"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 8, Number 12, December 2005

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

[“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.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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A Lamp-Lighter’s Legacy

 

“Coming one Thursday in the late autumn from an engagement beyond Dulwich, my way lay up to the top of the Herne Hill ridge.  I came along the level out of which rises the steep hill I had to ascend.  While I was on the lower ground, riding in a hansom cab, I saw a light before me, and when I came near the hill, I marked that light gradually go up the hill, leaving a train of stars behind it.  This line of new-born stars remained in the form of one [gas] lamp, and then another, and another.  It reached from the foot of the hill to its summit.  I did not see the lamplighter.  I do not know his name, nor his age, nor his residence; but I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way.  As I rode along I thought to myself, ‘How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life!  I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into the eternal brilliance above when my work is done.’  Will you, my brother, begin to light up some soul tonight?  Speak of Jesus to some person who knows him not.  Who can tell, but you may save a soul from death?  Then carry the flame to another, and to another.  Mark the years of your life by your continual diligence in spreading ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ “

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sermons in Candles, pp. 91-2

(Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint)

 

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The Sinlessness of Jesus: A Fundamental Doctrine

 

Introduction

 

When the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 declares that Jesus Christ did "take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin," that "he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it," and that he rendered "perfect obedience," [1] it is affirming what has been the universal credo of orthodox Christianity, namely, that the man Christ Jesus was absolutely free from any taint of sin, whether inherited or acquired by personal act.  The Thirty Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England affirm similarly, "CHRIST in the truth of our nature was made like us unto all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh and in his spirit." [2]  Indeed, so universal does this belief seem to have been that none of the early creeds of professing Christianity deemed it necessary to affirm Jesus' sinlessness, that doctrine never being seriously in dispute.[3]

           

It must be asked: what is the Biblical basis for this doctrine, and what are its logical implications?  It is the purpose of this paper to examine the biblical doctrine of the sinlessness of Jesus of Nazareth, and the consequences that naturally follow in its wake.

 

The Nature of Sin

           

Before we examine the sinlessness of Christ (and in contrast, the universal sinfulness of all the rest of mankind), it is proper that we answer the simple question: what, in fact, is sin?

           

The Bible itself defines and explains the nature of sin.  John says that "sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4) [4], that is, conduct unrestrained by any law (whether the written law of God or the unwritten rule of the law of conscience, Romans 2:12-15), in short, spiritual anarchy.  When we think of sin, we normally think of outward acts of sin: murder, adultery, theft, and such like.

           

Sin may also, however, involve words.  Jesus assures us that "men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every empty word" (Matthew 12:36), and of course there are two of the ten commands directed against evil words, the third, prohibiting the taking of God's name in vain, and the ninth, prohibiting false witness.

           

Not only is sin involved in the act of violation of the law, and evil words in violation of the law but it is also inherent in the motive or desire to violate that law.  In Jesus' exposition of the seventh commandment (Matthew 5:28), and John's exposition of the sixth commandment (I John 3:15), for example, the motive or desire to commit adultery or the hatred that can lead to murder is itself sin, even if it never bears fruit in overt sinful acts.  We are told that God will even one day judge men's hidden motives (1 Corinthians 4:5).

           

Sin, then is a violation of the law of God or the law of conscience (created by God in man), whether in act, word, or motive.  J. C. Ryle has summarized the nature of sin: "I say, furthermore, that 'a sin,' to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining, anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God." [5]  Jesus, it has been consistently affirmed in orthodox Christianity, was never guilt of any such violation of the law of God.

 

The Universal Fact of Human Sinfulness

           

The fact of universal human sinfulness and guilt is one of the most obvious doctrinal teachings of Scripture.  Both Testaments consistently affirm that Adam, and every son of Adam, is corrupted by sin. 

           

Of the generation of the Flood, it is baldly stated "And Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every formation of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all day long" (Genesis 6:5), and "the earth was ruined in God's sight, and it was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11). 

           

David testified that "Yahweh looked down from heaven upon the sons of Adam to see, 'Is there anyone who understands, who seeks God?'  They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt.  There is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:2-3).  Solomon twice added his assent to this universal indictment of mankind: "For there is no man who does not sin" (1 Kings 8:46); "For there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  The prophets Isaiah (59:1-13) and Jeremiah (17:5), among many others, could also be called to witness to the same universal human corruption.

