Repentance in the Gospel of John
by Glenn Conjurske
One of the common arguments of those who oppose the scriptural doctrine
of repentance is its supposed absence from the Gospel of John. That argument
is stated very forcefully by Sir Robert Anderson:
And the Gospel of John
----pre-eminently the gospel-book of
the Bible ----will be searched in vain for a single mention of it.
The beloved disciple wrote his Gospel, that men might believe and live,
and his Epistle followed, to confirm believers in the simplicity and certainty
of their faith; but yet, from end to end of them, the word `repent' or
`repentance' never once occurs. It is to these writings before all others,
that men have turned in every age to find words of peace and life; and
yet some who profess to hold them as inspired will cavil at a gospel sermon
because repentance is not mentioned in it: a fault, if fault it be, that
marks the testimony of the Apostle John, and the preaching of our Lord
Himself, as recorded by the Fourth Evangelist. The repentance of the gospel
is to be found in the Nicodemus sermon, and in the gracious testimony
to the woman at the well. And, I may add, any repentance that limits or
jars upon those sacred words, is wholly against the truth.
These are bold enough words, in which he includes John's epistle as well
as his gospel. Of the epistle I shall say but little. I only remark that
some of the strongest statements in the New Testament requiring righteousness,
and implying the necessity of repentance for salvation, are to be found
in the book of First John. If any man love the world, the love of
the Father is not in him. He that doeth sin is of the devil.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is
a liar, and the truth is not in him
----and all liars
shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,
as John also tells us. (Rev. 21:8).
But one of the gravest errors in Anderson's words consists of the contrast
which he draws between the gospel of John and the other gospels, or the
rest of the New Testament. John is pre-eminently the gospel-book.
What then? Are the other gospels defective in their message? If the preaching
of the Lord as recorded by John contains no mention of repentance, yet
Anderson knows very well that his preaching as a whole was characterized
by a strong call to repentance
----that he came to call sinners
to repentance ----and that he commissioned his apostles after him
to preach repentance to all the world. In the light of all of this, Anderson
must of course concede that repentance is necessary to salvation (and
he does so), but in the light of this concession, what is the point of
insisting upon its absence from the gospel of John? If repentance is necessary
as preached by the Lord himself and the other apostles in the other gospels,
what can be gained by insisting upon its absence from John's gospel?
But the real fact is, repentance is not absent from John's gospel. Though
the word repent is not used, the substance of repentance is
surely there, and surely insisted upon.
John 1:12 is one of the strongholds of those who preach the antinomian
gospel of faith only. It says, But as many as received him, to them
gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on
his name. Received him is of course applied to receiving
him as Saviour, and it is openly preached by a multitude in our day that
men may receive Christ as Saviour without receiving him as Lord. But even
if the rest of the New Testament had nothing to say on the subject, such
an explanation would be treading on dangerously thin ice. Does the bride
thus make herself ready (Rev. 19:7), by purposing that she
will take everything the rich bridegroom will give her, but will neither
give herself nor anything else to him? Such notions, I know, men have
of grace, but those notions are gross perversions
nor less than turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,
and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude
But be that as it may, I am bold to say that John 1:12 alone, according
to its simple face value, when not pared down to fit antinomian notions
of grace, will of itself wholly overturn those antinomian notions. The
use which is commonly made of John 1:12 in our day is directly against
the expositions of better men who lived in better days. Thus Richard Baxter:
This faith by which we are justified and saved, is the Receiving
of Jesus Christ as Jesus Christ; and as a Saviour entirely; and as a Physitian
of our Souls, to cure us of, and save us from both Guilt and Power of
sin, and the misery due for it. And so it is the Receiving of Christ as
a Prophet to Teach us, and a King to Rule us, and a Priest, after the
Order of Melchizedeck, now to intercede for us, and not only as a Sacrifice
for our sins, or a satisfier of Justice for us. Its the Receiving of whole
To receive Christ is to receive him as he is: to acknowledge his claims,
to submit to his authority (Take my yoke upon you), and to
receive his grace. But there is more. The text gives the right to become
children of God to those who believe in his name. That is,
says antinomian theology, to all who believe in his name, though they
do nothing more than this. But in the very next chapter John himself overturns
that notion. There we read, Now when he was in Jerusalem at the
passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the
miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because
he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he
knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25).
Jesus did not commit himself to them. Whatever else this may be thought
to mean, it unquestionably means that he did not become their Saviour.
That he could not do without making a great and lasting commitment to
them. Yet we are told that they believed in his name
is, they did the very thing spoken of in the previous chapter, in description
of those who are given the right to become the children of God. Some will
of course object that in John 1:12 it is said they believed on his name,
and here that they believed in his name ----though it is doubtful
whether the objectors could tell us what the difference is. And no matter
if they could, for any difference is only apparent, not real. The difference
is only in the English translation. In the Greek original on his
name and in his name are exactly the same words, without
variation of jot or tittle. Believe is the same word also.
What then? Plainly this, that those who believe in his name, and thus
obtain the right to be children of God, cannot be those who merely believe
in his name, and do nothing else, for we are plainly told that these many
did in fact believe in his name, and yet he would not commit
himself to them.
What else then must they do? They must do what Jesus Christ himself preached
that men must do. They must Repent, AND believe the gospel.
(Mark 1:15). Robert Anderson can speak of the preaching of our Lord
Himself, as recorded by the Fourth Evangelist, as though that somehow
sets aside his preaching as recorded by the other evangelists, but the
fact is, John was not writing to overturn or supercede the other gospels
(as a certain brand of dispensationalists would have it), and it cannot
be denied that, wherever recorded, all of the preaching of Christ took
place during the same ministry. In some sense John takes up where the
other gospels leave off. He begins with a rejected Christ. He assumes
the necessity of repentance
----as well he might, for it was the
first point of the message which Christ himself preached (Matt. 4:17),
and the first point which he commissioned his apostles after him to preach
to all the world (Luke 24:47).
But to move on, For every one that doeth evil hateth the light neither
cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:20).
What then? Can no one ever come to the light? Can no one then be saved?
Not indeed while they do evil, not while they continue in
it. They must first repent. So we are also asked in John 5:44, How
can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the
honour that cometh from God only? The fact is, they cannot believe,
not with the faith of the gospel, not till they repent of such a state
And speaking of the whole life which men have lived on the earth, the
Lord says, all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and
shall come forth, they that have DONE GOOD unto the resurrection of life,
and they that have DONE EVIL unto the resurrection of damnation.
(John 5:28-29). I have heard this verse commonly explained away by referring
it to John 6:29, which says, This is the work of God, that ye believe
on him whom he hath sent. But this is such a shift as ought to be
met with indignation. No one would dream of interpreting any other document
in such a manner
----unless perhaps it were a rich uncle's will,
and then no court of law would allow it. The fact is, both good
and evil are both plural and definite in the original, and
will bear no other meaning than the things which are good
and the things which are evil. Those who have done the
things which are good will be raised in the resurrection of life.
Those who have done the things which are evil, in the resurrection
of damnation. To reduce an implied lifetime of doing the things
which are good into a single act of faith ----and that followed
by an implied lifetime of doing evil, for it is only to make allowance
for that that such interpretation exists ----is simply unconscionable.
