"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 15, Number 6, June 2012
“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.”
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
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 upon request.]
A Couple of Personal Notes
As we reported in the March, 2010 issue of As I See It (13:3), our younger son
Matthew was seriously wounded while serving as a U.S. Marine in the Helmand
province of southern
We rejoice that Matthew’s life and leg and
health were spared, and that he has recovered fully thanks to good medical
care, his own intensive efforts at rehabilitation and God’s over-ruling
providence. His return to full active
duty meant just that. Given a variety of
deployment options, he chose the path of immediate duty and returned to
As for myself, I went in for my “50,000
mile check-up and oil change” in April (I had been uncommonly exhausted and
lethargic for the previous several months, even a year and more). Although the exam indicated that most things
were just fine, my doctor recommended a stress test. Since I get a great deal of physical exercise
gardening, cutting firewood, and occasional landscaping work, eat properly and
take a panoply of vitamins, minerals and supplements (just in case), I expected
that it would show nothing abnormal, just like the last time a decade or so
ago. Heart beat--good and strong;
valves--functioning properly; arteries--“Houston,
Henry Alford on Free-will and Human Responsibility
“Our verse [Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” etc.] is a striking and decisive testimony to the practical freedom of our will to receive or reject the heavenly Guest: without the recognition of which, the love and tenderness of the saying becomes a hideous mockery.
We then open the door to Christ when we admit Him, His voice, His commands, His example, to a share in our inner counsels and sources of action. To say that this can be done without His grace is ignorance; to say it is done only by that grace irresistibly exerted, it far worse--it is to deprive His gracious pleadings of all meaning.”
The Greek Testament, vol. IV, p. 592
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1968 edition)
[Note: Henry Alford (1810-1871) was a noted English Biblical scholar; we still sing his hymn “Come Ye Thankful People,” but his most important works were The Greek Testament, a still valuable technical commentary on the entire NT in four volumes--I prize it highly--, and its simplified version for English-only readers, The New Testament for English Readers, also in four volumes. He served as one of the translators for the English Revised Version NT (1881).--Editor]
Scholarship Then and Now
In recent months, I have been studying and
teaching through the early chapters of The
Book of Revelation. As part of my
preparation, I have been consulting, inter
alia, some commentaries, among them Henry Alford’s The Greek Testament, and The
Apocalypse of St. John by H. B. Swete (1835-1917), as well as relevant
Bible dictionary articles in the old Smith’s
Bible Dictionary, American edition edited by H. B. Hackett in four volumes
(1868), and James Hasting’s Dictionary of
the Bible in five volumes (1898ff), and I have been repeatedly struck by
the clear superiority of the “average” individual 19th century Bible
scholar over his counter-part
today. In such modern works as Unger’s Bible Dictionary or the New Bible Dictionary edited by J. D.
Douglas (these are my two favorites), there were brief entries on Ephesus,
Smyrna, Thyatira and the rest of the cities where the seven congregations
addressed by Jesus were located. But for
a full accounting of each place, its history, and circumstances, I found the
dictionaries of Smith and of
A standard part of 19th century (and earlier) Biblical scholars’ intellectual apparatus and training was years and years of study--to the point of gaining real competence--of classical Greek and Roman literature and history, as well as extensive exposure to and familiarity with the writings of the so-called church “fathers” of the first four Christian centuries. The ability to read and write Latin with real competence was a given for those in the scholarly community, with an accompanying knowledge of Caesar and Cicero, Ovid and Livy, Horace, Sallust and Seneca. Familiarity with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the Greek original were the expected norm, and Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon among the historians, Plato and Aristotle among the philosophers, and a host of other once-familiar names were known widely in the world of Biblical scholarship. (Some years back, when I read through 400 pages of Calvin’s commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, I was struck by how frequently he referenced classical Greek and Latin authors, and that at a time when such studies were just beginning a resurgence after centuries of neglect).
Why study such things? Are they really
“relevant” to Biblical studies? Much
so, and in every way. The back drop, the
historical and cultural and linguistic context
of all of the NT and much of the OT is the classical world. Classical Greek literature tells us most of
what we know about the Persian and Greek empires, and a goodly amount about the
last stages of the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations. It gives us information about places, people,
and events that appear in the Biblical narrative, but about which the OT and
the NT do not give us the details. For
example--each of the cities where “the seven congregations of
And of course, the church fathers (especially those before 325 A. D.) inform us of the propagation of the faith, persecutions, disputes, controversies, and doctrinal wrangling that form the foundation of “Christian” culture that came to dominate Europe and other places in subsequent centuries. There is an immense amount of information in the church fathers that is important for apologetics, the question of the canon, textual criticism, historical theology, and more. But we today aren’t familiar with them in Greek or Latin, and in most cases not even in English!
