"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 11, Number 11, November 2008

 

“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

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“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]

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The Proper Use of Bible Knowledge

 

“All students of the Bible and Christian thinkers should remember that they learn for the benefit of others.  They are not to indulge the mere luxury of knowing nor the pride of erudition. . . .Whatever we know of gospel truth, little or much, we must gladly impart to others as we can find persons willing to listen and prepared to appreciate, and so we shall ourselves learn more.”

John A. Broadus

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, pp. 34, 35

(Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1905)

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed:

How First-hand Knowledge Dissolves a Bible “Difficulty”

 

[Editor’s note: recently, I have exchanged e-mails with a quibbling Bible critic who mocked the credibility of Jesus’ words regarding the “mustard seed” in Matthew 13:31-32 (parallel in Mark 4:30-32), thereby justifying his rejection of the Bible as a whole.  Fortuitously, or rather, providentially, I quite recently ran across reference to the following pertinent quotation by 19th century Baptist NT scholar Horatio B. Hackett (1808-1875).  Hackett is best remembered for his commentary on Acts of the Apostles in The American Commentary set (which also contained John A. Broadus on Matthew) and editing the American edition of William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible in 4 volumes, the pre-eminent work of its kind in its day.  Hackett traveled through Egypt and Palestine in Spring and Summer, 1852, and compiled Illustrations of Scripture: suggested by a tour through the Holy Land which was first published in 1855.  The quotation is taken from the 1859 T. Nelson (London) edition, pp. 79-81.  While my recent correspondent has out of hand dismissed my explanation of the passage, perhaps he will find Hackett’s discussion more persuasive.]

 

“In the parable of the mustard-seed, it is said that this seed, although the smallest of all seeds when cast into the earth, becomes, when grown up, a great tree (in a comparative sense, of course) and puts forth branches, so that the fowls of heaven come and lodge among them.  I was beginning to fear that I should leave the country without having an opportunity to see any example of this plant answering to the description of it in the parable.  Of the various persons to whom I had made inquiry at Jerusalem, no one was able to give me any certain information.  One said that probably this species of the plant was now extinct.  Another said that it was reputed to grow very large in Galilee, but could not vouch for it from personal observation.  I had observed, indeed, in crossing the plain of Esdraelon, just before coming to Nazareth, that the mustard-plant was by no means uncommon there; but yet, though some of the stalks which I took pains to measure were quite large, they were still not so large as I had expected to find them, and not large enough, as it appeared to me, to suggest naturally the illustration in the parable.  I was therefore disappointed.”

 

“Some days after this, as I was riding across the plain of Akka, on the way to Carmel, I perceived, at some distance from the path, what seemed to be a little forest or nursery of trees.  I turned aside to examine them.  On coming nearer, they proved to be an extensive field of the plant which I was so anxious to see.  It was then in blossom, full grown, in some cases six, seven, and nine feet high, with a stem or trunk an inch or more in thickness, throwing out branches on every side.  I was now satisfied in part.  I felt that such a plant might well be called a tree, and, in comparison with the seed producing it, a great tree.  But still the branches, or stems of the branches, were not very large, nor, apparently, very strong.  Can birds, I said to myself, rest upon them?  Are they not too slight and flexible?  Will they not bend or break beneath the superadded weight?  At that very instant, as I stood and revolved the thought, lo! one of the fowls of heaven stopped in its flight through the air, alighted down on one of the branches, which hardly moved beneath the shock, and then began, perched there before my eyes, to warble forth a strain of the richest music.  All my doubts were now charmed away.  I was delighted at the incident.  It seemed to me at the moment as if I enjoyed enough to repay me for all the trouble of the whole journey.”

 

“Such incidental illustrations of Scripture furnish no small share of the gratification which the traveller receives from day to day, as he wanders through the lands of the Bible.  He finds that he has a local commentary spread everywhere around him, which brings home to him the language and scenes of the Bible with a freshness and power which no learning or skill of commentators can supply.”

 

“I am aware that some give to the original word for ‘mustard’ a generic sense, so as to understand a tree, properly so called.  But, as no necessity demands such an extension of the term, it is more correct to adhere to the ordinary meaning.  Besides, the Evangelists include the mustard-plant of which they speak among herbs or vegetables, and thus indicate that when they call it a ‘tree,’ they make use of a popular hyperbole.”

