"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 8, Number 1, January 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.”
[“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/aisi/aisi_archives.htm
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.]
“And the People Had a Heart to Work”
Ordinarily, in the States, when a Baptist church undertakes a construction project, large or small, professionals are hired to build the building, re-roof the auditorium, lay the brick, pave the parking lot or pour the sidewalk. Not so in Romania. Rather, because funds are insufficient to hire the work done, and nothing beyond materials can be purchased, the work detail consists of men from the church (and sometimes woman also, though usually their part in the labors involves preparing lunch for the men). These volunteers set themselves to accomplish the task at hand. Most Baptist church buildings in Romania are a combination of purchased materials and sweat equity, with occasional labor by hired technicians--electricians, glazers, and the like.
Recently, I witnessed a modest-sized construction project at a church in southern Romania. The sidewalk along the west side of the building, essential to reaching three of the four entrances (to the auditorium, church office, choir and sound room, and front balcony), was badly deteriorated. It had become merely a collection of broken and very uneven fragments and had settled, preventing essential drainage of rainwater away from the structure. It had to come out and be replaced.
A work crew of some dozen or so men of the church set themselves to the task. The old concrete was broken out with sledgehammers and picks, and piled aside. This took a couple of workdays (I witnessed only a bit of this part of the job). Then a base of crushed rock was laid down and leveled.
The concrete forms were set up. Rather than standard dimension lumber, the forms were really sawmill ends and pieces made to work. All was ready for the making of the concrete.
Now the entertainment began (this I witnessed myself). Two dilapidated old drum mixers had been secured, neither of which inspired confidence in the observer. A large mound of half river gravel, half sand (gray sand, not the common tan stuff seen in the States) was at the ready. Sacks of Portland cement were wheeled from dry storage.
The crew, now numbering eleven, consisted of one man probably in his 30s, one or two in their 40s, several in their 50s and 60s and at least one 70-plus. Some were otherwise unemployed, some were pensioners. And among these eleven, there seemed to be at least twelve different opinions about how to go about mixing the cement. Where to place and how to position the mixers--“Shouldn’t it face this way?” “No, that way.” How much mortar, sand, gravel and water to add for each batch. “More sand.” “No, more gravel.” “Less water.” “It needs more mortar.” “Is it mixed enough yet?” “A little longer.”
A couple of laborers expressed their respective opinions with such enthusiasm and animation that the inexperienced observer might suppose that they must soon come to blows, but of course, it was just a healthy airing of divergent views. Somehow, the mixing began, and soon developed into a routine.
First one formed-up square then another and another were filled with concrete mix, a third of a yard at a time more or less, then leveled and smoothed.
Meanwhile, the mound of old broken concrete 15 meters away disappeared wagon load by wagon load. A horse-drawn wagon, pulled by a nearly-matched team of healthy mares was backed through the gate next to the pile. This wagon, on well-used car tires (which, in spite of their condition of advanced wear managed to hold air), was about 4 meters long, 2/3s of a meter wide and half a meter high, having a flat-bottomed V shape. Numerous hands (this writer’s included) soon filled the wagon with what must surely have been a full ton and more of various sized and shaped fragments. Quickly out the gate went the horses, driver, passenger and wagon.
The first load or two was pulled up a nearby dirt road with a substantial slope half a kilometer long to a house where the material would be put to good use. Quickly unloaded, the wagon was soon back for more. A second load and a third were piled in and carried away. In all probably seven or eight would be necessary to finish this part of the job.
Men laboring on removing the old and creating the new, not for money but for God’s glory. The last I saw, just after the sun had set and darkness was quickly gathering, the task was well in hand. Another day or at most two, with suitable rain-free weather, and the job would be done, and done well. Come Sunday, the church will be better served, and God glorified. “Because the people had a heart to work.”
