The following material
related firstly to a pamphlet which makes claims which may give concern to
some; though its own concern is understandable. It wishes to eliminate all
standards for English Bible except the Authorised Version of a certain King
A better solution than this is assuredly available, one in accord with the teaching of the Bible, which has indeed been entirely preserved. (See perspective later.) Indeed, thus is raised the entire matter of translation. God did not forget His people for 1600 years after Christ, or so! No, His ways do not change, and His provisions are profound. It is not to be discovered by assumption, which is presumption. HOW He does it, we find by faith and by looking.
is nothing in the entire Bible which states that there will be no variation in
texts transmitting the Bible, or that any one nation at any one time will have,
far less that all nations at all times will have, a totally correct transmitted
copy of the Bible. What is stated in texts such as Isaiah 59:21 and so on, is
this: that the MESSAGE, SUBSTANCE, THOUGHT, meat, or doctrine of any type, will
be correctly conveyed.
· The Hebrew use of the words we use for 'words' is noted in *1 below (cf. *3 in a related topic). In fact, then, THIS is what is guaranteed: no translation deficiency will be such as to mislead from what God has to say. It will appear in its full competency and accuracy and impact, as far as any teaching or historically significant point is concerned, for doctrine. His thoughts, teaching, doctrine is guaranteed in transmission. You can say with entire security, This is the word of the living God, if you take a Bible in your hand, having some attention to the overwhelming majority of the texts in the Greek and the testimony of the Hebrew.
· You can also know that God as to inspiration went further: He guaranteed the exact words to the last point, as conveying what He wanted to say. I Corinthians 2:9-13 with John -50, Matthew 4:4, -20 make that quite clear. Whatever may be slightly varied in transmission will do nothing to limit or reduce the impact and knowledge God has given for our instruction in godliness, in doctrine, in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). It will all moreover be fulfilled to the last syllable. (Cf. SMR Appendix D, pp. 1176ff..)
· However what CAN happen, within what the Bible states will happen, does include some variation through TRANSMISSION, on minor points, sometimes incredibly minute as to some form of words put one way or another, and not affecting doctrine or testimony in any way.
I personally have never found any matter of textual
transmission which prevents my knowing any doctrine or any fact whatsoever
which alters my understanding of the character of any event, or of any person,
or of God, or of His teaching on any point.
This verifies what God stated. Praise His name!
On Transmigrations of Inspiration
Now we come to the rather self-contradictory material recently handed on to me, on the topic "King James ONLY" - an unfortunate confusion of a particularly fine translation of the Bible, with perfection. The first part of the pamphlet on this point is good, saying what the writer does not mean. It is the second part where he says what he does mean, and this unfortunately is wrong, simply, sadly wrong.
There was no "Authorised Version" (AV) in English for centuries; and even some of the translations of the Bible which went before it and which contributed to its translation later, are not identical.
Indeed, it would be quite a
work for anyone to show ANY Bible in English, for the hundreds of years before
the AV which is EXACTLY in each phase of every reading identical with the AV;
for if it were, their task would have been merely an updating of English, a
nonsensical proposition. It would moreover assume work done by many to have
been done before it occurred - Erasmus' Greek New Testament compilation,
Tyndale's enormous labours, the vast efforts in
Incidentally it is simply contrary to fact to say with this author, that "King James Only means ... that God has kept His Word and preserved His truth all down through the ages." It may seem true to some writer, but it is not a fact. What the King James (KJV, AV) situation actually implies, in view of the preceding popular and available translations in English, would be this: that for hundreds of years, IF the AV were in all points exact, therefore God had NOT kept His precise words in every respect exactly transmitted down the ages, since there is no exact equivalence of meaning at all times with the words of former translations; or else that some unknown repository of labours of translation unknown, some precise equivalent in all things, to the AV, lay hidden, unused... unfound, unavailable! It might resemble, perhaps, the equally illusory and ludicrous concepts of Mormonism which, in addition to making new gods in their god factory concept (contrary of course to Isaiah 43:10 at the outset), have UNTESTABLE assumptions about a document in gold and glasses with magic propensities!
We are DIRECTED to TEST, and what is here re the translation is ONE fact.
The Bible has NOT been present with AV information precisely, before it came to pass; it WAS precisely because it was such a monumental effort of precision (in the main) and apt talent and knowledge, WITH the marvellous preliminaries of other translators into English, such as Wyclif, that it gives so excellent a rendering, so justly prized (but not as we show in this chapter, for all that, perfection).
It did not happen before it happened. 'Nature' did not possess it before the intelligence and drive to DO it and the organisation and the structuring of inter-related translation teams, and time.
It came, the AV, from sweat of the brow, and of course divine help. It was not the only one to come thus; but its superb qualities (as in MANY things they undoubtedly are) are not pre-dating it. Its accuracy and beauty did not pre-date it. Other beauties and efforts did. They all in general have wit and talent. This one had a blending of many minds, and gave some wonderful aids in the work of translation. Yet it did not - in terms of things testable, to which the Bible DIRECTS us to look - come before it was here, nor did its exact factual parallel.
Such a result may be imagined; it may not be found. If it WERE to be found, it would be the most remarkable of all finds of science in this or virtually any other generation!
Test however has not revealed this labourless feat, or any such feat. If it did, moreover, the very imperfections in the AV here attested (though so minor) would always have been present in every translation, to their detriment. THIS King James Version-ism is precisely the folly of ANY idolatry, or icon or ism-itis, any obsessive fixation, any inflammation of carnal desire. HOWEVER wonderful the thing desired, there is error in following this or that great theologian and anti-scripturally calling yourself after him (as forbidden in I Cor. 3, cf. Repent or Perish 1, *1, The Biblical Workman 8), or adhering to this or that token, sign or other object, written or not, outside the Bible, with an overpowering intensity. By exalting the flesh, or through some circumstance of history, ceasing to be in test mode, that procedure ceases to be critical or realistic, and such conduct displaces by preference the requirements that the word of God itself has NO option for addition. It stands alone, as it is.
What it SAYS, and not what you or someone else says about what it says, THIS is the sublime and sufficient test and criterion. You can no more get mediators in the realm of translation, as if THESE are the way, rather than the word of God, than you can in salvation. The error is not necessarily by any means so profound; but its principle is as polluted. IT always remains apart from the works of man. It must be sought, can be found and should be followed. GOD supplies the evidence for testing; man is supplied with the means of performing the required test. Assumption is NOT test.
If then God had guaranteed NO variation even in word arrangements in the available Hebrew and Greek*1, far more if He had guaranteed translations to be THE EXACT word of God at all times, and so forth, then that would have failed; and, for British Israelites and the like, it might be necessary to add, it would have failed in England in particular. THAT however was NOT the promise of God. This needs, also, to be read, not assumed. As to this: It has not failed. His meaning remains, His doctrine remains, His truth remains, and minor variations in the vast array of texts, the majority text, are so exquisitely minute that no direction, no incident, no law, no doctrine is left in the slightest doubt as to its nature and meaning. As to what the mouth of God says, it is best to listen!
One can imagine in the days
Theirs too have been
dreams! History shows none of these things. What it DOES show is one
magnificently homogeneous array of myriads of Greek texts, and much evidence
for refined consideration of any subtle case, in which some matter arises. What
is left is just the dust of passage. NOTHING of the slightest doctrinal
significance or historical import is in any doubt, when what is PROVIDED is
taken as it comes, and romancing, whether of
Similarly, as a mere aggravation of the error is this fact. When the AV was undergoing its 14 or so revisions, there would have been no correct copy until the last; for if there were, then some of the revisions did not revise. Further, God who HAS promised and HAS kept His word faithfully in the world in its substance and commands, has not allowed some imagined original language of the New Testament to vanish without the integrity of the text being preserved. THAT unevidenced proposition would be an indictment of God's word! FAITH prohibits it. Evidence alike, does NOT find it! Testable things are concurrent with the word of God; imagination has no such privilege.
In fact, the idea presented in the pamphlet supplied: that one cannot correct ANY TRANSLATED version of the Bible by means of the Hebrew or Greek texts from which it came, and which were the originals, is if not idolatry, at least close to blasphemy. The Authorised Version is to stand free of the sort of test which its translators rejoiced in ? IT becomes the standard. That is a mockery of their own integrity!