And in the eighth chapter of John the Lord himself thoroughly overturns
any such idea. Then said Jesus TO THOSE JEWS WHICH BELIEVED ON HIM,
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall
know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32).
This is as clear as the sunlight. These Jews already did believe on him.
They had already done good, and so were assured of the resurrection
of life, according to the interpretation referred to in the last paragraph.
But the Lord's words completely disallow any such idea. They believed
in him, but they were not his disciples indeed. There was a further condition
for that. Further, they were not free, for as he tells them but two verses
later, He that committeth sin is the servant of sin. They
believed on him, but they were the servants of sin, and therefore destitute
of eternal life, for as Paul plainly tells us, But now BEING MADE
FREE FROM SIN, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness,
and the end everlasting life. (Rom. 6:22). And John himself tells
us elsewhere (employing the selfsame words which Christ uses in John 8:34),
He that committeth sin is of the devil. (I John 3:8). And
Jesus himself tells these same Jews in verse 44, Ye are of your
father the devil, and in verse 37, my word hath no place in
you. These are remarkable things to be said to those Jews
which believed in him, and we are ready to ask with astonishment,
What, then, could their believing have consisted of, and what could it
have been worth? The answer is, their faith was of exactly the same sort
as the faith of a great multitude of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals
in our own day, and as to the worth of it, it is worth just nothing. Faith
without works is dead. Faith in Christ, without true repentance
and true discipleship, will leave the soul just as lost as if Christ had
never come, and never died. All of this is plainly taught in the eighth
chapter of THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.
Finally, in John 12:25 we read, He that loveth his life shall lose
it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life
eternal. This is one of the strongest statements concerning discipleship
in the New Testament. Discipleship includes and implies all that belongs
to repentance. But frankly, I have very much hesitated as to quoting this
text at all, for I am well aware of the plausible shifts by which it is
commonly emptied of its meaning, and made to speak only of a loss of reward,
and so long as Fundamentalists hold the doctrines which they do, I really
despair of convincing them of anything with respect to this verse. Nevertheless,
for those who have ears to hear, I have quoted the verse, and proceed
to point out that to lose our life, in the language of Christ, means to
lose our soul, and not merely to lose our lifetime of opportunity for
gaining of rewards. The very words life (in this sense) and
soul are identical ( v). If the lifetime were meant, some
other Greek word would be used. There are several which could serve the
purpose, but v is not one of them. Thus:
Luke 1:75, all the days of our life, ( v).
I Tim. 2:2, a quiet and peacable life, ( v ).
II Tim. 2:4, the affairs of this life, ( v ).
I Pet. 4:3, the time past of our life, ( v ).
Heb. 2:15, all their lifetime, ( '
All of these refer to our lifetime, and the fact is, it would produce
senseless jargon to thrust the word v into any of these texts. The v is
the life itself, the living principle, or else the soul, which is the
self. This is how the Lord uses it in John 12:25, as is plain from the
parallel statement in Luke 9:24-25. There he says, For whosoever
will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for
my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged if he gain
the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away. This is the Lord's
own exposition of his own words. To lose his life or soul is to lose himself.
And this is the doctrine of John's gospel.
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Pious Unbelief & Impious Faith
by Glenn Conjurske
There is a great deal of pious unbelief on the earth, and alas, but little
faith of any kind. Faith, of course, is always pious, and unbelief always
impious, but they often appear to be the reverse. Unbelief is often found
quoting Scripture. It quotes Scripture to justify its own impious way.
It quotes what God says to undermine what he is. It cites the word of
God to prove that God cannot do what faith knows very well that he will
Faith, on the other hand, will often be seen setting aside the word of
God, ignoring the divine pronouncements and prohibitions, and going straight
forward through them all, to take the blessing from the hand of God.
But to understand this, we must understand the nature of faith. Faith
is not merely believing what God says. Faith is that which brings us near
to God. Faith is not mere confidence in God's veracity. It is confidence
in his love and his goodness. Faith is that which believes that God is
for me, whatever he may seem to say or do to the contrary. Faith is that
which perceives a father's heart in the Almighty, and lays hold of that
heart through his very frowns and threatenings. Faith believes that God
is willing to bless, though it sees the flaming sword turning every way
to guard the way to paradise. And that same faith, in its apparent impiety,
will wrestle with God, by-pass his prohibitions, argue with his threats,
dare the flaming sword, storm the gates of heaven, and take the kingdom
of heaven by force. Scripture offers us examples enough of this sort,
and we shall speak of them anon. Pious unbelief points to the flaming
sword as the sure proof that it cannot be the will of God that we enter
----and so stays outside. And thus the words, the will,
the ways, the acts of God are made the excuse for continuing in the paths
of self-will and sin.
Unbelief, it must be understood, is not a mere failure to believe what
God says. It is a lack of confidence in him
----and especially in
his love and goodness. It says he is a hard man (Matt. 25:24),
and therefore declines to do his will. It expects no good from him, and
therefore renders nothing to him. And pious unbelief can quote the Bible
to prove all of this. It believes in his threatenings, but not in his
promises. Or, to state the matter more clearly, it believes in his threatenings,
but not in the purpose for which he gave them. Faith understands, as if
by intuition, that THE VERY FACT THAT GOD THREATENS IS THE FULL PROOF
THAT HE IS WILLING TO SPARE. The fact that he pronounces a judgement before
he executes it is full proof that he is willing to revoke it ----else
he would smite without warning. What then if the judgement has been pronounced?
What if the decree has gone forth? Faith brushes aside the decree of God,
and gets the blessing. It knows that there is implied mercy in every divine
pronouncement of judgement. It lays hold of that mercy, though it must
revoke the word which God has spoken in order to do so ----and great
faith may go a great way in this business, as we shall see.
The men of Nineveh found it so. The first word
----nay, the only
word ----which they heard from God was, Yet forty days, and
Nineveh shall be overthrown. There was no offer of mercy, but a
simple declaration, in no uncertain terms, of the judgement already determined.
Yet the men of Nineveh by faith laid hold of the implied mercy in that
declaration. They, dark heathens that they were, had none of the assurance
of faith, but could only say, Who can tell if God will turn and
repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
But faith they had, and repentance, and works meet for repentance, and
by these they obtained mercy against the express declaration of God. And
Jonah understood that the bare fact that he was sent to Nineveh with such
a declaration was the proof that God wished to spare them. So when he
saw them spared, he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee,
O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore
I fled before unto Tarshish, for I knew that thou art a gracious God,
and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee
of the evil. (Jonah 4:2). Jonah had preached in unmistakable terms
that Nineveh was to be overthrown, and therefore it was of great concern
to his reputation to see it come to pass. He would sit outside the city
and watch it, to see the event. And he was very angry to see
his own prophetic message overthrown, and the city spared.
But God had no such concern. It was his delight to show mercy, and it
mattered nothing to him if his decree must be overturned to do it.
But unbelief perceives nothing of this. If God says, The wicked
shall be turned into hell, pious unbelief says, Then it must
----(for who hath resisted his will?) ----Let
us sin today, for we must be damned tomorrow.
