which is able to build further than we can ask or think. He removeth the scales from our eyes, the veil from our hearts, opening our wits that we may understand His Word, enlarging our hearts, yea, correcting our affections, that we may love it above gold and silver, yea, that we may love it to the end. Ye are brought unto fountains of living water which ye digged not; do not cast earth into them, neither prefer broken pits before them. Others have laboured, and you may enter into their labours. O receive not so great things in vain: O despise not so great salvation.”12
(d) Revisions of the King James Version – Obsolete Words Eliminated
Two editions of the King James Version were published in 1611. The first is distinguished from the second by a unique misprint, namely, Judas instead of Jesus in Mat_26:36. The second edition corrected this mistake and also in other respects was more carefully done. Other editions followed in 1612, 1613, 1616, 1617, and frequently thereafter. In 1629 and 1638 the text was subjected to two minor revisions. In the 18th century the spelling and punctuation of the King James Version were modernized, and many obsolete words were changed to their modern equivalents. The two scholars responsible for these alterations were Dr. Thomas Paris (1762), of Cambridge, and Dr. Benjamin Blayney (1769), of Oxford, and it is to their efforts that the generally current form of the King James Version is due. In the 19th century the most important edition of the King James Version was the Cambridge Paragraph Bible(1873), with F. H. A. Scrivener as its editor. Here meticulous attention was given to details, such as, marginal notes, use of Italic type, punctuation, orthography, grammar, and references to parallel passages. In 1884 also Scrivener published his Authorized Edition of the English Bible, a definitive history of the King James Version in which all these features and many more are carefully discussed.13 Since that time, however, comparatively little research has been done on the history of the King James Version, due probably to loss of interest in the subject.
3. Modern Rivals Of The King James Version -Their Modernistic Tendencies
The two oldest rivals of the King James Version, namely, the (English) Revised Version (1881) and the American Standard Version (1901), are now out of date and almost out of print, but in their day they did much to inject the virus of naturalistic Bible study into the thought stream of orthodox Christian people. The denominations and theological schools that adopted them then have by now, almost without exception, succumbed to modernism.
The text of these two versions was fashioned largely by two Cambridge University professors, B. F. Westcott (1825-1901) and F. J. A. Hort (1828-1892). These renowned scholars prided themselves on treating the text of the New Testament like the text of any other book. “For ourselves,” Hort wrote, “we dare not introduce considerations which could not reasonably be applied to other ancient texts, supposing them to have documentary attestation of equal amount, variety, and antiquity.”14
It was on this principle, for the most part, that the text of the Revised Version was constructed. For Westcott and Hort were members of the Committee that produced the Revised Version and succeeded in weaving their views into its very fiber. And the American Committee also that worked with the British Committee and that later published the American Standard Version agreed with Westcott and Hort’s views. Hence these two versions are almost identical, and their effect is the same. Although they employ the language of the King James Version, their outlook is thoroughly naturalistic and modernistic, at least as far as the text is concerned. The reader is introduced to the naturalistic viewpoint and thus is encouraged to ignore the divine uniqueness of the Bible and to treat its text like those of other books.
Neither the R.V. nor the A.S.V. fared as well as their promoters had hoped. They were never widely used, due largely to their poor English style, which, according to F. C. Grant (1954), “was, in many places, unbelievably wooden, opaque, or harsh.”15 Because of this lack of success these two versions have been largely abandoned, and their place has been filled by the Revised Standard Version (1946) in America and the New English Bible (1961) in England. Both are in modern speech. The R.S.V. was prepared by a committee appointed by the International Council of Religious Education, representing 40 Protestant denominations in the United States and Canada. The N.E.B. was prepared by a similar committee representing 9 denominations in Great Britain.
The modernism of the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. appears everywhere in them. For example, both of them profess to use thou when referring to God, and you when referring to men. Yet the disciples are made to use you when speaking to Jesus, implying, evidently, that they did not believe that He was divine. Even when they confess Him to be the Son of God, the disciples are still made to use you. You are the Christ, Peter is made to say, the Son of the living God (Mat_16:16). In both the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. opposition to the virgin birth of Christ is plainly evident. Thus the N.E.B. calls Mary a girl (Luk_1:27) rather than a virgin, in which error it is joined by Phillips and T.E.V. Also at Mat_1:16 the N.E.B. and some editions of the R.S.V. include in a footnote a reading found only in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, which states that Joseph was the father of Jesus.
The N.E.B. exhibits all too plainly a special hostility to the deity of Christ. This is seen in the way in which the Greek word proskyneo is translated. When it is applied to God, the N.E.B. always translates it worship, but when it is applied to Jesus, the N.E.B. persistently translates it pay homage or bow low.Thus the translators refuse to admit that Jesus was worshipped by the early Church. Even the Old Testament quotation, Let all the angels of God worship Him (Heb_1:6), is rendered by the N.E.B., Let all the angels of God pay him homage. The only passage in which proskyneo is translated worshipwhen applied to Jesus is in Luk_24:52. But here this clause is placed in a footnote as a late variant reading. By using the word worship here these modernistic translators give expression to their belief that the worship of Jesus was a late development which took place in the Church only after the true New Testament text had been written.
4. Readings Omitted by the Modern English Versions
Modern English versions are “rich in omissions,” (to borrow a phrase from Rendel Harris).16 Time and again the reader searches in them for a familiar verse only to find that it has been banished to the footnotes. Let us therefore discuss some of the smaller of these omissions, reserving the longer ones for another chapter.
