The Doctrinal Interpretation of Scripture
by Glenn Conjurske
One of the rules which is commonly laid down for the interpretation of
the Bible is that it must be interpreted according to the analogy
of faith. This principle is certainly sound, though the term which
is used to express it is obscure and unfortunate. The term is borrowed
from the Greek of Romans 12:6: ...whether prophecy, let us prophesy
êáôN ôxí Píáëïãßáí
ôyò ðßóôåùò, according
to the proportion of faith. The text is evidently misapplied, but
we have no quarrel with what is meant by the term. This expression,
says Terry, ...denotes that general harmony of fundamental doctrine
which pervades the entire Scriptures. Every particular text is to
be interpreted in conformity with that general scheme of doctrine which
is plainly taught in the Scriptures. This rule is sound, provided it be
applied with humility, with honesty, with sincerity, and especially with
caution, for there is perhaps no principle which is so easily abused as
Yet we have no quarrel with the principle itself. We entirely approve,
for example, John Wesley's use of this principle to disallow the Calvinistic
interpretation of certain texts. Speaking of the Calvinistic doctrine
of predestination, Wesley says, ...for just as it honours the Son,
so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes
at once: it overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth: yea, it represents
the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel,
and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never
said, 'He willeth all men to be saved:' more unjust; because the devil
cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God,
when you say, that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for
want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: and more
cruel; because that unhappy spirit 'seeketh rest and findeth none;' so
that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others.
But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of
his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to
doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to
impute such cruelty to him, as we cannot impute even to the great enemy
of God and man. It is to represent the Most High God (he that hath ears
to hear, let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!
This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of
predestination! And here I fix my foot. On this I join issue with every
assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false,
more cruel, more unjust. But you say, you will prove it by Scripture.
Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil?
It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this:
whatever its true meaning be, this cannot be its true meaning. Do you
ask, What is its true meaning then? If I say, I know not, you have gained
nothing; for there are many scriptures, the true sense whereof neither
you nor I shall know, till death is swallowed up in victory. But this
I know, better it were to say it had no sense at all, than to say it had
such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the
God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will, it cannot mean that
the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is
not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works: that is, whatever
it prove besides, no scripture can prove predestination.
We think this a fair and reasonable use of the principle of interpreting
Scripture according to the analogy of faith.
Yet, as hinted above, this principle easily lends itself to abuse. The
danger lies in substituting our own particular doctrinal system for that
general harmony of fundamental doctrine which pervades the entire Scriptures.
Such a fault is natural enough. Every sincere man must naturally suppose
that the doctrine which he holds is in fact the truth of God, and so of
course the doctrine of Scripture. But if he is not humble and wise as
well as sincere, he only deceives himself. It would almost be amusing,
if the matter were not so grave, to see every babe in Christ so certain
of the truth, upon many deep and knotty questions, where I, after thirty
years of diligent study and meditation, can only say, I don't know.
The certainty which many have of those things is not wisdom at all, but
only pride and self-sufficiency. They have no right to their certainty.
They know the answers without knowing the questions, and the only effectual
remedy for their ignorance they have effectually silenced, by interpreting
the Scriptures always in conformity with their doctrine.
Who cannot see that to make the doctrine which we already hold the standard
for the interpretation of Scripture is the most effectual way to close
our eyes to the truth? To proceed upon such a principle must blind our
eyes to the truth, as surely as it would to repudiate and burn our Bibles.
Yet it appears to me that such a method both has been and now is almost
universal in the church of God. Many years of observation have made me
painfully aware that there is very little honesty in the interpretation
of the Bible, even among the best of men. Men in general do not use the
Bible to learn the truth, but every man as a matter of course adopts that
interpretation of particular texts which best supports the doctrine which
he already holds. He finds just what he is looking for in the Bible, no
more and no less. Every system of theology has its own proof texts, to
which it tenaciously clings. All those texts which seem to militate against
the system are ignored, or, if not ignored, explained away, wrested, twisted,
mangled, and mauled, in order to bring them into conformity with the system.
In all this I cannot perceive one whit of difference between the common
practice of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the common practice of most Evangelicals.
