The Epidemic of Amateurism
by Glenn Conjurske
The title of the present article is culled from the last page of the
little book by A. W. Tozer, recently reviewed in these pages, on The Menace
of the Religious Movie. Tozer writes, I heard the president of a
Christian college say some time ago that the Church is suffering from
an 'epidemic of amateurism.' This is sadly true. Tozer's book was
written at least two generations ago, and if this was sadly true
then, it is much more so today. This is now a doctrine and a principle.
Everyone is encouraged to assume places for which they are not fit. People
are encouraged to write poetry, who could not write a poem to save their
lives, and they will likely find somebody eager to publish their amateur
productions also. I have seen pieces take the prize in national poetry
contests which were not poetry at all, but only ill-written prose. Everyone
must write, and print too, though he has nothing of value to say, and
no ability to say anything. The church today absolutely groans under a
load of shallow and mediocre books and magazines and newsletters,
and boys and girls must write for them. Pulpits are filled with preachers
who cannot preach, and Sunday schools with teachers who are
no more fit to teach than they are to fly. It is just the same with music.
Every boy who can whistle a string of notes, or every girl who can hum
one, can now be a composer, and some church will be found which is happy
to sing these juvenile productions, and praise them too, and so encourage
the epidemic of amateurism.
Indeed, it is looked upon as a great offense to discourage it. We might
wound somebody's self-esteem. That must be avoided at all
cost. Better to have a dog-catcher conducting a symphony orchestra, than
that his precious self-esteem should be wounded. Better pass the whole
class than wound the self-esteem of those who cannot make a passing grade.
This is actually done in public schools all over this country. But this
is directly against the way of God, and the way of the Bible. The Bible
says, Be not many teachers. The Bible says, to every
man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought
to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man
the measure of faith. Where does the Bible ever exhort us not to
think of ourselves more meanly than we ought to think? If this is all
the danger, as modern psychology would have it, why is this great danger
never addressed in the Bible? Where does the Bible warn us of low
self-esteem? Do our modern psychologists know better than God? The
fact is, we suppose that modern psychology comes from the devil. Most
of our self-esteem is a good deal too high, and we may thank God for whatever
But it is as hard for me as it is for anybody else to wound people's self-esteem.
I have never enjoyed this, and never will. But then my business is not
to make people feel good, but to help them to be good. To give them to
believe that they are something, when they are not, is the surest way
to prevent their ever becoming anything.
And this is but one of the evil effects of the epidemic of amateurism.
Whatever evils it may occasion in the amateurs themselves, its effects
upon others are no better. The flooding of the church with inferior publications,
and the filling of the pulpits with inferior preaching, is a great loss
to the whole church of God. It is no better than a waste of time to read
most of the modern publications, or to listen to the most of modern preaching,
and all this stands directly in the way of the edification which might
be, if the pulpit and the press were left to men of stature. We speak
nothing here of the unsoundness of modern ministry. Even supposing it
all sound, the prevailing incompetence stands in the way of the good which
might be. A great man today could scarcely gain a hearing in the midst
of the babble of the voices of the incompetent.
But these are only the immediate effects, the short-term evils, of the
epidemic of amateurism. Wisdom looks to the long-term effect, and sees
this to be still worse. The final effect of the epidemic of amateurism
is an end of all greatness. Only caress and promote the incompetent, and
there will soon be no other kind to promote. Any and every system which
makes it easy to excel marks the beginning of the end of all greatness.
It destroys initiative. It renders toil and tears useless. When the incompetent
are promoted, there is no reason to be competent. The public school system,
which routinely passes those with failing grades, and lowers the standards
to the level of the students, has destroyed the intellectual prowess of
the nation. In the name of education, it has created a nation which cannot
think, and which can scarcely read, to say nothing of writing correct
grammar or literary English. And in the names of liberty and democracy,
amateurs of every description have been caressed and encouraged and promoted
till the only examples men have to follow are the amateurish and the mediocre,
and the whole nation has thus been reduced to mediocrity.
America has no great men
----neither in church nor state. What little
I hear from time to time of the speeches of congressmen or Presidents ----or
candidates for those offices ----what little I hear of the leading
preachers of the church ----is all the veriest mediocrity, or worse.
Dull, dry, sterile, shallow, artificial, witless, and passionless. Empty
rhetoric and shallow platitudes, without substance and without heart.
America calls itself the greatest nation on earth, but the greatness is
all past. She reaps today the fruits of her former greatness, but it is
all physical, material, and commercial. In the realms of the soul and
spirit, she has no great men today.
But what is infinitely worse, she wants none. She has no use for them.
They stand in her way. The light of the sun is fatal to the ambitions
of the glimmering stars. Who would care to admire the soaring of the eagle,
when he might flutter to the top of some fence-post himself, and be admired
by a dozen clucking hens? And as in the nation, so also in the church.
It is too hard on modern pride to sit at the feet of greatness. Every
man would rather preach himself, than to sit at the feet of a great preacher.
Every man would rather write his own book, than to read the book of a
great man. He would rather produce a shallow and mediocre magazine himself,
than to read solid substance in another man's. The real root of the reign
of mediocrity is nothing other than pride
----and thus it is that
a proud nation is reduced by its own pride to such a condition that it
has nothing left to be proud of. Yet the pride remains.
Now to anyone who will think, it must be perfectly obvious that to encourage
this system of amateurism is to discourage all achievement, and so to
put an end to all greatness. To publish the books and the articles of
the amateur is to dwarf his advancement. To set the amateurs up to preach
is to keep them amateurs for ever. Public recognition of every kind ought
to be reserved for the worthy. Public ministry belongs to the qualified
and the competent. The public platform ought to be extended as the reward
of merit. To give it to anyone else is the surest way to discourage worth
and merit and competence.
A certain fellow of the Open Brethren persuasion once assured me that
the young men must learn to preach by preaching. If so, let them go out
and preach to the corn fields, as Gipsy Smith did. The corn stalks have
ears enough, and they will be none the worse for the hearing. But let
him spare the church of God. John the Baptist did not learn to preach
by preaching, yet he was one of the greatest preachers ever to walk the
earth. Meanwhile, this fellow who assures me that men must learn to preach
by preaching has been at it for a quarter of a century, and has not learned
to preach yet. Give the pulpit to an amateur, and, unless he be a rare
bird, he will remain an amateur.
The epidemic of amateurism damages the amateurs themselves, it damages
those who must be the readers and hearers of their amateur productions,
and it leaves the church destitute of examples worth following. The latter,
we suppose, is the greatest of the evils. Men who follow mediocre examples
will remain mediocre, while a constant exposure to greatness has a natural
tendency to reproduce it. In the first place, the presence of true greatness
tends to move men to humility. When the sun shines, the moon pales. The
stars fade away. In the presence of greatness, men find their own level.
Tyros and novices keep their seats when George Whitefield is preaching.
It dispels their illusions of their own abilities. But further, it moves
them to aspire, and gives them a pattern to follow. But alas, modern pride
has grown to such proportions that the greatness which ought to move men
to humility and aspiration is more likely to provoke their envy and resentment.
They would rather hear no greatness, see no greatness, and do no greatness
the modern church will give them their wish.
But when we turn to the Bible, we find just the reverse of all this. The
Bible is not a handbook of mediocrity. Greatness pervades the book. It
passes by the inferior. It is a record of the giants, devoted in general
to the greatest men, and limited for the most part to their greatest acts.
It is full of the powers of Samson, the triumphs of David, the exploits
of his mighty men, the faith of Abraham, the translation of Enoch, the
sublime powers of Abigail, the courage of Esther, the patience of Job,
the victories of Moses and Joshua, the grand acts of Elijah and Elisha,
the devotedness of Paul
----whatever, in short, is worthy of emulation ----this,
along with the failures of these men, and whatever may depict their character,
for the Bible is a moral book. But the insignificant men it passes by.
