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Vol. 1, No. 12
Dec., 1992


[The following article is reprinted from The American Baptist Magazine for March of 1820. I reprint it for two reasons. First, because I judge most of its arguments to be sound, and worthy of consideration. But I have a more important reason, that being that this article was originally written and published as a defense of the practice of the whole Baptist denomination in America. This is one small indication of how far Baptists today have departed from the principles held by their forefathers so recently as a century and a half ago. This article will at any rate show them what some of those principles were.]

Messrs. Editors, Boston, Dec. 25, 1819.

You need not be informed, that this day is observed, by a large body of professed christians in commemoration of the nativity of Christ. As the denomination to which you and I belong, keep no day in commemoration of this great event, it is perhaps due to ourselves, and to others, that we should give our reasons why we do not. This indeed appears to me to be necessary; because many of our brethren have paid little or no attention to this subject, and others have seriously asked, “Why do you not keep sacred, the day on which the Saviour was born?”

As we have no wish to be singular, merely from the love of singularity; and as it is as proper to give a reason of our practice to every one that asketh us, as of the hope that is within us, I shall state some of the reasons, why we do not, by any particular rites, celebrate the incarnation of Christ.

1.We do not know, and no one can tell us on what day Christ became incarnate.

Though the most strict inquiries have been made by learned and pious men, yet they have not been able to ascertain either the day or the month in which the Saviour was born. There are several circumstances which make it very improbable that his birth occurred in December; and those who appear to have made the most correct calculations, suppose that the Redeemer became incarnate in the month of September, or October. It is therefore without any just foundation, that good men so confidently take it for granted, that the Saviour was born on the 25th of December.

We have as much reason to believe that the Star which guided the steps of the eastern sages was lighted up on the 25th of September, as on the 25th of December, for indeed, we have no satisfactory evidence in either case.

But, it will be said; “Though we cannot determine the day on which the Messiah became incarnate, yet reason and gratitude require we should observe some day; and though we should mistake the time, the Lord will know our motives, and accept our service.” We acknowledge that this reasoning appears plausible, and it has no doubt much influence on many minds. But we cannot admit its force, because we conceive it has no legitimate support from the Scriptures; and because if our deference for this kind of reasoning should lead us to keep one day, it would be difficult to assign any limits as to the number of days which we ought annually to observe.

2.We can find neither precept nor example in the Scriptures for the observance of Christmas.

We think if the Saviour had intended that his birth should be commemorated, he would have left some injunction on this subject, and would have guarded against any uncertainty as to the day itself. We think, we should, at least, have had some evidence that primitive Christians celebrated this important event. And we are strengthened in our convictions that we should have had some intimations of this kind, when we refer to Scripture usage in relation to ancient festivals.

No one can imagine that the deliverance of the Hebrews from the sword of the destroying angel, or the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, were events to be compared in magnitude with the advent of Christ. And yet, as these events were to be kept, as a memorial throughout all generations; not only the month, but the day of the month was explicitly recorded. In relation to the Passover, Moses says, “Ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread: In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.” We see the same minuteness, as to the time, in which the feast of Tabernacles was to be observed. “The 15th day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.” Now if we were commanded to celebrate the birth of Christ----If the day on which this service was to be performed was recorded in Scripture----or if we had the least evidence that the disciples of Christ commemorated the incarnation of their Lord and Master----then, we would with alacrity obey the command, we would keep the recorded day with joy and gladness, and imitate the grateful conduct of his first disciples. But, until such evidence, or authority can be exhibited, we shall not consider ourselves as deserving censure, or reproach, for not keeping the day.

3.We do not keep the twenty-fifth of December as sacred to the commemoration of Christ's nativity, because we reject the authority that enjoined it. There is a difference of opinion whether pope Telesphorus, or pope Julius appointed this day as a festival in honor of the nativity of Christ. It is certain however, that a long period had elapsed after the birth of Christ----that the church of God had departed from the simplicity of the faith; and become corrupt both in doctrine and practice----and that the papal power was firmly established before the 25th of December was ordained as a Mass-day by the Church of Rome. It appears then that Christ-mass-day was appointed by one of the popes of Rome----by a power who set aside the simple institutions of Christianity, and substituted carnal ordinances in their place. This is sufficient reason why, as Protestants, and as Christians, we do not keep the day.

4.We do not observe this day, because the same authority which instituted it, would require us to observe other days. It would require us to keep days in commemoration of other events in the history of Christ----in honour of the blessed Virgin----and of men falsely called saints, who were chiefly distinguished by imbruing their hands in the blood of the faithful----and bringing to the stake those who were opposed to the corruptions of Christianity. Now, as we will not bow to the authority of his holiness at Rome by worshipping saints or keeping days to their honor, so neither will we submit to his dictates by celebrating Christ-mass-day.

Suppose, that from motive of politeness, or from an indifference to the great principles which led the reformers to quit the Church of Rome, we should yield to the wishes of our friends and observe Christmas? What would be the consequence? We should have to celebrate other festivals. We should be called upon to shut up our stores, and cease from all business on Good-Friday. What objection could we make? Good-Friday is a day in which the death of Christ is held by them in sacred commemoration. Surely his death was an event as important as his birth; if then it is proper to observe Christmas, it is proper to observe Good-Friday. Indeed, the same remarks will apply to many other festivals, for the observance of which, there is as much scripture and sound argument, as can be advanced in favour of the festival of Christmas.

5.The celebration of the nativity of Christ is attended with much more evil than good.

With the exception of a few pious Christians who sacredly regard the day; we ask how is this Mass celebrated? Let any man who has been a resident in Europe answer this question, and he will tell you, that by the greatest part of what is called Christendom, it is celebrated as a day of feasting and merriment. It is devoted to eating and drinking----to gambling and dancing, and to sports of every kind. It is in this way the birth of Christ is honoured where Mass days are more frequent, and should the observance of this Mass become fashionable and general here, we have reason to fear that the same general dissipation would be associated with it.

The above remarks have not been made with a view to censure those Christians who keep this festival. We would rather say, “Let those who regard the day, regard it to the Lord.” But they have been made to shield ourselves from the opprobrium which has been cast upon us. It has been more than intimated that Christians who do not keep this Mass as sacred time, discover great insensibility in relation to the advent of Christ. It has been asserted that if the impulses of the hearts of Christians will not prompt them to express their gratitude----no arguments, though uttered by the tongues of angels, could be efficacious.

In the name of a multitude of Christians we would repel all such insinuations. We maintain that Christians ought to cherish an habitual sense of the infinite mercy which brought the Saviour from heaven to earth. We maintain that the incarnation of Christ was the most interesting occurrence that had ever transpired; for in that event, the present and eternal destinies of man were involved. We maintain, that we ought not merely to reflect on his birth one day in the year, but every day. And so far from being insensible to this momentous occurrence----we look back with adoring gratitude to the evening, when the Star of Bethlehem directed the wise men to the place where the Redeemer lay. With the heavenly visitants who came to pay him divine honours, and to congratulate the world on this auspicious event; we are ready to exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”

At the close of my communication, I would caution all your readers, not to value the institutions of men, more than the plain and simple ordinances of the gospel. I have known some men who were very strict in observing Christmas, and yet their habitual neglect and contempt of the Lord's day furnished abundant evidence of their disregard of the authority of Christ. It is not the observance of days, or an attachment to mere outward ceremonies, but a life of faith and charity, and holy obedience, which characterize the true Christian.

I would also suggest to them the importance of guarding against a censorious spirit. I have not had the least desire in any of my remarks to excite prejudices against those who differ from me in opinion concerning the commemoration of the birth of Christ. It is probable that many Christians who are ignorant of the origin of Christmas, do on this day devoutly call to mind the goodness of the Saviour in visiting our world. I am willing they should enjoy their meditations. I do not censure Christians for setting apart a portion of time to meditate on the nativity of Christ. But I think they are worthy of censure when they assert with confidence that Christ was born on this day----and when they mingle with the commemoration of this event, reproaches and condemnation upon those whose consciences do not dictate the propriety of such an observance.



Supporting the Ministry

by Glenn Conjurske

“Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? Or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he that ploweth should plow in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power, but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (I Cor. 9:6-14).

By these words Paul plainly establishes the right (ejxousiva, verses 6 & 12) of those who preach the word to be financially supported by those to whom they minister. Paul insists upon this as a right, though affirming that he voluntarily gave up that right when preaching the gospel, in order to make the gospel without charge. While doing so, however, he continued to receive support from those to whom he had ministered in the past, saying, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (II Cor. 11:8). “Robbed,” he says, for those who gave him the money were not then partaking of his labors. But the fact remains that he had a right to the support of those who were.