This seems to be the almost universal practice of the teachers of the
church. They do not come to the Bible to learn what is there, but to make
out of it what their doctrine requires. Yet common as this practice is,
it is utterly indefensible. It is a practice which is dictated by pride,
by dishonesty, and by insincerity. It is in fact an open sore on the face
of the church of God, and a crying shame. Only tell me what a man's doctrine
is, and I can generally tell you what his interpretation will be of those
texts which seem to stand against that doctrine. This is so common that
I fear many have an altogether erroneous notion as to what interpretation
consists of. To interpret the text is thought to mean to extract some
meaning from it, or to force some meaning into it
----by all means
to make it mean something or anything ----whereas in reality the
only interpretation which is legitimate consists of nothing more or less
than seeking to understand the text.
But is it not both legitimate and necessary that a man's interpretation
of the Bible should agree with his theology? Surely this is necessary.
We can grant that it were harmless also, if the interpretation had come
first, and the doctrine followed as the legitimate result of it, but it
is usually just the reverse. The doctrine is held first, and the Scriptures
interpreted so as to conform them to the doctrine. I often
have occasion to wonder what the adherents of certain systems of doctrine
can make of certain texts of Scripture, and what is worse, I am often
perfectly amazed at the ingenuity which is employed to evade the force
of those texts. This is nothing other than dishonesty, even in the most
solemn things of God and eternity. The only possible excuse for it is
that those who engage in such interpretation do most firmly
believe that the doctrine which drives them to it is in fact the truth
of God. But this is little excuse after all. Such interpretation is the
fruit of pride and unbelief
----pride in its own abilities, pride
in its own sect, pride in its own reasonings, pride in its own system,
and unbelief in the plain statements of the oracles of God. If men had
more of simple faith in the word of God, and less of pride in their own
reasonings, and less of unholy sectarian zeal, they would simply revise
their theology in order to conform it to the Bible. But the process almost
always works the other way, and they wrest and twist and hack and hew
and mangle and maul the Scriptures, in order bring them into conformity
with their creed.
And this unholy ingenuity is used not only to turn apparently hostile
texts into friends of our own creed, but also to turn to our own account
everything which is unrelated and irrelevant. The results are often ridiculous
enough. Behold a Baptist and a Methodist, each performing surgery upon
Paul's statement that the Israelites were all baptized unto Moses
in the cloud and the sea. The Methodist, of course, must find sprinkling
here, and a little of perverse ingenuity may do that as easily as postmillennialism
may find the conversion of the world in the Second Psalm. William Taylor,
----and a very good man, by the way ----writes
upon this theme, 'The children of Israel walked upon dry land in
the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right
hand, and on their left.' Exod. xiv,29. It could not, therefore, have
been by immersion. The Egyptians were immersed but not baptized; the Israelites
were baptized but not immersed.
How could it have been administered, in accordance with the historic
facts in the case?
We have plain Scripture statement showing how it could occur, and
just at the suitable time for its occurrence, and, as I believe, the very
mode and fact itself of their baptism. We read in Psalm lxxvii that, at
the appropriate time for that part of the great transaction, 'the clouds
poured out water.
'O, that was a shower of rain, a very common occurrence!
Very uncommon in that desert, and the application of it to the host
at that hour was very extraordinary and significant, and hence the subject
of special inspired reference five hundred years after.
This is ingenuity indeed, but methinks that the method of argumentation
which can prove sprinkling from such scriptures could prove anything from
anything. Baptist ingenuity, however, is not to be outdone, and a good
Baptist, in relating an account of a revival, turns the text to his own
account in the following manner: The ordinance was administered;
in order to do which, both the candidate and the administrator descended
as low as did the Israelites when they were baptized unto Moses, i.e.
to the bottom of the channel!
As said above, I am often perfectly amazed at the ingenuity which men
manifest in this unholy business, and am led to exclaim, Ah! if only such
mental powers could be employed in the defense of the truth! But the plain
fact is this: though the Bible contains many things hard to be understood,
still there is generally no need of such ingenuity in the defense of the
truth. It requires no mental gymnastics to take the statements of Scripture
in their plain and natural sense. The true interpretation of the Bible
offers little occasion for the display of man's proud intellect. The fact
is, the things of God are hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed
to babes, and it is God the Father himself who so hides them, and so reveals
them. (Luke 10:21). When men approach the Bible, they had best put off
their shoes, and their ingenuity also.
