Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rejoinder to Jamin Hubner: Part 1

Note to readers: I have added the label "Jamin Hubner"at the end of this and the other rejoinders in this series. If you click on the "Jamin Hubner" button, you can read all the rejoinders in this series.

It recently came to my attention that Jamin Hubner is writing a series of responses to a blog post I wrote last year titled, “Three Basic Challenges to the ESV.” I also posted a slightly revised audio version and pdf of this article to sermonaudio.com. Hubner’s responses are being posted on his website (realapologetics.org) and also at apologist James White’s blog (aomin.org). My original ESV article only contained c. 1,600 words and in his first two posts Hubner has already written over 2,000 words in response!

This part one rejoinder corresponds to his part one response and attempts to flow Hubner’s remarks:

Hubner first notes my references in the ESV article to Alan J. Macgregor’s Three Modern Versions (The Bible League, 2004) and cites my recent favorable review of this book in the January-March, 2011 issue of The Reformed Baptist Trumpet. I would say the ESV article in question uses this book as a source, however, rather than saying it is a “condensed version” of Macgregor’s work.

One initial observation regarding Hubner’s response is that he sometimes seems to be offering a critique of the extended quotes in my article (and book review) from Macgregor rather than the content of my article itself. It also seems that Hubner has not yet read Macgregor’s book. Maybe he would be willing to tell us if I am on target here in a future response. Indeed, Three Modern Versions is likely little known or available outside the rather narrow circle of Bible League Trust supporters and Bible League Quarterly readers in the UK. Part of the purpose of my Trumpet review was to attempt to expose it to more readers. I would encourage Hubner (and anyone else interested in this topic, for that matter) to obtain and read Macgregor directly. It is one of the few resources I have seen that offers a thorough, charitable, yet convincingly disapproving review of the ESV.

I am thankful that Hubner acknowledges up front that my “general concerns about the ESV are legitimate.” Of course, I am less convinced by his suggestion that my arguments and conclusions are “misleading and in need of truth and clarity.” Let’s see if this is so.

Hubner next makes some comments about there being no definitive English translation and the need to use more than one more translation in study. I am generally in agreement with both those points (though probably in not the same manner as he). The main thing is that my article did not really address either of those points (read it for yourself). To use classical logic terms, this is a “straw man” argument.

Hubner next offers two extended quotes from Macgregor that begins, “Even as the AV now stands…” (p. 18 in The Reformed Baptist Trumpet and pp. 99, 100 in Macgregor). Again, it gets a little confusing at times in the post as to whether Hubner is offering a critique of my ESV article, my review of Three Modern Versions in the RBT, or of Macgregor (or all three!).

In these quotes, Hubner hones in on Macgregor’s reference to the help of the Holy Spirit for the believer properly to understand the Scriptures. Again, his point here is really not with my ESV article but with the Macgregor quote. Still, I will try to defend what I think Macgregor was saying, because I believe Hubner essentially misconstrues it. He takes Macgregor to mean that the Holy Spirit will give the KJV reader insight to understand archaic words, and he conveniently includes a list of these that is meant to bring embarrassment to the AV. I think Hubner, in fact, misreads Macgregor’s point. His mention of the Holy Spirit helping the believer is simply a reference to the basic Protestant belief in the necessity of divine illumination as reflected, for example, in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (I.VI):

Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

Macgregor’s point stands no matter what translation or language of the Bible one might be reading.

As to the specific matter of archaic vocabulary in the AV, Macgregor himself acknowledges that the AV might well have used a sympathetic updating of spelling and vocabulary as was last done by Blayney in 1769 and laments that such an effort was thwarted by Westcott and Hort in place of a radical departure (see Three Modern Versions pp. 97-98 ).

As a side note, I might add in regard to the archaic and unfamiliar words that Hubner cites, that the supposed difficulty of reading the AV is doubtless exaggerated, especially if one has a word list like that supplied by the Trinitarian Bible Society or a resource like the KJV Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, 1988) [BTW: “churl”: mean, miserly person; “cieled” (sic; rather “ceiled”): paneled, overlaid; “cotes”: sheepfolds; “blains”: boils; “froward”: perverse, contrary, self-willed; “glede”: kite, vulture; “crookbakt”: hump-backed; “sackbut”: pipe or lyre of elderwood]. Any legitimate English translation of any intelligence will have its fair share of vocabulary and phrases that the unconverted, the slow reader, the city-slicker, or the novice will not readily understand (cf., e. g., in the ESV: “rock badger” and “chews the cud” [Lev 11:5]; “one who eases the yoke on their jaws” [Hosea 11:4]; “propitiation” [Rom 3:25]; etc.).

Hubner closes with an analogy that is forced. He claims that when Macgregor (and I?) are saying that the reader ought to “accommodate” (i.e., learn how to read a translation like the AV) we might as well be asking readers to learn Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and then read the Bible in the original languages. Asking someone to read the AV, however, is hardly equivalent to learning a Biblical language. Just ask anyone who’s had seminary Hebrew or Greek! He concludes, “The whole purpose of a translation is so that its readers don't have the [sic] learn a language they aren't familiar with.” I don’t think this is quite right. Rather, the purpose of a translation is to help the reader have access in a “vulgar language” to the Scriptures from the “immediately inspired” original languages. Again, compare The Second London Baptist Confession (I.VIII):

The Old Testament in Hebrew which was the native language of the people of God of old, and the New Testament in Greek which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations, being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope.

The point of my ESV article was to raise the question (challenge) as to whether the ESV is the best translation to achieve that goal.

Let me close this initial rejoinder with a point of agreement. I affirm the closing lines in which Hubner notes the following: “It's about translating meaning and ensuring that sound doctrine is not being sacrificed with each new revision and updated translation. This is a cause that we can all agree on; we all want the truth.” Amen.


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