"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 3, Number 11, November 2000
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
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In the October 200 issue of “As I See It,” I stumbled into one of “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” viz., I in print confused the names of Sinclair Lewis, author of Elmer Gantry, and C. S. Lewis, author of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and a host of other volumes of note. There was and is no confusion in my mind of the two authors, and so I am at a loss to explain this blunder. Perhaps I ate too much sugar the day I wrote (and the three or four days I proof-read the article), or perhaps I needed more ginko to promote cerebral circulation. At any rate, such is one of the inherent hazards of doing your own proof reading. Caveat scriptor.
COMETS AND THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE
“Comets are believed to be ‘snowballs’ of frozen gases and dust a few hundred metres to a few tens of kilometres in diameter. They move in very elongated orbits, and only when they approach near enough to the Sun for the ices to begin vaporizing rapidly do they become obvious and clearly identifiable. Yet the very process that makes them visible destroys them. After 1,000 passages near the Sun, there should be little left except, possibly, a small inert core. A typical short-period comet makes a revolution in 10 years or less, giving it a total lifetime of less than 10,000 years.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., 1992 printing, vol. 27, p. 507; emphasis added)
This quotation, coming as it does from an authoritative and respected, wholly evolution-oriented reference work is especially significant. It also, of course, demands a question: if such comets expire and disappear in less than 10,000 years (which is here affirmed) and if such comets still exist (and at least thousands still do), does not this require that those comets came into existence--along with the rest of the solar system--some time in the past 10,000 years or less?
Naturally, this obvious conclusion is “overlooked.” But it demands to be drawn.
[J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), went as a missionary to China in 1854. He later founded the China Inland Mission, one of the first “Faith” missions. He literally prayed hundreds of workers to the mission field, as well as their financial support. The following incident occurred within a couple of years of his arrival in China]
A young foreigner [i.e., J. Hudson Taylor] in Chinese dress was preaching from his Sacred Classics, and this was the passage he read:
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Nyi came into the hall that evening, one of the vast, the incredibly vast multitude who “through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage”; and as he sat there listening, hope dawned in his heart, old things for ever passed away and he was conscious of the sunrise that makes all things new.
The meeting was drawing to a close; the ‘foreign teacher’ had ceased speaking. Looking round upon the audience with the instinct of one accustomed to lead in such matters, Nyi rose in his place and said with simple directness:
“I have sought the Truth, as did my father before me, but without finding it. I have traveled far and near, but have never searched it out. In Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, I found no rest; but I do find rest in what we have heard tonight. Henceforward I am a believer in Jesus.”
The effect of this declaration was profound, for Nyi was well known and respected. But no one present was more moved than the young missionary to whom he specially addressed himself. Many interviews followed, and Hudson Taylor experienced the joy no words can express as he saw the Lord working with him and claiming this soul for His own.
Shortly after his conversion, a meeting was held of the society over which Nyi had formerly presided, and though he had resigned from its membership he obtained permission to be present and to explain the reasons for his change of faith. Taylor, who accompanied him, was deeply impressed by the clearness and power with which he set forth the Gospel. One of his former co-religionists was led to Christ through his instrumentality, and with Nyi himself became a valuable worker of the Kuen-kiao-teo church. Nyi, a dealer in cotton, frequently had time at his disposal, which he now devoted to helping his missionary friends. With Jones he went out almost daily, taking no payment for his services, and everywhere winning an entrance for the message he was so keen to bring.
He it was who, talking with Hudson Taylor, unexpectedly raised a question the pain of which was not easily forgotten.
“How long have you had the Glad Tidings in England?” he asked all unsuspectingly.
The young missionary was ashamed to tell him, and vaguely replied that it was several hundreds of years.
“What,” exclaimed Nyi with astonishment, “several hundreds of years! Is it possible that you have known about Jesus so long, and only now have come to tell us? My father sought the truth for more than twenty years,” he continued sadly, “and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner?
[From J. Hudson Taylor: God’s Man in China by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), pp. 139-40]
“Deliver those who are being taken away to death. And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, ‘See, we did not know this,’ Does He not consider it who weighs the heart? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?” Proverbs 24:11, 12.