It means that
what DID NOT come from the mouth of the Lord is not to be adjusted by what DID.
This is so, even on the view of the writer of the pamphlet, who maintains there
is no second inspiration, that is - inspiration given to various translators to
ensure their work is perfect! Inspiration from God surely is one thing; godly
and dedicated translation and efforts to capture the best attested text in the
Greek and Hebrew, this is quite another. It is the first which is scripturally
guaranteed; the second is merely a tradition of men. To require it for doctrine
is the Romanist style of error: rebuked justly by Proverbs 30:6. Any such
approach is further rebuked in Mark 7:7.
· To assume contrary to the evidence of history,
· which DOES NOT have to show an exact equivalence of every element of meaning and minute circumstance in the translations of every nation at all times, when once the church grew in that nation -
· a concept which is beyond the promises of God's word -
· that there is nonetheless a real cross-national equivalence of translations:
· what it this then ?
At best, it is obscurantism. It is ideas of the mind without the licence of the word of God, or for that matter, the legs of history. It is not faith but presumption. It is not the attested case; nor is it the Biblically required one. Test does not reveal it; the Bible does not require it. That is all.
What is in some ways far
worse is this: such an approach leads to the failure to use all the evidence
which God has faithfully and abundantly given us, to preserve what we
It not merely denies due test of available evidence in finding what the Lord has done, but it also absconds from what the Lord sees fit to provide in any new nuance or feature which discovery enables. Not evidence but predilection rules; and as to the predilection, it is FAR from FAITH! Faith does not abide in the desires of man, but in the word of God. It does not invent a translation not given in the word of God as the standard; for that is quite simply ADDING to the word of God what it has NOT said, and subtracting what it HAS said, to test all things. In texts, you test texts. Further, since test does NOT show the precise data equivalent of the AV before it happened, it is to ABANDON the results of tests REQUIRED. That is three points of direct disobedience to the word of God. That puts flesh in the way of the word of God, without ground or reason, and how could one approve this unfancied and fanciful myth or fail to denounce it!
If the AV be
not specifically inspired by God as a translation, then it is close to
idolatrous, contrary both to history and to the word of God, to make it the
standard. If HOWEVER it is inspired in this way, then it is a case of this
unscriptural "second inspiration".
Nor, on the other hand, may one accept the general manner of most modern New Testament translations
This is so in the sense that they do not use the historically attested majority text. Indeed, even the King James does not use all we now have of that majority text, though the differences are exceedingly slight. The New King James, is not infallible (and in this respect, it is like the AV, which however indeed has amazing accuracy, though less clarity at times). As to this NEW King James version, however, it
1) does not use the minority text, thus avoiding an underlying fault of most New Testament translations and
2) does present a broader supply of the majority text for meditation. The differences are minute, but at times useful. The New King James however does often contribute far greater clarity in its use of our English language as it is today in its translation from the Greek; and to fail to use it becomes in danger of idolatry for that reason.
Incidentally, though this might form another paper, the textual family to which the AV Greek manuscripts belong (though NOT in the case of I John 5:7, which was an import mainly from Latin translations) has been the subject of highly scholarly work by two notable contributors, Wilfred Pickering and Jakob Van Bruggen, New Testament Professor of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Both from an historical and a statistical view they present (Pickering in The Identity of the New Testament Text, and Van Bruggen in The Ancient Text of the New Testament, supplemented by The Future of the Bible), grounds for NOT disregarding the 85-90% of all Greek texts which are in this family, used in the AV, though with relatively few examples as a base.
Already then we are munificently provided, and a good rule of thumb for Bible reading is this: the AV if your English is sufficient, and rely on it (subject to checking the evidence on the Greek and Hebrew) for matters of spiritual discernment and teaching; but use the NKJV for clarity.
It is challenging that a better version than the AV and the NKJV*2 is not available, to my knowledge; but perhaps soon it may be. However these two, taken together, really leave little for the person equipped to handle them to regret, except he/she takes to Greek or Hebrew, and even there one has books which can help further those who do not have these languages.
The net effect of this dangerous slope towards idolatry of the AV is alas that LESS knowledge of the word of God may well result; just as the opposite danger of uncritically accepting some of the appalling failures to follow the correct text in much New Testament translation, can lead to sloppiness not fitting for the word of God. When however, in the area of the majority text, and outside the historically fantasising and hair-brained schemes coming much from Westcott and Hort which led to the whole business of following a small number of preferred and often very poorly transmitted texts: one has little to choose from. Following this as the rule, one finds that except for one notable case, all the major errors so long pushed by small and scraggy examples, go. (Cf. the detailed comments of Dean J.W. Burgon in The Revision Revised.)
That case ? it relates to the fact that the AV puts words in the verse 7 area into I John 5 which are not in the great majority of the Greek texts. Indeed two points stand out here, showing the need to prevent idolising the things of men, even the good things. For in fact, these words, in the AV, are in a tiny number of texts altogether in the Greek: they were not put into Erasmus' famous Greek text at first, and were added to the 3rd edition, after someone challenged him on the point. He stated that if ANY Greek manuscript could be found with this IN, then he would insert it.
One … was found which seemed to give testimony to it, and so, on his word, he put it into his 3rd edition. The reason for its insertion was of course not scholarly. It was a case of one manuscript against all that he had, at that time; and it was put in because of something he had said! Now we learn there are perhaps 5 out of hundreds, with it in; and these very far from the early ones.
What is interesting is this: where it is found is in some of the Latin texts, and even these are not regarded as the most reliable ones of their translated type, nor were they early; and the evangelists were not known as Latinists! That is scarcely the same as the majority of the Greek, which the Lord has preserved; and which form the essential basis for the AV! This is quite astonishing. It appears the AV may have followed (indirectly) a tradition in this case: certain it is that it has not followed ANYTHING REMOTELY LIKE the great majority of the Greek in this case. It is the fact that it normally does this, not least, which gives it its place! In the divine mercy, even this AV error does not seem able to actually mislead anyone. It is just that the normal evidence it uses, is simply not there!
With, then, the AV AND the NKJ, one is well equipped; and as already noted, thus following the evidence one has no real problems with the text as such. Mere reaction against playing about with the Greek text evidence as happened on the basis of foolish and radical theories of the last century, and which has tended to continue in NT translation, is not wise. Getting to the actual evidence is, as the word of God directs us:
TEST ALL THINGS.
HOLD FAST TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD
( I Thessalonians 5:20) . The word "all" is of great importance in this context especially! It is God's direction for conscientious care.
Never trust in the manners and mannerisms of men. Trusting in tradition is NOT to be recommended (Mark 7:7); indeed in the case of doctrine, it is divinely condemned in the roundest of terms. OBEY the above injunction, and be safe in the divine directives. In fact, it was precisely this trusting in the tradition of men which led to the whole error following Westcott and Hort; for their conceptions, negated by history, were undoubtedly fashionable. They were not however attested by the evidence OR by the word of God.
In this, they are precisely similar to the reaction towards the AV; except that in this case, it is a fine translation, just not one to be made into a standard. In the end, the word of God does not give sanction to reducing our testing to one example of the evidence - it is directed to ALL THINGS. Let us then follow it. THAT evidence abundantly confirms all that God has SAID; though it is as so often, hard on tradition masquerading as the word of God. And why not! It is a sad presumption both against scholarship and godliness so to do.
Fortunately, both the AV and the NKJ provide the mass of the evidence for the non-technical reader. Remember, always go to the evidence, never to foolish theories, and never to foolish reactions ...
As it is God who supplies
the evidence, our trust in Him is such that we are not concerned.
A final word then on this misleading KING JAMES ONLY approach. Here alas as so often, Paul's injunction to moderation is ignored: things NOT stated in the Bible have to be 'put' there, and things stated are to be ignored or removed. So it goes. But for me and for my house:
Bible states is what goes, and what goes without it, is not accepted. The word
of God and not the word of man will be our criterion, by His grace; and His grace
Actually, The Hebrew word transliterated DABAR in fact, in the AV, IS translated in many ways, such as : ACT, ADVICE, AFFAIR, ANSWER, COMMUNICATION, LANGUAGE, MATTER, REPORT, TIDINGS, SPEECH, THING (very often - 215 cases listed), WORD, THOUGHT, SAYING. It is the word used in the Hebrew in Isaiah 59:21, 40:8 and in Psalm 119:89,119:160 concerning what the God who spoke to man, certainly will preserve! Psalm 111:8 adds to this, using a different word, rendered 'precepts'. It is a term often used in the Psalms and refers to the responsibilities which God places on His people: the word's root being appoint, number, visit and so on (so Harris, Archer, Waitke, Theological Word Book of the Old Testament).