The First Greek and Hebrew Testaments Printed in America
My article, Historic American Bibles in AISI 7:12, December 2004, inspired one reader to write me about the first Greek New Testament printed in America, of which he happened to own a copy. I hadn't thought to include Greek or Hebrew Bibles in my article on "firsts" but will pursue those subjects here for the sake of completeness.
I checked the standard source for such information, T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, compilers, Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Two volumes in four parts. (London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1903-1911). Darlow and Moule had this to say about the first Greek NT printed in America (vol. 2, part 2, p. 637)--
"He Kaine Diatheke. Novum Testamentum. Juxta exemplar Joanis Millii accuratissime impressum. Editio prima Americana. Execudebat Isaias Thomas, Jun.: Wigorniae, Massachusetts. 1800. Duodecimo.” This information taken from the title page, being mostly in Latin after the opening Greek title, interpreted means “The New Testament: according to the edition of John Mill, most accurately printed. First American edition. Printed by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. Worcester, Massachusetts.” Thomas wrote the famous work on the history of printing in America which we cited in the previous issue.
Darlow and Moule go on to describe this edition--
“The earliest Greek New Testament Printed in America. Edited by Caleb
Alexander and printed by Isaiah Thomas, Jun. of Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Worcester Press produced some of the early American editions of the
English Bible. 'The earlier immigrants chiefly brought editions [of the Greek Testament] produced in Antwerp, Leyden, Geneva, and Lyons, with a sprinkling from presses along the Rhine, and some of Paris make; but just before and after the American Revolution, more copies came from England and Scotland.'
The book is printed in the main from some such edition as Bowyer's Testament of 1794; but the editor has departed from Mill's text in several instances.
For a full description of this and subsequent American editions see I. H.
Hall's American Greek Testaments. . .(Philadelphia, 1883)."
John Mill's Greek NT mentioned here was printed in 1707, and was in turn a close reprint in its text of Stephanus' 1550 edition, but with a very extensive apparatus of variant readings added by Mill from his own examination and that of others of manuscripts, versions and church fathers. The inclusion of these lists of manuscript variants proved highly controversial and Mill, who died shortly after his edition appeared, was harshly condemned by some. Dean Burgon used an edition of Mill for his collations of authorities in the 19th century, “as the most convenient standard of comparison; not, surely, as the absolute standard of excellence." (The Revision Revised, pp. xviii-xix, preface).
Though I have no evidence either way on the matter, I suspect that this first American Greek NT, being quite small in size, had no digest of variant readings at the foot of the page (such a “critical apparatus” as it is called, is always a very complex and difficult thing to set up in type, and would likely be omitted to save costs and trouble). At any rate, this first American edition of the Greek NT was not highly influential historically, being but one among hundreds of common editions (something over 2000 separate editions of the Greek New Testament have been printed).
The first Hebrew Old Testament to be printed in America was issued in 1814 in two volumes, at Philadelphia. Darlow and Moule (vol. 2, part 2, p. 724) list it as--
“. . .Biblia Hebraica. . .recensita variisque notis latinis illustrata ab Everardo van de Hooght. . .Editio prima Americana, sine punctis Masorethicis. Typis Gulielmi Fry; Thomas Dobson: Philadelphia. 1814. 2 vols.”
They briefly describe this edition as “The first Hebrew Bible printed in America. A reprint of Van der Hooght’s text. Without vowel points or accents.” Van der Hooght’s text was a 1705 Dutch printing of the common Masoretic text used in Europe in the post-Reformation era (see Darlow and Moule, vol. 2, part 2, p. 717), which was in turn often reprinted.
An edition of the Hebrew OT without vowel points or accents would have been of very small use to any but advanced Hebraists, and we should not be surprised if this edition was not widely used or influential. Darlow and Moule inform us that another edition of Van der Hooght’s text, likewise printed in 1814 and in 2 volumes, was issued in London, but with vowel points and accents, and with a Hebrew-Latin lexicon in the back of volume 2. Such an edition would be much more useful than the American one. I happen to have a copy of volume 2 of this London printing in my library.