Pious unbelief is what we see in the wicked Ahaz in Isaiah 7. The enemies
of Judah had purposed to subdue her, and set their own king in her. But
God sent his prophet to meet the king of Judah, and say to him, Thus
saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
He then pronounces severe judgements against Judah's enemies, but concludes
with this warning to Judah: If ye will not believe, surely ye shall
not be established. The prophet of God then offered to confirm the
promise of God with a sign, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord
thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. To
this the king replied, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the
Lord. This was pious unbelief
----quoting the commandment
of God to excuse himself from taking anything from God's hand.
When the disciples asked the Lord why they could not cast out the demon,
he told them, Because of your unbelief (Matt. 17:20)
in the willingness of God to bless. Yet pious unbelief would have said,
It was evidently not the will of God to cast out the demon.
On the other side, faith lays hold of the love of God, and his consequent
willingness to bless. No matter if the judgement has been already pronounced.
No matter if the decree has already gone forth. Unbelief gives up in the
face of such a decree. Faith only fights the harder. Thus Rahab, a cursed
Canaanite, and an unclean harlot to boot, with the decree of extermination
already gone out against her, yet laid hold of mercy, by faith. No matter
that the iniquity of the Amorites was full. No matter that the day of
divine forbearance had run out. No matter that the Israelites were commanded
to make no league, no covenant, with the accursed
Canaanites. Faith could go through all of that, and secure mercy even
at the last hour.
One of the most beautiful examples of what I call impious faith is found
in another Canaanite women, in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, verses
22-27: And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts,
and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David:
my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not
a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away,
for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto
the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him,
saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take
the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord:
yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then
Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto
thee even as thou wilt.
She wanted mercy, and she believed it was to be had from the Lord. No
matter, then, that he walked on in the way, totally ignoring her pitiful
cries. No matter that his divine commission shut her out. No matter that
he spoke cold words to cast her hope down to the ground. No matter that
he spoke again to crush her hope beneath his feet. No matter if she were
a sinner and a dog. Faith went right on, through all of that. If he ignored
her, she cried the more. If he spoke of his divine commission, she brushed
it aside. If he pled the unfitness of giving the blessing to her, she
argued with his words
----and got the blessing. What then? Did the
Lord Jesus deny his commission? Did he do that which was not meet?
Frankly, it matters nothing to faith if he did. Faith knows very well
that God is not afraid to revoke his decrees in order to show mercy ----nay,
that he delights to do so. Faith knows that God will have mercy,
and not sacrifice ----though he himself has commanded the
C. H. Spurgeon, who believed without any question in the Calvinistic doctrine
of the decrees of God, yet understood this impious faith well
enough to be able to brush aside those supposed decrees. He entitled one
of his sermons on this Canaanite woman, How To Meet the Doctrine
of Election. In that sermon Spurgeon says, Our Lord put before
this woman something worse than the positive fact of the choice of Israel,
he declared the negative side of the sacred choice. He said, `I am not
sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' It is very little
that you and I who are ministers of the gospel have to do with preaching
about what Christ is not sent to do. ... Nevertheless, the Saviour did
distinctly turn the blackest side of the doctrine to the woman, and say,
`I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'
What was worse in her case was that she knew that this election,
as far as Christ had stated it, must exclude her; for he told her that
he was not sent save to the house of Israel, and she well knew that she
did not belong to that house. She was a Canaanitish woman, a native of
Tyre and Sidon, and therefore distinctly shut out; and Jesus himself had
told her so. That must have made the sentence fall like a death-knell
on her ear. If the servants tell us such a thing as that, we can forget
it, but if the Master says, `I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of
the house of Israel,' then the matter ends in blank despair. The poor
Canaanitish woman might very logically have ended her pleadings, saying,
`What more can be done? I cannot go against the word from Christ's own
lip.' Yet she did not so; but like a true heroine she pressed her suit
even to the joyful end.
One of the most striking examples of impious faith, setting aside the
direct commandment of the Lord in order to obtain mercy, is found in the
great Moses. When Israel had made and worshipped the golden calf, the
Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked
people. Now therefore LET ME ALONE, that my wrath may wax hot against
them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath
wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land
of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the
Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay
them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?
Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest
by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as
the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give
unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented
of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. (Ex. 32:9-14).
Here was the perfect opportunity for pious unbelief, and for the lukewarmness,
laziness, selfishness, and lust which lie at the root of it. The
pope, says William Tyndale, vvolde curse xx. hundred thousande
as blacke as coles, and sende them to hell for to haue soche a profre,
and vvolde not haue prayed as Moses did. Pious unbelief would have
laid fast hold of the divine commandment, let me alone. It
would have pled, in smug indifference, that God himself had forbidden
him to pray for the people. God had determined to consume them, and what
was he, that he should withstand God?
Faith, on the other hand, did not hesitate a moment to set aside the divine
command. No sooner had God said, Let me alone, than Moses
began to plead for the people. And with what wisdom and beauty he pleads!
Thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have
corrupted themselves, says God. Thy people, which thou has
brought forth out of the land of Egypt, says Moses. And, Remember
Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! No mention here of Jacob, the swindling
supplanter, but Israel
----as if to say, Remember the man
who wrestled all night with you and prevailed! Remember the wee hours
of that morning, when you conferred upon him the name of Prince with God!
God had said Let me alone, but Moses refused to comply. Moses
paid not the slightest attention to this word of God, but set it aside
as soon as it was out of his mouth. But God paid attention to the word
of Moses, and established it. Moses pled effectually, which is the proof
that God approved of his faith, however impious it might have appeared
to anyone else.
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The Ministry of Women
by Glenn Conjurske
The first thing which must be understood is that in the New Testament
all ministry is based upon spiritual gift.
As every man
----or rather, every one, for
man is generic here, and there is no word answering to it
in the Greek ----as every one hath received the gift, even
so minister the same one to another. (I Pet. 4:10).
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given
to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of
faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth,
on teaching, etc. (Rom. 12:6-7).
The question then arises, Do women have such spiritual gifts? Unquestionably,
they do. On the day of Pentecost Peter said,
This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall
come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit
upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your
young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams, and
on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of
my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:16-18).
Again, in Acts 21:9, we read concerning Philip the evangelist, And
the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
On the other hand, Paul forbids the ministry of women in the church, saying,
Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted
unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also
saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands
at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (I
Cor. 14:34-35). This is plain enough
----indeed, forceful enough ----whether
we understand Paul's reason for it or not.
But observe, he contrasts a woman's speaking with her being under obedience.
How is this? What has the one to do with the other? To answer that, we
must understand that God has joined ministry and authority together in
the church. Thus we read in I Cor. 16:15-16, I beseech you, brethren,
(ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia,
and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints),
that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with
us, and laboureth.
Again, in Hebrews 13:7, Remember them which have the rule over you,
which have spoken unto you the word of God. This also clearly associates
public ministry in the church with authority in the church. These scriptures
explain Paul's antithesis between speaking and being under obedience.
In the same vein, Paul also says, Let the women learn in silence
with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority
over the man, but to be in silence. (I Tim. 2:11-12). So closely
does Paul associate a speaking or teaching ministry in the church with
authority over the church.
