Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rejoinder to Jamin Hubner: Part 5

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.

My 1,600 word blog post “Three Basic Challenges to the ESV” has now resulted in c. 8,700 words in reply in six posts from Jamin Hubner (and there appears to be even more yet to come)! There are at least two things I have rediscovered from this exchange: You can really hit a nerve if (1) you criticize the neo-evangelical Calvinistic translation of choice (the ESV); (2) you offer any defense of or appreciation for the KJV!

Rather than attempt to flow all of Hubner’s various arguments, I will offer some select observations (including some corresponding questions) on the material in Hubner’s part five response:

1. Hubner incorrectly identifies me and Alan J. Macgregor as KJV-Only-ists.

In this post, Hubner makes reference to me, “Macgregor, or other KJV-Onlyists (of varying degrees)” As I understand the term, however, a person who holds to the “KJV-Only” position believes that the KJV translation has a special inspired status. In the language of the 2LBC 1689 they would believe that the KJV is “immediately inspired.” Though I admire, appreciate, and often use the KJV, both privately and in public ministry, I do not hold to a KJV-Only position, as thus defined. I would prefer to say that I am an advocate for formal correspondence translations based on the traditional text of Scripture. I admire and appreciate the KJV, in part, because it is a faithful and accurate translation based on the traditional text. Other Bible translations currently in print that also follow a formal correspondence translation method and are based on the traditional text would include the Geneva Bible and the NKJV.

In his book Three Modern Versions, Alan J. Macgregor makes the following charitable statement about the translations (NIV, ESV, NKJV) which he reviews:

I do not assert, as some do, that there is nothing good in these versions. I believe it is right to acknowledge that they have certain strengths, and on occasions improved renderings. It does not weaken the AV case to say so. Many sincere believers use the NIV and the NKJV, and now some the ESV. I do not dismiss them as worldly or heretical (as some of the extreme defenders of the AV do). However, I do believe that the majority of NIV, ESV, and NKJV users are unaware of vital and worrying facts concerning these versions (p. 2).

Macgregor later makes the following statement concerning the KJV-Only movement:

However, we must also say that believing the AV itself to be infallible and above improvement (commonly called “KJV-onlyism” in the USA and “AV-onlyism” in the UK) is an untenable position that only backs its advocates into a corner. It often leads to the same ungracious remarks that come from the more radical supporters of modern versions (p. 100).

I appreciate Macgregor’s charitable spirit and agree with him in his assessment of “KJV-onlyism.” Hubner is, therefore, simply mistaken when he charges me and Macgregor with being in the KJV-Only camp. One can prefer the KJV above all other translations (as Macgregor does), appreciate it among other translations (as I do), and critique other translations (as both I and Macgegor do) without being KJV-Only advocates.

The “straw man” fallacy may be defined as “changing or exaggerating an opponent’s position or argument to make it easier to refute” (from my children’s home school logic textbook, The Fallacy Detective [Christian Logic, 2003]: p. 68). Hubner commits this fallacy by lumping both my position and that of Macgregor’s in with the KJV-Only position (“of varying degrees”), assuming positions I hold or arguments I might make, and then attacking them rather than responding to the actual arguments I have made (see objection # 4 below).


a. Is Hubner willing to admit that he made an error in putting me and Macgregor in the KJV-Only camp?

b. Will Hubner also address the question I raised several times in my rejoinders as to whether or not he has actually read Alan Macgregor’s book Three Modern Versions or if his knowledge of this book is reliant on extended quotations from it in my ESV article and book review article?

2. Hubner appears so keen to shift the discussion from my critique of the ESV to a discussion of the merits of the KJV that he alters the name of his series.

In this post, Hubner states, “the title of this blog series was ‘A Response to Jeff Riddle.’” Clearly, however, this is factually inaccurate. Anyone can simply read the title above his article which states: “The ESV Translation: A Response to Jeff Riddle: Part V.” Clearly, the discussion started out to be about my critique of “The ESV Translation.” These three words (“The ESV Translation”) are the first to appear in all five of Hubner’s first five posts in this series. In this post, however, sensitive to my charge that he has presented “straw man” arguments relating to the KJV, he conveniently omits this part of the title to legitimate his attacks on my purported KJV-Only position (see observation # 1 above).


Is Hubner willing to acknowledge that the original title of his series was, in fact, “The ESV Translation: A Response to Jeff Riddle” and not merely “A Response to Jeff Riddle” as he curiously claims in this post?

3. Hubner has not fully acknowledged the nature of an error I pointed out in his discussion of the Hebrew text of Micah 5:2.

To his credit, Hubner admits that his statement about the Hebrew of Micah 5:2 in part three of his response was mistaken. After reading his self-correction, however, I am not so sure that Hubner has fully acknowledged the nature of his error. In the post, he says, “I made a hasty mistake and ended up referring to a preposition rather than a noun.” Later, he adds that this was “a silly mistake and I’m glad Dr. Riddle pointed it out.”

