Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Note: The Reformed Worldview

David J. Engelsma and Herman Hanko, The Reformed Worldview: The Word of God for Our Generation (British Reformed Fellowship, 2012): 142 pp.

Over the weekend, I finished reading this collection of essays by Engelsma and Hanko, retired professors at the Protestant Reformed Theological School (Wyoming, Michigan) on the theme of a Reformed worldview. The booklet was expanded from lectures given by the authors at a 2010 conference of the British Reformed Fellowship (BRF).

The chapters (and authors):

1.    The Reformed Worldview (Engelsma)
2.    The Organic Development of Sin (Hanko)
3.    The Abolition of Truth (Engelsma)
4.    The Reformed Believer and Money (Hanko)
5.    The Sexual Revolution (Engelsma)
6.    Towards a One-World Government (Hanko)
7.    The Unbreakable Scripture (Engelsma)
8.    The Call to Spiritual Cleansing (Hanko)

In these articles one finds many of the distinctive emphases of the conservative PRC denomination (a group of Dutch Reformed churches that separated from the mainstream Christian Reformed denomination in 1924 under the leadership of Herman Hoeksema), including rejection of “common grace” (ch. 1), rejection of easy divorce and absolute ban on remarriage after divorce (ch. 5), and preference for the King James Version (ch. 7). I was stuck by the eschatological perspective, rejecting both optimistic post-millennialism and pre-millennialism and anticipation of a Roman “one-world government,” with which I was less familiar.

Each chapter is relatively brief, pious, well-written, and devotional. I found Hanko’s discussion of sin (ch. 2) and personal holiness (ch. 8) to be especially intriguing.

Note: If you visit the BRF website (here), you can find other books by the authors, which I assume have also come from past conferences, including a free pdf of their book The Five Points of Calvinism (look here).


Make the TR great again!

A friend shared this meme from Confessional Bibliology:

Smiles, JTR

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Solomon's warning against hasty and brooding anger

Note: Devotion taken from sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:7-10.

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

Solomon here warns against hasty and brooding anger.

He begins, in particular, by warning against what we might call a rush to anger: “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry” (v. 9a).

The Proverbs are filled with related warnings against unrighteous and, especially, hasty anger. Compare:

Proverbs 14:17 He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.

Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

We must remember that anger in itself is not sin.  I had an ongoing debate about this with a pacifist friend in college.  There can be godly anger or “righteous indignation” over an injustice or an insult to the Lord.

Psalm 7:11 says the Lord is angry with the wicked every day.

Nahum 1:2 says the Lord is “furious” and “he reserveth his wrath for his enemies.”

In Mark 3:5 we are told that as Jesus was tested in the synagogue to see if he would heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, “and when we had looked round about them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.”

Remember how he rebuked Peter and told him “Get thee behind me Satan” and how he drove out the money changers from the temple. Jesus had a zeal for holiness and obedience, shown in righteous indignation.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 Jesus did not condemn anger but unjust anger. He warned the man who become angry with his brother “without a cause” (v. 22) and said this was a violation of the sixth commandment.

Paul said, in Ephesians 4:26: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your anger.”

I like what Charles Bridges says here.  After doing what we’ve just done here and saying that the Bible teaches that there can be godly anger, he adds, “And yet it would be most dangerous to presume upon this rare purity, when in the infinite majority of cases, it is the ebullition of pride, selfishness, and folly” (Ecclesiastes, p. 147).  Most of us do not get angry for the right reasons; we get angry for the wrong reasons.  And we usually do not come slowly to anger.  We rush hastily into anger.

We need to heed the wisdom of James:

James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

Let’s move to the second half of v. 9: “for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” The verb for “rest” here can also mean “lodge” or “take up residence.”  As destructive and harmful as sudden or hasty anger is, much worse is anger that is welcomed for a long stay, harbored, nurtured, fed, and kept alive in the bosom.  This is not what wise men do.  This is what fools do.

