Over the next week, Pursuing Veritas will take a look at one of the most influential “family trees” of English Bible translations, that of the King James Version. As one of the most influential editions of the Bible (ever, but especially in the English language family), the 1611 KJV has spawned countless translation “offspring”, editions and translations of the Biblical text that use the KJV as their starting point. While we cannot examine here every permutation of the KJV family, the translations being compared are as follows: the 1611 King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the 1985 King James Version, the New King James Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and the English Standard Version. Over the next several days we will briefly examine the translation histories and philosophies behind each of these versions, consider the effectiveness of each translation, and then offer a brief comparison of each version’s translation of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. As a result of this series, we argue that the New Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version are the most effective translations from the KJV family for the modern context.
1611 King James Version (Authorized Version)
The 1611 edition of the King James Version remains one of the most influential works of literature in the English speaking world over four hundred years after its first publication (Noll). One of King James’ principles of translation for the six teams of scholars who worked on the KJV was that traditional ecclesiastical terms and names such as “church” and “Elijah” be retained and that completion of sense unites be noted in distinct typeface (Brake, 188f; Bruce, 98). Notably, there was some confusion concerning the translation of Jesus’ name was in the 1611 edition, as several versions translated Ἰησους as “Judas” in Matthew 26:36 (Brake, 206). As a translation, the editors of the KJV were driven to present of the truths of scripture and to making the word of God understandable for English readers (Preface, “The Translators to the Reader”). While the stated purpose of the KJV included calls for a translation, “as constant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek… ” (Bruce, 96), the final version was primarily based upon the 1602 Bishops Bible, and the translators drew upon the translations of Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible, as well as Greek, Latin, and German manuscripts for their translations (Brake, 190). In the 21st century, the 17th century KJV appears quite antiquated; indeed, it takes some level of skill to interpret the spelling conventions of the 1611 edition within the text. However, the cadence and prose of the KJV remains the default reading for many Christians today, and the impact of the 1611 KJV remains unparalleled in the English speaking world.
While much of the field of the History of Christianity (and indeed, history in general) focuses on the great people and ideas of the tradition or period being studied, the genre of “people’s history” seeks to raise awareness of the ways in which ordinary people have lived throughout time and space. Admirable as this project sounds, it is not without its problems. In my experience, many “people’s histories” tend to make significant assumptions concerning the materials they are handling, most notably that the great persons/doctrines of a tradition represent the elite (in this case, the upper class and/or clergy) and these persons and practices were neither accepted nor practiced by the everyday Christians. Such accounts thus tend to draw strong distinctions between the received history of doctrine and practice and “the way things really were,” claims which often seem based upon conjecture rather than historical evidence. This is in contrast to a more balanced view which, while admitting that differing people often have distinct nuances to their faith and practice, nonetheless concludes that the great people and doctrines of the Christian Church are indeed great because they were affirmed by the community of the faithful comprising the Christian Church.
With this paradigm in mind, I must admit that I began reading A People’s History of Christianity: One Volume Student Edition (Denis R. Janz, Editor. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2014) with some skepticism. Upon engaging this volume, I found that despite its occasional slips into the rhetoric of “elite clergy versus everyone else,” the contributors nevertheless do an admirable job of offering balanced insights into the lives of everyday Christians throughout the history of the Church that shows their connections with the received Christian tradition. Whereas “standard Church history” will introduce students to the theology and writings of Augustine, a “people’s history” remains more interested in what parishioners listening to Augustine preach in Hippo would have actually believed and how they lived out their Christian faiths. This Student Edition offers selections from the seven-volume Fortress People’s History of Christianity that provide accessible and useful material for engaging a side of Christian faith that is often overlooked. Covering everything from the earliest Jesus Movement to the Twenty-First Century, Ancient Judea and Rome to Latin America and Africa, and topics ranging from baptism to power, this volume encompasses a plethora of materials worthy of study and reflection.Continue reading “Book Review: A People’s History of Christianity, One Volume Student Edition (Ed. Janz)”
The issue of authority within and for the church has long been a topic that has sparked debate within the Christian tradition. Even in our own context questions remain concerning the Christian’s attitude toward the state, the role of women in the church, and questions concerning the sufficiency of ecclesiastical offices. In the essay that follows below, we examine several Reformation Era perspectives on authority within the church. Through these perspectives we see that central for these reformation perspectives was their desire to rethink the authority of scripture in light of differing interpretations and interpretive authority structures within the church.