This is a principle which has been generally acknowledged by all Christians, and yet when we look at the actual practice of the church throughout history, we find that principle but very poorly exemplified. We see the most unworthy ministers generally the best supported, often living in luxury, and faring sumptuously every day, while the most worthy ministers languish in poverty, scarcely supported at all. Many of the best of ministers have been forced out of the ministry by poverty, or forced to greatly curtail their spiritual labors, while they labor night and day for their daily bread.

Various things have contributed to the generous support of unworthy ministers. In all of the established churches, such as the Church of England, and the “standing order” in the early days of America, ministers have been supported by monies levied upon the people by the state. Any man able to secure the office was secure of the support, whatever his character or gifts. And whenever the spiritual state of the people is fallen to a low level, unfit men will be found in the pulpits. “Like priest, like people” is an old proverb, but the reverse of it is equally true. Unspiritual and ungodly members of churches will always “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears,” and pay them well to preach soft and smooth things to them, and it may be to lead them to hell. So long as men are sinners, such a state of things is likely to prevail.

It is also a fact that the most worthy ministers have often been the least supported. This may be harder to account for, but numerous historical testimonies, of the most shameful and distressing character, might be cited in proof of it.

Speaking for the Baptists, and writing in 1859, David Benedict says, “it is a well-known fact that half a century since most of our ministers, everywhere, were under the necessity of laboring and planning for their own support, and that the Baptists generally were more parsimonious in their doings in this line, than almost any other party in the country.

“`The Lord keep thee humble, and we'll keep thee poor,' was then the doctrine of the South, according to Dr. Furman. `They loved the gospel, and they loved its ministers, but the sound of money drove all the good feelings from their heart,' according to J. Leland.

“But still these same people were generous at their homes, so far as hospitality was concerned. In this business there was no stint nor reluctance.

“The great mass of our ministers then had no settled income for their services, and where moderate sums were pledged, in too many cases they were slowly paid, if paid at all. Under these circumstances, the zeal and assiduity of so many laborious men is the wonder of the present age. Their perseverance in their ministerial work, in the midst of so much ingratitude and neglect on the part of the numerous churches which they planted, and the poverty and privations which they endured through the whole of their ministry, are matters of high commendation and grateful remembrance.”

Of one prominent Baptist we read, “When Dr. Baldwin first commenced his ministry, he was employed in carrying on a saw-mill. He was also pastor of the church to which he belonged. He was frequently called from home to perform ministerial service in different parts of the town and vicinity, and his business suffered. All he asked of his brethren was, that they would pay the wages of the workman whom he was obliged to employ in his absence. This they often promised, but never performed. When he had left his family in straitened circumstances, and could with difficulty meet his traveling expenses in aiding some destitute church, a wealthy brother would sometimes most affectionately squeeze his hand, and say, with great cordiality, `Thank you, thank you, Elder Baldwin, such men as you will never want,' and having said this, turn away, leaving him to find a resting place where he could.”

The same state of things was prevalent among the Methodists, but with one great difference. The Baptist preachers were more permanently stationed in one place, and able therefore to engage in farming or other pursuits to support themselves. The Methodist preachers were itinerants, changing circuits every two years at the longest, and constantly on the move within their circuits. The choice before many of them, therefore, was either to starve (and let their families starve also), or to drop out of the itinerant ranks. Their poverty forced most of them into celibacy also, for to marry generally meant to drop out of the itinerant ranks, as they could not support a wife and family on a preacher's income. Hear the pitiful lamentation of the great apostle of American Methodism, Francis Asbury: “Marriage is honourable in all----but to me, it is a ceremony awful as death: well may it be so, when I calculate we have lost the travelling labours of two hundred of the best men in America, or the world, by marriage and consequent location.” (“Location” was the Methodist term for dropping out of the itinerant ranks, and locating in one place.)

Peter Cartwright writes, “Owing to the newness of the country, the scarcity of money, the fewness of our numbers, and their poverty, it was a very difficult matter for preachers to obtain a support, especially married men with families. From this consideration many of our preachers delayed marriage, or, shortly after marriage, located. Indeed, such was our poverty, that the Discipline was a perfectly dead letter on the subject of house rent, table expenses, and a dividend to children; and although I had acted as one of the stewards of the conference for years, these rules of the Discipline were never acted upon, or any allowance made, till 1813, when Bishop Asbury, knowing our poverty and sufferings in the west, had begged from door to door in the older conferences, and came on and distributed ten dollars to each child of a traveling preacher under fourteen years of age.”

The following is from the life of Thomas Morris, another Methodist itinerant, and afterwards a Methodist bishop: “During that year, at a time when he and his family were in very trying circumstances, being in want of apparel and in debt for provisions, the Lord raised them up an unexpected friend in the person of Mr. Pierce, a merchant of Zanesville. This gentleman was not a professor of religion, nor even a stated hearer at the Methodist Church, and was, besides, a stranger to Mr. Morris, who had no acquaintance with him whatever. The weary itinerant, on reaching home one evening, toil-worn and depressed by the gloomy prospect before him, unable to see how he could much longer continue in the work with his feeble health and helpless family, was surprised to learn that Mr. Pierce had called on Rev. D. Young to inquire into his history, circumstances, and worldly prospects. As a result of his inquiries, he was soon seen on the streets with a subscription paper in his hand. Meeting a member of the Church, who was also a merchant, the following conversation ensued:

“Methodist. What are you doing, Mr. Pierce?

“Mr. P. I am making an effort to relieve your minister.

“Methodist. Well, I'll give something to help in that case.

“Mr. P. No, sir; your name don't go on this paper, nor that of any member of your Church, except T. Moorhead. You ought to be ashamed to let such a man suffer while laboring for your good; this effort is to be confined to poor sinners like myself.”

This took place in 1819. Cartwright and Morris were laboring in the West, where most of the people were poor, but the preachers in the East did no better. Newell Culver, of the New Hampshire Conference, writing in 1873, says, “The disciplinary claim for a single man forty years ago was $100 and his traveling expenses. For a married man, for self and wife, $200 and traveling expenses, then understood to mean for moving bills and horse-shoeing. For children under fourteen years of age it was $16 each, and for minors over fourteen $24. Seldom was this small claim received.

“It is presumed that in New England not more than one half of this amount on an average was paid them.”

Further, “In 1833, the next year, I joined the New Hampshire Conference, and was appointed to the circuit in the bounds of which I had spent all my early days. This was regarded as an average one for support. In this I received my disciplinary proportion paid in, and it amounted to $53, for one year's service.

“The next year, on a laborious circuit, with a sickly preacher in charge, which added much to my labors, I also shared my proportion with him, which amounted, all told, to $47.

“I am confident that these receipts were equal, with rare exceptions, to the average amounts of other preachers, who were similarly stationed in those days. A small support, it is true, not adequate to meet our real needs; but we had souls for our hire, and, thus encouraged, were content to wait for better days. We seldom heard the subject of small salaries alluded to by the preachers, or any complaint of hard fare.”

Such testimonies might easily be multiplied. This same state of things seems generally to have prevailed whenever preachers have been dependent upon the gifts of the people for their support, and Culver says further, “While some of our members and supporters were possessed of moderate wealth, and paid liberally toward supporting the Gospel, there were others who had never been properly educated to do for this cause `as God had prospered them.”'

Well, but who was to “properly educate” them, if not those same preachers whom they were thus neglecting to support? Yet this puts the poor preacher in a very difficult position, and most men of sensitive natures would rather suffer than try to teach the people to support them. I have been in the same position----once when I was young, and once again more recently. In the first instance I said nothing, and most of the people never gave me a dime, though they must certainly have been able to divine how poor I was. In the second instance I continued for nearly three years before I took up my cross and preached on the subject. I had a business which gave me a meager support, and though poor, was not destitute. If my poverty had been the only consideration, I might never have spoken on the subject, but a deeper consideration stared me in the face: such a state of things was not good for the people. A. B. Simpson also had his own business, and supported himself till within a couple of years of his death, receiving no salary or allowance from the Gospel Tabernacle which he pastored. But----“Regarding this relationship to his congregation, he more than once said to an associate pastor that it might be a very good school of faith for the pastor but that it was very bad discipline for the flock.” This I deeply felt. I was often in poverty enough, and really needed the support of the congregation, but the deeper consideration was, “Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (Phil. 4:17). I was often convicted by Paul's words, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.” (Acts 20:20). And yet because it was obvious that to address the congregation on this subject would also be profitable to me, I shrunk back from it. At length, however, conviction prevailed, and I took up my cross and preached from “forgive me this wrong” (II Cor. 12:13). Paul penned these words with sarcasm, but I preached them sincerely, for I really believed I had wronged the people in shrinking from teaching them their responsibility, though feeling at the same time that they had wronged me, however ignorantly.

