W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc.
Translation of Romans 9:5
ROMANS 9:5 and DROPPING OVER A CLIFF
A subtler invasion and sending it away
ROMANS 9:5 in the context of the word of God, and not of the imagination.
The translation in the case both of the KJV and the NKJV is essentially the same, in an area of typhoons and cross-currents, in a show of stability and perception to the glory of God.
Let us commence with it:
"Theirs are the fathers, and from them in human lineage has come the Christ, He being God over all, blessed forever Amen."
Romans 9:1-6 has a deep and sustained message, clothed in a grammatical form that approaches being a formula.
In face of the choice marvels of Chapter 8 preceding, the equipment and dowry of the Christian, Paul laments for the wilful self-exclusion of the Jews en masse, in a vast majority, moving to "establish their own righteousness" as he shows in 10:1-3, to follow.
Indeed, almost he could wish himself a curse, an accursed being, for his brethren, the Jews, we learn - so is He driven by the love of Christ within him, of Christ who DID become a curse for those who receive Him - for their sake! (Galatians 3:1-13).
Now the form, the virtual formula in this passage of Romans 9, begins. It is a list - an embracive, consuming list. It swells, encompasses, expatiates. The relative pronoun is used like an anvil as the apostle pounds his points. The "metal" flattens and spreads, explanatory or epexegetical comments increasing the coverage.
First, as noted above, he refers to the Israelites. Then he commences his eloquent and arresting series of expansions, based on relative pronoun links. Here, the very praises or acknowledgments of Israel's advantages serving almost as an indictment in view of what they have done with them ... or more precisely, NOT done with them! Let us look at the list, and enlist its thoughts to our own, so that we shall be instructed by the apostle.
1) WHOSE is the adoption,
and the glory,
and the covenants,
and the lawgiving
and the service
and the promises
2) WHOSE are the fathers, and
3) OF WHOM is the Christ according to the flesh
4) WHO is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Actually, a better translation, as we shall see later, making point to the use of the participle (being over all - in Greek), for the last point (4), is :
THE-BEING-OVER ALL-GOD, BLESSED FOR EVER. AMEN.
That is a Greek way of putting things, and would be rendered, as by the Berkeley translation: HE WHO is God over all, blessed for ever. In this way, first the Jewish place and race is characterised with the WHOSE, WHOSE, OF WHOM series, and then the summit over all, Christ, is characterised, both according to the flesh, and in His epitome, The all-ruling God, blessed for ever.
Even if this were ignored, however, the point remains as here stated. Either way, it has the same result regarding the deity of Christ.
Ř 1: the rampant fling of words like ricocheting stones. They tend to skip on past the relative clause base, to provide a soaring addition.
Ř 2: the explanation in case 3) above.
Ř 3: the parallel to it in case 4) above.
Ř OF WHOM is the Christ (explanation following) - according to the flesh,
WHO is over all (explanation) - God blessed for ever (expansion).
It is only by rupture of structure that any ambiguity can arise, and that, it is an invasion, a distortion, a wilful ignorance grammatically speaking; for if a direction is set, and one knows not what to do next unless one follows it, does one then bite one's thumbs and excite oneself in an agony of ambiguity, and ecstasy of concern; or does one not rather take it that the speaker being competent and aware, intends one NOT to invent, to intrude, to invade the context with one's imagination, through bringing in UNSTATED words when this is necessary ONLY if one wishes to make the statement obscure! Such words may indeed be freely added when mere economy is in view, and the meaning is pellucid, unquestionable. To add them however when the addition - which could have been made explicitly and without any imagination - alone makes for lack of clarity, is an intrusive addition, a wresting of meaning on the basis of what is apt elsewhere, but certainly not when it changes what IS there entirely!
In fact, not only is there -
1) the thrust to explain or extend the reference as noted and shown for this particular soaring passage, but there is
2) the one-sided aspect (according to the flesh) in point 3) as made, which calls for its match in what is NOT of this limiting formal character. Indeed THAT particular emphasis is constant and strong in Paul, a thrust both pre-emptive and perpetual. (Cf. Colossians 1, Philippians 2).
In addition, there is
3) the explosive enlargement throughout in this passage, so that a minimisation of the significance which the Jews (as a nation) had and wasted in Christ, would be foreign, even alien, an aggressive disruption to the tenor of Paul's speech, and
4) the following fact...
Paul is reaching a crescendo to his considerations in reaching "Christ", and an "according to the flesh" as the sentence terminus, would damage and even render the thrust ludicrous. Being "over all" in terms of a "flesh" basis is far removed from Christ as Pilate from government (John 19). A king ? yes, but the kingdom is that of the truth.
Moreover, to LEAVE the sentence without even the "over all" phrase would, if it were possible, be yet more antagonistic to the structure and thrust of the passage, making it comic. The heightening winds of name and glory are then ditched and interred in "according to the flesh".
