Thursday, May 21, 2009

KJV: Elizabethan English is a Different Language

John McWhorter over at "The New Republic" has this to say on topic of whether the literature of Shakespeare is able to connect with us today, and I think it also speaks strongly to the King James Only issue:

"The problem is whether Shakespeare's English is the language we speak at all. English of the late 1500s presents us with a tricky question: At what point do we concede that substantial comprehension across the centuries has become too much of a challenge to expect of anyone but specialists?

"There is indeed just such a gap. Shakespeare lovers of all kinds miss much more of Shakespeare's basic meanings than they tend to suspect. Way back in 1898, Mark H. Liddell made this point in the Atlantic, taking as an example Polonius' farewell to Laertes in Hamlet. The speech is full of hidden deceptions, often leaving little more understanding of what Shakespeare said than we would of a Jamaican saying goodbye to his son in patois.

"'And these few precepts in thy memory / Look thou character'--we might take this as 'And as for these few precepts in thy memory, look, you rascal you!' Actually, look used to be an interjection roughly equivalent to 'see that you do it well.' Those of us who have a certain feel for archaic language might guess that character means something like 'to evaluate,' but this isn't even close--to Shakespeare, character here meant 'to write'! Granted, good acting might convey that look is an interjection, but no matter how charismatic and fine-tuned the acting, thou character is beyond comprehension to any but the occasional philologist in the audience.

"Then, 'Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.' First of all, thought to Shakespeare meant 'plan,' not just mental activity. Thus 'Give thy thoughts no tongue' meant 'Don't show your hand,' not just 'button up.' 'Nor any unproportion'd thought his act' - whose act? Who does the his refer to? To a modern listener this is the sort of opaque little splotch we must just let by, which in combination with the thousands of others over three hours leaves us yearning for a drink or a pillow. Actually, his could refer to things as well as men in earlier English. And act meant 'execution': the phrase meant 'Do not act on your intentions until they are well proportioned, i.e. completely thought out,' not just 'Don't be a silly-billy.'

"At the end, the famous 'Neither a borrower or a lender be, / 'For loan oft loses both itself and friend, / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.' Did Shakespeare suppose that the reason one shouldn't borrow is because it interferes with the raising of livestock? Actually, husbandry meant 'thrift' at the time. It will say that in the footnotes of a Hamlet book; but at the theatre, you don't have that with you.

"All Shakespeare plays are shot through with this kind of thing. The foremost writer in the English language is little more than a symbol in the actual thinking lives of most of us for the simple reason that we cannot understand what the man is saying. Listen to even ordinary Russians quoting Pushkin to get a sense of how far from our Bard we really are."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California's Budget Problem

From The Guardian:

"By most accounts, the reversal of fortune is largely out of his hands. Three decades of anti-tax activism have made California's budgetary fortunes – and the political fortunes of its leaders - dangerously dependent on the business cycle. Even a charismatic governor has to struggle to win the required two-thirds majority in the state assembly to get a budget passed, and almost always hits a brick wall because of hardline Republican refusal to contemplate tax increases of any kind.

"The reason Schwarzenegger is going to the people at all is because California's political system has, in his words, become a "poster child for dysfunction". He and leaders from the two parties made big compromises to reach agreement on the wording of the six ballot propositions, risking considerable ire in their parties' rank and file.

"But the voters appear to be tired of the constant calls to the polls, the constant budget emergencies (this is the third of the decade), and the constant promises of wide-ranging political reform that never seem to arrive."


