Are Accurate Copies and Translations of Scripture-Such as the KJV-Inspired? A Study of 2 Timothy 3:16, part 3
In part 2 last Friday we concluded that "since the Authorized Version is an accurate translation of the perfectly preserved Hebrew and Greek Words dictated by the Holy Ghost, it is Scripture, and it is inspired." This conclusion must be somewhat qualified, however.
Two qualifications to the above must be made.
1.) Only Greek and Hebrew words are directly inspired. Translated words are derivatively inspired.[ix] The directly inspired Greek and Hebrew cannot be changed, jot or tittle. Translated words can be changed and still have the breath of God. Dropping the “eth” from KJV verbs would not make the translation lose the breath of God. One could, in like manner, say that the KJV is derivatively preserved, sharp, quick, powerful, faith-producing, and so on. This fact does not by any means make English, rather than the directly, verbally, plenarily inspired and perfectly preserved Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic) words the Christian’s authority. The original language text is verbally, plenarily inspired, while a translation that is entirely accurate has plenary inspiration, but not the verbal inspiration of the original language,[x] and is entirely dependent for its authority upon the original language text. The substance of the meaning conveyed by God in Greek and Hebrew words is transferred into the language of a translation, but God did not dictate English, French, Spanish, or Latin words to the penmen of the Bible; He revealed Himself in Scripture in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words.[xi]
2.) When translations other than the KJV are accurate, in those parts they are also (derivatively) inspired. The NASV, for example, possesses the breath of God in the parts where it is not mistranslated nor is translated from a corrupt Greek or Hebrew text. This fact explains why believers who use English translations other than the KJV can be built up spiritually, and why unbelievers can be converted through the instrumentality of modern Bible versions.
This use of Theopneustos for product, rather than process, is the clear use of the Greek word in related Christian/Koiné Greek texts. For instance:[xii]
Papias 10:1 Regarding, however, the divine inspiration [Theopneustos] of the book [i.e., the Revelation of John] we think it superfluous to speak at length, since the blessed Gregory (I mean the Theologian) and Cyril, and men of an older generation as well, namely Papias, Irenaeus, Methodius, and Hippolytus, bear witness to its genuineness.[xiii] [Papias, who lived around the turn of the first century, reproduced by Andrew of Caesarea (563-637), Preface to the Apocalypse]
Here the book itself, the Greek words, the product, is referred to as inspired. Process is not in view, but product.
Sibylline Oracles 5:406-407 But God, the great Father of all within whom is the breath of God [Theopneustos], they were accustomed to reverence with holy sacrifices and hecatombs.[xiv]
Here the unknown writer of the Sibylline Oracles refers to the breath God puts within people as Theopneustos. It is simply “breath from God.”
Consistency thus requires that believers either refrain from calling translated Scripture “the Word of God” or allow the use of the word Theopneustos for anything that has the breath of God in it, including translated Scripture. An examination of the use of Theopneustos in its Koiné background leads to this conclusion.
The affirmation that translations possess the breath of God in a derived sense is by no means an affirmation of Ruckmanism. Peter Ruckman’s doctrine is that the English of the King James Version is superior to the Greek and Hebrew words God promised to preserve (Matthew 5:18), and thus involves a denial of the perfect preservation of the words God gave in the once-and-for-all completed process of giving the Scripture (Psalm 12:6-7). Ruckman affirms that a move of God like that mentioned in 2 Peter 1:16-21 took place in 1611, a repudiation of the completion of the canon and a rejection of the warning of Revelation 22:18-19. Scripture, on the other hand, denies that 2 Peter 1:16-21 pertains to any other than the original writers of the Scripture when they penned the autographs, but maintains that the original copies do not lose the breath of God when they are copied or (in a derived sense) when they are accurately translated. Indeed, recognizing the Scriptural fact that the breath of God remains upon copies and (in a derived sense) accurate translations destroys the foundational appeal of the Ruckmanite error. Ruckmanism claims that only if one affirms that another supernatural act of giving the Scripture such as is described in 2 Peter 1:16-21 took place in 1611 with the Authorized Version can one have a Bible in his hands today that is living, powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, and truly the Word of God. The fact that the breath of God remains in accurate copies and accurate translations allows the believer to affirm that he does indeed have the very Word of God in his hand when he holds a King James Bible, without adopting the heresy of a re-opening of the canon in 1611 or denying the promises of Scripture that every Hebrew and Greek word God gave in the autographs is still available and is still the ultimate authority for the Christian (Matthew 4:4; 5:18; Isaiah 59:21).
