"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 11, Number 8, August 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.”
“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]
A Real Danger in Using Annotated Study Bibles
In an electronically published letter of July 12, 2008, our friend Bob Ross of Pilgrim Publications, publisher of everything Spurgeon, wrote--
In recent years, it seems that every Tom, Dick, and Harry and his Grandpa, who has a "following" of some description, has been coming out with his own "reference Bible" or "study Bible."
In addition to the old standbys of the past -- such as Bullinger, Dickson, Scofield, Newberry, Thompson, and others -- beginning at some point in the last century, there has been an influx of "reference Bibles" attributed to the likes of Ryrie, Dake, Rice, Falwell, MacArthur, Sproul, Stanley, Kirban, Swaggart, Hagee, LaHaye, Meyer, Copeland, Hinn, Swindoll, Hayford, Zodhiates, Lucado, Blackaby, and somebody called "Rainbow." There may be others, of course -- I am no "Google" on the matter.
I think much of this influx is due to the Publishers and/or Printers who are willing to capitalize off the vanity of "popular" ministers who for some reason believe their comments will inform the reader in the "more excellent way" of understanding the Bible. [All boldface and italics in original]
Though mentioning several editions unknown to me and several others long-forgotten, Bob here gives a decidedly incomplete listing. In fact, just a few days ago, I received by mail the announcement of a new study Bible based on the ESV, which, judging from the sample pages shown, was about two-thirds notes and one third Bible text (more on this below). I would agree that in part the flood of heavily-annotated study Bibles is driven by the twin motives of a profit-seeking marketing opportunities, and a perverse sense that the ordinary Bible reader dare not be trusted with “just the Bible text,” without the sure guiding hand of some “big name” preacher, televangelist or teacher to help him believe “correctly.“ In short, the annotator’s notes are essential, if the mere Bible reader is to be “protected from getting the “wrong idea” by just reading the Bible itself, “merely” enlightened by the Holy Spirit alone (by contrast, see John 14:26; I John 2:20-21; I Corinthians 2:12).
I freely acknowledge that I did most of my earliest Bible reading from an original Scofield reference Bible a friend gave me less than a year after I was converted. And yes, I did learn much of real value from the notes, but I must also say, I had to unlearn a considerable amount that was simply not so. Scofield’s advocacy of the gap- and day-age theories in Genesis 1 misguided me (and others) for years; and many other matters of greater or lesser detail though once readily and trustingly embraced had to be rejected as my understanding grew. Indeed, whole books correcting Scofield’s manifold errors of interpretation, explanation and understanding have been written, and deservedly so.
But Scofield’s human fallibility is not at all unique to himself. A close scrutiny of the annotations in every study Bible listed above would reveal many false steps in understanding, interpretation, explanation or emphasis (though some would naturally be more culpable in this regard than others). And therein is the problem--study Bible annotators, as with Bible commentators, are hindered in their work by ignorance, prejudice, misinformation and a thousand and one other foibles. Far better, in my opinion, to read the unadorned, unaccompanied and unexplained, raw Bible text, and let it speak for itself, as it can indeed do. The famous 17th century Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of the “perspicuity” (intelligibility) of Scripture, thusly:
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
Westminster Confession, I. 7
I’m not sure that the Westminster divines had in mind, among the “ordinary means” the regular and exclusive use of study Bibles that were more notes than text, and which stifle the Scriptures from speaking for themselves.
And while it might seem an unnecessary admonition--one of those “self-evident truths” of which philosophers write--, there is the very real danger of the reader supposing that the study notes are “Bible,” that is, that the interpretation given to the text by the editor/annotator is as true as the text itself. “No one would confuse them!” you might reply. To the contrary, I recall an incident from a quarter century ago and more. Two preacher friends of mine were having a theological discussion with a third preacher. That preacher asserted that the Bible taught some particular point--now long forgotten by me. Both of my friends immediately replied, “It doesn’t say that!” So the preacher went and fetched his annotated study Bible, turned to a particular page, and showed them, from the footnotes, that the Bible did in fact teach what he had affirmed! I know from my own experience, that as a young Christian when I first used my Scofield Bible, I accepted unquestioningly and uncritically everything the notes said; after all, they were printed right there in the Bible, right?