Bridges: “At all events, if anger rushes in by some sudden power or at some unwary moment, take care that it does not rest. It may pass through a wise man’s heart. But the bosom of the fool is its home” (p. 148).

Brethren, let us avoid hasty and brooding anger.


Friday, January 27, 2017

The Vision (1.27.17): The patient in spirit

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:7-10.

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

This verse addresses the dangers of impatience during difficulties. The teaching starts: “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (v. 8a). The main exhortation here is for the believer not to have a short-term view of any hardships he must face in this life.

We must remember the account of faithful Job.  He went through terrible distress, but Job 42:12 records, “So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.”

Sometimes we give up too soon.  If we would just persevere we might see blessing even in this life. Nevertheless, the believer must remain faithful even if he does not see immediate blessing in this life.  He must look at his life from the perspective of eternity.  To alter the last stanza of “Amazing Grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years …will we even remember the things that seem so large and upsetting to us here and now?”  Better is the end than the beginning!

In his Ecclesiastes commentary, Charles Bridges observes:

The ordinary trials of the Christian life are grievous in the beginning; but fruitful in the end. Therefore, whatever be the trial of faith, never despond (p. 142).

God, who in mercy and wisdom governs the world, would never have suffered so many sadnesses, and especially to the most virtuous and wisest men, but that he intends they should be the seminary of comfort, the nursery of virtue, the exercise of wisdom, the trial of patience, the venturing for a crown, and the gate of glory (p. 143).

The corresponding and completing part of v. 8: “and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (v. 8b). Well has it been said that patience is a virtue. Paul called it a fruit of the spirit (see “longsuffering” in Gal 5:22-23).

Notice that the opposite of patience is pride.  Pride is the father of impatience.  Pride says: If I were in charge things would be better. If God would just do things the way I want, all would work out well.

More gleaning from Bridges (pp. 144-145):

Patience is the child of faith.

Let the Lord take his own course, as certainly he will. But trust him for the end in his own time and way.

Beware of fretfulness in walking through the rough and thorny path.

Never forget that we are most incompetent judges of his purposes.

….hastily to give up good purposes because of difficulties—would prove us to be poor novices in the Christian life. Proud self-confidence expects to carry all before us, and after repeated failures sinks down in despondency. The patient in spirit is content—if it must be so—with feeble beginnings, poor success, and many repulses.

We can apply this to so many things.  We can apply it to our spiritual life. When we consider our own personal spiritual growth and maturity we might wonder why we are not making better progress.  We can apply it to how we think of others. If we expect the Lord to be patient with us, why can we not be patient with others?  We can apply it corporately to our church.  And we can apply it to the church’s influence in our culture.  We want more, but we must have a spirit of patience!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Article: Erasmus Anecdotes

I have two articles and two book reviews that appear in the January 2017 issue of the Puritan Reformed Journal (Vol. 9, No. 1). You can order this issue of the journal here.

I just posted the “Erasmus Anecdotes” article to (find it here). In the article I question the reliability of two frequently told scholarly anecdotes related to Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum: (1) the “rush to print” anecdote; and (2) the “rash wager” anecdote [related to the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum in the third edition]. I also point out that these anecdotes began to circulate during the nineteenth century in order to undermine and diminish the authority of the Textus Receptus.

The article is a revision of a paper I delivered at the Eastern regional meeting of the SBL last year (there is an audio version here).

Perhaps it will help in checking the assumption and repetition of these legendary stories.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The "fencing" of the Passover and the Lord's Supper

We have been consecutively reading a chapter from the book of Exodus in each Lord’s Day afternoon worship service at CRBC.  Last Sunday we read Exodus 12, the record of the establishment of the Passover. It was particularly meaningful to hear that chapter given that we also participated in the Lord’s Supper, as is our usual practice, during that afternoon service.