But more. If I am amazed at the ingenuity which men employ to evade the
force of Scripture, I am equally amazed at how quickly they will pounce
upon any and every text which seems to support their system
unerringly they will discover that interpretation which tells in their
favor, and how quickly they will adopt that interpretation as the certain
truth, though it may be as unlikely as a barking cat or a dog in a treetop.
This appears to me to be nothing more than insincerity and dishonesty.
An honest regard for the truth compels me to proceed upon just the opposite
principle. I never adopt an interpretation of any text, merely because
it tells in favor of my position. If I must err at all, I aim to err on
the other side. I habitually, as a matter of principle, give full weight
to every text which appears to speak against the doctrine which I hold.
I will not pare down any text to bring it into conformity to doctrines
which I hold. I give to every text as much force and weight on the other
side as I well can, and only reluctantly, after long and careful deliberation,
will I adopt any interpretation which supports the doctrines which I hold.
As a matter of principle I will not adopt any interpretation which favors
my own doctrines until I have considered it long, and weighed it well,
and until I am persuaded that it must be interpreted in favor of my position.
My love of the truth dictates this course. To proceed upon any other plan
is simply to blindfold ourselves, and shut out the light from our own
eyes. We profess that the Bible is our final authority, but that profession
is empty. Our real and only authority is the doctrine which we hold. We
have set that doctrine above and against the Bible, and removed the Bible
out of court. We use the Bible as Balaam used his ass ----happy
to ride, so long as it will carry us whither we will, but using all our
might to beat it into submission so soon as it endeavors to correct us.
Every text of Scripture which seems to militate against any position which
we hold is a warning beacon, to tell us that we may not be exactly in
the right path. A simple love of the truth will cause us to give full
heed to every one of those warning beacons
----to consider them
in all their bearings, and to consider our own position always in the
light of them. To ignore them is foolish, and to use our subtlety, sophistry,
and ingenuity to move those beacons into our own path is both foolish
and dishonest. We thus insure that we never shall know the truth.
It seems to me that all of this is self-evident. But if so, then how little
love of the truth must there be in the church of God. Most Christians
evidently have more faith in their own understanding than they do in the
book which is given to them to enlighten that understanding. When the
two come in conflict, the book must give way to their understanding. The
book must be wrested and twisted and hacked and hewed and mangled and
mauled, in order to bring it into conformity to our own understanding.
And every motion of this wresting and hewing proclaims the fact that we
do not trust the book. And the whole process proclaims our pride. Pride
and unbelief walk together, as surely as faith and humility do.
It is not my desire to single out particular persons or doctrines for
censure, for almost all are guilty of it, but I must select some for illustration,
and I begin with that which is perhaps the most widespread and common.
This consists of ignoring, paring down, and explaining away half of the
Bible in order to maintain an unscriptural doctrine of salvation by faith
only. The Bible teaches salvation by faith, but not by faith to the exclusion
of repentance and holiness. Martin Luther, however, in reacting against
the legal theology of Romanism, insisted upon speaking of faith
only, and the same doctrine which led him to put out the book of
James from the canon of Scripture moved him to put in the word only,
wherever the Bible speaks of salvation by faith. When reprimanded for
this, he defended it, and thus salvation by faith only became
the standard orthodoxy of Protestantism.