---Horatio B. Hackett

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Spanish Bible Versions: a Great Heritage, Part I

“The Manuscript Era and Printed Translations before 1543”

Copyrighted by author, 2008

 

[Note: this study will appear in multiple parts.  A complete bibliography of sources will appear with the final installment]

 

Introduction

 

We who have studied in lesser or greater detail the history of the translation of the Bible into English (both “modern” and earlier forms of the language, namely, Anglo-Saxon or Old English and Middle English) are aware of the rich legacy of Bible versions that exists in our native tongue.  However, we must not myopically suppose that English is peculiar or special in this regard.  Many of the major languages of Europe have a similarly rich legacy, one often much richer in certain periods than English.  This is true of French, German, and Spanish, to note but three.  Because Spanish is an increasingly common language in the States, and therefore useful and even necessary in evangelizing our “Jerusalem” and “Judea,” to say nothing of nearly the whole of Latin America, Spain, and scattered locations around the globe, we thought it worthwhile to present an account of the great legacy of Bible translation that exists for Spanish.

 

As with all the other “Romance” languages (including Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and several other languages and dialects), Spanish developed in the Middle Ages from local dialects of colloquial Latin.  During the time of the Roman Republic and later Empire, the Latin language spread from a very limited native range on the Italian peninsula throughout the Mediterranean world via conquest, commerce, and relocation of Latin-speaking soldiers and others in the general populace.  As regularly occurs in such cases, over time and in isolation from each other, the various local dialects of Latin became distinct and to a significant degree mutually unintelligible languages.  In the early stages of this development, the Latin versions of the Bible--the Old Latin, and increasingly, Jerome’s revised Latin Vulgate version,--were intelligible to the masses.  But by the 8th and 9th centuries, Latin no longer effectively communicated Divine truth to the common man.  In addition, the local Latin-in-transition-to-Spanish dialects were heavily salted with Arabic vocabulary, due to the Moor conquest of and residence in Iberia from around 720 to 1492 A. D.  Some 6,000 Arabic words in all were ultimately naturalized into Spanish, words often beginning with al- (Arabic for “the”): algodon (“cotton”), alfalfa, algebra, alfombra (“carpet”), etc., which separated it yet more from other developing Romance tongues, which in turn had their own share of loanwords from other languages.

 

Spain proper (formerly small kingdoms that finally became united under Ferdinand and Isabella in the latter part of the 15th century) actually had--and has--three distinct languages: Basque, a remnant non-Indo-European language with no known relatives, spoken in the mountainous north; Catalan, an Indo-European language spoken in Eastern Spain from Valencia to Barcelona, and more akin to Southern French than Spanish;  and Castilian, the language of central part of the peninsula, which is essentially what we call “Spanish” today.  It is this latter language that will here occupy our attention.  (There is also, as something of a curiosity, a Medieval form of Jewish Spanish called Ladino, printed in Hebrew script--as Yiddish (Jewish German) is--and which is still spoken by Constantinopolitan Jews, who are descendents of Jewish exiles from Renaissance-era Spain).

 

Manuscript Era­

 

It cannot be stated with any certainty when, where or by whom the first written translation of any part of the Bible was made into the developing Medieval Spanish language, but in 1233, a royal decree was issued by John I of Aragon, prohibiting the private possession of vernacular (“contemporary language”) Scriptures.  Such a prohibition may naturally be assumed to presuppose the existence of such a vernacular version of some portion of the Bible in Spanish.  Perhaps the Waldensian version, made before 1100 A.D., when the Latin Vulgate was translated into Provencal, the language of Southern France, served as an example or pattern for this Spanish version.  Almost certainly, the earliest Spanish translation was made from the Latin Vulgate, as were virtually all Medieval Bible versions in the languages of Western and Central Europe.  Of this version, apparently no known trace or manuscript survives.

 

Alphonse X (1252-1284), nicknamed “the wise,” reversed the policy of John I, and reportedly ordered that a Spanish translation of the Latin Vulgate be made, perhaps in imitation of a contemporary French-language work that surveyed Bible history.  This resulting five-part work (only the earliest part dating to Alphonse’s reign) was more paraphrase/summary than translation.  Substantially revised and supplemented editions of this work are extant in 14th and 15th century manuscript form.