Here is the statement in question as Mr. Hubner originally posted it in “The ESV Translation: A Response to Jeff Riddle: Part III” (and which has now been removed by him):

“Second, there are good reasons from the text itself (מִקֶּ֖דֶם מִימֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם׃, ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆς ἐξ ἡμερῶν αἰῶνος in LXX) to translate it as "ancient times" (NIV), "days of eternity" (NASB), or "ancient days" (ESV). The specific preposition that makes the text render "day" (מִן) is used, which is why the RSV, ESV, and NASB are generally more "literal" or "word for word" than the KJV at this point.”

Here is my response to this statement in part three of my rejoinder:

“Though I will readily admit that I am not an expert in Hebrew, I find Hubner’s comment here to be curious. Yes, the preposition min is present in the text but so is the plural for the word “day” (yom)! It is not the preposition—as Hubner states— that might lead a translator to use “day” but the word “days” itself! The KJV translator apparently took the phrase mime ‘olam that might well have been woodenly rendered “from the days everlasting” as an idiom best rendered simply as “from everlasting.” The real question with theological bearing is how to translate the word olam.”

I pointed out in this analysis that Hubner seems unaware that the Hebrew text includes the word “days,” despite the fact that he has cut and pasted the Hebrew phrase into his remarks. Though I did not make this point in my initial response, I might add that Hubner makes this error despite the fact that he also includes the Greek word “days” in his quotation from the LXX (ἡμερῶν).

Here is how Hubner corrected this statement after I pointed out his error:

“Second, there are good reasons from the text itself (מִקֶּ֖דֶם מִימֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם׃, ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆς ἐξ ἡμερῶν αἰῶνος in LXX) to translate it as "ancient times" (NIV), "days of eternity" (NASB), or "ancient days" (ESV). The specific [noun, corrected 3/25/11] for "day" (yom) is used, which is why the RSV, ESV, and NASB are generally more "literal" or "word for word" than the KJV at this point.”

The above statement replaced the erroneous one, which was then omitted from the article. Again, I appreciate the fact that Hubner was willing to acknowledge this mistake, but I am not so sure that he has fully acknowledged the nature of his error. The problem is not simply, as he states, that he inadvertently referred to "a preposition rather than  a noun” but that he was not aware that the noun (yom) was even in the actual text and was basing his argument on the use of the preposition (min). The problem appears to be that he had not adequately read the Hebrew text, and this led to his “silly mistake.” I am not downing Hubner for making a mistake (errare est humanum), but I do not think he squarely addressed the nature of it.


a. Will Hubner aknowledge that his erroneous statement concerning the Hebrew of Micah 5:2 was more than just a matter of confusing the words “preposition” and “noun”?

b. Futhermore, would he be willing to repost his original erroneous statement as it first appeared and then add in brackets his self-correction in order fully to acknowledge his original error and to allow those who read our interchange to know what the actual original statement in question was instead of merely having available his corrected statement?

4. Finally, Hubner ignores many of the arguments that I presented in my rejoinders:

Here are just a few:

a. The fact that the ESV holds a NCC copyright is a potential separation issue for Biblical Christians.

b. The ESV is inconsistent (“awkward”) in that, on one hand, it claims to follow in the Tyndale-King James tradition (see the ESV Preface), while, on the other hand, it clearly follows in the tradition of liberal Protestantism (by following the English Revised Version of 1881 and the RSV of 1952).

c. The Christological ramifications of the translation of passages like Micah 5:2 are significant and should be seriously considered when evaluating a translation.

d. Hubner wrongly assumes that the “the received text” only came into being in 1611. As I pointed out, printed editions can be traced back to Erasmus’ 1516 NT and Bomberg’s 1524-1525 Hebrew Bible. This would mean printed versions of the received text were available at least 75-100 years before the KJV appeared in 1611. This also means that they were available to and used by the Reformation Fathers like Luther and Calvin (a point James White acknowledges). This traditional text, furthermore, was the basis for all the Reformation translations of Scripture, including those made in English, which predated the KJV (e.g., the Geneva Bible of 1560). By further implication, this also means that it was the received text that was available to and used by the Westminster Divines who composed the Westminster Confession (1646), the Congregationalists who composed the Savoy Declaration (1658), and the Baptist Fathers who composed the 2LBCF 1689.

e. The ESV rendering of Psalm 145:13 is based on a single Hebrew manuscript.

f. The ESV rendering of 1 Samuel 6:19 is a conjecture based on no Hebrew manuscript.

g. If the evangelical church depends on the most current version of the modern critical text as the basis of its translations (as does the ESV), then it will be relying on a perpetually unstable text that will change with each new edition produced by the secular Bible Societies.

h. If the evangelical church is dependent on United Bible Society and the Deutche Bibelgesellschaft produced modern editions of the original language texts for its translations, then it is handing over stewardship of the text of Scripture to the secular academy that will include non-believers, liberal Protestants, and (now, in the case of the German Bible Society) Roman Catholics, who do not hold a high view of the authority and infallibility of Scripture.

i. The modern academic text guild (represented by influential scholars like B. Ehrman, and D. C. Parker) has completely abandoned any effort to find the “original text” of Scripture in favor of post-modern efforts to embrace the “living text” of Scripture. To continue to defend and rely upon the modern critical text is to place the text of Scripture into the hands of these men and their disciples whose influence will be felt in its future editions.


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