California has always been a progressive state, offering a wide range of social services. In order to fund that kind of government, you need highly progressive taxation. Over the last 30 years, as the article notes, conservatives have chipped away at the taxation needed to support that kind of state, making us dependent on business cycles. In this economic environment, without the degree of progressive taxation needed to continue a classic progressive CA government, that government is coming to an end.
The recent ballot initiatives (1A-1F) weren't the answer, although they would help to a small degree. Ramping up taxes on upper income brackets is the true answer, but the Republicans won't have it, and given the required majorities to pass tax hikes, it won't happen.
The defeat of 1A-1E is most important for what it says- it tells the government to slash programs, and don't come back to the voters until you do. CA is in the process of moving from being progressive to becoming average. This state will always be somewhat more progressive, and perhaps a renaissance is in the works when the economy improves. But I think not.
A new creature is rising from the ashes and that is the federal government. The recent adoption of CA fuel-efficiency standards and the push toward health-care reform, among other things, signal a federal government taking over the mantle from CA. By the end of Obama's first term this will be evident, and a multi-year national economic recovery will be here, purely on the economic benefits of making health-care massively less of a burden to our economy.
Republicans will have succeeded in slaying the "socialist dragon" in CA, only to create the perfect environment for Obama to federalize many of the progressive ideals.

Republicans are partly to blame by allowing tax cuts to pass without securing the passage of a reduction in state services.
Democrats are partly to blame by not being willing to cut state services when a tax cut is inevitable.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Abortion: A Stronger Argument than Life

In this post I am going to demonstrate that, Scripturally, a fetus is not a "life" until it is born.
Let me say at the outset that I am not "for" abortion, nor am I "pro-choice." At the same time, those who care about the authority of the Scriptures need to be honest about what they really say.
I will conclude by making a case against abortion that I feel is much stronger than the fight over when life begins, and the attitude I feel we should have concerning public policy.


Psalm 139:13-16
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvellous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, [and] curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all [my members] were written, [which] in continuance were fashioned, when [as yet there was] none of them.

The anti-abortion argument hinges on verse 16, where God has planned out the members of the body even before they are formed. This incorrect interpretation is a result of the added italicized words in the KJV. Here is v.16 again, without the added words:

16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all were written, in continuance were fashioned, when none of them.

The antecedent of "all" must also be the antecedent of "them." Obviously we are referring to a group- a group of what? "Substance" is not a group. The KJV translators added "my members" which seems logical but has no textual support.
Assuming it is referring to members of the body, we are told they were fashioned over time, when there were none of them. How can there be no members if the members are being fashioned? Only if they are they are not considered to exist until they are fully formed. But this interpretation obviously damages the "pro-life" argument, and I don't think it is adequate or accurate.

The key is to understand the antecedent as "in continuance," or "days." Fortunately, we have other versions that can clear this up. See the NASB here:

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

Or the NKJV:

16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

To paraphrase:

16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book my days are written down, before any of them came to pass.

"My substance" obviously indicates the biological entity that was to become King David. Yet his "time" was yet to come- "when as yet there were none of them." The days in his mother's womb are not accounted as days of his life.
However, there is no warrant to infer anything more from this passage one way or the other. The poetry of Psalm 19:13-16 is moving, but it contributes nothing to either side of the abortion debate.

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

First, this is clearly referring to sinful flesh, the genesis of the flesh in the womb being the creation of another fallen man, the forming of another vessel of corruption (I Cor 15). The point of this verse is not to say that sin was imputed to David from the point of conception, but that the flesh he was given was corrupt and given to iniquity and sin from the moment it came into being.
Secondly, the typical "pro-life" interpretation of this verse destroys any concept of an "age of accountability" and misstates the doctrine of original sin. Original sin will become imputed by drawing the flesh to sin, but strictly speaking, it is not imputed sin, it is the natural corruption in man's flesh by way of the fall as a result of Adam's sin- thus death came unto all men. This is also forms the theological basis for an "age of accountability" whereby there is no imputed sin until such as time as a child learns right from wrong- this also parallels the Eden account as concerns the tree of knowledge.
This is yet another verse that can't be used to argue either way.