Scholars well-versed in classical and ecclesiastical Greek are spared from the “tunnel-vision” “word-study” myopia of those with only knowledge of NT Greek (and a meager acquaintance at that). Knowing how Biblical terms were used in non-theologically loaded secular contexts can spare a multitude of cases of straining gnats and swallowing camels, and even gross misrepresentation of what the Biblical text says and means; certainly, extra-biblical usage of terms casts much light on words of rare occurrence or disputed meaning in the Bible (e.g., T. J. Conant, in his mid-19th century work Baptizein, demonstrated via the citation of every occurrence of the word baptizein in Greek literature outside the NT, that the word means immerse, literally (usually) or figuratively (occasionally) , and never sprinkle or pour). And knowledge of the grammar of secular Greek (and Latin) casts a flood of light on Biblical grammar as well (e.g., Granville Sharp in the defense of his famous “rule” regarding the use of the definite article in the NT, cited hundreds of occurrences of this same construction outside the NT to demonstrate its validity).
It is a good thing that Sir William Smith (1813-1893; the Dictionary of National Biography entry on him is concise and informative) edited his series of remarkable and outstanding dictionaries when he did. Those include Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1848); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, (1849; 3 volumes); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1857); Dictionary of the Bible (1865; 3 volumes); Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (1880; 2 volumes); and Dictionary of Christian Biography (1887; 4 vols.)--to mention only his larger works. These truly remarkable and outstanding volumes which are still of very great value could not be produced today if they did not already exist. A sufficient corps of suitably trained scholars could not be found in the English-speaking world. And what is notable about Smith’s team of scholars is that many of them were (and are) familiar names in Biblical as well as classical studies.
The prominence of classical studies began
to wane in the latter half of the 19th century. First Greek then Latin began disappearing
from high school and college curricula.
This growing disregard for classical studies led Professor A. F. West of
Princeton to publish a book, The Value of
the Classics (1917), defending their traditional place in American
education. The great Baptist Greek
scholar A. T. Robertson lamented the difficulty he had in the 1920s of finding
a high school in
Among the last scholarly works that had the impress of scholars trained in the classical tradition seem to be the series of Bible-related dictionaries edited by James Hastings. There were still some classically-trained men well into the 20th century, but they were far fewer in number than in earlier generations (is the rise of liberalism and modernism a cause or an effect of this widespread abandonment of Latin and Greek studies--since the close study of the original documents has lost it seeming importance--or perhaps partly both?).
Today in the world of Biblical scholarship, it is not high competence in Greek or Hebrew or Latin, or close familiarity with classical and ecclesiastical antiquity that are valued or sought, but familiarity with the latest in what passes for scholarly literature. Yes, some (although I think generally a rather small “some”) of the flood of current Biblical literature published in book, periodical or now electronic form is important and valuable, but a decided preponderance of it is at best of marginal present significance and of almost no permanent worth. Likely less than 5% of such published work is worthy of present attention, and surely not 1% or even ½ of 1% will still be read or cited a century hence.
Where, today, could the man be found who could scour the relevant Latin literature and produce the equivalent of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? Where would be found the scholar so well versed in the Greek and Latin church fathers and later writers, so as to give us a new Schaff’s History of the Christian Church? Where could be found today the scholars necessary to give us the equivalent of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene church father sets in 38 volumes edited by Philip Schaff et al.? Who, today, could match J. B. Lightfoot or B. F. Westcott or William Mitchell Ramsay for depth and breadth of direct familiarity with classic civilization and the early ecclesiastical literature? While we may be collectively better informed, with better and more immediate access to information due to technology, we are individually very much inferior to our predecessors of a century and more ago in what we actually, and personally and individually know. Accredited B.A.s with no language study at all are commonplace; M.A.s and M.Div.s (with increasingly diminished language requirements) are giving way to non-language M.Min. degrees, and the Th.D. and Ph.D. with their requirement of Greek and Hebrew and also competence in two modern languages is giving way to the language-less D.Min. We are “accredited” and degreed and “doctored” much more, while actually knowing decidedly less in our field of specialization. The world of Biblical scholarship, and our civilization in general, has lost a very great deal with our abandonment of foundational classical studies.