Some Advice on Doing a Word Study in the Bible
One important part of Bible study, whether for teaching, preaching, writing or simply one’s own instruction and edification, is to examine the meaning and significance of various Biblical terms and words. Learning the meaning of “Great words of the Gospel” through a sermon series or private investigation has been a blessing to many. By all means, we need to learn what the Bible means by the terms it uses. But just haphazard, “any-old-which-way” word study can be unprofitable or even deceptive if certain inherent dangers in the practice are not observed.
First, it must be recognized: the words of Scripture are not inspired as separate, independent units, but as part of phrases, clauses, sentences, (and more largely paragraphs, chapters and books). It is always unsound and unsafe to interpret a word in isolation from its context. As an example, consider the English word “lead.” If I ask you, “What does it mean?” a little reflection will compel you to say, “I can’t tell; I need some context. I need to see how it is used.” Indeed, without context, it is impossible to tell whether these four letters are a verb, noun or adjective, and if a verb, whether it is indicative, subjunctive, imperative or infinitive, or which person and number. In truth, you cannot even tell how “lead” is to be pronounced without knowing the words surrounding it. It has no certain meaning as an isolated unit. It may be a verb: present tense indicative for all persons and numbers except 3rd singular; or imperative, “lead!”; or infinitive “to lead”; or subjunctive use as in “he may lead us astray”; or even as part of the future “he will lead” (in both subjunctive and future, “lead” is also technically an infinitive). Or it may be an adjective, as in “the lead dog” or as an adjective turned noun, simply, “the lead” (i.e., leader) or the position at the front (“he has the lead”). Or even, as written, a noun, the element “lead” (symbol Pb), used for weights, batteries and bullets. So, when someone asks, “what does “lead” mean?” our reply is--“we must have some context.” So it is with words in Scripture.
With this caveat in hand, let us go on to another: the meaning of a word is NEVER determined by its etymology. Etymology is, of course, the “history” behind the word, the root(s) or form(s) or word(s) from which it developed historically (good dictionaries, such as the OED and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary will include an analysis of an English word’s etymology, if it is know, at the beginning of each entry). The reason etymology is not a safe guide to meaning is that word meanings very often change over time; etymologies don’t, so there may be a massive “disconnect” between a word’s etymology and its current usage and meaning.
Let us consider the word “alphabet.” This term today for us means the 26 letters used to write English, our “ABCs.” This word comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, namely, “alpha” and “beta,” and it was from the Greek alphabet that the Roman alphabet developed, and the English from the Roman. But there is more to the story than that. The Greeks in turn borrowed the names of these first two letters, as well as the letters themselves and the rest of the alphabet, from the Phoenicians in perhaps the 9th or 8th century BC (the final “a” in many Greek letters is an old Phoenician accusative case-ending which later disappeared in Phoenician). The Phoenician names of the letters are derived from the originally pictographic nature of their system of writing, ”alpha” (= Hebrew “aleph”) and “beta” (= Hebrew “bet”) meaning “ox” and “house” respectively. Therefore to equate the meaning of the English word “alphabet” with its etymology, it would have to be assumed that one discussing the origin of the “alphabet” was really speaking of the invention of cattle barns, not letters/characters used in writing!
A word’s etymology may agree with actual meaning, or may serve as an illustration of its development, but very often a word’s etymology does not correspond with its actual meaning, and in fact may be highly misleading. Consider “asbestos.” This perfectly good Greek word (it occurs in the Greek NT), directly borrowed into English as the name of a fibrous mineral, means literally “not extinguishable,” that is, something that burns interminably, as the fires of Hell (Mark 9:43). However, the mineral asbestos, rather than burning without end, does not burn at all. Its meaning and nature is diametrically opposed to its etymology.