(a) The Western Omissions
In the last portion of Luke there are eight readings which the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. remove from the text and consign to the footnotes. These readings are usually called Western omissions, because (with two exceptions) they are omitted only by a few manuscripts of the Western group, namely, D, certain Old Latin manuscripts, and one or two Old Syriac manuscripts. These Western omissions are as follows:
Luke 22:19-20 (the Lord’s Supper) from which is given for you through is shed for you, omitted by D and the Old Latin version.
Luke 24:3 (referring to Christ’s body) of the Lord Jesus, omitted by D and the Old Latin version.
Luke 24:6 (the angelic announcement) He is not here but is risen, omitted by D, the Old Latin version, the Old Syriac version (?), and certain manuscripts of the Armenian version.
Luke 24:12 (Peter’s journey to the tomb) whole verse omitted by D, the Old Latin version, and the Old Syriac version (?).
Luke 24:36 (salutation of the risen Christ) and saith unto them, Peace be unto you, omitted by D, the Old Latin version, and the Old Syriac version (?).
Luke 24:40 (proofs of Christ’s resurrection) And when He had thus spoken, He shewed them His hands and His feet, omitted by D and the Old Latin and Old Syriac versions.
Luke 24:51 (the ascension of Christ) and was carried up into heaven, omitted by Aleph, D, the Old Latin version and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript.
Luke 24:52 (recognition of Christ’s deity) worshipped Him, and omitted by D, the Old Latin version and the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript.
The omission of these eight readings in the R.S.V. and the N.E.B. is certainly not a matter that can be taken lightly, for it means, as far as these two modern versions can make it so, that all reference to the atoning work of Christ has been eliminated from Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper (Luk_22:19-20) and that the ascension of Christ into heaven (Luk_24:51) has been entirely removed from the Gospels, Mark’s account of the ascension having already been rejected by the critics. Certainly no believing Bible student can remain indifferent to this mutilation of the Gospel record.
(b) How the Critics Changed Their Minds Concerning the Western Omissions
In their Greek New Testament text (1881) Westcott and Hort placed these Western omissions in double brackets, thus indicating their opinion that these readings were interpolations which had been added to the text of Luke in all the New Testament manuscripts except I)and those mentioned above. But the fact that all eight of these readings have recently been found to occur in Papyrus 75 is unfavorable to their hypothesis that these readings are additions to the text. For if this were so, it is hard to see how all these readings could have made their way into so early a witness as Papyrus 75. Surely some of them would have failed to do so and thus would be absent from this papyrus. Hort’s answer to objections of this sort was vague and scarcely satisfactory. He believed that these readings were added to the text at a very early date just after the Neutral text “had parted company from the earliest special ancestry of the Western text,” perhaps “at the actual divergence”17 but where or by whom this was done he didn’t say.
Because these eight omitted readings have been found to occur in Papyrus 75, critics are now changing their minds about them. Kurt Aland (1966), for example, has restored these Western omissions to the text of the Nestle New Testament.18 Hence the R.S.V., the N.E.B., and the other modern versions which omit them are already out of date. And this rapid shifting of opinion shows us how untrustworthy naturalistic textual criticism is. Christians who rely upon it for their knowledge of the New Testament text are to be pitied. Surely they are building their house upon the sand.
(c) Was Marcion Responsible for the Western Omissions?
These Western omissions can be explained as the attempts of Christian scribes to remove seeming contradictions in the Gospel narrative. But there is also another possible explanation of them. It may be that these omissions in D and the Latin and Syriac versions constitute part of the damage done by Marcion and his followers to the New Testament text. Marcion was a heretic who flourished at Rome about 150 A.D. Orthodox Fathers of this period wrote against him, and from them we learn certain facts about him which are important for New Testament textual criticism.
In the first place, Marcion was one of those false teachers spoken of by the Apostle John (1Jn_4:3) who denied that Christ had come in the flesh. These heretics were called docetists (from the Greek word dokeo, to seem), because they taught that Christ’s body was not a true body but an unsubstantial phantom which merely seemed to be a true body. In the second place, of the Four Gospels Marcion accepted only Luke and altered even this Gospel in order to bring it into conformity with his docetic views. “Now of the authors whom we possess,” Tertullian writes, “Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process.”19 And in the third place, one of the passages which Tertullian accuses Marcion of altering is Luke 24:39, in which Christ proclaims, contrary to Marcion’s docetic opinion, the reality of His resurrection body. “In the passage before us,” Tertullian reports, “he (Marcion) would have the words, A spirit hath not bones, as ye see me have, so transposed as to mean, A spirit such as ye see me to be, hath not bones.”20
Thus a strong case can be made out for the view that Marcion and his followers were responsible, either directly or through their influence, for the omissions which D and the Latin and Syriac versions exhibit in the last chapters of Luke. In the first place, these omissions are Western omissions, and Marcion flourished in the West. In the second place, these omissions are found in Luke, the very Gospel which Marcion is known to have altered. In the third place, these omitted readings are the very ones which Marcion would be most prone to omit, since they all teach the doctrine which he denied, namely, that Christ had a true body. And finally, according to Harnack (1921),21 the outstanding authority on this subject, it is certain that Marcion did omit some of the Western omissions. One of these was Luke 24:40, He shewed them His hands and His feet. Two other Western omissions would be included in Luke 24:48-53, which section, according to Harnack, Marcion omitted entirely.
(Now go buy yourself a copy of Dr. Hill’s Believing Bible Study. Ask at the CB Facebook group how to buy a copy.)