The record is devoted to Elijah, and tells us nothing at all of the seven
thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal ----nothing but the
fact that they existed. There was nothing in them to emulate. We suppose
they were good men, but they were not great men, and inspired biography
passes them by.
Has this nothing to teach us? Whatever the Bible teaches us, it is not
to exalt the mediocre, nor to promote the unqualified, nor to nurse the
self-esteem of the incompetent.
But I have been told that I discourage people. I set the standard so high
that few can attain to it. And no doubt I do discourage some people. Indeed,
I do my best to discourage everybody from thinking more highly of themselves
than they ought to think. I tell the ten-cent poet
and gently as I can ----that his poem is a dime, not a dollar. But
why should this discourage him? He has either missed his calling, or failed
to do his work. If the latter, he ought to thirst, and aspire, and labor,
and toil, and do better. If the former, he ought to abandon his poetry,
and aspire to something within his reach. Ah! but this is too hard on
his pride. It is his dear self-esteem which is wounded. Yet
if he would take that self-esteem to God, he would find it more peremptorily
wounded than ever I would dare to do.
We suppose Spurgeon may have discouraged some folks also, when he said,
Oh, poetic brother, do try your hand at prose! But we must
perhaps discourage him further still, for he may be as unfit for prose
as for poetry. We may have to tell him to put his pen away, and try his
hand at disciplining his children, or being diligent in his business,
or shoveling his sidewalk. We may have to tell him to silence his tongue,
and try his mind at thinking, or his soul at feeling. We may have to tell
him to cease his writing till he learns English. We think it a positive
sin to flood the church with shallow and mediocre writing, whether prose
We suppose John Wesley may have discouraged Joseph Benson (then only about
thirty-three years of age), when he wrote to him, I have no objection
to your printing a few copies of those two sermons to oblige your friends
in the neighbourhood. A few copies!
oblige your friends in the neighbourhood! This looks rather insulting,
and was doubtless a little softer method of telling him not to print them
at all. We suppose that Wesley discouraged another young man also, who
had sent him a manuscript to read. Wesley told him, Before I read
it I cannot but mention a little remark which I have frequently made.
There are many good-natured creatures among the Methodists who dearly
love to make matches; and we have many other good-natured creatures who
dearly love to make authors. Whereas it is the glory of the Methodists
to have few authors. And a young man can hardly be too slow in this matter.
This was a none-too-gentle hint, and doubtless discouraged the young man.
It was no doubt intended so to do ----not to dishearten him, but
to discourage him from what he had no fitness for. Wesley was a wise man,
and this was solid wisdom. It is the glory of any people to have few authors.
On that plan the great men are able to gain a hearing, and the people
may find solid worth in what they read. It was the glory of ancient Israel
to have few authors, but what those few wrote was worth something. God
has never, in any age, called many to write, nor is he ever likely to
do so, until he aims to call the whole populace to waste their time and
their money on the shallow, the unsound, and the unprofitable. Many prophets
and apostles never penned a word. Elijah and Elisha never wrote a page.
Perhaps they had no ability to do so, or no call of God for it. But they
so lived that others have written about them from that day to this. Here
is true greatness, and this is every way above filling reams of paper
with mediocre chatter. Modern technology and modern wealth make it easy
to write, and easy to print too, but has God called you to this? Has he
gifted you for it? ----or has the epidemic of amateurism
rendered the gifts and calling of God superfluous?
Yes, we discourage the amateur from affecting to be somebody. We discourage
the amateurs from aspiring to be published authors. We discourage
the novices from preaching. We say with James, Be not many teachers.
Hold your pen, and your tongue too, till you have something to say. Watch
the eagles soar for a while. Delve into the masters
masters ----of theology, and poetry, and history, and biography.
Walk among the giants. Fill your mind with the great and the renowned,
flood your soul with the illustrious and the superior, and you may assimilate
a little of it. You may never soar so high as the eagles, but you may
soar a little higher for studying them.
April of the present year I published my poem on Blank Verse
and Modern Poetry. Some of my readers may wonder what difference
it makes, or what the issue is. I trust the preceding article will make
The Ascendancy of Intellecualism &
the Revision of the English Bible
by Glenn Conjurske
In the early years of Protestantism, the English Bible was revised numerous
times, the New Testament having passed through more than a dozen revisions
in its first fifty years, besides minor variations in the various printings
of what may be regarded as a single revision. This was natural. These
translators were treading on new ground, and could hardly be expected
to bring the work to perfection at once. Tyndale says in the epilogue
to his 1526 New Testament, Them that are learned Christianly, I
beseech, for as much as I am sure, and my conscience beareth me record,
that of a pure intent, singly and faithfully I have interpreted it, as
far forth as God gave me the gift of knowledge and understanding, that
the rudeness of the work now at the first time, offend them not, but that
they consider how that I had no man to counterfeit, neither was helped
with [the] English of any that had interpreted the same, or such like
thing in the scripture beforetime. Moreover, even very necessity and cumbrance
(God is record) above strength, which I will not rehearse, lest we should
seem to boast ourselves, caused that many things are lacking, which necessarily
are required. Count it as a thing not having his full shape, but as it
were born afore his time, even as a thing begun rather than finished.
In time to come (if God have appointed us there unto) we will give it
his full shape, &c.
So, in general, speak all the early translators. The need for further
revision was generally felt. We think, however, that those who appeal
to the frequent revisions of the early Protestant Bibles, as a justification
for the revising mania of the present day, are very much out of their
The fact is, after more than a dozen revisions in half a century, the
English Bible had become so satisfactory that the desire for revision
greatly subsided, and nothing further was done in that direction for a
whole generation, namely, from 1572 to 1604. There still remained, however,
one fly in the ointment, and he a large one. There were two rival versions
of the Scriptures in common use, while some of the earlier versions were
without doubt still used also, especially the Great Bible. The conformists
held in general to the Bishops' Bible, and the Puritans in general to
the Geneva. Neither of the rival versions possessed superiority enough
to gain the ascendancy over the other. There was, therefore, no common
ground of appeal. This fact alone called for a further revision. This
it was, primarily, which the revisers sought to remedy.
But it is high time ... , they say in their preface
I modernize the spelling, to show in brief what we proposed to our
selves, and what course we held in this our perusal and survey of the
Bible. Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning,
that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad
one a good one, (for then the imputation of [Pope] Sixtus had been true
in some sort, that our people had been fed with the gall of Dragons in
stead of wine, with whey in stead of milk:) but to make a good one better,
or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted
This they proposed to themselves, and this, in general, they accomplished.
Theirs was the work of much more time, much more care, and many more persons
than any previous revision, and it was in fact a grand success. We do
not pretend to anything like perfection or finality in the King James
Version. Neither do we pretend, but rather assert with all confidence,
that the version then produced came so near the finality attainable in
a translation that it is a great deal easier now to mar than to mend it.
This has been demonstrated by all attempts at its revision. The version
which those men produced gradually gained the ascendancy over all others,
and that during a time of great unrest and party strife, so that all the
jarring sects of England
----Conformists, Puritans, Presbyterians,
Independents, Baptists, Quakers, and all others ----came all to
rest together on the same foundation, all acknowledging the same ground
of appeal, all prizing the same English Bible as their greatest treasure.
The King James Version did not immediately assume this place of ascendancy,
but acquired it gradually, by virtue of its own inherent excellence and
Now observe: their object was to make of many rival translations one principal
good one. That work they did, and did it so well that their version maintained
an undisputed supremacy for three centuries. The revisers of the present
day did not enter upon their labors to do such work (for there was no
call for it), but precisely to undo it
----not to create one principal
good version, as the universal standard of appeal, but precisely to thrust
out of court the standard which already existed, and replace it with a
hundred jarring voices ----and surely they have no business to plead
the precedent of the King James translators.