Exodus 21:22-25
22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].
23 And if [any] mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Obviously the "pro-life" interpretation is that if the premature birth results in death, then the attacker will be punished for murder. But why does the word "mischief" (or "harm," see modern versions) have to mean death? Verses 23b-25 indicate a wide variety of harms and punishments.
Also, to whom is the "mischief" inflicted- the mother or infant? There are several solid reasons why mischief is best understood to refer to the woman.
1. This passage isn't about a man directly attacking a pregnant woman. It is about two men in a fight accidentally injuring a nearby pregnant woman to the point where she gives birth prematurely. "Mischief" then would be understood of the injurer deciding to continue hurting the woman deliberately.
2. The list of possible harms and punishments in vs. 23-25 find their full application in injuries sustained by fully developed individuals (i.e. infants don't have teeth).
3. In ancient Israel, any premature birth would result in certain death for the infant unless the mother was at the very tail end of the pregnancy. We forget this in today's world of fully-staffed delivery wards and NICUs.
4. Most impressively, the ancient Jewish rabbinical commentators take the view that "mischief" refers to harm done to the woman. From John Gill's commentary:

"then thou shalt give life for life; if death to the woman, so Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it; to which agrees the Targum of Jonathan,
'but if there is death in her, then ye shall judge or condemn the life of the murderer for the life of the woman;'"

"the canons of the Jews, according to Maimonides {b}, run thus;
'he that strikes a woman, and she miscarries and dies, although it is done ignorantly; lo, such an one is free from payment, and he does not pay anything, as it is said, 'if there is no mischief, &c.' the Scripture does not distinguish between what is done ignorantly and presumptuously, in a thing in which there is not death by the sanhedrim, to free him from payment; in what things? when he intends the woman; but if he intends his neighbour and strikes the woman, though she dies, since her death is, without intention, lo, this is a thing in which there is not death by the sanhedrim, and he pays the price of the birth:'"

This explanation given by Maimonides provides us with a clear interpretation: a man in a fight, having struck a woman so as to cause not only the death of the child but the death of the woman, went off free, and merely paid a sum of money for the child lost prematurely. The man ONLY suffered further punishment if, after the accidental injury, he carries out further intentional harm- on the woman. The premature birth is assumed to be a death sentence.

However, this verse does not address intentional harm to unborn children, only the intent to harm the woman, and as such can't be used by either side in the abortion debate.

Genesis 4:1, 17
1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

The contention here is that because the formula "conceived and bore [NAME]" is used, that individual existed in personal totality at the point of conception. Throughout the Scriptures, names were not given until birth except in instances where God chose the name. Such as that may be, however, it is too far to jump from that to saying that the child was not yet a person until birth. These verses provide no real benefit to either side.

Psalm 22:9-10
9 But thou [art] he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope [when I was] upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou [art] my God from my mother's belly.

Verse 9 refers to birth, and verse 10 also refers to birth. David's point was that the Lord has been his hope ever since he was born. See also the NASB at v.10:

10 Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb.

Consider the following verse:

Mark 12:27
He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

If God is God of the living but wasn't David's God until birth, then David wasn't one of "the living" until he was born. The reply that God was his God before birth but only David's personal God after birth ignores the fact that David wouldn't have the presence of mind to make that decision while he was still upon his "mother's breasts."
It is highly unlikely that the last half of v.10 refers to his time actually in the womb. The KJV is ambiguous here. "Since my mother bore me" is found in the ASV("bare"), RSV, and NRSV at this point, and the NET has "from the time I came out of my mother’s womb."

Mark 12:27 & Psalm 22:10 argue against "pro-life."

Galatians 1:15
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called [me] by his grace,

The KJV is ambiguous here to the modern reader, but again, "from my mother's womb" is idiomatic of birth. The RSV, NRSV, and NLT have "before I was born" as the ESV:

15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

However, the Greek does not support this wording. (See the ESV and NET footnotes.)

Psalm 106:37-38 & II Kings 17:17-18
37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,
38 And shed innocent blood, [even] the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.

17 And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.

These would have been birthed children.

Leviticus 17:11
For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.

The context of this passage is ceremonial sacrifice, not the definition of life. What is being said is that the shedding of blood takes life, not that blood constitutes life. There is much more to life than blood; even today doctors distinguish between cardiac death and brain death.


From the Babylonian Talmud:

From Book 8, Ch. 9:

"The same questioned again the same: At what time does the soul come into the body--at the moment of conception, or at the time the embryo is already formed? And the answer was: When it is already formed. Said Antoninus to him: Is it possible that a piece of flesh shall keep three days or more without being salted, and it shall not become stinking? And therefore it must be said: At conception. Said Rabbi: This teaching I accepted from Antoninus, and a support to him is to be found in [Job, x. 12]: 'And thy providence watched over my spirit.'