One verse that has been repeatedly summoned into service by those who hold to the “King James Only” position as proof positive that modern English versions are in reality perversions is Daniel 3:25. In the KJV, the fourth man in the furnace is identified as “the Son of God” (or, “sonne of God,” as spelled in the original 1611 edition). In contrast, the American Standard Version of 1901 identifies him as “a son of the gods.” The New American Standard Version and the New International Version agree with the ASV here (the New King James Bible follows the KJV in the text, but has the ASV rendering in the margin).
The accusation made against the rendering in the ASV et al. is that they have removed a clear reference to the second person of the Trinity and have substituted for it a flabby, vague reference to a mere son of the (pagan) gods, thereby debasing this proof text of the pre-incarnate existence of Christ, as well as his Deity. (This all assumes that the fourth man in the furnace was a theophany, an interpretation rather more generally assumed than proved).
Rather than ‘dogmatize peremptorily,’ I prefer to ask, “But what are the facts in the case? Have the ASV et al. mistranslated the original text, and thereby fallen into error, or did in fact the KJV mistranslate the passage, and the ASV set it right in English?” We shall seek to answer this question before we are carried away with judgment-blinding prejudice and unsupported presupposition.
This particular verse in Daniel, along with the whole section 2:4b-7:28, is in the Aramaic language, rather than in Hebrew like most of the rest of the Old Testament. Aramaic (also sometimes called Chaldee and Syriac) and Hebrew are sister languages (the family also includes Arabic, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Ethiopic, Phoenecian and a few even more obscure tongues). As a result, Aramaic and Hebrew have a number of related words and also have similar, but not identical, grammar. One of those differences is crucial at this point.
In the Aramaic original of Daniel 3:25, the phrase represented in English by “the Son of God/a son of the gods” is bar-elahin. Bar is a singular noun, meaning “son” and is commonly found in the New Testament, for example, in proper names: Barnabas, Barabbas, Bar-Jonah, etc., literally meaning “the son of X.” Its equivalent in Hebrew is ben, as in Benjamin, Ben-Hur, and Ben Gurion. Bar is here in the construct state, meaning it is grammatically joined to the word that follows it, and therefore means “son of.” So far, no problem.
Elahin is a masculine plural noun, denoting “gods” (the singular form is elah, or, with the definite article attached, elaha. The Arabic equivalent in allah). Its Hebrew equivalent is elohim. But just here, usage in Hebrew and in Aramaic diverge. In Hebrew, though plural in form, the word elohim is the usual word for God (as in Genesis 1:1 and thousands of other places). Less commonly, it is also used of false gods (plural), and of human civil authorities. There is in Hebrew a singular counterpart to elohim, namely eloah, but it is comparatively rare in the OT, occurring just 57 times, with all but 15 of these being in Job, which displays numerous dialectic and linguistic peculiarities. Nearly all the rest are in poetic parts of the OT, or in passages influenced by Aramaic.
When we examine the Aramaic portion of the OT (besides Daniel 2:4b-7:28, Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26 and Jeremiah 10:11 are also in Aramaic), we discover that there is a clear distinction between the use of the plural form elahin and the singular elaha. When the true God is spoken of, the singular elaha is invariably used (the singular is also used of false gods when referred to individually, as in Daniel 3:14; 4:5; etc.). The plural form elahin is used only of false gods, especially in the phrase, “the spirit of the holy gods” (4:5; 4:6; 5:11; etc.), words spoken by pagan polytheists from their perspective. The use of the plural form with reference to one true God does not occur in the Aramaic portion of the OT. It must also be noted that the phrase bar-elahin in Daniel 3:25 does not have the definite article in the original Aramaic (that would be bar-elahayya).
Taken together, these facts--namely, that elahin is plural, and has no definite article here--combine to show that to translate bar-elahin as “the Son of God” is to overtranslate the words, indeed to mistranslate them. The precise, literal English equivalent of bar-elahin is “a son of the gods,” as the ASV, NASB and NIV have it. It should not surprise us to find a pagan king who acknowledged and worshipped many gods speaking of the appearance of a supernatural person as “a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar was yet a pagan (he had just erected an idol of gold and compelled his subjects to worship it). In Daniel 3:28, the king refers once again to the fourth man in the furnace, this time by the designation “angel,” which suggests that the two terms, “angel” and “a son of the gods,” were synonymous designations.
Let us consider briefly how this phrase was handled in pre-KJV translations.
