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ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
QUESTION SERIES 1
sent from a far off land
Names and other identifying details are in general suppressed or replaced, only enough being left to enable the reader to identify with the issues, and the manner of their presentation. Very few changes are made, and these merely to help future readers.
My name is Frank. I am a student
of comparative religion. I have studied Christianity extensively. I was wondering
if you can answer a few of my questions relating to the Bible.
Which Bible do Christians accept as the word of God? Is it the 'King James Version' with its 66 books or the 'Roman Catholic Bible' with its 77 books? If its the King James Version, than the Roman Catholic Bible, as a whole, cannot be regarded as the word of God. So we put it aside. I agree with you. The Roman Catholic Bible is not the word of God.
But I go to the Bible shop and I
pick up another Bible. This time its the 'Revised Standard Version.' This Bible
has been written by Christian scholars of the 'highest eminence' backed by
'fifty co operating
denominations.' I read the preface. In the preface I am told that this Bible goes back to the MOST ancient manuscripts. 'Most ancient' means 200-300 years after Jesus. The King James Version goes to 400-600 years after Jesus, according to Bible scholars. So naturally since the Revised Standard Version is closer to Jesus, than this means that it is more authentic.
So when I read the Revised
Standard Version I see that 1st Epistle of John chapter 5:7, is missing. This
verse is the closest approximation to the Trinity. It has now been thrown out
as a fabrication I have discovered. Similarly, the word 'begotten' is also
missing. Also, the alleged ascension to heaven by Jesus is also missing.
do Christians have to say about this ?
World Wide Web Witness Inc.
It was pleasant to receive so well composed a letter. Thank you for writing. I would ask one thing. In addition to reading my reply, kindly read also the following:
Fifthly, you could look up in SMR Index (index b) Comparative Religion, which has 11 entries in that particular work, listed.
Meanwhile, let us proceed to your interesting enquiry.
The Bible (version) which is rationally right for Christians to accept as the word of God is the one which is best attested by the manuscripts, in accord with Isaiah 8:20, 59:21, Psalm 111 and so on. The majority text as shown in good measure in the New King James Version, especially in the more ample editions of it, indicates what is the large proportion of the attestation. A large emphasis in this direction has arisen long since the version you mention, with the Dutch scholar Van Bruggen (author of books like "The Ancient Text of the New Testament", and "The Future of the Bible" (Nelson 1978).
The worst verified text, as a whole, however, it is reported, does not delete any doctrine, since doctrine is so widely spread. However, it is not necessary to accept the worst text. The Revised Standard Version is notable, as I have considered the case for the last 40 or so years. It was a product of that grand old radical yen to make a new word of God by reason. Thus they freely indulged in what is called 'critical emendation'.
Before I realised the folly of some churches, which according to the Bible's forecast and observation, stray far from the Bible (e.g. II Peter 2, II Timothy 3), I attended a seminary where all that sort of thing was de rigueur. They even challenged us as students to overthrow their anti-Biblical contentions. This on one occasion in particular, I did so notably that fierce action was taken against me. I did however point out to the persecutors, that they had asked for reason, and been given it, in defence of Biblical revelation. There was of course no real contention about the TEXT but about what they thought of it, or would like to do to it.
In my task, I merely showed that their actions were otiose, their logic fallacious, that the text had the better of them.
But as to the manuscript texts in their families, a subject which is more vital to you than to me, in this, that I know textual variants alter no doctrine; but which is STILL EXCEEDINGLY IMPORTANT, since it is the word of God: there is something that needs saying. It is this. The RSV has long been, for the above reason (free emendation), in my view the most undisciplined and unscholarly of all the products of the philosophy of man (for when you choose to emend, you will tend follow some philosophy about what ought to have been said, or what could have been said, depending on your view of God and so on). The 'scholars' do not impress since 'scholars' can be found most conservative, most radical, most different. It is the argumentation which matters.
As far then, as the assured text itself is concerned, monogenhs is found. It is not a textual matter. It is a translation one. Monos is a perfectly normal Greek word, only. You can so translate it when you find it. Monogenhs another. Here, it is the latter which interests us, in the text in view. It is also found in John 1:18, I John 4:9 and so on. In looking up Liddell and Scott, classical Greek dictionary writers of enormous fame, I find 'only begotten' as the translation. It would seem that monos could have been written if it had been desired; but it was not written.
In New Testament Greek specifically, I find this in the excellent Thayer dictionary, that the term in view is "used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents)". Thus it is used in this sense in Hebrews 11:17, of Isaac relative to Abraham.
In John we see it likewise used, right after John 1:13's reference to believers being BEGOTTEN NOT OF FLESH or of the will of man, but of God. It is apparent therefore that begetting is in view, from this context, as well as from the source of the word itself.
In accord with this usage, we find the collateral company of concepts. Thus in Hebrews 1, we find that Christ is the express image of the person of God. Now in Psalm 89 we find that there is NO ONE LIKE GOD! None in heaven or earth. There is no other Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and yet Christ is the ONLY SAVIOUR (Acts -12)… and so on.