The guarantee here, then, is for what God comes forth to require, as a visitation or appointment with man. As to this, "They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness" - 111:8. This testimony too is guaranteed, for man shall indeed live by EVERY WORD which PROCEEDS out of the MOUTH of God. Directive requirements are therefore guaranteed - precepts. These will not be obscured from man, through departure from the scene. Nor is there any question except about wholly unsubstantial issues, the work rather of grammarians or statisticians than of those concerned to do what it says.
That has assuredly been fulfilled. Indeed, in the full-flavoured Isaiah 34:16 we see that the Spirit of the Lord has gathered the components - here creatures in the afflicted wilderness, subject of God's judgment, and set them their perpetual mark of His esteem, within it. His mouth has made the command, His Spirit has effected the result. Thus the thoughts of His heart, the objects of His disposition are inseparable, assured, guaranteed. THIS IS THE CASE WITH THE WHOLE "BOOK OF THE LORD", we read, for we are invited to search this entire book, with the assurance that so will we find, this combination, correlation. Things, episodes, objects, events will be placed aright, in accurate execution of His commands, and as He gathers His words, so He gathers their matching performances, nothing lacking; for His disposing of things to mirror just what He has said; for as to the Lord, and what He sees fit to provide in His book, this is the position:
"Search from the book of the Lord, and read,
Not one shall lack her mate,
For My mouth, it has commanded, and His Spirit, it has gathered them "
(emphasis added, but it is not untrue to the original).
E. J Young shows this
rendering of the last line, which is brilliant - The Book of Isaiah,
p. 437). The Hebrew posts after "My mouth" an emphatic addition of "it" and so too after "His Spirit", in keeping with the majestic stress on His action and the assured performance. The entire data of the Lord will be preserved, His thoughts established: as He has spoken, so it will be. Will then the words be lost which direct the deeds, or will the search be prevented to which we are invited ? will the words assembled be lost while events, then uninterpreted, in frustration of His challenge to man, fall out without their verbal basis ? But who or what will hinder, restrain, prevent the Lord (Isaiah 43:13)!
Assuredly, what He has so presented, He will preserve. The LOGOS, the DABAR is to be preserved in the book, and the eventuation is sure. Certainly the sins of men may obscure the realities of the Lord, but THEY will not be lacking, nor will His word be quenched which has gone forth out of His mouth as a testimony: for as Psalm 119 indites:
"Your testimonies You have commanded" (v.138), and
"Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever".
Indeed, as Psalm 119:160 declares,
"The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever", while Psalm 111 confirms: as to His judgments ?
"they shall stand fast for ever and ever".
A similar word to that in Isaiah 59:21, 40:8 (DABAR) is used in Luke (namely, logos, which similarly can mean thought, cause, word and so forth). John refers not to transmission but to power of the word of God. These are the verses mentioned in the pamphlet. Verses requiring more are not found. However as to the INSPIRATION of the word of God, Matthew 4:4 is much more stringent, speaking of what GOD UTTERS: for here the exact words (remata) are in view, as also is the idea in II Peter 3:2 when the remata (Greek) of the prophets is considered in its inspiration.
We may however go much
further than this. The actual variations in remata of God, in the
available manuscripts, duly compared, is of the order I have already noted; and
has no bearing on the logos, substance, matter. It affects in my
experience precisely NOTHING in preaching, relevant history or doctrine. It
nevertheless is not a mirror image of NO variation in any sense!
It is a matter of being precise, moderate and careful in what one says - moderate is Paul's word (Philippians 4:5), as is likewise the phrase, rightly dividing the word of God (II Timothy ): not by philosophy (Colossians 2:8) - but by what it actually says. The material in the pamphlet sent is in its central thrust, inaccurate, self-contradictory and misleading.
These things are so unfortunate. Sound teaching is needed, not flag waving about mythical translation oscars, idols or whatever. We must adhere to the word of God, not to the word of man, or to our ideas of what the word of God should have said. It is enough, what it does say.
And what it does say is so stringent in terms of what IS guaranteed that NO doctrine, NO historical word or example, NO principle, NOTHING of any teaching significance or substantial force is ever in doubt. It is not a question of this topic or that; it is a matter of THAT degree of assurance. Those who, beyond the teaching of God's preservation procedures, want more, want both more than is offered and more than is needed. Inconsequential variations that produce pique and nothing of falsity in the thrust, substance or purity of the speech of God are an arena for admiration at the divine control; and when the variations produced by incredibly perverse philosophical theories are removed, so that the basic text and not some romanticising perversion of it is in view, the case is yet more obvious.
The word of God is
sustained for all edification, instruction in righteousness, teaching NOTHING
amiss but maintaining its precise message on everything without a misstep.
While it has been well to bring redress to the invasion of this field by adventurers
in both testaments, and those duped by them, more is not needed. What God has
to say in all its purity is abundantly available; and variations of minute kind
are mere winds among the trees which do not move, the leaves tossing, the stump
erect. Man may indeed live by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God
(Matthew 4:4), the minute mischiefs of time doing nothing to allay or to betray
but rather to emphasise that His word does not return to Him void, but
accomplishes all that He has intended.
It was not for a lesson in pedantics that He put it out, and the maintenance of what is to be lived by, whether in mind or matrix, doctrine or righteousness, the thrust of history or the principles of life is so assuredly kept, that the discussion can soon degenerate into mere trifling with words, which is not scripturally recommended . ONE MAY ASSUREDLY LIVE BY EVERY WORD WHICH PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD WITH COMPLETE CERTAINTY.
Indeed, let us quote from The Biblical Workman, Appendix 3, pp. 190-191:
issue there was name-dropping and personalising the word of God in terms of
slants and upsets of heart and 'clubs' of believerships under this or that
name, not that of Christ as the utter criterion in practice, it applies not
less here. All points at issue in any reality of the portent and intent of the word
of God as transmitted being secure, what remains becomes so trifling that it
serves merely as excuse for sedition, occupation with trivia, flirtations with
fancy, like worrying about a speck of dust on Sergeant's shoes just before
battle. All that shoes are meant to do, these do; and this is not a fancy dress
A Point of Interest
In Psalm 12:6, the term for 'words' is feminine. However in verse 7, the word translated 'them' is masculine (plural) in the first occurrence, and masculine (singular) - 'him' in the second. The righteous, in view in v.1, and contrasted with the wicked man, has been considered in his afflictions (12:5). He is however guarded by the word of God and its promises (12:6), a word indeed most pure.
We are assured that the Lord will preserve 'him' (v.7) as also in Psalms 16:1, 37:28,30. Nothing beyond that oft-noted preservation of the godly is demonstrable for v.7 regarding this point. Both the Pulpit Commentary and the redoubtable Keil and Delitzsch indicate this, the latter insisting that since there are two successive references, "You shall rescue them, O LORD, You shall preserve him from this generation forever", and the first is "them" the (em ending) and the second is not: that not only does the vowel pointing categorically signify 'it or him' and NOT 'them'; but the variation from the first ending to the second confirms in such a case, a change from the 'them' to what is in fact written, 'him' or 'it'.
We are assured that the Lord will preserve 'him' (v.7) as also in Psalms 16:1, 37:28,30. Nothing beyond that oft-noted preservation of the godly is demonstrable for v.7 regarding this point. Both the Pulpit Commentary and the redoubtable Keil and Delitzsch indicate this, the latter insisting that since there are two successive references, "You shall rescue them, O LORD, You shall preserve him from this generation forever", and the first is "them" the (em ending) and the second is not: that not only does the vowel pointing categorically signify 'it or him' and NOT 'them'; but the variation from the first ending to the second confirms in such a case, a change from the 'them' to what is in fact written, 'him' or 'it'. Thus the "them" and the "him" in verse 7, cannot refer to words; and in context have left for them the oppressed on whom the Lord looks. In this, both the AV and the NKJ versions, keeping both as "them" following the word reference, are not accurate. Gender and number are both violated.
