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Vol. 3, No. 10
Oct., 1994

Old Testament Restorations

by Glenn Conjurske

A restoration is a return to the truth, and to the practice of it. It is a restoration of something which has been lost, or given up. Whenever there has been a departure of the people of God from the ways or the truth of God, a restoration is called for. The Old Testament contains the record of many such departures, and many such restorations. As there is a continual tendency to decline and apostasy in the people of God, so there has been a continual endeavor on the part of God to call the people back to his word. As often as the people departed from his ways, so often he raised up a man to call them back. Such were the judges. Such were the prophets. Such were some of the good kings of Judah.

The same round of departures and restorations may be seen in the history of the church, and it is my settled conviction, and has been for a quarter of a century, that we live in a time of deep departure from the word of God----that even the best of modern Christianity is but a poor picture of Bible Christianity, while the generality of modern Christianity is but a miserable caricature of it. We stand in desperate need of a restoration----a return of the people of God to the word of God. But when we see the word of God constantly discounted from its true face value by the leaders of the modern church, when we see the many subtle rationalizations by which worldliness, lukewarmness, and false doctrine are maintained----when we see on the one hand the mindless (but very zealous) superstition which embraces the most demonstrably false vagaries, and sets both the truth of Scripture and the facts of history at defiance to maintain them, and on the other hand the heartless (and very shallow) intellectualism, which reminds us of one admiring the sword of the Lord in a museum rather than using it on the field of battle----and above all, when we see the overweening pride which reigns supreme everywhere in the modern church, with every man thinking he knows better than his superiors and his fellows, and those who know the least sure that they know the most----when we see all of this, we are inclined to despair of ever seeing the restoration which the modern church so desperately needs.

Yet when we look at the Old Testament history, we find a pattern which presents some encouragement. We see a continual round of apostasy and restoration, but this does not mean that the people of God continued to move back and forth like a pendulum between the same two points. No----for though there were frequent returns to the true God, those returns did not prevent the ever-deepening apostasy of the nation. The restoration of the people under one man of God did not prevent their deeper apostasy after he was dead. This, of course, does not look very encouraging, but neither is this the whole of the history. For while we watch the ever-deepening apostasy of the people as a whole, we see ever brighter restorations under the men of God who labored to restore them. In the midst of the deepening departure from the word of God, we see several restorations which brought the people nearer to the word of God than they had been for many generations.

The first of those restorations we see under king Hezekiah. The nation was almost gone in his days. The ten northern tribes had been given up to apostasy for generations. Only two tribes remained which maintained even the form of the worship of the Lord, and they were fast approaching the judgement of God. Yet in this day of weakness and division it entered the heart of Hezekiah that all Israel should keep the passover. “And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel. ... So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem, for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.” (II Chron. 30:1 & 5). The divided state of the people had for a long time made it apparently impossible to keep the passover as it was written, and since the division of the kingdom, no one had attempted it. But in Hezekiah we see an energy of faith which overcame all obstacles to keep the word of the Lord. He met, of course, with opposition. He sent his messengers to preach repentance and conversion throughout the northern ten tribes of Israel, “but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.” (Verse 10). What a presumptuous thing it must have appeared for a king of Judah to send such messengers throughout the kingdom of Israel, yet it was of the Lord. And in spite of opposition, “Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulon humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.” (Verse 11).

There was weakness enough in the whole endeavor. They kept the passover in the second month, for the priests had not sanctified themselves as they ought in the first month. Moreover, “a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulon, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.” (Verses 18-20). That is, the Lord did not demand perfection of the people, but accepted their feeble attempt to restore the true observance of the passover, though it was done in the wrong month of the year, and “otherwise than it was written.” “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for SINCE THE TIME OF SOLOMON THE SON OF DAVID king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.” (Verse 26). That is, no such passover had been kept since the division of the kingdom.

Further on in the history of Judah, and nearing the eve of their dispersion, Josiah led the people in one of the soundest restorations upon record. It was throughout nothing other than a return to the word of God, which had been long neglected by the people. Of the passover which he kept we are told, “And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel FROM THE DAYS OF SAMUEL THE PROPHET; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept.” (II Chron. 35:18). We may not be clear of all the details, but it is clear that there was something in Josiah's keeping of the passover which had never been observed since the days of Samuel. Whatever it was which distinguished Josiah's passover, we may be sure of two things: 1.It was something which was plainly written in the word of God, which was Josiah's handbook in all of the work of restoration which he carried out; and 2.It was something which had been neglected by the whole people of God since the days of Samuel. Not David in all of his righteousness had kept it. Not Solomon in all of his glory. Not godly Amaziah, nor Uzziah, nor Hezekiah. Whatever it was that distinguished Josiah's passover above the others had been ignored, or neglected, or set aside, by all of these men of God----by every man of God who had lived since the days of Samuel the prophet----and it was left to Josiah to restore it in the days of deep apostasy, not long ere Judah was finally judged by the Lord, and carried away captive. Yet this was something which could have been known by any and every one of them, as well as by Josiah, for he learned it from the same Scriptures which they all had in their hands before him.

But time ran on, apostasy deepened, and judgement followed. Judah was carried away captive. Yet after long years in captivity, the Lord restored a small and feeble remnant to the land of promise, and it was left to this feeble remnant to bring about the most pure and true restoration of Old Testament times. This little remnant of the once-glorious Israel stood by the hour and the day to hear the word of God, and under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah made it their business to be governed by it. In Nehemiah 8, we read in verses 14-17, “And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month, and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths, for SINCE THE DAYS OF JOSHUA THE SON OF NUN unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.”

This is a very remarkable testimony. The law which the Lord had commanded by Moses concerning the feast of booths was plain enough that a little child could have understood it, and yet for all the generations and centuries from Joshua to Nehemiah, no one had observed it. Never once in all the great revivals under the judges had this scripture been obeyed. Never under the great Samuel. Never in all the glory of Israel under David and Solomon. Never in any of the revivals under the kings in David's line. Never under the ministry of any of the prophets which God had sent. Never until it was revived by this small and feeble and despised remnant. But observe, this little remnant, small and weak as it was, the mere shadow of Israel in her former glory, still under the yoke of a heathen power, while the great majority of all Israel yet remained scattered abroad among the heathen nations----this little remnant, in all of its weakness and reproach, had a purer religion than Israel had had through all the days of its glory and strength.

The wonder is not that this little remnant kept the feast of booths. The wonder is that all Israel had neglected to keep it since the days of Joshua the son of Nun. Yet this is the fact, and a fact I wish to drive home, for it is a fact which has been repeated in the history of the church. The great restorations of the history of the church have left much of the word of God unknown and unobserved. The Reformation was but the first step out of the corruptions of the centuries, and yet there are many today who are blind enough to contend for the perpetuation of “Reformation theology.” Have these folks never read the Bible? But we might as well ask, Had Gideon and Samson never read the Bible? Had Samuel and David never read it? Had Solomon and Hezekiah never read it? Had Isaiah and Jeremiah never read it? If they had, why did they not keep the feast of tabernacles? The word of God was perfectly plain on this point. But the fact is, there is a very great inertia in custom, and the greatest and strongest men of God are commonly much more controlled by it than we would suppose possible, did not history afford us so many plain examples of it. It takes a very great energy of faith, a great degree of devotedness and self-denial, to break away from the doctrines and customs of the centuries, and stand against them for the word of God. And even before that, it takes a great deal of spiritual understanding even to see through the errors of common custom and common orthodoxy. Very few are the men, even among the greatest of them, who have the spiritual capacity to break away from custom, and return to the word of God. And among those who can, it is yet another thing to be able to lead the people to do so. When the people of God depart from the word of God, they do so gradually and insensibly. They drift away from it, and none but the most spiritual among them take any notice of it. When a prophet calls them back to the word of God, he calls them to an abrupt change, and the people are likely to regard him as proud and presumptuous, and a trouble-maker.