           

Paul gives an elaborate indictment of all mankind in Romans, condemning by turns the debauched pagans (1:19-32), the "moral" pagans (2:1-16) and the law-possessing Jews (2:17-3:8), ending with a rising crescendo of hammer-blows against all of mankind as undeniably and inexcusably sinful and guilty in the sight of God (3:9-20), concluding: "every mouth is stopped and all the world has become accountable before God."  Indeed, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  The other New Testament writers concur in this declaration of universal human sinfulness and corruption.

 

The Sinlessness of Christ

           

In the midst of this vast ocean of foul, polluted humanity is one sparkling, pure drop, Jesus Christ, who radiates like a perfect diamond atop a pile of blackest coal.  The sinless perfection of Jesus is testified to directly and indirectly repeatedly in Scripture, in clear and completely unambiguous terms.

 

The Testimony of Christ's Enemies

Pilate

           

First, there is the testimony of his enemies, or at least those who are not his disciples or partisans.  Pontius Pilate, in his capacity as the "Supreme Court" in Judea in all matters pertaining to Roman law, three times declared 'I find no fault in him' (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).  Likewise, Pilate's wife, her sleep disturbed by a dream, came to her husband at the judgement hall and urged him to have nothing to do with "that righteous man" (Matthew 27:19). 

 

The Centurion

           

Then there is the declaration by the centurion, the man personally in charge of the actual crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves.  After witnessing the demeanor and words of Jesus on the cross as well as the accompanying three hours of darkness, he announced with certitude, "certainly, this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47; cf. Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39).

           

It could be argued, and with full justification, that these pagan Gentiles were not speaking to the matter of Jesus' sinlessness, but rather had in view the issue of his judicial, legal innocence as regards the charges brought against him by the Sanhedrin.  On this point at least, Jesus was guilty of no wrongdoing.

 

Judas

           

There is also the testimony of Judas.  When he returned the blood money to the temple in a futile attempt to assuage his guilt, he confessed, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4).  It is more difficult to state precisely what Judas meant by these words.  Was he asserting, like Pilate, the legal, judicial innocence of Jesus--that He was not worthy of any punishment under Jewish or Roman law--or was he declaring Jesus' sinlessness?  The case is not clear enough to decide with certainty.

 

The Repentant Thief

           

The repent thief, an "eleventh hour" convert to Jesus, rebuked his fellow-thief and co-sufferer for his harsh and bitter words toward Jesus (though he himself earlier had been guilty of the same, Matthew 27:44)--"We are justly [condemned], for we are getting the just deserts for the things we did, but this man did nothing improper" (Luke 23:41).  Again, it is not entirely clear whether the thief there testified to his belief in Jesus' judicial innocence, or that he spoke of Jesus' theological righteousness, though the fact that he contrasts his own guilt before the law of Rome with Jesus' conduct suggests that it was judicial innocence which he had in mind.

 

The Testimony of Christ's Friends

 

Peter

           

The disciples and followers of Jesus with one voice declared Jesus' righteousness and sinlessness.  Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, quoted Psalm 16:10 in which Jesus is described as God's "holy one" (Acts 2: 27); later, the disciples as a group, no doubt with Peter as the leader, in prayer to God, spoke of "your holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:27, 30), undoubtedly a reference to Isaiah 52:13-53;12 where the Messiah is expressly called "my righteous servant" (Isaiah 53:11).  Strictly speaking, it could be argued that the word "holy" (Greek agioV [hagios]) is sometimes used of prophets and others who are only relatively more righteous than most of mankind, but in no sense sinless (e.g., Mark 6:20; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21).  However, Peter's statements elsewhere confirm that the word "holy" was used by him of Jesus in an absolute sense.  In his first letter, Peter, in words dependent on Isaiah 53:9, says of Jesus: "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."(1 Peter 2:22).  Later in the same letter he writes of Jesus' substitutionary death as the righteous one dying for those who are unrighteous (3:18).  He had earlier likened the blood of Jesus to that of "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1:19).

