Introduction to the Debate Part One Part Two
by Kent Brandenburg
Answer to Question 2
If Mr. Turk looked at his quote of the KJV preface in its context, he would see that the translators were arguing for translation
contra Romanism, not approving of poor translations. On the other hand, the KJ translators were linguistic scholars by most accounts, yet not quite as reliable themselves as a source for theology. For that reason, I don’t ask WWKJTD (What Would the King James Translators Do?). I do at times puzzle at ardor for a preface as far surpassing the translation of Holy Scripture it introduced. Men as early as seventeenth century decided that both Jesus and the apostles quoted from a Greek version of the Hebrew OT. Like any other historic tradition, we evaluate it with truth (John 17:17).
Exegetical reasons say Jesus quoted from the Hebrew text. Jots and tittles are Hebrew letters (Matthew 5:18). Jesus refers to the OT as the law and the prophets, the designation speaking of the Hebrew OT, not a Greek one (Luke 24:44). James affirmed that the Torah was the text by which preaching was done on every Sabbath in every town of Judea, and elsewhere, in the synagogue (Acts 15:21). There is no question that Hebrew was a known and read language of the first century since Pilate required the title on the cross to be written in three known and read languages of the Greco-Roman world—Hebrew and Greek and Latin (Jn. 19:20). The Lord Jesus Christ spoke both Hebrew (“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani
”) and Aramaic (“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani
”) from the Cross, as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark testify (Mt. 27:46—Mk. 15:34). The Apostle Paul, in his great apologetic speech, spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem “in the Hebrew tongue” (Acts 21:40). The Lord also spoke to Paul “in the Hebrew tongue” at the time of his conversion (Acts 26:14). Nowhere do we find any similar doctrine of “Greek translation usage,” except to exegete the preface of translation. This paragraph exemplifies how one gets a bibliology of preservation, something you will not see among the critical and eclectic.
This historic tradition creates a huge problem for one’s view of inspiration and inerrancy. It says Jesus quotes an extremely flawed translation, especially textually, making error in Scripture “satisfactory.” Then certain points debunk the historic tradition. Many of these OT quotations in the New are significantly different from certain modern Septuagints. Cumulatively a big majority of the quotations from Job, Zechariah, and Malachi agree solely with the Masoretic. This same historic tradition today underlies denial of ipsissima verba
of Christ for unorthodox ipsissima vox
A high view of inspiration practices classic harmonization. Often attacks on Scripture point at supposed conflicts with the various accounts to relegate the Bible to something only human. Rather than capitulating to errors, our high view guides viable explanations. In place of the one problematic historic tradition I offer two viable choices (or mixture of the two) that harmonize with God’s promises of perfect preservation.
1. Jesus targummed, that is, He quoted and commented as a rabbi would. Jesus knew the Hebrew and the Greek, so He could translate on a fly, imparting commentary as well, especially His being God Himself, speaking new Scripture based upon His own authority. We witness this Jewish practice of targumming by Jesus in Luke 4:16-21: the teacher stands and opens scroll (vv. 16, 17), reads the OT with running interpretation or Targum (vv. 17b-19), rolls up scroll, hands back, and sits down, and then preaches his sermon (v. 21ff). Several commentators affirm Christ’s employment of the Targum, including Geldenhuys who states (p. 167): “As far as we know, He read in Hebrew and translated into Aramaic, the common spoken language at that time…G. Dalman finds reflections of the traditional Aramaic paraphrase (Targum) in the present passage in Luke [4:18 ff.].” Cf. also Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke
(Nashville, Broadman Press, 1992), p. 155; Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, Luke
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publ., 1990), p. 73; and William Manson, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Luke
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1955), p. 41.
2. “[T]he scribes who copied the surviving manuscripts of the LXX
[which date after the composition of the gospels] were by and large Christians who would have been familiar with the NT writings. When, in the process of producing a LXX
manuscript, they came to a passage that was quoted in the NT, they sometimes adjusted the text, either inadvertently (because of their memory of the NT form) or purposefully (because they assumed the NT form was correct)” (p. 191, Invitation to the Septuagint
, Moises Silva and Karen Jobes, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000).
There was no “the Septuagint” that we know for sure of in the first century. Even today the textual scholars don’t know exactly what “the Septuagint” is. Jerome makes mention of three different versions of the Septuagint that already existed in his day:
Alexandria and Egypt in their Septuagint acclaim Hesychius as their authority, the region from Constantinople to Antioch approves the copies of Lucian the martyr, the intermediate Palestinian provinces read the MSS which were promulgated by Eusebius and Pamphilius on the basis of Origen’s labors, and the whole world is divided among these three varieties of texts.
H. St. J. Thackeray, “Septuagint,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
, Volume IV (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ., 1939), pp. 2724-2725, writes:
The main value of the LXX is its witness to an older Hebrew text than our own. But before we can reconstruct this Hebrew text we need to have a pure Greek text before us, and this we are at present far from possessing…the original text has yet to be recovered…Not a verse is without its array of variant readings.