What is written, then, is that in blue above (the 'him' could also be 'it'). However, is the him, really an it, so that it would read: "You shall rescue them, you will preserve it from this generation for ever" - ? Hardly. The topic throughout the Psalm has been the oppressed, the wicked' s butt. In support of their deliverance is the fact that the word of God which covers the case is pure, refined and reliable (v.6). In verse 5 we have seen the 'poor' and the 'needy', grammatically both in the bulk, the plural form, and in the singular, "I will set (him) in the safety for which he yearns".
The resumption in verse 7 (quoted in blue above) covers both the plural and singular form, just as did the thematic note in verse 5. To ignore this parallel is as in appropriate when you are seeking meaning from words given, as is any endeavour simply to turn 'it' to 'them'. The barriers are up.
Further, as Keil and Delitzsch's commentary also points out, the detail of the wicked persecutors is pursued in verse 8. What then ? This is the theme, and the word of God is the reference for support. Any other rendering adds a singular concept concerning the Bible, which had been in view as plural, the words of the Lord, requiring us to add what is not stated, and ignores the fact that not merely is what IS stated in the singular, but exactly as in verse 7, it is present BOTH in the singular and the plural, so that the phenomenon of the two endings merely and simply mirrors the kindred forms in verse 5.
Where evidence is paramount, and not subjectivity, there is no choice. The Keil and Delitzsch rendering is objectively indicated: the godly man who ceases (verse 1) , buttressed in expectation of a better deliverance (verse 5) by the word of God (verse 6) is to be kept and preserved, despite all appearance to the contrary, from this generation even for ever, DESPITE the fact (v.8) that the wicked prowl as is their habit and wont.
Indeed, and further, it is BECAUSE the words of God are pure and tried, purged of any error seven times (v.6), operationally magnificent because truly from His mouth, that the deliverance of the poor and needy, the godly man in his troubles (v.1), the one who is so vulnerable to being CUT OFF and CEASING, is given its due assurance. It is in this way that the theme CAN continue with confidence: YOU WILL KEEP HIM, O LORD! What overthrows perpetual vulnerability but the power of God, and what depicts its operation in security, but the word of God: here is the guarantee! This is WHY the poor and godly man has hope in his latter end, confidence in his pilgrimage and assurance in his way.
This then is not a relevant verse, Psalm 12:6, concerning direct statement of the preservation of the scriptures. It DOES however imply it, and the PURITY of scripture, its total reliability is vastly emphasised. It is BECAUSE of the purity of the word so perfected from the mouth of the Lord to the scripture, that its principles as there expressed, are SO applicable, that the poor in His concern, are not to become a vassal, subjectible for ever, but as in v. 5, there is to be a deliverance divine and dynamic, which will prevail. Its guarantee is the pure word of God, which being His who is infinitely powerful, will apply and be effectual for one in that category, in the plain of eternity. God's word is the basis for this blessing, and it WILL apply, being His.
Scriptures which however do contain direct preservation guarantees relative to themselves, were noted earlier, in terms of the word transliterated "dabar". This guarantees His teaching, doctrine, the character of history and of persons, His precepts and the substance and thrust of His utterances.
In reality, in the main stream of Greek manuscripts, variation is next to inconsequential. If the matter has been exaggerated a little by the trifling with history relative to the manuscript evidence - itself under God's control, in which many have indulged, or by which they have been culturally hoodwinked: yet where it in fact belongs, it is a matter of small substance indeed.
God has stated with precision what He has done with the INSPIRATION of scripture, which accordingly becomes authoritative revelation from God to man; and what He will do in its PRESERVATION on earth, this too He has stated. The words GOD chooses in EACH of these cases, AND the things He has done, are both fulfilled with munificent exactitude.
When man, on the one hand, works out a philosophy about what God must do, and God makes a declaration about what He will do, on the other, I really have no time or interest in the former. There is no competition. Talmuds and the like are not for my religion, old style ones or new. The word of God is for us. Let us not add to it - at all!
It is just as much a mistake to 'adorn' scripture, as it is to attack it. None were ever subjected to more vitriolic denunciation by any prophet, than the word-adorners of Matthew 23, exposed in their errors by the surgical words of Jesus Christ. As to this area of adornment, philosophic intrusion into and beyond what may certainly be shown from the word of God: it is an area to be avoided therefore, with prodigious care and godly zeal.
As will be shown further below, therefore, the translation from verse 6 has these elements.
The Lord will arise because of the desolation and sighing of the poor (cf. Psalm 102, Isaiah 61). He has the path to glory which will ensure that those who are poor in spirit, not lordly or loud, those belonging to the Lord and hence concerned with His name, unlike the perverse and oppressive, will despite their liability to oppression, be object of His care to the point that He will arise and act. This He did categorically in the incarnation and the resurrection, especially in the crucifixion and In His promises to all the elect, which while not removing suffering, remove its meaninglessness, as when the wind blows away the chaff (as in Psalm 1). He will further arise in the roll-back of the antichrist's flame (Psalm 2,110), and the incoming of the millenium as in Psalm 72, Isaiah 59,66, Micah 7, Isaiah 11.
Having said this, He reminds us of the sensational purity of His words, and thus reinforces what He has just articulated with His words about the poor, and the oppressors, those who are His and those who oppress them.
At first, it may seem possible that "Thou wilt keep them," refers either to the poor in the plural, as in 12:5, or the words of God in the plural. But it is masculine. "words' are feminine. The theme of the Psalm makes the latter seem more likely, though the affinity with what has just gone before, the words of the Lord, certainly give this place for thought. In such cases, one is inclined to leave to the word of God that amplitude which it has: there is no need to exclude a supervening overtone: Just as His words are utterly refined (an d so utterly reliable), so HE will be utterly reliable in keeping the poor, yes each one of the in view. Though the reference is not primarily not to words, it iS an application!
As to the primary reference, however, further concern arrives about coherence and flow of concepts, as to be noted shortly.
If you take it that the Lord will keep these words, THUS guaranteeing His statement concerning the poor, then that is one element. If you take it that the Lord will keep them (that is, the poor in the plural as in verse 7, and the singular expression, one by one, "Thou shalt keep him from this generation,"), that is another. The Berkeley version has this:
"The words of the Lord are pure words,
as silver purified in an earthen furnace, refined seven times.
Thou, O LORD wilt keep them,
Thou wilt guard each one from this generation for ever,
where godless men strut around,
as baseness is given a high rating among the descendants of man."
He does not contradict the text in this, making singular plural, or disregarding masculine and feminine.
Yet to what does the last part refer ? The end, which has the godless in view, gives force to the contrast of what would otherwise appear a sudden irruption of thought, moving from "keep them", His words, to "guard each one," in parallel, though with the object in view, this time, the poor! who are then as the text flows, contrasted with godless men, prominent as the Psalm ends. To prevent such a double meaning for them and each one, grammatically prevented from having the same reference object, and the disruption of thought involved, then, the consistent meaning, and not the divorced coupling of different ideas, is taken.
That hybrid if conceivable, appears so disjointed compared with the other option as just shown above, that it does not warrant acceptance. Thus the translation given would be better taken to mean that the Lord would keep the poor to which He had already referred both in the singular and the plural, guarding each one (paralleling the end of verse 5), and that this would occur even while the godless strut, by contrast. Further, the keeping and guarding form a parallel, common in the Psalm. Thus the smooth flowing thought is that the words of the Lord are so pure that they will not be subject to decay or declension, amendment or rejection. Hence the poor generically, and in individuality, are to be His concern, the godly poor, those contrasted with the godless and arrogant, While the main point is not economic, it is spiritual, yet where poverty is part of spirituality which has a cost, doubtless it applies. Crushing is contemptible; and God engages for His people, missing none by oversight, concerned for each.
In this way, a paragraph could be placed at "Thou, O LORD wilt keep them." Delitzsch does that.
If however the poor because of the purity of the word of God, are in perpetuity, the poor in spirit or deprived for the Lord, to be a focus of such concern, then the word of God is by implication as the basis of such results, itself to be kept, and that more so, since on this foundation, those results have their assurance! Indirectly, therefore, the endurance of the word of God is assured, its standing over its results, assuring its own. If these results must continue, how much more what assures them.
Note on Psalm 12:5-7
This does not vary from the above, but gives more detail.