 

One unique feature of pre-Gutenberg Bible versions in Spanish is that in the Old Testament portion, several were made directly from the Hebrew text, rather than from the Latin Vulgate, the base text for all other versions of the era.  At that time, Spain had a large Jewish population including numerous learned rabbis, and was a pre-eminent center for Jewish learning.  These Hebrew scholars made the Hebrew-based Spanish versions for their own people.  One “Herman” of German ancestor reportedly translated the Psalms from Hebrew in the first half of the 13th century.  Another OT translation dates from the early 14th century. 

 

The most notable of these versions was that made by Rabbi Moses Arragel of Maqueda, between 1422-1430, being not a wholly new translation, but a revision of earlier efforts, and based on the Hebrew text, with consultation of Jerome’s Vulgate.  The work was commissioned by Louis de Guzman, a Roman Catholic, who paid some 3,000 pounds for its production.  The original illuminated manuscript (with 334 illustrations, 6 occupying whole pages), still extant circa 1901 (and perhaps so still today), consisted of 515 folios and had the Biblical text in 2 columns, surrounded by extensive glosses, annotations and quotations on the text in minute handwriting.  The order of books is that of the Hebrew Bible, rather than the Vulgate. [See the The Jewish Encyclopedia article on the translator for more particulars]

 

Several other Spanish versions of the Bible, in whole or in part, are also known from the 15th century. [see Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible article]

 

Printing Era 

 

Gutenberg’s famous Bible appeared in the 1450s.  Not incidentally, the Protestant Reformation reached “critical mass” a couple of generations later in 1517.  When that occurred, the lines were soon drawn between those who proclaimed ‘sola Scriptura”--“the Bible alone”--as the source of doctrine, and those who adhered to the Catholic claims of ultimate authority in the Church, tradition, and the pope.  Between Gutenberg and Luther’s posting of his 95 these, there seems to have been a fair amount of Bible translation and publication in Spain, certainly much more so than in contemporary England, where virtually nothing was being done.  Of course, once the Protestants began insisting on adherence to the Bible alone for doctrine, and began giving the Bible to the common people in vernacular translations so that they could judge doctrinal truth for themselves, a tidal wave of opposition to such translations swept through Spain and the Inquisition vigorously and violently suppressed such works, and continued to do so for centuries.  [For some account of the Spanish Inquisition including its destruction of Bibles, the reader is directed to History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff, vol. VI, pp. 533-554, especially pp. 552-3].

 

In 1490, the portions of the Gospels used in the Catholic liturgy from Christmas to Easter were translated by Juan Lopez, a Dominican, and printed at Zamora (and this 35 years before any substantial part of Bible was printed in English).  No doubt the Latin Vulgate was the base text for this translation.  This edition in folio gave the text in 2 columns with 42 lines of type to the page--just as in the famous Gutenberg (Latin Vulgate) Bible, which it was perhaps imitating in this regard.

 

A translation of the Gospels prepared for (evangelizing?) the Moslems who inhabited parts of Southern Spain around Granada until 1492 is also reported but no copy and no particulars about this translation can be confirmed.

 

In 1497, a Jewish-prepared Spanish translation of the Law of Moses was printed at Venice.  Whether it was made from one of the extant versions in manuscript, revised or unrevised, or a completely independent work--unlikely--we do not discover in our sources.

 

In 1502, Ambrosio de Montesino, a Franciscan, translated into Spanish the Latin Vita Christi (“Life of Christ”) of Ludolphus de Saxonia, a 14th century Dominican mystic.  This work is characterized as a “harmony of Gospels,” though we can find no detailed description of its contents or any statement about how closely or loosely it follows the Bible text, beyond the statement that it did contain some explicit direct quotations from the Gospels.  This folio edition was printed at Alcala.  Other editions are reported to have been published in Seville in 1530/1, 1537, 1551, 1623 and 1627, indicating that it had a long life and some not inconsiderable influence.

 

A Spanish translation of the liturgical portions of the Epistles and Gospels was printed at Seville in 1506.  Nothing more is reported about it.  However, in 1512, Ambrosio de Montesino issued a revised translation (perhaps of that of 1506) of the liturgical Epistles and Gospels at Toledo.  This was re-issued in at least five editions printed at Seville and Antwerp between 1540 and 1558.  Some time before 1586, a Benedictine, one Roman de Vallezillo, revised this translation.  Editions from Barcelona (1601, 1608) and Madrid (1603, 1614-15) later appeared, but it was subsequently placed on the Index of Prohibited books and was suppressed.

