that Martin!

I am reading an e-book translation of Martin Luther’s letter to a friend on translation. You can find it here: An Open Letter on Translating. The style is certainly Luther, in full bombast mode. To our ears, it sounds alternately crude, rude, and hilarious. Here is a paragraph I read to my wife, it should give you a flavor…

Now when the angel greets Mary, he says: “Greetings to you, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Well up to this point, this has simply been translated from the simple Latin, but tell me is that good German? Since when does a German speak like that—being "full of grace"? One would have to think about a keg "full of" beer or a purse "full of" money. So I translated it: "You gracious one". This way a German can at last think about what the angel meant by his greeting. Yet the papists rant about me corrupting the angelic greeting—and I still have not used the most satisfactory German translation. What if I had used the most satisfactory German and translated the salutation: "God says hello, Mary dear" (for that is what the angel was intending to say and what he would have said had he even been German!). If I had, I believe that they would  have hanged themselves out of their great devotion to dear Mary and because I have destroyed the greeting.

Bro. Martin is arguing against a charge that he mistranslated Rm 3.28 by adding in the word ‘alone’ to modify ‘faith’ where it says:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Martin’s point is that in translating, getting the meaning is more important than seeking a word-for-word correspondence. (He also says something to this effect, ‘If the papists don’t like my translation, let them write one of their own.’ He says this in a characteristically Martin-esque way.)

His letter is instructive and something that all of us concerned with the Bible and its translation should bear in mind. And it is entertaining to read at certain points!


is it right to be NASB-only?

In a previous thread, one of my good on-line friends posed a real dilemma that he says happened in our circles. I am sure he is reporting accurately, I am not accusing him of making any misstatements or misrepresentations at all.

The scenario is that of a missionary from a fundamentalist mission board who is required by his board to use the KJV when preaching in English in the USA. He wants to present his mission at a local church that has made the NASB the only version that can be used in its pulpit.

Obviously, if there is no give on either side, the missionary would have to forego that meeting. (From a missionary’s perspective, given the odds of getting support from any given church, missing one isn’t that big a problem.)

And from a local church perspective, I think establishing such a policy is certainly within the rights of a local church. We can quibble as to the wisdom of the policy, but it is within the purview of any local church to make a decision about a standard version for their church.

However, the scenario raises a few questions that I wonder how my readers might answer.

  1. While I can understand standardizing on a version for your local ministry, wouldn’t it be better to allow visiting speakers some flexibility in use of translations?
  2. Wouldn’t a rigid inflexibility here tend to communicate the same error that rigid King James Onlyism makes? (i.e., Only the KJV is the Word of God … or, in this scenario, Only the NASB is the Word of God.)
  3. How would you feel if you did allow guest speakers limited flexibility and they used…
    1. … the KJV in your services?
    2. … the NASB?
    3. … the ESV?
    4. … the NKJV?
    5. … the Holman?
    6. … _______? (you fill in the blank)

Just a little thought experiment. I am not pontificating, just wondering.

I am also, of course, assuming that versions other than the KJV are permissible. So, my KJO friends, this is not a thread to raise the KJV debate. I won’t post any comments that get into that fight. I am just interested in discussing this scenario and these questions. If you would only ever use the KJV, then this thread is probably not for you.


a fundamental failure?

Recent discussions here prompt a longer response, hence a new post on the question: Have Fundamentalists failed to separate from heretics on their ‘right’?

For context, I am going to quote from two of my correspondents. I’ll link to the comments of each so you can see the whole context. First, from Larry:

on the KJVO thing, there are two points: (1) KJVO people deny what the Bible teaches about itself and therefore have denied a fundamental of the faith; as fundamentalists, if there were ever a cause for separation surely this would be it. Fundamentalism’s willingness to tolerate doctrinal aberrancy in this situation is why many people are leaving it. (2) I am for not making it an issue. KJVO people make it an issue which they have done by their vocal stands. I am fine if someone uses only the KJV or believes it is the best translation or believes that the TR is the best text. I can and will work with that kind of person. There are no problems there for me. I would only make an issue of it if they did. (Full comment here.)

We should be willing to speak out about "us" just as freely and strongly as we do about "them." People should not get a pass on doctrine or practice simply because they separate from the same people we do. (Full comment here – different comment from above quoted paragraph.)