And observe, the Greek word which Paul employs here ( j v ) does not mean
merely to usurp authority, as our Bible has it. It's proper meaning is
to exercise authority, whether usurped or not. So Ellicott, not
`to usurp authority over,' Auth., a further meaning not contained in the
word. Bengel, to use authority. So Tyndale (1526) renders
the verse, I suffre not a woman to teache/ nether to have auctoritie
over a man, and this translation was retained by Coverdale, Matthew,
and Taverner. Coverdale's Latin-English Testament (1538) has, I
do not permytte a woman to teach, nor to vse [use] authorite ouer the
man. The word usurp was first used in the Great Bible
(1539), for what reason I know not, and was thence taken into Jugge's
edition of Tyndale's New Testament (1552), and thence into the Geneva
Bible. It was also the reading of the Bishops' Bible, and so of the King
James Version. But Tyndale's New Testament was more accurate. And though
the practical difference may not be great, what Paul forbids is not a
woman usurping authority, but a woman having authority. And as God has
joined this authority to the ministry of the word in the church, the woman
is proscribed from both.
But for failure to give due weight to all of these scriptures, two extremes
of doctrine exist in the church of God. On one side, because of the scriptural
doctrine (and the obvious fact), of woman's giftedness, some would give
to woman the same place of ministry which God has given to men. On the
other side, because she is forbidden to minister in the church, some would
forbid her from ministering at all.
When we turn from the doctrinal to the historical portions of the New
Testament, we unquestionably find women in a place of ministry beyond
marrying and bearing children. The daughters of Philip the evangelist
have been mentioned already. They possessed a spiritual gift, and they
used it. They did prophesy. We are not to suppose they did
so in the church, for Paul forbids it, but there are obviously numerous
situations outside the church where such a gift may be used.
And we are told of Priscilla that she was used of God on one occasion
to teach the great Apollos. For he [Apollos] began to speak boldly
in the synagogue, whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took
him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
(Acts. 18:26). They took him, and they expounded to him the way of God
both verbs are plural. And why not? I know cases enough in which the wife
has both better understanding of the way of God, and better ability to
communicate it, than her husband has, and is that understanding given
to her only for herself ----to be shut up and wasted, because she
is a woman? Not so, for on the day that the church came into being the
Lord said, On my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my
Spirit, and they shall prophesy. What if some women are too forward,
ignorant, and proud, and take upon themselves things for which they have
no fitness? The same is true of many men. The answer to the difficulty
is not to suppress the ministry of women, but to guard and regulate it,
the same as we must do with the ministry of men. So Paul says, For
I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man [Greek, every one,
as in I Pet. 4:10] that is among you, not to think of himself more highly
that he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt
to every man [every one] the measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3). And
James says, My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall
receive the greater judgement. (James 3:1, Greek). Such regulation
is as necessary for men as for women.
But to return to historical facts, we read of two who prophesied in Jerusalem
when Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus to present him to the Lord.
One was a man, Simeon, and the other a woman, Anna. Of Anna we are told,
she departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and
prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise
unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption
in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:37-38). And it plainly appears that of these
two, the woman had much the wider ministry, for Simeon spoke only to Joseph
and Mary, but Anna spoke to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And mark, she did not speak of children and chicken dinners, but of
him. And the Lord records this in the Scriptures without the slightest
breath of disapproval. Nay, the fact that it is recorded at all indicates
his approval of it.
Paul also speaks of those women who laboured with me in the gospel.
(Phil. 4:3). Paul speaks too of Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers
in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 16:3). Helpers here is v , fellow-laborers.
This is the same Priscilla who, with her husband, taught Apollos the way
of God more perfectly, and here, in greeting them as his fellow-laborers,
Paul places Priscilla first. We might wish that Paul had told us something
of how these women had labored with him in the gospel, yet we must suppose
that the Spirit of God was wise in leaving this undefined. If Paul had
mentioned anything specific, there would be plenty of folks to tell us
that those specifics defined the limits of a woman's labors in the gospel,
and that nothing other than that was to be allowed to her. But the matter
being left indeterminate in these texts, we may suppose it legitimate
for women to engage in whatever labors in the gospel their love for the
souls of men and their devotedness to the cause of Christ may prompt them
to. That whatever they do ought to be done with that meekness, gentleness,
and reserve which naturally belong to them, goes without saying. A woman
who is forward and officious makes herself and her cause odious. But a
woman acting in a becoming spirit may accomplish great things
even some things which a man could not do.
Abigail is a beautiful example of this, when she went to meet David, and
turn him back from avenging himself upon Nabal. And when Abigail
saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David
on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet, and
said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid,
I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.
(I Sam. 25:23-24). This is her spirit, and her words which follow are
full of wisdom, faith, and persuasive power: The Lord will certainly
make my lord a sure house, because my lord fighteth the battles of the
Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is
risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall
be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God, and the souls of
thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling.
And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according
to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed
thee ruler over Israel, that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence
of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or
that my lord hath avenged himself. (Vss. 28-31).
The Geneva Bible heads this chapter Nabals foolishnes in one
column, and Abigails wisdome in the other. Yet there have
been men enough of Nabal's wit in the world to coin and perpetuate an
old English proverb which says, When an ass climbs a ladder, we
may find wisdom in women. David certainly found wisdom in a woman,
and such wisdom as he did not find in himself or all his mighty men. And
mark, it was not merely personal advice which she offered to David, but
a solemn declaration of the message of God, and a powerful application
of the doctrine of faith. David recognized it as such, and he thus replied
to Abigail's pleading: Blessed be THE LORD GOD of Israel, which
SENT thee this day to meet me, and blessed be THY ADVICE, and blessed
be THOU, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from
avenging myself with my own hand. (Vss. 32-33). Yet what would all
of Abigail's wisdom have been worth if she had kept it to herself, under
a mistaken notion that her only business was to stay at home and take
care of the babies?
With all of the above scriptures before me, I cannot believe in the suppression
of women's ministry. That some women need to be suppressed is no doubt
----and so do some men. With sorrow we confess that such women
as have little ability, little spiritual gift, and little spirituality,
are often the most forward to speak ----yea, and to write, and to
print ----seemingly all unaware that the Bible says, Be not
many teachers. But alas, all of the same is also true of men. That
women have a great need for discretion in all that they do is no doubt
true also ----but is not the same true of men? That there are some
spheres which a woman ought to enter only with the utmost caution, and
some probably not at all, is no doubt also true ----and again, the
same is true of men.
But while we confess all of this, the fact remains that Paul counted certain
women as his fellow-laborers in the gospel. The woman at the well
was also a great evangelist, and not to women only, for she went
her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told
me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ? Then they went
out of the city, and came unto him. ... And many of the Samaritans of
that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified,
He told me all that ever I did. (John 4:28-30, & 39).
And though, as far as we know, God never employed a woman to write a book
of the Bible, yet some portions of the Bible are the work of women. We
have the song of Hannah, and the song of Mary, and both of them filled
with such deep understanding of the ways of God as I dare say many men
and preachers have never entered into. And some of the best of the songs
in our hymn books, both words and music, were written by women. A number
of excellent biographies on our shelves are also the work of women. Those
who will read such songs in the Bible, sing such songs in the hymn book,
or read such books, must allow the same liberty to women today. Take away
all that women have written from the Bible, from the hymn book, and from
our bookshelves, and we would all feel a very serious loss. Not that we
would encourage most women to take such things upon themselves. Certainly
----no more than we would encourage most men to do so. But when
a woman is gifted of God for such things, and can produce a song or a
book of solid worth, we will receive it with thanksgiving, the same as
we will when a man produces something of solid worth.