It seems that every theological faction, group, sect, and denomination is hesitant to let people read the plan, unadorned Biblical text, unaided by the “spin” necessary to interpret the text from the same point of view as the annotator, and to arrive at the same “sound” opinions. There are Catholic and Orthodox study Bibles, with notes to explain away anything in the text that contradicts official dogma (one Catholic-produced edition of a Romanian NT in my possession has more notes than text!) or the “right” explanation. There are charismatic study Bibles that propagate and reinforce the many errors of that movement. There are annotated Bibles from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) which teach and re-enforce their Arian and other heresies). There are Reformed study Bibles that explain away anything evidently contrary to Reformed dogma. And on and on it goes. And it seems, the more recent the study Bible, the more extensive the notes, and the less able the reader is assumed to be to read and think for himself, even though enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
While a study Bible or two may come in handy as a reference work--commentary--on particular points, I think it best, and follow as my regular practice, reading a text-only Bible. My usual reading (besides in the originals) usually involves a Spanish or Romanian or Latin version, but with occasionally others thrown into the mix. Were I an English-only reader, I would make it a point to read at least two or three good, unannotated modern English versions (for my recommendations of which to read, see “Which Bible for Today?” As I See It, 10:3). Yes, I like a Bible with lots of cross references to other passages, variant translations in the margin, variant manuscript readings (as needed), with occasional notes on matters of weights, measures and such, and the words of Christ in red, some maps and a brief concordance. But I want no long and detailed notes on this doctrine or that, from this theological point of view or that--which are as apt to prejudice the reader as they are to assist. In fact, I have not regularly read an annotated reference Bible since I laid aside my old Scofield in the mid 1970s. When I need additional information on a passage, I turn to one of several Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, commentaries, or topical works. But I seek to let the inspired text alone instruct my mind, by deliberately not using a heavily-annotated study Bible of any kind.
Use heavily-annotated editions as you would a commentary--and only as a commentary--,but with the conscious and deliberate recognition that they are very much the work of uninspired men, be they ever so learned or popular or widely-published, that they are not always right, and indeed, liable to frequently be wrong.
But as for me and my house--give me the straight text only. I shall do my own thinking for myself, thank you.
What Became of the Original Manuscripts of the Old and New Testament Books?
From time to time, we are asked what became of the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, those original texts directly and immediately inspired by the Holy Spirit through human authors.
For the OT, those original texts were penned over a period of about 1000 years, from Moses’ writing of the Law before 1400 B. C. (unless Job is actually earlier), until the last of the inspired prophets, Malachi, wrote his book sometime around 400 B. C. We cannot even say with certainty that the original copies of the Law were still extant when the last OT books were first penned. It seems that they had most likely already perished.
The originals of both testaments were no doubt written originally on papyrus or leather (or some combination of these, depending on the books), the latter material much more durable than the former, but both perishable, especially in any but the driest of climates
Provision was made for the preservation, protection and propagation of the Law of Moses as soon as it was written. In Deuteronomy 31:9-13, the written Law was entrusted to the care of the priests, with the requirement that the Law be publicly read every seventh year (priests, besides offering sacrifice, had the responsibility of instructing people in the word of God). Deuteronomy 17:18 requires that any future king personally make his own copy of Law from that in the possession of the priests (this provision would guarantee both the king’s literacy--by no means universal among ancient monarchs--and his excuse-destroying knowledgeable of what God required of him). And in Joshua 24:26, we find Joshua adding his own writings to those of Moses. So, a growing collection of inspired writings was from the beginning in the custody and under the care of the Levitical priests. No doubt, numerous copies of these originals were made through the years that followed.
We are given no information about the fate of these originals. It is possible that the "Law of Moses" discovered in the Temple in the days of Josiah WAS in fact the original text of Moses, which had been neglected and misplaced (to note a similar case: in the 1960s or 1970s, a 15th century Gutenberg Bible was discovered in the attic of a Lutheran parsonage in Germany, where it had evidently lain unknown and untended for centuries). This original manuscript of the Law, if that is in fact what it was, most probably perished at the time of the Babylonian captivity, when the temple was razed and the city of Jerusalem devastated. Yes, it is possible that these originals were hidden away somewhere (as, according to Jewish legend, happened with the long-missing ark of the covenant), but there is nothing to support such speculation. If the original manuscripts of the rest of the then-extant OT canon were also kept as official copies in the temple, they would no doubt have shared the same fate.
Of the OT books completed during or after the Babylonian captivity (Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Chronicles, and some of the minor prophets) we are given no information in Scripture about any measures to insure their preservation--or propagation--, though they obviously were copied before they perished. That they did ultimately perish, and before the NT era, is evident. Certainly there is no evidence to suggest that they survived to NT times. Surely, if they had been extant so late, they would have been kept in the Temple (before 70 A.D.) and that fact would have been mentioned in Josephus, the Talmud, or some other ancient Jewish source. Likewise, the existence of numerous variant readings in manuscripts and versions of the OT dating to the NT era (Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, etc.) are certain proof that no infallible standard text was known or used in the making of copies, meaning the originals were not employed for copying purposes, and that presupposes that they had long since disappeared.