True, the 'flesh' for incarnation, that is what they contributed; but it is to minimise the fact that they were chosen, exposed to His WONDER and DIVINE opportunity, and it would be to leave derelict the mounting enthusiasm of the passage. If one adds "who is over all", this certainly reduces the difficulty, for to be over all is a climax to the preliminary considerations, to the enlargements, and it is a parallel to the continuing explanatory character of the context. Indeed, it is one more of the struck medium of relative pronouns giving enlightenment, by which the passage has both eloquence and clarity, cohesion and construction, provided as if by a magnetic force to keep the particles of speech in order and clear.
However, that expedient of disjunction in what is obstructively conjunctive in form and format, if it is used to exempt from the continuity, and separate from the heavily stylised sentence the "God blessed for ever" phrase which follows: this, though it meets a little more, the magnification of context to a climax, avoiding indeed a stricken bathos - that result being bathetic as well as pathetic - yet it has the difficulty earlier noted.
A pure flesh base for the exaltation which dominates in "blessed" would remove the ground of glory. Having someone over all in flesh contributed by Israel would do nothing to provide supreme delight and superb exultation. The antichrist could conceivably lay claim to some such thing. Moreover, and the more so in this setting, the removal from the structural context of this last phrase, would cut off a terminal passage from the fabric of the context, leaving it isolated like an island, without ground for what would then be its meaning. It would be unclear, uncohesive, bathetic and dispersive of glory, at the very moment in which glory is felt, and blessing pronounced to the wonder of the Lord.
A cut off rogue phrase in the midst of work which would thereby be left full of ambiguity, and truncated ? Yet this is NEVER found in terms of the Greek adjective in view, euloghtos in the entire New Testament. How is it used in this Testament ? Either it is used to start a sentence - II Cor. 1:3, Ephesians 1:3, I Peter 1:3, Luke 1:68; or is used with clear statement - 'who is' in full - Romans 1:25, or as a genitive following a preceding reference - Son of the Blessed (Mark 14:61), or else a verb is supplied before the relative pronoun so making the back reference to the subject sure (as in II Corinthians 11:31) - "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ KNOWS, He who is the blessed..." (blocks added to show the point in view). In this way, the proximity to "Jesus Christ" is prevented from any question of reference, apart from anything else, because the subject "God and Father" has its own verb "knows" inserted before the "He who is the blessed".
In short, there is NO way any ambiguity ever enters in, relative to this word in the New Testament cases examined, and in this present case, it is ONLY when the exceedingly clear, highly visible and indeed almost obstructively and certainly eminently impressive structure of the wording is ignored as a guideline, that the question arises.
That structure and flow of context, grammar and form, however is precisely one of the modes of clarity: to use a form and a structure which acts as a stricture, as a narrow gate, indicating the author's mind and bent and way. Here it is the way to have a mass of continuing relative pronouns - expanding and re-directing course as occasion requires, a sort of tissue of cells of content in this way moulded into oneness, integrity, cohesion and clarity. In this, continuation, explanation and new direction within the progress, is the mode. Paul often uses notable style in making impact, and to exclude this as a consideration is simply to SUPPRESS what is present. THAT however is not to express it, but to summon and seize it, no work of translation at all.
Hence to achieve some departure from this structure is an invasion of a guideline by pure unmixed imagination. Anyone who does this is not finding, however, an ambiguity, but inserting a desire. Proverbs 8:8-9 tells us that the words of God are all clear to him who understands, and what is to be understood is this, that language has its parameters and persuasions, and that to break up a structure is an arbitrary sharing of the creation of the passage concerned, and to act on this is a mistranslation. It is virtually to become a co-author, so that one 's creative imagination in such a case, would be ignoring indication. It is as simple as that.
When, as here, it leads to early separation in the first place (making what is taken as "who is over all" into a new sentence), it ALSO leads to comedy in the contextual train of mounting climax. When, the break in continuity is inserted AFTER that, and before "God blessed for ever", then the style of explanation and cohesion, PLUS the move to grander and greater fields is broken. A new thing is inserted into the New Testament - slovenly writing which admits of no resolution, a new usage for this Greek word 'blessed' within the entire structure of the New Testament, a floating one! Elsewhere the cohesion is tight, as it is here by virtue both of the flow, the characteristics and the direction of the context. Only invasion can make a Kosovo of this land. Otherwise it coheres in its place, both by the force of the meaning of the context, the impressive mounting climax, and its grammatical structure.
Essentially, there is a matter of emphasis to be made. If clarity were in view (as it must be, according to Proverbs 8, with I Corinthians 2:9-13), then other choices were available, as we see in the listings above, which could have achieved this for the phrase (or clause and phrase), if it had been intended suddenly to break it off into a sentence of its own. THESE available and sometimes used indications were NOT used. Hence it is not shown that this is the will of the writer, to impart what he could have imparted by available means. Rather and definitely, it is shown by the eloquence and cohesion and direction of flow, and the complementary compilation of meaning, that precise force, coherence, cogent force, and beauty which otherwise would lack.