But the King James Version did not immediately gain the ascendancy of
which we speak, nor did the desire for revision immediately subside. More
than a generation then passed away, during which the Authorised Version
was steadily growing in public favour, and vindicating year by year its
distinct superiority, not only over the Bishops' Bible, but over the popular
Genevan Bible. And it was, perhaps, owing to this last fact that we find
Dr. Lightfoot urging, in a sermon preached before the House of Commons
in August, 1645, the desirableness of a revision of the Scriptures. And
apparently with some effect; for, in 1653, a bill was actually introduced
for a new revision. Some preparatory steps were taken; but happily the
----the Long Parliament ----was dissolved, and
the plan entirely fell through.
So spoke Bishop Ellicott, the chairman of the New Testament Revision Company,
on his presentation of the finished revision to the Upper House of Convocation
in 1881. But why happily, if, as the same man elsewhere assures
us, the old version needed revision almost in every verse?
Ah, just this. Ellicott supposed the scholarship of 1653 incompetent to
revise the Bible, while he and his colleagues were quite equal to the
task. We think the reverse was the fact.
But having spoken of the dissolution of the Long Parliament, he immediately
adds, For two hundred years all desire for any further authoritative
revision had entirely died out. Now it will certainly be worth inquiring
why all desire for revision died out, and we believe there is only one
answer. The fact is, the version then in the hands of the English people
was so excellent, so adequate, so satisfactory, that they felt no reason
to further amend it. Not that they dreamed it was perfect. No, but they
deemed it so excellent that the most learned and devout men
Protestants, and Jews ----could hardly say enough in its praise.
It reigned supreme, approved in the minds of the learned, and loved in
the hearts of the unlearned. I venture to trouble my readers with a few
examples of its praise.
The earth has rarely seen a man more learned than S. C. Malan, in languages
both ancient and modern. The not unlearned Burgon was obliged to apply
so often to Malan for information on the ancient versions of Scripture
that he assures us that the latter must be heartily sick of me by
this time. Of that knowledge Burgon supposed Malan to be perhaps
the sole living depositary in England. In reviewing the (Baptist)
American Bible Union's revision of the book of Job, the learned Malan
writes, Meanwhile, let not English readers of their ENGLISH BIBLE
grow cold in their love of it. Those among them who know neither Hebrew
nor Greek, may read and believe it with entire assurance of its truthfulness;
and those who can judge for themselves of the original texts, must bear
me witness, that I form a just estimate of the merits of the AUTHORIZED
VERSION of the ENGLISH BIBLE. As I have said already, it is not perfect,
for it is the work of man; but, as yet, it is best, as having been made
with all the care and devotedness that men could bring to bear upon so
important an object.
Best, faithful, and true, then,
----such as it is, ----it
has proved an infallible guide to many pilgrims on their way to heaven.
Of old, fathers in learning, examples of piety and of an earnest and humble
walk with GOD, believed its testimony; with it they walked on earth, and
with it also they died. 'They counted HIM faithful that promised,' on
the sole witness of their ENGLISH BIBLE; and if now they have not inherited
HIS promises, what better hope have we than they?
Let English readers of their Bible then, rest satisfied with it,
and at peace; nay, rather, let them be thankful for so great a national
blessing. When another, and, a really better, version is offered to them,
they may then choose for themselves. Meanwhile, we see, by the examples
brought forward, that however easy it is to alter, it is not so easy to
amend, the consecrated pages of the ENGLISH BIBLE.
A century earlier Adam Clarke was one of the most learned men in the church,
though a humble and self-educated Methodist preacher. He writes, At
an early age I took for my motto Prov. xviii.1: Through desire a man,
having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
He separated himself from everything not contributing to the
knowledge of Holy Scripture, and so pursued all wisdom. He was particularly
learned in languages, ancient and modern, read regularly from the LXX
and the Hebrew Bible, and translated the whole Bible himself. Of the King
James Version he writes, Those who have compared most of the European
translations with the original, have not scrupled to say that the English
translation of the Bible, made under the direction of King
James I., is the most accurate and faithful of the whole. Nor is this
its only praise; the translators have seized the very spirit and soul
of the original, and expressed this almost every where with pathos and
energy. Besides, our translators have not only made a standard translation,
but they have made their translation the standard of our language; the
English tongue in their day was not equal to such a work, 'but God enabled
them to stand as upon mount Sinai,' to use the expression of a learned
friend, 'and crane up their country's language to the dignity of the originals,
so that after the lapse of 200 years the English Bible is, with very few
exceptions, the standard of the purity and excellence of the English tongue.
The original from which it was taken is, alone, superior to the Bible
translated by the authority of King James.' This is an opinion in which
my heart, my judgment, and my conscience, coincide.
So speaks the learned Adam Clarke. The friend whom he quotes, as he tells
us in a footnote, was the late Miss Freeman Shepherd, a very learned
and extraordinary woman, and a rigid papist
----so that we
can hardly suppose it was prejudice which moved her so to admire the King
But we shall quote yet another learned papist. In speaking of the love
of the people for the King James Version, the Roman Catholic Dublin Review
contains this eloquent lamentation: Who will not say that the uncommon
beauty and marvellous English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the
great strongholds of heresy in this country? It lives on the ear like
a music that can never be forgotten; like the sound of the church-bell,
which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities often
seem to be almost things rather than mere words. It is a part of the national
mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. The memory of the dead passes
into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its verses.
The power of all the gifts and trials of a man is hidden beneath its words.
It is the representative of his best moments; and all that there has been
about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good, speaks
to him for ever out of the English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which
doubt has never dimmed, and controversy has never soiled. In the length
and breadth of the land, there is not a Protestant with one spark of righteousness
about him, whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible.
The above passage reminds us exactly, in every thought and emotion, of
a similar passage from John W. Burgon, but when Burgon writes so, our
modern scholars attribute it to inveterate prejudice. What will they say
of these sentiments from a Roman Catholic, whose prejudices were all exactly
the other way, who writes only to lament the invincible strength of what
to him was the great stronghold of heresy?
All who are devoted to the Old English Bible
----myself included ----must
bear the reproach of prejudice, though I was once as prejudiced against
it, as I now am for it, when I was young, and inexperienced, and intellectual,
and shallow, and rash, and ignorant. S. C. Malan, whose judgement we have
given above, answers the charge of prejudice thus modestly and simply:
...as to the ENGLISH BIBLE, I may say, without assumption, that
I am familiar with all the old versions, and with many modern ones. So
that my veneration for the AUTHORIZED VERSION proceeds, not from 'prejudice,'
but from knowledge and experience. So say I too. I am familiar with
all the ancient English versions, comprising a dozen distinct translations,
from the Anglo-Saxon to the Bishops' Bible, besides the various revisions
and editions of all these ----familiar also with all the more recent
versions of any significance ----and my judgement is that the King
James Version is far and away superior to them all. This is not prejudice.
I was once strongly prejudiced against the King James Version, but I have
undergone the same transformation as C. H. Spurgeon, who as a young man
cried aloud for revision, but as an old man called the old version almost
miraculously good ----which is more than I would say, by the
way. But in spite of all my former prejudices, little by little the old
version gained the ascendancy with me, the same way it did with a great
host before me, by its own intrinsic superiority. We do not believe any
of the new versions have thus gained their adherents. Nay, they were embraced
before the ink was dry, precisely on the basis of prejudice, or judged
by one issue, such as the modernization of the English.