But if all of these things are true, why should not women be permitted
to teach or to speak also in the church? Because Paul forbids it. What
Paul's reasons are, we may never understand. The prohibition itself is
too clear to be mistaken, and whether we understand it or not, we have
no right to ignore it, or to set it aside, for Paul immediately follows
it with, What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto
you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let
him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments
of the Lord. (I Cor. 14:36-37).
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---
Ministry of Woman
by James H. Brookes (Presbyterian, 1830-1897)
[The following was published in 1895 in The Truth, which Brookes edited,
pp. 87-92. I reprint it as generally sound and pertinent, without endorsing
everything in it. I object in particular to the extent to which he presses
the dispensational argument on the second chapter of Acts.
In every direction comes the cry, Woman to the Front. It
is true that in most of the States she is still denied the right to vote,
but the time is rapidly approaching when this too will be given her, and
soon there will be no employment of men in which she cannot engage, except
such as may exclude her by her physical incapacity, like the building
of railroads, streets, houses, and the rendering of military service.
So far as noticed, even cautious and conservative journals fall in with
the strong popular current of thought on this subject, or at least do
not oppose the movement, perhaps because they know that it is irresistible.
The Missionary Review, under the able management of its devoted and evangelical
editors, who are worthy of all honor and love, has thrown its great and
merited influence in favor of women preaching in the churches. Dr. Pierson
says, Woman has a missionary apostolate. Paul's words to the Corinthians
instead of prohibiting her testimony, rather regulate it. She is forbidden
to usurp authority over the man, or to be disputatious in public assemblies.
His excellent Associate Editor, Dr. Gordon , in an exceedingly strong
article, which puts the case as powefully as it can be presented in advocacy
of woman's right to preach, tells us, `Let the women keep silence
in the church,' it is said again, but it is evidently on condition of
their interrupting the service with questions, since it is added, `for
it is not permitted unto them to speak,....and if they would learn anything,
let them ask their husbands at home.' This last clause takes the injunction
clearly out of all reference to praying or prophesying.
There is no occasion for any particular zeal on the subject, except to
vindicate the truth of God's Word, and to submit to the authority of its
teaching, whether it suits our views or not. It is not pleasant to disagree
with good and wise men, and any effort will be useless to stem the tide
setting in, that will obliterate the distinction between man and woman
in the church. Still it may be well to suggest a few thoughts to those
who desire to know the mind of God.
First, the Holy Ghost never employed a woman to write a book of the Old
or New Testament with the exception of a few songs or prayers, like those
of Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary; all the Bible was the
work of holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,
2 Pet. i.21. It is needless to say that it was not a question of piety,
nor of mental ability, but God was pleased so to order it for some wise
Second, our Lord Jesus Christ did not select a woman to be one of His
apostles, nor one of the seventy whom He sent before His face into
every city and place, whither He Himself would come, Lu. x.1. Many
women followed Him, and ministered unto Him of their substance,
Lu. viii.2,3; but He never selected a woman to represent Him publicly.
We are not called upon to account for this fact, but to believe it upon
the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures. Even Dr. Gordon admits that there
is no instance in the New Testament of a woman being set over a church
as bishop or teacher. But why, if she was permitted to preach or
teach in the church, it is difficult to see.
Third, the passage which Dr. Gordon cites at the beginning of his argument,
taken from Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost and from the prophet
Joel, does not touch the privilege of our daughters and handmaidens' prophesying
in this dispensation of gospel preaching. It is an example of what he
himself has often shown in his lectures of picking up a truth in one dispensation,
where it belongs, and dropping it into another, where it does not belong.
Peter does not say, This is a fulfillment, but, this
is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. It is not true that
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke, the sun turned into darkness, and
the moon into blood, ushered in the day of Pentecost. If we look back
to Joel we read, Ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God, and none else; and my people shall never
be ashamed. And it shall come to pass AFTERWARD, that I will pour out
my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And
also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour
out my Spirit, Joel ii. 27-31. It is perfectly clear that the fulfillment
of this prophecy will be witnessed only after the second coming of our
Lord, and it has nothing to do with a woman preaching now.
Fourth, the Holy Ghost plainly says, Let your women keep silence
in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak, 1 Cor.
xiv. 34. To say that these words, instead of prohibiting her testimony,
rather regulate it; to say that she is forbidden to be disputatious
in public assemblies; to say that it is evidently on condition
of their interrupting the service with questions; to say with some
that the women were commanded not to chatter; to say with
Beecher that they were enjoined not to whisper during meeting;
to say that the positive prohibition pertained only to the Corinthian
church, seems a strained exegesis to one who has no foregone conclusion
to establish. Why should it be enjoined upon the women more than the men,
not to interrupt the service with questions, unless the former
were more forgetful of the rules of decorum, of which there is not the
slightest proof? But the women alone are commanded by the Holy Ghost to
keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them
to speak. Observe, the epistle is addressed to all that in
every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and
I Cor. i.2; and God is not a God of confusion, but of peace as in
all churches of the saints, I Cor. xiv.33. It may be well to remind
those who sneer at Paul as an old bachelor, that just after
giving a direct command to women to keep silence in the churches;
for it is not permitted unto them to speak, he says, If any
man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that
the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord,
I Cor. xiv.37.
Fifth, there is another passage about women, which may perhaps throw light
upon the apostle's reason for requiring women to keep silence in the churches,
and not permitting them to speak. I would have you know, that the
head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and
the head of Christ is God. If we carry out the divine order, we
must see that subordination pervades the universe, and is essential to
its well being. The woman is subordinate to the man, the man is subordinate
to Christ, and Christ is officially subordinate to God. Hence in so small
a thing as dress, it was important that this subordination should be shown.
If a woman prayed or prophesied with her head uncovered, she was like
those shameless women of Corinth, who shaved off their hair to obliterate
from their appearance all distinction of sex. For a man indeed ought
not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God;
but the woman is the glory of the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because
of the angels. She is to have her head covered, as a symbol of subordination,
that the angels may not see her leave her place of official subjection,
for God created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now
unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the
church the manifold wisdom of God, Eph. iii.9,10. Which things
the angels desire to look into, I Pet. i.12. These angelic beings
are constantly represented as deeply interested in the affairs of the
redeemed, and how much more must they long to gaze, bending or stooping
down, to watch the church when unitedly drawn together for worship. If,
therefore, they see the woman leave her attitude of subjection, and usurp
the place assigned to man, in what a blurred mirror will they see the
manifold wisdom of God reflected, and what a rude disturbance will they
behold of the peaceful serenity of the surface on which the divine order
of government ought to be illustrated. The angels mutely appeal to woman
to keep her proper position.
Her greater piety may be at once admitted. Her superior intellectual powers
and attainments may be readily conceded. She may be married to a dull
clod-hopper. She may be more apt to teach, and a brighter example of the
grace of God, than any member of the assembly. Still, she preaches more
eloquently by keeping silence in the churches than by the most forcible
appeals and stirring exhortations. It is unnecessary to say that the churches
were not buildings, nor were they ordinary convocations of people, but
when Christians were gathered as a church for worship, then the woman's
highest dignity and noble service was to keep silence. Talk is not the
best thing in the world, nor the most useful.