I was especially struck by that part of the reading which might be called “the fencing” of the Passover table:

Exodus 12:43 And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. 46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
The “stranger” was forbidden from partaking of the meal, until and unless he had submitted to the ordinance of circumcision.
This made me consider points of continuity with the Lord’s Supper in the New Covenant.  Paul sets the proper context for the observance of the Lord’s Supper when he says, “when ye come together in the church” (1 Corinthians 11:18). It is limited to those who are part of the visible church.  The church is necessarily overseen by its officers.  As “strangers” were excluded from the Passover, so non-Christians are excluded from the Lord’s Supper. The litmus test for participation in the Passover was submission to the ordinance of circumcision, the outward and visible sign of the covenant in the Old Testament.  The litmus test for participation in the Lord’s Supper is submission to baptism, the outward and visible sign of the covenant in the New Testament. See Colossians 2:11-12 where baptism is described as “the circumcision made without hands.”
The New Covenant table is “fenced” as was the Old Covenant table.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad

Image: Bill Wallace (front row, center) and the staff of the Stout Memorial Hospital
Wuzhou, China, 1946

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:7-10.

The passage begins, “Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad…” (Ecclesiastes 7:7a). Mad” here does not mean angry but mentally distressed. So, the NKJV renders it, “Surely oppression destroys a wise man’s reason.”  Solomon here consoles the believer on the experience of despair in the face of oppression. The old adage states:  The best of men are men at best.  Even the wisest and the most godly of men, placed in circumstances of intense pressure and oppression, can sometimes act in unreasonable ways.

Bridges says of oppression: “More than once has it thrown the man of God off his sober balance, and hurried him into a state nearly allied to madness” (Ecclesiastes, p. 141).

Perhaps Solomon knew the experience of his father David in the days of his flight from Saul when he “feigned” madness among the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10-15; cf. Psalm 34).

We can perhaps illustrate Solomon’s point by looking at the life of Bill Wallace.  His story is told in a book by Jesse Fletcher called Bill Wallace of China (Broadman, 1963).

As a 17 year old Christian teenager in Knoxville, Tennessee, Wallace committed himself to becoming a missionary.  In 1935, after completing medical school and a residency in surgery, he fulfilled that commitment by going to China as a medical missionary.  He was there during the second World War, surviving Japanese bombings, and he made the decision to stay at his post when the communists took over the country.  When asked why he had chosen to stay by a friend, he used a Chinese expression, saying “I am just one piece of man,” meaning, “I’m not anyone important" (Fletcher, p. 124).

Few knew at that time what was to come.  Wallace was eventually arrested under the false charge of being an American spy.  To discredit him a further series of false, malicious, and outrageous charges were brought against him.  We might like to think that oppression comes against godly men merely for their righteousness, but often the godly are assailed through false charges. Fletcher describes what happened: “A placard with obscene and derisive accusations and charges were placed over him; his hands were tied behind his back” and he was marched through the streets of the city (p. 147). While doing so he was thrown to the ground by a guard, his hand was broken, and he received no treatment for it.  He was placed in a prison cell, deprived of sleep, and awakened throughout the night to be taken for interrogation.  Fletcher: “Their accusations, viciously and vehemently proclaimed, bewildered and upset him. They were shouted over and again, growing in intensity, growing in degradation, allowing for no defense” (p. 148).

In the days that followed, Wallace began to collapse under the strain, battling for his very sanity.  Other prisoners heard him crying out in agony and repeating Bible verses to prepare for his next interrogation. Fletcher: “Delirium, crying, and blank periods came, but he fought on—clinging to his faith” (p. 149).

Unable to gain the confession they sought, one night his guards came to his cell and repeatedly stabbed Wallace with sharp bamboo poles, through the cell bars, until he lost consciousness.  That night, February 10, 1951 Wallace went to be with the Lord.  His captors claimed that he had hung himself. A medical colleague who saw his body said there were no signs of hanging, but only the abuse of his battered body. 