All things are possible, but by no means all are expedient. When to make a meaning from a passage in a letter, you have to ASSUME ambiguity, and then RUPTURE the form used, and INVADE the direction of flow, inserting from an assumed ellipsis (no verb for any final short sentence being given, so that to get that isolated phrase, you have to add one), then it is clear that the will of the reader is transcending the will of the writer.
Further, and quite categorically, it is also clear that it is being ASSUMED that the writer is inept or speaks without much concern about points which, from other letters, are known to be - when taken THIS way or THAT - of supreme importance. All that is a large depreciation of the writer, almost amounting to a denunciation. When the writer in the end, as I Cor. 2, Matthew 4:4 (see Appendix D, SMR), here is God in the sense of covering both the substance and the words chosen in superintendence, then it amounts to something so near to blasphemy as to be best left to the judge to determine! People of course do not always realise what they do, the implications of their actions and statements, so we leave that to Him.
No, some other choice of words was not made, as in the other passages when a direction to God direct is made, in the New Testament. That choice of words and of grammar was NOT MADE. To render it thus is therefore a heavy intrusion into the context. It is unworthy, unwarranted and impermissible. It then reads, "God blessed for ever. Amen." Who or what is the referent ? Is it something in the context, or is it suddenly divorced, taken into what (would then be) is another realm, relative to the actual cohesive context! In fact, the preceding person, Christ, is Himself the climax of much preliminary about the oracles of God and promises and covenants, and comes as a primary focus.
Is HE then to be divorced as irrelevant ? and now that He has come into focus and sight, is He to be interred all over again by the mind and imagination of the reader, so that HIS significance is to be ditched and a wholly separate item is to be introduced as if the brakes were to squeal and the car lurch to a halt, leaving it half way over a precipice of confusion and upset ? Is imagination to divorce one of the most emphatic antecedents ever available in all literature, and insert from above, NOT from the preliminaries, whereas the whole context has been dealing explicitly, continually and remorselessly, indeed in the genius and nature of its lament and complaint, with what is BELOW, however it got there!
Further, there is a cohesion not yet mentioned, but brought out in the Berkeley translation of the New Testament, which renders this last part of verse 5, "sprang the Christ, He who is God over all." Not 'who' but 'he who'.
In fact, the Greek does not literally say, 'who is over all', but 'the being over all God, blessed for ever.'
It thus literally reads, 'from whom sprang the Christ, the being-over-all-God, blessed for ever.' Greek loves to do this sort of thing (cf. Acts 9:35, Romans 8:1), making the most - at first sight - odd sorts of compacted phrases by this use of the relative pronoun with accompanying qualifications on the way to the noun. One gets used to it. So after from whom and out of whom, and of whom, relative pronouns mounting as the case against Israel and for the prevenience of the ever blessed God mounts, His blessedness and His generosity, His gifts and His wonders in stubborn contrast to the unblessed and mingy failure of Israel so much as to respond to Him in such a vast project, thus consummated, we have as climax literally supernatural to end it all in a word, this description of the Christ, who "out of" Israel according to the flesh did indeed come.
His ontological state is noted, His eminence is make eloquently obvious, so that we find this being said: "from whom sprang the Christ, He being the God over all, blessed forever." That in fact is the translation which is not only neatest seeming in English, giving full emphasis to every aspect of the grammar in Greek. HE WHO is God over all, blessed for ever is however to be preferred because it is in English neater, without losing the accuracy of the point in view in the text.
This 'being' in the first rendering above, is exegetical, telling us just WHOM we are now dealing with. There is no occasion to say 'being' instead of 'is' or an omission, if it meant 'who is'. The REASON for the participle here is this, that it is an expressive designation depicting One WHO NOT according to the flesh, but according to His own being, flesh apart, in Himself, is - wait for it, GOD! God ? Thus what would be sloppy and almost unintelligible grammar, 'who being over all', end of sentence, or 'who being over all, God blessed for ever', becomes not only intelligible, but elegant, just as Paul tends so often to be, as the Lord uses him for His purpose.
In this way, we revert to comprehensibility as in all cases of 'blessed' in the New Testament; we leave a soupy mix created by fog of mind, and USING the grammar to ESTABLISH the sense, in combination with the oratorical prose and thrust of the passage, end with what is the precise parallel to Philippians 2.
Let us be clear, then, is the force of the text, by "God" we mean NOTHING LESS that this, Him who is blessed for ever, God Almighty, the LORD of the Old Testament, Him designated by the famous tetragrammeton, the God of eternity, the first and the last as John is moved to put it in Revelation 2:9, and Isaiah in 44:6 of the Lord God. THIS is He who according to the flesh, is from Israel, the One nevertheless to be identified as the being-God-over-all, blessed for ever. Not to Him were the oracles given: that was to Israel, who according to the flesh were kin of Paul. To Christ, who according to the flesh was also of Israel, there is this overwhelming accentuation, acceleration, acme and parade: He, HE for His part being the Being over all, blessed for ever.