There are then prima facie a number of considerations, however, which without giving just ground for making this part of Psalm 12, namely verse 7, refer to the words of God, rather than to the poor, nevertheless open the way for this as a possible addendum. In such cases, one cannot found a doctrine on this, as a possibility, but can regard it as consonant with doctrine taught elsewhere, and hence integral with it.
In this case, the Psalm opens with the harassed godly man, and proceeds with the plural, “the faithful”. This is the key note. It then moves to the opposing ones, who with ‘flattering lips” and double heart do the evil. This singular, plural oscillation is important in this Psalm, and is of course not found here alone. Thus in Isaiah 34:16, where God is speaking of the PRECISE results of His judgment on Edom. We have been introduced to the “hawks” and other elements of the desolation to come, and these are gathered “each one with its mate.” The class is followed by the illustration or representative of it.
We are then directed to “the book of the Lord”, to read it, and told this: “Not one of these shall fail. Not one shall lack her mate." The reason is then provided for this result: “For My mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them.” This is a double oscillation, with rich overtones, relative to the bird and then the word. With the bird, it is the one and the mate. With the word, “it” is the fiat, the command, the fact that the authority of God Almighty has addressed itself to THIS HAPPENING. The “them” refers to the distributive fact, that there are various elements within the edict, which have each an integrity of its own, and God has GATHERED these, each one.
Each one of these things, the bird and its mate, will come to pass, the integral and the detail; the word in each of its gathered components, this too is an alliance, authorised and sure. The assured gathering is based on the fact that the book of the Lord is exceedingly reliable, to the smallest unit (just as Christ relayed in Matthew 5:17-20), so that the items noted, will be the items found. THEIR continuance is based on its continuing incapacity to be ineffectual or cancelled or overpowered or overcome IN PRACTICE!
The FOCUS being what is to happen, it would seem that the objects emphasised are not the entire point of word of God and the particularities within it, but rather illustrate the topic of the main theme, namely the fact of the judgment and the components within that. The parallel however is evocative and instructive. The next verse continues this detailed emphasis. The THING is ordered without cease. Each part will eventuate. They will come; judgment will stay. In its day, each will show the horror of its totality; from day to day, judgment will rest.
What then ? Implicit in this is that the WORDS which give voice to the information which refers to items each one of which will surely come to expose the desolation, they too MUST have an underlying and inordinate authority AT THAT SAME LEVEL, so that the subjects given through them, should have any standing at all. The detail is guaranteed; the detailed authority of the words is THEREFORE guaranteed, as the SOURCE of that practical assurance, since it is these words which convey it at that level. The book of the Lord contains no failure; and thus its words here, detailed though they be, are to be discerned in actualities, practicalities, and in doom unremitting.
Taking this considerable parallel in form of speech, to Psalm 12, we see the similar line that the class of the persecuted poor is in view, within the compass of the Lord’s people, on the one hand; and on the other, there are His pure words, purified seven times, strikingly suggestive of an individual attention to each 'fleck' of each word, or as Christ put it, each jot and each tittle. From the poor He turns to His refined words, making an announcement about these.
That comes in v. 6. In v. 7, parallel to Isaiah 34:16, the subject continues, about each one of them, the distribution being total. It is as in Isaiah, each one of the creatures noted is to be in the association promised. It is not general; it is a particular to come. It has a generic feature, and this is applied to the particular.
The same of course applies here about the word of God. IF it can specify for EACH one of a category mentioned, then clearly it is comprehensively accurate and this is a fundamental assumption for its operation at such a level.
Note that both in the last verse of Isaiah 34 and that of Psalm 12, we continue on the objects in view, not on the mode of their presentation, that is, by the word of the Lord, which has in each case been invoked as the sufficient authority, its detailed reliability implicit in the certainty of the results of what it purveys and declares.
Since for example Psalm 111 makes a parallel point regarding the word of God, as is here implicit, this is integral with it. Indeed, something more remains. In Psalm 12, it is possible to conceive of verses 5 and 7 as being a PAIR of generic-detail associations. That is, there is first the poor (plural) is in view, and then “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns” (‘he’ of course singular). Then, the words (plural) of God are pure, seven times refined. Next we find that all will be kept, each one (singular) for ever. It could be urged that this is an intentional parallel: the poor in general, with one in this category in view as an example; the words of God in view, in general, then any one of them, as an example, each one so pure. This would be the case if verse 7 COULD be a reference to the WORD continued on from verse 6.
This enhances the propriety of the association with the doctrine in Psalm 111, and as noted above, there is a conformity to this. It is not, prima facie, impossible that the double reference is intentional, that while the dominance of the oppressed being harassed is undoubtedly the theme, with this from the first, continued to the very last verse, yet with the parallel in Isaiah, and with other singular-plural reference on a topic in this very Psalm ALREADY in view for comparison, it could not well be maintained that this, the word of God as such, is the primary intent for verse 7.
It could, prima facie, however, be urged that it is not dispensable as a supplementary thrust. It is not supported by evidence as is the other option, ‘the poor’, but it is not so far insupportable as a reference, even if it is strange to have a sudden “them-it” sequence without basis on the preceding text, imagined as the basis for interpretation. It is indeed all the more so, when it is not even the thematic thrust of the entire Psalm: which in fact both begins and end with its focus on the afflicted. Yet the parallel can at least occur to the mind: the POOR and one poor man; the WORDS and each single word.
Before we proceed to the conclusion, it is good to face an issue. In general, it seems wise to allow any thrust in a literary passage which is not ruled out absolutely, especially if it has any features which in wider context commend it in the writings in view, in the feature of an enrichment for contemplation; without presenting such as THE meaning, or even the certain meaning. Thus to exclude it as an overtone would seem to go too far, even though process of translating with two “them” references in v. 7, as some do, is insupportable, bringing in ideas not in the text, to deform the text.
However, there is a complicating facet.
That is the prima facie situation, but the case is not left there, though the points in general are instructive.
We must now face additional evidence. The word for ‘words’ in Psalm 12:6 is in a form which reveals its gender: it is feminine. However the alternation of ‘them’ and ‘it’ or ‘each one’ in Psalm 12:7 is masculine. Why would there be a change of gender to masculine in verse 7, from the feminine for ‘words’ in the preceding verse, if THAT was the gender of the referent ‘them’ in verse 7 ? Would you change gender in order to show that there is an essential continuity of thought ? It would appear that this would be an ideal way of showing PRECISELY THE CONTRARY. If then we choose between two possibilities, then the one which has an exclusion notice expressly given is not going to be the one adopted!
Instead of being conformed, they are disparate. One road is marked, 'Closed'. Verse 7 refers to the persecuted.
This means that the concept of parallel with a possible intimation of a second level of meaning is diminished. Is it to zero ? As far as translation is concerned, yes it is: the other had the major basis in any case. Does it however remove the interesting feature that the mind is jolted by proximity at first to the possibility that verse 7 MIGHT be referring to the word of God ? The fact that implication produces an equivalent result, in all practicality, the words with their predicted deeds bound together in joint warrant and integrity, then weighs into thought.
Thus the configuration of the Psalm is not only clear,
but instructive and this not only by its direct reference, but by its form.
The word of God is wonderful indeed!
It is the implication which, as in Isaiah 34, which remains to the point on the topic of the Bible as revelation. What is GUARANTEED absolutely BY words must therefore imply the absolute reliability of the words, right down to the level of specificity; and this applies for the term in view for the site and time in view, one aspect being eternal. In the case of Isaiah, it means the word, for the specified period in view, is assured in its application to every creature in its association, each will come and desolation will continue; in the case of Psalm 12, it means that the word of God will bring to pass that day when it applies to each redeemed oppressed person, to the level of singularity. Even before the consummation, precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. His concern for the poor will not be overthrown, and as in Psalm 72, it will proceed and prosper, to become a ruling feature. Isaiah 34 alerts us to the importance of detail in verbal fulfilment; but Psalm 12 implies no less. The poor ? this in turn is in the context of "the godly man", the poor in spirit, also oppressed who yearns and who sighs, and so each one is before the Lord.