We have not faced that kind of oppression in our lives, but we know that hardships and difficulties of a much lesser degree can wear us down both physically and mentally.  The saints are not immune to suffering.  In fact, Scripture teaches exactly the opposite:

2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

The health and wealth gospel is not compatible with the testimony of Bill Wallace or the teaching of Qoheleth.  Even a wise and godly man can be spiritually stricken by oppression and it might drive him to act irrationally.  Still, he has the Lord’s promise that he will not be tempted beyond what he is able, but the Lord “will with the temptation also make a way of escape,” that he may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Monday, January 23, 2017

Solomon: Death Day better than Birthday?

Note: Another devotion take from January 15, 2017 sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.

Solomon adds in Ecclesiastes 7:1b:: “and the day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth.”

That seems like a pretty dark and pessimistic thing to say.  Can you imagine getting a Hallmark card with that cheery line on your birthday?

I have to think that Solomon is asking us to imagine what existence would be like apart from Christ.  If there were no God, if life was just sound and fury signifying nothing, then all would be vanity.  All our labor, all our worry, all our striving, all our achievements, and even all our pleasure, would be a chasing after the wind.

Look back to Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 where he describes the man who tries to make his life meaningful by having a large family and living a long life, apart from true godliness, and concludes it would be better for him if he had died stillborn!

Jesus says of the one who would betray the Son of Man (Judas Iscariot): “it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24).

For the unregenerate man, at least on the day that he dies, he stops piling up his offenses and transgressions against a holy and righteous God.

It is in the face of this meaninglessness of life, this nihilism of existence, which has no purpose, which is empty apart from Christ, that Solomon will encourage his hearers to exit the house of mirth and enter the house of mourning (see v. 2), where sober reckoning on the real meaning of life takes place.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

A good name is better than precious ointment

Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.

Ecclesiastes 7 begins:  “A good name is better than precious ointment” (v. 1a).

This parallels Proverbs 22:1 which similarly reads: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”

I remember as a child misunderstanding that verse and thinking it meant it was to your advantage literally to have a meaningful name, perhaps a Biblical name. Of course, that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about your reputation.

John D. Currid gets it right:

To have a good name means that a person is considered a noble, courageous person of integrity. He is one with an upright character. This is worth much more than ‘precious ointment’ or expensive perfume. A good reputation is more abiding than material riches (Ecclesiastes, p. 90).

In 1 Timothy 3:7 Paul says that an elder must have “a good report of them which are without.” He said this knowing that sometimes elders are wrongly maligned.  Paul himself was wrongly accused by his opponents of being greedy, licentious, and contentious. Just look at how he so frequently defends his ministry in his letters or in his speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 (cf., for example, Acts 20:33 when he says, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel”).

This also reminds us that if we would have a good name, we must not sully the name of another.

Our Puritan forebears trace the root of this moral concern to the ninth commandment:  Thou shalt not bear false witness.  So, the catechism teaches: “The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own, and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.”

We should prize our own good name (though knowing it might be unjustly maligned for the sake of Christ) and also the good name of our neighbor, especially if he is also a Christian brother.  For a good name is better than precious ointment.


Friday, January 20, 2017

The Vision (1.20.17): The House of Mourning and the House of Mirth

Image: Winter scene, North Garden, Virginia, January 2017

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.
Ecclesiastes 7: 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
The great contrast in the wisdom literature is between the wise man and the foolish man.  Jesus taught about the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built on the sand (Matthew 7).  Here the wise man is the one whose heart (the seat of his affections) is in the house of mourning (seriousness, sobriety). And the fool is he whose heart is in the house of mirth (frivolity, superficiality).

Another, yet related, dimension is added in v. 5: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”

This is also a stock teaching in the wisdom literature.  Do not resist an admonition that comes from the wise. But receive it and profit from it.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

Proverbs 25:12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Think of David when Nathan the prophet confronted him and said, “Thou art the man!” (2 Sam 12:7).  Did David run from Nathan?  Did he accuse him of treachery?  Did he order his execution?  Did David call for his sycophants to soothe his conscience? Did he call for musicians and arrange a party?  Did he call for comedians to lighten his mood? No, he acknowledged that Nathan had brought him the Word of God. And he repented of his sin (see Psalm 51).