There were no doubt thousands throughout the generations from Joshua to Nehemiah who had read the Lord's simple command concerning the feast of tabernacles: “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute FOR EVER IN YOUR GENERATIONS. Ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths.” (Lev. 23:40-42). Was not this plain enough? No doubt Samuel and David had read this. No doubt Abiathar the priest had done so. No doubt it had been read by hundreds of the best of men----kings and prophets, priests and Levites. Why had none of them kept it? No doubt some of them wondered why Israel did so no more, but they all lacked the energy of faith required to restore the feast. Some perhaps affirmed that it was for a different dispensation, or only for the inauguration of the dispensation, in spite of the Lord's plain words, “for ever in your generations”----as some today relegate Matthew's great commission to another part of the dispensation, in spite of the Lord's plain words, “alway, even unto the end of the world.” Some no doubt held that the keeping of this feast was a matter of no importance, “a little, outward thing,” of no consequence in comparison to the state of the heart. All no doubt had some manner of rationalization to justify their failure to keep the feast of tabernacles, and so exactly does the Fundamental church treat the word of God today. In the days of glory and ease and plenty, perhaps Israel had little inclination for the self-denial required to make them booths, and dwell in them for seven days.

But whatever the reasons were, it remains a fact that the plain word of God was neglected by all Israel through all of its palmiest days, neglected by all of its greatest leaders and most spiritual men, for generations and centuries. The same has been true in the history of the church, and is true today. Another fact is that the small, feeble, and despised remnant of the Jews under Ezra and Nehemiah did actually restore the practice of the word of God which had been neglected by all of those leaders through all of those centuries. And this it is that gives us hope for the church of God today----not to arrest the deep apostasy which grips all of the old denominations of Christendom, not even to reclaim the evangelical denominations and independent churches from the worldliness and lukewarmness which has sapped their spiritual life, but that a remnant will come forth and stand up and do the will of God, paying the price to walk in the whole truth of the whole word of God. And then, as the little remnant in Nehemiah's day restored their holy religion to a purity which had been unknown since the days of Joshua the son of Nun, so might we see it in the church of God today.


Uncertain Riches

by Glenn Conjurske

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in UNCERTAIN RICHES, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (I Tim. 6:17-19).

Paul here refers to earthly riches as uncertain riches. And the wise king of Israel counsels us, “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Prov. 23:4-5). But we hardly need the word of God to inform us that such riches are uncertain. All wise men know this. It is, indeed, the general conviction of men, and as such finds its place in the old proverb, “Riches have wings.” But somehow those who have riches seem to miss the common conviction of mankind on the subject. This is no doubt because of what the Bible calls “the deceitfulness of riches.” (Matt. 13:22). They deceive those who have them. Therefore Paul charges those who are rich, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. But how easy it is to be deceived by riches! How natural it is to our hearts to trust in money! How much easier it is (let it be said to the shame of all of us) to trust in a little handful of paper, than in the living God, who created ten thousand worlds. Ah! but we know what money will do, while we stand in doubt about what God will do. And this in spite of all of his great and precious promises----in spite of the fact that he invites us to call him “Father”----in spite of the fact that he calls himself “a very present help in time of trouble”----in spite of the fact that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without him----in spite of the fact that he numbers the very hairs of our heads. Such is the unbelief of the human heart.

Nevertheless “they that are rich in this world” have a peculiar propensity to trust in the riches which they possess. They fail to see the uncertainty of those riches. But the riches are nevertheless uncertain. In the first place, riches do have wings. They do fly away. Thousands have lost all through financial hard times, through the failure of banks, through unexpected reverses in business or investment, or through unexpected circumstances which ate up their money as the horse eats hay. But many suppose themselves too shrewd for such reverses. They have placed their investments upon too solid a foundation for reverses to touch them. They have caged their riches, so that, wings or no wings, they cannot fly away. They have laid up their treasures upon the earth, and yet do not believe that moth and rust may corrupt, or thieves break through and steal. More confidence have they in their riches, than in the word of Christ. Yet for all that, riches do have wings, and fly away. There is nothing secure under the sun----no bank, no “securities,” as they are called, no government, and no society. There is no bank secure but the bank of heaven.

But riches are also uncertain because, while they remain, they often prove impotent to fulfill our expectations. To “trust in uncertain riches” is to expect something from them. This men commonly do. They do not trust in riches to gain heaven, for all men seem to understand that Gold goes in at any gate except heaven's, as an old proverb says. But if men do not expect their money to open the gate of heaven, they do expect it to open every gate on this earth. It is for this life that men trust in money, and they do indeed have great expectations from it. Numerous old proverbs make money almost omnipotent. Money is power. Money is that art that hath turned up trump. Money is ace of trumps. Money makes dogs dance. Money rules the world. Money will make the pot boil. Money will do anything. And even the Bible says, “Money answereth all things.” (Eccl. 10:19). Yet for all that, money cannot buy happiness, though men expect it to make at least some substantial contribution to it. It cannot secure health, though men trust in it for that purpose. It cannot buy love. It cannot buy contentment. It cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot put the spark or the spice back into a dry or failing marriage. It cannot reclaim a wayward child. Though it has turned its thousands from the paths of rectitude, it cannot turn them back. It cannot, in other words, secure any of those things which are of the most value to mankind. Yet men trust in such “uncertain riches.”

But further, howsoever secure your bank, your investments, your “securities,” and your goods, your tenure of them is not secure at all. Supposing your wealth to be as solid as the everlasting hills, yet your life is a vapor, which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. And not only is it short at best, but also uncertain at all times. The rich man who counted upon a long tenure of his goods----had “much goods laid up for many years”----was counted a fool in the eyes of heaven. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” (Luke 12:20). The goods may remain indeed “for many years,” but your tenure of them may be cut short, and that at any time.

Such are the reasons for the uncertainty of riches. And yet in such “uncertain riches” men will trust.

But now the living God gives to us a simple prescription, better than any alchemy, by which we may turn these “uncertain riches” into substance as enduring as eternity, and every prophet of God is sent to “charge them that are rich in this world” to take that prescription. You who have this world's goods, here is your divine alchemy: “That they DO GOOD, that they be RICH IN GOOD WORKS, ready to DISTRIBUTE, willing to COMMUNICATE, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” This doing of good refers of course to doing good with their money. It is to distribute it, to communicate it.