Must we abandon the plain teaching of Scripture, which evidences the Lord’s use of the Hebrew OT, as demonstrated by Strouse, for the bruised reed of the “evidence” from a reconstructed, hypothetical, non-preserved modern edition of “the” LXX
? Mr. Turk may do the latter, if he please; we will go with the “thus saith the Lord.”
I do wonder if Mr. Turk believes that the Septuagint is God’s Word in the places it comes from corrupt text or is translated incorrectly. With that in mind, I also wonder if he believes that the modern versions are the Word of God when they, for instance, say that Isaiah wrote the book of Malachi (Mark 1:2-3). If Mr. Turk kept reading a little further in the uninspired preface, he would have arrived at this—
[T]hey joined them together with the Hebrew original, and the translation of the Seventy (as hath been before signified out of Epiphanius) and set them forth openly to be considered of and perused by all.
—which explains the reason for the KJ translators’ Septuagint illustration. Contradicting the Romanists, they believed in the translation of the Hebrew and Greek text into known languages. They weren’t using their conjecture about the Septuagint to endorse a poor translation. Neither the KJ translators, nor many others, would say that a translation in the places where it is faulty is the Word of God. How would that point of their preface apply to modern translations? The KJ translators would support translations into known languages, i.e., ones other than Latin.
Comments to A2
Perhaps Mr. Turk could just say what he believes about the preservation of Scripture, what God did preserve, and why, so we can stop speculating on what “grammatical promises” are. If he means that God didn’t promise to preserve His Words; i.e. no verbal, plenary preservation, and so he enters this debate with that presupposition, it’s no wonder our conclusions differ. Just saying that preservation isn’t in Scripture doesn’t count as debate—we could both say, “He’s wrong,” and we’d be done.
I asked if the Bible was evidence. Mr. Turk implies “Yes” with “merely evidence.” I ask if it is superior to other forms of evidence—no answer. A “plain” answer would include a “yes” or “no.” “Ontologically reliable” and “metaphysically authoritative” aren’t plain. Those two descriptions are about as nebulous as one could get, especially in light of what Scripture says about itself. I think by “ontologically reliable,” he means that the reliability of Scripture is found in its essence and unique nature, but not in the actual, accessible words. I think by saying “metaphysically authoritative” he separates Scripture from the available, physical text itself. If the text of the Bible has no integrity of its own, then readers can have their own way with it—disregard what it says and say what it means to them. Mr. Turk’s answers read like definitional gobbly-gook to allow belief in error in Scripture.
Mr. Turk should have seen that what I believe about preservation doesn’t contradict what Turretin said. Neither Turretin nor I believe that copyists were without error. I even gave a Scriptural basis for errors in copies. God said there would be errors. Both Turretin and I believe that those errors were always corrected. Both Turretin and I believe in perfect preservation based upon God’s promises, including a great defense of 1 John 5:7.
I still call on Mr. Turk to tell me what he believes about preservation of Scripture and to prove it. While I’m waiting, here are references that among others promise the perfect, Divine preservation of Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 12:6-7; 111:7-8; 119:152; 119:160; Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:18-19; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 3:3; 16:17; 21:33; John 12:48; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 3:2. These cumulatively give a stronger testimony for perfect preservation than the Bible even gives for its own inspiration. If you believe the latter, then you should believe the former. In addition, among the above verses and others, we have testimony to the general accessibility of God’s verbally, plenarily preserved Words: Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 4:4. Implied in the ability to keep all the Words of God is their availability: Deuteronomy 6:24; 10:2; 12:28; 27:26; 28:14; 28:58; 29:9; 31:12. The Bible affirms that people will be held eternally accountable for disobeying the Words contained therein: Psalm 50:16-17; Luke 24:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
In addition to Turretin, John Owen also wrote in the 17th century,
The whole Scripture, entire as given out from God, without any loss, is preserved in the copies of the originals yet remaining. . . . In them all, we say, is every letter and tittle of the word.
G. I. Williamson, writes in his 1964 commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith (pp. 14-17):
This brings us to the matter of God’s ‘singular care and providence’ by which He has ‘kept pure in all ages’ this original text, so that we now actually possess it in ‘authentical’ form. And let us begin by giving an illustration from modern life to show that an original document may be destroyed, without the text of that document being lost. Suppose you were to write a will. Then suppose you were to have a photographic copy of that will made. If the original were then destroyed, the photographic copy would still preserve the text of that exactly the same as the original itself (emphasis his). The text of the copy would differ in no way whatever from the original, and so it would possess exactly the same ‘truth’ and meaning as the original. . . . How then could the original text of the Word of God be preserved? The answer is that God preserved it by His own remarkable care and providence.
Professor E. D. Morris for decades taught the Westminster Confession at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1893, Lane wrote for The Evangelist
As a Professor in a Theological Seminary, it has been my duty to make a special study of the Westminster Confession of Faith, as have I done for twenty years; and I venture to affirm that no one who is qualified to give an opinion on the subject, would dare to risk his reputation on the statement that the Westminster divines ever thought the original manuscripts of the Bible were distinct from the copies in their possession (underline mine).
by Frank Turk
See: I like Kent's questions in spite of their insinuations that brief, clear answers of only a few sentences are somehow evasive.