The last verse calls to mind a vivid analogy.  The “song of fools” (v. 5) or the foolish laughter of those who dull their meaningless life through partying and laughing are like crackling thorns under a pot on a fire (v. 6a).

His summary for it all? “This also is vanity” (v. 6b).

Here is a great irony:  Unregenerate men are headed for eternal destruction, but while here, in this life, they most often ignore their plight by escaping to the house of mirth.  Meanwhile, regenerate and godly men, who are headed for the New Jerusalem, while in this life, will frequently go to the house of mourning, in sorrow for their sins and habitual repentance.

May the Lord make us wise, sending us out of the house of mirth and into the house of mourning, so that we might dwell in his house forever.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Robert Truelove reviews the Schuyler Canterbury edition of the KJV

Truelove, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Georgia, calls this "the best edition of the KJB printed to date." It is a beautiful book.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Orthodox Study Bible on Mark 16:9-20

The Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, 1993) presents commentary on the NT and the Psalms, prepared by the Academic Community of St. Athanasius Orthodox Academy of Santa Barbara, California. The text for the NT is from the New King James Version.   The traditional ending of Mark is included as the authoritative, un-bracketed text.  In the commentary notes, there is the following note at Mark 16:9-20:

Some manuscripts do not include this longer ending. Later traditions testify to several endings. The Church, however, has always regarded this ending as canonical and inspired (p. 129).

The Orthodox view on the text of Scripture is rarely considered by liberal and evangelical Protestants who have embraced the modern critical text and translations based upon it.  The Orthodox have not embraced the modern critical text of the NT (the Orthodox view of the OT is another matter). What is more, they hold not just to the Majority Text, as evident with the ending of Mark, but to the Textus Receptus.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Larry Hurtado on Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World

I enjoyed listening to this lecture by Larry Hurtado, emeritus professor of NT at the University of Edinburgh, on the distinctiveness of early Christianity in the Roman world.  The lecture was given at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas on September 10, 2016.  I liked his description of the Parthenon as an "ecumenical" temple and his stress on the exclusivity (intolerance) of early Christians with regard to their refusal to worship false gods, resulting in them being labelled as "atheists." Worth hearing.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Russell Fuller on John Owen and the Traditional Protestant View of the Old Testament

I listened today to the recently posted lecture by Dr. Russell T. Fuller, OT Professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, on “John Owen and the Traditional Protestant View of the OT" (see video above).  The lecture was given at the 2016 Andrew Fuller Conference on the theme, “The Diversity of Dissent.”

Fuller presents a compelling defense of the Hebrew Masoretic tradition as the authoritative text of the Old Testament, over against modern, reconstructionist text critical approaches, as represented in many modern liberal and also evangelical translations of the OT. And he does so on distinctly confessional grounds!

Here are some notes:

Fuller begins with a review of the “forgotten controversy” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries over the antiquity of the vowel points and accents of the Hebrew Bible.

Traditional Jews and Protestant held to the antiquity of the vowel points and accents, tracing them back to Moses and Ezra.  The controversy began with the rejection of the antiquity of the vowel points and accents by the Jewish scholar Elias Levita and (surprisingly) the Protestant scholar Louis Cappel (Latin:  Capellus).  This was seized upon by Catholics who argued that the OT text was corrupted and proper interpretation only came through the Vulgate and the RC magisterium. Johannes Buxtorf (the elder) and his son Johannes Buxtorf (the younger) defended the traditional Protestant view.  This controversy re-emerged in the seventeenth century with Brian Walton’s Polyglott offering the same challenges and John Owen defending the traditional Protestant view.

Fuller rightly points out that the traditional Protestant view “has been discarded completely by the critical scholars and partly by evangelical scholars.”

While conceding that Owen and his colleagues “stumbled” in some details, he argues that they were correct on three core issues: (1) the preservation of Scripture; (2) the verbal inspiration of Scripture: and (3) the dangers of radical text criticism to Scripture.