When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A. D., some of the sacred books were given to Josephus the Jewish historian, and a copy of the Law was carried to Rome where it was displayed as part of the spoils of the Temple (see Josephus, Life, I:418; The Jewish War, VII: 150, Loeb Classical Library editions). Had these been the originals, Josephus would not have failed to note that fact.
As for the NT, as I recall (but cannot locate the reference just now) one of the 2nd century church fathers--Irenaeus, I think--mentions the original manuscript of one of the Gospels or epistles--I forget which--as still extant and available for consultation in one of the churches of Asia, but I am unaware of any other such reference among 2nd century and later writers. With the intense and periodic persecutions suffered by Christians in the first four centuries, accompanied by the violent destruction of their sacred books, it is no small surprise that none of the original manuscripts of NT books survived to later centuries. But all were copied before their demise.
When Paul and the rest of the NT authors spoke of the inspired OT Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; etc.), they naturally had reference to the text as originally given. Though they did not have direct and immediate access to those manuscripts, they did indirectly through the multiple copies and faithful translations available to them, and counted these worthy of the name "the word of God" even though in lesser matters, here and there, they had scribal mistakes and alterations, but never such as would alter the meaning and content of the text. In other words, since the copies they had were close and accurate and since their variations and defects did not materially alter the original representations of the originals, they were worthy of the appellation, "the word of God." A parallel might be a color photograph of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa"--while it isn't EXACTLY like the original painting (brush stroke for brush stroke), nevertheless, the content of the original is evident and faithfully reproduced in the photograph.
Some may express concern and distress over the present absence of the inspired original manuscripts. Let it be noted first of all that it has obviously been in the providential and sovereign will of God that the original manuscripts have all perished. His reasons for allowing this may be speculated on, but among probable reasons is that this was to spare men from the temptation of making idols or fetishes of the originals (as the Israelites did with Moses’ bronze snake). With the natural human inclination toward relic worship, the worship of the original manuscripts, rather than obedience to their contents, could well have been the result if they had been preserved. Furthermore, if the originals were extant, whoever possessed them could have deliberately corrupted them to make them say what they wished for them to say, and there would have been no way to detect or expose the fraud. And finally, the undeniable existence of scribal variations in manuscripts and translations has had the result of stimulating a close and careful study of the minutiae, the details of the Biblical text, bringing to light its content in greater fullness.
The Works of Frederick Bastiat in Print
In the previous issue of As I See It, we reviewed the brief treatise advocating strictly limited government power, The Law by French economist Frederick Bastiat (1801-1850) and expressed ignorance as to whether the book was yet in print. A reader wrote to inform us that Bastiat’s works have in fact been recently published in a nice two-volume set by the Mises Institute, web address: www.mises.org The Mises website reportedly has a wealth of economic and political information as well as many other books on these subjects. We are glad to pass along this information.
Studies in the Text of the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Nashville: Sunday School Board, 1926. 192 pp., hardback.
One of my life’s goals is to read every one of the 45 published works of Baptist Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (1863-1934; for a survey of Robertson’s life and labors, see “A. T. Robertson: Pre-Eminent Baptist Scholar,” As I See It 2:7, July 1999). I own all but a small handful of his published works, and have read well more than half of the total number. This present volume eluded me until earlier this year. To my knowledge, it was printed only once, so copies are somewhat scarce, compared to many of his other writings which were repeatedly reprinted. My copy is the only one I’ve ever seen, whether for sale or in libraries.
As with about a quarter of Robertson’s books, this one is a compilation of articles which first appeared in various religious periodicals of the day, but were collected here as all relating more or less to a common theme, the text of the New Testament, its original physical form, its editing (on the basis of Greek manuscripts and other ancient evidence), various aspects of textual criticism, and some of its translations into English. The articles are by design “popular” rather than technical treatments, though sometimes Robertson seems to assume more knowledge on the reader’s part than the intended audience is likely to have had. Because the articles came from diverse periodicals, there are frequent but minor repetitions of information. And there are even occasional errors (he states that the Geneva Bible did not contain the apocrypha, which is not correct; and he seems to have misunderstood the meaning of the Greek text of manuscript theta and family 13 at Matthew 1:16).