What then ? He being that, is yet evacuated from the earth, while Israel revolts. So Paul proceeds in the context to more of his theme.
How terrible then is this lapse in Israel, that far from being 'nothing' or a nonentity, a barren waif in the wilderness (cf. Ezekiel 16:1-7), she - through divine mercy alone - had been presented with privileges and favour not stopping short of the very presence and power of God Himself, personally, who would act in ransom in His own Being direct (as in Hosea 13:14 and Ezekiel 34).
"Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, and say,
‘Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem:
"Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
"No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful." ' "
In other words to the present point, Paul is both recounting the wonders given to Israel, climaxing not in some mere authority, but where it began, in GOD Himself, blessed for ever (very much as in Jeremiah 2:13 - broken water containers instead of living waters from the snow's purity, and 18:14), so that not to some mere human eminence is the landmark of gift to Israel compared, but to the eminence of GOD in contrast with the sickliness of polluted nature and polluting sin. This is the thrust of the Bible throughout, the DIVINE is in giving mode and the human is in disbelieving mode, and the divine not only gives things and mercies, but HIMSELF! in patience, in love, in cherishing, in Messianic forecast, in predicted bearing of sin in ransom achieved by the very deity as noted above!
This is the thrust both of the word of God in its highest plaint, and deepest appeal, and it is so here, where the 'the being God over all, blessed for ever' is the height of the arch constructed, illimitable, relevant, in contrast, in contradiction to Israel's self-blight and in horror at the depth of it, the loss of it (just as in Isaiah 7 in the notorious case of Ahab, who wearied even GOD! in his equivocation).
Christ quite simply is at the height and depth of the crusade for Israel, its summary and depiction, its force and its impact, Him 'who being God', as in Philippians 2, and thus most blessed for ever, has so made gifts of such magnitude to Paul that he could even wish himself accursed for their neglect, like Moses, who of course as with Paul, is not about to consider such a horror as being cursed for anything less than the case where GOD HIMSELF is affronted, in view, relevant, in focus and passed by (cf. Exodus 32:32-33). The case moves where it is placed (Romans 9:3). It is as in Hebrews treading under foot the blood of Christ which is so utterly shocking that it evinces the response in Hebrews 10, based as it is on WHO GOD IS, WHO CHRIST IS, as shown so explicitly in Hebrews 1.
Thus it is that the climax being in terms of Christ, from Israel according to the flesh but God blessed for ever in spiritual nature, leads on naturally in the context to the fact that by no means if the word of God broken in all this. How could it be when GOD Himself has come SUCCESSFULLY as Christ (cf. II Corinthians 5:17-21), and done His work effectually, in the ultimate work and gift of salvation, and Israel simply bypasses for the time (Romans 11 shows this emphatically, for the time only!) the gift so great that its refusal by them has Paul almost wishing himself accursed for them.
To what does this bring us ?
As we move on, we find this: Paul proceeds to show the word of God has not been vanquished! It is NOT made of no effect (Romans 9:6), cries Paul, through this rejection of this eminence by the Jews. Not at all (Romans 9:6ff.). After all, what has been given goes to the heart of God Himself personally, and the height of the gift brought down so low, to us, this evacuates God from any possible or conceivable challenge of inaction or insufficiency at the divine level of concern and involvement. That is a basic part of Paul's theme and flow in this context. Moreover God has His elect, has found His own, if rejected for the time by the nation, is found by those who are His within it. If gold is sparse for the mining company, is it therefore useless!
In fact, by Romans 11, we find that there is a vast empire of the empirical, there is as in an olive tree time and sequence, coming and going, nation in and nation out, Gentiles out and Gentiles in, then Jew back and re-grafted. In vain? ludicrous. Indeed in Romans 10:9 we find what Romans 11 with Zechariah 12-13 makes so clear, that it is all coming back to this Christ, God over all, the Redeemer coming PERSONALLY to man, the Lord Himself, the Lord of glory, to cover the cost, provide the service (cf. Matthew 20:28) and bring both individual and nation, yes and even a vast residue of Israel, in its time, by ONE method of ONE Christ, who is the God over all, blessed for ever, in whose blessed face is seen the glory of God (II Corinthians 4:6). Indeed, it is HE who is to return, for which we wait (Titus 2:13), even the great God and our Saviour (one introductory 'the' - the great God and Saviour of us).
NO ONE but GOD is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and Christ is NONE OTHER than the Saviour who paid in His own Person, gloriously sent, intimately willing (Psalm 40), coming from equality with God to the executive action of the Cross.
Thus GOD has met all that was ever propounded or indeed could be conceived, in what He has provided, for the Jews. By the time he comes to Romans 10:6-9, Paul completes this phase of confrontation and indication of the name, integrity and grace of God. What then ? is there something in heaven to go for, to bring this end of the law for righteousness DOWN? NOT AT ALL! says the apostle. Or is there something somewhere else ? Emphatically NOT! He, Christ HAS come from heaven, there is nothing left of what could come, and the word conceiving Him gives link through Him to His abode (in heaven), as shown in Romans 10:9.