Sixth, there is frequent mention in the New Testament, as in the Old,
of devoted women who testified of the Lord. There was the aged Anna, the
prophetess, when there was no prophet, who spake of Him to all them who
looked for redemption in Israel, Lu. ii.38. There were the four daughters
of Philip the Evangelist, and these did prophesy, Acts xxi.9. There were
the women of Sychar, and Priscilla, and the women who labored with the
apostle in the gospel, and many named with special commendation in the
last chapter of Romans. But there is profound silence about any of them
preaching or prophesying in the church, and indeed they could not have
done so, because they were commanded to keep silence in the churches.
You may search the New Testament in vain for a single instance of a woman
praying, or preaching, or prophesying in the church.
Seventh, Let the woman learn in silence in all subjection. But I
suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but
to be in silence, or quietness, I Tim. ii.11,12. The
immediate context shows that the prohibition extends to public ministration,
or preaching or praying in the church, and she cannot thus teach, nor
exercise dominion over the man, because it would be at variance with woman's
proper calling and
with the order of God's house. Wiesinger, whom Dr. Gordon quotes approvingly,
while thinking that the command concerning women allows them to pray in
public, says that they are enjoined from public teaching, and that the
married woman is to be in quietness rather than drawing attention
to herself by public appearance; to learn, rather than to teach; to be
in subjection, rather than in authority.
The text which is constantly mentioned as authority for women preaching
does not refer to preaching at all, nor to the present: The Lord
gave the Word; the women that publish the tidings are a great host,
Ps. lxviii.11. Spurgeon says, The women ran from tent to tent, and
roused their lords to battle. Dr. J. A. Alexander says, There
is obvious allusion to the ancient oriental custom of women celebrating
victories with song and dancing. The reference is not to any one occasion,
but to an ideal choir chanting all the victories of some great period,
perhaps of the Judges. Neither in the Old or the New Testament was
woman selected as a public ambassador to proclaim God's Word. She is from
the time of the creation a recognized type of the church, and hence her
appropriate position is to be found like Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet,
and hearing His word.
No true woman will complain that her sphere is narrowed, because she is
told to keep silence in the churches. It is wide enough, as daughter,
as sister, as wife, as mother, as a witness for her Lord outside the glare
of publicity, to satisfy the loftiest ambition; and if it is any self-denial
to keep silence when the church is assembled for worship, the thought
that she is silent in obedience to His command will bring far greater
joy to her heart that the clatter of human applause. Or if she wishes
to address a public assembly that is not the church, she is at liberty,
so far as the Bible is concerned. It is not how she speaks, but how she
lives, that will bring to her the peace of God which passeth all understanding,
and cause her to receive the commendation of the Lord Jesus Christ at
Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske
The style of Richard Baxter is often heavy and obscure, besides being
usually much too prolix, and of course, at this day, somewhat archaic.
Yet in spite of all of this, he is still known and read more than three
centuries after his death, and this must be some indication of his real
worth. He was a man of weight, and a man of God, and as with all men of
God, 'tis well if our first business with him is with a good biography.
There are several of such. At the head of the list must stand The Life
and Times of Richard Baxter: with a Critical Examination of His Writings,
by William Orme, published in 1830. This is a book of 820 pages, including
a good (and lengthy) index. The first half is devoted to his life, and
the second half to the critical examination of his writings. This is invaluable
for those who wish to know what Baxter wrote, and the general scope and
content of it.
Another good biography, similar in scope, but one fourth the size, will
be found in Select Practical Writings of Richard Baxter, with a Life of
the Author (by Leonard Bacon), originally published in two volumes in
1831. My copy is dated 1844. The biography occupies over 200 pages, or
about a third of the first volume. He lists by title about 100 of Baxter's
works. (Orme lists 168.)
A Life of the Reverend Richard Baxter, by Frederick J. Powicke, was published
in 1924. This is a book of 326 pages, including a good index. It is divided
into two (unequal) parts, the first being devoted to his life, and the
second (about a hundred pages) to his controversies. The author was born
at Kidderminster (where Baxter preached), and so grew up with a consciousness
of Baxter's existence. In 1875, when he was present at the unveiling of
a statue of Baxter, the man came alive to him, and he began to study him.
Thus half a century of study went into the writing of this book, and the
editor of Baxter's life of his wife calls Powicke the greatest of
all Baxter scholars.
The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, as edited by J. M. Lloyd Thomas,
was published in 1925, in a book of 312 pages, with a good index. This
is abridged from a large work entitled Reliquiæ Baxterianæ,
published after Baxter's death.
A good number of Baxter's writings are occupied with the way of salvation,
and these are among his most valuable. He called himself an unreconcilable
enemy of the Antinomianians, and avowed that he was unable to forbear
writing against them. It is the judgement of his biographer Orme, however,
that his controversial works did little to check the antinomian tendencies
of Protestant theology. They are indeed too scholastic to be understood
by the common people. It is quite otherwise, however, with his practical
writings, and of these Orme says, In these, without directly entering
the lists with Antinomians, and probably without thinking of them, he
assailed the strong holds of their system, and demolished them to the
ground. A better remedy for any one attached to their mistaken views could
not, perhaps, be prescribed than a course of Baxterian reading.
(Life, pg. 675). This is true, but it is much to be feared that if most
Evangelicals and Fundamentalists today actually knew what Baxter taught
on the way of salvation, they would pronounce him a heretic, as many in
his own day called him a papist. Baxter's practical writings have been
publised in various editions, one of them containing 23 volumes. An edition
containing four very large volumes is in print today. The best known of
his works is A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live, a small but very
excellent book. Those who wish to study him more closely may find his
doctrinal and controversial works on microfilm, and may buy photocopies
of these from the film makers (at an exhorbitant price), or copy them
themselves. Among those which I have obtained from microfilm are:
Aphorismes of Justification. This was Baxter's first book, and not by
any means his best.
Rich. Baxter's Apology.
Rich: Baxter's Confession of his Faith, Especially concerning the Interest
of Repentance and sincere Obedience to Christ, in our Justification and
Salvation, which has about 500 pages.
An End of Doctrinal Controversies, published in the year of his death
(1691), which is largely concerned with Calvinism, which Baxter held in
a form so modified fthat many Calvinists will not own him.
Except for those in the collections of his practical works, most of Baxter's
books have never been reprinted. Those which have been are usually abridged
or edited, and the English modernized.
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Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï
by the Editor
Thou Shalt Not Lust
The words printed above do not appear in the English Bible, but I suggest
that they ought to
----in Romans 7:7. There (and in verse 8) we
read, I had not known sin, but by the law, for I had not known LUST,
except the law had said, Thou shalt not COVET. But sin, taking occasion
by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of CONCUPISCENCE. The
three words which I have printed in capital letters are all translated
from what is one and the same word in the original ----the first
and the third nouns, and the second a verb, but all the same word. The
point of the passage would have been much better expressed by, I
had not known LUST, except the law had said, Thou shalt not LUST. But
sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of LUST.
But it was a principle of the King James Translators not to render the
same Greek word by the same English word. Against that principle I have
nothing to say. There are good arguments for it ----better arguments
even than those given by the King James translators in their preface.