Two of the articles dealt with texts we examined independently in our articles “Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth,” As I See It 7:3, March 2004; and “Variant Readings and the Virgin Birth Once Again,” As I See It 7:9, September 2004, namely Matthew 1:16 and John 1:13. And though Robertson added in some small ways to our information on these passages (especially the names of scholars who hold to the singular variant reading in John 1:13), frankly, his treatments were less complete than ours, and in some ways actually inaccurate (as noted above), and if we may be so bold to say so, we thought our presentation and analysis the more satisfying.
There is an instructive chapter on the origin and defects of the modern chapter and verse divisions in the Bible, especially the NT.
This volume is not to be confused with Robertson’s An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Broadman Press, 1925; 2nd edition, 1928), 300 pp., which was the text-book for a course on the textual criticism Robertson taught year by year. An adequate and informative introductory volume, it is of course now dated by the passage of more than 80 years since its original publication, though it can yet be read with profit (it was among the first Robertson books I owned--perhaps even the very first--, purchased for me at a garage sale by my new bride in 1973).
One book closer to my goal.
Benjamin Franklin: the Shaping of Genius. The Boston Years, by Arthur Bernon Tourtellot. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1977. 459 pp., hardback.
The 18th century in colonial and then newly-independent America was marked by an extraordinary number of highly capable and influential men: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and more, but any frank evaluation would compel the conclusion that the man who excelled them all in talents, abilities achievements and impact was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), printer, writer, postmaster, farmer, inventor, philanthropist, ambassador. Born in Boston to a 48-year old candle and soap maker, he was the15th child and 10th son born to the family (his oldest sibling was 27 years older than he!)
While the facts of Franklin’s young life are presented, the book is much more taken up with the “background” to his life--first, and in considerable detail, the lives of his ancestors for several generations, back to England (his maternal grandfather was a Baptist, as had been his mother), then the social, political, religious, economic and education circumstances of life in colonial Boston in the first two decades of the 18th century. The peninsular town had fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and was still dominated by the waning influence of the Mather-Cotton puritan dynasty; Harvard, on the mainland, was still mostly a clergy training school, and the sea was the single most influential physical feature of the town. (As a youth, Franklin became an accomplished swimmer.)
Raised in the Puritan religious tradition, early on Ben was intended by his father for the ministry, but showing no aptitude or interest in this, he was apprenticed at 12 to his older brother James, a printer. This sometimes tense arrangement continued until Ben was 17. At 12, Franklin largely stopped going to church, instead spending his Sundays in extensive and diverse reading in the print shop. Among his favorite books were Pilgrim’s Progress and Plutarch’s Lives of Illustrious Men. He was also influenced toward the necessity of doing public-benefiting good works by books by Daniel Defoe and Cotton Mather (the seeds of many of Franklin’s social projects in Philadelphia were the fruit of ideas planted in his mind by these two books). The essays of Addison and Steele also had major impact, especially on his writing style. He also read deistical works of the day by Collins and Shaftsbury, which turned him away, or perhaps enforced a prior inclination away from the Biblical faith he had been taught as a child. These books would set the course for his religious beliefs (negatively, indeed) through the remainder of his life.
Brother James began a weekly newspaper--Boston’s fourth--in the 1720s; it continued for about 18 months. Ben, though just 16, surreptitiously had a series of essays published in the paper which he had submitted pseudonymously to the editor (James would never have even considered them, had he known that Ben was the author). These essays showed a maturity of thought unexpected in one so young. Due to what were deemed controversial articles, James was for a time jailed, and Ben, now 17, acted as editor and publisher of the paper for three issues during his brother’s confinement. Shortly thereafter freed from his apprentice obligation three years early, and having no prospects as a printer in the already crowded Boston field, Franklin set sail for New York, and from there traveled on to Philadelphia, where his life and achievements blossomed.
There is much information here, especially about life in colonial Boston. It is more informative than of compelling interest; it is certainly not a “page turner.”
(Of other Franklin biographies, there is of course his brief Autobiography--the chapter on Franklin and George Whitefield is a “must read”--and the excellent 1938 publication, Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren, a Pulitzer Prize winner for biography. The 2003 volume, Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson has been widely acclaimed, but I have had no opportunity as yet to read it).
“Great, however, as Plutarch’s Lives was a fascinating reading, Franklin’s recollection of his reading in it as ‘time spent to great advantage’ clearly indicates that sheer enjoyment was not enough for him. Even in his boyhood he was always highly purposeful in his reading; and although he derived great pleasure from felicitous style as well as from absorbing subject matter, he was always eager that his reading be turned to good account so far as his own development went. Through his reading, he undertook quite seriously to instruct himself, to make his perceptions more acute, and to develop whatever latent abilities he might have had. He wanted his reading to count for something other than mere entertainment.”