What then is to be realised to the full ? It is this. The word which makes such guarantees is automatically ITSELF inherently gifted with the power and authority, the purity and the strength innately, needed for such a result, even forever! Thus there is no direct revelation in Psalm 12 in the words, ‘each one’, in this case, about the word of God in its continuity, though the idea naturally occurs, for reason shows that the words, if to be faithfully fulfilled to such a level as is implied in the text, must themselves have not only authority, but one in detail to ensure the result stated, to the degree stated.
That ? whatever it says, it WILL HAPPEN (cf. Matthew 5:17ff.), JUST as it is stated.
Several examples of this translator's non-infallibility could be given, just as we have had to cite a case in I John for the AV. However for now we shall restrict the exercise to one. It is chosen because it is a grave departure from scriptural conformity, not at all because the Greek text is in any question at all.
This example, by far the most serious, is found in Revelation 19:8. Let us hasten to note that several other translators give precisely the same translation. It is not specific to the NKJV and has nothing to do with its underlying Greek text. It reads, re the bride of the Lamb, that is, the church of believers in Jesus Christ: "and to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." That is what the NKJV says here...
In fact, two rather obvious possible translations actually present themselves here, simply in terms of the language. It will take other criteria to choose between them. The AV rightly translates in this case, "the righteousnesses of the saints". That is sound. It does not intrude, and leaves the understanding of it to the reader. The term translated from the Greek as "righteous acts" or "righteousnesses" can assuredly be translated in either of these ways.
Before we proceed, let us notice this. In Romans and there are TWO words translated "justification". In Romans it is the same Greek word, though here in the singular (dikaiwma), which is used in Rev.19:8 . "The judgment which resulted from one offence resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offences, resulted in justification." This term refers to righteous ordinance, just law (A), and can also mean righteous acts. It can mean judgment, either negative or positive; but can have a sense of acquittal. The emphasis is on RIGHTEOUSNESS, and the underlying thrust, is law. There is a third word which means the state of righteousness, of things as they ought to be, integrity, virtue, purity of life and so forth. This however is not used in Rev. 19:8 or in Romans 5:16,18. There law is in view.
In Romans 5:18, we read, in part: "even so, through one's Man's righteousness, the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life". Now the "righteousness" of the "one Man" is the same word as the "righteousness" in , where it is attributed to the saved or justified sinner. It is a case of meeting all that could be required by the moral, spiritual, divine law; and this He did. It is here in the singular.
Now however, later in Romans , we find what happens to us who are redeemed sinners: the free gift which reaches to, and is indeed received in this case of the believer, is "justification of life"... A different word occurs (dikaiwsis). It means "justification", acquittal (B). Just judgment is involved, and the grounds for acquittal are stated to have devolved upon one thing and one thing only: the righteousness of the One of whom it is written (5:8) that we are "justified" through His blood. Hence there is this righteous attribution, which includes the decree nisi on the guilt on sin. If now you are saved by His death, how much more will you be kept by His life (Romans 5:9), says Paul, grace reigning by righteousness to eternal life, the gift (Romans ), by grace (Romans ).
The point is this: BOTH words, A and B, are used in a similar sense but with a different emphasis, where noted in verses 16 and 18. In one verse, Romans - both are used. There, HIS is the righteous virtue, ours is the vicarious acquittal. In Romans 5:16, however, the contrast is "many offences" with "righteousness", the errors which we performed, and the righteousness which we are given, with which we are garlanded; but of that more anon.
In verse 16, it is a case of emphasis on the wonder of what is gained, on the righteous purity of what is attributed to us on Christ's behalf. It is however, for all that, though this is implicit, used in the sense that we are forensically forgiven, in that context. Assuredly, the contrast is intense between OUR negative contribution and HIS positive contribution, and the efficacy of His work, DESPITE the negativity of our own.
Hence in Revelation 19:8, where the term used is that marked above as "A", found in Romans 5:16, we therefore have the option to take it to mean imputed righteousness, with emphasis on the wonder and glory, the exactitude and thoroughness of the thing imputed, that is, Christ's own righteousness, exactly as in Romans 5:16. Since the emphasis is on the entire cleanness, not at all attributable to sinners, this word choice is very understandable, mirroring that of Paul for precisely the same impact entirely.
The "linen is the righteousnesses of the saints", says Rev. 19:8. Yours and mine, distributively, these are the multitudinous tokens of righteousness, entire righteousness without which no one so much as enters heaven (James 2:10, Romans 1-3, esp. 3:19-20, John 3:17-19). They are in the scene in Revelation 19, seen to be GIVEN, not brought with them. It is "GRANTED" to the bride to be "ARRAYED" in these fine clothes. They are befitting to such people in such a place. They are celestial vestments, given to the choir of the elect, as it were, in their choir stalls, to the bride in her marriage. The array is bought, not wrought.
The wonder of these "righteousnesses" is then either distributive, or it is a multi-faceted thing - the righteousness of sanctification, performance, atmosphere, attitude, spirit, heart, all in Christ, from Christ, and as perfected in Him (cf. The Biblical Workman Appendix 4, Love of Righteousness), for even LOVE TO GOD is required by God's law! All are attributed, all "granted", conferred, all conveyed, all making the party NOT to be THROWN OUT as occurred in the parable of the unclad wedding guest, as told by Christ Himself (Matthew 22:12-13)... The clothing then expressly is what makes the difference between ENTIRE acceptability and ENTIRE unacceptability; wrath and punishment, and grace and acceptance (cf. Ephesians 1:6). In this last verse, the Greek sense is this, that we are engraced in the beloved, surrounded with gracious acceptance in Him.
That is the kind of surround which is Biblically exclusive in such settings of acceptation, Biblically required, required in the book of Revelation, in the Gospel, in the parable of Christ. There is no other name by which we must be saved; and salvation as distinct from damnation is the issue. Let us then revert to the Parable of Matthew 22.
Now in that parable, if one thing is clear, it is this: the guests were not those notable by moral expectation; they were lying about, or in odd places, undistinguished, and they included positively bad people, explicitly. Their robes are not secured by righteous deeds. Neither are they made white except in the blood of the Lamb (I John -2:2, Revelation 1:5, Isaiah 61:10). Indeed in the classic base to these images in Isaiah 61:10, the robe of righteousness with which the redeemed are covered is paralleled by the garments of salvation.
Hence we choose not to deny the teaching of the Bible by using a translation which ignores all the imagery to which Revelation is so constantly sensitive in other scriptures; which ignores the teaching of the book of Revelation in other parts, and that of the Bible in other parts; departs from the parable, the theology and the situation. We instead are required to choose as in Romans 5:16, the sense of righteous emphasis without pre-empting the source of it in such a contrary way.
Righteousnesses these certainly represent; pure performance of law: certainly that. But whose ? Whose are those gifts of righteousness which we are explicitly told are attributed to us, though here the righteousnesses themselves, as in Romans in precisely this sense, are in focus ? Why they are His in whose blood the saints have washed their garments, He who confers the garments of salvation.
It is, as Revelation 7:14 states, "these are they who have come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. THEREFORE they are before the throne of God..." (Capitals added.) John tells us HOW they got that whiteness, better than any fuller can make; and how they can stand: it is a case of washing and "THEREFORE". Let us not therefore choose this translation option, but accept that of Paul in Romans 5:16. These are the righteousnesses of the saints indeed, but their righteousnesses, precisely because they are saints, by which and in which stand and are arrayed, so that it is this which meets the eye and declares the status and acceptability: they are His. The Greek allows attribution to whomever; the translation resolves the point contrary to text, context and multitudes of scriptures. It is unnecessary, intrusive and excluded.
There is more that might be said on this, but this will for now suffice.
This one major error however does not mean that the NKJV is not a good translation. If other things of the type or of any type were to be found of this appalling kind, such could not be said. Other things are found, but not of this significance; and MANY things are found which are excellent, many common mistakes are avoided, and as far as a sound and useful modern English text is concerned, it is very valuable.
Actually, it is almost amusing that each of the two, the AV and the NKJV make ONE almost incredible mistake. Their general standard however is cause for some rejoicing.
Let us then avoid idolatry and TEST all things carefully, holding fast to what is good in the faith of the Lord who has not left us in any doubt about His word, but who requires diligence*3. The general advice given about the practical use of these two versions for those not scholars, is simple and leaves no danger. Practising what the Bible calls "moderation", not the subtle evasion of His teaching and truth, but the awareness of seemly circumspection and apt assiduity, rather than carnal strife, it is well to grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, apprehending that for which we are apprehended, and having it finished. (Cf. QAA 11, pp. 136ff.,TBW 1, p. 20, BB 3, Endnote 1, A Just Balance .)