"Antoninus questioned Rabbi again: At what time does the evil spirit reach man? At the time the embryo is formed, when it comes out from the womb? And he was answered: At the time it is formed. Rejoined Antoninus: If so, the embryo would kick the entrails of the mother and go out; therefore it must be from the time it comes out. And Rabbi said: This teaching I received from Antoninus, and he is supported by Gen. iv. 7: 'Sin lieth at the door.'"

The story here is of the Rabbi Gbiah b. Psisa standing before Alexander the Great. Here we have two questions posed to him 1) when does man receive a soul and 2) when does the evil spirit reach man? The Rabbi (Gbiah b. Psisa) answers that man receives a soul when he has been formed, and that the evil spirit reaches him at the same time. Alexander (Antoninus) answers that man receives a soul at conception and the evil spirit reaches him at birth. The Rabbi gives Alexander credit by referencing Job 10:12 and Genesis 4:7, however, examination of the context of these verses does not warrant the use of them in support of Alexander's answers.

From Book 8, Ch. 7

"In the name of R. Ishmael it was said: He is put to death even for killing an embryo. Whence is this deduced? Said R. Jehudah: From [Gen. ix. 5]: "Your blood, however, on which your lives depend, will I require," meaning even by one judge. "At the hand of every beast" means even without warning; "at the hand of man" means even with one witness; "at the hand of every man" means of a man but not of a woman; "brother" means even when the witness was a relative. And the reason of R. Ishmael is [ibid. 6]: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood in man, 2 his blood shall be shed." What is meant by "a man in man," if not an embryo, which is in the entrails of his mother? And the first Tana, who holds that a descendant of Noah is not guilty for an embryo, is in accordance with the school of Manasheh, which maintains that every death which is mentioned regarding the descendants of Noah is choking; and he explains the above-cited verse "in man shall his blood be shed," that it means choking, from which death occurs inside of the body as illustrated above."

The consensus is that Genesis 9:6 is not speaking to the death of an embryo.

From the Mishnah:

Nashim, Yevamot 69b

"For if she is not found pregnant she never was pregnant; and if she is found pregnant, the semen, until the fortieth day, is only a mere fluid. Said Abaye to him: If so, read the final clause: If the embryo in her womb can be distinguished she is considered to have committed an offence retrospectively! — The meaning is that she is considered to have committed an offence retrospectively to the fortieth day."

A woman is not even considered pregnant until day 40.

"If she becomes pregnant she may no longer eat terumah. If the embryo was cut in her womb she may eat."
Footnote in the text- "Immediately. And the same law applies where the embryo was born dead."

The woman being referred to here is the wife of a priest. As such, she might share in the "terumah," or portion of the offering given for the priests to eat, but there were rules as to when she was deemed not fit to eat of it. If the woman may eat immediately after the embryo was cut, how would this matter unless the embryo was cut at a specific time? This is clearly referring to abortion. The matter of fact way this text deals with the matter is striking.

The Septuagint- Exodus 21:22-25

22 And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation.
23 But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life,
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

The LXX, in contradiction to the commentators mentioned by Gill, identify the "mischief" as relating to the child. However, in agreement with Rabbi Gbiah b. Psisa, it seems to identify the beginning of life at formation.


If we restrict ourselves to current Biblical sources based on the Masoretic Text, life does not begin until birth. If we allow for the authority of parts of the Talmud and the Septuagint, life begins at formation. The baby's body parts are all distinctly formed by the end week 12- the end of the first trimester. This is the earliest point at which a premature birth would produce a fetus with all parts visually distinct.