 

Paul

           

Paul clearly states the sinlessness of Jesus, when he writes "God made Him [i.e. Jesus] who knew no sin, to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).  In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul declares that Jesus came from the seed of David according to the flesh, that is, in His humanity, but was powerfully designated the son of God "according to the spirit of holiness" (Greek kata pneuma agiwsunhV [kata pneuma hagiosunes]) by the resurrection from among the dead (Romans 1:3, 4).  The Greek phrase translated "spirit of holiness" is unique in the New Testament; furthermore, it is not found at all in the Septuagint.  It is not at all certain that it refers to the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, because the phrase stands in contrast to "according to the flesh," an unmistakable reference to Jesus' humanity, it evidently refers to Christ's divine nature, which was of course perfect in holiness.  Alford speaks with persuasive clarity on this point:

 

[Paul] characterizes the Spirit of Christ as one of absolute holiness, i. e. as divine and partaking of the Godhead. . . .And this Spirit is designated by the gen[itive] of quality, agiwsunhV [hagiosunes], to shew that it is not a human, but a divine Spirit which is attributed here to Christ,--a Spirit to which holiness belongs as its essence. The other interpretations certainly miss the mark, by overlooking the kata sarka [kata sarka] and kata pneuma [kata pneuma], the two sides of the Person of Christ here intended to be brought out. [6]

 

Robertson, citing Denney, concurs in this interpretation: "Not the Holy Spirit, but a description of Christ ethically as kata sarka [kata sarka] describes him physically."  Robertson adds that all three occurrences of agiwsunh [hagiosune] in the LXX are employed as an attribute of God [7]  Here, then, Paul again declares Christ's absolute holiness, and therefore sinlessness.

           

A similar contrast of Christ's "flesh" and "spirit" is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, where we read (literally) that "He who appeared in flesh was declared righteous in spirit," that is, that He who became man was found, on examination, to be guiltless in spirit.  Whether here there is a contrast between Christ's human body and His human spirit, or between His humanity and His Deity or even a reference to the Holy Spirit is not beyond dispute (in spite of his interpretation of the similar passage in Romans 1:3, 4, Alford understands the Spirit here to be the Holy Spirit [8]).  The contrast of flesh and spirit seems to rule out, as in Romans 1:3, 4, any reference to the Holy Spirit.  It is largely immaterial whether the spirit is Christ's human spirit or His divine nature, in as much as the holiness of the one necessarily requires the holiness of the other, since Christ is one theanthropic person. 

 

Fairbairn, however, seems to have caught the true essence of the text:

 

For the question naturally presents itself--What spirit?  Is it the Holy Spirit?  Or, the spirit in Christ's person, viewed as a kind of antithesis to His flesh? . . But as the whole discourse here is of Christ Himself, in His personal properties and marvellous history, the most natural light in which to view spirit must be to understand it of Christ's spiritual nature, the seat of His divine life; and, as such, the counterpart of the flesh mentioned in the immediately preceding clause, which together made up His appearance and life among men.  It is of that, also, we can best understand the justifying, which must be taken here, as elsewhere in St. Paul's writings, in the sense of judged or approved as righteous.  Christ was thus justified in spirit, because in His career on earth, from first to last, He fulfilled all righteousness, and once and again was proclaimed to be the Father's beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased.  There is, when so explained, both a contrast and a correspondence in the two predicates: manifest in flesh, justified in spirit;--flesh and spirit natural opposites, but the manifesting in the one corresponding to the justifying in the other; that indicating His real humanity, this His true holiness; on the one side actual manhood, on the other spiritual perfection. [9]

 

 

 

 

John

           

For his part, the Apostle John is not remiss in affirming the sinlessness of Jesus.  In his first letter, he writes of "Jesus Christ the righteous" (2:1) and declares that "in Him [i.e., Jesus] there is no sin" (3:5).

 

Hebrews

           

The writer of Hebrew adds his testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus.  In describing Jesus our great high priest, we are told, "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but rather one who has been tempted in the same manner in every respect, without sinning" (Hebrew 4:15). [10]  "Such a high priest was suitable for us who was holy, guiltless, uncontaminated, separated from sinners, and who has been exalted above the heavens, who has no need to daily offer, as the high priests did, first sacrifices for their own sins and then for [the sins of] the people (Hebrews 7:26, 27)."