The same evening a letter was handed to me, which began: “Thank you for your message this morning. It was the instruction I've been waiting for for three years. I feel bad that I have been so ignorant, but believe me, it really was ignorance. I have often thought that we ought to be doing more, but did not know what to do. Though I understand that this was difficult for you to preach on, it really has been needed.” This may encourage ministering brethren who are reluctant to preach on this subject.

Most modern churches have eliminated all difficulties along these lines, by hiring a pastor or pastors, and paying them a salary. But such a course opens the way to all kinds of evils, and the lower the spiritual state of the people, the more the evils. Yet we are not to determine the right or wrong of the matter solely on the basis of its results. The fact is, to pay a preacher a salary is unscriptural. The fact that it is so widely done in our day only goes to prove how far the church has departed from the Bible. Multitudes go so far as to arrogate to themselves the title of “New Testament churches,” and yet it has never entered their minds to follow the clear and simple instructions of the New Testament for the support of the ministry.

What are those instructions? The first thing we may say is that there is no hint anywhere of hiring a minister, or paying him a salary. Instead we read, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Gal. 6:6). There is no committee here, no organization, no contract, no salary----no church even. There are only two parties mentioned, two individuals: 1. “him that is taught in the word,” and 2. “him that teacheth.” The one who is taught is to communicate of his goods to the one who teaches him. This is a personal thing, between two individuals. And herein lies one of its chief excellencies. By carrying out this simple precept a personal bond of love and appreciation is established between “him that is taught” and “him that teaches.” What a cold thing it must be to receive a monthly check from an organization, according to a previous contract, in comparison with this frequently repeated expression of personal appreciation on the part of those who are taught.

This simple scriptural precept goes a long way also to prevent the many evils attendant upon hiring preachers at a stated salary. By this system men are more likely to receive support according to what they are worth. If their ministry actually profits many souls, they will have many who will cheerfully support them. If not, let them labor with their own hands, and support themselves, while they endeavor to earn the support of the people.

Besides this simple precept, we also have the Scriptural example of a whole congregation taking a collection to support the man of God, when he was laboring in the gospel far from them. Paul alludes to this in II Cor. 11:8, where he says, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” The same example will be found also in Phillipians 2:25-30, and 4:14-18, which I do not quote, but only remark that this example (of a congregation taking a special collection for the support of a faithful preacher) is evidently meant to be followed, for Paul says of it, “ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction,” and calls their gift “a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

Beyond this Scripture says nothing. The practice of hiring preachers at a stated salary may be traced to the Church of Rome, or to Protestant established churches, but not to the Bible.


Why Poor Priests Have No Benefice

by John Wycliffe (or one of his disciples)

[The following is reprinted from The English Works of Wyclif Hitherto Unprinted, edited by F. D. Matthew, and published by the Early English Text Society in 1880. I have rendered this faithfully into modern English. This is a simple necessity if most present-day readers are to make any sense of it. Wycliffe lived over 600 years ago (died in 1384), and though he unquesionably wrote English, yet his spelling was far different from ours, his grammar different enough to cause some difficulty, and even his alphabet not exactly the same, he lacking one of our letters, and having two which we lack. Yet I give this piece as nearly as possible as Wycliffe wrote it. Most of the changes are in spelling only, retaining the original words and word order. All added words are put in brackets. In a few cases a synonym is substituted for a word no longer intelligible as used, as “follow” for “sue” (as in our “pursue,” “ensue”), “judgement” for “dom” (whence our “doom,” but herein in the sense of “opinion” or “persuasion”), and “spiritual” for “ghostly.” In a very few cases I have inverted the order of a couple of words. A benefice, it should be noted, is a salaried position of ministry. ----editor.]

Chapter First

Some causes move some poor priests to receive not benefices; the first for dread of simony, the second for dread of misspending poor men's goods, the third for dread of hindering of better occupation that is more light or easy, more certain, and more profitable on every side. For if men should come to benefices by [the] gift of prelates, there is dread of simony; for commonly they take the first fruits or other pensions, or hold curates in office in their courts or chapels or other vain offices, far from [the] priests' life taught and ensampled of Christ and his apostles; so that commonly such benefices come not freely, as Christ commandeth, but rather for worldly gain, or flattering, or praising and thank of mighty men and lords, and not for ableness of knowledge of God's law and [the] true teaching of the gospel and [the] ensample of [a] holy life. And therefore commonly these prelates and receivers are fouled with simony, that is [a] cursed heresy, as God's law and man's law teach openly, and many saints. And great marvel it is now that, since Saint Gregory saith in [the] plain law of the church and other books, that such men as desire benefices should not have them, but men that flee them for dread of unableness of themselves, and [the] great charge, as did Moses, Jeremiah, Augustine, Gregory, and holy saints; and now whoever can fast run to Rome and bear gold out of the land and pay it for dead lead and a little writing, and strive and plead and curse for tithes and other temporal profits, that are called with antichrist's clerks “[the] rights of holy church,” shall have great benefices of [the] cure of many thousand souls; though he be unable of knowledge of holy writ, not in will to teach and preach [to] his subjects, but of cursed life, and wicked ensample of pride, of covetousness, gluttony, lechery, and other great sins. But [if] there be any simple man that desireth to live well, and teach truly God's law, and despise pride and other sins, both of prelates and other men, he shall be held an hypocrite, a new teacher, an heretic, and not suffered to come to any benefice. But if he have any little poor place to live a poor life on, he shall be so pursued and slandered that he shall be put out by wiles, cautels, frauds, and worldly violence, and imprisoned, degraded, or burnt, if antichrist's clerks may for any gold and cursed leasings [accomplish it].

And if lords shall present clerks to benefices, they will have commonly gold in great quantity, and hold these curates in their worldly office, and suffer the wolves of hell to strangle men's souls, so that they have much gold, and their office done for nought, and their chapels held up for vain glory or hypocrisy, and yet they will not present a clerk of able knowledge and of good life and holy ensample to the people, but a kitchen clerk, or a pen clerk, or wise of building of castles or worldly doing, though he know not [to] read well his Psalter, and knoweth not the commandments of God, nor sacraments of holy church. And yet some lords to color their simony will not take [anything] for themselves, but coverchiefs for the lady, or a palfrey, or a ton of wine; and when some lords would present a good man and able, for love of God and Christian souls, then some ladies are [a] means to have a dancer, a tripper on tappets, or hunter or hawker, or a wild player of summer's games, for flattering and gifts going betwixt, and if it be for dancing in bed, so much the worse. And thus it seemeth that both prelates and lords commonly make a cursed antichrist and a living fiend to be master of Christ's people, for to lead them to hell, to Satan their master, and suffer not Christ's disciples to teach Christ's gospel to his children for to save their souls; and so they travail to exile Christ and his law out of his heritage, that is, Christian souls, that he bought not with rotten gold nor silver, but with his precious heart blood that he shed on the cross by most burning charity. But in this presenting of evil curates and holding of curates in worldly office, hindering them from their spiritual cure, are three degrees of traitory against God and his people.