This same prescription is given by the Lord himself in Luke 12:33. “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” Here are true and enduring riches, where your tenure of them will be as secure as the treasures themselves. And how simple a thing to lay up such enduring riches. Take the treasures which you hold in your hands, take the treasures which you have laid up in the bank, and give them where they are needed. Some poor woman, whose husband has left her, struggles month after month to feed and clothe her children, or to pay doctor or dentist bills, while you lay up your treasures in the bank. Say, would it not be reward enough just to see the light in the eyes of that woman, when you put a little cash into her hands? Some poor preacher struggles to feed his family and pay his rent, to buy books, and to keep his old car running, while some who are rich in this world could put a few hundred dollars into his hands, or a few thousand, and never miss it. No, it is not “tax deductible,” but would it not be reward enough to know that you had eased the burdens of a servant of the Lord? But there is much more reward than this yet coming. The money which you give to the poor is not lost to you. No, it is only put away into bags which wax not old----transformed into a treasure in the heavens that faileth not. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” (Prov. 19:17). Give to the poor, and the Lord will pay you back, and I dare say with better interest than the bank.

But suppose the Lord should pay no interest at all. Still it were wiser to lend to him than to lay up in the bank. Lend five thousand dollars to the Lord, by giving it to the poor, and when your soul is required of you, you will yet have five thousand dollars, laid up in bags which wax not old, where no thief approaches, and no moth corrupts. Lay that five thousand up in the bank, at the highest rate of interest you can command, and when your soul is required of you, you will have nothing. “You can't take it with you,” as men commonly say. No, but you can send it on ahead. Now suppose you were soon to move to another country, the laws of which allowed you to bring nothing in with you, but allowed you to send ahead of you as much as you pleased. Would you not send ahead as much as you could? This is exactly the case with all of us, and by distributing and communicating of our wealth now, we may transmute our uncertain riches into a treasure that faileth not. Who would neglect to do so?


Italics in the Bible

A Historical Survey

by Glenn Conjurske

The use of italics in the Bible to set off words added by the translators is the natural outgrowth of a belief in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. If the words of Scripture are the words of God, then we feel instinctively that any words added by the translators for clarity or smoothness should be clearly distinguished from the actual words of God.

But it should be understood that these remarks are applicable only if it is the words of the original texts which are held to be inspired of God, rather than the words of the translation. If the translation, no less than the original, is verbally inspired of God, then it were both unnecessary and impertinent to set off some of those words from the rest, as though they were not of equal authority with the others. This being so, the italics which meet us everywhere on the face of the King James Version constitute a standing proof that the producers of that version did not believe it to be inspired in the same sense as the original texts.

But italics----or some kind of type different from the body of the text, or some kind of distinguishing marks----have also been used to set off words which are of doubtful authority because of variations in the text of the originals or the ancient versions. Such a use also flows from a belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures. If the words of the original texts are indeed the words of God, then we have no right either to add to them or to take from them. But alas, due to both the accidental mistakes and the purposeful alterations of ancient copyists, the original texts as we now have them have many variant readings, and those who have all the evidence before them are sometimes unable to say which reading is the true one. For this cause, certain editors and translators of Holy Scripture have used different type or other marks of differentiation to mark out words which they regarded as of doubtful authority. The first man to use such a method was apparently Origen, who flourished in the first half of the third century. In his edition of the Septuagint, which formed one column of his Hexapla, he marked with an asterisk the Septuagint words which were not in the Hebrew, and with an obelisk those words which were in the Hebrew text, but which were absent from the current text of the Septuagint.

A similar method was adopted by William Tyndale in the 1534 edition of his New Testament, howbeit in one instance only. The whole of I John 5:7 he printed in smaller type in parentheses, to indicate its doubtful character. He was followed in this by Coverdale, Matthew, Taverner, and the Great Bible, but the later versions retained the verse, but dispensed with the marks of doubt.

Coverdale used this method much more extensively in the Great Bible, frequently inserting in small type in parentheses words which were present in the Latin Vulgate, but which were not in the Greek texts then current, or in the earlier English versions. The words thus set off range from single words to long clauses and whole verses. Many of them are insignificant explanatory glosses. They are all from the Latin Vulgate, and none of them are to be found in Tyndale's New Testament. There is one apparent exception to this, but I believe it is only apparent. In Hebrews 5:8, where the Great Bible has “though he were ye sonne (of God),” Tyndale has, “And though he were Goddes sonne.” This is a natural enough gloss, which Tyndale might have used on his own. If he borrowed it, it was probably from Luther's German (Und wiewol er Gottes Son war) rather than from the Vulgate. Tyndale used no italics to set off such glosses.

Most of the marked words in the Great Bible are rejected by the subsequent English versions, including the King James Version, not having sufficient support from the Greek to be retained. The King James Version retains a few of them, however, and handles them in three different manners:

1.Some of them are retained without any marks of doubt. Among these are the following entire sentences:

John 19:38----“He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.”

James 4:6----“Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

Rev. 21:26----“And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.”

2.Another is retained in the King James Version with a marginal note stating its doubtful character. This is Luke 17:36, “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” This verse was relegated to the margin in the Geneva Bible. The Bishop's Bible retained it in the text, without any marks of doubt. The King James Version retained it in the text, with this note in the margin: “This .36. verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.”

3.In one instance only, so far as I am aware, the King James Version retained one of the marked clauses with the same mark of doubtfulness which it had in the Great Bible. This is in I John 2:23, which appeared thus in the Great Bible:

Whosoeuer denyeth the sonne, the same hath not the father. (He that knowlegeth the sonne, hath the father also.)

The doubtful clause was relegated to the margin of the Geneva Bible, but retained in the Bishops' Bible and the King James Version after the same manner in which it was given in the Great Bible. Herein is preserved in the King James Bible one example of the original use of distinguishing marks in the text, as introduced by Origen, namely, to indicate a variant reading in the original text. There are other such instances in modern King James Bibles, which were not so marked in the original edition. An example is in John 8:6, where our Bibles have “as though he heard them not” in italics. These words did not appear in Tyndale's New Testament, nor Coverdale's Bible, nor Matthew, nor Taverner, nor the Great Bible, nor the Geneva Bible, nor the original Bishops' Bible, of 1568. They were first added in the Bishops' Bible of 1572, without italics, and the King James Version retained them, also without italics. They were italicized in later editions. Such a use of distinguishing type or marks in the text, however, has been generally replaced by notes in the margin, and the marks of differentiation in the text reserved for words added by the translators for clarity of sense.

The first Bible in English----and for aught I know to the contrary, the first in history----to employ “italics” to mark words added by the translator was the Wycliffe Bible, produced late in the fourteenth century. Actual italic type was not used, of course, for printing was not then known, and every copy was written by hand. The added words were designated by underlining. The Wycliffe Bible exists in two versions, an earlier and a later, the latter being a revision of the former. Both use underlining. The words underlined are of two sorts. Some are words added by the translator for clarity. Others are “glosses,” as they were then called, that is, explanatory comments or definitions added following a word which was supposed to need some clarification. Both versions use underlining for both kinds of additions. Neither of them do so consistently throughout, however. The early version uses no italics at all through most of the Old Testament. What is supposed to be the original manuscript of the early version of most of the Old Testament ends abruptly at Baruch 3:20. It contains no glosses, nor added words in italics. (Some of the later copies of the early version contain a few glosses----I believe only two, for example, in the Pentateuch.) The Old Testament of the early version from Baruch 3:20 to the end is evidently the work of another hand, and glosses in italics are common in it, beginning with “fablers, or ianglers” at Baruch 3:23. Some further examples of those glosses are:

Ezek. 1:4----“...as a lickenesse of electre, êat is, a metal of gold and syluere, cleerer êan gold.” On the same word in Ezek. 7:2 is the gloss, “êat is, metal maad of gold and siluer, bri3ter êan gold.”