Still, admitting that life does not begin until birth (or at the end of the first trimester) doesn't automatically mean abortion before that point is right for any reason. One recalls the question on divorce posed to Christ in Matthew 19:3- "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"
Christ immediately appealed to God's ordinance of marriage as stated in Scripture- because God set Adam and Eve together in marriage, so then a man shall leave home and marry. God has set us a model in the beginning, a creation order, that we are to follow.
We see in v.6 that "God hath joined together." Even though it is obvious a choice was made between two consenting adults to marry, it was God who joined them. God has done a work, and He has done the work because these two have chosen to follow God's model.
Likewise, our incessant back and forth over when life actually begins is the wrong argument to take. The issue is not murder, the issue is commitment and supporting God's own purpose. God's creation order for procreation is for married couples to multiply and fill the earth. Once the conception has occurred, like the marriage vows, God has done a work, for the simple reason that the parents-to-be have followed God's model.
Even in the case where a child will have a disability, God can be seen to have performed a work. Such children are given to us as a reminder of our fallen condition but also, a testimony to God's provision and grace. We see His salvation as He gives inward strength to these weak ones. No, the world does not understand this, but Christians who know the power of Christ should understand!
Any negative biological phenomena that mar a perfect conception, development, and delivery are products of the Fall. God does not call us to reverse the Fall or hide from it but to allow His grace to be sufficient- even in these cases.
Abortion then, is only permissible in cases of rape and where the pregnancy would result in the mother losing her life. In the case of rape, the woman forced to conceive against her will; in the other, that which is already a life (the mother) is more important than that which is to be (the child). Even in incest, if it is consensual, it is not right to end the pregnancy.

What would the Lord say? In v.6 He allowed for divorce on grounds of adultery; however, He does not command it to be so. As a matter of fact, the decision to divorce on this ground, or any grounds, is an issue of unforgiveness ("hardness of heart" v.8). It is better to forgive and show mercy.

So even in cases of rape, the woman should seek to forgive, show mercy, and keep the child, but she is under no obligation to do so. In the case of danger to the mother, the woman should also be free to choose to give her life for that of the child.


The unregenerate man, the non-Christian, ought also to obey the natural creation order that God has set in place, as he is also God's creation. Nonetheless, it is a given that he violates this order, as he does not regard the Scriptures, Jehovah God, or His Son Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, man cannot truly respect and obey God's order until he yields himself to Jesus Christ.
Since a fetus is not a life until birth, we need to drop the screams of "murder" and "blood." Abortion remains unnatural, but so is adultery, and we don't expect the government to pass a law against that. Let man sin until he comes to Christ, because his righteousness won't save him. Abortion, though unnatural, should be regulated by government, not outlawed. Typing this is difficult; however, God never called us to institute His commands on others by pressing the government to legislate them. Unless you are a reconstructionist.
Public policy should seek to provide alternatives to abortion, as well as supportive services for those mothers who would keep their child if they felt they could. Good government should leave a mother considering abortion no excuses to avoid it.
Christian activism on the issue should be focus in the positive direction of providing alternatives and support, not the negative direction it mostly takes today.

Ehrman 'debunks' the Bible

Or so says CNN, talking about "Jesus, Interrupted." ( )

For those of you not familiar with Ehrman, check out my review of his book, "Misquoting Jesus." It says much of what I would say in response to the CNN article. You will notice I mention the Greer/Heard Ehrman-Wallace debate. Mr. Ehrman's contentions are handled superbly, and it is worth buying the MP3 download of the debate if the issue truly interests you.
What it striking is that when Ehrman is confronted by able apologists, he backs off and says he is not trying to debunk the Bible, he is just being honest with the evidence. However, in the public realm, he has played a much more sensational game. If you listen to the Ehrman-Wallace debate, you will see what I mean.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Blog Has a New Hairdo

I have upgraded my blog to take advantage of Blogger's gadgets which make keeping up all the stuff to the right (-->) much easier.
As a result, I also now have a followers box. Add yourself if you read me! But no guilt if you don't. :)
In addition, there are some ads over there. A few extra dollars would go a long way for my family. So if you see something interesting, click!
I am also tracking my visits with sitemeter now. Don't worry, it doesn't give me your name and social! Just number of hits, what website referred you here, what the traffic is like. I guess I am making my blog more serious, although it continues to be a fond hobby of mine, not a business or anything like that.