(One of the most remarkable and informative works, which is guaranteed to humble, even humiliate and shame, anyone today who smugly thinks himself well-read and well-informed, and proud of his scholarly attainments, is A History of Classical Scholarship by John Edwin Sandys (1903, 3 vols.; 1920, 3rd edition). The men described in this work, especially in the Reformation and post-Reformation era, generally knew more at 25 than the modern scholar does at 60--Editor)
Sodomy is Still a Sin
“What, should the sin of
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 58 (1912)
"All the customs in the world cannot make wrong right, and if everybody that ever lived from Adam down to this hour had done a wrong thing and declared it to be righteous, yet would it make no moral difference in the evil deed. A thousand years of whitewashing cannot make a vice a virtue. God’s command standeth fast for ever, and he who breaketh it must bear his punishment."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 23 (1877)
(A thank you to Pastor Kerry Allen for bringing these quotes to my attention. Pastor Allen has a daily Spurgeon quote tweet--actually four quotes daily--, which can be received at @SPURGEONdotUS --Editor)
An English Translation of the Peshitta Syriac Bible
A couple of months ago (As I See it 15:4), in an article” Ancient
Bible Versions in English Translation,” we noted that, to our knowledge, there
were but two English versions of the Peshitta Syriac New Testament translation,
both made in the mid-19th century (by James Murdock and J. W.
Etheridge, respectively), and both commendable as accurate translations. We also mentioned the Lamsa version, a mid-20th
century work which claims to be an accurate translation of the whole Peshitta
Bible but is in fact extremely inaccurate and unreliable (and hence,
unusable). Well, just yesterday (as we
write), in the July-August 2012 issue of Biblical
Archaeology Review, we discovered a full-page advertisement announcing The Antioch Bible, “a fresh new
idiomatic English translation based on the Aramaic text of the Syriac
Peshitta.” The translation is reported
to be “the work of an inter-faith international team of scholars from North
But then there is this--the edition, with parallel Syriac text (and I admit to liking parallel texts and translations)--is to be issued in a limited edition, ornately bound, of 28 volumes, at a retail price of $150 per volume ($4,200 for the set)!!! (Oh, the first 100 BAR readers to subscribe to the set can get it for a mere $75 per volume, or a mere $2,100 for the set, all told!!!) We are not even informed as to which published Peshitta text will be used, though it is stated that the text would be fully pointed with vowels.
This is not the way to produce a translation of the Peshitta, at least not if you want it to be genuinely useful and to have wide distribution. First, rather than an “idiomatic English version,” it is far better to produce a largely formal equivalence translation whenever the base text is itself a translation of the Bible (rather than the original), since the very point of making an English translation of the Peshitta is to let the English reader see exactly how the Peshitta (or Septuagint or Vulgate or Targum, as the case may be) reads and how its translators understood (or misunderstood) the original (we shall raise this objection again in analyzing a modern English version of the Septuagint). Did they read this particular vowel-less Hebrew word as a verb, an infinitive, a participle, etc.? An “idiomatic” English translation adds another layer of haze over the ancient version and is less useful to the English reader than a formal equivalence translation would be. Not having seen the translation itself, other than two brief samples in the advertisement, I cannot judge how the translation theory works out in actual practice.
And publishing such a version in ornate, hyper-expensive multi-volumes reminds me of the earliest Roman Catholic Spanish Bible versions, namely that of Scio (1793) and Amat (1823-1825), which appeared in multiple volume editions, the former with parallel Vulgate (see “Spanish Bible Versions, part III,” As I See It 12:1). These, like the announced “Antioch Bible,” were priced far beyond the means of nearly everybody who might have wanted to read them. By such a publishing scheme, the publisher of this present work guarantees that the sets sold will only number in the few hundreds, perhaps a couple thousand at most. Even larger libraries will likely “pass” on acquiring such. Far better to issue a single volume edition, sans parallel Peshitta, at a reasonable price; by comparison, the Amat and Scio Spanish versions gained wide distribution only after the Bible societies published them in inexpensive single volume editions).
Were I to make an English version of the Peshitta OT (and I have toyed with idea, but have neither a publisher nor sponsor nor financial resources for such a project), I would employ such translations of the Peshitta as exist and that I could make use of (there was a Latin version of it in the London Polyglot, and there is of course Lamsa’s failed English attempt; I am not currently aware of any other versions of the Peshitta), and I would have the Hebrew, Septuagint and Targums at hand (all of which are relevant in various ways to the Syriac version of the OT). I would render as literally as possible consistent with intelligibility. And I would publish in a single volume or at most, a two-volume OT / NT set, with perhaps a second annotated edition drawing attention to variant readings in the Syriac manuscripts, disagreements from the MT Hebrew or agreements with or dependence on the other ancient OT versions.
The announced Antioch Bible, then, due to virtually guaranteed inaccessibility and great cost, and an (apparently) misguided translation paradigm, is likely to be largely a very costly (to the publisher) failure.