Ezek. 14:7----“proselitis, or men new comen to êe lawe of Jewis.”

Ezek. 40:9----“êe vestiarie, or porche.”

Daniel 5:23----“...êou glorifiedist not God, êat haê êi wynd, or spirit, in his hond.” (The later version here, instead of adopting the gloss, strangely alters “wynd” to “blast.”)

Daniel 12:3----“Forsoêe êei êat shuln be tau3t men, or wijse, shuln shyne as shynyng of êe firmament, and êei êat lernen, or enfourmen, manye to ri3twijsnesse, as sterris in to euerlastyngnessis.”

Hosea 13:3----“as a morewe clowde, or myst.” (“Morewe,” that is “morrow,” means “morning.”)

Amos 5:23----“Do awey fro me êe noyse of êi songis, or ditees.”

Jonah 3:8----“...and be a man conuertid, or al turnyd, fro his yuel waye.” (“Yuel” is “evil.”)

Jonah 4:3----“And now, Lord, Y preye, take my soule, or lijf, fro me.”

Micah 5:11-12----“dyuynaciouns, or tellingus by deuels craft, shuln not be in êee. And Y shal make for to perishe êi sculptilis, or grauen ymagis.”

Such are apparently the first “italics” ever used in the English Bible. Of words in italics added for clarity or smoothness, the early Wycliffe Old Testament seemingly has none. There are a very few which might seem to be such, but they are actually explanatory glosses. The very few words which are added for clarity are not italicized.

In the New Testament the earlier Wycliffe version uses “italics” throughout, both for explanatory glosses and for words added for clarity. In each of the following examples, both kinds of additions are seen:

Matt. 4:24----“And his opynyoun, or fame, wente in to al Syrie; and êei offriden to hym alle men hauying yuele.”

Matt. 10:37-39----“He êat loueê fadir or modir more êan me, is nat worêi of me. And he êat loueê sone or dou3ter ouer me, is nat worêi of me. And he êat takiê nat his crosse, and sueê me, is not worêi of me. He êat fyndiê his soule, êat is, temporal lyf, shal leese it; and he êat lesiê his soule, êat is, lif, for me, shal fynde it.” (To sue is to follow, as in “ensue,” “pursue.”)

Col. 2:13-14----“...he quykenyde to gidere 3ou with hym; for3yuynge to 3ou alle giltis, or trespassis.”

The vast majority of all italicized words in this version are explanatory glosses. There was but little occasion to italicize anything else, for the version is so literal that for the most part, aside from the numerous glosses, there simply are no added words. There is an occasional “womman” or “wymmen” to indicate the feminine gender in the Latin, and an occasional noun or pronoun added, where there is only an adjective or participle in the original, but these are few and far between. A few further examples of such added words are:

Mark 12:27----“He is not God of deede men, but God of lyuynge men.”

Mark 16:10----“She goynge tolde to hem êat weren wiê him, hem weylinge and wepynge.” “Hem” is “them,” and is obviously added here to make it clear that it was they, and not she, who were wailing and weeping.

Luke 3:4----“çe voys of oon criynge in desert.”

Luke 7:12----“and êis was a widowe; and moche cumpany of êe citee was wiê hir.”

Romans 4:17 & 18----“çe which God quykeneê deede men, ... çe which Abraham a3ens hope bileuede in to hope.”

In these it plainly appears that the early Wycliffe version was the first English Bible to mark added words in this way, though some have given that place to the Geneva New Testament. And so great a scholar as F. H. A. Scrivener affirms that “The practice of indicating by a variation of type such words in a translation of the Bible as have no exact representatives in the original is believed to have been first employed by Sebastian Munster in his Latin version of the Old Testament published in 1534.” But we have shown that the Wycliffe Bible employed the practice a century and a half earlier, though of course no “type” was used, and though Wycliffe's original was the Vulgate. Wycliffe used the same practice in the Scripture renditions in his English sermons.

The glosses in the early version are very plentiful, and most of them are simply definitions or explanations of words, introduced with “that is,” or alternate translations, introduced with “or” (or “either,” which then meant “or”). A few are exposition. A sampling of these glosses follows:

Mark 4:4----“briddis of heuene, or of êe eire.” (That is, “birds of heaven, or of the air.”)

Mark 4:17----“but êei ben temporal, êat is, lasten a lityl tyme.”

Mark 10:45----“and 3yue his soule, or lyf, redempcioun, or a3en biyng.” “A3en biyng” is “again-buying,” that is, buying back.

Mark 15:13----“And êei eftsoone crieden, Crucifie hym, or put hym on êe cros.”

John 1:1----“In the bigynnynge was the word, êat is, Goddis sone.”

Romans 12:2----“And nyle 3e be confoormed, or maad lyk, to êis world.”

Romans 12:19----“not defendynge, or vengynge, 3ou silf, but 3yue 3e place to ire, or wraêêe.”

I Cor. 1:10----“scismes, or dyuysiouns, dissenciouns, or discordis.”

Hebrews 12:7----“What sone is it, whom the fadir schal not reproue, or chastyse?”

Rev 15:4----“for êou aloone art piteous, or merciful.”

The later Wycliffe version is a revision of the earlier. It uses italics throughout, but not consistently. The Old Testament has frequent explanatory glosses, but these are abandoned in the New Testament, and in fact the glosses of the earlier New Testament are often adopted into the text. Words are added for clarity throughout both Testaments, and these are italicized.

To speak first of the glosses, some of these are alternate translations (introduced with “or”), some are definitions or explanations of hard words (introduced with “that is”), and some even exposition or application, and even spiritualizing (see Deut. 32:10 below), such as was later put into the marginal notes of Tyndale's Pentateuch, the Geneva Bible, or the Scofield Reference Bible. A sampling of those in the Old Testament follows:

Gen. 2:12----“delium, êat is, a tree of spicerie.”

Ex. 8:16----“litle flies, eêer gnattis.”

Ex. 17:13----“in êe mouê of swerd, êat is, bi êe scharpnesse of êe swerd.”

Ex. 22:8----“êe lord of êe hows schal be brou3t to goddis, êat is, iugis.” (“Iugis” is “judges.”)

Deut. 4:7----“Noon oêer nacioun is so greet, not in noumbre eêer in bodili quantite, but in dignite.”

Deut. 4:26----“Y clepe witnesses to dai heuene and erêe, êat is, ech resonable creature beynge in heuene and in erêe.” “Clepe” is “call.” The same expression in Deut. 30:19 is glossed, “êat is, aungels and men.”