This of course is precisely what is shown in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1-2: in HIM is the fulness of the Godhead in bodily format, already brought down, already provided, already rejected by many, but eminently and astonishingly available, while the day of grace lasts. TO HIM, every knee will bow, just as Isaiah 45:22ff. made clear: this submission of all to one, is to God the Lord, alone. (Cf. SMR Ch. 7, pp. 532-560).
And Christ, He is Lord! NONE other, says Isaiah, but the LORD is God; and it is to HIMSELF that He swears every knee will bow, in accordance with this fact. Thus it is to CHRIST that every knee will bow, in entailment of His deity status; for to have it to any other would otherwise violate the integrity of the divine insistence; and to have it to another as the very focus would violate it infinitely. But to God blessed for ever, who is Christ, it is the one chosen for the purpose from the infinitude of the trinity. Infinite is the blessedness of the infinite God who provided His infinitely loved Son as this glorious focus, incarnate, predicted, performance endued, consummating the preliminaries, covenantally countermanding the rewards of sin for His people. To HIM shall it be done.
23) and 24) for convenience will be dealt with in Ch. 7 below. These are Isaiah 2:22 and Amos 4:13.
There are then times when the NKJV tends to be clearer and truer to the original; while the KJV gives stimulus to thought and can be a stimulus to thought and fidelity. Both together are useful. The above provides valuable illustration. Thus in 17) and 18) we see the NKJV advantage, concerning clarity allied with accuracy; in 1) especially, in 5), 7), 8) for example, we see perception in the AV which can show a sensitive relationship to all the scriptures in its renderings.
Let us consider the results overall now, together with some other considerations. It is found that neither of these translations is infallible, faultless. On the whole, one finds the KJV is inclined to exhibit more spiritual perception*1, rarely lacking in that, whereas the NKJV frequently has far more clarity, possibly even in terms of the English of the times concerned, certainly in terms of today's English. In that regard, the NKJV is clearer and truer to the original; the KJV however gives stimulus for thought, frequently exhibiting much discernment. Both together are useful.
Avoiding rash options, let us then use what the Lord has provided, circumspectly, knowing His word is surely available. What is in view when this is done, is able indeed to convey the full import of His words to us, and nothing more, and we can live by them, in Him. Without the Greek text before us, or indeed the Hebrew, and relying on only one translation when another basically sound one is available, it can at times be that a well-known and slightly archaic word form will disguise the meaning, which never becomes clear to the reader. But it is not for mantras but for declaration from God that we come. Our task is to use the intelligence God has given us to ensure we
a) find all we can of what is there, and
b) do not prejudicially pre-empt the decisions of the Almighty in His gifts to us, by discarding on party lines without Biblical warrant or evidential support. To whom much is given, from him much shall be required.
It is time to avoid the philosophically fostered disdain for the text God has abundantly preserved, and skilfully confirmed; it is time likewise to avoid a slavish dependence on the KJV, though its preservation has been providential. It is of a certainty a magnificent translation of great spiritual tact and care; just as the NKJV often lends superior clarity, new impact from this cause and a certain distilled sense of acuteness which it sometimes achieves. Different nuances of the two can lead to study and understanding being enhanced. It is in some ways like preachers, where Paul was at pains to prevent partisanship (cf. I Corinthians 3).
This is no time for obsessive reactionary blighting of good work and useful clarity, following an admittedly shameless shambles in this area on the part of many manipulators of the Greek text, some basing their extravanganzas on mythical events which neither have the advantage of having any evidence, nor agree with the (statistical) evidence we do have, as if God had not competently preserved His thought and doctrine according to His promise. Nor is it any time to seize one of the translations which avoids this error (AV), in preference to another which shows the same and in some ways a greater sensitivity to the Greek text (NKJV) - though this is purely because we are now in possession of more of that same prolific and superabundant family of texts, justly used by the AV.
With such care on the part of both of these translations in this regard, such preference would be not merely wrong but ironic, making the same error as others, but for different reasons.
For the rest, some other versions can help and hinder, and very occasionally may be a needful blend or in some instances provide a fine clarity, and may be used, with understanding. Item 19) was a fine example of this. These two, AV and NKJV, however in conjunction have a safety net and a sanity to offer which, for those not planning to study the original languages, have a moreover rich texture.
This is not to say that some other translations in some places are not quite marvellous, but their use is often a matter of either being capable in Greek and Hebrew, or of leaving well alone, for they are not all by any means faithful.