What is utterly fascinating about this current question is that Kent wants to imply that unless all the words are present, none of the words are validly considered God's word -- so for Kent, only the words which, for example, Luke wrote down when he scribed the phrase "Epeideper polloi epeceiresan avataxasthai diegesin peri ton peplerophoremenon ev hemin pragmaton
" [my note
: English transliteration of Luke 1:1 in the Greek New Testament] (that's Luke 1:1 as we account for it) can be God's word.
Or can it? Because Luke 1:1 in the KJV reads, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us," including the comma, which indicates that Luke 1:1 is not a complete sentence. Apparently, words are missing from that sentence -- so citing that verse by itself, if we are to take Kent seriously in his argument so far, is not citing God's word, but corrupting it.
Worse still for Kent is the gross problem that the phrase "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us" is not what Luke wrote back in the day: that's a translation
of what Luke wrote. Since these are not the words that Luke wrote, they must be a corruption of the text.
And I say this because, frankly, I have met many ex-KJV guys who would say so -- because they believe that since the KJV is not the original manuscript but some kind of transmitted text, it can't be God's word. It's a common ploy for these men, who are usually atheists, to try to discredit the Scripture because it comes in translation
. How can we possibly know those words are right?
So we have to decide something up front: is translation a legitimate pursuit when it comes to Scripture? The Muslim, for example, would say "no". You can read the Qu'ran in English, but that's not Scripture. But the clear fact is that the KJV translators believed that translation is a legitimate pursuit for the church of the text
for the sake of the common man.
For those men, translation was in fact a necessary duty of the church in order to teach the Scripture -- even if the words of the Greek and Hebrew were not perfectly handled.
Now, here's the kicker -- the place where we can answer Kent's question without any stipulations. Is the question of translation a matter of making sure the right number of words are being used? In the example of Luke 1:1, Luke wrote 11 words -- yet in English, the phrase is translated using 24 words! If what is at stake is that the very words
must be transliterated, I propose that we must conclude that Scripture has been utterly adulterated by the KJV translators, and we must abandon that work because it uses more words than Luke did in Luke 1:1.
But that proposition is ludicrous on its face -- because even the most novice of Bible students knows that New Testament Greek
is a very different language than Renaissance English
. Verbs are formed differently; tenses are built in a different grammatical way; Nouns operate differently; sentence structure is very different. It is inevitable that translating from Greek to English will render different words
. That is actually the point of the exercise.
In that, it is transparently clear that any text is more than just a list of words
. The text uses structures like idioms and metaphors to express meaning not evident in the mere words -- and in many cases, those sorts of structures have to be handled carefully and not merely in a wooden literal sense by the translator to convey the meaning of the author.
So to answer Kent's question plainly:
I reject the idea that Scripture is merely a list of words in a magical order which, when recited, somehow has an effect which one might call "perfection". While we honor and revere the fact that God breathed out the very words of Scripture, I deny that the words, considered individually, are somehow so fragile that human operations like listening, reading, copying, translating or memorizing -- which inevitably make errors in transmitting these words -- will somehow invalidate what God has intended in this special revelation.
If that's too complicated for Kent to receive as an answer, I'll softball him this answer instead:
Because we receive the NT in translation (for example, in the KJV), we must insist that the perfection of Scripture today is found in the message and not the words. The words in which we receive Scripture (that is, English words) were never written by an apostle or prophet.
Since I have some, um, words left, let me reiterate my answers so far:
 God's promises to preserve His word do not include any grammatical or scribal promises.
 Scripture is not merely "evidence" but in fact "testimony" -- God's revelation of Truth. Because of where those texts come from -- not because of the words or the languages used -- that testimony is not merely a report of truth: it is the authoritative statement of the truth.
 The text itself is not so fragile that it must be received as the original autograph; like any text, and as clearly affirmed by Turrentin, "an authentic writing is one in which all things are abundantly sufficient to inspire confidence". This would include scribal copies of autographs which are not identical to the autographs and valid translations.
Here's another Turretin quote:
Conformity to the original is different from equality. Any version (provided it is faithful) is indeed conformable to the original because the same doctrine as to substance is set forth there. But it is not on that account equal to it because it is only a human and not a divine method of setting it forth. [underline supplied by Mr. Turk]
Although any version made by fallible men cannot be considered divine and infallible with respect to the terms, yet it can well be considered such with respect to the things, since it faithfully expresses the divine truth of the sources even as the word which the minister of the gospel preaches does not cease to be divine and infallible and to establish our faith, although it may be expressed by him in human words. Thus faith depends not on the authority of the interpreter or minister, but is built upon the truth and authenticity (authentia) of the things contained in the versions.
Turrentin said this about translations
into common languages.
Why can we not apply what Turrentin said here about translation and apply it to the human method of copying the text by hand? That is, why is this true for the more difficult work of translation, but not the less difficult work of scribal copyists?