The “final statement” of these confessional views were expressed in the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675) and this view prevailed for c. 50-100 years.  The Baptist pastor John Gill, the Scottish theologian James Robertson of Edinburgh, and the German scholar Oluf Gerhard Tychsen represented a “rear-guard” defense of these views, but modernism eventually prevailed. The Hebrew text of the OT is now seen as corrupted, obscure, and outdated.

Fuller concludes: “We are all Capellian now.”

Nevertheless, he argues that the defenders of the traditional Protestant view were right on the core issues:

On preservation, he argues that the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible should be considered the standard for the OT.  It has been preserved in the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex.

The antiquity and authority of the MT has been proven by various evidences [Babylonian Talmud and rabbinic literature, versions (like the Vulgate), Masada texts, Qumran texts (Isaiah scroll), LXX revisions, and even NT usage].

So, Fuller says, “The MT is the OT.”

To traditional Protestants the “original autographs” and the scriptures of their day were the same.

On verbal inspiration, he notes that the traditional Protestants stressed the inspiration not only of Biblical ideas but of the very words of Scripture.

On the vowels and accents, he notes the traditional Protestants were right to say that this included the vowels and accents, “the power of the points,” whether in written form or as preserved in oral tradition as the proper pronunciation.

The Masoretic tradition (consonants, vowels, and accents) are the “Lydian stone” of the OT against which all versions must be evaluated.

On radical text criticism, Fuller bemoans departures from the Masoretic Text in modern translations of the OT, which give weight to versions like the LXX, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pentateuch, and even to conjectural emendations.

Sadly, this is true not just of liberal translations (RSV, NRSV, NEB) but also of evangelical translations (ESV, NIV, NLT).

He cites a study that notes variations in the ESV from the MT of the OT:

277 times it follows the LXX;
18 times the Dead Sea Scrolls;
7 times the Samaritan Pentateuch;
26 times it amends with NO mss. support.

And this is just based on the consonantal text.  If vowel and accent changes were included variants would be in the hundreds!

Striking is Fuller’s observation: “If liberals amend [the text] thousands of times, evangelicals do so hundreds of times”!

He sums up (c. 37:15 mark): “Liberals and evangelicals create their own text.  Each translation committee creates its own magisterium.  This is what Owen and others foresaw and warned against.”

Though Owen and his allies erred in some details, they were right of the core issues:  preservation, verbal inspiration, and the dangers of radical text criticism.

JTR Evaluation:

I highly commend this lecture.  Fuller has hit the nail on the proverbial head with regard to the theological issues involved in text criticism of the OT and offers a compelling rationale for defense of the “traditional Protestant” use of the Masoretic Text as the text of the OT.

If you are making use of a modern translation of the Bible (like the ESV) which departs from the Masoretic text, you should pay especially close attention to Fuller’s argument.

I have one question/suggestion:  For the core issues, Why not follow the order inspiration, preservation, translation (as in Westminster I.8), rather than preservation, inspiration, translation?

And I have one significant disagreement.  It has to do with the only reference in the lecture to NT text criticism, and it goes by so quickly it might easily be overlooked.  At the 17:40 mark, Fuller says,

For the NT, Vaticanus, with obvious copyist errors noted, virtually reproduces the NT as given by the apostles. The same could be said for other famous uncial and papyri manuscripts.

This appears to me to be an inconsistency.  If Fuller prefers the traditional Protestant text for the OT why does he not also prefer the traditional Protestant text of the NT, namely, the Textus Receptus, or, at the very least, the Majority Text? When Owen and his contemporaries thought of the “autograph” they thought of the text of their day.  This was not, however, just the MT of the OT, but also the TR of the NT!

Part of his argument here is for the use of extant texts (the Aleppo and Leningrad Codices), over eclectic texts.  But why not the TR as the standard printed text of Protestant consensus?