Theories founded against the evidence and against the promises of God are readily discounted, and this, it is true, means great caution with most New Testament translations (the areas are not great, do not affect basic doctrine, but nevertheless we do want ABSOLUTE PRECISION with what we have). With the NKJV and the AV we are in good company in this regard, and should reinforce the one with the other, and use the discernment of one to aid the discovery of original meaning, making edifying excavations where there is any stimulus. Speaking of myths, we should equally avoid the concept that God is not allowing His command "test all things" to be apt here, and has in some secret way kept some secret copies of some secret texts which have always been a word for word, precisely identical translation. Let the evidence suffice, in conjunction with what God actually presents, and let us avoid the political sort of see-sawing which never rests while there is any unbalanced surge of airy thought.
The evidence is WONDERFUL, showing the clear and amazing precision of preservation of all doctrine and command, so that what is in textual variation, AFTER one has consulted the overwhelming textual evidence for one family, is so minute in scope as to be wholly divergent from the assurances God has given, and merely assures us the more of the zeal of His cognitive preservation of His word.
Indeed, NOTHING of ANY effectual impact fails to be placed, established on the earth. Follies of disregard and seizure*2 do nothing to alter this; nor will they (Isaiah 59:21, Psalm 111:7-8, Matthew 4:4, II Timothy 3:16, Matthew 16:18); and the gates of hell will indeed not prevail against the church of the Lord, founded on that rock (Psalm 62) which is and can only be Himself, not some petros of Rome, airily invented and inserted like a trifle, into the foundational rock: rock, not 'a stone', as the text demands for man (cf. SMR pp. 1056-1072, 888, and Intro. xxxi-xxxii). Nor is it some experience without covenantal base, some babbling tongue of man, some conviction of thought: CHRIST is the rock, and His words on which one must build do not vary or vanish; and may not, for they are commanded.
A WORD FOR TODAY
It is in the highest degree unfortunate that a false, liberal intrusion into Greek textual affairs, having led to some peculiarly reckless results, an uninformed or merely radical reaction, should have set in. Understandable it certainly is, and readily so; rationally defensible, it is equally is not.
The almost political seeming squalor of the results is divisive, uninformative, a market place for violent haggles, squabbles and unsophisticated nonsense, which no longer deems "test all things" relevant, but rather, imagine anything!
IF you do NOT believe the Authorised Version is final to the syllable the originally inspired word of God, you are scarcely, if at all, worthy of fellowship! THAT is the conclusion of some, and this is the reactionary ultimatum often enough delivered. Do not worry me with tests, figures, surveys of the actual textual material which God, in His wisdom, has made available, goes the spiel, the implausible patter. The AV has done so well that clearly (sic) it and it alone is the word of God.
S0 goes this new Delphic oracle.
IF you say, 'But there is no textual evidence that the exact Greek text which the AV uses is the original, but rather that it is a member of vast majority of all the texts, a family,' what then ? Then back comes the delusive drama of words: How do you know ?: for secretly hidden, is the evidence for what I affirm. And it is at times added: The AV is to be used as the ultimate text, with no appeal to Greek or Hebrew.
Alas, this is no distortion. This is the sort of thing which is actually said. It is a failure, Biblically, for the Bible is as clear as these remarks are vacuous and woolly. "TEST ALL THINGS," I Thess.5:21 does not and cannot mean, "Imagine anything!"
Test involves the a ascertainment of facts through evidence, not dictation to evidence of what it does not happen to be!
This reaction, therefore, is unbiblical, unreasonable, unscholarly and close to blasphemous, telling by some personal feelings, where the word of God is to be found.
Is that however not exactly what the liberals did in the first place, foisting a fictitious and imaginary meeting for textual revision onto the history of the early church, despite the factual evidence being overwhelmingly this - that it did not occur.
These weird imaginations on either side are an offence, divisive, both the one and the other, and pollutants; and the
should go on with moderation and self-control, not snared by these devices. churchof Christ
It takes only a little restraint to see that in fact the AV cannot be idolatrised, or with virtual blasphemy, exalted to a standard that has never been accorded to it or indeed any other translation, in the Bible. We cannot add to the word of God, if we would (Proverbs 30:6), any more than we can make imaginary evidence on which to build a view of the text. We cannot, for example, take a point in history, where a culmination of many translations is brought to a new height, and say, Look, God has done this thing. It was always there.
WAS IT ? To such one might ask this: Do you seriously then affirm that before all that work, the thing to which it gave birth was there word for word ? Is this the imagination which needs no test and hence no Biblical obedience ? And what was its idiom ? and if it was there, in good idiom for each piece of English history, before this, why was it not there a year earlier in the case of the AV, when the idiom was virtually the same ? or ten years earlier ? or why was it not all there before Wyclif, in such felicity, or translated into English before it was translated at all, before this, the first Bible in the modern tongue "the first Bible at all in a modern tongue" (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, Vol.1, p. 137, re the Wyclif era) ?
Do facts mean nothing! THAT was there ? Where ? In your mind ? What does that serve ? And in the meantime, when we come to those who look at those little things called facts, what do we find: the ENGLISH did NOT for long have this word to them in their speech, so what is all this talk about God doing this, and this then being what HE HAD to do in terms of His promises, which in fact, as we have in detail shown, do NOT so indicate at all! The Greek was always present, the translations were not; the thought of God was never evacuated, though many were they who suppressed it. Let us not join them by philosophical pretensions not found in the word, imaginations not found in the evidences of history, or slacknesses not found in our forefathers.