For more on this, see Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 12, using the Home Page margin hyperlink to the library.
Similarly in Hebrews 1, we find cited this, that to none of the angels does not speak thus:
"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever".
It notes that this is nevertheless said of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Indeed, in John 8:58, He says, "Before Abraham was, I am!", using the cognomen of God from Exodus 3:14, where it was not merely distinctive and distinguishing, but categorical attestation of who HE was, in contra-distinction from ANY other being. Indeed, it is used in context in the presence of the affirmation of self-existence, life in Himself, just as Christ is attested in I John 1:1-4, to BE the eternal life of the Father!
No I could not agree there is a textual problem here, or a conceptual problem, or that the spurious verse you cite from I John 5:7 is the 'best' for the trinity. Far from it: there is a looseness about it that would allow a lot to be done by a really determined radical! Other verses, substantially attested as in the original, are far more definitive.
In fact, the account concerning I John 5:7 is this: that the brilliant sixteen century Dutch scholar Erasmus, with a vast reputation in his time, was preparing his Greek testament as a scholarly base in that happy era when Caxton's printing procedures had brought Europe to the point that such a thing could be used by masses of people.
While doing so, he planned (quite rightly,
since the verse was almost undiscoverable in the manuscripts) to drop it from
"Test all things, hold fast what is good."
In this, then, the RSV (in dropping this verse) is quite right. It is not 100% in its failure! Even a drunk can drive (sometimes). By the way, if you read John , you find this to the point of the Son of God:
This was before He resolved with relish to come to earth in the form of a servant (Philippians 2, Hebrews 10:5ff., Psalm 40), being sent to do the same (cf. Isaiah 48:16).
Moreover, God makes it His own code to be "the first and the last" in Isaiah 44:6, and this is the consigned name which Christ takes in Revelation 2:8.
God in Isaiah is MOST explicit about His sole prerogatives, His name and His unequalable reality. Christ uses these things, as do Biblical writers for Him, quite freely, as is fitting for One who said:
And what was that glory which the Son had with the Father before the world so much as had the benefit of existing, a glory which befits the One without whom NO CREATION of ANYTHING created whatever, in fact occurred (John 1:3) ?
It was clearly an increate glory, for one thing is most obvious, that you cannot BE OPERATIVE IN THE CREATION OF EVERY THING IN THE CATEGORY OF CREATED, and yet be created yourself. YOU would have to be excluded; but this punctures and falsifies "all things". If such were so, you would be required to act before you were in existence, make yourself without being there to do it: a difficult and devious proposition indeed! That would be flat contradiction.
Indeed, ALL THINGS are expressly posited of God, as their Creator.
The ONLY uncreated thing in heaven and earth, or entity, is God (Isaiah 44:24, 45:12, 45:18, Revelation 4:11Hebrews 1, 11:1-3). Angels of every kind, every sort of power in fact, is PART of the creation (Romans 8:38-39). They are part of "all things". Christ is One who acted in the creation of ALL things. He is not in that created category, but in the category of ONE: God. It is He "who alone has immortality" ( I Timothy 6:16), and is "from everlasting to everlasting" or "the firstand the last". (Immortality is His nature; everlasting life begins for the Chrisitan, though it has no end: Revelation 22:5, John 11:25-26). There is no other, and there is NOT EVEN any like Him (Isaiah 40:25, 43:10, 44:24 45:18-25).
Again, if you want short verses on the topic, try Matthew 28:19, where God has in His NAME, not one but three; and He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:10), and II Corinthians 13:14, Hebrews 1:8.
So I cannot find anything in your words about the text, relative to text, or relative to doctrine, that is to the point of any real difficulty or question.
Actually, the RSV evidently uses emphasis on a couple of oldish texts (4th century - much more recent than some), which the British scholar, Dean Burgon exposed in the most delightfully thorough scholarship (in his Revision Revised), as being of the poorest quality, poor in correlation with each other, largely altered and so on. Age is not everything, nor are these the oldest; nor are we dependent only on texts, for there are enormous quantities of Biblical quotations available from antiquity also. It is not a question of what is this or that text, but what is the accumulated and considered testimony of all the texts, each critically examined as to its quality and stature internally by its care and dignity, all in relation to the others, and the whole lot in relation to the entire family of texts. When this is done, there is no real difficulty, I find, in any of it.
*Indeed, one should here add: your negative reference re the text of the RSV, to the ascension of the Son of God to heaven, which even in the RSV, is placed correctly in Luke 24:51, is inaccurate. Further, overwhelming attestation is found of Mark at this point, with few exceptions, while the RSV of course also has the ascension declared at length in Acts 1:8-11.
This teaching is not omitted from any Bible version known to me, nor could it be, if texts are followed. But let us return to I John 5:7.*
Of course, this verse which you mention is not attested to any extent at all; and is not at all needed for doctrine equally; and the word you mention, only-begotten, is not in textual question either. So this is not really a textual question which you raise, apart from an historical oddity, more a matter of astonishing mirth than of matrix; though the principles are worthy of study.