Team of Rivals: the
Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris
Being, as I always am, in the market for any promising book about Abraham Lincoln, I purchased this volume seven years ago when it came out (at Sam’s at a considerable amount less than full retail), but put off reading it until this year. My delay had several causes--first, I often have a larger “appetite” for reading when purchasing books than I have capacity to read them; as it were, my “eyes were bigger than my (mental) stomach.” Second, I am always apprehensive about launching into any book that has 800, 900, 1,000 pages, knowing full well before I start that I will have to devote at least a full month, likely more--usually more--to that one book (in this case, it was three months from the day I cracked the book, until I finished it; I did read almost half a dozen other books during that same time period, though). Then, third, the author is not one of my favorites, especially because of her serving as an apologist for Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous presidency (in which she served in some minor position), and also for the Kennedys, and the Franklin Roosevelts. In spite of these obstacles, I finally yielded to the urgings of a cousin of mine who is beyond question the most voluminous reader of American history and politics that I know personally, who repeatedly said I should read it. And so I finally, and hesitantly, did.
And a remarkable book it is. I would place it among the best half dozen
The shoo-in favorite to win the Republican
nomination in 1860 was William Seward, a staunch opponent of slavery who had
The second-most-prominent aspirant for the
nomination in 1860 was Salmon Chase, a strong abolitionist who had been
Edward Bates of
Among the most prominent men in the
narrative is Edwin Stanton, a staunch Democrat who had previously served as
Attorney General in the waning months of the Buchanan administration.
Other lesser cabinet and government
officials enter the narrative as relevant--Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the
Navy, Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, Lincoln’s two private
secretaries John Nicolay and John Hay, various senators, generals and
The narrative is very heavily annotated: 120 pages of very small print in the back have what must total nearly 4,000 notes, though I of course hate the modern way of documentation--employing catch-phrases (rather than numbers) and the notes shoved in the back of the book instead of where they belong--at the foot of the page.
My cousin was right--this is decidedly worthwhile reading.
The Torah: Jewish and
Samaritan Versions Compared, arranged by Mark
The “Samaritan Pentateuch” (henceforth SP), the recension of the Hebrew Torah as preserved and propagated by the Samaritan sect, is an important non-Masoretic witness to the original text of the Law of Moses. Numerous editions have been published over the centuries, mostly in largely inaccessible or very expensive forms. And while some of the more notable variants of the SP from the Masoretic text are commonly met with in the footnotes of critical editions of the Hebrew text (such as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) or in the footnotes of English translations (such as the NIV), these notes are always “selective” and often by-pass variants that might be of interest to the student of Scripture. While not “cheap,” strictly speaking, here at least the SP is readily available, and in a form that is particularly useful for comparison, having the SP and the Masoretic text on opposite pages, with all of the consonantal differences--even if just differences in spelling (plene versus defectiva) or the mere presence or absence of the conjunction “and” or the definite article--are printed in bold-face. Any lacunae in either text (vis-à-vis the other) is marked with a series of dots.
The texts employed, chiefly because of
availability, were the MT of the famous
The book has an instructive introduction that explains the compiler’s method and what to expect, and not expect, from this edition. An appendix gives a sample of the SP in the archaic Samaritan script, along with a transliteration into Roman characters of the traditional Samaritan pronunciation of the text. There is a select bibliography at the end.
I have long wanted at least some edition of the SP for study and comparison, and this edition, while not “ideal” (i.e., a thorough, even exhaustive critical edition listing all variants in all manuscripts), it is certainly more than I had hoped to find. I shall be consulting it as opportunity arises.
Footprints in the Ash: the
Explosive Story of
Beyond doubt, the most spectacular geologic
event in North America in the past 100 years was the Sunday morning eruption in
May 1980 of Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range in southwestern
How can a massive volcanic eruption be in relative miniature a parallel to the events
accompanying a world-wide flood? In truth--in almost every way! The Flood of Genesis was accompanied, even
probably triggered, by the rupturing
of the earth’s crust (“the fountains of the great deep--ocean--were ripped
apart”). This naturally would have
included mind-bogglingly massive and widespread volcanic eruptions (the
volcanoes of the pre-historic past--e.g.,
those which created Yellowstone National Park--are known to have been
exponentially larger than Mount St. Helens, or even Krakatoa), and accompanying
such volcanoes there would have been earthquakes, immense tsunamis (for those
volcanoes near or in the ocean), massive erosion of soil, sand and rock,
destruction and uprooting of all vegetation (which would become floating mats
that slowly settled to the bottom in extensive layers), deposition of sediment,
rapid extermination and burial of living organisms, exposed bare ground subject
to continuing erosion by wind and water until restabilized by plant growth, and
more. Every kind of activity--except for
40 days of heavy rains--that would have occurred during a flood such as the
Bible describes also occurred but on a smaller scale at
The book is more pictures than text, but the full color photos, plus a few charts, maps and drawing are very instructive, worth in many cases more than the proverbial thousand words. The volume is written on a non-technical layman’s level, perhaps 9th grade and up.
The authors, both with earned Ph.D. degrees in geology and both long-associated with the Institute for Creation Research, have studied Mount St. Helens and its aftermath in detail ever since its occurrence. This is a very instructive little book.