 

Following 1512 additional limited portions of Scripture appeared in Spanish garb--Job, by Alonso Alvarez of Toledo (1516 and several editions thereafter); Psalms (1529); Romans and I Corinthians (1536), by Juan de Valdes, printed in Venice (he also made a version of the Psalms and possibly other Biblical books which he did not or could not publish).  A Spanish translation, perhaps by Juan Roffense, of the Psalms from the Hebrew original was published at Lyons in 1550, with a Hebrew-based translation of Proverbs, and Greek-based versions of Job and Ecclesiasticus also appearing at Leon that same year.  And sometime after 1521 when the Complutensian Polyglot Bible was published, an anonymous Spanish translation of the Gospels was made but never printed.  In 1547, a polyglot Pentateuch was published in Constantinople, which contained, along with the Hebrew and Aramaic texts, a modern Greek version and a Spanish version (said to be that later incorporated in the Ferrara Bible of 1553), all four languages being printed in Hebrew characters.  There were other partial versions made but never printed from this period.  But the publication of a complete Spanish NT based on the Greek text, and a complete Spanish OT based on the Hebrew, would have to await 1543 and 1553, respectively.

---Doug Kutilek

[Next: “The Spanish Bible Versions: from Enzinas and Ferrara to Reina-Valera”]

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Social and Religious Commentary by Chuck Colson

 

“From a Christian perspective, law has always been understood as an attempt, however incomplete, to reflect God’s objective order in the universe.  Moses and his appointed judges sought to administer judgment, not according to some arbitrary notion of fairness, but according to an objective standard of justice.”

Chuck Colson

The God of Stones and Spiders

Crossway Books, 1990

p. 67

 

“We may still give lip service to traditional values, but in practice right is whatever is good for me.  Emptied of meaning, words like duty and loyalty no longer have the moral force to restrain our passions for self-gratification.”

p. 107

 

“Some things, such as justice and freedom, must be more important than life if life is to be worth anything at all.  If we lack the moral resolve to die, and even to kill, so as to preserve these principles against those who assault them, then we will end up both betraying our principles and losing our lives.”

p. 142

 

“We [Christians] should be the most responsible citizens because we understand government is God’s ordained structure to impose order and restrain sin in a fallen world.  Within this structure, we are to love our neighbors, be light and leaven, pray for those in authority and obey them--up to the point that the government demands an allegiance higher than God, or commands practices contrary to His Word.”

p. 165

 

“Violent tendencies are not an illness.  Criminal behaviors are not symptoms of a disease.  We cannot explain away awful acts through sociological factors or odd chromosomes or poverty or germs or drugs.  While these can surely be factors in criminal behavior, the root cause of crime has not changed since Cain. It is sin. . . . Random violence, devoid of motive or meaning, is supremely chilling.  It is also supremely logical.  If man is not created by God in God’s image, if human beings and their environment are simply the result of random collisions of atoms, there is no intrinsic distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ human behaviors, and people have no in innate value.”

p. 171

 

[While I naturally enough would dissent in matters, some of them of considerable moment, here and there with Colson, I must say that I know of no one currently who can more forcefully and clearly analyze from a Biblical perspective the present state of affairs in social, political and religious matters as he.  These collected essays and columns, written in the late 1980s, still “wear” very well (in comparison with, for example, similarly dated but much more “dated” columns by Cal Thomas which I recently read), and though the names, characters and specific circumstances have changed over the decades, the issues have not.  These essays are still worthy of a close reading--editor]

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Golda by Elinor Burkett.  New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  483 pp., hardback.

 

Among the iconic figures in the history of the modern state of Israel, none is more famous than Golda Meir, (1898-1978), the “Jewish grandmother from Milwaukee” who became the first female head of state in the West in modern times.  As Israel’s Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974, she was famous for her sharp (and often caustic) wit, her stubborn persistence against opposition, her long memory and resentment of even the pettiest of personal slights, and her remarkable and seemingly inexhaustible energy--fueled by nicotine and caffeine--as she led the nation through the Yom Kippur war of 1973 (she was in her mid-70s).  She never made any attempt to be stylish--she never used make-up, always had her hair pulled back in a bun, and wore frumpy clothes and orthopedic shoes.  Of course, there was a great deal more to Golda than the public image and persona, some of it frankly far from commendable.