As to translation of the term in view, it is best not to doubly ignore the facts, the context on the one hand, and its root meaning on the other.
The most amusing thing of course is that one pair of … scholars (Westcott and Hort) invented an historical event which was some editorial conference in antiquity, which was to have edited New Testament texts to a single matrix, and this is said to account for the overwhelming preponderance of the same family of texts (used in the KJV and the NKJV). However, when you make an hypothesis, it is scientifically incumbent on you to offer some evidence other than a liking for the idea. Since none was forthcoming, we cannot regard such a 'test' as scholarship. It fails on critical examination. They hoped and failed, and the care and provision of the church over the ages is quite well attested by the mass of conformity in the main textual family, despite the carelessness of some, and the heretical remodelling of others. Furtrher, the Canadian scholar Pickering is noted for his statistical analysis which dismisses on those grounds such an imaginary event. Ships leave their wake, and the statistical wake of such an occurrence is not confirmed, but its absence is (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9 as cited).
If we move then from philosophy to evidence, we do not need the RSV in these liberties.
At that, it makes no doctrinal difference, as noted. Nearer in TIME to Jesus is nearer in ACCURACY to Him ? Other things equal, this could be so indeed. In general, perhaps, this is the trend; but it does depend not a little. You need to get beyond a minimal ragged relay from ONE set of ancient texts to ALL of them, and some go to the second and third century, though the main stays of Westcott and Hort, whose views were so current into the RSV day, are not so very early, being in the 4th century. It was just a vogue. The emphasis on the trinity is extreme in the EARLIEST documents by far, that is the documents of the apostle Paul, which consistently and insistently present Christ as God (as in Philippians 2, Ephesians 1:4-5, 1:16 with Isaiah 45:18, 48:13, 46:5, 44:24, Titus 2:13, 3:4, II Cor. 3:18), with no available evidence of contest on the point. The community of doctrine is emphatic (II Peter 3:16).
Actually, if you want the Biblical testimony on that area of God's triune character, in addition to Tender Times for Timely Truths, you could read SMR pp. 532-560 and A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 12 and 15. On the text issues, you could survey the scene from The Kingdom of Heaven … Ch. 9, which deals intimately with such matters. There you will also read that statistical analysis by a Canadian scholar, Pickering, goes contrary to the Westcott and Hort hypothesis, just as history likewise does.
Christianity, as is stressed on our site, is
a religion of logic and evidence (cf. on creation, That Magnificent Rock Ch.1, on religion, Home Page "Errors in Other Religions" or http://webwitness.org.au/errors, The Shadow of a Mighty Rock pp. 829ff., 931ff.,
and of course Ch.10. It revels in test, in performance criteria, in evidential outlays, in logical cohesion, in validity and scientific method.
It is therefore not what some say, so much, as what the evidence attests. Many veer here and there, but I am a friend of facts; and these I adhere to on the most excellent example (Isaiah 48 shows the divine emphasis on CHECKING EVERYTHING OUT FOR YOURSELF! as does Acts 4:20, I Thessalonians 5:21). TEST (as in the last verse just cited) is a KEY CONCEPT, and TRUTH is basic. Christ said He WAS the truth, and spoke like it in the face of every test. Some of these were not little (cf. Luke 11:53-54, Matthew 22:15-46). With such claims as His, ONE slip would be fatal. It is like winning a tennis match without losing a point, against a crowd coming in droves to play you, in relays!
Christianity then is a religion of test, evidence and logic. It is not however the less for that, a religion of faith; and the faith is that in the God who makes His attestation impregnable. Such is the human heart, one even finds some people who find THAT objectionable!
Deal justly and there is no problem with it, whatsoever, except one: people count the cost and if not routinely, then frequently, find it too high (as in Luke 14:27-33). Living with the living God is not germane to dealing with a plaything: it is very wonderful and very awesome, for He is very holy.
It is not that it is anything you have to pay, but that to deliver your soul empty-handed to God is for many, too much: except, of course, you believe! This does tend to remove the hypocrisy, but not entirely. Many are fascinated, but will not move with the Lord … like Judas Iscariot who, after all, was over 12 per cent of the special disciples of Christ, and eventually the predicted betrayer (see Joyful Jottings 25), in fact at last operating under the devil (John 13:2)! If you are interested in the case of Judas, see The Biblical Workman Ch. 4 and That Magnificent Rock Ch. 2, for a preliminary.
Having presented Christ in the prophecies with precision, down to the death date, God did not accept betrayal then, any more than now, for what He has sent to save from the deficiencies between man and God, at Calvary, may not with impunity be relegated to preference, without becoming a preference for darkness, which though it may not have it as aim, has it as reward (as in John 3:17-36). That is the only deficiency which can endure with God: that of exclusion of sinners for their preference for darkness; and it is one which is man's alone. Whether it be text or history or power now, or prophecy or logic, the empirical, the rational, it is all one. It is said, and it is done; and it has no equal.
Thank you again for your enquiry. It was good to hear from you.
for World Wide Web Witness Inc.