In his Brief Declaration, Robert Fulke writes that the church, as the “house of God,” should be ordered in accordance to the scriptures (185). In scripture, he argues, there are two forms of office: the temporal and the perpetual, each of which holds authority in a particular church, city, or regional area (186). Temporal offices, those which were used in the establishment of the church, included apostles, prophets, evangelists, and those who demonstrated supernatural gifts such as speaking in tongues, healing, and miracles (186). For the current church, Fulke argues, only those who hold perpetual offices are to be understood as authoritative. These ecclesiastical offices include those of pastor, doctor, governor, and deacon (187); of these he conceives of doctors and teachers as the chief instructors of the church (187), and of the elders and deacons as those who should provide order and discipline within the church (187, 190). The goal of the church disciple doled out by elders and deacons was fourfold. He argues that disciple was necessary in order “to keep men in awe from offending and to bring offenders to repentance, to avoid the infection of sin within the church, and the reproach that growth by neglecting the punishment of sin…” (191). Clearly Fulke advocates church discipline that both forms morality and punishes the sins of the congregation when necessary. These purposes in hand, Fulke writes that church discipline was to be enacted by the pastor together with the elders, either punishing Christian offenders or cutting them off from the church (191). Fulke decries the Roman church’s practice of excommunication for he termed minor disagreements with the church, arguing instead for excommunication only on account of unrepentant sins such as covetousness, idolatry, slandering, and those heretics who failed to repent of their errors (191). Ultimately, Fulke appeals to the authority of scripture, specifically that interpreted by pastors in a synod of fellow pastors, as the ultimate authoritative basis for the church (189).Continue reading “Rethinking Authority During the Reformation”
How many times have you sat down after a good meal and thought about how good it tasted? Or how often after an enjoyable evening with friends do you sit back and think about the true meaning of your conversations? While most do not consider themselves philosophers reflecting upon the deeper mysteries of the universe, many people contemplatively enjoy live in less abstract ways. We go through our days enjoying the food, the beauty that we see around us, and the pleasant conversations, while at the same time failing to explicitly contemplate why we enjoy certain things in life. Why does a good meal seem to make the world better? Why is a sunrise so appealing to us? What is it about well written poetry that makes it so good?
C. S. Lewis offers us an example of how we may reflect upon our meaningful experiences in his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” where he discusses the difference between simply enjoying an experience and the deeper contemplation of said experience. Lewis once was standing in a dark toolshed and saw a sunbeam come through a crack above the door. He says that while looking at the beam, he was “seeing the beam, not seeing things by it” (Meditation, 212). This is similar to many of our everyday experiences. We see activities and enjoy them for what they are without looking deeper. This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy the pleasurable things in life, but we ought to examine our lives and experiences closely in order to capture more of the joy that they offer.
Lewis goes on to explain what he saw when instead of merely looking at the sunbeam, he looks through it, out into the world beyond the dark of the toolshed. He says, “Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun” (Meditation, 212). There is a difference between simply looking at an object or experience, and using that experience to see something greater, a facet or characteristic of an experience that would is often lost on us when we do not examine closely the lives that we live.Continue reading “C. S. Lewis on Meaning and Joy”
In the ongoing search for the Historical Jesus, critically important for many scholars is determining authentic Jesus material in the Gospel accounts. Scholars apply multiform methodology in their interpretations of canonical material, but there are several criteria that the majority employ to determine the historical character of a passage of scripture. Qualities such as the originality or dissimilarity of gospel material from other known sources, multiple independent attestations to a narrative or saying, or the overall thematic coherence are vital to determining authentic Jesus material in the modern historical-critical methodology. Concerning gospel material, even the most skeptical scholars generally agree that Jesus spoke in parables. Thus, proper contextualization and interpretation of parables provide scholars a wealth of information concerning the Historical Jesus. Using material from contextual and New Testament studies, we will examine here the parable of the Vineyard Laborers found in the Gospel according to Matthew 20:1-16 and seek to understand how this parable was received and understood by its original audience, as well as in the gospel and modern contexts.
Many scholars believe that the parable of the Vineyard Laborers, while only appearing in the Matthean account does preserve an authentic parables of the Historical Jesus, primarily due to its genuine originality of theme and general coherence of defying cultural expectations. The parable begins as follows: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Here, the parable introduces a number of concepts to its audience. First, this narrative concerns itself with defining and perhaps explaining the concept of the Kingdom of God. Next, the hearer learns that the plot concerns a householder, a man of importance, honor, and means. At this point the audience first encounters cultural dissimilarity. This particular householder specializes not in subsistence crops for daily living, but instead owns a vineyard for producing wine, a specialty crop that indicates his elite status in society. However, the Historical Jesus indicates that this householder leaves his house and seeks laborers early in the morning, an action that would undoubtedly cause some level of confusion for the original audience, as elite landowners in the first century Mediterranean context did not hire their own day laborers but instead often relied on brokers or foreman to do so.Continue reading “The Historical Jesus and the Parable of the Vineyard Laborers”
One of the more interesting thought-experiments that Reformation-era scholars embark upon is asking if there could have been a “Protestant Reformation” without Martin Luther. Understanding that we would likely need to reconceive our current notions of “Protestant” and “Reformation,” it seems likely that some form of theological reformation would have occurred in 16th century Europe even without the flamboyant figure of Martin Luther. In historical inquiry it remains a highly abstract (and somewhat fanciful) process to ask “What if…?” questions. However, given the pre-Protestant Reformation circumstances and European theological and socio-political context, it seems appropriate to let our minds wander and ask “What if there had been no Luther?” Certainly Luther powerfully shaped the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent history of Western Civilization. One need only look to Biblical Studies and the justification-centered interpretation of Pauline thought and the book of Romans that only now, nearly five-hundred years later, Protestant (and protestant influenced) scholars are beginning to emerge from in earnest. One need only to drive down the street in any town or city to notice the diversity of Christian Churches in America, each with the conviction that they cannot give into to other forms of theology, lest they betray their conscience. Unquestionably, Luther indelibly colored the fabric of the reformation and its subsequent impact on our world, few would argue otherwise. Continue reading “A Protestant Reformation Without Martin Luther?”