It is common for expositors and preachers to misapply etymology as though this were the key to a word’s meaning. For example, the word commonly rendered “church” is ekklesia, which, we are confidently, and correctly, told comes from the preposition ek, “out of, from” and the verb kaleo, “to call,” and therefore the word etymologically indicates “that which is called out, the called out thing.” While etymologically, ekklesia may be connected to the notion of “calling out” (as in calling out saints from the world, etc.), as far as actual meaning, this is almost if not entirely absent from its NT meaning. Rather than being something “called out,” the focus is on the assembling or congregating aspect of the word. Indeed, sometimes the notion of being “called out” or summoned is demonstrably alien from the word’s usage. Three times in Acts 19, the spontaneous town riot in Ephesus is called an ekklesia, even though it precipitated without summons. A NT ekklesia is a group, congregation, aggregation, collection, meeting of members or components. The etymological notion of being “called out” is not the emphasis in the NT, and should not be in our teaching or understanding of the word.
Huperetes, a fairly common word in the NT, often rendered “officer” or “minister” (in the sense of servant) is apparently derived from words meaning “under” and rower,” with the mental image presented of a galley slave, on a lower deck--and therefore the first and most likely to drown--chained to the oars in a Greek or Roman war vessel (think Charleton Hesston in “Ben-Hur”). And while there are some few examples of the literal usage of this word outside the NT before the time of Christ (see the classical Greek lexicon of Liddell and Scott), nowhere in the NT usage of the word is there the least hint of the abject servitude or bondage that the etymology would suggest. The word means assistant, helper, even “junior officer,” certainly not “slave” (there are other Greek words in the NT used for that). To refer to Paul and Apollos as God’s “galley slaves” (I Corinthians 4:1) as one famous radio preacher does, is to badly distort and misrepresent what the NT teaches in that passage.
One defective translation common to most Bibles in European languages is based on a misguided use of etymology. The NT Greek word monogenes was translated in the Old Latin version (2nd/3rd century A.D.) and all Syriac versions by words meaning “sole, only, unique.” And, interestingly enough, this translation corresponds with the etymology of the word. Monogenes comes from monos, “only, sole” and genos, “kind, type,” giving the word a literal meaning of “one-of-a-kind, unique” which is what it does in fact mean in all nine places where it occurs in the NT.
However, a 4th century church father, Gregory of Nazianzus, sought to expound on the significance of this word based on its etymology, but based his analysis on a false etymology. He assumed that the latter part of monogenes came from gennao, “to beget, procreate” and hence explained this word, which is used of Christ 5 times in the NT, as meaning “only-begotten” rather than the correct “unique.” Gregory’s lectures on the subject influenced Jerome, and so when he revised the Old Latin to make his Vulgate version, he altered in six places the Old Latin’s correct “unicus” (“unique”) into the mistaken “unigenitus” from whence we in English get “only begotten.” The Greek word has nothing at all to do with “begetting.” It means, both in etymology and usage, “unique, one of a kind, only.” Here the error of depending on the etymology for meaning was aggravated by the second error of getting the etymology wrong (for a detailed treatment of this word, see my “An Inductive Study of the Use of Monogenes in the New Testament,” As I See It, 6:7).
A second grave error in expounding and explaining NT words is to go to a standard dictionary, maybe of the English word, maybe of the Greek (or Hebrew) word, then to take each and every possible meaning of the word and apply it to the passage in question, even if there are 4 or 5, even 7 or 8 meanings given. Such a practice ignores a most basic assumption of all language, whether written or spoken: most of the time, a word can have only one meaning in a given context, otherwise communication would be almost impossible. Would it not be absurd if a man, upon hearing his neighbor call out “Here, King!” and seeing his 85-pound dog come running with his tail wagging, to assume, all at the same time, that the dog is the neighbor’s actual male monarch, a chess piece (albeit rather large), a double-stacked playing piece for a game of checkers, a playing card from a standard deck, and a “sexually mature male termite” [look it up!], besides being the dog’s name? Sure, double or triple entendres are standard fare in comedy routines (as in the old exchange: “The masses are revolting.” “They certainly are!”) but overwhelmingly writers and readers attach only one meaning to a given word in a given context. Therefore, the proper procedure is not to try and apply every possible meaning to a word in a given context, but to find out which one of the possible meanings fits here.