But methinks the modern advocates of revision will find the above statements
simply unaccountable. Those men we have quoted, however learned, must
have judged by an entirely different standard than that which prevails
today. And I reply, Most certainly they did! They judged by a sounder
standard. Their learning was of a different sort. It was deep, broad,
solid. It was comprised of wisdom as well as knowledge. It consisted of
more than Winer and a chart of the inflexions of luw. They judged by the
standards of common sense and spirituality. They knew that men had hearts,
and they were not willing to sacrifice them on the altar of the petty
grammarians. They had not learned to value minute, forced, and false distinctions
more than spiritual substance. They did not bow at the shrine of a fastidious
intellectualism, nor worship a meticulous pedantry, misnamed accuracy.
Well, but I am reminded that I have a heart also, and that I have allowed
it to run away with me, and so have gotten a little ahead of myself. No
matter. These things need saying, whether soon or late.
We have noticed above that after the King James Version had gained its
place of ascendancy, For two hundred years all desire for any further
authoritative revision had entirely died out. Those two hundred
years were not years of spiritual stagnation. They witnessed the solid
spirituality of a great host of the old Puritans, the birth of Bunyan's
Pilgrim's Progress, of Baxter's Call, and Alleine's Alarm. They witnessed
the powerful Methodist revival on both sides of the Atlantic, a profusion
of local revivals in numerous places, the inauguration of world missions,
and its vigorous prosecution to all the ends of the earth. It was not
the rise of spiritual vigor which renewed the desire for Bible revision
about the middle of the nineteenth century, but precisely the decline
of it. The call for revision came as the fruit of the ascendancy of intellectualism.
This was not a higher or better learning, but a learning of a more contracted
sort. The chairman of the company which produced the Revised Version of
the New Testament, in speaking of the renewal of the desire for Bible
revision in the middle of the nineteenth century, says, The ztrue,
though remote zfountain-head of revision, and, more particularly, of the
revision of the New Testament, must be regarded as the grammar written
by a young zacademic teacher, George Benedict Winer
that it was no idle reproach of the revisers' critics that the fear of
Winer was always before their eyes, though their chairman did not avow
it till twenty years later. This young academic teacher, who
did not hesitate to jettison Greek grammar in order to deny the Deity
of Christ, was supposed (at last!) to have laid the foundation of a true
exegesis, which had never existed before. Ellicott, of course, in referring
to the true fountain-head of the movement for revision, supposes
he is describing its strength, whereas in fact he is laying bare its weakness.
A supposedly scientific, actually fastidious and pedantic, always unspiritual,
and often inaccurate brand of accuracy had come to prevail
over all other considerations ----whether of heart, mind, soul,
Greek, or English ----and to call aloud for the scrapping of the
venerable version which had held undisputed supremacy in the minds of
the learned, the hearts of the unlearned, the spirits of the great, and
the souls of the spiritual, for two and a half centuries.
Thus the pride of intellectualism did its work, so that where beauty,
symmetry, faithfulness, and spiritual power had been universally admired
before, now nothing could be seen but errors and inaccuracies.
This by a species of judgement which would belittle the beauty of Vashti
herself, if she had a few freckles. The scholarship, before
which the revisers bowed so reverently, was in fact largely incompetent,
mistaking what its numerous critics most aptly called meddling hypercriticism,
flat technicality,...always fatal to grandeur, a pitiful
piece of pedantry, minute micrology, pedantic
peculiarities of scholarship, schoolboy translations,
some pedantic scheme of syntactical symmetry, wooden
renderings, pedantic and awkward
all this, I say, for some superiority of wisdom, which had never existed
in the world till the latter half of the nineteenth century.
We think a juster estimate of that scholarship fell from the lips of the
wise and learned Christopher Wordsworth, when the Convocation of Canterbury
was debating the question of revising the Bible. Says he, I deeply
honour all genuine Biblical criticism. A man must be a fanatic if he attempts
to interpret Scripture without it. But I know, also, that there is such
a thing as Biblical criticism which is proud and self-confident, and which,
being elated with spiritual pride, is always punished with spiritual blindness.
Such was the Biblical criticism of many of the ancient Hebrew Rabbis,
who were indefatigable students of the letter of Scripture, and who enjoyed
many philological advantages for interpreting the Old Testament which
are not possessed by us; and yet the Apostle St. Paul distinctly asserts
of them that 'the vail was upon their hearts in the reading of the Old
Testament.' Such also are many Biblical critics in our own day; and I
would not willingly surrender the English Authorised Version to be rudely
tampered with by their hands.
But in the proportion that such criticism began to prevail, about the
middle of the nineteenth century, the desire for a revised English Bible
began to assert itself. The first systematic move in that direction resulted
from the controversy between the Baptists and the Bible Societies, first
on the mission fields, and then in Britain and America, and really stood
upon a single issue. The Baptists would have baptizw translated immerse,
and therefore, like the man who burnt the house to kill the mice, they
must revise the whole Bible. In the process, however, they manifested
much of the same intellectualism which produced the English Revised Version,
and their version never offered any serious competition to the King James
Version, not even among the Baptists. This was an American work, done
by the (Baptist) American Bible Union, and another American revision was
in the works also.
At about the same time the revision of the Bible was first broached in
England, the (interdenominational) American Bible Society produced an
amended version of its own, but the scholars who produced the revision
were quickly rebuffed by the people who were obliged to use it. The Bible
Society was about to lose its constituency. At a meeting of the Board
of Managers in 1858, it was affirmed, There are auxiliary Societies
that write us, 'Send us no more new Bibles.' It is something serious when
old friends thus speak.
Again at the same meeting, Public sentiment is opposed to the new
emendations. However much the Bible Society is loved throughout the land,
and whatever may be its historical greatness, the moment it abandons the
old foundations, the people will lose their confidence in its character,
and withhold their co-operation from its work. The old Bible is what the
people want for circulation, and they will not put up with anything else.
The people, by the way, were no mere ignorant rabble, but
doubtless included thousands of pastors and teachers who knew the original
languages of Scripture. The American Bible Society retraced its steps,
and deliberately consigned its revision to the same oblivion which awaited
that of the American Bible Union.
England, at that time certainly more conservative than America, produced
no revision until it supposed the public would accept it. In 1856 overtures
were introduced in both Parliament and Convocation for the revision of
the Bible, but according to the London Times, in an article which I believe
was written by Bishop Ellicott, who chaired the company which revised
the New Testament, Neither the clerical nor the lay mind was prepared
for such a leap in the dark as the appointment of a commission to modify
the venerable Version that has so long maintained its supremacy.
Five Clergymen, however, including Ellicott, and Henry Alford, the leading
advocates of revision, undertook to produce tentative revisions of several
books of the New Testament. These
----being much more conservative
than the revision of 1881 ----were favorably received. Meanwhile,
As year by year went onward, every change in public opinion was
closely watched by those who had taken part in the revision just mentioned,
and especially by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol [Ellicott] and
Dean Alford. It was thought in 1869 that many things pointed to a revival
in the interest felt in the revision. The Bishop and Dean frequently conferred
on the subject, consulted all those who were in any degree likely to forward
the undertaking, and at length obtained the hearty aid and support of
Wilberforce introduced the subject in Convocation in 1870, and received
the support of that body. The work began, with Wilberforce himself as
chairman, but he withdrew after only two hours' attendance.
In conclusion we have only to ask, What change was there in the climate
of England between 1856 and 1870? What produced the growing desire for
the revision of the Bible? We believe it was the growing prevalence of
an unspiritual intellectualism, which we have sufficiently characterized
above. Yet that intellectualism prevailed only among a certain class of
men. It was not universal. It did not extend to the common people, nor
to the scholars of the best sort. There was thus a real danger,
says the bishop, who was closely watching public opinion year by year,
unless some forward step was quickly and prudently taken, that the
excitement might gradually evaporate, and the movement for revision might
die out, as has often been the case in regard of the Prayer book, into
the old and wonted acquiescence of the past.