 

Born Goldie Mabovitch in Czarist Russia (Kiev), Golda and her family migrated to the States when she was 8.  (She grew up speaking Russian and Yiddish, and later learned English and Hebrew).  As a teen-ager, she insisted on going to high school though no one in her family ever had.  Always exceptionally strong-willed, she became enamored with Zionism--a secular movement among ethnic Jews, founded in the late 19th century by Theodor Herzl, to return to Palestine and reestablish a Jewish State as a safe haven and refuge for Jews from the discrimination, persecutions, and pogroms they had regularly endured for millennia.  She ran away from home at 14 (going to live with a sister in Denver) and was completely on her own by 16.  She married at 19, but her marriage, and later children, took second place to her activism (she aborted one baby early on, when it was completely illegal, since she didn’t have time in her schedule to raise a child).  She became entirely absorbed in promoting Zionism, traveling and speaking to anyone, anywhere who would listen (before World War II, American Jews on the whole were quite indifferent to Zionism and its goals). 

 

She cajoled her husband, along with some friends, to emigrate to Palestine in 1921, arriving in Tel Aviv after a 53-day trip from New York by boat and train.  For a time, they lived on a kibbutz (a purely communized collective farm), which she loved and her husband hated.  After a time, they moved back to Tel Aviv, where Golda’s political activism consumed her time from dawn to midnight, leaving her husband and children greatly neglected.  She was also involved in numerous extra-marital adulterous relationships (her rise in the ranks of Jewish politics was credited by some to these frequent trysts).  No surprise--these things led to estrangement and ultimately separation from her husband (he died in 1951). 

 

Politically, she was, as were most Zionists, strong state socialists, in her case virtually communist--she adhered to the Marxist folly of need-based income, rather than merit- and productivity-based income (she saw no problem with a highly-educated doctor being paid less salary than an uneducated, unskilled common laborer who happened to have nine children; the doctor did see a problem).  Under such a system, naturally enough, taxes were oppressive in the extreme, and greatly hampered economic growth.  As Israel’s labor secretary in the 1950s, Golda’s strong theoretical pro-labor unionism did not endure when confronted with the reality of economy-threatening labor strikes; she then became a union-buster.

 

In 1928, she returned to the States to stir up support and collect money for Zionism (settling immigrants in largely barren, unindustrialized Palestine was an expensive proposition; the Jewish population of Palestine grew by 400% from 1921-1934, with most of the immigrants arriving entirely destitute of assets).  She returned for 2 years in the States during the 1930s for the same purpose.

 

Golda was a wholly secularized, non-observant Jew.  Practically the only time she went to synagogue was as Israel’s first ambassador to Soviet Russia (where she served 5 months).  Since the 3 million Jews in post-WW II Russia were severely oppressed by the Soviets, almost the only place she could meet with them even informally was in the synagogue, so she went there--and some 50,000 Jews turned out to see her!

 

When the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state became UN policy in 1947, Golda came to the States to raise money for Haganah, Israel’s defense forces.  From December 1947 to May 1948, when Israel became a State, she raised $50,000,000.  Issued the very first travel document by the new state of Israel, she returned to the States and raised another $75,000,000 in one month later in 1948.  Her stubborn refusal to take “no” for an answer served her and Israel well at that time when they were desperately in need of money for weapons to defend themselves against their bellicose Arab neighbors, and to absorb the flood of immigrants that followed statehood.

 

Israel faced off with its Arab neighbors in wars aimed at Israel’s extermination four times during Golda’s lifetime: 1948 (Israel’s creation), 1956 (when the Egyptian’s seized and closed the Suez Canal; the British and French lured Israel into attacking Egypt to re-open the canal); 1967 (the famous 6-day War) and 1973 (the Yom Kippur War). 

 

Having served as Israel’s second foreign minister (1956-1966), Golda became interim Prime Minister in 1969 when Levi Eschol died; she continued in office after elections were held that same year.  The murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972 was a very dark period during her time in office, but was very much over-shadowed a year later in the Yom Kippur war.  The Yom Kippur war caught Israel flat-footed, partly as a consequence of over-confidence spawned by its lighting victory in 1967, partly due to refusal to believe warnings from King Hussein of Jordan and a “mole” in Nassar’s family in Egypt of imminent war plans by Syria and Egypt against Israel, and partly due to a desire not to unnecessarily (!) and expensively call up Israel’s reserves (about 90% of its armed forces) at the time of the highest Holy Day of the year, the Day of Atonement. 