Westcott & Hort Misquotes

I was browsing the website of a church I used to attend in VA some years ago. On their website, they link to an article from the Dean Burgon society to help explain their KJVO position.
Basically, the article employs several arguments- including an argument from preservation, and the majority argument, both of which are dealt with in my "New Bible Versions" link to the right.
It also gives the false impression that all modern versions employ dynamic translation. However, it also engages in the standard bashing of men associated with new versions, misrepresenting them like so many others before.

From the article:
"Secondly, current day New Version Potentate Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Bruce Metzger has a low regard for the Scriptures as well."

"New Version Potentate." What is the purpose of this?

"He doubts Moses alone authored the Pentateuch. As Co-editor of the New Oxford Annoted Bible RSV he wrote or approved of notes asserting that the Pentateuch is 'a matrix of myth, legend, and history' that 'took shape over a long period of time' and is 'not to be read as history.' Job is called an 'ancient folktale.' And the book of Isaiah was written by as least three men. Jonah is called 'popular legend.'"

Metzger's views on the literalness of parts of the OT does not cancel out his belief in inspiration.

"Then add to that that Metzger claims that the Gospels are composed of material gathered from oral tradition. The problem is, he completely ignores the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the Bible itself!"

Do you not expect that the gospel writers had already heard many details about the life of Christ prior to writing the Gospels? This does not in any way cancel out divine inspiration. He is merely pointing out what they had to work with. The Bible is like Christ, both human and Divine; the human character of its authors vetted and imprinted with the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, Westcott and Hort get rather severe treatment as well. The following is from the Westcott and Hort Resource Centre, and presents the truth behind three misquotations in this article.


"I reject the word infallibility of Holy Scripture overwhelming." (Westcott, The Life and Letters of Brook Foss Westcott, Vol. I, p.207)

This misquote comes in several flavours. Sometimes you will see it with or without a hyphen (sometimes the hyphen is removed to make it appear even more like a continuous thought, a complete sentence). Other times, you may also see the word "overwhelming" changed to "overwhelmingly", in an attempt to fix the grammar problem that arises from chopping off the first half of the original sentence. Both alterations are attempts to remove the clues that something is amiss with the quote - and there is definitely something amiss.

It comes from Life and Letters of Westcott, Vol. I, p.207, and here it is in entirety (misquote in bold, context in underline):

"My dear Hort - I am very glad to have seen both your note and Lightfoot's - glad too that we have had such an opportunity of openly speaking. For I too "must disclaim setting forth infallibility" in the front of my convictions. All I hold is, that the more I learn, the more I am convinced that fresh doubts come from my own ignorance, and that at present I find the presumption in favor of the absolute truth - I reject the word infallibility - of Holy Scripture overwhelming. Of course I feel difficulties which at present I cannot solve, and which I never hope to solve."

This quote is part of a three-way discussion between Westcott, Hort and Lightfoot, when they were initially considering working together to produce a commentary of the entire New Testament. Part of the discussion is lost, but a couple of letters from Hort remain (see misquote #3 below for part of one of them). The quote as originally presented was not the complete sentence, but was prefaced with with an affirmation of "the absolute truth of Holy Scripture". Any "difficulties" and "doubts" he sees in scripture "come from my own ignorance" - i.e. when he sees a problem, he recognizes and admits that the problem is with him, not with Scripture.

Also, how can he reject the infallibility of Scripture and affirm the "absolute truth" of Scripture in the same sentence? Note that Westcott is not rejecting the concept in inerrant scripture (as numerous other quotes demonstrate), but rather he has problems with the word "infallibility", which he felt was limited and "mechanical". Elsewhere, Westcott said "Mere mechanical infallibility is but a poor substitute for a plenary Inspiriation, which finds its expression in the right relation between partial human knowledge and absolute Divine truth." (Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, Westcott, p.41). By saying "I reject the word infallibility", he is not saying he rejects the idea that scripture is inerrant, but rather dislikes the word because he feels it is inadequate and doesn't go far enough - he feels it is "poor substitute for plenary Inspiration".


"I never read an account of a miracle but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability and discover some want of evidence in the account of it." (Life and Letters of Westcott, Volume I, pg. 52).