Consider here the NT word mathetes, “disciple,” which has at least three different senses: 1) a mere interested adherent with no evident conversion (John 6:60); 2) a mere convert, as yet untrained (John 4:1); and, 3) the disciple who is both converted and trained (Luke 6:40). Such a distinction in meanings must be observed if we are rightly to interpret the Scriptures. (In Matthew 28:19, where a related verb, matheteusate, occurs, it is generally assumed that this involves making a disciple of he 2nd sort above, while it is most assuredly the 3rd meaning that is intended).
To determine the range of usage a Biblical word, I think it always worthwhile to consult a concordance, particularly a Hebrew concordance for the OT and a Greek one for the NT. Such tools are actually within the reach of one who knows, for now, no Greek or Hebrew. The New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance and The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance (a.k.a. The Word Study Concordance) are reworkings of 19th century tools. In each, a listing of passages, with at least a phrase of context, is given for each Hebrew word in the OT and Greek word in the NT (in the respective Hebrew and Greek alphabetic orders), but giving the word and phrase as it appears in the common English translation. These concordances in their modern upgrades are keyed to Strong’s concordance of the English Bible, so if the reader can look up an English word in Strong’s and find its number, he can use these two tools. One small caveat--no Bible translation is a perfect guide to the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, therefore these concordances serve as general guides to usage, not infallible ones. (Of course, there are strictly Greek-only, and Hebrew-only Biblical concordances; the student who is able to use such should certainly do so).
Naturally enough, the student should check the opinions of experts--dictionaries of English (such as those mentioned above), dictionaries and lexicons of Greek (Thayer’s, Abbott-Smith, Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, Vine--the latter useful to the English-only student,-- but not the dictionary in Strong’s concordance) and Hebrew (Brown-Driver-Briggs, Koehler-Baumgartner, Holladay, Harris-Archer-Waltke) to see how experts classify and define the usage of Biblical words. Some editions of some of these are keyed to Strong’s, but not all, and not the most recent of them. It would be more than worth the student’s while to learn the Greek alphabet, and the Hebrew alphabet and vowel points, so he can at least pronounce the Biblical words and consult these more advanced study tools. Either alphabet can be learned in an hour or two, if the student is motivated to do so.
The consulter of dictionaries, even technical lexicons of Greek and Hebrew, must recognize that such tools, though compiled by specialists, merely classify usage as the specialist understands it. Occasionally the expert will be mistaken, or there will be disagreements among the experts. Such is life. But it can also be assumed that for the most part, the writer of such dictionaries knows a whole lot more about the subject than the neophyte Bible student. Dissent with caution.
And then be cautious of “popularizers”--men who seek to astonish and amaze the reader with the ‘undiscovered riches’ in the original Hebrew or Greek which they somehow have managed to unearth. Among the most popular of these is the late Kenneth Wuest, in his Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. To be brief, I will simply say that he is remarkably unreliable. So frequently is Wuest plainly wrong that I recommend that the reader accept no explanation of word meanings or Greek grammar put forth by Wuest unless it is expressly confirmed by some genuine Greek scholar. Indeed, I recommend that the student not consult Wuest at all, lest he be led astray.
A great deal more could be said--sometimes two different Biblical writers will use the same word in clearly differing senses, or one will use a word repeatedly and another not at all though both discuss the same subject (e.g., John uses monogenes of Jesus five times; Paul never does, though he does use two synonyms, which John never uses). Sometimes a Biblical writer will use the same word in clearly distinct senses, even in the same sentence or paragraph. In short, the student of Biblical words has to give careful attention to details.