If the historical scenario invented implausibly and anti-historically in method, by the liberals was a work of incredible presumption, what of this ? Is it better ? And does it serve, if the AV translators did their remarkable work in terms of the English resources of their day, if we in our day abuse it by not developing the translation in terms of the changing English language, idiom and vocabulary of our own ? Are to create magic in order not to do our own work ? Are we so to rely on their sanctity that we are loose and slack ourselves ? God forbid!
In fact, as we have amply clarified, the AV is a translation from within what, objectively, is a vast majority family. That is fortunate, but not entirely surprising, the majority being what it is.
Its translators were many, and multiplied meetings, which is good. That assisted the development of a fine precision in seeking to present within the vast English vocabulary and specific idiomatic structure of their generation, a finesse of representation of the constraints of the Greek text, to take our New Testament case. As to the AV, its predecessors also included much sacrificial scholarship, as by Tyndale, who gave his life in his toils, helping to develop what the AV translators could use as resource, developed over hundreds of years.
In the end, as to the AV, its discernment in terms of sensitivity to ALL of the scriptures, as it translates any, is excellent, and verges on wonderful. When its time came, it was there; before this, it was not, but the thoughts of the Lord were there.
However, for the AV, clarity is not its chief gift. Sanctimoniously clinging to it with no clear comprehension of significant sections, is no action worthy of a Protestant.
Many NT translations of modern kind indeed follow text rather slavishly outside the majority family. These are to that extent blemished.
However, the NKJ does not do this, and gives us a step towards justice for the whole textual, majority family of which the King James base (i.e. in Greek MSS) is a part. This is an evidentially oriented exercise, in terms of "Test all things..."
Thus the facts are these: There has been a liberal-radical intrusion, invasion into the textual affairs box, and this has misoriented many, led to a false and indefensible textual approach manoeuvring a faulty careless base into prime position as if God were not in charge, and the testimony of preservation were not a song of triumph. In turn from this, numerous New Testament translations of modern time (20th. century on) have been defective in some things, though not necessarily in overall doctrine nor in general; but they have failed to follow tested data, and instead have preferred unsubstantiated philosophy and concocted history which failed to arrive to verify itself. Naturally this has not always worn a label, nor has it necessarily been intentional.
This radicalism, and thrust of mere imagination, threw much modern New Testament translation work into disrepute, in THIS respect justly, and both invited and incited reaction in some, who then, misusing the promises of God, turned in something close to idolatry to the AV version. This had merit in one point: it IS a very sensitive, apt and careful translation, though, lest one good custom should corrupt the world, as Tennyson has the thought, it is demonstrably not perfect. Notwithstanding this, its performance is nothing short of magnificent, and it is of the greatest sorrow that this excellence, as with so much in human affairs, has led to so fixed an attitude towards it on the part of some, that the undoubted help and fine features of some other translations is radically, and by inept or inaccurate generalisation, simply discarded, thus impoverishing the church in these cases.
So does evil work its witless way.
In fact, avoiding reactionary excesses, and being THANKFUL for providential mercies, both with the actual manuscripts and the AV, one should use ALL God has provided, in good sense avoiding all the excesses of radicalism in the vast majority of modern New Testament translations, but not for that reason failing at all times to use their good features. For many it is indeed safer and better, if not gifted at all in these matters, to avoid all but the AV and the NKJV, since their text background is soundly based. For others however, with due caution, and awareness of the textual defects of many of these modern translations, and realising that the differences are relatively rare, and provided it is a case of actual translation and not paraphrasing of some patronising type, it is both practical and possible to find stimulus from the brilliance of some areas of other translations, and in particular from the Old Testament. True that has also been affected by the prodigious impertinence against the divine authority, that some have exercised in loose 'critical emendations' of the text, as if imagination, once again, were lord and the God of His word were a bystander, but this has been less pervasive in many good translations.
Thus, for example there appear places in the New Standard American Version in Isaiah which are prodigiously felicitous, and in the NIV, Job is a work of paramount excellence in translation.
These points are pastoral as well as textual, but it is time an understanding returned to some quarters, and the spirit of the Age was avoided BOTH in its radical follies and in the reactionary excesses, BOTH of which features impoverish the saints and limit the impact of the word of God. It is in effect just ONE MORE place where philosophy wedded with a lack of precise faith in the promises of God has led to confusion, and through reaction, a profusion of confusion.
This having been said, let us give some more detailed overview of the doctrinal situation in this regard, and summary of aspects of necessary advice, with all good will to all, thus arising.
One should notice:
1) Even outside the majority family, no doctrine is altered though numbers of texts are mutilated; but in principle, INSIDE this family, as in the NKJ version, the variation is minute.
2) Often, with examples here given, the AV does an almost inspired job, surpassing in perception, the NKJ version.