For a consideration of NKJV
and AV renderings of interest in various points, we now turn to our set of
useful detailed cases.
WORDS IN THE MILL
(Re *3 above: Perhaps not only diligence but intelligence helps, in that the mind is supposed to be used in spiritual things, not set in abeyance.)
WHAT IS EQUAL
AND DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE,
AND THEN AGAIN WHAT IS THERE
It may be useful to note a simple point, first, re idiom and translation, re people who know or do not know the animal or thing or aspect in view, in a given scripture: and how best to accommodate their needs in any translation. There is the concept of dynamic equivalence, and of wooden literalness; and then again, there is that of intelligent integrity, a third and better way. This is eminently to be desired.
After all, in translation, we do not NEED to put in some animal known to a given race, in exchange for the one in the Bible. That is the affair of TEACHING or PREACHING, not at all that of translation. If we did this sort of thing in translating "the classics", the result would be laughable. They are what they are, and we learn from them, rather than teach. What we do with what we learn, this is another matter, but first we need to KNOW what we are talking about, and not something else, for the purpose.
Thus there certainly has to be INTELLIGIBILITY in FORM, in the translation, so that the new language is not merely made subservient to that which is being translated, in its grammar or other essentials of its individuality, which is its own, and not for export at such a time, or in such a function. On the other hand, there must not be a usage of idioms in the language into which the translation is made, which goes beyond the emotion, the overtone of ethos, the grammatical genre and the ideational refinement in the original (not that it is necessarily refined in itself, but refinement must enter in the rendering of it with precision of KIND).
Thus to use the word "fellow" where there may be in English in the context, a flavour of disregard (as in some contexts there is), would be wrong on the claims of idiom, if this were not present in the original; and on the other side, NOT to use it, when there was some sense of importance and grouping, when that particular sense of the English would appear in the translation context, might be an omission. We have to determine, mostly with some ease, but on occasion with some difficulty, WHAT is the FIT.
It is not a question of what is the best fit, in general, but what DOES FIT. There should be no usage of such idioms as present into the translation, an emotion, feeling, flavour, be it formal or casual, not in the original. This requires some knowledge at least of both the current and the former (if it is as here an ancient document) ways, not so as to make one force itself into the other, but precisely TO PREVENT THIS! Further, cultural casualness in one society may because of morals, cultural past or religion, for example, be very different in impact from that in another. The choice must be to convey what was being conveyed; and in English, there is much scope for this, which of course, occasions finesse to grasp from the magnificent assemblage of available words, what FITS all with a reasonable, reliable and sensitive care, and preferably, flair; but if the latter, then not with an input that commands, but enables.
We are not, as dealing with the word of God, trying to make it palatable or unpalatable, to hit the spot or fail to do so (since our own estimates of the 'spot' enter in, in any case, and we are trying to be objective in terms of the whole constraints of the whole context, and the particular context, and the spirit shown in the whole in its clarity).
We are rather trying to make a wholly unintrusive, but utterly sensitive, and in terms of what is actually conveyed in the new language, sensible rendering. It must catch the sense of a flight of imagination, as far as words can be chosen from what, in the case of English, may be a much broader palette of available terms, or a dulness of heavy anger, or the quietness of simple narrative, or whatever else may be in view.
In the end, the translator, if wishing fidelity to the original, most important when this is GOD in speech, must be unintrusive in what is entered, but exceedingly laborious in working on what is there, what is available, the spirit, texture of thought, of culture, of their emphasis or relative emphasis and so on, so that for the one not having the origInal language, it is as near as may be TO IT. Thus the reader, using the translation, ideally can do the individual approach to the word of God, not THROUGH the eyes of the translator, but according as the latter has been successful, through the WORK put in!
WHAT MATTERS OF SPEECH AS IT IS SPOKEN,
AND THEORIES AS THEY ARE NOT
While we are speaking about translations, let us use this opportunity to deal with a related matter: translations of THOUGHT into WORDS, in the first instance, before any thought of other languages occurs. Specifically, we are now in the domain of expression as such, of reportage, of giving accounts of things to one another.
In the New Testament a lot of disquiet has been felt by the agitations of many, concerning slightly different phrasings of utterances made by one or another person, or summarising those made, as found in one Gospel relative to another. Extraordinary statements have been made on the one side and the other, as if this were some major matter. As so often in dealing with life, the key comes from life.
We have made it in our family a matter of mirth and hobby, to watch HOW we describe, narrate, report, condense, select in our record of events in narration to one another. Possibly hundreds of times, we have drawn to our attention this or that case when WHAT HAPPENED or WHAT WAS IN FACT SAID (in detail) was such-and-such, and the WAY WE REPORTED it, or REFERRED to it, or CONDENSED it was this or that. We observe with delicious interest how each case was handled in our normal, unrestricted speech to one another.
The variety is amazing, the liberties were impressive but the principles are quite clear. We then considered how we responded to these various methods of recounting what had been said, in synopsis or simple account.
In our reportage (casual, for ordinary inter-relation and reference as we go about our lives) of this or that to one another, there appear a number of principles, then. We are able to deal with this empirically, since almost countless examples have been dwelt on in our own midst, in which we examine the way it was done in our reporting this time, or that time. What was in common in our methods, our procedure of reportage ?
First, there is frequently found not the slightest effort to get verba ipsissima, that is, the very words spoken. If there is, it is because THAT makes all the difference or is a major INTRINSIC affair; but the cases we studied were not normally of this kind. The precision of using the SAME WORDS was far from central in our familiar reporting. It was the VARIATION and liberty which was central.
What then were the features which constrained, the elements of form and order which we found empirically, like lanes of traffic, which DID APPLY in reporting in this ordinary life setting, what someone said ?
In this, of cardinal importance is the PURPOSE of the report. If it is to recall an event, summarise a reaction, distil the essence or secure the pith of a point of view or statement, then the wording reflects THAT. This is what someone 'said', or 'stated' or 'indicated'. What is then paramount is the accuracy of thought, the aptness of spirit and the adequacy of coverage for the purpose in hand. If the question, for example, is whether X was a communist, then the relevant element of his speech might be taken, summarised and applied. There would be MANY ways in which this could be done, of course, such is the diversity of the vocabulary of some million words in English (as we are told), the flexibility of our grammar and the modes available for summary. The best effort would be sure to keep to the exact essence, but do it with an art of recall which brings it out without any distortion or deformity; yet this, in such a way as to expose the nerve, reveal the point at issue.
Thus there are different senses of 'said' in reportage, and it is for the intelligence to seek to determine from the purpose in view and the manner and style of the account, what is the intention. 'These were his words', or with our punctuation provisions, inverted commas of course puts it beyond doubt for us. In Greek, there are what may be transliterated as remata and logoi, and the first moves in the nature of the actual words, the second in the direction of the thought, content. In both languages, the sense of what is being SAID, and the words that convey it is distinct.
It could, secondly, be put in a SETTING which draws attention to relevant surrounding circumstances, and of these, selection to the point at issue might be drawn.
Thirdly, it was found in our family researches into our own usage and that observed, that the substitution of this or that word or phrase for another was the height of flexibility, the substance being what was precious, with length varying according to purpose and precision of essence.
The word 'say' could be used in the most impressive way, to mean in effect: divulge, reveal, utter, signify, indicate and so on. It by no means meant that the words recorded were the words given, nor we found was this by any means assumed. If it were a question of the WORDING, then this might be signified specifically; but 'say', like 'saying' often merely means the concept, the theme, the substance of what was said. THAT must be entirely exact and without the slightest deformation; but the liberty of re-expression is surrounded with art, purpose and re-construction at the grammatical level, provided only that the relevant issue is delivered without overtone which was absent in the original, thought that was not there; and as to the thought that was there, this could be selected to meet the specifications of the understood purpose of the recall in the first place.
When the concern WAS the exact words, then this became a study, a subject in itself; and of course, in our speech, the question of inverted commas did not arise, rather as in the written Greek of the New Testament. IF we were interested in the exact words, for ANY reason, then out they must come; they could be utilised in a setting which made it clear that because they mattered to the point, therefore they were being citing with the accuracy necessary for the point. If their thrust however was the point in view, then out that must come. Fidelity was to substance, manner, mode and thrust of expression; wording was an extra, and this was understood clearly. In all this, a certain minimum but perfectly natural intelligence is employed, and parameters specified if and when this is felt necessary for understanding.