Deut. 14:5----“a camelioun, êat is, a beeste lijk in the heed to a camel, and haê white spottis in êe bodi as a parde, and is lijk an hors in êe necke, and in the feet is lijc a wilde oxe.”

Deut. 32:10----“a deseert lond, êat is, priued of Goddis religioun.” “Priued” is “deprived.”

Judges 8:33----“Forsoêe aftir êat Gedeon was deed, the sones of Israel turneden awey fro Goddis religioun, and diden fornycacioun, êat is, idolatrie, wiê Baalym.”

While some of these glosses are very useful, most of them are unnecessary, and some of them had been by all means best omitted. The translator himself evidently perceived this, and did well to drop the glosses in the New Testament. The later Wycliffe Bible is generally careful to italicize added words throughout, and rather than giving a mere list of examples, I give a comparison of the earlier and later Wycliffe versions, in which the advantage of the practice will plainly appear.

Earlier Version

to an alyen puple he shal not haue power of sillyng. Ex. 21:8.

And he shal loue êee, and multiplie, and he shal blesse to êe fruyt of êi wombe, [&c.]. Dt. 7:13.

whom êei biholden to be ry3twyse, to hym the palme of ri3twisnes êei shulen 3yue, whom wickid, êei shulen condempne of wickidnes. Dt. 25:1.

And eche moost strong, whos is êe herte as of a lioun, shal be feblid for drede. II Sam. 17:10.

Forsoêe Y êe Lord êi God, of êe lond of Egypt. Hos. 13:4.

Later Version

he schal not haue power to sille hir to an alien puple.

And he schal loue êee, and schal multiplie êee, and he schal blesse êe fruyt of êi wombe, [&c.].

êei schulen 3yue êe victorie of ri3tfulnesse to him, whom êei perseyuen to be iust, êei schulen condempne hym of wickidnesse, whom êei perseyuen to be wickid.

And ech strongeste man, whos herte is as êe herte of a lioun, schal be discoumfortid for drede.

Forsoêe Y am êi Lord God, êat ledde êe fro êe loond of Egipt.


William Tyndale had probably never seen the Wycliffe version, and he used no italics in his New Testament. Neither did Coverdale, nor Matthew, nor Taverner. The Great Bible used them as rehearsed above, to mark textual variations, but not to mark words added by the translator. I believe the first to make a beginning in this direction was the printer Richard Jugge, in his edition of Tyndale's New Testament published in 1552. Besides making a few alterations in Tyndale's language, and adopting certain readings from the Great Bible, Jugge also set a number of the more important added words in parentheses and in small, raised italics, thus:

For it pleased (the father) that in hym shoulde all fulnes dwell.

The utility of italics will plainly appear in an example like this, for so important an addition as this had stood at Col. 1:19 in the former editions of Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew, Taverner, and the Great Bible on the same footing as the rest of the text, as though it were a part of the inspired original. It appears also here that Jugge's edition of Tyndale was the first English version to use actual italic type for the purpose of marking such additions. This was perhaps an afterthought with him, as I can find no instances of it in the Gospels or the Acts, the first instance I have observed being in the first chapter of Romans. Jugge once used a similar shift, accompanied by a marginal note, to mark a textual variant, at John 8:9, which he exhibits thus:

And as sone as they hearde that (Beynge accused by their ovvne conscience) they wente oute one by one, the eldeste firste.

A few further examples of Jugge's italics are:

Rom. 1:13----“to haue some frute also amonge you, as (I haue) amonge other of the Gentyls.”

I Cor. 3:5----“euen as the Lorde gaue euery man (grace).”

I Cor 13:3----“though I bestowe all my goodes (to fede the poore).”

Gal. 1:16----“I commened not (of the matter) with fleshe and bloud.”

Heb. 5:5----“Christe glorifyed not hym selfe, to be made the hye prieste: but he that sayde vnto hym: thou arte my sonne, thys daye begat I thee (glorified him).”

Jugge did not add any of these words. He was not translating, but editing. All of these words stood in Tyndale's former editions. Jugge only italicized them, to mark them as not being in the Greek. Five years later, in 1557, his edition was used as the basis of the Geneva New Testament. That version followed his example in the use of italics, informing the reader in the preface, “And because the Hebrewe and Greke phrases, which are strange to rendre in other tongues, and also short, shulde not be to harde, I haue sometyme interpreted them without any whit diminishing the grace of the sense, as our langage doth vse them, and sometyme haue put to that worde, which lacking made the sentence obscure, but haue set it in sych letters as may easely be discerned from the common text.” The translator had also before him the example of Theodore Beza (a man of great influence), who used italics for the same purpose in his Latin version of the New Testament, published at Geneva in 1556.

The Geneva New Testament expanded the practice far beyond what appeared in Jugge's edition of Tyndale, and was indeed rather too free in adding words, but so much the better that they should be put in italics. And here I may remark in passing that an apparent disadvantage of the practice of distinguishing added words by different type may be that it increases the temptation to add such words, where they are certainly unnecessary. This propensity appears in the later Wycliffe Bible, as well as in the Geneva New Testament. Many of the italicized words of the Geneva New Testament are wholly absent from the King James Version, with no loss of clarity. A sampling from the Geneva New Testament follows:

Rom. 2:28----“For he is not a Iewe, wc is a Iewe onely outwarde: nether is that Circumcision, wc is onely outward in the fleshe.”

Rom. 9:16----“So lieth election then not in him that willeth, or runneth, but in God that pitieth.”

I Cor. 9:20----“to them that are vnder the Lawe, as thogh I were vnder the Lawe.”

Phil. 3:19----“Whose ende is damnation, whose God is their bely, and whose glorie is to their shame.”

Col. 2:19----“encreaseth with the increasyng that commeth of God.”

Col. 3:14----“And aboue all these thinges put on loue.”

I Thes. 4:8----“He therfore that despiceth these things, despiceth not man, but God.”

Philemon 19----“I Paul haue wrytten this with myne owne hande.”

Heb. 7:28----“but the worde of the othe that came synce the Lawe maketh the Sonne Priest, who is perfect for euermore.”

The reader will doubtless recognize in these examples the same sort of words which are italicized in our present King James Bibles. The Geneva Bible, which followed three years later in 1560, used the same sort of italics, extending the practice also throughout the Old Testament. These versions were the first to be printed in Roman type, and they used actual italics for the inserted words. The Bishops' Bible (1568) followed the same practice. The Bishops' Bible, however, was not printed in Roman type, but in “black letter,” or old English type, and the added words were designated as follows (I Cor. 12:17 & 24):

Jf all [were] hearyng, where were the smellyng?

and hath geuen the more honour to that [part] which lacked.

The Bishops' Bible also contained an occasional gloss in the text, after the manner of the Wycliffe Bibles. Thus in Hos. 1:9, “Then sayd he, Call his name Loammi [that is, not my people]: for ye are not my people, therefore I wyll not be your [God.]” Such glosses were reserved for the margin in the Geneva and King James Versions.

The King James Version continued the use of italics. It was also originally printed in “black letter,” and did not use actual italics, but designated the added words by small, raised Roman type, thus:

and her happe was to light on a part of the fielde belonging vnto Boaz, who was of the kinred of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:3).