These intellectuals seized the moment, therefore, and produced their revision.
It was the work of scholastics, otherwise called scholars.
The English companies contained a large element of college professors
than half of the Old Testament company, and at least a third of the New
Testament company ----while others who were not associated with
any college were as scholastic as the rest. The nucleus of these companies
was formed by the Convocation of Canterbury, and formed of its own members,
so that they contained of necessity a large proportion of clergymen. The
American companies, however, consisted almost entirely of college professors.
Thirteen of the fourteen revisers of the Old Testament bore the title
of Professor. Seven of the thirteen New Testament revisers
bore the same title, and of the remaining six, one was a university Chancellor,
one a college President, and another (the chairman) the ex-President of
Yale College. These intellectuals spent half a generation upon their work,
and that with so much of self-confidence as to predict its certain triumph
over the old version. But they found that the people did not want it.
Even many of those who had originally favored a revision, were obliged
to reject the revision which was produced. The work was a grief of mind
even to some of the Revisers themselves, who were more conservative and
spiritual than the majority, and the book was soon as neglected as the
American revisions mentioned above, while the old version retained its
undisputed sway for nearly another century.
That century, however, brought about very great changes. The unspiritual
intellectualism which in the last century prevailed primarily in academic
circles has become widespread and general. It is indeed one of the prevailing
evils of the modern church
----some of the others being antinomianism,
lukewarmness, worldliness, and a lack of seriousness. Today the people
prefer an intellectual Bible over a spiritual one. They want a Bible which
speaks tamely to the head, rather than one which speaks powerfully to
the heart. They want meddling hypercriticism and minute
micrology. Nothing else can please intellectuals so well as this.
They revel in minute technicalities, while spiritual substance is beyond
their ken. What they want most of all is a new Bible ----a New American
Standard Version, a New International Version, a New King James Version ----a
version which will sing them the pleasing song that this shallow age has
attained to a wisdom and enlightenment which none of our forefathers possessed ----that
the old version, therefore, stood in need of extensive revision in almost
every verse. It is a very pleasing emotion to despise and contemn the
bread upon which the good and the great have lived for four centuries.
This feeds the pride of modern intellectualism. Hence the desire for revision,
which was so feeble in 1870 that a few scholastics were obliged to seize
the moment, lest it should die out and fade away, has grown to such proportions
today as to become a fever and a mania. We believe we have given the reader
its true pedigree in the present article.
On the Spelling & Pronunciation of Jehovah
by Glenn Conjurske
We have heard a hundred times that Jehovah is not the correct
spelling of the name of God
----that due to Jewish superstition,
or Jewish reverence, the name of God was not spoken, and was written with
the vowels which belong to the word for Lord ----and
that the proper form of Jehovah is actually Yahweh.
And as often as we hear this, we reply that whatever the Hebrew is, or
once was, Jehovah is the proper form of the word in English.
Jehovah is the name which holds all the heart associations
of all the godly, and has done so for nearly five centuries, since Tyndale
translated the Pentateuch. Yahweh is cold and unfamiliar,
and would never have been heard of in English but for the perversity of
certain modernists, who had no love for old spiritual landmarks, but rather
an intense aversion to them, and therefore a strong desire to remove them
out of the way. The mouthings of these modernists had no effect on the
spiritual and the conservative, but they have taken hold with certain
intellectuals, with whom a pedantic and picayune brand of accuracy
takes precedence over every other consideration. We give no quarter to
such intellectualism, and indeed know not how to believe it sincere. When
these intellectuals have cast out Jesus in favor of Yaysous,
we shall then believe them sincere in casting out Jehovah
for Yahweh ----though farther then from the right than
they are now.
I do not speak Hebrew, but English. My grandfather came from Germany,
where he spoke German. His proper name was Heinrich Iohann von der Lieth
perhaps Heinrich Iohann v. d. Lieth ----in Germany. When he came
to America his proper name was Henry John Vonderlieth. If he had insisted
on being called Heinrich Iohann in America, he would have made himself
a laughingstock ----and I might have inherited enough of his picayune
chromosomes to insist upon Yahweh.
The name of my ancestors on the other side was Kendzierski, but in America,
after using such incorrect forms as Conjwiski and Kedzorski, my grandfather
settled upon the incorrect spelling of Conjurski. My father,
being a thorough individualist, altered this to Conjurske, doubtless for
reasons sufficient to himself. I have resisted any temptation to revert
to Conjurski, though some of my relatives spell it that way, and many
of my acquaintances insist upon spelling it so also. But I think it would
be mere wrong-headedness to return to Kendzierski. Many, perhaps most
names are altered in transferring from one tongue to another, including
a great number of the names in the Bible. My wife's ancestors were called
Gesicht in Germany, but happily translated this to Face in America. My
grandmother's name was Kowalczyk, but when the family came to America
it was altered to Smith, which I am told is a translation of the Polish
Kowalczyk. My cousins are called Smith to this day, nor can I think of
any sound reason to call them Kowalczyk. I have heard of Müllers
who spell their name Miiller, and pronounce it Miller. Evidently upon
coming from Germany to America, they encountered some intelligent dunce
in an immigration office, who, finding no ü in his typewriter,
must needs type ii
----a fine example of ingenuity without
sense. And it is not only typewriters which balk at foreign names, but
tongues also. English tongues are uncomfortable with many foreign names ----Hebrew
names in particular ----and it is something worse than pedantry
to put our tongues through lingual gymnastics merely to be correct.
It will be a sad day when we must learn a dozen foreign languages in order
to speak our own.
Now Yahweh is precisely one of those words which is altogether
foreign to the English mode of speech. Yahveh is a slight
improvement, but is still anything but comfortable to an English tongue,
having nothing in it of the ease of Jarvis or Yankee.
We do not end words with -eh. If we were to name a child Eveh, she would
certainly be called Eva or Evie, for we cannot re-educate ten thousand
English tongues. We want -ee, or -ess, or -en, or -ent, or -ay, or -ah
most anything but -eh. My rhyming dictionary lists not a single word which
ends with such a sound. It is altogether foreign to English. So foreign,
indeed, that some of our modern intellectuals have not yet framed their
tongues to say it. They write Yahweh, and say Yahway.
This is mere mindlessness, though it is hard not to call it by a stronger
term. It is indeed a classic example of the wedding of ignorance and pride
in modern intellectualism. While contending for the original form of the
word, and despising the traditional Jehovah, they unwittingly
abandon their own ground in their pronunciation ----for it is certain
they never got Yahway from the Hebrew.
I speak English, and intend to continue to do so. I care not a whit for
what the Hebrew is or was for Jehovah. Neither do I know much
about it. We know that men began to call upon the name of Jehovah
about the time of the birth of Enos, the son of Seth. (Gen. 4:26). Did
they then speak Hebrew? We see the name Jehovah in the mouth of Lamech,
the father of Noah, before the flood, and in the mouth of Noah after the
flood, and both long before the confusion of tongues. Did the patriarchs
speak Hebrew? Is Jehovah a Hebrew term, translated from the
primitive language of the race, or is it a term transferred from that
----for God may have done one or the other when he confounded
the tongues ----or was the primitive language Hebrew? The modernists
evidently know all these things ----probably know also that the
confounding of tongues is a myth ----but I profess my ignorance.
The form Yahweh is at any rate conjectural, though pressed
by its adherents as the very truth.
Since beginning to write this article I providentially stumbled across
a statement from Sir Robert Anderson, which so exactly expresses my own
thoughts that I cannot forbear quoting it. Sir Robert says, Even
supposing, for example, that Yahweh is the correct orthography of the
great covenant name, we may be quite sure that JEHOVAH is the name by
which God would call Himself in addressing us
----that name which
is enshrined in the religious thought and worship of all the English-speaking
races of the world. For Yahweh would be mere jargon save to the Hebraist;
and it is very doubtful whether the Hebraist's knowledge of the etymology
of the term would not mislead him as to its significance.