There exist two major pre-Christian Greek versions of Daniel (several others exist only in fragmentary quotes), that of the Septuagint (now preserved in only two manuscripts and a Syriac version; it was early on abandoned by the Christians in favor of the other Greek version). The other is ascribed to Theodotion, though it precedes his time by at least 2 centuries (it is this version which is found in virtually all extant manuscripts of the “Septuagint”).
The Septuagint, apparently under the influence of v. 28, translates bar-elahin as aggelou theou, which in English could be either “an angel/messenger of God,” or “an angel of a god,” (the Greek here has no definite article, and since the Greek language lacks an indefinite article, whether to supply it or leave it out in translation is a matter of interpretation and English style). Theodotion reads huioi theou, which would correspond to either “a son of God,” or “a son of a god.” In both Greek versions, the Aramaic plural noun elahin is translated as though it were a singular.
There is no Jewish Aramaic Targum of Daniel (or of Ezra) since the book was originally in part in Aramaic already. There is however an ancient Syriac version of Daniel (translating the Aramaic of Daniel into Syriac would be roughly equivalent to “translating” Shakespeare’s early 17th century British English in “Hamlet” into late 20th century American English. It is rather more “up-dating” than translating). The Syriac version simply reproduces the bar-elahin of the original.
The Latin Vulgate of Jerome (ca. 400 A.D.) was the dominant Bible translation in all of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. All the vernacular versions made there during the Middle Ages were made from it (including Wycliffe’s English version), and all the Reformation-era versions including and especially the KJV show the unmistakable influence of the Vulgate on every page. Jerome reads in Daniel 3:25 “filio Dei” which, due to Latin’s complete absence of articles definite and indefinite, might be understood as either “a son of God” or “the son of God.” [Whether Jerome had a mastery of Aramaic (as he had of Hebrew and Greek) is an open question, as far as I know. I’ve never seen any reference to his knowing Aramaic.] Because of the pervasive influence of the Vulgate on the KJV, it is not unlikely that the KJV’s “the Son of God” translation was a mimicking of the Vulgate’s rendering.
Besides the Vulgate, Jerome also wrote a commentary on Daniel which appeared some years before his Vulgate translation. His remarks cast some light on his understanding of the passage before us, and so we reproduce it here (following Gleason Archer’s English translation)--
“As for the appearance of the fourth man, which he asserts to be like that of a son of God, either we must take him to be an angel, as the Septuagint has rendered it, or indeed, as the majority think, the Lord our Savior. Yet I do not know how an ungodly king could have merited a vision of the Son of God. For that reasoning one should follow Symmachus [a 2nd century A.D. Ebionite who made a revised translation of the Septuagint], who has thus interpreted it: ‘But the appearance of the fourth is like unto the sons,’ not unto the sons of God but unto gods themselves. We are to think of angels here, who after all are very frequently called gods as well as sons of God. . . . But as for its typical significance, this angel or son of God foreshadows our Lord Jesus Christ, who descended into the furnace of hell, . . . .”
Advancing to the Reformation era, we find that Martin Luther’s German translation of the words is “ein Son der Goetter,” that is, “a son of the gods,” corresponding precisely to the English ASV, etc.
John Calvin commented on v. 25: “the son of a god. No doubt God here sent one of his angels, to support by his presence the minds of his saints, lest they should faint. . . . A single angel was sent to these three men; Nebuchadnezzar calls him a son of God; not because he thought him to be Christ, but according to the common opinion among all people, that angels are sons of God, since a certain divinity is resplendent in them; and hence they call angels generally sons of God. According to this usual custom, Nebuchadnezzar says, the fourth man is like a son of a god. For he could not recognize the only-begotten Son of God, since, as we have already seen, he was blinded by so many depraved errors.” [It merits noting that Scripture itself refers to angels as sons of God in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; and also, so I think, Genesis 6:2, 4]
Of English versions ante-dating the KJV, the one most closely followed by the KJV is the Geneva Bible of 1560. At Daniel 3:25, we find “the sonne of God.” The KJV, apparently, merely reproduced the Geneva Bible unaltered. The Geneva Bible here has a significant marginal note: “For the Angels were called the sonnes of God, because of their excellencies; therefore the King called this Angel, whome God sent to comfort his in these great torments, the sonne of God.” These remarks clearly indicate that they did not consider the fourth man to be a theophany/Christophany. Their opinion here as commonly elsewhere, is in harmony with the published opinion of Calvin.