The first is in [the] prelates and lords that thus hold curates in their worldly office; for they have their high states in the church, and lordships for to purvey true curates to the people, and to maintain them in God's law, and punish them if they fail in their spiritual cure, and by this they hold their lordships of God. Then if they make evil curates and hold them in their worldly office, and hinder them to lead God's people the rightful way to heaven, but help them and constrain them to lead the people to hell-ward, by withdrawing of God's word, and by giving evil ensample, they are wayward traitors to God and his people, and vicars and procurators of Satan. Yet more traitory is in [the] false curates that give reward or hire to come into such worldly offices, for to spare their muck and lay it in treasure, and to get lordship and maintenance against ordinaries, that they dare not call them to residence and save their souls, but couch in lords' courts, in [the] lusts and ease of their flesh, for to get more fat benefices, and purpose not speedily to do their spiritual office. Woe is to those lords that are led with such cursed heretics and antichrists, traitors of God and his people, and namely traitors to [the] lords themselves. Where might not lords find in all their lordship true worldly men to rule their household and worldly offices, except they take thereto curates that are openly false traitors to God and his people? Where are lords so blinded that they perceive not that such traitors, that openly are false to God, that they will much more be false to them? But the most traitory is in false confessors, that should by their office warn prelates and lords of this great peril, and clerks also, that they hold none such curates in their worldly offices; for they do not this lest they lose [the] lordship and friendship and gifts and welfare of their stinking belly; and so they sell Christian souls to Satan for to have [the] likings of their stinking belly, and make prelates and lords and curates to live in sin and traitory against God and his people. And so against the hire that lords give their confessors they deceive them in their souls' health, and maintain them in cursed traitory of God and his people, and thus almost all the world goeth to hell for this cursed simony and false confessors. For commonly prelates, lords, and curates are envenomed with this heresy of simony, and never do very repentance and satisfaction therefor; for when they have a fat benefice gotten by simony, they forsake it not, as they are bound by their own law, but wittingly use forth that simony, and live in riot, covetousness, pride, and do not their office, neither in good ensample nor true teaching. And thus antichrist's clerks, enemies of Christ and his people, by money and flattering and fleshly love, gathering to them[selves the] leading of the people, and forbar true priests to teach them God's law; and therefore the blind leadeth the blind, and both parties run into sin, and full many to hell. And it is huge wonder that God of his righteousness destroyeth not the houses of prelates and lords and curates, as Sodom and Gomorrah, for this heresy, extortions, and other cursedness that they haunt, and for dread of this sin and many more, some poor wretches receive no benefices in this world.

Chapter Second

Yet though poor priests might freely get [the] presentation of lords to have benefices with [the] cure of souls, they dread for [the] misspending of poor men's goods; and this is more dread than the first as concerns their own persons. For priests ought to hold them[selves] paid with food and covering, as Saint Paul teacheth; and if they have more, it is poor men's good, as their own law, and Jerome, and God's law say, and they are keepers thereof and procurators of poor men. But for institution and induction he shall give much of this good that is poor men's to [the] bishop's officers, archdeacons, and officials that are too rich, and not freely come thereto. And when bishops and their officers come and feign to visit, though they nourish men in open sin for annual rent, and do not their office, but sell souls to Satan for money, wretched curates are needed to feast them richly and give procuracy and synage, yea, against God's law and man's, and reason, and against their conscience. And also they shall not be suffered to teach truly God's law to their own subjects, and warn them of false prophets, that deceive them both in belief and teaching and good life and earthly goods, as Christ doeth in the gospel, and commandeth curates to do the same up[on] pain of their damnation; for then they must cry to the people the great sins of prelates and other new feigned religious, as God biddeth; but they deem that such grave reprovings of sin is envy, slandering of prelates, and destroying of holy church. And they shall not be suffered to do sharp execution of God's law against their subjects, be they never so openly cursed of God, and slanderers of [the] Christian religion, if the high clerks of antichrist have gifts and pensions by [the] year to suffer cursed men in open adultery and other sins. For when they are falsely amended by officials and deans no man is hardy [enough] to waken them out of their lusts of sin, for that should destroy [the] jurisdiction and gain of [the] prelates, and this cursed extortion is called by hypocrisy the great alms of antichrist's clerks; but thereby they make large kitchens, hold fat horse[s] and hounds and hawks, and strumpets gaily arrayed, and suffer poor men to starve for mischief, and yet suffer and constrain them to go the broad way to hell.

Also, many times their patrons, and other getters of counter, and idle slanderers, will look to be feasted of such curates, and else make them lose that little thing that they and poor men should live by; so that they shall not spend the tithes and offerings after [a] good conscience and God's law, but waste them on such mighty and rich men and idle, and else, for travail, cost, and enmity, and despising, that they shall suffer, and on the other side for dread of conscience, they are better to forsake all than to hold it forth.

Also, each good day commonly these small curates shall have letters from their ordinaries to summon and to curse poor men for nought but for [the] covetousness of antichrist's clerks; and except they summon and curse them, though they know no cause why against God and his law, they are hurled and summoned from day to day, from far place to farther, or cursed, or lose their benefices or [the] profits thereof; for else, as prelates feign, they by their rebellion should soon destroy [the] prelates' jurisdiction, power, and gain.

Also, when poor priests, first holy of life and devout in their prayers, are beneficed, except they are worldly and busy about the world, to make great feasts to rich persons and vicars and rich men and costly and gaily arrayed, as their state asketh by [the] false judgement of the world, they shall be hated and persecuted down as hounds, and each man ready to injure them in name and worldly goods. And so many cursed deceits hath antichrist brought up by his worldly clerks to make curates to misspend poor men's goods, and not do truly their office, or else to forsake all and leave antichrists clerks, as lords of this world, yea, more cruelly than other tyrants, [to] rob the poor people by feigned censures, and teach the fiend's lore, both by open preaching and [the] ensample of their cursed life.

Also, if such curates are stirred to go learn God's law, and teach their parishioners the gospel, commonly they shall get no leave of [the] bishops but for gold; and when they shall most profit in their learning, then shall they be called home at the prelate's will, and if they shall have any high sacraments or points of the high prelates, commonly they shall buy them with poor men's goods, with hook or with crook. And so there is full great peril of evil spending of those goods, both against high prelates, against rich men of counter, as patrons, persons and other getters of counter, and their own kin, for fame of the world, and for shame and [the] evil judgement of men. And certes it is great wonder that God suffereth so long this sin unpunished openly, namely, of prelates courts that are dens of thieves and larders of hell; and so of their officers that are subtle in malice and covetousness; and of lords and mighty men, that should destroy this wrong and other[s], and maintain truth and God's servants, and now maintain antichrist's falseness and his clerks for part of the gain. And how dare simple priests take such benefices, except they were mighty of knowledge and good life, and hearty to stand against these wrongs, and more than we may now touch for the multitude of them, and subtle coloring by hypocrisy. But certes God suffereth such hypocrites and tyrants to have [the] name of prelates for [the] great sins of the people and [the] unworthiness thereof, that each part [may] lead [the] other to hell by [the] blindness of the fiend; and this is a thousandfold more vengeance than if God destroy bodily both parties and all their goods, and earth therewith, as he did by Sodom and Gomorrah; for the longer that they live thus in sin, the greater pains shall they have in hell, except they amend them[selves]. And this dread and many more make some poor priests to receive no benefices.

Chapter Third

But yet though poor priests might have freely [the] presentation of lords, and be helped by [the] maintenance of kings and [the] help of good commons from [the] extortions of prelates, and other misspending of these goods, that is full hard in this great reigning of antichrist's clerks; yet they dread sore that by this singular cure, ordained of sinful men, they should be hindered from better occupation, and from more profit of holy church, and this is the most dread of all as concerns their persons. For they have cure and charge at the full of God to help their brethren to heavenward, both by teaching, praying, and giving ensample; and it seemeth that they shall most easily fulfil this by [a] general cure of charity, as did Christ and his apostles, though they bind them[selves] not to one singular place as a tie dog, and by this they may most surely save themselves and help their brethren; for now they are free to flee from one city to another when they are pursued of antichrist's clerks, as biddeth Christ in the gospel. Also now they may best without challenging of men go and dwell among the people where they shall most profit, and in conveniable time come and go after [the] stirring of the Holy Ghost, and not be bound by sinful men's jurisdiction from the better doing.

Also, now they follow Christ and his apostles near, in thus taking alms willingly and freely of the people that they teach, than in taking tithes and offerings by customs that sinful men ordain and use now in the time of grace.

Also, this is more needful in both sides, as they understand by Christ's life, and his apostles'; for thus the people give them alms more willingly and devoutly, and they take it more meekly, and are more busy to learn, keep, and teach God's law, and so it is the better for both sides.

Also, by this manner might and should the people give freely their alms to true priests that truly kept their order and freely and openly taught the gospel, and withdraw it from wicked priests, and not be constrained to pay their tithes and offerings to open cursed men, and maintain them in their open cursedness; and thus should [the] simony, covetousness, and idleness of worldly clerks be laid down, and holiness and true teaching and knowledge of God's law be brought in, both in clerks and lay men. Also thus should striving, pleading, and cursing for tithes and offerings, and hate and discord among priests and lay men be ended, and unity, peace, and charity maintained and kept.

Also, these benefices by this course that men use now bring in worldliness and needless business about worldly offices, that Christ and his apostles would never take upon them, and yet they were more mighty, more wise, and more burning in charity to God and to the people, both to live the best manner in themselves and to teach other men.

Also, covetousness and worldly business of clerks, and occasion of covetousness and worldliness of the people, should be done away, and Christ's poverty, and his apostles', by [the] ensample of [the] poor life of clerks, and [their] trust in God and desiring of heavenly bliss, should reign in Christian people.

