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Vol. 3, No. 4
Apr., 1994

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----neither more nor less than “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4).

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 Christ.”

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”----that 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 of heart.

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,” ( ' ----infinitive of v ).

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.


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 do.

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 paradise----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 be so”----(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)----unbelief 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 sacrifice.

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.


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----for 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----perhaps 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 true----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 not----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. ----editor.]

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 purpose.

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 ours,”

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 His coming.

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Richard Baxter

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.


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----of 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 of coveting”----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----that 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 as possible):

“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, for

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.

Ref. Early Version Later Version
1:1 of dispersioun, or scateringe abrood of scateryng abrood
1:1 chosen gestis, or comelingis chosen men, to the comelingis
1:2 prescience, or bifore knowinge, of God bifor knowyng of God
1:4 vnwelewable, êat shal not fade êat shal not fade
1:8 vnenarrable, êat mai not be told out êat may not be teldout
1:13 reuelacioun, or shewinge, of Jhesu Crist schewyng of Jhesu Crist
1:17 pilgrimage, or litel dwellinge in erêe pilgrimage
2:1 symulaciouns, or feynynges feynyngis
2:5 spiritual hoostes, or offringes spiritual sacrifices
2:8 stoon of offencioun, or hirtynge stoon of hirtyng
2:11 comelinges, or gestes, and pilgrimes comelyngis and pilgrymys
2:12 conuersacioun, or lijf conuersacioun
2:12 bacbiten, or yuele treeten bacbite
2:13 precellent, or more worêi in staat hi3er in state
2:14 mysdedis, or mysdoeris mysdoers
2:14 goode dedis, or goode men good men
2:19 sorewes, or heuynesses heuynessis
2:24 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
3:5 ourneden, or maden clene ourneden
3:7 science, or kunnynge kunnyng
3:7 wommans vessel, or body wommanus freeltee
3:8 of oon vndirstondinge, or wille of oon wille
3:8 compacient, or ech suffring wiê oêer
eche suffringe wiê oêer
3:20 êe ark, or schip êe schip
3:22 swolewinge deeê, or destriynge and swolewiê deê
5:2 for grace, or loue, of foul wynnynge for loue of foule wynnyng
5:3 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
neuere fade

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.

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