As long ago as the first quarter of the 19th century, Methodist commentator Adam Clarke addressed the issue of how Daniel 3:25 should be translated. After quoting the KJV, he remarks: “A most improper translation. What notion could this idolatrous king have of the Lord Jesus Christ? For so the place is understood by thousands. Bar-elahin signifies a son of the gods, that is, a Divine person or angel; and so the king calls him in ver. 28: “God hath sent his ANGEL, and delivered his servants.” And though even from this some still contend that it was the Angel of the covenant, yet the Babylonish king knew just as much of the one as he did of the other. No other ministration was necessary; a single angel from heaven was quite sufficient to answer the purpose, as that which stopped the mouths of the lions when Daniel was cast into their den.”
I myself have long assumed--without detailed investigation--that Daniel 3:25 was a theophany, even while acknowledging the superior accuracy of the ASV over the KJV. However, upon closer consideration, I must now agree with our friend the Methodist. It was an unnamed angel, a created being and not the Creator Himself, who appeared in the fiery furnace, just as it was an angel and not God Himself who appeared in the den of lions with Daniel (in the 6th chapter of Daniel, there is little dispute about this matter).
Let us hear the end of the matter: the ASV, NASB. NIV and NKJB margin give a literal English translation of the inerrant Aramaic original. Their interpretation of the text exactly corresponds with that of Luther some 400-plus years earlier. It is certainly not some new “higher critical” attack on the Scriptures. Rather, it is a precisely accurate English rendering of the original, and thereby acknowledges and honors the infallible nature and absolute authority of the inspired original text. The KJV merely reproduced the reading of its great predecessor, the Geneva Bible, which in turn precisely followed the Latin Vulgate, which in its turn literally followed the Greek translation of Theodotion. While precedent for the KJV’s translation can therefore be cited, nevertheless, the ASV et al., are squarely based on the ultimate and sole infallible authority, the Scriptures as originally written. That settles the matter for the individual who genuinely accepts that authority.
As for who the fourth man in the furnace was: while the view that it was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity is the prevailing view (no doubt in part due to the incorrect renderings of Theodotion, Jerome, the Geneva Bible, and the KJV), that it was a created angel has been long-held by devout and doctrinally orthodox scholars, from Calvin to the Geneva Puritans to Adam Clarke, and no doubt many others before and after them. One’s interpretation of this passage is certainly not a test of orthodoxy. And rather than being a reason for condemnation, the translation “a son of the gods” as found in the aforementioned English versions is a mark in their favor, rather than a cause for reviling them.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: THE LIFE AND WORK OF BENAJAH HARVEY CARROLL, by Alan J. Lefever. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1994. 180 pp, hardback.
The name B. H. Carroll has long been revered by Baptists in America, particularly among Southern Baptists, but also among independent Baptists. Carroll, besides being the founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth (at one time the largest seminary in the world, and perhaps is still), was also the mentor of J. Frank Norris, “godfather” of three different independent Baptist groups.
B. H. Carroll (1843-1914, and if you ever wondered why he went by his initials, what would you do if your parents named you “Benajah Harvey”?) was part of an exceptionally large family with 24 children (12 natural-born, 12 adopted) in a Baptist preacher’s home. He served as a Texas Ranger, and then as an infantryman in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. At 6’4” and 250 pounds, Carroll was an imposing figure. His lifelong long flowing beard added to his distinctive appearance.
He had become a skeptic during the war (after a false profession of faith and baptism as a youth), but was converted after the war’s end, and immediately sensed a call into the ministry. His sermon, “My infidelity and what became of it” is an oft-reprinted classic. After a couple of brief pastorates, he was called to First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, where he remained for 28 years. He also taught at Baylor University, where he served for many years as a trustee as well (he also served as a trustee of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky). He was active in all aspects of Southern Baptist Convention life and organizations.
After his resignation as pastor in 1899, Carroll founded what developed into Southwestern Seminary. He had during nearly the whole of his long pastorate been involved in training young men for the ministry. The seminary was merely the culmination of his efforts to provide the churches with an educated ministry.