Further, Now to the believer, as such, the question of the spelling
or the etymology of the name is of no more importance than that of the
type in which it is printed. Quite so, and it is really a wonder
that those who must have the Hebrew form can content themselves with Yahweh,
when they might write äåäé.
But Sir Robert once more: I venture to suggest that the use of Yahweh,
or Yahveh, savours of pedantry. It is justified on two grounds; 1st, traditional
authority (for the contempt which the critics feel for 'traditional beliefs'
does not apply if the tradition be Rabbinical); and 2ndly, that it carries
its own meaning. To which plea I answer that its etymological meaning
is not its meaning as used in Scripture. It is not an English word, and
its use is therefore precisely the same kind of pedantry as, e.g., using
Firenze instead of Florence.
The vowels of our magnificent word Jehovah are accounted for thus:
The old Hebrew MSS. had no vowels, but when the name occurred, the Jews
suppressed it from feelings of reverence, and read Adonai instead; and
the vowels of this name were inserted under the line to remind the reader
of the keri, or word to be read. As a matter of fact, the name was uttered
daily in the blessing of the priests (Dict. Christ. Ant., vol. i., p.
198); and the spelling of the many names with which it is incorporated
(such as Jehoida, Jehoshaphat, &c.) would indicate that Jehovah may
be correct. Yahveh is a mere guess which may be right or may be wrong.
So we think also. The pride of modern intellectualism, however, makes
abundant amends for its ignorance, and modern pedants assert with all
confidence that Yahweh is right, while Jehovah is wrong. We only tell
them in reply that their hearts and their heads are both wrong. We are
exceeding grieved to see professed Fundamentalists so enamored with the
shallow mouthings of the modernists, and so abandoned to an unspiritual
intellectualism, that they cannot brook what Sir Robert so aptly calls
our magnificent word Jehovah
----that name which
is enshrined in the religious thought and worship of all the English-speaking
races of the world. But hearts are nothing to these folks who have
discovered that they have heads. We wonder that our modern intellectuals
have not begun to call their wives by the correct forms of
Riv'kah and Nahghami and Shahron (accented on the last syllable!), instead
of the traditional forms of Rebekah, Naomi, and Sharon. Have they no Hebrew
scholars to enlighten their minds on so important a matter? My Sharon
at any rate is safe.
And my readers must pardon me if I drive this point home. Like him who
thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone, I would count
it but small accomplishment to discountenance the modern notions about
Yahweh. I aim to lay hands on the whole intellectual brood
nobler ends, however, than that of Haman. These intellectuals lack the
capacity to understand what is amiss in Yahweh. They see but
one dimension, and often enough see wrongly in that one. These are not
the folks who preach with tears or pray with fervency. They perceive the
spiritual and the emotional but dimly, or not at all ----and too
often despise it if they do see it. They would be sure to find fault with
the incorrect form of a four-leaf clover, where the simple
peasant can delight in it.
The fact is, this Yahweh is not mere shallow thinking. It
is a pernicious brand of worldliness. Our Evangelical intellectuals have
allowed the modernists to determine for them what the issues are, and
the modernists, having nothing important or spiritual to do, have descended
to the academic and the trivial, and troubled their heads with pedantry,
and conjectures about words and names. The Evangelicals, alas,
reverently bow to their dicta. If the modernists say this is an issue,
then an issue it is. If the modernistic scholars were now to trouble the
world about the spelling or pronunciation of Rebekah, the
Evangelicals would soon learn that this is a major issue, and the intellectuals
among the Fundamentalists would tamely follow them. But modernists care
nothing one way or the other about Rebekah. It is only the dear and the
familiar things of God which they care to undermine.
But we shall be told that William Tyndale was mistaken when he formed
the word Jehovah, and that all the early English Bibles were
mistaken to follow him. Now that we are enlightened, we have no more business
to acquiesce in the old error. And I tell you that somebody was mistaken
also to thrust James into the English Bible. Why do you not
thrust it out? And your mother was evidently mistaken when she named you
James, thinking to give you a Bible name. Why
do you not insist upon being called Yacob? Indeed, why do
you not find fault with every name in the Bible which contains a J?
They are all incorrect
----for there is no J
in either Greek or Hebrew. Why will you bow to common sense where it concerns
your own name, or your wife's, but thrust it out of court where it concerns
the name of God? To me it is no manner of concern what the original Hebrew
for Jehovah may have been ----or whether it is Hebrew
at all. Our magnificent word Jehovah is English, and we shall
use it and love it as long as we do Jesus and Moses
and a hundred other incorrect forms. Our souls shall be stirred
by Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, till we tread the brink
of Jordan, and till he lands us safe on Canaan's side. If we then learn
that some other language is spoken in the courts of heaven than we now
speak on earth, it will then be time enough to part with Jehovah.
Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss
by Glenn Conjurske
We have never greeted anybody with a holy kiss. We have always been content
to greet our friends and brethren with a handshake, and we have supposed
that in so doing we are doing all that this scripture requires of us.
Some there are, however, who insist that we must obey this scripture literally,
that we must greet one another with a literal kiss, that this holy
kiss is an ordinance of the Lord, and that if we do not greet one
another with a kiss, we are in fact disobedient to a plain command of
We think quite the contrary. We think that those who contend for a literal
obedience to the letter of this injunction do not actually obey it half
so much as I do with my holy handshake, and indeed I will be so bold as
to say that they do not obey it a tenth as much as I do
they kiss and I shake hands. There is such a thing as keeping the letter
of the law, while we fail altogether to keep its spirit, and this I believe
to be exactly the case with those who think to keep the letter of this
law. They kiss indeed, but how their kisses could be called a greeting
is hard to tell.
I have been present among certain godly people who use this so-called
holy kiss. I have observed it. My readers may be certain that
I did not participate in it, but I have seen it, and I must say that
one exception, to be rehearsed shortly ----it was the coldest kissing
I have ever beheld in my life, the exact reverse of anything warm or affectionate,
and such as in its very nature could serve only to nullify the spirit
of the apostolic exhortation to greet one another. In the
nature of the case a greeting must be warm and affectionate, not cold
and cautious, but all the holy kisses which I have ever seen were so cold
and cautious as to be absolutely devoid of anything remotely resembling
a warm greeting.
Only one other time in my life have I ever beheld a kiss so cold and cautious,
and that was certainly an unholy kiss. Half a dozen years ago I was ministering
to a little congregation in Massachusetts. One of the women there had
a prodigal son, and she begged me and another fellow to find him. We had
heard that he was in a certain city, and had heard also that he was living
at a shelter for the homeless. We went there to search for him, but found
him not. We went several times, and spent many hours waiting and watching
for him, with the result that we eventually found him, and took him home
to his mother. Meanwhile, we became acquainted with some of the inhabitants
of the shelter. One of them was a man of about sixty, and an evident leader
among them. With him we had some conversation. He pointed out to us a
prostitute who lived across the street from the shelter, and who often
went to the corner liquor store to buy liquor for the men at the shelter,
evidently paying for it herself. On one occasion I watched her give a
bottle of liquor to this man, after which they kissed each other. It was
as cold a kiss as I ever saw, a very cautious peck on the lips, both of
them appearing to be afraid they would catch something
was a prostitute, and he a pervert, as I had good reason to believe. Yet
this frigid unholy kiss was the exact epitome of those equally frigid
holy kisses which I have seen among the godly. And to all such kissing
I say, if you mean to greet one another with a kiss, then by all means
kiss, in good earnest, with warmth and affection. If this is a greeting,
by all means make it a real one, a warm and affectionate one, a greeting
worthy of the name. You will shake my hand warmly and heartily. Why must
you kiss each other so coldly and cautiously?