Also, then should priests study holy writ and be devout in their prayers, and not be detained with new offices, as new songs and more sacraments than Christ used, and his apostles, that taught us all truth, and speedily saving of Christian people.

Also, much blasphemy of prelates and other men of feigned obedience and needless swearing made to worldly prelates should then cease, and sovereign obedience to God and his law, and eschewing of needless oaths and forswearing, should reign among Christian men.

Also, then should men eschew commonly all the perils said before in the first chapter, and the second, and many thousand more, and live in cleanness and sureness of conscience. Also then should priests be busy to seek God's worship and saving of men's souls, and not their own worldly glory and winning of worldly dirt.

Also, then should priests live like to angels, as they are angels of offices, where they live now as swine in fleshly lusts, and turn again to their former sins as hounds to their spewing, for abundance of worldly goods and idleness in their spiritual office, and over much busyness about this wretched life. For these dreads and many thousand more, and for to be more like to Christ's life and his apostles', and for to profit more to their own souls and other men's, some poor priests think with God's help to travel about where they should most profit, by evidence that God giveth them, the while they have time and [a] little bodily strength and youth. Nevertheless, they condemn not curates that do well their office, so that they keep [the] liberty of the gospel, and dwell where they shall most profit, and that they teach truly and stably God's law against false prophets and [the] cursed fiend's snares. Christ for his endless mercy help his priests and common people to beware of antichrist's deceits, and go even the right way to heaven. Amen, Jesu, for thine endless charity.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Wycliffe and Huss

. . . or, if you prefer it, Wyclif and Hus, or, if you please, Wickliff and Hvs. Authorities inform us that there are at least twenty-eight different spellings of Wycliffe's name, though the best authorities on the subject (as Vaughan, Lechler, and Lorimer) adopt the common “Wycliffe,” as being both the most ancient and the most correct. Nor do I see any reason to depart from the traditional pronunciation of “Wycliffe” (the first syllable long), though pronunciation is more difficult to prove than spelling. The traditional way is at any rate more likely correct than the traditional pronunciation of “John,” and when modern scholars have adopted a technically correct pronunciation of the man's first name, I may be ready to listen to their new pronounciations of his last name. As for Huss, his name is shortened from “John of Hussinecz,” or “Husinec,” so that Huss is at any rate admissible, and I feel no compelling need to prove that I am a scholar by adopting non-traditional spellings. If I did, I would leave Wycliffe and Huss alone for a while, and begin by turning “Moses” into “Mosheh,” with the accent on the last syllable, of course. These things I mention so that the reader may not be left wondering when he sees the names spelled in several different ways in the titles that follow.

John Wycliffe, an Englishman, lived from 1324 to 1384. John Huss, a Bohemian, lived from 1373 to 1415. Huss was a disciple of the doctrines of Wycliffe, which he learned from Wycliffe's writings. I therefore treat the two of them together.

Years of diligent searching, coupled with the good hand of God upon me, have turned up for me many precious relics of these two men. The first which I mention is The Lives of John Wicliff, and of the most Eminent of his Disciples; Lord Cobham, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, and Zisca, by William Gilpin. The preface is dated 1765. My copy was published in New York in 1814, by John Mein. This is a book of 288 small pages. The lives are brief, but well written. A larger popular work is The Life of Wiclif, by Charles Webb Le Bas (1832), with 454 small pages, and no index.

Another scarce and ancient treasure is The Life and Opinions of John de Wycliffe, by Robert Vaughan, published in two volumes in 1828. This is “Illustrated principally from his Unpublished Manuscripts; with a Preliminary View of the Papal System, and of the State of the Protestant Doctrine in Europe, to the Commencement of the Fourteenth Century.” These volumes are filled with information on everything concerning Wycliffe, from the rise of popery to the connection of his doctrines with the Reformation. Vaughan also contributed Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe, published in 1845. This contains a life of Wycliffe of xciv pages, and accounts of and selections from his writings, of 332 pages. Both titles of Vaughan have good indexes.

John Wycliffe and His English Precursors, by Gotthard Lechler, translated from the German by Peter Lorimer, is an excellent biography of 512 pages, with a good index, first published in 1878. For clarity of style and organization of material, I place this work above Vaughan's.

The History of the Life and Sufferings of the Reverend and Learned John Wiclif, by John Lewis, is a book of about 400 pages (in the 1820 edition), the first 28l of which are devoted to his life, and the remainder of the book containing “A Collection of Papers and Records Referred to in the Foregoing History,” most of them in Latin. The preface to this is dated 1719.

Two scholarly works, both well indexed, are England in the Age of Wycliffe, by G. M Trevelyan (first published in 1899), and John Wyclif, by Herbert B. Workman, published in 1926 in two large volumes.

The writings of Wycliffe were of course first circulated in manuscript, before printing came into being in Europe. Many of his “unpublished manuscripts” (both Latin and English), which Vaughan used, have since been published. Many volumes of his Latin works have been published. I do not have these, nor would they do me much good if I did. A number of volumes of his English works have also been published. The set of the writings of the “British Reformers,” published by The Religious Tract Society, contains half a volume of the Writings of the Reverend and Learned John Wickliff. The other half of this volume contains writings of his disciples. The English in this book is modernized.

A number of volumes of Wycliffe's writings have been published in his own English. One of these is An Apology for Lollard Doctrines, Attributed to Wicliffe, edited by James Henthorn Todd, and published in 1842. This was reprinted by AMS Press in 1968. In 1869 and 1871 were published Select English Works of John Wyclif, edited by Thomas Arnold, in three volumes. Also reproducing Wycliffe in his own ancient English is The English Works of Wyclif Hitherto Unprinted, edited by F. D. Matthew, and published in 1880 in a volume of 572 pages.

Some will doubtless wish to know where they can find Wycliffe's Bible. The whole of it was edited by Josiah Forshall and Frederic Madden, and published by the Oxford University Press, in 1850, in four very large volumes, with the earlier and later Wycliffite versions in parallel columns. The bad news is, you are so little likely to find a copy of this for sale, or to be able to afford it if you do, that you may as well try to buy the moon. The good news is, the moon shines for all, and there is a chance you may find a copy of this for your use if you have access to a good library. Thus I found it, and at the expense of a good deal of time and money, made a photocopy of it for myself. The New Testament, and the poetical books of the Old Testament, of Forshall and Madden's edition (the later revision only), have also been published separately, but these also are very scarce. One copy of the poetical books I have seen (I bought it for £1.05 many years ago), and none of the New Testament. Bagster's English Hexapla also contains Wycliffe's New Testament. Of the Hexapla I have seen three copies in my life, one in a university library, one in the possession of a friend, while the third occupies a place on the bookshelf beside me. I bought it for £15 (then about $30) in 1976.

The connection between Wycliffe and Huss is shown in Wiclif and Hus, by Johann Loserth, translated from German by M. J. Evans, and published in 1884. Loserth undertakes to prove that the writings of Huss are “nothing but a meagre abstract” of Wycliffe's. Many pages of the writings of both men are quoted in proof of this, but all in untranslated Latin.

The Life and Times of John Huss, by E. H. Gillett, is all that we could want in a biography of the man, and a good deal more than most modern readers would want, for it consists of two large volumes of over 600 pages each. It was published by Gould and Lincoln in 1861 (second edition, 1864).

The Life and Times of Master John Hus, by The Count Lutzow, is a biography of 398 pages, published in 1909.

Another precious relic of Huss is The Letters of John Hus, edited by Herbert B. Workman and R. Martin Pope. This contains 83 letters, with introductions and notes, in a volume of 286 pages, published in 1904. The reader will observe that one of the editors is the author of one of the large lives of Wycliffe mentioned above. Workman wrote other works also on medieval church history.

In the last place I mention a book I have lately discovered, which I regard as among the best books I have ever read. A pre-title page announces it as “Hus the Heretic by Poggius the Papist.” The full title is The Infallibility of the Pope at the Covncil of Constance; The Trial of Hvs, His Sentence and Death at the Stake, by a Member of the Covncil, Fra Poggivs. The book has but little to do with the infallibility of the pope. “The Trial of Hvs” (which appears in very large red letters on the title page) is its real subject. The author was favorable to Huss, and voted against his death. The book is a vivid eye-witness account of Huss's sufferings, trial, and death, and of many other happenings at the Council of Constance. It was first published in English in 1930.

