Textual Talk


The Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary recently received the private library of Dr. Theodore Letis. In the personal library was a very rare copy of Theodore Beza’s New Testament in Greek and Latin. Apparently Dr. Letis (I have never heard of him, have you?) was a New Testament scholar who wrote to defend the Textus Receptus (the Greek text behind the Authorized Version and the New King James Version).

This is a very special addition to any library. The Prots should be happy with this rare volume. The article is here and begins on PDF page number 95. It is worth reading because it gives a short personal narrative of David Englesma’s time in seminary in the basement of 1st Prot Church. The article also shows that they are not interested in too much reading beyond their tradition (Englesma says that there were a number of books about evangelical feminism and they are going in the dumpster! Those would be useful for reference in a paper, at least… you would think!)

Congratulations to the Protestant Reformed Seminary on their recent addition to their library.

Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples cried out, “who then can be saved?” The response is no one! No man can work to earn his salvation. But the sweet blood of Jesus Christ is more efficacious than all the work that a man can do. Thomas Watson, in his Treatise on the Holy Eucharist, comments:

If we had offered up millions of holocausts and sacrifices, if we had wept rivers of tears, this could never have appeased an angry Deity. Only Christ’s blood ingratiates us into God’s favor and makes Him look upon us with a smiling aspect. When Christ died, the veil of the temple was rent. This was not without a mystery, to show that through Christ’s blood the veil of our sins is rent which interposed between God and us.

In a discussion on the article of faith, “He descended into hell” you will find much confusion. The ancients intended this phrase to mean just what it says- Jesus descended into hell after his burial. Most views say that he preached or proclaimed his triumph over sin and death before demons and/or the damned.

Reformed Christians historically deny this interpretation. We have reinterpreted this phrase in our ancient creed to mean that he either entered the place of the dead or he suffered the pains of hell on the cross. My personal belief (which does not find much support in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition) is that we strike this phrase from our Creed or we place a giant footnote at the bottom of every printing and state that we disagree with the original meaning of the authors of the text.

As far as I see there are three camps in the Reformed tradition here:
1. Those who are revisionists and reinterpret the creed.
2. Those that do not think that it is that important to change or redefine.
3. Those who want to strike the phrase out of our ancient creed.

Of course, all three have consequences. What should be done though? Does a revisionistic interpretation open the door to liberal interpretations of the Scriptures? Does striking the line show disrespect to our ancient heritage?

Three quotes were given in the discussion that shows the confusion that this phrase has made in the evangelical world. These quotes left me astonished that some have gone so far as to redefine Christ’s atoning sacrifice to fit into a creedal system. I see these as the bad fruit of not dealing with this early on in the Protestant Reformation (I understand that the Reformers would not have been able to maintain their claim on catholicity if they began disassembling the creeds of the historic Church):

When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne…Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption. -Kenneth Copeland

Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God…Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence. -Fredrick Price

He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death. -Kenneth Hagen

I have begun a Bible study on the seven churches of Asia Minor found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. There are so many practical applications for the Church today found in those two little chapters.

Wednesday we began with the letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the ‘mother kirk’ of the other churches in that region, pastored by Timothy with apostolic oversight from John. The session of this congregation was known to have precision doctrinally and could spot heresy from a distance. At the time of the writing to the churches, this congregation had lost much of the zeal that ‘first generation’ Christians bring to a congregation. The love for Christ had grown cold. Jesus tells them that they are to do these first works again and to repent.

“The lush green color of springtime in the congregation has disappeared, and the fading shades… of Autumn are now prevalent. To put it differently, the church that Jesus addressed no longer consisted of first generation believers but of second and third generation Christians. These people lacked the enthusiasm their parents and grandparents had demonstrated. They functioned not as propagators of the faith but as caretakers and custodians. There was an obvious deficiency in evangelistic outreach as a result of a status quo mode of thought. They loved the Lord, but no longer with heart, mind, and soul.” -Simon Kistemaker

Jesus gives them a great promise though. If they overcome, they will be granted to eat from the Tree of Life. To a city that was full of false worship that was symbolized by the fig-tree, this promise would stand out as such comfort to those that longed to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Jesus’ last words… is not a threat but a promise: the victor will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. In this first letter the painful memory of paradise lost is transformed into hope, as the promise points ahead to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem… The great temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built on the site of an ancient tree-shrine, and the image of the date palm symbolized the goddess and her city, Ephesus. But Jesus excels Artemis, for he promises to those who overcome, through truth expressed in love, access to a tree that yields endless delight and eternal life. –Dennis Johnson.