This created work enough for Protestants who were sincere enough to aim
to uphold the Bible. Luther's friend and coadjutor Philip Melancthon,
conceived that Luther carried his doctrine respecting justification
by faith only to such an extent as to nullify the importance and obligation
of good works, so that his statements required explanation. Melancthon
had work enough to do, while upholding Luther's language, to so explain
it as to bring it into conformity with Scripture, and he writes, I
trust you will not be influenced by the sycophantic writings of Flacius
Illyricus, who invents absolute falsehoods. I have never said, I have
never written, I have never thought what he declares I have said respecting
the phrase 'we are justified by faith only;'namely, that it is absurd
and a kind of subtle trifling about words
----I have indeed spoken
and written many things respecting the manner in which the exclusive term
['only'] is to be understood as well as many others; and have been at
great pains to correct the misinterpretation of many put upon the word
But Protestants in general have long since discovered an easier way. The
most unguarded interpretation of Luther's unguarded language has long
since been generally established as the standard of orthodoxy, and men
are no longer at great pains to explain Luther's only so as
to conform it to Scripture, but are now at great pains to explain the
Scriptures so as to conform them to Luther's only. Many of
those explanations are as ridiculous as they are ingenious. I have heard
a Baptist preacher with an earned doctor's degree quote Hebrews 12:14
as without holiness no man shall see the Lord in your life,
as though this solemn text means nothing more than that your testimony
will be spoiled by your unholiness
----and as though the unholy
cared a whit about that. I have heard the same Baptist preacher quote
Romans 8:13 as For if ye live after the flesh ye are dead ----so
far as any fellowship with God is concerned. But the text does not
say ye are dead, but ye shall die, and refers
to nothing other than the second death, for all men die the first death,
whether they live after the flesh or not. But this man's doctrine denies
that living after the flesh has anything to do with the question of our
salvation, and therefore he must twist and wrest the plain statements
of the Bible in order to bring them into conformity to his doctrine. This
is not honest interpretation.
But this dishonest interpretation prevails in the church today. When I
was a student at Bible school, I went to a visiting lecturer and asked
him what Paul could have meant by If by any means I might attain
unto the resurrection of the dead
----for we all held that
there was no doubt about the matter. He replied that Paul was referring
to the resurrection quality of life. Such an answer, however,
could satisfy neither my reason nor my conscience. Mere common sense told
me then that that was certainly not what Paul meant, and the same common
sense tells me today that a man who will so interpret the Scriptures is
utterly unfit to interpret them at all. He derives his interpretation
from his doctrine, rather than his doctrine from his interpretation. The
Bible is thus ruled out of court, and its power to correct our errors
made null and void.
But worse. The Bible is not only ruled out of court by this means, but
the apostles and prophets who wrote it are continually made to appear
to be the most consummate dolts and dunces, who are everywhere incapable
of speaking plain English, or plain Greek, or ever saying what they mean.
But it is common with preachers everywhere thus to explain away every
text of Scripture which insists upon repentance, righteousness, holiness,
and in short, any and every responsibility of man, except bare faith.
That dishonest interpretation has been reduced to a system, and with many
that system has more authority than the Bible. Men believe in the system,
though they must disbelieve the Bible to do so. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in
whose hands this system of unbelief has been brought to the utmost refinement
(while he thinks to defend faith!!), affirms, The sum total of sin
in the present age is unbelief (John 16:9), as the sum total of human
responsibility toward God in securing a right relation to God is belief
(John 6:29). This might be legitimate if the two texts to which
he refers were the only texts in the Bible, but what is he to do with
Repent and believe the gospel? What is he to do with the lifelong
preaching of Paul, that they should repent and turn to God, and
do works meet for repentance? (Acts 26:20). The only thing he can
do with such scriptures is to explain them away
----and that he
does. He treats the matter of repentance on pages 372-378 of the volume
already quoted. He grants that a covenant people (by which
he means the Jews) may repent as an act separate from faith, but proceeds
to say, When entering upon this phase of this study, it is first
necessary to eliminate all portions of the New Testament which introduce
the word repentance in its relation to covenant people. Thus with
one stroke he thinks to eliminate most of the scriptures which
bear on the subject, but the stroke is nothing to his purpose if (as I
surely believe) the Lord spoke these words to the Jews as lost sinners,
and not merely as covenant-breaking Jews. Chafer certainly knew that John
chapter 6, which he cites to prove that man's sole responsibility is belief,
was spoken to Jews, yet there he takes those Jews to be representative
of the whole human race. Why not the same, then, when the Lord speaks
to the same Jews of repentance? But a few more strokes, equally invalid,
and he will have eliminated repentance altogether. In some passages repentance
is a mere synonym of believing ----an assertion which
does not even call for refutation, since Chafer offers not one iota of
reason or proof for the statement, and the burden of proof for so bold
an assertion surely lies upon him who makes it. The plain fact is, Chafer
has no reason, except the necessities of his doctrine. This is nothing
other than that doctrinal interpretation which I have been endeavoring
to expose throughout this article. Yet if any desire a refutation of Chafer's
assertion, I need only say, it would be every whit as legitimate to quote
various texts which require faith, and affirm that faith is a mere synonym
In other texts, Chafer tells us, repentance is a mere change of mind.