The original editions of almost all of these books are extremely scarce, but, surprisingly, most of them are in print at this writing, though for the most part at very forbidding prices. A catalog of books in print, which you may find at any good library, will tell you which are in print, where to get them, and at what price.


Paraphrasing in the Bible

by Glenn Conjurske

One of the most conspicuous differences between the old English version and the “New” versions which seek to replace it lies in the amount of paraphrase which they contain. The King James Version is generally free from unnecessary paraphrasing. The New American Standard (NASV) and New International (NIV) versions are filled with paraphrasing, from beginning to end. The NASV continually paraphrases individual words and phrases. The NIV does the same, but goes much further, even paraphrasing whole sentences, while it also frequently drops words and phrases from the original, leaving them untranslated, and adds numerous words of its own, none of which are put in italics. The New King James Version (NKJV) is much more conservative, but not near conservative enough, for it often follows the other modern versions in rejecting the literal translation for a paraphrase.

To translate is to use a word of the same meaning as the original word which we are translating. This, of course assumes that we know the meaning of the original word, and that there is an equivalent in the language into which we translate. Touching this point I need only say that when the language into which we translate is English, it will be an extreme rarity to find a word in the originals for which we have no equivalent. All the stories which have been bandied about, therefore, about primitive languages which have no word for love, or for God, are nothing to the purpose, and are no excuse whatever for paraphrasing in English. English is a language singularly rich in every way----not only in the common matters of human life and experience, but in theological language also----so that generally speaking the words of the divine originals will be found to have not merely one equivalent in English, but several or many of them.

To paraphrase is to rewrite. It is to substitute one word or phrase for another

----that is, to substitute a word with another meaning than that of the word which is before us in the original. It is generally to substitute an interpretation or an explanation in the place of a translation. Examples of paraphrasing are as follows:

In Genesis 13:15 the literal translation from the Hebrew is, “and to thy seed,” but in all three of the popular modern versions we find a paraphrase instead of the word “seed.” The NIV has “offspring,” while the NASV and the NKJV both have “descendants.” These are not translations, but explanations. Yet in Galatians 3:16, where Paul refers to this verse, and makes so much of the fact that it says “seed,” in the singular, and not “seeds,” in the plural, all three of these versions are forced (to make sense of the passage) to abandon their paraphrase, and revert to God's words, “seed” and “seeds.”

In Psalm 2:12 the Hebrew says, “Kiss the Son,” but the NASV reads “Do homage to the Son.” This is not a translation, but an interpretation, or an attempted explanation. (The NIV and the NKJV translate literally here.)

In Deut. 13:6 we find the phrase “the wife of your bosom,” but here both the NIV and the NASV defect from the literal rendering, the former having “the wife you love,” and the latter, “the wife you cherish.” (The NKJV translates literally.) These are not translations, but explanations, and moreover, they are wrong explanations. She is the wife of his bosom whether he loves and cherishes her or not. When King Henry VIII was contriving to murder his unfortunate wife, Ann Boleyn, he neither loved nor cherished her, but still she was “the wife of his bosom.” The same expression is used in Deut. 28:54, where we are told a man will have an evil eye toward the wife of his bosom. But these versions will no more translate the figure “to have an evil eye,” than they will the word “bosom.” The NIV therefore gives us here the unlikelihood of a man having no compassion on the wife he loves, while the NASV gives the absurdity of a man being hostile to the wife he cherishes. (The NKJV translates “the wife of his bosom,” but follows the NASV in its other paraphrase, “be hostile,” and turns the very same phrase into “refuse” two verses later.) And in this we see one of the great dangers of paraphrasing. As long as we translate the words of God, giving always the nearest and best equivalent of the original word, we leave every man free under God to understand those words as best he can, as far as his own spiritual wisdom will allow him. If we translate the words, “his eye shall be evil...toward the wife of his bosom,” then every man is free to understand them according to his own spiritual ability. But as soon as we give an explanation of the words instead of a translation, then every man is bound to our understanding of the place, whether we are right or wrong.

In I Thes. 4:4 the Greek reads “each of you to know [how] to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour.” So it is translated in the interlinear Englishman's Greek New Testament. The NIV, instead of translating this, must endeavor to interpret it. They give us therefore, for “know to possess his own vessel,” “learn to control his own body.” But “control” is not a translation of “possess,” nor is “body” the equivalant of “vessel.” Some will no doubt contend that when Paul wrote “vessel,” he meant thus to indicate the body. Very well, but if the translator can understand that, so can the reader, and Paul did not write “body,” but “vessel.”

But these translators are by no means sure that Paul meant to refer to the body by the word “vessel,” and they must therefore give us an alternative interpretation----or rather, two of them----in the margin. Rather than “learn to control his own body,” the phrase might mean either “learn to live with his own wife,” or “learn to acquire a wife.” But none of these are translations at all, nor anything resembling translations. They are all attempted interpretations. Only one of them, of course, could be correct, and it may be that none of them are. In this place they happen to be unsure enough of their interpretation that they give alternates in the margin, but in how many other places do they interpret instead of translating, and give no indication whatever that their interpretation might not be the correct one, or that any other interpretation is possible. It is indeed difficult enough to translate without erring, but to interpret the Scriptures so truly that we may set forth those interpretations in the place of the words of God----this is a task beyond the abilities of the best mortals on earth.

And from the standpoint of principle, a paraphrase of the word of God is not the word of God. An explanation of the word of God is not the word of God. If it is a good and true explanation it may be excellent in its own place, as in a commentary or a sermon, but it has no place in a Bible. The interpretation may be sound, and it may be helpful, but it is pernicious as a substitute for the word of God. But these modern translators may not be infallible in their interpretations. They may substitute wrong explanations and interpretations in the place of the words of God, and in that case every reader of their version is shut up to their error, and the possibility of coming to a true understanding of the place is irretrievably lost.

Who then would dare to publish a Bible full of explanations in the place of translations? Only the proud! Only the proud can have so much confidence in their own understanding that they have no fear to put their own explanations in the place of the words of God, and bind the rest of the human race to those explanations. It is the intellectual pride of modern evangelicalism which has produced these versions so full of paraphrasing.

In the first place, it is pride which in effect says, “We know better than all of the great and godly men who plied their pens in translating the Bible into English for half a millennium, from 1380 to 188l”----for none of them paraphrased the Bible after the manner of the modern versions, but translated it literally. But such pride is characteristic of modern evangelicalism.

But this pride goes further. It says in effect, “Not only do we know better than all the great men of past generations: we also know better than all of our contemporaries.” The NASV, for example, usually refuses to translate figures of speech, but must continually explain them. This is pride from beginning to end. It is in effect saying, “We, the translators of this Bible, can understand common figures of speech, but you plebs, who must read the work, have no such ability. Therefore we will treat you to a book full of explanations, in the place of the original figures.” (Yet God's figures of speech are often easier to understand than these men's explanations of them, and moreover, God's figures of speech will not lead us astray, as the explanations of these unspiritual men often do.)

But the pride which must set itself on a pinnacle above the rest of the human race is not the half of it. What these paraphrasers are in effect really saying is, “Not only do we know better than the rest of the human race: we know better than God also. We know that God filled the Bible which he wrote with countless common figures of speech, but we really suppose this to have been a mistake.” What this paraphrasing really amounts to is an attack on the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. They proceed with bold effrontery through the book of God rectifying all of the blunders of the Almighty, replacing them with shifts of their own----their unbelief in the ability of God to speak intelligibly equalled only by their confidence in their own ability to do so.

The NASV begins in the second verse of Genesis, giving us “surface of the deep” instead of the figurative “face of the deep”----though it seems that common Englishmen have been able to understand this simple figure ever since they read “the face of the depthe” in Wycliffe's Bible 600 years ago. Why must it now be “surface”? And why must “the face of all the earth” be transformed into “the surface of all the earth” in verse 29 of the same chapter? And while we are asking, why is “the face of the earth” not altered to “the surface of the earth” in Acts 17:26? If we can understand “the face of the earth” in Acts 17:26, why not everywhere? And why must “the face of the sky” be altered to “the appearance of the sky” in Matthew 16:3? And why must “the face of him who sits on the throne” be transfigured into “the presence of him who sits on the throne----and why “the face of the serpent” converted to “the presence of the serpent” in Rev. 12:14?