[ix] While it is true that the specific phrase derivatively inspired is not found anywhere in the Bible, it is equally true that the word translation is absent. The implications of this paragraph, and the doctrine of derivitive inspiration, are simply the good and necessary consequences of the fact that accurately translated Scripture is still Scripture, and one can accurately translate Scripture in more than one way. Inspiration isderived in translated Scripture because the words in the receptor language derive all their authority from the original language texts that are correctly translated. The fact that translated words can be modified and still have the breath of God is the necessary consequence of the fact that “he doeth” and “he does” are both correct translations of the appropriate Greek or Hebrew phrases. Thus, one has no right to object to the use of the word derivitive in connection with inspiration, based on the absence of the word in the Bible, in connection with translations, unless he likewise objects to and abstains from the use of the word translation itself, never refers to Scripture as verbally or plenarily inspired, abstains from speaking of monotheism, or the Trinity, and so on. The use of the term derivative inspiration is simply a way of expressing the necessary distinction between the perfect and absolutely unchangable original language texts given by God once for all in the autographs (2 Peter 1:16-21; Jude 3) and accurately translated copies. Not the word Theopneustos alone, but all the terms that pertain to the original language texts of the Bible only pertain in a derived way to copies. Since translated Scripture is only in a derived sense Scripture, the Word of God, quick/living, powerful, profitable, and so on, it is, in like manner, inspired in a derived sense.
[x] Nonetheless, in a derivative way, texts like “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and theyare life” (John 6:63) are applicable to the words of accurate translations, although translated words are unlike the unchangeable, ultimately authoritative Greek words Christ originally spoke which were recorded by the Apostle John through the dictation of the Holy Spirit.
[xi] The affirmation of absolute verbal and plenary inspiration for the original language text, but of a secondary derivative inspiration for accurate translations, is the classic position assumed by Baptists and Protestants in the Reformation and post-Reformation era. Richard Muller explains the historic Protestant position:
[Alongside] the insistence of the Reformed that the very words of the original are inspired, the theological force of their argument falls in the substance or res rather than on the individual words: translations can be authoritative quoad res because the authority is not so much in the words as in the entirety of the teaching as distributed throughout the canon. . . . [T]he issue of “things” (res) and “words” (verba) . . . is crucial to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture and is, as many of the other elements of the Protestant doctrine, an element taken over from the medieval tradition and rooted in Augustine’s hermeneutics. . . . [T]he words of the text are signs pointing to the doctrinal “things.” This distinction between signa and res significata, the sign and the thing signified, carries over into the language typical of scholastic Protestantism, of the words of the text and the substance of the text, of the authority of translations not strictly quoad verba but quoad res, according to the substance or meaning indicated by the original. . . . [O]nly the [original language] sources are inspired (theopneustoi) both according to their substance (quoad res) and according to their words (quoad verba)[.] This must be the case, since holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21, who dictated to them not only the substance (res) but also the very words (verba). For the same reason, the Hebrew and the Greek are the norms and rules by which the various versions are examined and evaluated. . . . [There is] a distinction between authenticity and authorship quoad verba, which belongs only to the Hebrew and Greek originals, and authenticity and authority quoad res, which inheres in valid translations. . . . Thus translations can be used, but with the reservation that only the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the authentic norms of doctrine and the rule by which doctrinal controversy is to be decided[.] Versions that are congruent with the sources are indeed authentic according to substance (quoad res); for the Word of God [may be] translated into other languages: the Word of God is not to be limited, since whether it is thought or spoken or written, it remains the Word of God. Nonetheless they are not authentic according to the idiom or word, inasmuch as the words have been explained in French or Dutch. In relation to all translations, therefore, the Hebrew and Greek texts stand as antiquissimus, originalis, and archetypos. Thus, translations are the Word of God insofar as they permit the Word of God to address the reader or hearer: for Scripture is most certainly the Word of God in the things it teaches and to the extent that in and by means of it power of God touches the conscience. Even so, in translations as well as in the original the testimony of the Holy Spirit demonstrates the graciousness of God toward us. All translations have divine authority insofar as they correctly render the original: the tongue and dialect is but an accident, and as it were an argument of divine truth, which remains one and the same in all idioms. (pgs. 269, 326-327, 403, 416, 427-428, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; volume 2, Holy Scripture: The cognitive foundation of theology (2nd ed.), Richard Muller. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003; quotations and original sources not reproduced)
[xii] Compare also the uses (which are loose but relevent for comparison) of Theopneustos as product in the Sibylline Oracles 5:308, “God-breathed streams” (na¿masin toi√ß qeopneu/stoiß) Pseudo-Phocylides 129, “God-breathed wisdom” (qeopneu/stou sofi÷hß) and Testament of Abraham (Recension A) 20:11, “God-breathed ointments and perfumes” (muri÷smasi qeopneu/stoiß kai« aÓrw¿masin). In each of these instances a divine quality is ascribed to the noun modified by Theopneustos. The God-breathed ointments and perfumes” of theTestament of Abraham is parallel to the “God-woven linen cloth” (sindo/ni qeou¨fantwˆ◊) mentioned immediately previously. (Of course, a simply linguistic point is being made here, namely, that Theopneustos is a designation for a product—by no means must the verbal, plenary giving of each word of the Scriptures by God be reduced to the level of allegedly divine quality unknown Koiné writers ascribe to perfume or ointment.) Note the detailed and careful discussion of these texts (and others, such as Nonnus’ “theopneustic sandal,” a Bostran inscription speaking of an arjciereu\ß qeopneu/stoß, etc.) by Warfield in Revelation and Inspirationchapter 7.