Adhering to the opposite principle was productive of a great many blemishes
in the Revised Version. Nevertheless, there are many times when it is
certainly best to consistently render the same Greek word by the same
English word ----and such is surely the case in Rom. 7:7-8.
But it must be remembered that the King James Version was not a fresh
translation, but a revision of existing versions, and William Tyndale
had set a bad example for all of them in the capriciousness with which
he rendered the words of the original. His first New Testament exhibited
the place thus: I knewe nott what synne meand butt by the lawe.
For I had nott knowne what lust hadde meant/ excepte the lawe hadde sayde/
thou shalt not lust. But synne toke an occasion by the meanes off the
commaundement/ and wrought in me all manner off concupiscence. So
far as preserving the connection is concerned, this was better than what
we have in the King James Version. And this, with slight verbal variations,
was the rendering of all of Tyndale's revisions, of Matthew, of Taverner,
of both of Coverdale's Latin-English Testaments, of the Great Bible, of
the Geneva New Testament and the Geneva Bible, and of the Bishop's Bible
all the Protestant English Bibles, in other words ----except Coverdale's.
Coverdale's Bible (1535) reads, For I had knowne nothinge of lust,
yf the lawe had not sayde: Thou shalt not lust. But then toke synne occasion
at the commaundement, and stered vp [stirred up] in me all maner of lust.
But Coverdale was well aware of his inferiority to William Tyndale, and
when he undertook to edit the Great Bible, he set aside his own Bible
as the basis of it, and took Matthew's, which incorporated all of the
latest work of the martyred Tyndale. Thus this excellent stroke of his
independence was lost, and never revived.
Thus when the makers of the King James Version approached these verses,
they found them essentially as Tyndale had left them, but instead of removing
the inconsistency of having the same Greek word rendered by two different
words in English, they made the matter worse by introducing a third. In
this they may have been influenced by the Catholic Rheims version, which
alone of all English versions reads covet here. Or it may
be that they wished to conform the quotation of the commandment to its
familiar form, Thou shalt not covet. Against that I have nothing
to say, but in this verse there was a higher consideration: to preserve
the connection of the apostle's argument. They might have taken the path
followed by the Wycliffe Bible, (the later version), which here reads,
for Y wiste not êat coueitynge was synne, but for êe
lawe seide, çou schalt not coueyte. And êorou3 occasioun
takun, synne bi êe maundement haê wrou3t in me al coueytise.
This was the path chosen by the Revised Version, which reads, I
had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:
but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner
----with lust in the margin in each
case. The same course was taken by the New American Standard version.
The objection to it is that the ordinary connotation of covet
is too narrow, referring only to desiring that which is another's, whereas
lust refers to any improper desire. This difficulty is offset
in part by having lust in the margin. Yet the word lust
is often too narrow in connotation also.
This passage serves to illustrate a couple of points of importance
the task of a translator is never an easy one, and that no translation,
however excellent, can fully take the place of the original, or eliminate
the need for teachers and expositors.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---
I John 5:7 in the Waldensian and Wycliffe Bibles
by Glenn Conjurske
In the absence of evidence for its support, most ingenious arguments
have been advanced in support of the genuineness of I John 5:7. One such
argument has been drawn from the form in which the verse appears in a
French Waldensian version and the later Wycliffe Bible. This argument
is thus pressed by Frederick Nolan (whose statement I abridge as much
Of the old versions which have been published in French, two were
made by the Waldenses: vid. Le Long. Bibl. Sacr. Tom. I. P. 313, col.
2. e. Morland on the Church of the Valleys. p. 14. But one copy of this
version has fallen into my hands, which was printed at the native place
of Peter Waldo; `Au Lyon, Pan de grace 1521.' The following is the reading
of I Joh. v.7,8. fol. clxiv. b. `Trois choses sont qui donnent tesmoing
au ciel, le pere le filz et le sainct esperit, et ces trois sont une chose.
En trois choses qui donnent tesmoing en terre, esperit eaue et sang.'
This testimony would be of little importance until the character of the
translation was investigated, by a comparison with other French Versions
and the old Italick and modern Latin Vulgate; were it not for the following
considerations: (l.) It differs from the Latin Vulgate; as it reads `le
filz' [son] for `Verbum' [word]. (2.) It agrees in this reading with an
antient Confession of Faith, used by the Waldenses. ... `Et S. Jean, Il
y en a trois qui rendent témoignage au ciel, le Pere, Le Fils,
et le S. Esprit, et ces trois sont un' ... The proof appears to
me to be so far complete, that this passage was adopted in the authorized
text used by the Waldenses. The following considerations seem adequate
to evince, that it existed in the Latin Version revised by St. Eusebius
of Verceli, who published the old translation which prevailed in the Italick
Doicese. (1.) In reading `Filius,' it agrees with Tertullian and Cyprian,
against the common testimony of the Modern Vulgate, and the Latin Fathers.
... (2.) St. Eusebius might have hence adopted this reading, as he has
adopted other readings from those fathers, in his revisal. ... (3.) The
French Version agrees with the old Italick in possessing other readings
derived from the same source. ... As these are coincidences which the
Waldenses cannot be supposed to have created, I thence conclude, that
1 Joh v.7. not only existed in the revisal of the old Italick Version
made by Eusebius Vercellensis; but that the peculiar reading of this text,
which is found in the French Version, ...has been thus remotely adopted
from St. Cyprian. ... It thus easily made its way into Wicklef's translation,
through the Lollards, who were disciples of the Waldenses.
It should be noted that Nolan professes to find the true text preserved
in the Old Latin (or Italick) version, at least in I John 5:7. But between
the facts which he gives and the conclusions which he draws from them
there is commonly a trip half way around the world, and always in the
interest of his own thesis. There is no reason to suppose that such a
thing as an authorized text used by the Waldenses ever existed.
Nor did Tertullian ever quote I John 5:7, and The suposed allusion
to 1 John v.7 in Tertullian, the earliest Latin father [claimed for its
support], really `furnishes,' as Bishop Kaye has observed, `most decisive
proof that he knew nothing of the verse.' As for the supposed Waldensian
French version, knowing nothing about it, there is nothing I can say about
it. I will observe, however, that the fact that it reads filz in I John
5:7, proves nothing about its having been translated from the Old Latin,
l.There is no evidence that the Old Latin read filius in I John 5:7, nor
any very solid evidence that the Old Latin contained I John 5:7 at all,
though Nolan can give us a few seems, and mights, and might have beens.
2.There IS evidence that filius was read in some mss. of the Latin Vulgate.
Of the Wycliffe Bible I can speak with more authority. And first, there
is no evidence whatever that the Wycliffites, or Lollards, were disciples
of the Waldenses, or that they knew anything about them. One of the best
authorities on Wycliffe says, Peter of Pilichdorf, who wrote in
1444 [60 years after Wycliffe's death] against the Waldenses, attests
that, with some other countries, England had always remained entirely
pure and free from the Waldensian sect. And I find an indirect confirmation
of this in the circumstance, that in all the writings of Wycliffe which
I have searched through in manuscript, I have never come upon a single
trace to indicate that, either in his own time or in earlier centuries,
heretics of any kind had made their appearance in England. Even the Waldenses
are not once historically referred to by him, or so much as named. It
is without all support, therefore, from original sources, when some writers
put forth the conjecture that there were secret disciples of the Waldensian
doctrines in England in Wycliffe's time, who only came publicly into view
when emboldened by his movement and the number of his followers.