 

The Yom Kippur war was Israel’s most expensive war in money (greater than an entire year’s national budget), materiel and lives, and had not President Nixon massively re-supplied Israel by air (as the Russians had already begun doing for the Syrians and Egyptians), Israel was in real danger of losing the war, which of course meant extermination (the other option was resorting to nuclear weapons). Strangely, the greatest opponent of American re-supplying Israel in that crucial hour was America’s Secretary of State and himself Jewish, Henry Kissinger; he also stone-walled all subsequent peace settlement proposals that he himself was not the center of, or would not get credit for.  And as a side bar: for all his success in 1956 and 1967, and his personal image as invincible in battle, General Moshe Dayan was almost inexplicably hesitant, indecisive, and defeatist throughout the course of the 1973 war.

 

Golda left office in May 1974, and died in 1978 of previously-undisclosed-to-the- public leukemia, which she had been battling for a dozen years.  Her legacy in the creation of the modern State of Israel and service in various governmental offices will long survive.  The biography by Elinor Burkett is informative and well-written.

---Doug Kutilek

---

Sidenote: Britain steadfastly, after issuing the Balfour declaration in 1917 supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (over which Britain had a “mandate” for three decades following WW I), progressively constricted Jewish immigration into Palestine during the 1930s, at just the time that European Jews were desperate to escape from the rising crescendo of persecution in Germany.  This British action unquestionably doomed tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands to extermination in Nazi death-camps.  And even after the war, the British vigorously and even violently opposed holocaust-survivor immigration to Palestine.  I wonder--was this conduct by England a major cause, in the Divine economy (“I will bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you”), of Britain’s precipitous decline from a world empire to what it is today?

---editor

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The Anabaptist Story by William R. Estep.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.  250 pp., paperback.

 

The mention of “Anabaptists” conjures up a variety of images in the mind, depending on one’s perspective and what one has heard regarding those so-identified during and after the Reformation.  To Lutherans and Catholics the standard caricature of the whole Anabaptist movement is the lunatic fringe radicals of the Muenster rebellion of 1534-5, who tried by violence to ‘bring in the kingdom,’ practiced polygamy and communism, and were violently suppressed.  These were by no means “mainstream” Anabaptists and are in almost every way atypical of the Anabaptist movement.

 

The rediscovery of and return to the Bible by Luther, Zwingli and others in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century led to the coining of the phrase “sola Scriptura,” that is “the Bible alone” as the source of all Christian doctrine and practice.  However much these Protestant leaders insisted on “sola Scriptura” in theory, it became evident to not a few among their early adherents that in actual practice, they fell far short of this standard.  As the zealous young followers of Zwingli, for example, discovered no Biblical support for infant baptism or for any saving merit of any kind in the Lord’s Supper, they pressed for consistency in those who led them--and did not find it.  As a consequence, they struck out on their own to follow the Bible alone, regardless of where it led them, and regardless of the personal consequences (which often proved dire).

 

There was no single leader or group or focal point among Anabaptists, but various “centers’ of Anabaptist activities in Reformation-era Europe--Switzerland, southern German, central Germany, regions of Poland and Moravia, Strasbourg, Friesland (in northern Holland) and adjacent regions of northern Germany, etc.  While there are connections and interactions between Anabaptists in these diverse places, their common devotion in truth to the principle of “sola Scriptura” naturally led them to the same Bible-derived doctrines and practices.

 

The early Anabaptists were blessed with numerous accomplished and learned scholars--Conrad Grebel was well-versed in Latin and Greek classical literature.  Felix Manz was well trained in Latin, Greek and especially Hebrew.  Baltasar Hubmaier had an unsurpassed knowledge of the Bible in both German and Latin among his contemporaries.  Ludwig Hetzer and Hans Denck were the first to translate the OT prophets from Hebrew into German, which they published in 1527.  When Luther made his translation of the complete OT (published 1534), he made large use of Hetzer and Denck’s version.  Others were trained as priests and had extensive knowledge of Latin, Menno Simons among them.  And while few of the early Anabaptist leaders wrote extensively--due chiefly to their lives being cut short by martyrdom when they were in their 20s or early 30s--what they did write was usually of high quality, well-reason and well-expressed.  And if anything, their zeal and devotion to evangelism and spreading the pure Gospel message exceeded their scholarship.  Many could truly have claimed that they were “in labors more abundant,” with converts and baptizees in the many thousands--even when ministries were limited by death to just a few months or years.  Their accomplishments were indeed remarkable.