During his lifetime, there was no more influential Southern Baptist pastor in Texas than Carroll, whose opinion was eagerly sought and whose word was accepted as virtually the “final word” in any controversy. No doubt today he is best known for his many books, especially his multi-volume An Interpretation of the English Bible which is the edited lecture notes for his famous 4-year course of study through the English Bible. Numerous topical books and books of sermons were also published (mostly after his death).
The chief reason Carroll is today know for his books much more than his deeds is the fact that many of his books have been more or less continuously in print since his death, while there was precious little--and that of a poor sort--published about his life. His brother, J. M. Carroll (famous for his pamphlet “The Trail of Blood”) and J. W. Crowder issued in 1946 the only previous book-length biography of B. H., viz., Dr. B. H. Carroll, Colossus of Baptist History. It was chiefly an anecdotal account, fulsome in its praise and somewhat “blind” to his faults, and on the whole not very satisfying. A decade ago, the situation was improved somewhat by James Spivey’s 22-page summary of Carroll’s life and views in Baptist Theologians, edited by Timothy George and David S. Dockery (reviewed by me in The Biblical Evangelist, July 1, 1992).
In theology (an area not dealt with in much detail in this book but to a fuller degree in Spivey’s chapter mentioned above), Carroll was a semi-Landmarker, moderate Calvinist, and in eschatology, post-millennial.
Lefever has produced a worthy volume (though not without its limitations). It is his doctoral dissertation from Southwestern Seminary revised. He had the advantages of access to both the church records of First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, as well as the archives of Southwestern Seminary, along with numerous dissertations and theses produced by students in the seminary. He has made good use of his sources, and has produced a readable, informative volume. I do wish more had been said about Carroll’s reading habits--what he read, especially--and about his family (the names and number of his children are no where given in full), and next to nothing is said about his wives (except for the first, whom he married when he was 18 and she 15; she was tried for adultery and found guilty, and a divorce granted when he was 20). Some survey of his writings, their nature, quality, etc. could have been included.
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD, edited by Peter Clayton and Martin Price. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1993. 176 pp, hardback.
I suppose that almost everyone has heard of the storied “seven wonders of the world” spoken of collectively, but most also (like myself before reading this little book) couldn’t name more than one or two, much less all seven, and are even less able to say anything about them.
The “seven wonders of the (pre-Roman) ancient world” are: the great pyramid at Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the colossus of Rhodes, the temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus, and the lighthouse at Alexandria. The notion of seven wonders dates back to antiquity, though just what monuments made up the list was rather fluid, until fixed in its present form in the Middle Ages.
The authors of the various chapters reconstruct the monuments (only the pyramid--by far the oldest--still exists) from ancient written descriptions and representations on coins and other artwork, along with the findings of modern archaeologists. The origin of each, the individuals responsible for its execution, along with an account of the fate of the monument are given.
Five of the seven have Biblical connections, some quite directly. Of course the Israelites in Egypt no doubt saw the pyramid, the Jews in Babylonian exile where familiar with the famous hanging gardens, the lighthouse at Alexandria was certainly a familiar sight to Apollos who was from Alexandria, the temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus was central in the events that transpired there in Acts 19, and when Paul and Luke stopped at Rhodes, Acts 21:1, the colossus was still extant though fallen into ruins. The book then, serves as general “background” for several Biblical narratives, in addition to its window into the ancient world.
DRAMA IN THE REAL LIVES OF MISSIONARIES, vol. I, by Clifford E. Clark. Milford, Ohio: John the Baptist Printing Ministry, n.d. 163 pp., paperback.
We reviewed the sequel to this volume a couple of months back, and just want to briefly mention this book. Like its companion volume, this contains brief biographical sketches of ten missionaries of the 20th century, most being Baptists associated with various groups (including WFBMF, BBFI, BIMI and WBF), though some outside the Baptists are also included. Among the accounts are those of missionary martyr John Birch (who had nothing whatsoever to do with the far right political organization which appropriated his honored name), founder of BBF missions Fred Donnelson, missionary extraordinaire Bob Hughes (BBF, Philippines), Rachel Saint (instrumental in reaching the Aucas, who murdered her brother Nate, Jim Elliot, and three others). These and the rest are all of particular note, having been used by God for the spread of the Gospel to those still in darkness. Informative, challenging, motivating. These are missionaries worth knowing about, and emulating.