Arthur Bernon Tourtellot.
Benjamin Franklin: the Shaping of Genius, p. 180
Classical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, compiled and edited by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972. 265 pp., paperback.
I bought this volume during my second year at Grace Seminary, in December 1975, and had read three or four of the 14 essays reproduced here in the decades since, but did not read the whole, until now. These essays, gleaned from periodicals and books of the 19th and 20th centuries (and in one case, as far back as 1701) are generally excellent treatments of particular OT texts or themes about which there are questions and controversies. Those of greatest moment include “Primeval Chronology” by William Henry Green, the great Princeton OT professor of the late 19th century. He demonstrates that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are not, and were not intended to be, absolute accounts, listing every single individual in the descent from Adam to Abraham, and therefore attempts to determine precise dates based on these genealogies--as Ussher misguidedly did--are destined to arrive at false and misleading--and Bible-misrepresenting--conclusions. Our friends at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research who uncritically adopt Ussher’s assumptions and conclusions concerning the dates of the Flood and of Creation would do well to carefully consider Green’s presentation.
Ezekiel Hopkins’ 1701 analysis of the Ten Commands is excellent, as is E. W. Hengstenberg’s “Interpreting the Book of Job.” J. Stafford Wright, “The Interpretation of Ecclesiastes” is a valuable contribution, as is F. Godet’s essay, “The Interpretation of the Song of Songs” (he argues compellingly for the three-character interpretation, and rightly dismisses the allegorical templates--“God’s love for Israel” and “Christ’s love for the Church” as hermeneutically unsound. This compilation is, I believe, the first published work of Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., but by no means the last. Used copies are not difficult to locate (I have seen it for sale several times), and it would be worth the search.
I would characterize this as a mostly outstanding selection of important essays on OT themes and topics (with one or two that don’t rise to the level of the rest). I regret that I did not read the whole of this book 33 years ago when it first came into my possession.
Summerall: On and Off the Air by Pat Summerall. Nashville: Nelson, 2006. 229 pp., hardback.
Pat Summerall is a well-known voice and face due to more than a third of a century as a national sportscaster, chiefly in football (most recently teamed with John Madden) but also golf. The public persona and the private reality for most of that broadcasting career were vastly different from one another.
Born in 1930 with a crippled leg requiring corrective surgery, Summerall was raised in Florida by his grandmother. He excelled in several sports in high school and was able to attend the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship. He ultimately played football in the NFL in the 1950s and 1960s, first for the Detroit Lions and then and most notably for the New York Giants.
When his career on the gridiron ended, a career on the air as a sportscaster and commentator opened up (and at a much higher salary). Summerall was the mainstay of CBS’ NFL coverage for decades. He was famous, well-paid,--and very debased in lifestyle. His fame and large salary enabled him to behave as an undisciplined and unbridled adolescent or frat boy--with constant drunkenness, obnoxious public behavior, frequent adulteries and gross neglect of his family. Ultimately this lifestyle--continued in for many years, simply because he could,--cost him his marriage, endangered his job, and compelled some of his friends to stage an “intervention” to force him into rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic (which occurred in 1992--see pp. 154, 156--not 2002, as is strangely erroneously stated on p. 1). He angrily went--and there was introduced to the Bible and ultimately to salvation through faith. His conversion as described in the book has all the earmarks of being genuine: he became a different man, and sought to make amends for the harm he had done to others, especially his family (there are a couple of spiritually strange comments in the book, be it noted). He was, a little over a year later, able to persuade Mickey Mantle to go the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment for his own alcohol abuse, with similar spiritual results. Mantle died of liver cancer 18 months later.
In 2003, Summerall developed severe life-threatening liver disease (a consequence of decades of alcohol abuse, even though he’d abstained completely for 11 years). A liver transplant was made when Summerall’s condition was very grim, the liver coming from a thirteen-year-old Arkansas boy who had suddenly collapsed at school due to an aneurysm, and died days later.
Unlike more than a few celebrity “testimony” books, this one does not in any way “glorify” the sins of the subject or make excuses for them. Neither does it reproduce the profanity that was the common speech from the subjects “B.C.” (“Before Christ) days. And we are glad on both counts.
A quick and easy read. We can rejoice that God can and does save old sinners as well as young ones. And that at least some “celebrity conversions” are real.