 

Gabriel

           

We have, besides the testimony of the apostles and disciples, an angelic affirmation.  When Gabriel informed Mary of the coming birth of the Messiah, he told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest One will overshadow you.  Therefore, the holy [child] [11] born shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

 

Jesus' Own Testimony

           

Of utmost importance is the claim of Jesus Himself concerning His own sinlessness.  He bore witness to it by both His actions and His deeds.  First, though He repeatedly commanded others to repent (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3, 5; and many other places), we never find him repenting, or recognizing in Himself the least need to repent.  And though He taught His disciples to confess their sins in prayer to God (Matthew 6:12), we never find in any of His prayers recorded in the Gospels the least hint of any such confession.  In such a circumstance, either Jesus was the most hypocritical of teachers, commanding others to do what He Himself refused to do, or He in fact had no sin to repent of or confess.

           

Jesus proclaimed in the hearing of His worst enemies that He always did those things which pleased His Father in heaven (John 8:29).  He even added a direct challenge to them: "Who of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:44).  Either this is the most brazen kind of chutzpah, spoken by a man as guilty and sinful as anyone else--and really worse because he refused to acknowledge that he was a sinner, aggravating his guilt--or it was an absolutely true affirmation.  By their deafening silence and refusal to take Him up on His challenge, His enemies de facto acquiesced in Jesus' claim of sinless perfection.

           

On the night of the betrayal, in the upper room, Jesus told the disciples, "The ruler of the world is coming and he has nothing in me" (John 14:30), which A. H. Strong explains as Jesus saying that there is "not the slightest evil inclination upon which his temptations can lay hold." [12]  Satan had utterly failed in his earlier temptation of Jesus, and he would utterly fail again.

           

Some hyper-critical enemies of Christ and the Bible have sought to find fault either in the attitude or actions of Jesus.  James Stalker lists some of the supposed lapses in Jesus' obedience to the Father (e.g., giving way to a 'fit of temper' in the cursing of the barren fig tree, the destruction of the property of others by casting the demons into the herd of swine, etc.).  He then comments that these objections "have been answered so often that it may be scarcely necessary to answer them again." [13]

 

Summary

           

The uniform declaration of the New Testament, in the testimony of Jesus' enemies, that of His friends, that of an angel, and that of His own words and actions is that Jesus of Nazareth, alone of all of mankind, was absolutely and perfectly free from the least taint of sin, whether in action, word, thought  or motive.  How can we account for such a thing?

 

Implications

           

The implications of the sinlessness of Jesus are at least three-fold.  First, the relationship of Jesus to Adam is different from that of the rest of mankind.  It is the evident teaching of the New Testament that the sin nature which we all possess is inherited by children from their father (Romans 5:12), and ultimately generation by generation from our first father, Adam.  Adam brought sin into the world and transmitted that sin to all his descendants.  Jesus had no sin nature, and therefore He must not have had a human father.  This is the logical implication of His sinlessness.  Of course, this goes hand in glove with the Biblical teaching of the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, a virgin.

           

Second, the sinlessness of Jesus must in some way be essential to His work of redemption.  The connection is manifest: if He is "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), then He must be sinless Himself.  If He is to "bear our sins in His body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), then He could have no sins of His own to bear.  He was able to become "sin for us" because "He knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As the virginal conception was essential to the sinlessness of Jesus, so His sinlessness was a necessary pre-requisite to Jesus' substitutionary atonement and vicarious suffering for us.

           

Third, in as much as all mere men can and will and do sin when given the opportunity, Jesus, who when assailed by Satanic temptations nevertheless did not sin, must necessarily be other than or more than a "mere man."  In short, the sinlessness of Jesus leads us to the conclusion that He was in fact God.  He truly is a man, as the Scriptures affirm (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:5), but not only a man.  As early as Tertullian (ca. A.D. 200), the connection of Jesus' sinlessness and His Deity was recognized.  In his "Treatise on the Soul," he wrote, "For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God." [14]  Philip Schaff also affirmed this important implication of Christ's sinlessness, in the very title he gave to a book on the subject: The Person of Christ: His Perfect Humanity a Proof of His Divinity.