In her book, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Basic Books: New York, 2004), Barbara R. Rossing confronts perhaps one of the most confusing and highly debated theological topics within the modern Christian Church: the interpretation of the Biblical book of Revelation. In this book, Rossing covers the tenants of what she sees as one of the more popular modern interpretations of the Apocalypse, namely, the dispensational view of the rapture commonly portrayed in the Left Behind series written by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. Throughout The Rapture Exposed, Rossing argues with force that a dispensational view of the rapture and current mindset fostered by such an eschatological view is not only a deeply flawed and unsound interpretation of the Apocalypse, but also that this view may be dangerous from a socio-political perspective. Rossing does a fine job summarizing the basic tenants of dispensational theology as well as her own interpretation of Revelation, and she thoroughly argues her case against dispensational theological interpretation of the scriptures. As a result of reading The Rapture Exposed, readers will have engaged with numerous eschatological interpretative perspectives and will see that a dispensational view of Revelation remains a highly problematic interpretation of the Apocalypse.
Rossing begins The Rapture Exposed with an introduction to the topic of the End Times (eschatology) within Christian theology. She critiques the Rapture perspective which suggests that the world cannot be saved and the lack of Christian ethics which are displayed as acceptable within the popular eschatological thriller series, Left Behind. While covering a broad variety of topics, Rossing may have introduced many readers to a plethora of perspectives and ideas that many popular readers may not be immediately familiar with. However, she makes her often wordy points well and gets her main thesis across: the book of Revelation is not an acceptable Biblical basis for rapture ideology. She then seeks to reargue the ‘traditional’ interpretation of Revelation: a message not of death and destruction but of resurrection and hope. Rossing introduces counters to rapture theology and the basic history of the belief in her second chapter, something which may have done better as the beginning of her book. Nevertheless, Rossing accurately sums up the important historical figures in the realm of dispensational theology, including John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Schofield, Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, Charles Ryrie, and Hal Lindsey. Rossing then moves on the actual basis of dispensational theology—showing how the dispensationalist system finds its systematic roots in a maze of proof-texting, non-historical readings of scripture, and non-canonical interpretation, the result of which is the creation of a systematic theology divorced from its historical and contextual foundations. Focusing on the ‘rapture’ event, Rossing dissects various texts used by dispensational theologians, systematically arguing that such a use of common proof-texts is not at all Biblical, canonical, contextual, or (at times) even a truly legitimate interpretation and rendering of the passages in question.Continue reading “Book Review: The Rapture Exposed (Barbara Rossing)”
“A man who has been many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.” –C.S. Lewis
Monday marked the official completion of my Master of Art’s degree from Wake Forest University. It has been a long and interesting two years here in Winston-Salem (NC), two years of learning and joy mixed with heartbreak, pain, and uncertainty. Hayley and I have developed many good friendships while here in the South, grown together in our marriage, and learned much about balancing life, work, and education. While challenging at times, my time in the Wake Forest Religion Department was highly informative, and my work in the WFU Classics Department learning Greek and Latin was a blast (despite the long hours and frequent lack of sleep). Engagement with the perspectives of my colleagues and professors has been a formative experience that (I hope) has improved me as a person and as a scholar. Hayley and I have enjoyed having the time and freedom to enjoy each other’s company, to take long walks together, and to share the ‘Church Search’ experience with each other. We’ve been very blessed in doing life together here in North Carolina.
That said, we’ve also had some experiences which were not nearly as pleasant: the pain of church leadership devoted to their own agenda’s, the physical and mental anguish of an unknown health problem, and the uncertainty of what future schooling might involve. Nearly two years ago when planning the move to Winston-Salem, we purposed to make these years a challenge of sorts, seeking to experience life (married life, specifically) ‘on our own.’ There have been times when we felt this choice was a mistake. Our newly-married naiveté played into the church situation, though the developments in our own lives as a result of our Church Search have provided something of a silver lining to that pain. Hayley’s ongoing healthcare battle continues to weigh upon us both, though through a dear friend God has provided a doctor who is both professional and proficient. And despite months of uncertainty regarding where we were headed after Wake Forest and what we would be doing, we did finally receive guidance to our next stop in St. Louis.Continue reading “Reflections on an MA”