Ah! but here arises an insuperable difficulty. The men who thus kiss each
other cannot make these kisses warm and affectionate. I repeat, they cannot.
This kissing of men, and on the lips besides, is so repulsive to their
masculine natures, that they cannot do it with that heart which is absolutely
indispensable to a greeting. The men themselves who engage in this unnatural
kissing profess that they must crucify the flesh in order
to do it at all. But I tell them, it is not the flesh which they must
crucify, but nature. Alas, the hyperspirituality
----for such it
really is ----which will have no greeting but a kiss, actually delights
to crucify the nature which God has created. They profess that they must
overcome their feelings in order to engage in such kissing at all, but
I tell them they have no right to overcome those feelings. When they fight
thus against nature, they fight against God.
Not that I expect them to acquiesce in this. No, for those who advocate
this kissing are commonly of the hyperspiritual sort, who suppose that
they do God service to fight against the nature which he has created,
supposing this to be the apex of spirituality, and supposing it acceptable
to God in just the proportion that it is difficult to men. It is really
no coincidence that some of the same folks who advocate these holy kisses
stand also for the most extreme hyperspiritual notions of courtship and
marriage, marrying on the supposed spiritual basis of the will of God,
rather than the natural basis of love. It is nature which they seem determined
always to undermine. To kiss another man on the lips is against nature.
They would have no such feelings of repugnance if it were women they were
kissing, though they might very likely have some feelings of another sort.
While their kisses between men and men are much too cold to constitute
a greeting, those between men and women would very likely be much too
----and meanwhile, certainly much too dangerous. We may shake
a woman's hand without danger, where kissing is out of the question. Indeed,
I have heard one of the hyperspiritual teachers who insists upon these
kisses actually advise the young ladies to walk up to a young man and
shake his hand ----as a prelude, of course, to spiritual conversation ----but
why does he not tell her to kiss him? What Bible authority does he have
for a handshake? When they greet their own sex, nothing but a kiss will
Well, but they will tell us that it is God who has commanded that we greet
one another with a holy kiss, and it is God who has created
human nature, and surely he has not commanded anything which is against
the nature which he has created. Our nature is corrupted by sin. When
we have overcome that corruption, we shall then be glad to kiss one another.
All this they say, and on this basis they strive to overcome those feelings
of revulsion which one man feels towards kissing another.
To this I may answer in the first place, that custom and culture become
to us as it were a second nature, and this may be quite as impossible
to overcome as our first nature. Whatever the men of the East may have
felt two or three thousand years ago, the men of our day and culture feel
a revulsion to kissing other men. Those who practice this so-called holy
kiss feel this revulsion as strongly as anybody, as is manifest
by their cold kissing, and also by their frank acknowledgements.
Our nature as it now exists (though this may be second nature, and the
result of our culture) is repulsed at the very thought of men kissing
men. But this is not all, for I believe it is our first nature, as God
created it, which is revolted by the thought of kissing another man on
the lips. Neither do I believe that Paul ever contemplated any such thing
when he said, Greet one another with a holy kiss. When the
prodigal son returned home, his father fell on his neck and kissed
him. When Jacob returned to the land of Canaan after an absence
of many years, Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell
on his neck, and kissed him. Kissing was the common form of greeting
among them, and it was warm and affectionate, but we have no reason to
suppose they kissed each other on the lips. This we think to be the invention
of modern hyperspirituality, which seems always determined to fly in the
face of nature to the full extent that it can.
To kiss another man on the lips is against our nature as God created it.
And to kiss another man at all, whether on the cheek or the neck or anywhere
else, is so far against our acquired nature, or culture, as to give us
all a strong revulsion against it. For these reasons this kissing cannot
be used as a common form of greeting among us, as it was among the men
of the East in another day. I cannot speak for women. I suppose few of
them would have such a revulsion against kissing another woman, as men
naturally have against kissing other men. Yet I suppose that even women
must be repelled by the thought of kissing other women on the lips. This
is unnatural even to the affectionate natures of women, and it cannot
be comfortably used as a common greeting.
For these reasons, then, we contend that those who practice this holy
kiss do not fulfill the apostolic injunction at all, and cannot
do so after the manner in which they attempt it. They do it with a kiss,
but it nothing resembles a greeting. They keep the letter of the law,
but not its spirit.
We ought, of course, to observe both the letter and the spirit of the
law, wherever this is possible. We contend, however, that in the present
instance it is simply not possible. To keep the letter, we must sacrifice
the spirit. To keep the spirit, we must sacrifice the letter. If we aim
at the letter, we may kiss, but it has nothing in it of the nature of
a warm and affectionate greeting. The spirit is sacrificed to the letter.
On the other side, if we keep the spirit, we must sacrifice the letter.
If we greet one another indeed, with a warm and affectionate greeting,
we cannot do it by a kiss. We must use such a form of greeting as we are
----and nothing will suit so well as a handshake,
which has always been our common form of greeting, as it is in most of
the world. We ought, in every instance, to keep both the letter and the
spirit of the law if we can, but in this instance we simply cannot. Those
who keep the letter sacrifice the spirit. Those who keep the spirit sacrifice
the letter. We frankly doubt that anybody in our culture either does or
can keep them both.
But observe, when we are obliged to sacrifice either the letter or the
spirit of the law, it is always the letter which is to be sacrificed.
This is an axiom. It is never right to sacrifice the spirit of the law
in order to keep the letter, though it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice
the letter in order to keep the spirit.
But supposing the advocates of this cold greeting could find some form
of kissing which was not repulsive to them, and which could therefore
actually answer the purpose of a warm greeting, still they would fail
to fulfill the apostolic injunction by half, for the fact is, all those
that I know who insist upon fulfilling the letter of this command greet
only half of those whom Paul commands them to greet. Paul says, Greet
one another with a holy kiss, but these folks have never yet done
so, and I hope indeed they never do. The men among them greet the men,
and the women among them greet the women. The men never greet the women
with a kiss, nor the women the men, so that while they suppose themselves
alone to be actually obedient to the divine command, they actually disobey
it by one half.
We hope none will be found to pretend that when Paul says, Greet
one another with a holy kiss, he means no more than that the men
should greet the men, and the women the women. He certainly means that
all the saints should greet each other. When the Bible tells us to love
one another, this certainly means that all of us should love all
the rest, whether male or female. When it tells us by love
to serve one another, this certainly means all, of either
sex. So too when it requires us to forbear one another in love.
Could anyone dream that the men are only to bear with the men, and the
women with the women? So likewise of admonishing one another,
forgiving one another, etc. All these injunctions are to be
carried out by all the saints towards all the others, regardless of their
sex. And so also, most certainly, when the same Bible exhorts us to Greet
one another with a holy kiss. We are to greet all the saints, as
much as we are to forgive or admonish them.
But here another insuperable difficulty arises. Though we have no doubt
that kissing was the common form of greeting in Paul's day, and that it
was certainly used between men and women, our culture and manner of thinking
will simply not allow it. When Jacob met Rachel, he kissed her. This was
no romantic kiss, but simply the common greeting. If this was a romantic
kiss, he was unprincipled to give it, and she worse to receive it. He
would have kissed her mother in the same manner, and her father too.
But we of the present day and the present culture are simply not capable
of such things. The practice of these people, in greeting their own sex
only with a kiss, is the fullest proof we could ask that a kiss is not
suitable as a common greeting. However we may wish to explain the fact,
or whether we leave it unexplained, the fact remains that such kissing
cannot stand in the place of a common greeting among us. It will almost
always be too warm or too cold
----certainly too cold when men kiss
men, and almost certainly too warm, or too dangerous, when a man kisses
an attractive woman, especially if he thinks no holy kiss
is valid unless it be on the lips. And we suppose such a kiss would be
at least as dangerous to the woman who received it, as to the man who
gave it. Godliness will not exempt a woman from feminine susceptibilities.
