The year 1961 marks the 350th anniversary of the King James Bible. It is this anniversary year which has been marked as the year for publication of the New English Bible. This is a new translation prepared by scholars of the non- Roman Catholic Churches in England, Scotland and Ireland and heralded as one of the best translations to appear in modern times. There have been many of these new translations; e.g., the Revised Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Moffatt Bible, translations by Goodspeed, Knox and Phillips. This version, however, is claimed by those involved in the project to be superior to them all.
A rather elaborate system of committees and panels was set up in order that the translation would be as accurate and yet as beautiful and understandable as possible. A sixteen man committee was in charge of the whole. This committee in turn appointed three panels to be respectively responsible for the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Apocryphal Books. Each panel, in turn, appointed individual translators to translate either one book or a portion of one book. The translator with his panel would then discuss the translation, often spending days discussing one verse. These panels were backed up by a fourth panel of literary advisers who were responsible for the grammar and literary styling of the translations. The finished product was then submitted to the joint committee for final approval.
Only the New Testament is scheduled for publication this year, the Old Testament to be published sometime in the future. The entire venture was begun in 1946, so one can form some estimate of the time consumed in making this new translation.
Whether it will be an improvement over the King James Version remains to be seen. The King James Version has become the beloved Bible of English-speaking Christendom. It has served remarkably well throughout its 350 years. It has been memorized extensively by saints and their children; its passages and lofty style have become familiar to countless people of God; it has been and remains today a source of strength and comfort and spiritual renewal to God’s people in all the circumstances of life. It would be a most remarkable achievement if this new translation is so good that it takes the place of the beloved King James Version in the lives of the saints and in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Although the translation has been kept secret until it is published, a sample is printed in Time magazine. The sample is the first three verses of the First Epistle of John. You may compare it with your present versions.
1) It was there from the beginning; we have heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes; we looked upon it, and felt it with our own hands; and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the word of life.
2) This life was made visible; we have seen it and bear our testimony; we here declare to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us.
3) What we have seen and heard we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
The Synod of our Churches was contacted in 1958 and asked to cooperate in a new translation of the Bible. The request reached our Synod through a letter addressed to us by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Churches, a letter sent to various Church groups throughout this country. The Synod of 1958 adopted a motion which reads, “To appoint a committee and to tell the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church that we will cooperate with them in this matter.” Between the meetings of the Synods of 1959 and 1960 a long questionnaire was received in which the basic principles of translation and various related points were defined, and our reaction to them asked. The committee appointed answered this document which answers were approved by the Synod of 1960. The document also asked whether our Churches felt the need of a new translation. The Synod adopted the answer of the committee which is worth quoting here.
“Our answer to question 1 is negative, on the ground that we do not feel the pressing need for a new translation or revision.
1) It is our opinion that discoveries in the field of textual criticism do not warrant a new translation or revision. Such questions as there are in regard to the text are relatively few, and they may be taken care of by means of comment and exposition.
2) Although we grant that certain words in the Authorized (King James) Version have undergone a change of connotation, there are not sufficient words of this kind to warrant a new translation. We are of the opinion that the Authorized Version comes as close to what the document calls a timeless English as is possible.
3) There is a danger that a new translation in popular style so departs from the style of the Authorized Version that the Bible becomes common and loses its distinctive character.”
Without denying the benefits of a new translation, there is something deeper at issue than a mere desire to improve the King James Version when all these new versions appear on the scene. It leaves one with the very distinct impression that this also is a sign of the unrest and superficiality of our age. There is also the very grave danger involved that new translations become a means of introducing the false religions and private opinions of individuals and groups. For oftentimes a translation is deeply colored by the views which the individual translator may hold.
Yet, on the other hand, it is undoubtedly impossible, and perhaps not even desirable that man be completely objective and rid himself of all his doctrinal beliefs as he begins the work of translation. The only conclusion then is that only a man who believes the truth and who humbly and faithfully walks in the truth can be a successful Bible translator. One’s faith has as its content the Scriptures; but it must be this same faith in the truth of Scripture which moves him in his translation of God’s Word.
Up until several years after World War II, there was one large Presbyterian Church in Korea. This Church was large and influential, and in fact included about 75% of all Christians in Korea in its membership. In the last decade, however, several splits have taken place in this denomination. In 1950 a group left the Presbyterian Church and became known as the Koryo Presbyterian Church. At present it composes about 15% of all Presbyterians in that country. It is with this group that the Christian Reformed Church has fraternal relations. They have given financial aid to the Church, have maintained a relationship of correspondence and have exchanged fraternal delegates at their Synods.
In 1954 another group left the main Presbyterian Church and became known as the Kichang Presbyterian Church, composing about 22% of all Presbyterians. This group was, according to reports, decidedly liberal in theology.