Beyond this, the study of synonyms and antonyms can shed light on a Bible word, as can the study of how ancient translations (Greek OT, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic, etc.) or modern foreign language versions render a word. And for the NT, how does the Septuagint translation use particular Greek words (it is commonly acknowledged that the Septuagint set the pattern for the theological vocabulary of the Greek NT)? And reaching out yet further, how is the word used in secular Greek of the first century, in classical Greek, in Jewish literature in Greek, in the church fathers of the first four centuries? The specialist will follow all theses avenues of investigation. The student may wish to pursue them as far as he is able.
In short--the question is each case to answer is: how was a word intended to be understood by its Biblical author and how was it understood by its readers? In a word: the mutually accepted meaning and usage of words shared by writers and readers of the first century is what we seek to know. It is this which determines meaning, not etymology, or what some dictionary may say. And so, it is usage that must be examined, studied, analyzed and classified.
The Scourge that is the European Economic Union
I deliberately refrain from speculating about any possible relationship between the European Economic Union (formerly called the “Common Market”) and the ten toes of Daniel’s image (Daniel 2: 41-42). In short, I make no attempt at prognosticating what the EU might become in the future. However, this does not prevent me from describing what it is in the present hour. And among other things, the EU is one massive, intrusive, bloated and meddling bureaucracy.
Romania is one among several countries of the former Soviet-dominated eastern bloc that is seeking entrance into the EU. But before that can happen, Romania must “jump through the hoops” set up by the EU. And not a few of those hoops are absolutely absurd.
First, gasoline, which is the lifeblood of any economy, formerly sold in Romania for roughly 10-30% more than comparable prices in the States (when our gas was about $1.50 a gallon, in Romania, it was somewhere around $1.80). But the EU, whose member nations have notoriously high gas prices ($5 to $6 and up are common), would not tolerate a nation selling gas for less than half the price of the other nations. Consequently, Romania was forced by EU regulators to raise its gas prices so that now it sells for about $4 per gallon, double that in the U.S. And a quart/liter of motor oil, which in the States can be bought for $1.50-2.00 costs $4.50 to $5.00 or more. And this in a country where the average pay is about $150 per month (net, I believe, after an income tax of about 50% is extracted. Retail goods have an additional 19% VAT--value added tax--imposed on them. Nice, eh?).
Now, there was no sudden spike in the actual cost of the fuel that created this massive increase in Romanian fuel prices. It must be kept in mind that the difference between American and European oil and gasoline prices is not caused by problems of supply and demand, or bottlenecks in distribution, or by greedy oil companies extracting obscene profits from the helpless public, whom they have “over a barrel,” so to speak. The price of crude oil is an international price set by world demand, so it costs European nations exactly the same as American companies. Refined gasoline is a world commodity and so there is no price difference between Europe and America--if it wholesales for $1.40 here, it wholesales for $1.40 there. 100% of the difference between American gasoline at $1.75 per gallon and British gasoline at $6.50 per gallon is the amount of tax the government imposes on the consumer. In the States, our federal gas tax is 36 cents per gallon, or about 20% of the price, while in Britain it is almost $5.00 per gallon, or about 75% of the purchase price. Or, to put it another way, the Brits pay 3 times more for the fuel tax than they pay for the actual fuel. They are like other EU citizens, getting taken to the cleaners by their own governments, to generate more and more revenue for the already bulging, leviathanesque welfare state bureaucracies, which never say “enough.”
Beyond compelling Romania to raise its fuel prices, the EU also imposed a whole litany of regulations on Romanian industry and agriculture, among them: all eggs sold in Romania must now bear a date indicating when they were laid; all pigs slaughtered for meat must first be treated “humanely” and “euthanized” before being slaughtered (what--a full body massage, a weekend at the spa, and perhaps a valium or two, before their throats are slit?); all chickens must have 4 square meters of ground space (a reporter asked an elderly woman in a village if she knew about the regulation--she did not--and if her chickens had the required 4 square meters. She admitted that she had never measured, but granted the reporter permission to do so if so inclined). A Romanian friend who for years sold honey from his bees in Germany can no longer do so because of production quotas and EU subsidies. He has had to take work in Spain to support his family, thanks to EU bureaucratic interference. EU regulations are the equivalent of EPA, OSHA and every other American regulatory agency at their absolute worst, raised to the third or fourth power.