May we not lose our first love, do those first works of love and worship towards Christ and neighbors, thus also being partakers of that eternal fruit from that Ancient Tree.

I will not be posting until my laptop has been fixed. It is the only approved instrument for blog post making. Pray for her, she is a good machine.

Whatsoever we have over-loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God has from time to time broken it, and made us to see the vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to be rid our comforts is to set our hearts inordinately or immoderately upon them.
—John Flavel
In the meantime, I will, continue the Memoirs of Thomas Boston. I will also finish a sermon that I have been working on. I will have to break out the Greek lexicons, since I rely on Bible Works 7 for my lexicons. Time to sharpen some pencils.

In the evangelical world you do not often see articles or discussions about women covering their heads in worship. Last week Andree’ Seu, of World Magazine, wrote the article: Symbol of Glory as a a defense of why she has been covering her head in worship.

I know that it is a controversial issue and that there are God honoring people on both sides of the argument; but it is nice to see that people are at least thinking about the implications of I Corinthians 11. 2-16.

I would like to see more discussion on the issue done in a God-honoring way. I am afraid that in some, it has become a symbol of control over a woman rather than of her glory. Either way, Seu has a balanced argument for the usage of head coverings.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, says that the Word of God is to be translated into the ‘vulgar language of every nation into which they come‘. This causes some difficulty for us that are outside of the camp in regards to textual criticism.

There are two major textual traditions within the church. Some hold to what is called ‘the critical text’ and others hold to ‘the majority text’ or the ‘received text’. Those of us who hold to the latter have only a few choices to choose from in Bible translations. There is the Geneva Bible of 1599 which was just republished, there is the Authorized Version (King James), and there is the New King James version (as well as a couple of other small and obscure translations).

Those in the critical textual tradition have a huge variety to choose from. There are very poor translations such as the NIV and New Living Translation; but there are some very good and accurate ones as well. The New American Standard is good as well as the English Standard Version. These are both very accurate ‘word for word’ translations.

Some have said that the textual variations only make up for about 20% of the problems that translations run into. Some are big problems though, such as the ending of the Lord’s Prayer being taken out- even though in Confessional churches we swear to that ending in our Confessions.

My congregation uses the Authorized Version which is a very good and accurate translation, but I fear that we do not heed the words of our forefathers who said that the Bible needs to be in the vulgar, or common language. People (I have not heard this from members of my congregation) often say that we need to retain the thees and thous and that people should have to learn how to understand these archaic words. I do not think that this is the correct attitude. The church’s job is to provide an accurate and understandable version of the Bible that can be read and studied in homes and churches. I do not think that those with only a high school education should miss out on what the Word actually says because the ministry wants to hold onto language that is not common to today’s people.

I mean no disrespect to those who use the AV, I am one of those people. But I do think that being 393 years removed from a version is a problem (especially when it is a translation that was authorized by a man who hated the Reformed faith and was trying to push an Anglo-catholic agenda).

I do not know what the answer is. I have a few ideas and suggestions that could be implemented though:

  • Read the AV, but replace the archaic words with a more common word. This would mean that when you see, “I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt” it would be read, “I am the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt“. This would allow for the nuances of the word you in Greek and Hebrew to be kept, as well as break the awkwardness of the reading. (This would be quite difficult at first, but it is possible. This is what I do during family worship quite often.)
  • Use the ESV or the NASB, but double check for any variations in the original language. This would cause some difficulty in public worship, but it could be overcome with a good teacher.It also would be difficult at home, causing some to stumble over the reliability of the Word of God.
  • Call a summit of like-minded denominations who hold to the majority-received text for the writing of a new translation. I know that at our seminary, Dr. Bilkes and Dr. Murray both have a command of the original language to undergo such a task. The problem here is that people often hold traditional ‘church’ language in a high place and do not want to leave the Authorized Version behind. (Remember that ‘church’ language in prayer and text is not something that is in the original languages but has become a custom that many require of people in prayer. Since it is custom and extra-biblical, it is not something that we are permitted to bind men’s consciences to.)

Those are some of my thoughts on the issue. Today I bought my first ESV and plan on using it along side of my AV and my Greek and Hebrew texts. I feel a bit guilty over the whole thing, because of my love for the AV. What are some of your thoughts on the issue?

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