If there had been any foundation for this conjecture, the opponents
of Wycliffe and his party would certainly not have omitted to make use
of such a fact, which they could so easily have turned to their own advantage.
They would in that case have pilloried the Lollards as the adherents of
a sect already long ago condemned by the Church. But of this, too, there
is not a single trace. On the contrary, one of the earliest opponents
of the Lollards, in a polemical poem written soon after Wycliffe's death,
freely admits that England, which now favours the Lollards, had hitherto
been free from all stain of heresy, and of every form of error and deception.
In a word, it is irreconcilable with the known facts of history to attempt
to bring the inner development of Wycliffe or his followers into connection
with any earlier manifestation of heresy on the European continent.
And as for the Wycliffe Bible being translated from the Old Latin, there
is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. It was translated from the
Latin Vulgate, and is in fact a very literal translation from the Vulgate.
Even Jerome's prologues to the various books of the Bible, which appear
in the Latin Vulgate (which Jerome translated), are translated into English
and placed before the books in the Wycliffe Bible. Moreover, the general
prologue, prefixed to the revised edition of the Wycliffe Bible explicitly
informs us that it was Jerome's version, that is, the Latin Vulgate, which
he was translating, and that he had taken some pains to attempt to ascertain
the original text of Jerome's Vulgate, rather than following the corrupt
modern copies. On this he says (I modernize the English):
At the beginning I purposed, with God's help, to make the sentence
as true and open in English as it is in Latin, or more true and more open
than it is in Latin; and I pray, for charity and for the common profit
of Christian souls, that if any wise man find any default of the truth
of translation, let him set in the true sentence and open of holy writ,
but see that he examine truly his Latin Bible, for no doubt he shall find
full many Bibles in Latin full false, if he examine many, namely, new
ones; and the common Latin Bibles have more need to be corrected, as many
as I have seen in my life, than hath the English Bible late translated
[that is, the earlier Wycliffe Bible]; and where the Hebrew, by witness
of Jerome, of Lire, and other expositors discordeth from our Latin Bibles,
I have set in the margin, by manner of a gloss, what the Hebrew hath,
and how it is understood in some places; and I did this most in the Psalter,
that of all our books discordeth most from the Hebrew, for the church
readeth not the Psalter by the last translation of Jerome out of Hebrew
into Latin, but another translation of other men, that had much less knowledge
and holiness than Jerome had, and in full few books the church readeth
the translation of Jerome, as it may be proved by the proper originals
of Jerome, which he glossed.
I only observe on this that the other translation of the Psalter, which
the church read instead of Jerome's Vulgate, was the Old Latin Psalter,
made from the Septuagint, to which the church clung in spite of the existence
of the more accurate Vulgate, the same as the Church of England (in its
prayer book) has clung of the old Psalter of the Great Bible. And this
statement from the prologue to Wycliffe's Bible certainly establishes
the fact that it was Jerome's Vulgate which was translated, in express
contrast to the less accurate Old Latin, which only survived in the Psalter.
As for the reading Son in I John 5:7 of the Wycliffe Bible,
we may easily show whence that came:
The fact is, it is only the later Wycliffe Bible which reads Son
here. The original Wycliffe Bible contained the word son only
as an explanatory gloss. The text of the version had Word,
with Son as a gloss upon it, thus, For çre ben,
êat 3iuen witnessing in heuen, êe Fadir, êe Word, or
Sone, and êe Hooly Goost. This plainly proves that the Latin
from which the version (which is very literal throughout) was rendered
read word in the place, not son. The later Wycliffe
Bible, which was a revision of the first version, incorporated the gloss
into the text, thus: For çre ben, êat 3yuen witnessing
in heuene, êe Fadir, êe Sone, and êe Hooli Goost.
But in spite of this, there is not the slightest reason to suppose that
the reviser had a different Latin text before him. As the early version
was rendered from the Vulgate, so was the later. The prologue quoted above
belonged to the later version, not the earlier, and it proves beyond doubt
that it was the Vulgate of Jerome which was translated.
Why then was this gloss incorporated into the text? To answer this question,
we must go back to the purpose for the existence of the later version.
The first Wycliffe Bible followed the Latin so closely as to be in places
very unclear. This defect was somewhat offset by frequent explanatory
glosses on the text, added in italics (that is, underlined in the hand-written
manuscripts). The later version existed for the obvious and avowed purpose
of smoothing out the earlier version, so as to make it more intelligible.
For this reason, more often than not, the glosses of the early version
are adopted as the text in the revision. This is often so even where those
glosses are bold paraphrases, bearing little resemblance to the Latin
original. An obvious example of this is found in Rev. 2:17, where the
earlier version has, I shal 3ive manna hid, or aungel mete.
The later version reads, Y shal 3iue aungel mete hid. Another
example is in Phil. 4:8, where the earlier version has amyable,
or able for to be loued (with some mss. omitting for),
and the later has able to be louyd. But to illustrate the
general habit of the reviser, I subjoin the following table, which exhibits
all the glosses in the early version of First Peter (which contains an
unusually large number of them, while First John has few), with a demonstration
of how they were handled by the reviser.
||of dispersioun, or scateringe abrood
||of scateryng abrood
||chosen gestis, or comelingis
||chosen men, to the comelingis
||prescience, or bifore knowinge, of God
||bifor knowyng of God
||vnwelewable, êat shal not fade
||êat shal not fade
||vnenarrable, êat mai not be told out
||êat may not be teldout
||reuelacioun, or shewinge, of Jhesu Crist
||schewyng of Jhesu Crist
||pilgrimage, or litel dwellinge in erêe
||symulaciouns, or feynynges
||spiritual hoostes, or offringes
||stoon of offencioun, or hirtynge
||stoon of hirtyng
||comelinges, or gestes, and pilgrimes
||comelyngis and pilgrymys
||conuersacioun, or lijf
||bacbiten, or yuele treeten
||precellent, or more worêi in staat
||hi3er in state
||mysdedis, or mysdoeris
||goode dedis, or goode men
||sorewes, or heuynesses
||him silf suffride, or bar, our synnes
||hym silf bar oure synnes
|in vncoruptibilite of quyete, or pesible,
and mylde spirit
|in vncorrupcioun and of mylde spirit
||ourneden, or maden clene
||science, or kunnynge
||wommans vessel, or body
||of oon vndirstondinge, or wille
||of oon wille
||compacient, or ech suffring wiê oêer
|eche suffringe wiê oêer
||êe ark, or schip
||swolewinge deeê, or destriynge
||and swolewiê deê
||for grace, or loue, of foul wynnynge
||for loue of foule wynnyng
||foorme, or ensaumple of êe flok
||ensaumple of êe floc
|êe vnwelewable crowne of glory, or êat
shal neuere faade
êe coroun of glorie, êat may
The sum of the above facts leaves no room for doubt that the Wycliffe
Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate, and that the reading Son
in I John 5:7 is nothing more than an explanatory gloss from the early
version, adopted into the text of the revision.
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.