In 1959 the main Korean Presbyterian Church again split, this time almost down the middle. Although the issues even up to now have not been clearly defined, there have been several attempts made to bring about a reconciliation. Some of these attempts have been reported in past months in Christianity Today, and, in fact, several of those connected with Christianity Today have worked in Korea to realize this reconciliation. All attempts failed, however, and the two groups continue to live under separate denominational roofs.
Last year, the Koryo Group which has contact with the Christian Reformed Church and the so-called NAE Group formed by the split of 1959, have discussed proposals to merge. A committee met successfully, the vote in a joint assembly was recently taken, and it seems as if this merger will be realized.
Some years ago the Consistory of Hope Church met with a student from the Koryo Presbyterian Church. At that time, if my memory serves me correctly, this student spoke of the worship of the emperor of Japan forced upon the Korean Churches during the Japanese occupation, as being an issue in the split. Some ministers and laymen, to escape persecution, agreed to worship the emperor and tried to justify their actions after the occupation came to an end with the end of World War II. It was over this issue primarily that the Church first split. However, he also spoke of the inroads of modernism in the Church, and the resulting departure of what is now known as the Kichang Presbyterian Church.
It seems now as if the more conservative element of the Korean Presbyterian Church and the Koryo Presbyterian Church will effect a merger shortly resulting in a comparatively conservative denomination in Korea.
There appeared recently in The Biblical Research Monthly an article which discussed this question appearing above. The magazine which goes under the name Biblical Research Monthly is a periodical which devotes most of its contents to the question of premillennialism and tries to show how history continually affirms the viewpoint of those addicted to this view.
The article in question discusses the possibility of a national or world-wide revival, and answers that such a revival certainly cannot be expected. The author, Dr. David L. Cooper, goes to considerable pains to show that such a revival is a dream incapable of fulfillment, either on a national or international level, at least not before the rapture. He gives his reasons in the following quotation:
“But I am going to tell you that mere can be no revival—even on a small scale, even though God wants to save men, even though the godliest of men are on their knees pouring out their souls and hearts to God in earnest prayer, and even though there are men proclaiming the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit, unless there are sinners who are thirsting after God and who want the truth. All the praying, all the preaching, and all the personal work cannot change the situation unless there are lost men and women who at least are honest and want the truth. God never forces a man’s will. If men are not willing to receive troth, but are set against it, all the prayers, all the preaching, and the efforts made in their behalf are of no avail. . . . God will use moral suasion and influence to the utmost to bring man to a saving knowledge of the truth, but He always stops short of forcing man’s will. Then we see that though we meet the conditions of revival, sinners must want the truth.”
But Dr. Cooper is not completely pessimistic about a revival. He writes later in the article:
“Is all hope for revival gone? No. There is to-be a worldwide revival m which multiplied hundreds of millions of people will come to a saving knowledge of the truth and of Jesus Christ. The prophets have told us when and by whom that world-wide revival will be conducted. When will it be? It will be in the Tribulation period. . . . You have heard it said that it takes a great deal to awake some people. The world is traveled so far from God, spiritually speaking, that He has to arouse it. How? By sending His judgments. . . . Revelation, chapter 7, shows us that there will be 144,000 Jews—Jews to whom we are now giving the truth of the gospel—who, after the church is raptured, will accept the truth and will give it out to the entire world. The gospel must be given to them while the church is here to do it, even though they will not accept it until after the Tribulation begins. As the result of the preaching of these 144,000 evangelists, untold multitudes which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues’ will be brought to the saving knowledge of Christ. It will not be just a national or continental revival, but a world-wide revival—a genuine turning to God.”
It has always been difficult for me to understand why people adopt the position of premillennialism. Clearly the whole view is contrary to Scripture, and does violence to those portions of Scripture on which it is supposed to be based. This in itself is somewhat understandable, for misinterpretations of Scripture are common enough. But, while such errors as Arminianism and Pelagianism appeal to the carnal desires of sinful man inasmuch as they exalt man and deny the holiness and sovereignty of God, premillennialism does nothing of the kind. Its sole interest seems to be in the national salvation of the Jews.
Yet a partial explanation can perhaps be found in this article. For this article is not only decidedly premillennial, but it is also representative of the worst sort of Arminianism. It openly affirms that God cannot save men without the cooperation of their wills. By strong implication, it teaches that men, by their own power and goodness, can love the truth, thirst after it and crave it with all their hearts. Such blatant denial of the power and sovereignty of God one seldom finds. But the conclusion of the matter seems to be that Arminianism and premillennialism usually go hand in hand. Although all Arminians are no doubt not Premillennialists, it seems that inherent in the position of premillennialism is the error bf Arminius and Pelagius.