But he singles out four scriptures for special treatment. These are:
----And that repentance and remission of sins should
be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
----When they heard these things, they held their
peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted
repentance unto life.
----Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the
Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
----But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and
at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the
Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for
The attentive reader will observe that the obvious reason for singling
out these texts for special treatment is that in all four of them the
Jews and the Gentiles are set on the same level, repentance being equally
required of both of them. His argument about the covenant people,
therefore, will not do here. What then? Why, in the first and second of
these four texts repent is a synonym of believe,
while in the fourth its correct meaning is a change of mind.
But how did he determine this? How is it that in two texts repent
is a synonym of believe, and in another it is a change of
mind? It would be just as legitimate to take three cats, and inform us
that two of them are dogs, and the other a giraffe.
But what of the third of these four texts? Chafer offers no explanation
of that, except to remind us that there are 150 scriptures which require
faith of us, without mentioning repentance, as though that serves to invalidate
the scriptures which do mention repentance. He cannot here make repentance
a synonym of believing, for faith is required in the next clause. We really
do not know why he did not tell us that repentance in this verse is a
change of mind (which is the common explanation). Instead, he comes dangerously
near the truth, affirming that repentance toward God could not itself
constitute, in this case, the equivalent of 'faith toward our Lord Jesus
Christ,' though it may prepare for that faith. Surely he forgot
But my readers may suppose that I deal hardly with the man. Perhaps, but
no more so than he has merited. The time was, thirty years ago, when I
could hardly read Chafer without being overcome with emotion, and pausing
to lift up my voice to God, to praise him that ever there lived such a
man as Lewis Sperry Chafer. But I thank God, he long ago delivered me
from that sinister system of unbelief, erroneously called the doctrine
of faith, of which Chafer was one of the foremost advocates. Whatever
that doctrine may be, it is not faith. It is certainly not faith in the
Bible, for it constantly wrests and twists and explains it away. No man
would dare to interpret any other book or document after this fashion.
But observe, Chafer was no more guilty than thousands of others are. He
puts the prevailing unbelief into a concise written statement, but the
same unbelief, and the same doctrinal interpretation of Scripture, prevail
throughout modern Evangelicalism. Such interpretation is dishonest. We
do not like to accuse anyone of dishonesty, and so far as individuals
are concerned, we are aware that many have rather inherited that system
of unbelief than invented it. Yet that does not absolve them of responsibility
for holding it. It was precisely the dishonesty of this interpretation
which served to deliver me from it years ago. My conscience could not
allow it. Though I held the very same doctrines as Lewis Sperry Chafer,
yet I felt that we must deal deceitfully with the Scriptures in order
to maintain those doctrines, and I was eventually forced by conscience
to give up both the interpretations and the doctrines which required them.
I might illustrate the evil of the doctrinal interpretation of Scripture
from various other theological systems. Wesleyan perfectionism is guilty
of it, and so is modern self-indulgence, as are various doctrines of divine
healing. Pentecostalism is guilty, and so is anti-Pentecostalism. One
of the most flagrantly guilty, however, is Calvinism. Even Spurgeon complains
of this, in the first lecture in his Commenting & Commentaries. Speaking
of the ponderous volumes of John Gill, he affirms that Gill does well
except when he falls upon a text which is not congenial with his
creed, and hacks and hews terribly to bring the word of God into a more
systematic shape. I was for some years an extreme Calvinist myself,
holding even the reprobation and damnation of infants. My deliverance
from that system was gradual. Two things worked together to effect it.
The first was, that God began to thaw out my cold heart, and teach me
to love and to feel and to weep. I would not pretend that no Calvinists
do so, but I have observed that Calvinists who have hearts, and who feel
and love and weep, are generally very uneasy with their Calvinism, and
either hold the system so inconsistently, or state it in terms so soft,
that it practically ceases to be Calvinism.