Neither will she be safe if he kisses her cheek, or her neck. Men may
kiss men forever, and their kisses remain cold and cautious, but we fear
that if men and women were to begin kissing, those cold and cautious pecks
would easily evolve into something longer and warmer ----in the
thought, if not the act, in the wish, if not the deed. Yet we do not believe
that any man obeys the apostolic command to greet one another
by greeting men only.
Paul seems to imply a danger in the business by his always specifying
a holy kiss
----which must certainly mean a kiss untainted by any
romantic intents or feelings, a kiss not exciting any physical desires.
We think such a kiss a virtual impossibility in modern America. It may
be possible between men and women who could not feel any romantic attraction
for each other, but in a myriad of other cases it is simply impossible.
Now if those who contend for these holy kisses as an ordinance of the
Lord, which cannot be dispensed with without direct disobedience to an
explicit command of God
----if they are still of the same mind after
reading the preceding pages, then we ask them to show us their faith by
their works. Let us see warm, affectionate kisses between men and men,
such as actually merit the name of a greeting. And let them show us warm,
affectionate, and holy kisses between men and women, for no otherwise
can they obey the apostolic injunction to greet one another with
a holy kiss. For our own part, we believe we fully carry out the
spirit of this command by a holy handshake, and we think it outside the
realm of possibility to fulfill the letter.
A Modern Mistake on Romans 14
by Glenn Conjurske
A young lady has recently read some of my comments on painted women and
long-haired men, and remarks, The words 'Pharisee' and 'legalism'
come to mind. ... see Romans Chapter 14, Mr. Conjurske! I may assure
the young lady that I have seen it, but I have not seen in it what she
finds there. The real theme of Romans 14 is what some modern Evangelicals
have called a love-limited liberty. That is, our liberty to
do what is right is to be limited by love
----love, that is, for
those who are weak, and so likely to make some wrong of our right. Let
not your good be evil spoken of. (Rom. 14:16). This is the essential
message of the whole chapter. It goes without saying that Paul never contemplates
any liberty to do anything which is wrong. Yet is it perfectly plain also,
from all his epistles, that Paul certainly believed that many things ----such
as men wearing long hair ----were wrong. None of those things are
contemplated in this chapter at all.
But somehow this plain message has been misconstrued by modern Evangelicalism,
and has practically been used to teach that nothing is either right or
wrong. Paul wrote to advise us in certain cases to abstain from what is
right, but this has been perverted into permission to indulge in what
is wrong. We suppose that this mistake thinks to stand upon his general
prohibition of judging, and also upon such statements as that which is
found in the fifth verse, which says, Let every man be fully persuaded
in his own mind. By means of this verse the modern church has practically
rid itself of any standards of righteousness at all. Every man becomes
his own standard. Whatever he thinks is right is right, and what is wrong
for one may be right for another. The plain commandments of the Bible
are thus made void, such as that forbidding adornment with gold and silver
for women, and long hair for men. If anyone is but fully persuaded
in his own mind that these things are right, then to him they are
right, though the apostles of Christ say they are wrong.
Now the plain fact is, the Bible both commands and forbids many things.
The things it commands are necessary. The things it forbids are wrong.
Those things of which it says nothing, and which are not wrong in themselves,
but are morally indifferent, are neither required of us, nor forbidden
to us, but are allowable, at our own pleasure and our own discretion.
It is to this class alone that Romans 14 applies, to things such as meats
and wine, which are permitted, but not commanded. We are thus at liberty
to use them, or to abstain from them, and Paul's exhortation is to forgo
the use of things which are permissible, in cases where our indulgence
would cause offense, or cause another to stumble.
But observe, in the nature of the case the chapter cannot have anything
to do with things which are either commanded or forbidden. If the thing
is commanded, we have no right to forgo it. If it is forbidden, we have
no right to indulge in it. The chapter applies only to those things which
are allowable, but not necessary.
To take one simple example, it is indifferent whether a woman wears a
brown dress or a blue one. She is neither commanded nor forbidden. She
is at liberty. But she is not at liberty to wear a tight dress, nor a
short one, for she is commanded by the Bible to dress modestly, and common
morality would require this of her if the Bible did not exist. Now a woman
who claims her liberty to wear short or tight dresses, because she is
fully persuaded in her own mind that there is nothing wrong
with them, is simply misusing Paul's message. It may be due to her ignorance
that she sees no wrong in them, but her ignorance cannot make wrong right.
If her mistake is mere ignorance, she may be sincere and in some measure
excusable. But we fear there is generally something other than ignorance
at work here. It is the common reaction of modern Evangelicals to label
as Pharisees and legalists all who have higher
standards than they have themselves. This is reproachful, and manifests
a wrong spirit. Indeed, we suppose that in many cases it manifests an
----for it seems that the reproaches of modern
Evangelicalism are generally reserved for those who have higher standards
than their own, and rarely administered to those who have lower standards.
I do not mind the young lady's reproaches. I am used to such things, and
am more than happy to return love to her in the place of the reproaches
which she directs towards myself. But I would like to teach her better.
I would like to see a better spirit in her, as well as better standards
And is there not some inconsistency
----some hypocrisy ----in
these charges of Pharisaism and legalism which modern Evangelicals direct
against all who have stricter standards than their own? If they actually
believe their own doctrine, that whatever we hold to be right is right
for us, what right do they have to label as a legalist a man
who has other standards than their own? Or has it come to this, that it
is always right to believe everything right, and always wrong to believe
anything wrong? If so, there is an end of all holiness. Supposing we have
a generation of young people who are fully persuaded in their own minds
that fornication is permissible, is it therefore right for them? And if
I tell them that it is wrong, and they are wrong to indulge in it, am
I a legalist? We hope the young lady who calls me a legalist would hold
herself that fornication is sin, and that those who indulge in it are
sinful to do so. Yet because in lesser matters I hold a higher standard
of righteousness than she does, I must be called a legalist. Instead of
casting such reproaches, we would rather see this young lady seriously
inquire into the reasons for my standards. But to assume without further
inquiry that her own position is the right one, and deal reproachfully
with those who hold a higher position ----this is not the way of
either love or truth.
We are often told that Romans 14 forbids us to judge one another. We know
that, but it remains true that wrong is wrong, and it remains the business
of a preacher of righteousness to say so. The judging forbidden here concerns
----eating and drinking ----not sinful
things, not the love of the world, the pride of life, or the lusts of
But I turn to another subject, unrelated to the preceding, but in answer
to the criticisms of the same young lady. Her remarks were prompted by
my Short Method of Evaluating the Modern Bible Versions, in
which I paint a dark picture of modern Evangelicalism in general, and
of Dallas Theological Seminary in particular, in order to indicate the
true character of the Bible versions which the modern church has produced.
My critic cannot see what lipstick, mascara, and eyeliner has to
do with the trustworthiness and accuracy of the modern versions.
It may have a great deal to do with it
----more, I suppose, than
the private life of the President has to do with his ability
to rule the country. The real question is, do the worldliness, intellectualism,
and liberalism which prevail in the modern church have anything to do
with the curtailing of spiritual ability? If they have, then the conclusions
of my article are valid, and it is a sad day when conservatives embrace
the Bible versions of modern Evangelicalism. Not that I would dream of
resting the whole case here. I have given solid and objective proofs from
time to time of the pervading liberalism and the real incompetence of
the popular modern Bible versions.
OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without
alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise,
and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own position is to be learned from his own writings.