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“OF MANY VERSIONS”

In a recent issue of “The Banner of Truth” appeared a reprint from “Missionary Monthly” written by John R. De Witt in which he makes some interesting comments on the proliferation of Bible translations. Some of these comments are worth sharing with our readers. 

After making it clear that he is not opposed to Bible translations in themselves, he writes:

I do however, have some critical reflections on the subject of translations and their use which probably are not popular and which certainly are very little considered . . . It seems to me that one. of the chief considerations in the study of the Word of God is the need not only abstractly and objectively to penetrate into its meaning, within a certain historical framework and the context of the place each part of Scripture occupies in the history of God’s dealings with his people—such things are of course enormously significant, and one only does men a disservice when he depreciates them, but also to absorb, to assimilate that meaning into the very substance of one’s own life.

After quoting several pertinent texts, the author goes on:

The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us in His fulness and grace thereby to do His work to build Christ’s church, to change lives, to incorporate us into the new creation of God. It is practical, direct, effective, sharp and quick and powerful, more so than a two-edged sword. . . . 

The ancients understood this. It was not only because a few men could read, and fewer still could possess for themselves a copy of the sacred writings, that so great an accent fell upon the memorization of the Scriptures. Others have understood it, too. It is not for nothing that on the title page of the Authorized (King James) Version the words appear: ‘appointed to be read in churches.’ To be sure, the words mean that the translation had a very high, authoritative status. One notices, however, that the familiar version reads much better out loud than any of the other, more recent, and sometimes more accurate translations of the Bible. Why? Because attention clearly was paid to this very matter. The translators were concerned with the oral effect of their work, with the ease with which it could be used in public and private worship, and—still more—with the facility with which men could commit verses and whole passages to memory, thus helping them to hide it in their hearts. Everyone knows and has been struck by the grandeur and beauty of the cadences in the common version; not everyone has realized what an enormous aid these are to the getting of the Scriptures by heart, the memorizing of them.

From this the author draws some conclusions. He freely admits that there are advantages to newer translations. But he goes on to say:

It does seem to me incontrovertible, however, that there are great advantages in the use of a single, great translation of the Word of God—not to the exclusion of others, which indeed may be consulted occasionally. I refer to the devotional reading of Scripture, its memorization, its use in worship: in a word, to the reading of the Scripture in every other instance than the specific study of certain portions of it. 

When and while one reads, he ought to be getting the Word by heart, allowing his whole being to be saturated with what he reads, permitting it to affect him intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. And if he changes his versions by the day or week or even year, though some advantage may be gained in terms of the understanding of an occasional thought or word, yet the end result will be that he knows no version thoroughly, that his mind is quite confused as to the wording of the Scriptures, that, in short, he memorizes and gets by heart nothing at all. 

My own view is that people ought to choose a great, churchly, version of the Scriptures—not one produced privately, or by a group of men working on their own—and stick to it, getting it by heart, learning it, mulling over it, loving it, letting it penetrate them, altogether, so that its language becomes their own. Leave the litter of modern translations or paraphrases to one side, except for the purposes of occasional consultation and study. Which version? That is, of course, not easy to say. My view continues to be that whatever its drawbacks in terms of the text upon which it was based and the increase of our acquaintance with the biblical background since it was produced, the King James Version remains unequalled in the splendor of its language, its devoutness, its dignity, and its sheer memorizableness. To be sure, some difficulties have to be overcome. Some words need to be checked in a good dictionary. But what of that? Have it always with you, read it, and get it by heart!

The author has made, in our opinion, some very excellent comments on this subject and we find ourselves in wholehearted agreement with them.

MERGER NEWS 

From the RES Newsletter we quote the following:

A merger between two small Presbyterian groups is a step nearer in the wake of the yearly meeting of leaders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, held in Portland.

The General Assembly authorized a negotiating committee to work out a possible plan of merger with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Talks have been under way for two years. 

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has 131 affiliated churches and 14,000 members. The Reformed Presbyterian Church—Evangelical Synod has 115 affiliated congregations and 11,000 members. The latter is distinct from the Reformed Presbyterian Church, sometimes called the “Covenanters” in reference to early Presbyterians in Scotland. Orthodox Presbyterian leaders, meanwhile, reported an increase of 1.1 percent in membership. 