Naturally, some fawning American admirers of European ways--I speak of left coast and New England liberals and socialists--, especially the massive tax levels and huge bureaucracies that force people to do what the liberals know is best, look with longing eyes at European fuel prices twice and three times our own and more, and say “Why not us? Why not here? Just think what the government [meaning “us liberals”] could do with yet one more huge chunk of the people’s money?” This was of course what John Kerry’s campaign slogan, “We can do better,” actually meant, in plain “translation.”
High fuel prices, of course, are a tool that the liberals and environmental extremists ache for, to force American drivers into tiny and notoriously deadly cars like those Europeans are forced to drive (I can hear Rush playing “In a Yugo” in my mind), and are an expression of their hatred for American industry--General Motors, Exxon and the rest.
All these EU regulations (and similar stuff over here) are motivated by the arrogance of the elitists who are absolutely sure that they know better how to manage (and micro-manage) people’s lives than the people themselves do, and are willing to use whatever means are at hand to impose their will on the masses.
One massive, meddling, micro-managing, people-controlling, oppressive, suffocating, self-serving bureaucracy. That is the EU today. Such activity will so suppress the European economies that we in the States need never fear any real competition from that part of the globe, unless we in utter blind folly follow their path to ever-bigger, ever-more-interfering, ever-more-expensive government.
Foreign Language Bible Translations: Yet Another Source of Information
Twice in earlier issues of As I See It (1:10; 3:5), we have drawn the reader’s attention to sources of information regarding Bible translations in languages other than English. We did this because over the years we ourselves experienced considerable difficulty in locating such sources, and wanted to spare the reader similar frustration. Now a reader has draw our attention to a source that we had not mentioned, though we had became aware of it after the two previous articles were written and published.
That source is The Cambridge History of the Bible: the West from the Reformation to the Present Day, edited by S. L. Greenslade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963). Chapter III, “Continental Versions to c. 1600,” pp. 94-140; and Chapter IX, “Continental Versions from c. 1600 to the Present Day,” pp. 339-360. These chapters contain sub-chapters of varying lengths, written by various authors on Bible versions in German, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Scandinavian (Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish), and Central European Slavic languages. The quality of these sub-chapters is rather uneven, some giving much more detail than others. All give some bibliography, but in several cases at least, the references are quite rudimentary.
Though published first in 1963, this particular volume is counted as volume 3 in the set The Cambridge History of the Bible, edited by S. L. Greenslade. Volume 1, subtitled From the Beginning to Jerome, appeared in 1970; and volume 2, The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, came out in 1969. Volume 2 contains a lengthy section-- chapter IX, “Vernacular Versions,” pp. 338-491--that deals with vernacular translations in Gothic, and Medieval French, English, Spanish, German and other Germanic tongues, and Italian. This is the most extensive treatment of vernacular versions in Europe in the pre-printing, pre-Reformation era that I have ever found. The bibliographies for the subsections of this chapter are quite extensive.
Throughout this now-considered “standard” work, the theological perspective is that of modernism (one author insists, e.g., on writing the word “bible” with a lower case initial letter). Though widely acclaimed as a great achievement, the 3-volume work should be read with caution because of its pervasive anti-supernatural biases.
The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken by Terry Teachout. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. 410 pp., hardback. $29.95.
In our biographical sketch and evaluation of the life and influence of American news reporter and social critic H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) [see ”The Man Who Hated Everything,” AISI 3:10, October 2000], we noted one lengthy biography of Mencken, the first to have access to all (or nearly all) of Mencken’s personal papers, that written by Fred Hobson, Mencken: a Life (Random House, 1994). We said that “it is indeed THE biography of Mencken, vastly superseding all previous efforts.” I very much expected it to be the last word on Mencken, but Terry Teachout’s 2002 biography is at least the equal of Hobson, and while not covering all the material Hobson does, he does address a number of matters more fully than Hobson, or which Hobson passed over altogether. Teachout is a thorough writer, and one sympathetic to his subject, though not a blind partisan. He does not shrink from criticizing Mencken (e.g., demonstrating that Mencken’s unsparing ridicule of Calvin Coolidge as a buffoon was much mis-guided).