For three thousand years human beings of every tongue have been reading in Gen. 4:1, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived,” and no doubt every adult of ordinary intelligence understood it. But what is that to modern pride? We open the NASV to the place and read, “the man had relations with his wife Eve.” Pardon me, but this is contemptible. It is coarse, indelicate, offensive. Moreover, it is not the word of God. Neither, by the way, is it one whit more intelligible than “Adam knew his wife, and she conceived.” Indeed, the fabricators of this coarse reading must have had some doubts themselves about its intelligibility, for in Genesis 19:5 & 8 they must offer an explanation in their margin, of the explanation which appears in their text, of this simple figure which simple human beings have understood for three thousand years----but I refuse to quote it. Elsewhere they give various other paraphrases in their text, as in Matthew 1:25, where they transmute God's simple “knew her not” into “kept her a virgin,” and in Luke 1:34, where, by the reverse of alchemy, Mary's pure “I know not a man” is debased to “I am a virgin.” Indeed, all of their substitutes for this simple and pure figure are base, and none of them are the word of God. The NIV is just as guilty on this point, and some of its substitutes for this pure word of God are so base I cannot bring myself to stain my pages by quoting them.

Figures of every sort----eyes, hands, face, ears, mouth----receive the same treatment at the hands of these men. They must explain and interpret them all, instead of translating them. And usually in the process they display their own incompetence and inconsistency. We have referred already to “an evil eye,” a figure which is used in several places in the Bible. Now it is a plain fact that a translator of the Bible has not the slightest need to understand this figure. He may simply translate it, and leave the understanding of it to the spiritual capacity of the reader. But this was too much to expect of these men, who seem to think themselves always wise and spiritual enough to understand and explain everything. The results of their endeavors, however, indicate otherwise. In Deut. 28:54 & 56 the NASV turns “to have an evil eye” into “be hostile.” In Prov. 23:6 they have turned “him that hath an evil eye” into “a selfish man,” (where the NIV has “a stingy man,” the NKJV “a miser,” and Keil and Delitzsch “the jealous”----all of them interpretations, not translations----perhaps right, perhaps wrong----perhaps acceptable as applications, but not the word of God). Again, in Mark 7:22 in the NASV “an evil eye” is alchemized into “envy.” It plainly appears that they would have done much better to let the figure alone, and let every man understand it as he was able. They themselves apparently judged that such a course was acceptable, for they followed it themselves in Prov. 28:22, where they let “an evil eye” be “an evil eye”----thus, as usual, by their faithful translation in one place condemning their paraphrases elsewhere. If folks can understand “an evil eye” in Prov. 28:22, why not everywhere?

In Prov. 15:30 the NASV transmutes “the light of the eyes” into “bright eyes”----an interpretation, not a translation, and an interpretation which few sober minds are likely to endorse. (The NIV has “a cheerful look,” while the NKJV renders literally.) In Gen. 16:5 to be “despised in her eyes” must be changed into “despised in her sight.” This is only the substitution of one figure for another, and what is gained by it?

The mouth fares little better than the eyes in this version. In Deut. 17:6, “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses” must be exhanged for “On the evidence of two witnesses, or three witnesses.” And in II Cor. 13:1 the same expression must be transfigured into “the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (The NIV has “testimony” in both places, the NKJV “testimony” in the former, and “mouth” in the latter.) Is there something wrong with translating the word “mouth”? Apparently not, these men themselves being the judges, for in Matthew 18:16 they (the NASV) present to us “by the mouth of two or three witnesses.” There, however, (as also in II Cor. 13:1), they must meddle with something else, and turn “every word” into “every fact.” This change is no more legitimate than the other. Henry Alford says on this, “rJh'ma, not thing, but word, as always.”

We could fill many more pages with examples of this sort, from one end of the Bible to the other, but enough has been said to plainly indicate the character of this version. The translators profess to revere the inspired originals as the very words of God, and therefore to adhere “as closely as possible” to them. This claim has been shown to be empty. In every instance of paraphrasing pointed out above they could, with no effort at all, have adhered more closely to the original, by simply translating the figure instead of rewriting it. They profess to have followed the same principles as were followed by the translators of the old American Standard Version, but this is also an empty claim. In every single instance of paraphrasing pointed out above the old American Standard Version has rendered simply and literally. And in not one of these instances has the old version so much as offered a note or explanation in the margin. They obviously judged that such simple figures could be easily understood by the whole human race, that God was not therefore unwise to employ them, and that it was their wisdom to let them stand as God wrote them.

These translators likewise often paraphrase where there is no figure at all, but plain, simple speech which might be translated literally into any language on earth. So in Genesis 16:5 we read (in the NASV) that Sarai gave her maid into Abram's arms, where the original says his bosom. What can be the reason for such a change? Surely they have nothing against the word “bosom,” for in the next place where the same Hebrew word occurs (Exodus 4:6-7) they translate it “bosom” five times, and they also use the word numerous times elsewhere, from “the bosom of fools” in Proverbs 14:33 to “the bosom of the Father” in John 1:18. They even give Abraham his bosom back in Luke 16:22, where they faithfully translate “Abraham's bosom.” Why not Abraham's arms? Nay, they even thrust in the word “bosom” where it does not belong, transmuting “the abundance of her glory” in Is. 66:11 into “her bountiful bosom”! At any rate it is evident that they have nothing against the word “bosom.” Nor do they seem to have any objection to the sort of use which Sarai makes of the word in Gen. 16:5, for in I Kings 1:2 they advise David to find a young virgin to lie in his bosom. Why not “lie in your arms”? In Micah 7:5 a man's wife is said to lie in his bosom. Why not “arms”? Understand, we would not likely have half so much to object, if these men had something against the word “bosom,” and if they gave us in its place a legitimate synonym----a real translation of the Hebrew word----but “arms” and “bosom” are two different things. They have substituted their own word for God's, though there was no reason to do so, they themselves being the judges. As is so often the case, their proper rendering of the word in some places condemns their paraphrase in others.

The NIV, of course, does worse, transmuting the word “bosom” into “arms” in one place, “cloak” in another, “folds of your garment” in another, “heart” in another, “side” in another, while in some places the word (or the phrase which contains it) is dropped, and not translated at all. “In thy bosom” is turned into “beside him” in I Kings 1:2. In Psalm 35:13 “My prayer returned into my own bosom” is alchemized into “My prayers returned to me unanswered.” This, of course, is an interpretation, not a translation, and it is the opposite of the interpretation which men of spiritual minds have generally given to the passage. This very well illustrates the folly and danger of paraphrasing. A man who has but little spiritual sense can produce a very acceptable version of the Bible if he will but translate, but when such a one begins to interpret, he only substitutes darkness for light.

Let those who have no belief in the inspiration of Scripture paraphrase all they please, but Evangelicals profess to believe in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures----that is, that the very words of the Bible are inspired of God----that the words of the Bible are the words of God. What right, then, do they think they have to set aside the words of God, and substitute other words in place of them. They would not dare to make the same substitutions in the original texts which they make on every page of their English translations. There is not a man among them who would allow it to be legitimate to substitute pivnei (drinks) for ejsqivei (eats) in the Greek original in I Cor. 9:7, yet there it stands in the English in both the NKJV and the NIV (which also drops the second occurrence of the words “of the flock,” not translating them at all), while the NASV has “uses.” Pardon me, but this is pedantry. Englishmen have been reading “eateth” here for over 600 years, ever since Wycliffe penned, “Who kepith a flok, and etith not of the mylk of the flok?” Nobody had any difficulty with it. But lo! the modern scholars have discovered that folks do not eat milk, but drink it. And though we would not fault Paul if he had written “eateth the milk,” yet he never wrote that, but “eateth of the milk.” Now it is a fact that some things come “of the milk” which folks are accustomed to eat. Or do these scholars drink their butter and cheese? Well, no matter if they do. The fact remains that Paul wrote “eat,” not “drink,” and no one who believes in the verbal inspiration of Scripture has any right to change it to “drink,” or “use,” either. The fact that these “New” versions are so quick to substitute their own words for the inspired words of God indicates that they have no proper respect for those words as the words of God, and no proper sense or feeling that they are the inspired words of God----their professions to the contrary notwithstanding.

There is not a man among them who would allow it to be legitimate in Rom. 8:13 to replace pravxei" (deeds) with kakopoivhsei" (misdeeds) in the Greek original, yet there it stands in the English of the NIV.

There is not a man among them who would account it legitimate or acceptable to replace the words ajpo th'" parqeniva" aujth'" (“from her virginity”) with the words metaV toVn gavmon aujth'" (“after her marriage”) in the Greek original in Luke 2:36, yet there it stands in the English in both the NIV and the NASV. And such substitutions abound all over both Testaments in these versions.