A survey of attitudes about the proposed union indicates that most ministers on the Reformed Presbyterian side expect and want that union to occur. An extensive but informal mail survey was conducted by Rev. George P. Hutchinson. The survey revealed that “Christian Liberty” is easily the most significant consideration in most RPs’ minds as an obstacle to union, receiving four times more recognition than any other issue. 

The practical advantages of union are regarded as the primary incentive for union, although a sense of scriptural authority and a desire for a more Reformed church were mentioned with less frequency. Of the 94 replies, 59 state that they are leaning toward union.

While the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is also talking merger with the Christian Reformed Church, much of the desire for such a union is gone among Orthodox Presbyterians. These continue to be alarmed at the strong tendencies towards liberalism among Christian Reformed Churches.

PROTESTS IN THE GEREFORMEERDE KERKEN

Again quoting from the RES Newsletter, we call attention to the large number of protests against the liberalism in the Gereformeerde Kerken with which their Synod must deal.

In an interview in Trouw, Dr. P.G. Kunst, president of the General Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, stated that he has received at least 200 letters of protest concerning the new theological views of Prof. H. M. Kuitert and others. The protests come from individual persons, consistories, classes and two provincial synods. In many letters, Dr. Kunst stated, the same train of thought was obvious and he attributed this to an “organized concern.” In the majority of letters, however, he detected a tone of upright concern. The letters have been forwarded to a committee which will present the Synod with advice. While most of the letters deal with the views of Professor Kuitert, many of them, especially those which do not display the same pattern, deal with the binding force of the church confessions. 

In answer to the question whether in his view there is room within the Reformed churches for the views of Kuitert, Dr. Kunst replied, “There must be room within the frame of the confessions for diverse views. This is not just my personal view, the Synod has said it. That became clear in our discussions concerning the relation to the Liberated churches. Whether this is the same leeway as Kuitert expects, is a question which the committee and the Synod will have to decide. I am personally of the opinion that Professor Kuitert by his way of writing and his openheartedness—I would say his disarming openheartedness—has aroused justified criticism.” In the view of Dr. Kunst a compromise is not possible. “A division in the church should not be charmed away at all costs. I stand for Reformed churches which know what they confess.” 

The General Synod will meet during the last week of October to deal with the letters of protest.

It would be a surprising though welcome development if these letters of protest resulted in a strong and uncompromising condemnation of the heretical views of Dr. Kuitert. But this is unlikely. It is unlikely in the light of past decisions which the Synod has made—decisions which have already severely compromised the doctrinal stand of the Gereformeerde Kerken; it is unlikely in the light of the fact that the views which are being taught by Kuitert and many others involve these men in a violation of the Formula of Subscription—a matter that has never been treated and, if it had been treated, would long ago have resulted in their deposition; it is unlikely in view of the fact that those who oppose Kuitert do not do so with any kind of severity—a severity which the situation demands if the Reformed faith is to be preserved in these churches. For the most part, the ones who protest are mild and equivocal. There is a spirit of tolerance abroad in the churches. And this tolerance extends to the most vicious heresies. It is a tolerance which permits the church to sit by while the devil captures her confession and destroys it. 

A FOOTNOTE TO HEART TRANSPLANTS 

In several newspapers an interesting news item was carried concerning an interview with the daughter of Dr. Philip Blaiberg who was the world’s first heart transplant patient and who died a little over a year ago after his body rejected the new heart and after he had lived with the new heart 19 months and 15 days. The news item was carried by UPI and datelined Capetown, South Africa. 

In this interview, the daughter of Dr. Blaiberg says that the 19 months during which her father lived with his new heart were “hell”. She claimed that her father was, after the transplant, a different man, that he underwent a complete personality change and that the change was for the worse. She speaks of the terrible physical suffering which he endured and of the all but impossible task of living even a semblance of a normal life. It was her opinion that the heart transplant was not worthwhile. 

She admittedly does not know whether the personality change which came over her father was due to the transplant or to the drugs which he was forced to take; but her interview raises some very interesting questions. When this operation was first performed, we raised questions in an article in this column—questions which we thought ought to be answered in the light of the major role Scripture assigns to the heart of man. These remarks of Miss Blaiberg add urgency to these questions. It would seem that until they are answered, a heart transplant is ethically out for a Christian.