That men may knowe, that thou, whose name alone is JEHOUAH: art the most High ouer all the earth. (Ps. 83:18).

This same format (black letter, with small raised Roman type) had been used in the Bishops' Bible in 1568, not for added words, but wherever the word “Selah” appeared. This was abandoned in the 1572 printing, and “Selah” printed in the same type as the rest of the text.

The 1611 Bible was far from consistent in its use of italics, and many of the italics which now appear in our Bibles were added in later printings. A few examples follow, showing added words which are italicized in our Bibles today, which were not so in the original edition:

Gen. 1:27----“So God created man in his own image.”

Gen. 25:23----“and the one people shall be stronger than the other people.”

Lev. 24:ll----“And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed.”

Deut. 16:10----“a free-will offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God.”

Mark 10:40----“but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”

Luke 5:18----“and they sought means to bring him in.”

Luke 19:22----“thou wicked servant.”

I Pet. 4:11----“If any man minster, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.”

In many instances the added words were only partially italicized in 1611. To take one example only, where we read in I Pet. 4:16, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian,” the original edition read, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian.”

Revisions of the italics in the Bible were effected in the Cambridge editions of 1629 and 1638, and by Paris's edition of 1762 and Blayney's of 1769, yet the italics in our modern Bibles are neither correct nor consistent. A few examples must suffice:

In I Tim. 6:19, “Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come,” the word “time” should certainly be in italics, for however it may be supposed to be understood, it is certainly not expressed in the Greek. The same expression is translated “that which is to come” in I Tim 4:8, in “having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” where if any word were to be supplied it would certainly be “life,” not “time.” The same again in Eph. 1:21, “not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” where if any word were to be supplied, it would certainly be “world.” The Greek expression is simply and literally “the coming,” and may refer to the coming anything, according to the context.

So likewise ought the word “time” to be in italics in James 4:14. Our life, we are told, is “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Yet the Greek says only “appeareth for a little.” The same is true again in “he must continue a short space” in Rev. 17:10. “Space” ought to be in italics. The Greek for both “a little time” and “a short space” is J v , which of itself certainly does not mean “a little time.” This is proved by the fact that it is twice used in the Greek New Testament with another word for time added, namely in Rev. 12:12 and Acts 14:28 (where “long time” is literally “not a little time”).

More recent versions have continued the practice of italicizing added words, so long as the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures has been cherished, and so long as any pretence has been made of literally translating them. Where these things are given up, there is no more reason to use italics, and their use has been discontinued in such versions as the RSV and the NIV. Not knowing the translators of the NIV, we will not affirm that they do not hold the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, but the version itself (and not only in its abandonment of italics) is ample evidence that they had no proper sense of the meaning or importance of the doctrine. If that version were printed with the added words indicated by italics, the places where certain words of the original are dropped and not translated at all indicated by ***, and those words which are rather PARAPHRASED than TRANSLATED indicated by SMALL CAPITALS the version would look something like this sentence.

Robert Vaughan on

Mental Indolence

[Robert Vaughan (1795-1868) was an English Congregationalist, and the author or editor of several works on John Wycliffe.----editor.]

One of the principal causes of the corruption of Christianity, connected immediately with the Understanding, may be said to consist in that MENTAL INDOLENCE, which is so observable in the history of mankind, as regards all truth of a moral and religious nature.

The only remedy against error, in any path of inquiry, is a diligent search after truth; and it is not a small number who have failed to discover the truth, more from the want of reasonable effort, than from any other cause. Every one must be aware that the moral faculties exert so powerful an influence over the understanding, that the most comprehensive and laborious intellect, if influenced by depraved passions, will miss its way. But an incalculable amount of the error which has obtained in the world, has resulted purely from the general sluggishness of the human mind. One who knew what was in man, assures us, that, with the great majority, the rational faculties would seem to be possessed for no higher end than to assist them in determining what they should eat, what they should drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed. And this class, so numerous in the days of the Son of Man, continues to exist, and unhappily, in nearly the same proportion. The reason, the memory, the imagination, all have their exercise; but it is within a very narrow circle, as the slaves of the seen and temporal, and of such things, very commonly, in their smallest and meanest shapes. To become listeners only, in order to be wise, would require, in some instances, a painful measure of exertion; to become readers for that purpose, would be still more difficult; but gravely to inquire, to reason, and reflect----alas! this would be to exist anew, to become the opposite of themselves. Where such habits are found, error, on all subjects, is, more or less, inevitable. We cannot regard Christianity as entrusted to this slothful guardianship, without at once perceiving that the portion of it retained must be little, compared with the accumulated misconceptions with which it will be disfigured and overlaid. That the nominal Christianity of the large class to which we now refer, should have been so widely different from the Christianity of the New Testament, is really not so much surprising, as that such minds should have been found among the professors of such a system in any form.

It is not necessary that we should be able to say how small a portion of effort, or of knowledge, may be sufficient to salvation, in the case of persons who are placed in circumstances unfavourable to habits of inquiry. The fact is plainly before us----that the indolence of the human mind, the source of so much error on all other matters, is the prolific parent of error and corruption in relation to the gospel. We do not say that men must possess the studious habits of philosophers in order to be Christians. But it is demanded imperatively that men should seek, if they would find; and that they should learn of Jesus, if they would be saved by him. To this duty, however, the sloth of the human understanding is so directly opposed, as to lead, in some instances, to a total rejection of the gospel; but, more frequently, to the adoption of defective and false views concerning it. We presume that persons who would obtain the slightest acquaintance with the laws of nature, must do more than breathe the air, or glance upon the heavens. But unless an effort scarcely more considerable, might suffice to render the majority of our species wise unto salvation, there has been little prospect, if left to themselves, of their ever becoming thus wise----so inert have been their faculties with regard to everything beyond the narrowest routine of thought, and so special has been their disinclination to be thoughtful about a truly spiritual religion.

Here then, is an ample source of encouragement to the labours of the artful, should it be judged expedient to degrade religion into means of gratifying the base passions which it was designed to subdue. This one fact belonging to the present state of the human mind, is enough to render it probable that there should be scarcely any speculation so strange, or any practice so frivolous or perverse, as not to be easily imposed on multitudes as a part of Christianity.

----The Causes of the Corruption of Christianity, by Robert Vaughan; London: Jackson and Walford, 1852, pp. 18-20.

Ï Stray Notes on the English Bible Ï

by the Editor

“Your Moderation”

“Let your moderation be known to all men.” So we read in Philippians 4:5. Strange things are sometimes made of this verse, for lack of understanding the sense of the word “moderation.” The Greek word from which it is translated means mildness or gentleness. Elsewhere in the New Testament we find it rendered,

In Acts 24:4, “I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency,”

And in II Cor. 10:l, “I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”

The earlier Wycliffe Bible renders Phil. 4:5 “Be 3oure temperaunce, or pacience, knowun to all men,” and the later version adopts the gloss, reading, “Be 3oure pacyence knowun to alle men.” (“Pacyence” is “patience.”)

An independent fourteenth century translation of Paul's epistles (actually a glossed copy of the Vulgate) reads, “3oure debonertee be it knowyn to alle men.” “Debonertee” is “debonairty,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “Debonair character or disposition; mildness; gentleness, meekness, graciousness, kindness; courtesy, affability.” Richard Rolle (died 1349) uses “debonaire” thus: “be deboner and meek to alle men.”