 

Certain common features characterized Anabaptist beliefs and conduct: 1. consistent adherence to “sola Scriptura” in actual practice; 2. believer’s (not infant) “baptism” (commonly by sprinkling or pouring, but sometimes by immersion); 3. regenerate church membership; 4. congregational church government; 5. church purity and discipline of offenders; 6. repudiation of involvement in government, including (usually) military service; 7. vigorous emphasis on Gospel missions to the unevangelized; 8. generosity toward those in need; 9. no oath-taking; 10. liberty of conscience (no persecution of dissent).  In most of these, they differ very little if at all from modern conservative Baptists generally speaking (nos. 6 and 9. would be exceptions, and only immersion would be accepted today for baptism).

 

Estep explores the connection, if any between the Waldensians as Anabaptist predecessors (he finds no evidence of a lineal link) and the English separatists as Anabaptist successors (here a direct connection and influence is undeniable).

 

With its extensive bibliography of sources for further study and research, this is an excellent introductory volume to the Anabaptists.  Highly recommended.

---Doug Kutilek

---

 

“In 1527 Capito, a leading minister of the Reformed Church in Strassburg wrote: ‘I frankly confess that in most [Anabaptists] there is in evidence piety and consecration and indeed a zeal which is beyond any suspicion of insincerity.  For what earthly advantage could they hope to win by enduring exile, torture, and unspeakable punishment of the flesh.  I testify before God that I cannot say that on account of the lack of wisdom they are somewhat indifferent toward earthly things, but rather from divine motives.’ “ p. 72

 

“Franz Agricola, a Roman Catholic theologian, writing some fifty-five years later [i.e., circa 1582], testified regarding the Anabaptists: ‘As concerning their outward public life they are irreproachable.  No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, is found among them, but humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straight-forwardness in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.’ “ p. 72

 

That our own enemies today could honestly find nothing worse to say of us!

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An Introduction to the Old Testament by Edward J. Young.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, revised edition 1964.  432 pp., hardback.

 

In our brief article recommending Old Testament “Introductions” (“ ‘Old Testament Introduction’--Some Suggested Resources,” As I See It, 5:5), we included the particular work here in review, but gave no extended statement of its contents, strengths and weaknesses.  Having recently read it straight through in preparation for teaching a course on OT introduction (previously we had read it piecemeal and incompletely), we here give a fuller characterization of the work. 

 

First, and unlike other conservative OT introductions, Young completely by-passes the subject of “lower criticism,” that is, the text of the OT--Hebrew manuscripts, ancient versions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, variant readings and such, a very important subject; this a significant omission, and leaves the reader in need of some other source of information on this aspect of OT introduction.

 

Second, and a fault in common with some other similar works, Young seems pre-occupied with detailing and responding to the whole array of diverse (and dreary) and mutually contradictory destructive anti-supernatural rationalistic dissections of the OT, while at the same time giving too little attention to conservative treatments.

 

Young writes from a Reformed perspective, which means his interpretation of covenants, prophecy and the present and future kingdom will be at odds with that of us who are pre-millennial and dispensational in perspective.  In some specific matters, we strongly dissent from his views: he dates Job to Solomonic times--a rather arbitrary conclusion (that it is considerably earlier seems evident), and his dating of Ecclesiastes to the 5th century requires that the book be pseudonymous (since the author expressly identifies himself a Solomon), a thing logically inconsistent with absolute truthfulness and Divine inspiration.  He also allows for a possibly local Flood in Genesis (impossible, if the repeatedly affirmed universal nature of the Flood in Genesis and elsewhere in Scripture is taken seriously).

 

Young’s tone is throughout conservative and devout, and, as noted, Reformed, and after the passage of more than 40 years (Young died in 1968), rather dated.  In some few places, it could be said to be less than thorough (some OT books are handled in a rather cursory manner). The reader can consult this work with profit, though something more and something better on this important subject will also be necessary to the serious student of the OT.

--Doug Kutilek

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