3) Often, with examples given, the NKJ gives far greater clarity, preventing confusion or misconception (take Ezekiel 40ff., for example!), or indeed, for many, little concept at all in some places.
4) In rare cases (examples given) the AV fails.
The NKJV appears to so do more often. Neither version could be called "bad" or heretical. Both are good, but different sorts of translating skills are highlighted in each. For fidelity, nearly always, the AV is best. For clarity, quite often, the NKJ is best.
5) Almost never (contrary examples given) do both fail in the same place.
6) No false doctrine is obtained but merely a lack of clarity or adequacy, from either: although in one verse, one implication of the translation is quite unsound in the case of the NKJV (Rev. 19:8).
7) Some other versions have stimulating or excellent work available in the Old Testament (where for example the NIV translation of Job is marvellous, and some renderings in Isaiah in the NASV are notable), but you have to be careful to check the Hebrew in any divergencies, as the brilliance may sometimes appear unrestrained by due care. Flair can take off into the winds, though sometimes expose excellent perspective.
Reference even in the NT in such cases, though unlikely to be needed, can on occasion be fruitful.
8) The desire to honour God, not to be in the hand of pedantic princes, a mere substitute for papal power, is quite sound
However, to allow reactionary forces to dictate without evidence, specifically going beyond what the Bible authorises, is wholly indefensible, a definite work of schism. We must here therefore distinguish sharply between the motive and the means!
What then ? Let your moderation be shown, the known be honoured above the guessed, for God has not forgotten to be gracious. Cling to what is good: the testimony of the original, immediate inspiration of all Scripture, and the faithful transmission of God's thoughts.
Avoid ANY approach which assumes God has not done this. This leaves the AV and the NKJV as available options. It also allows judicious willingness to find testable examples of real value in some other translations, where the underlying Greek text is (as usually is the case) not affected.
In exceedingly rare cases, where there is some difficulty as to an original text's meaning, place, one must always be willing to examine every line of objective evidence from all historical sources.
This writer has never met case of residual doubt as to the content of the text, in its thought and thrust, induced by any textual variation. No doctrine depends, in any case, to the least degree, on such cases. What He has promised, He has punctiliously, as ever, performed. In terms of Christian Apologetics, this is one more illustration of the flair and care of His word, which is His!
God has indeed transmitted His thoughts, His commands and His mind with (what without miracle would be) an incredible clarity.
This must not be abused or confused by racial schismatics, of the right or of the left. As to the word of God, let it speak for itself. It is there. It does not need help from philosophical theories, or historical ones; whether of the one kind or the other. It evidences itself without these.
God has spoken. Listen. That, not addition, is what is necessary. Test what ? ALL things, and that includes spurious theories of minds astray from the evidence as it exists - and continues to do so, by the grace of God, through His honour.
The close inter-relation of the text of the Bible, each part with each, is one of its most arresting phenomena. It is by no means exaggerating to assert that it is like the integration of arms and legs. They, while very different to be sure, are of such a close integral inter-relationship, that it is PART OF THEIR FUNCTION to act together in the midst of their specific specialisations, as one whole, or part of one whole, each other member contributing, all individual, all correlated in a triumph of motion.
Thus, a more sensitive document in this respect, than the Bible, it would be difficult to imagine. Its themes, predictions, chaste turn of exact language and enormous directness that never fears to shock or affront mere formalism, or to the godly, to comfort and caress the spirit and challenge the heart, are so deep and comprehensive yet they ring true to each other over the 15 centuries or so chosen for the release of all these compositions from the Almighty; and this is so, from whatever "culture" the inspired writers came (Moses from Egypt, imbued with its learning, Daniel in Babylon, living deep in the heart of its administrations).
Here the text is filling in, there widening detail like some computer pictures, as they growingly appear on the screen, faithful to the original, but gaining in its coverage as we wait, appear with intriguing wholeness before the eyes. In all this, the Bible reminds one precisely of that paragon and perfection of all expression on earth, from heaven, Jesus Christ the righteous in His diction, fearless, frank, tender, triumphant, sharp, insuppressible, indefeasible, direct and able both to do surgery through speech and provide solace to the uttermost depths.
Awareness of this composure and of all the details of the revelatory procedure is necessary in any translator, just as memory is necessary in reading love letters - or legal documents for that matter. Good translations have this as one of their criteria, that the translator with a whole different array of words and connotations to choose from, and in the case of English, an enormously expanded one (some million or so, it is reported), chooses with erudite skill and deft reach.
*2 alteration, "critical emendation" may indeed be made in the underlying text before translation with a wanton freedom prompted by amazing blindness. This can distort the word of God like sand in a precision instrument; as can unblushing intrusion of rough idiom in translation, over-riding exact statement. In Number 22 above, there is shown an example of no final doctrinal impact, as is always the case; yet it is one showing the direction of flow which may readily enough be found in lax or liberal renderings outside the AV and the NKJV.