While more could yet be written about Mencken (I, for example, would like to explore in greater depth the causes and expressions of his unbelief and its consequences, matters which his secular biographers largely pass over, or at least do not attempt to evaluate), but between Hobson and Teachout, nothing of major significance regarding the life and labors of Mencken is left untouched. Surely with these in hand, the subject is adequately addressed for the foreseeable future.
Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly? by Robert Dick Wilson. Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1922. 62 pp., paperback.
Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930), noted American scholar and prodigious linguist, was a staunch defender of the integrity and historical accuracy of the OT against the assaults of destructive higher critics. He is most famous today for his books Studies in the Book of Daniel, 2 vols., and A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament. The small booklet here under consideration is a “popular” distilling and summary of Wilson’s methodology and over-all findings.
The standard higher critical attack on the OT begins with several assumptions, namely, that miracles (including Divine inspiration of Scripture) and predictive prophecy do not happen; that nothing in the Bible is to be accepted as accurate unless confirmed by some external source (even if the Bible has been proven correct time and time again), and that if the OT and an external source seem to be in conflict, that external source is always deemed to be correct and the Bible wrong; and that if a Biblical statement can be taken in more than one way, that which makes it contradict something else in the Bible is the one to be preferred.
Wilson asserts that no man is knowledgeable enough to declare with confidence that the OT is inaccurate in its statements. He demonstrates his point by showing that over and over again, the Bible has been vindicated from charges of inaccuracy. When speaking of ancient near eastern rulers, persons, places and countries, the OT has been shown repeatedly to correctly place people and events in their proper locale and historical context. It does not confuse chronology, nor mis-identify rulers [in contrast, the apocryphal book Judith calls Nebuchadnezzar the king of Nineveh; the OT never makes such a blunder]. And not only does the OT also properly identify and place individuals in their proper context, it with great accuracy transmits their names, something commonly lacking in Egyptian, Persian and Greek writings.
The claims of the critics--that most OT documents are late, i.e., date from the Neo-Babylonian, Persian or even Greek periods--are shown by Wilson to be inconsistent with the linguistic phenomena of those documents, in contrast to the linguistic evidence of extra-Biblical documents known to be from these periods. A stronger case can often be made than even Wilson presented due to more recent findings. E.g., one of the “givens” of higher criticism was that the great bulk of the Psalms were “late” i.e., from the Maccabean period, that is, the 2nd century B.C., rather than the 11th/10th centuries B.C. This critical view has been dealt two fatal blows. On the one hand is the discovery of the Ugaritic language and literature in 1929 ff, consisting of texts dating to before the time of David, which show striking stylistic similarities to the canonical Psalms, making an “early,” that is, traditional date for the Psalms entirely reasonable. On the other hand is the discovery of psalm-like poems among the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated with certainty to the Maccabean period, which are decidedly unlike the canonical Psalms linguistically, rendering a Maccabean date for much or any of the Psalter highly improbable. Numerous other examples of OT vindication could be noted.
The problem with the higher critics is their starting point--a strong, self-assured, absolute presupposition of anti-supernaturalism, which naturally taints their entire perspective, clouds their reason, and distorts their judgment. The OT has been vindicated repeatedly, so often indeed that surely the critics must by now have come around to allowing that the OT just might be right in points at issue. Not so. Radical unbelief is never so logical.
This booklet and anything else by Wilson will profit the reader, though admittedly Wilson’s evidence is now much behind the cutting edge of discovery. His philosophical approach toward the evidence, however, is still valid, indeed more so.