William Tyndale translates Phil. 4:5 “Lette youre softenes be knowen vnto all men”----a beautiful expression, which we might wish had been retained in the English Bible. We have seen that Wycliffe did not use “softness” in this verse, but he did use it elsewhere, as for example in Gal. 6:1, where the early version reads, “3e êat ben spiritual, teche siche a maner man in spirit of softnesse, or mekenesse.” The later version rejects the gloss, and retains “softness,” and it was used in this verse also in Wycliffe's English sermons. And another independent fourteenth century English version reads (at Phil. 4:5), “3oure softnesse be y-knowe to alle men.” “Softness” was retained by Tyndale in all of his revisions, by Coverdale, by Matthew, by Taverner, and by the Great Bible. In 1557 the Geneva New Testament altered it to “Let your patient mynde be knowen vnto all men.” This was certainly inferior to the old rendering, but it was retained in the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible. The King James Version altered it to “moderation.” This would be sufficiently accurate if there were anything in the context to indicate its connotation, but with nothing in the context to give a clue, it is generally not very well understood, and “mildness” or “gentleness” would have been better.


Paul Forsaken

by Glenn Conjurske

“This thou knowest,” writes Paul to Timothy, “that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me, of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” (II Tim. 1:15). This is a very remarkable statement, and one which some have been slow to believe. Various commentators have labored to soften its force and divest it of its meaning. But there is no reason to soften it at all, and indeed, we have no right to do so. Nor is the fact particularly difficult to believe to those who know the workings of the human heart.

It is not an uncommon thing for churches and individuals to turn away from men of God, and to repudiate the very man to whom they owe the salvation of their own souls. This proves no more than that there is a devil, and that he is active and malicious, and that the saints of God are susceptible enough to his workings.

And further, this statement in II Timothy 1:15 does not stand altogether alone. There are numerous other indications in the epistles of Paul that this turning away from him had been brewing for a long time. Carnal souls, false brethren, and false apostles were laboring in the churches to bring it about. Pride and ill-will had been long at work among the saints, moving them to despise and condemn Paul, ere they finally forsook him.

So Paul had written long before, not to a single congregation, but to all the churches in Galatia, “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:15). The truth was no doubt too hard to bear, and it was easier to condemn Paul than to embrace it.

It was easier to accuse Paul of being harsh and unloving, than to take home his “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal 3:1). To justify their own wrong course they must condemn Paul. They must turn the man who wept and travailed for their souls into their enemy. In their foolish pride, they of course knew better than he did what the truth of the gospel was, and Paul's “though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” was proud and harsh and un-Christian, and moreover, it was a condemnation of many good men. After this manner they no doubt reasoned, for Paul's impassioned pleading with them evidently had not its desired effect, for these same churches of Galatia were of course among all those who were in Asia, who at a little later date turned away from Paul.

Strong opposition to Paul had been long at work at Corinth also. He had long been despised by many of the Corinthians, and what more natural than that they should finally forsake him? They had long been questioning his divine commission, compelling him to write, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, ...examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (II Cor. 13:3-5). They had long been speaking contemptuously of him, saying, “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (II Cor. 10:10). The wonder were not that such folks in time might forsake Paul, but that he did not forsake them. But Paul did not forsake them, but patiently labored with them to do them good, though a large portion of his labor for them must consist of an attempt to vindicate himself. In large segments of his second epistle to them he is compelled to write to vindicate his character, to justify his actions, and to defend his divine call and commission. “Ye have compelled me,” he says, “for I ought to have been commended of you.” (II Cor. 12:11). He must commend himself, that is, to those who ought to have been commending him. They ought indeed to have been ashamed of themselves, so to compel a laborious servant of God, and their own father in Christ besides, to commend and defend himself, but their passions had carried them away, and they no doubt actually believed that the fault was all in Paul.

Not that Paul did not have real faults, for who does not? But whatever faults he had were no doubt petty in comparison to the great good which was in him, and the great good which he was doing. Whatever faults he had were no reason, and no excuse, for the treatment which he received from the Corinthians. Whatever faults he had did not destroy God's confidence in him, for he could yet say, “And I thank CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD, who hath enabled me, for that HE COUNTED ME FAITHFUL, putting me into the ministry.” (I Tim. 1:12). But this fact apparently had no weight with the Corinthians. They no doubt found ways to explain it away, or deny it, or so qualify it as to evade its force.

But the fact is, the whole relationship between Paul and the Corinthians was strained, and he was compelled to write even in his first epistle to them, “Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (I Cor. 4:18-21). But “the speech of them which are puffed up” no doubt continued, and continued more and more to prejudice the others against Paul, for pride, ill-will, and gossip are the tools which the devil uses to set the saints against their fathers and elders in Christ. Thus by the time that Paul penned his second epistle to them, their relationship was much more strained, and he must write, “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. ...if I come again, I will not spare.” (II Cor. 13:1-2). In the same epistle he must spend whole chapters vindicating his apostleship and his character, and defending himself against petty charges. With such a state of things long brewing at Corinth, it is no wonder to read, “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” Corinth did not belong to Asia, but if such a state of things existed in Corinth, it is nothing difficult to suppose it existed elsewhere also.

Paul writes again, in II Tim. 4:16, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.” Of course this moves us to sympathy for “Paul the aged,” but it ought to move us also to shame for the pride, the ill-will, and the ingratitude which could thus turn its back upon its greatest benefactor. But such is man----even good and godly man, when wrong passions are allowed to grow unchecked in his soul. Yet the less Paul is loved, the more he loves, and no sooner does he inform Timothy that all have forsaken him, than he adds, “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” Is it so, that such a man was forsaken by all Asia? Lord, what is man! What a beacon of warning this fact ought to be to all future ages of the church. But the beacon has often gone unheeded, for men yet turn their backs upon their spiritual fathers and superiors, and so throw away their own best blessings.

We may be ignorant of the actual reasons why these Christians turned away from Paul, but of two things we may be sure:

1.They did have reasons. If they had been asked for an account of their conduct in forsaking the apostle of the Gentiles, we may rest assured they would not have said, “We have no particular reasons, or none worth mentioning. We just prefer to leave him at this time.” Their own consciences would not have allowed them such a thing. They would have felt instinctively that to justify themselves in so great a matter as forsaking Paul, they must have some weighty reasons----and to justify themselves they no doubt found reasons enough.

2.The second thing of which we may be sure is that whatever those reasons were, they were all in Paul, not in themselves. We may be absolutely certain that they did not say, “Paul is a true and faithful servant of Christ, who preaches sound doctrine and lives according to the true spirit of Christianity, but we are controlled by the evil passions of pride and resentment, and therefore we must leave him.” Whatever may have happened, this surely did not. No, the reasons were all in Paul. It was no doubt Paul's faults, Paul's pride, the offences which Paul gave, Paul's deficiencies, Paul's presumption, Paul's indiscretions, Paul's bad doctrine----Paul's anything, or Paul's everything----but whatever the reasons were, there is no doubt that in their way of thinking they were all in Paul. It was no doubt a simple matter of righteousness for them to oppose him, a simple matter of conscience and faithfulness to God. Paul himself had compelled them to do so!