The second thing which wrought to deliver me from that system was simply
a regard for what the Bible says. Even while I was a Calvinist I began
to excuse the Arminians, for it plainly appeared to me that in their simplicity
of heart they were led into their error (as I then regarded it) by a simple
adherence to the plain statements of Scripture, taken in their natural
and apparent meaning. That simplicity, however, I regarded as their misfortune
rather than their virtue. We Calvinists knew better. We knew that those
many texts which the Arminians took at face value were written only to
be explained away
----written, that is, to be explained according
to the analogy of faith, which to our minds was Calvinism.
One of the texts which had great weight with me in delivering me from
this system was how often would I have gathered thy children together,
as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not.
(Luke 13:34). The word rendered would both times in this verse
is the Greek , to will. I would, and ye would not. Christ's
will was one thing, the sinners' will another, and the sinners' will prevailed
over the will of Christ. I subsequently asked a Calvinist what he could
make of this, and he answered nonchalantly that Christ spoke merely as
a man in this text. This is simply explaining away the text in order to
bring it into conformity to the doctrine, and by this kind of interpretation
all Scripture is wiped out as a corrective to any false notion which any
man may hold. Not only so, but such doctrinal interpretation usually creates
greater difficulties than it solves. One such explanation usually creates
the necessity for a dozen others. If Christ spoke merely as a man here,
why not elsewhere also, and who is to determine where? If he spoke merely
as a man here, he evidently spoke as man whose will stood in opposition
to his Father's will, and what then becomes of He that hath seen
me hath seen the Father?
I forbear to give further examples. My quarrel in this article is not
with Calvinism, nor with easy believism, nor with perfectionism,
nor with any other particular doctrine, but with every man's interpreting
of the Scriptures merely to uphold his own doctrines. This is dishonest,
and foolish also, for it practically removes the Bible out of court. And
it is not only erroneous doctrine which is guilty of this. Many who hold
the truth are just as guilty. I am a pretribulationist, and yet I tell
you frankly that I would be profoundly ashamed to use some of the arguments
which many pretribulationists use. I plainly acknowledge that there are
difficulties in pretribulationism
----not many nor grave difficulties,
but at least one or two texts which seem to speak in another direction.
But in any other system there are not only difficulties, but impossibilities.
I surely believe that pretribulationism is the truth, but I will not deal
deceitfully with the Scriptures in order to remove difficulties out of
its way. The plain fact is, there are difficulties in most every true
doctrine. The Bible is not easy of interpretation, but contains many things
hard to be understood, and we are all of us mere children.
To affect to be men will not make us so. Let us rather confess that we
are children, and study to be honest and humble children, who hang upon
the word of our Father, and trust in it, rather than explaining it away
in order to maintain our own shallow and unsound notions. In short, let
us have nothing to do with the doctrinal interpretation of Scripture.
Inquire of the Former Age
by Glenn Conjurske
I have no question that pride is one of the major hindrances to progress
in the church of the present day. Every man supposes himself to know some
things, and Knowledge puffs up. Even a large dosage of the
most excellent sort of knowledge has that tendency, among men who are
sinful in heart. But a little knowledge is more dangerous still, especially
if it be the wrong sort of knowledge, and the longer I live, the more
I feel this, when I see the most ignorant supposing themselves very learned,
and men everywhere who are shallow and ignorant at best, yet setting up
as teachers of the church, editors of magazines, authors of books, and
even translators of the Bible. I feel a solemn responsibility in this
proud age to bear a frequent testimony to the fact that we know
----that in fact none of us know much, and that most
of us don't know half of what we think we do. I may in time ----not
for a while, however ----run out of texts of Scripture from which
to harp upon this string, but when I do I suppose I will be obliged to
begin afresh, and use the same texts over again.
Meanwhile consider the text which stands above as the title of this article.
One of Job's friends
----though certain enough of his own mistaken
notions ----had the good sense to say, For enquire, I pray
thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers,
for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth
are a shadow. (Job. 8:8-9). What solemn truth is here! How can we
know anything, who were born but yesterday, and whose days are a shadow?