 

Conclusion

           

The historic doctrine of professing Christianity concerning Jesus Christ is that He was perfect in His obedience to the will of God, that He always did those things which pleased His Father, and that He was perfectly free from the least taint or spot of sin, in stark contrast to the otherwise universal sinfulness of mankind.  The Bible gives abundant and plain support for this doctrine, in what may seem to be a surprisingly large number of passages.  The very number of affirmations of Christ's sinlessness is suggestive that this doctrine is of great importance, and indeed it is.  The perfection of Jesus is directly tied to His miraculous birth, as well as to His Deity.  Of utmost importance to us as sinners is that His sinlessness qualifies Him to be our substitute, to bear our sins in His body on the cross, to take our place and endure our just punishment for our sins.  Because He was perfect in obedience to God, He can be a perfect sin-bearer for us.

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Footnotes

 

[1] Chapter 8, sections 2, 4, 5, as printed in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. III, pp., 619, 620, 621; emphasis added.

 

[2] Article XV, in part, as printed in The Book of Common Prayer, p. 605.

 

[3] See Schaff, vol. I, for the text of numerous early creeds and confessions from the first 5 centuries after Christ and beyond.

 

[4] All English Scripture quotations are my own translation.

 

[5] Holiness, p. 2.

 

[6] Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, vol. II, p. 313.  Italics in original.

 

[7] Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. IV, p. 324.  Hatch and Redpath actually list 4 occurrences of agiwsunh in the LXX, all of which, however, are used to express a Divine attribute (p. 15).

 

[8] Vol. III, p. 334.

 

[9] Patrick Fairbairn, Pastoral Epistles, pp. 164, 165.  H. P. Liddon, St. Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, p. 38, understands "spirit" as a reference to Christ's divine nature.

 

[10] Though it is a closely related subject, an examination of the temptations of Christ and the question of whether he was "not able to sin" (non posse peccare) or "able not to sin" (posse non peccare) would take us too far afield.  For our present purposes, it is only important that he did not sin.

 

[11] Not "holy thing" as in the KJV.  Since the neuter to gennwmenon agion [to gennomenon hagion] is used, it probably presupposes either paidion [paidion] or teknon [teknon], both common words in Greek for child (the former is used of the infant Jesus in Matthew 2:11).

 

[12] Systematic Theology, p. 677.

 

[13] "Sinlessness," Dictionary of the New Testament: Christ and the Gospels, vol. II, p. 638.

 

[14] The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. III, p. 221.

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Bibliography

 

[anonymous], The Book of Common Prayer.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1928.

 

Abbott-Smith, G., A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament.  Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1937.  Third edition.

 

Alford, Henry, The Greek Testament, 4 vols.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1958 reprint.

 

Arnt, William F., and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.  Second edition.

 

Fairbairn, Patrick, Pastoral Epistles.  Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1976 reprint.

 

Hastings, James, ed., Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, 2 vols.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973 reprint.  S.v. "Sinlessness."

 

Hatch, Edwin, and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint, 3 vols. bound in two.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 reprint.

 

Hodges, Zane C., and Arthur L. Farstad, edd., The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.  Second edition.

 

Liddon, H. P., Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul's First Epistle to Timothy.  Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978 reprint.

 

Moulton, W. F., and A. S. Geden, edd., A Concordance to the Greek Testament.  Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.  Second edition.

 

Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson, edd., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978 reprint.

 

Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols.  Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931.

 

Ryle, J. C., Holiness.  London: James Clarke & Co., 1952.

 

Schaff, Philip, The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983 reprint of 1931 Harper & Row edition.

 

__________, The Person of Christ: His Perfect Humanity a Proof of His Divinity.  New York: George H. Doran Co., 1913.  Revised edition.

 

Strong, Augustus Hopkins, Systematic Theology.  Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1907

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Dean John W. Burgon Not “Textus Receptus” Only

 

“A standard of reference being absolutely necessary, I have kept before me a copy of Dr. Scrivener’s Cambridge Greek Testament, A.D. 1887, in which the disputed passages are printed in black type, although the Text there presented is the Textus Receptus from which the Traditional Text as revised by Dean Burgon and hereafter to be published differs in many passages.”

Edward Miller in

The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels

 by John Burgon (edited by  Edward Miller)

Collingswood, NJ: The Dean Burgon Society Press, 1998

 pp. 95-96.  Italics added

 

Edward Miller was a long-time assistant to Dean Burgon (1813-1888) and to him fell the task of conserving and publishing much of Burgon’s research into the text of the New Testament.  Miller, then, knew intimately and in detail what Burgon wrote and believed.