But Paul (and the Spirit of God) had a different view of the matter. That Paul had faults we need not doubt, and Paul would certainly not have denied it. Yet Paul knew well enough that whatever faults he had were not the real reason for the defection of his children. He, by the spirit of God, puts his finger upon the real reason when he writes over and over to the Corinthians, “some are puffed up,” “the speech of them which are puffed up,” “ye are puffed up.” They began to think themselves beyond Paul. They knew better than he did. From this root----coupled perhaps with some little offences some of them had received from Paul, or some little indiscretions they had seen in his conduct----grew all of their opposition to him. And grow it did, until they really despised Paul, repudiated his divine call, impeached his character, and disbelieved his doctrine. What wonder if they finally forsook him? All that were in Asia did so. What fruits are these of the corruption of the heart of man, and that even in many who were going to the same heaven with the Paul whom they thus forsook! And what blessings they forsook in their way to that heaven, when they forsook Paul! And what a beacon of warning their defection presents to all the saints in all ages, to guard against the first beginnings of pride and ill-will!

Chats from my Library
By Glenn Conjurske

Old Proverbs

By old proverbs I am not referring to the proverbs of the Bible, but to the common proverbs of the human race----secular proverbs, if you will. I am well aware that souls of a certain cast of mind may doubt, or deny, that these have any value. We will not scoff at their ignorance, but bear with their weakness, and endeavor to teach them better. I was once of the same cast of mind myself. But this setting at nought everything which does not come directly from God----everything which has been formed or fashioned by man----is not wisdom, but hyperspirituality. As well might we refuse to use a shovel or a funnel, because God made it not. The wise see that a funnel is useful, and need no further proof that it is to be used. Proverbs are likewise useful. Their great value lies in the fact that they embody the common convictions of humanity----not necessarily always the wisdom of humanity, for some of them contain only folly or superstition. But the great majority of them contain actual wisdom----a portion of that “wisdom [which] crieth without,” in the streets and gates of the city. Thus, to quote a proverb is to appeal to truth which your hearers or opponents both feel and acknowledge to be true. There is great worth in this. For those that are wise, no further proof is needed that proverbs are to be employed, even in the work of the Lord. But for those that are otherwise, further proof is not lacking. That proof, of course, will be found in the Bible.

Paul is not above quoting an old proverb. His “Evil communications corrupt good manners” is apparently a common proverb, and Wetstein and others give several references to its use. If men would have greater authority than Paul, we may give them the Lord Jesus Christ himself. “Herein is THAT SAYING true,” he says, “One soweth, and another reapeth.” (John 4:37). He did not think it unspiritual, or beneath the dignity of the gospel, to quote a common proverb, but from the very highest spiritual experience----“meat to eat that ye know not of”----he turns immediately to quote a common saying. Nay, from the very courts of heaven he quotes one, saying to Paul on the Damascus road, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” This saying is nothing other than a common proverb, and Trench and Wetstein give a number of references to its use in heathen authors.

Who then can contend that old proverbs are beneath the notice of a servant of Christ? Spiritual men of all ages have used them, and J. C. Ryle, in his Expository Thoughts on John 4:37 says, “Our Lord here quotes a proverbial saying. ...The frequent use of proverbial sayings in the New Testament deserves notice. It shows the value of proverbs, and the importance of teaching them to children. A pointed proverb is often remembered when a long moral lesson is forgotten.”

The value which C. H. Spurgeon attached to proverbs is seen plainly enough in his saying, “Lists of proverb-books are common enough, and there is no need to present another in this short preface; but I believe I have read them all, and the most of them year after year, till their contents dwell in my memory, and are repeated by a use which has become second nature.” So he speaks in the preface to his Salt Cellars, which is the first book of proverbs I shall mention in this chat. This consists of two volumes of proverbs and sayings, with Spurgeon's comments upon many of them. “For many years,” (he says in the same preface), “I have published a Sheet Almanack, intended to be hung up in workshops and kitchens. This has been known as `John Ploughman's Almanack,' and has had a large sale. ... The placing of a proverb for every day for twenty years has cost me great labour, and I felt that I cannot afford to lose the large collection of sentences which I have thus brought together: yet lost they would be, if left to die with the ephemeral sheet. Hence these two volumes.” These books, of course, are full of good matter, but they have one serious drawback. This comes from Spurgeon's apparently failing to recognize that the one essential condition of anything being a bona fide proverb is that it must have gained currency with the masses, so as to be a common saying. Many excellent nuggets of wisdom, perhaps superior to most of the proverbs on earth, yet are no bona fide proverbs, if they are not common sayings. It seems that Spurgeon included many such nuggets of wisdom----even some “quite new,” as he avows----and therefore, though his volumes are full of excellent wisdom, they are not safe guides as to what is or is not an actual proverb.

On the Lessons in Proverbs, by R. C. Trench, is a small book of lectures to young men, on the origin, form, substance, and use of proverbs. I sought this book for years, and could not even find a copy in a library. Only recently I found a copy of it, for which I paid only $2. The book was worth the search, and I would have gladly paid ten times the price for it.

There are a number of “complete collections” of proverbs, none of them, of course, actually complete. An early collection is A Complete Collection of English Proverbs, by John Ray (1628-1705), professing also to contain the most celebrated proverbs of the Scotch, Italian, French, Spanish, and other languages. I have the fifth edition of this enlarged by John Belfour, and published in 1813. The book is poorly arranged, and without index, and is superceded by more complete collections. Its chief value lies in the light which it gives on the meaning or use of many proverbs.

Of English proverbs I have two excellent collections. The first is English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases, by W. Carew Hazlitt (second edition, 1882). The proverbs are arranged alphabetically, and there are occasional illustrative notes. There is an index, but it leaves something to be desired. The second is The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, compiled by William George Smith, also alphabetical, and with a more complete index. There are frequent notes defining archaic words, and numerous references to the use of the proverbs, but the book fails to give the meaning of many obscure sayings.

Henry G. Bohn contributes two volumes of value. The first is A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, containing about 400 pages of French, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Danish proverbs, with English translations of them, and an alphabetical index of the English translations, which occupies nearly 200 pages more. It should be understood in the use of this book that the English translations of the foreign proverbs cannot be regarded as English proverbs, though many of the foreign proverbs exist in English also. This book does not give anything like a complete collection for any of the languages it contains, but is a very useful collection. It was published in 1867.

Bohn's second volume is A Handbook of Proverbs, a book of 583 pages, published in 1872. The first half of it contains a reprint of the last edition of Ray's book, while the second half contains what he rightly calls “that manifest desideratum, an Alphabetical Index.” But his alphabetical list is not a mere index to Ray, for it also contains many proverbs not in Ray's collection.

The volumes which I have listed are few in number, but rich in content. There are of course others, not on a level with these, but of value nevertheless, and the reader would do well not to pass by any bona fide collection of common proverbs.

Editorial Policies

Old articles are reprinted without alteration (except for corrections of printing errors), unless stated otherwise. The editor inserts such articles if they are judged to be 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.