And from Dave

The issue with the "nutbars," as you call them, is not that they haven’t separated from mainstream fundamentalism themselves, but that they have not, by and large, been clearly repudiated by mainstream fundamentalism.  …

Even brothers can be noted and avoided that they may be ashamed, and fundamentalism should clearly do this with the extremists, just as they do with the NEs.  Not dealing with the extremists on the right absolutely contributes to the young people then not believing what is said about those on the near left, especially when what they hear from them is much sounder doctrinally than the preaching they hear from those on the right that are tacitly accepted. (Full comment here.)

You can see, I think, a common thread. Larry and Dave are arguing that Fundamentalism by and large has tolerated errors on its right, leaving itself open to the charge of inconsistency and hypocrisy. Larry uses phrases like “denied a fundamental of the faith” and “doctrinal aberrancy.” Dave uses the term “extremists.”

Regular readers will not be surprised that I don’t think Fundamentalism is guilty as charged. In fact, I think quite the opposite.

[Read more…]

a perfect argument?

I’d like to take up an argument my friend Kent makes in support of his view of Bible preservation. I do so with some trepidation as I am not wanting to get into a wide-ranging debate on the whole topic, it is just this particular argument that I want to address with a few comments.

It comes up by way of a guest post on Kent’s blog by David Sutton, but the subject is one Kent himself has written about as well. The most recent blog is called, “Perfect Tense Preservation”.

First, I’ll try to state the argument succinctly. Kent (or others) can correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of the argument:

it is written

The argument uses the words of the Lord Jesus in responding to Satan as an argument for the perfect preservation of the Scriptures.

The argument is based on the Lord’s use of the perfect tense in the phrase, ‘it is written’. The perfect tense, we are told, refers to past action with ongoing results in the present (to the person speaking).

Since the Lord referred to God’s Word by using the Greek word gegraptai, ‘it is written’ or ‘it hath been written’ (YLT), the argument goes that this proves the words initially written by Moses and quoted by Jesus were continually in existence from the time of Moses to the time of Christ in a perfectly preserved written form. Further, the word assumes, according to the argument, that the words will be preserved into the future since the ongoing effect of the perfect tense is such that when the future becomes the present, the effect is maintained.

In TSKT, I made the point that what Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy was written down by Moses and continued written down some 1400 years later when Jesus referred to those passages. Thus, if Jesus claimed those words were still written down in His day, then we should understand that we still have them written down in our day.

Well, I have some questions about this.

[Read more…]


Sinaiticus is available to view online.

This might be of interest to only a select few, but the various libraries that own sheets of Sinaiticus have cooperated to make the entire codex available.

You can see photographs of each page (or fragments of pages), jump from page to page by Bible reference, see a transcription of each page as well as a translation.

Regardless of your views of the textual issues, it is tremendous that this most important manuscript of the Bible is now available for anyone to see.


does mt 4.4 teach perfect preservation?

This is in response to the ongoing conversation in reply to my last post. Kent has given his reasons for teaching that Matthew 4.4 teaches perfect preservation and continual availability of the word of God in every generation. My thesis is that the text teaches no such thing.

First let’s look at the text itself:

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

This is a quotation from Dt 8.3:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

What is the point of the passage? It is possible for a NT quotation to be an application of an OT passage, not giving a new meaning exactly, but instead taking the general principle and applying it to a new situation. This doesn’t appear to be the case in this passage.

[Read more…]

a little argument with my kjo friends

I regularly read the blog of my friend Kent Brandenburg. He often posts here so we have a mutual admiration society thing going. However, we do disagree at some key points.

He is blogging lately about “The Erroneous Epistemology of Multiple Version Onlyism”. I usually don’t enter into the debates on this subject as I find the argumentation exceedingly tedious. The same things get said, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Against my better judgement, however, I do occasionally wade in. Here is my foray on Kent’s latest post. I am arguing against some assertions Kent made, especially the assertion that God’s people are promised to always have God’s word perfectly preserved in every generation. Kent cited Mt 4.4 as proof of this, I object that it says no such thing. I also offer the example of Josiah in 2 Ki 22, where a scroll of the law is discovered in the temple, apparently forgotten and unused and perhaps the only copy of the law in existence at that time (my inference from the reaction of the king and the apparent mystification of the priests about the scroll – see also 2 Chr 34 for more details).

A commenter on Kent’s blog takes me to task for my arguments, I give a smart alecky reply, which Kent takes umbrage at. So there we are.

[Read more…]