 

From the above quote, it is manifestly evident that the much-venerated and praised Dean Burgon was no adherent of the modern doctrinal innovation called “verbal plenary preservation,” the neophyte teaching that imagines the necessity of infallible preservation of the Scriptures in both the copying and translation process, and which applies this doctrinal innovation to the “textus receptus” (an ill-defined term in its advocates’ writings) and by extension to the King James Version in English (though again on this point they are often quite hazy in regard to specifics).

 

We have quoted Burgon before on this matter (see the extensive series of quotations in "As I See It," vol. 1, no. 6, June, 1998), of which we will only note a few (all taken from Burgon’s The Revision Revised [London: John Murray, 1883])--

 

"Once for all, we request it may be clearly understood that we do not, by any means, claim perfection for the Received Text.  We entertain no extravagant notions on this subject.  Again and again we shall have occasion to point out (e.g. at page 107) that the textus receptus needs correction." (p. 21, footnote 2)

 

". . .[I]n not a few particulars, the 'Textus receptus' does call for Revision, certainly;" (p. 107).

 

". . . That by a perpetual miracle, Sacred Manuscripts would be protected all down the ages against depraving influences of whatever sort,--was not to have been expected; certainly, was never promised." (p. 335)

 

"--we hold that a revised edition of the Authorized Version of our English Bible, (if executed with consummate ability and learning,) would at any time be a work of inestimable value." (p. 114).

 

Those who fly under the banner of “The Dean Burgon Society”--which reprints Burgon’s published writing--yet who hold doctrines blatantly at odds with what the learned dean actually believed, are flying under false colors, and are in fact engaging in deliberate deception by invoking his name in propagating their doctrinal errors, as though he in any wise agreed with them.

 

Honesty and integrity should compel honorable men to cease and desist.

---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEW

 

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles.  London: William Heinemann, 2003.  245 pp., hardback.  14.99 British pounds.

 

Matthew Battles is a rare-books librarian in the Houghton Library at Harvard University (the largest university library in the world with holdings of some 14 million books), and writes from long experience with and abundant love for books.

 

Libraries have been man’s way of conserving and preserving information in a form that will extend beyond the mental or mortal reach of a single lifetime, and of accumulating the knowledge of generations.  Knowledge is a precious commodity.  Battles touches on the libraries of the ancients, whether written on clay (as Asshurbanipal’s 8th century Assyrian library), bamboo (so with the Chinese), leather or papyrus (as with the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans) or the later paper.  All the great ancient libraries, in Nineveh, Alexandria, Rome, Pergamum, among the caliphs of the Arab period, and elsewhere, are scattered and long-perished.  Such will be, someday, the fate of today’s immense collections in the Library of Congress, the British Library, Harvard, and elsewhere.  This is most painful to imagine.  Nevertheless, the effort to preserve will ultimately and always end in failure.

 

Of course, the decay of time and neglect and the destruction by fire and flood are not the book’s only enemies.  The deliberate destruction by man is a greater hazard--the Nazis, by way of example, burned 100 million books in their dozen years in power.  The communists and the Catholic Church have also done their share of book burning and banning, to mention only two others.

 

 Unless a library aims at being exhaustive and universal (an utterly futile aim, especially as the torrent of printed matter in recent years has grown to overwhelming levels), it must be selective and exclusive, that is, value judgments expressed or implied, must be made about what to include and what to exclude.  And then there is the nightmarish matter of cataloguing books so that they can actually be located on the shelves.  A small library needs little organization; the bigger the collection, the more imperative a functional classification system.  Without such, a library’s holdings might as well be sold off as scrap paper, for all the use they won’t get.

 

One of the mysteries of the library is that the more one reads, the more aware he becomes of his own ignorance and the vast number of books he will in fact never be able to read, and the vast amount of information he will never acquire.  The faster one reads, the more quickly “knowledge” recedes into the distance.  In short, as one’s knowledge increases arithmetically by reading, one’s realized ignorance increases exponentially.  The more doggedly you race after the goal, the more rapidly it disappears from your grasp. 

 

Nevertheless, the lover of knowledge and the lover of books will pursue without remission his never-ending quest for information.

---Doug Kutilek

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