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gospel Tracts for the 2017 Chinese Lunar New Year

Pastor Poh Boon Sing of Malaysia has created a new tract (in English) for the Chinese lunar New Year (the year of the rooster) which begins January 28.  He writes:

Dear Brethren & Friends,

The Lunar New Year, celebrated by those with chopsticks-culture (China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and other overseas Chinese) falls on 28 January. The celebration lasts 15 days. The eve of the new year, on 27 January, is when family members from far and near gather for the reunion dinner. Students and those working abroad who are unable to return to their family would normally have their own gatherings to celebrate. Here is where churches can forge friendship with them by joining their functions or inviting the lonely ones home. 

The tract for this year is attached. One version of the tract is on an A-4 page. The foldable version may be printed front and back of an A-4 page and cut in half. It would be good to print on bright red paper as that is the auspicious colour for the Lunar New Year. 

I have been unable to upload it to the Gospel Highway website as the host-server is still under repair after severe attacks from hackers.

Or find a foldable version here or here.


Friday, January 13, 2017

The Vision (1.13.17): A Confessional View on the Translation of Scripture

This lesson continues our series in the 1689 confession, by looking at chapter one, paragraph 8 (bold emphasis added):

Paragraph 8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old),14 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.15  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,16 and search them,17 therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,18 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.19

14 Rom. 3:2 
15 Isa. 8:20 
16 Acts 15:15 
17 John 5:39 
18 1 Cor. 14:6,9,11,12,24,28 
19 Col. 3:16

I see three key points overall in this paragraph:  (1) the immediate inspiration of Scripture in the original language text; (2) the providential preservation of Scripture; and (3) the faithful translation of Scripture.

In this lesson we focus especially on the issue of translation. Herein, I see three key affirmations:

1.     The Christian has a right to and an interest in Scripture:

I am struck by the statement here that every believer has “a right unto and interest in the Scriptures.”  One of the privileges and benefits given to each Christian is the right to read a faithful translation of the Bible in a language he can understand.

This is necessary, because we are commanded to read Scripture.  The proof text given is Acts 15:15 where James stands before the apostles and suggests that Peter’s testimony before them is affirmed by Scripture: “And to this agree the words of the prophets….”

Another prooftext recalls the command of Jesus in John 5:39: “Search the Scriptures … and they are they which testify of me.”  The Christian must be able to obey the command of Christ.

Translation was a flashpoint of controversy during the Reformation, as the Roman Catholic Church resisted the translation of the Bible into the “vulgar languages” of the people.  The Reformation gave the Bible back to God’s people, and, thus, restored their right to it.

2.    It is proper and fitting to translate the Bible:

Several of the proof texts which offer the Biblical justification for this statement are taken from 1 Corinthians 14.  The original context regards worship in Corinth.  Paul rebukes persons who were speaking in languages that no one could understand.  He states: “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air” (1 Cor 14:9).  The principle is this:  Men ought to be able to hear from God in a language they can understand.

This has been the Christian view from the beginning.  The Christian Scriptures have been translated into the language of the people from the earliest days.  Early translations of the Bible were made into Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Ethiopic, and other languages, long before English even existed as a language.

In Islam you are required to learn Arabic to read the Koran, adherents memorize and recite in mandated daily prayer by rote memory Koranic verses they do not understand, but in Christianity the Word comes to you in your heart language.

As the confession notes, anytime that Christian missionaries enter into a field where Christ is not known, the first task they should undertake is the faithful translation of the Bible.  This is what Judson did when he went to Burma (Myanmar), and his translation is still being used today. The Bible in a faithful translation is a missionary to you.

3.     The Bible in a faithful translation provides real benefits to believers:

The Bible is translated, “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.”

A prooftext cited is Colossians 3:16:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….”
Notice the primary stress given on worship.  Christians need the Bible so that they can know how to worship God aright.

Uncited, though clearly echoed is Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Having a faithful Bible you can read and understand satisfies and comforts the Christian’s soul.