Had we desired to perform some sort of reconstruction, word by word, for a courtroom, that would have been another purpose. If again, the courtroom needed the correct rendering of the situation, that would come.
An interesting example of both the liberty and the constraint in such matters, has been brought to my attention by Matthew Donaldson. It occurs in Luke 20:16 and Matthew 21:41 and the surrounding ‘verbal tissue’.
Now on the one hand in Matthew 21:41, we find, after the parable of the wicked vinedressers, who assaulted or killed those who came for their produce, on behalf of the owner, and then killed the Son so that they could seize the inheritance for their robbing selves, a particular set of words. It concerns the owner thus misused. It is this: "He will miserably destroy them!"
THAT is the response of the hearers of Christ, who have just audited the story, and been asked, "Therefore, when the owner comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" Thus we have the RECORDED SECTOR of the interchange in this occasion between Jesus and the hostile hearers of his parable:
Question: WHAT WILL THE OWNER DO ?
Answer: He will miserably destroy them.
Now in Luke 20:16, We find this.
"He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others."
Response: And when they heard it, they said, "May this not be!"
Then He looked at them and said,
then is this that is written ?:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.’ "
In Matthew 21:42: "Have you never read in the scriptures …"
Now the first part of this, brought to our attention, could have proceeded as follows. Jesus declares the fate of the vinedressers as is Matthew 21:40. He precedes this in both cases by a specific question, and in Matthew the answer of some standing near is given; in Luke His own. As He formulates this question, the more progressive of His listeners are already muttering or exclaiming or inserting their answer, as students sometimes will.
He pauses, and in summary, detached and the more awesome manner, repeats or adapts their words in His own briefer sketch, transfixing the parable into this end in this deft interplay with His auditors.
Seeing the leading students’ view so categorically endorsed in the obvious thrust of the Speaker’s meaning, some are aghast. They can scarcely believe He would have the audacity, the fearless directness actually to say it; but He has proceeded on the favourable breeze of those who saw the point too starkly to do other than answer His undoubted question. Hence these others now expostulate: "MAY IT NOT BE!" The double affirmation leaves them aghast. Christ then, taking them back where we must all go, to the sole written, authoritative declaration of God to man, at that stage, the Old Testament, now part of the whole Bible, addresses them on the prophecy which indicates such a result, yes, in their own scriptures even!
Now therefore we come to the second point. Did He in fact ask them at that point, "Have you never read…" or did He ask, "What then is this that is written?" What in fact happened ? Both formats appear.
First, quite clearly, He could have said, like one preparing his audience for an impressive impact and result: "What then is this that is written ? Have you never read in the Scripture …" There is no difficulty about that. He enquires in order to confront, then He confronts. That, after all, is precisely what He had just done in the first point we regarded.
Now in our empirical studies on reportage, you would NOT find the word "never" merely introduced as a form of reportage. This has specialised meaning and is not in the confines of conversational precision. Certainly there would have to be a ‘never’ concept, and just as certainly a thrust to the effect, "what is this?" It could have been as we have compiled it, and since this is in full accord with the context, and the wording given, there is no liberty to do otherwise in some flight of imagination. When however there is any question of say, ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’, in some reference to what someone has said, UNLESS there is some peculiar specialty in the context, about the meaning of the one relevant to the (putatively diverse) meaning of the other, we found we ourselves in our own reportage, would in principle, not even be in the least concerned which we would use. (This ‘kingdom’ example is not a specific case in our own conduct, but a specialised result of what we found in SUCH cases in our own midst).
Variations in reportage of a situation at that level, in general were not found relevant, and the report not being verbatim in claim, there was simply no point in trying to do otherwise than convey correctly its substance. As to THAT, however, that was MOST important.
In my work, The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.2 deals with that particular kingdom question (the two phrases as quoted above), and it is found that in general there is no specialisation, there is nothing generic and certain which can be deduced to which a given context must conform. Hence this is a sound illustration of the point: where there is no point in the specific word, then the only thing that matters is the substance, pith, thrust, point IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE SPEAKER at the time and in the PURPOSE of the speaker at the time. Where that is in doubt, then clearly no liberty can be taken, for the understanding allowing liberty would be absent. Understanding there must be, and without it all is lost.
It is all just a matter of sound common sense, seeing what humans do and how they relate things, and then seeing the very elastic principles of reportage, observing the purposes in mind, the expectations and the results, and seeing what industrious concern for truth in fact constrains to do in such a situation. Truth is such a constraining thing: it requires you to compare, consider, meditate and watch as you speak, comparing impression with impression, purpose with what occurred, impact of report with impact of original, as Paul says, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:9ff.). THAT of course brings in the next point.
In the Bible, we are told that the Spirit of God brings about this comparing (I Corinthians ), so that in this case, the result being the word of God to man. The Spirit of God, we are told by the apostle,
ultimately, in scripture,
His prerogative to induce and lead into expression.
He knows and divulges firstly, and brings expression to mind which He teaches, secondly (I Cor. ,13). He ensures both. There is superintending, comparing, scrutinising, compiling going on, in terms of spiritual things, and the work of God by His Spirit is such that He ensures that, apart from all our errors in this or that direction, absolute truth is the result, no mistake being made in any report relative to its stated purpose of truth. NOTHING will mislead; NOTHING will bring the auditor a false impression, NOTHING will claim what is not the case; NOTHING will be an incorrect, inadequate or imprecise record of events, in the purpose, propriety and power of reality.
Thus, WHATEVER part the
human writer played, it is such that the Spirit of God is in this case so
superintending, as Paul expressly declares, the choice of expressive
instruments, that not only the substance but the actual expression of the
writing is in accord with GOD HIMSELF!
God ? He is the summit of expression, the name of truth and the essence of wonder. In Him, NOTHING is amiss.
We who interpret the scriptures in terms of their own indictment therefore, must then avoid either doubting the record in any detail, or trying at all times to force it to involve the exact words spoken in a given summary of some speech, only the exact force, substance and thrust being categorically certain. Equivalent expression may be used, summarising condensation may appear, selection of relevant elements may happen without distortion or misdirection.
Let us take another aspect such as we found in our own discourses. Thus, the formulation in reportage:
He said, that if I were to do this, there would be enormous consequences,
for example, we found could have come from something like:
"My man, listen to me. I am not about to tolerate the sort of liberty which comes from you, and you will find, surely find, results that will rock your whole life if you proceed in this way."
précis which could contain this utterance, for the purpose, for example, of
deftly exposing the nature and feeling, the spirit and result of the speech,
could well be as shown.
We do précis writing as an exercise, ourselves in school; and paraphrase. The latter can lengthen, but could shorten. The disposition of words to convey a matter is a liberty we all take. It is only when the context indicates sound ground for ipsissima verba, the exact words, that we should expect it. In our own way, we often overcome any doubt by inverted commas, such as were not used in the Greek text. In this case, we simply believe that in accord with the purpose of the record, so the character of the précis, essentialising, or direct reportage. Since God is the supervisory and final author of the account, it is not of much significance: either the words themselves or the account of them is with divine authority. Context shows where the ipsissima verba are in view. WHAT they say is always what the case actually was.
Either way, the absolute
truth is in view, an infinitely sound report, or the original words, according
to the character of the case. Sometimes you see "began to say" which
gives the indication of some sort of reportage of what they were indicating in
a number of preliminary statements. With the Bible, summary or direct wording,
then, God is the undertaker that THIS is the wholly truthful relation of the
episode or speech. It is hard not to use the French, Que voulez-vous ? What would you expect ?
What do you
want ? Do you want to dictate to others what their purpose shall be, or order what you want provided, whether or not it is, in the Speaker's mind, best for you to get it this way rather than that.
Let it suffice that what
you get is the absolute truth, that where the context demands the actual words,
these are they; and when reportage does not, the effect is equivalent in the
new context in the shaft of the disclosure that is both just and apt. On what
is said, you may rely with an utter assurance that moves down to jot and
tittle, and up to heaven itself.
End of end-notes
See Bible Translations 2 for individual cases for focus.