Before discussing the contents of the quote, I would like to point out that this quote of Westcott's was made when he was 22 years of age while he was a student, and approximately 34 years prior to the publication of Greek New Testament of 1881. How many current authors that oppose Westcott and Hort, such as Ruckman, Gipp, Fuller, etc., would like to be held to the quotes they made when they were that young? Probably none. Beliefs can change quite a bit in 34 years, as evidenced in most Christians.

Context reveals the point of the quote. Here is the entire journal entry, and the next:

"11th August. - James i. I do not recollect noticing the second verse ever before in the way I have. How sincerely do I wish that I could "rejoice in temptation." I never read an account of a miracle but I seem instinctively to feel its improbability, and discover some want of evidence in the account of it. The day is extremely warm.

31st August. - Hooker. V.S.D. Oh, the weakness of my faith compared with that of others! So wild, so sceptical am I. I cannot yield. Lord, look on me ; teach me Thy truth, and let me care for nothing else in evil report and good. Let me uphold nothing as necessary, but only Thy truth."

Here Westcott, as a 22-year-old student, is lamenting his own weaknesses. He is not expressing his disbelieve in miracles, but admitting a natural tendency to want an explanation - that he struggled with simply accepting them by faith. That doesn't mean he did not accept by faith the accounts of the miracles, but rather that his first reaction (which he did not let determine his view on miracles) was to desire some evidence of them. In later years, Westcott went on to write many books, and wrote many things specifically about the absolute truth of the miracles as recorded in Scripture. He even wrote a book solely on this subject about 12 years later, called "Characteristics of the Gospel Miracles" in 1859.


"No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history - I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did" (Life and Letters of Hort, Vol. II, pg. 69)

This quote comes from a letter Westcott wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, on March 4, 1890. The surrounding context from the letter is below (underlining added):

" The picture which you draw is sad, but I too, in my way, know that this is true. We want - and I know that I want, which is something - a living faith. When we are quite sure that God is speaking today - and He is speaking - we shall not grow wild in discussing how He once spoke.
I have purposely refrained from reading Lux Mundi, but I am quite sure that our Christian faith ought not to be perilled on any predetermined view of what the history and character of the documents contained in the O.T. must be. What we are bound to hold is that the O.T., substaintially as we receive it, is the Divine record of the discipline of Israel. This is remains, whatever criticism may determine or leave undetermined as to constituent parts. No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history - I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think that they did - yet they disclose to us a Gospel. So it is probably elsewhere. Are we not going through a trial in regard to the use of popular language on literary subjects like that through which we went, not without sad losses, in regard to the use of popular language on physical subjects? If you feel now that it was, to speak humanly, necessary that the Lord should speak of the "sun rising," it was no less necessary that He should use the names "Moses" and "David" as His contemporaries used them. There was no critical question at issue. (Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than History: this is a private parenthesis for myself alone.)"

Westcott believed it was not literal prose, but poetical, and that "Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than History" - Westcott believed that it was true, just in poetical form instead of simply literal historical prose. He affirmed that the O.T. is the Divine record, given by God. He affirmed that the first three chapters of Genesis, although he did not take them literally as a record of six 24-hour periods, disclose a Gospel (he even wrote an essay, "The Gospel of Creation"). He affirmed the reality of Adam, the Fall, etc. (see this link for some quotes). He affirmed that God speaks in the language and style of the people he is speaking to - and the ancient Hebrews had a strong fondess for different styles, including poetic, apocalyptic, etc. Although his view on the first three chapters of Genesis is not the same as many modern Evangelicals, it was typical of the church of his day, and many in the church both before and after him, including most other Anglicans (which would most probably include Burgon, the KJV translators, etc.). To hold this quote as heretical is to hold the vast majority of the historical church as likewise heretical.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Best Version of the Bible is the One You Read

So what's the best version of the Bible?