One of the practical evils of paraphrasing is found in the fact that the explanations given are often too specific. The “translators” put one facet of the thing in the place of the whole. They discover one application of a general principle, and replace the general principle with that one application of it, thus losing a great deal of the force and the application of the original. An example of this will be found in I Cor. 13:5, where the NASV turns “thinketh no evil” into “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” This is true enough, as one application of the principle stated, but the principle is much broader than that. “Thinketh no evil” may have nothing whatever to do with a wrong suffered, but may refer to a wrong inflicted on someone else, or any kind of evil in general. To think no evil may mean to have no inclination to believe an evil report, no disposition to suspect an ulterior motive, no propensity to put an evil construction upon the facts. All of this is the undoubted way of love. But all of this is thrown away by this modern paraphrase.

It is true that a number of excellent and highly esteemed commentaries may be quoted in favor of this interpretation, but it seems to me that they all stumble over the same point. They all stumble over the Greek article, which appears before the word “evil.” This is the basis of the interpretation. It is not, they tell us, merely kakovn (evil), but toV kakovn (the evil)----that is, the particular evil which has been inflicted upon you. But I can see no soundness in this. ToV kakovn, literally “the evil [thing]” (for it is neuter), makes no reference to any particular evil thing, unless it should refer back to some specific evil thing just mentioned. Where there is no such particular evil mentioned in the preceding context, it is forced and unnatural to try to refer toV kakovn to some particular and specific evil, and the usage of the expression elsewhere in the New Testament will not bear it out. ToV kakovn is generic, or abstract. “The evil [thing]” is the equivalent of “that which is evil,” which is the equivalent of simply “evil,” in the abstract. But before demonstrating how the term is used in the rest of the New Testament, I must point out here that the article over which they stumbled to their interpretation has no more place in their version than it has in the old one. They have made the phrase more specific than the old version (and more specific than the Greek), but they have left it just as indefinite. They say “a wrong suffered,” not “the wrong suffered.” They obviously felt instinctively that it would be forced and unnatural to introduce “the evil” or “the wrong” of any sort here, as no such evil had been previously mentioned. They arrive at their specific interpretation on the basis of the fact that the Greek is definite, and yet they leave it indefinite in their translation. This might have indicated to them that they were on the wrong track.

But that toV kakovn is in fact abstract in the New Testament will be evident from a glance at other places in which it is used:

Rom. 7:21. “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”

Rom. 12:21. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Rom. 13:4. “But if thou do that which is evil, . . . . . . to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Rom. 16:19. “...wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”

III Jn. 11. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.”

Now observe. The above texts give us seven examples of kakovn with the article, all that I found at a quick glance through a concordance of the Greek New Testament. In the first two of these instances the case varies from the accusative, but this affects nothing. In all of these instances the English Bible properly translates toV kakovn in the abstract, either as “evil,” or “that which is evil.” Moreover, the NASV does exactly the same, having “evil” in four of these instances, and “what is evil” in the other three----“what is evil” being equivalent to “that which is evil.” Why then in I Cor. 13:5 do they transmute this into “a wrong suffered”? This is an interpretation, and a wrong one----a substitution of one particular application in place of the general principle.

But there is more. The New Testament does in a couple of places speak of what may unquestionably be regarded as “a wrong suffered.” Those places are:

I Thes. 5:15. “See that none render evil for evil.”

I Pet. 3:9. “Not rendering evil for evil.”

Now observe. There can be no doubt that the italicized words do in fact refer to an actual “wrong suffered.” Yet in these places the Greek word kakovn appears without the article. And in these places, where “a wrong suffered” would have been a much more legitimate paraphrase than it is in I Cor. 13:5, the NASV never dreams of it, but renders “evil for evil,” as indeed it ought.

We observe that there is substantial loss in thus substituting explanations for translations. This is almost always so, and if these paraphrasers had any proper kind of faith in the words of God, they would no doubt feel it to be so. God may have reasons beyond our comprehension for the employment of certain words, and if we set aside those words, and replace them with explanations or interpretations, those divine reasons will be forever lost upon the readers of our version.

The sum of the matter is this: these translators have neither the competence nor the faithfulness which we might legitimately expect in those who undertake to translate the Bible. Lacking those things, a little more humility and conservatism would have stood them in much better stead, but when men so little qualified are so bent upon change, and so confident of their own abilities, the result can only be injurious. Faith will preserve men from this proclivity to paraphrase the word of God----faith in the actual ability of God to say what he means, and to speak so as to make himself understood, and faith in the actual fact that he has done so. That same faith will lead men to reject these versions so full of paraphrasing.


Forsothe I say to 3ou trewthe, til heuen and erthe passe, oon i, or titil, shal nat passe fro the lawe, til alle thingis be don. Matt. 5:18---Wycliffe.


Index to Vol. I, 1992

Articles by the Editor

Ann Judson's Commitment.............. 119

Archaic Language in the Bible......... 169

Authority in the Church..................... 97

Can A “Worldly Christian”

Be Saved?.................................... 217

Carnal and Spiritual Christians.......... 12

Death of A. B. Simpson................... 173

“Easter” in the English Bible............ 80

More “Easter” and the English Bible 153

Edification...................................... 241

George Whitefield's Tomb.............. 216

God Give Us Men (poem).................. 11

Gospel According to Abraham......... 115

Groaning.......................................... 84

Is the Church of Rome the Antichrist? 89

Judgement Upon All the Ungodly..... 132

King James Version, Real

Superiority of............................... 145

King James Version, D. O. Fuller

and C. H. Spurgeon on.................. 149

Library Chats:

Adoniram Judson.......................... 107

Best Books..................................... 22

Books on Healing........................... 76

Books on Mormonism................... 220

George Whitefield........................ 206

Golden Age of

Christian Literature.................... 182

John Wesley................................. 245

Moody and Sankey....................... 141

“Things New and Old”.................. 46

Torrey and Alexander................... 166

Water Street Mission Books............ 68

Wycliffe and Huss........................ 278

Mormon Preaching.......................... 224

No Man Durst Join (sermon)............ 256

“Not to Leave the Other Undone”... 158

Notes................................. 48, 96, 264

“Only Rule of Faith and Practice”..... 60

Paraphrasing in the Bible................. 280

“Pie in the Sky By and By”............. 155

Prophet's Commission..................... 174

“Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”........................................ 250

Revival We Need............................... 1

Ruth and Orpah (sermon)................. 121

Self-Denial....................................... 53

Self-Denial and Self-Interest.............. 73

Self-Interest...................................... 35

“Sell That Ye Have”........................ 29

Slacks and Women (sermon)............ 193

Supporting the Ministry................... 268

Uncle John Vassar........................... 202

Utility of Various Versions

of the Bible.................................. 226

What Heaven and Hell Have in Common (sermon)........................ 237

What Is the Wedding Garment?.......... 25

Wheat & the Tares............................ 49

Who Is the Father of Methodism?..... 211

Withdraw Thy Foot......................... 127

Worldly Weddings.......................... 186

Articles by Others

Books and the Book of Books,

by C. H. Mackintosh..................... 164

Christmas, Reasons for not Observing; American Baptist Magazine........... 265

Epistle to George Whitefield (poem),

by Charles Wesley....................... 208

Future Punishment, by R. A. Torrey 188

Letter from Prison, Wm. Tyndale....... 12

Ornamental and Costly Attire,

by Adoniram Judson..................... 109

Repent Ye! (sermon),

by Gipsy Smith.............................. 16

Separation: Not Fusion,

by C. H. Mackintosh....................... 43

Why Poor Priests Have No Benefice,

by John Wycliffe.......................... 273

Extracts and Miscellaneous

Books, by Myles Coverdale............... 79

Daniel 12:3..................................... 205

Elegy on the Death of John Wesley (poem), by T. Olivers................... 248

First Resurrection, by Henry Alford... 72

Interpretation of Prophecy,

by J. C. Ryle.................................. 70

Interpretation of Prophecy,

by Adolph Saphir......................... 118

John Wesley, by C. H. Spurgeon...... 247

Keeping Up the Standard,

by Catherine Booth....................... 244

Matthew 5:18, Wycliffe................... 287

Old Paths---Jeremiah 6:16.................... 1

Old-Fashioned Methodist Preachers,

by Peter Cartwright........................ 24

Person of Christ, by J. N. Darby....... 264

Power of Love, by A. B. Earle.......... 181

Self-Interest, by Richard Baxter......... 58

Worldliness, by C. H. Spurgeon......... 10

Editorial Policies

Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts articles by other writers if they are judged profitable for scriptural instruction or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's own views are to be taken from his own writings.