I have been thinking about this more lately. My first response is that there is no best version. Ancient Greek and Hebrew do not translate perfectly into English- you either give up readability for accuracy (NASB) or accuracy for readability (The Message), or find some mid-point that is all-around unsatisfying (NIV).
This conclusion would suggest that you need two versions: one for reading, and one for study. If you have the opportunity to own two versions, this is the way to go!
However, this is an unsatisfactory answer. Once I was listening to message preached out of the NKJV by a man who expected us to follow in our KJVs. What's the point of turning to the references with him if we don't have the same translation?
I am not condemning his use of the NKJV. As a matter of fact, it may be said that the NKJV and KJV are so much alike, where is the issue? Nonetheless, it makes more sense in such a case to put down your Bible and just listen.
Many in the fundy-turned-reformed camp have flocked to the ESV. I liked the ESV at first too. However, once I bought a copy and started reading it regularly, I felt like it wasn't as readable as it ought to be. It is smooth overall but certain places it just- jars. Certainly, the ESV is much more readable than the NASB, and definitely more accurate than an NIV. Still, it isn't the holy grail.
So my gaze turned towards the NRSV. Oh noes! The liberal version! Some have said that the NRSV contains as much liberal bias as the ESV contains conservative bias. I personally feel it is a hybrid between the RSV and NASB. But- it reads very smoothly, very consistently. I have yet to run across a passage in the NRSV that I feel is wooden or jarring. It is amazing. It just reads really, really well.
Now here's the kicker. Would I trust it for study? I mean those times when interpretation comes down to the words. Maybe. Mostly I would look up a bunch of versions online and compare, maybe even check out a Greek lexicon on a particular word or tense, so it doesn't really matter.
What if I were trapped on a desert island with only one version? What would it be? You see here I am pressing the question.
I just want to open the Book and read. I mostly want to take in what the Scriptures say. I want them to be readable, accessible, and clear. I do not want language getting in the way.
I would pick the version that reads well for me without being too dynamic like some versions are (NLT, CEV, NCV, The Message). For me right now, that would be the NRSV. For you, it might be another version.

Whither the old King James? I am convinced, that the outdated language serves not to enlighten the reader, but to perpetuate whatever the teachers and preachers say it means. This is unfortunate. The King James can be very valuable, IF you have a solid understanding of the archaic terms and idioms used, AND if you allow the original languages and/or modern versions to help clarify some passages. However, the KJV is used in this way less and less anymore; those who don't vilify new versions are moving to them. KJV usage is becoming more and more restricted to the KJVO crowd, where the text will and has already begun to take on a life of its own. Ignorance of archaic forms and a severe dearth of exegetical preaching among KJVOs is causing this. The intellectual inbreeding of this crowd will ensure their eventual destruction.
Basically, there is no reason not to move from the KJV anymore, except for tradition's sake and/or to avoid offending a KJVO. If you have a problem with "deleted verses," get a NKJV. If your problem is that the new versions are too dynamic and free, get a NASB or an ESV. You and the rest of us deserve to understand the Scriptures and to enjoy them. All I know is that since I picked up a new version I WANT to read the Scriptures. Wouldn't you like to WANT to read the Bible? Try a few versions online (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV) and see what works for you.

Reading is key! Study is secondary, but if you haven't been reading your Bible, maybe your version isn't working out for you?
Secondly, the following ideas might be killing your Bible reading:
1. I must read every day,
2. I must read it through in a year.
3. I must read a certain amount every day.

No you don't! Find a version that is clear and readable to you, then read some now and read some later. Let the Holy Spirit draw you to His Word.
Do you think other versions are no good? Don't bury your KJV in a napkin just because it isn't working for you, or flog yourself with endless chapters day after day because you feel you must. Go for the "usury" of a modern version, if that's how you see it. Get a little something, instead of a lot of nothing. What DO you think Jesus will say? "You never could stick with your KJV, but boy am I glad you didn't read any other version. You really stood up for the truth!" I don't think so!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Help Us Win

So my wife entered a photo contest where if your child's photo gets the most votes in a month, you win $2,500. That's a lot of baby supplies, or a rainy day fund, or a trip for me to take her back to see her family. If you would like to help us out, my wife has prepared a helpful video to tell you all about how. You can vote once a day.

Here is the link to go to, to vote.