Our life is a vapor, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth
away. As the smoke from the chimney, or the steam from the kettle, so
is our life. It vanishes away almost as soon as it appears. Yet in that
little vapor of time we are to become wise.
Now observe the doctrine of this text. We know nothing. Not
absolutely nothing, but comparatively nothing. Why do we know nothing?
Because we have not time to learn anything. It requires time to learn
anything aright, time to perceive the bearings and relationships of things,
time to learn what the questions are, and much more time to find out the
answers. Indeed, it seems to me that in general the most we can hope for
in this little vapor of life is to learn what the questions are, and I
count the man wise who knows that, though the answers are far beyond him.
When we have learned what the questions are, if we have yet a little time
left in which to learn, by process of elimination, what the answers are
not, we may consider ourselves fortunate. But the present age knows the
answers without knowing the questions, and of course counts itself passing
wise. I counsel it to pay heed to this solemn word of Bildad the Shuhite,
We know nothing.
But again, why do we know nothing? Because, Bildad affirms, We are
but of yesterday. Our little vapor of life has been too short to
learn anything. We only grope for answers, perhaps not knowing what the
questions are, perhaps not knowing where to look for the answers. We may
spend half of our little vapor of life
----or the whole of it ----as
David Livingstone spent his last six years, in searching for the source
of the Nile, having a secret misgiving all the while that it was not the
Nile which he was following, but the Congo. His misgiving proved to be
the fact, but the vapor of life was gone, and he never found what he sought,
nor ever came near it. How many men pursue wisdom in the same manner,
without even so much as a secret misgiving that they are following the
There was little loss in Livingstone's failure, as there would have been
little gain in his success, but we have a more noble and more profitable
undertaking, in the pursuit of truth and wisdom, and yet we must pursue
it as infants or lame men pursuing a fox. Most of us begin with a hundred
prejudices and false notions which we must overcome, and all of us have
a thousand knotty questions with which to wrestle
----if we ever
advance so far as to learn what those questions are. But the greatest
hurdle in the way is our thinking we know, when we do not. Paul says,
And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing
yet as he ought to know. (I Cor. 8:2). Our knowledge is partial,
fragmentary, in a glass darkly. We know nothing,
for we are but of yesterday.
But query, who is it who uses this strong language? Surely he must have
been a mere stripling, a mere kindergartner, to say that he was born but
yesterday, and therefore knew nothing. How old was Bildad the Shuhite?
Without pretending to give his age in years, we may safely say that he
was much older than I or any of my readers. Job's friends were old men,
and that in a day when men lived long. Job himself lived a hundred and
forty years after his great trial, and we suppose he must have been at
least sixty at the time of it, since he had ten grown children. In the
hundred and forty years which he lived after his trial, he saw four generations
of his offspring, which places the average of the minimum length of those
generations at thirty-five years. Job's father, then, must have been nearly
a hundred years old at the time of Job's trial. But what of Job's friends?
Eliphaz says in the fifteenth chapter (verses 9 & 10), What
knowest thou, that we know not? What understandest thou, which is not
in us? With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than
thy father. Now the plain fact is, men who were accounted very
aged in an age when men lived two hundred years were aged indeed.
They were much elder than Job's aged father, and of course
much older than any of us. Yet one of these men must lament that we
are but of yesterday, and know nothing. What then shall
we say of ourselves? Verily, we are the merest babes, and we know nothing.
Yet if we know that, truly we know something. If we but learn our ignorance,
we in fact take possession of one of the keys of knowledge.
Well, but we live in the prophesied time of the end, when knowledge
shall be increased (Dan. 12:4), and if it has always been difficult
for proud man to learn his ignorance, that difficulty is greatly increased
in our own day. Knowledge is increased, and in direct proportion to the
increase of knowledge, men are puffed up.
But what sort of knowledge is increased? Man now knows of the moons of
Jupiter, the distance to the sun, the surface of Mars, the rings of Saturn,
the existence of far-off galaxies, how to split the atom, how to manipulate
genes and chromosomes, how to harness electrical power, how to produce
radio waves and X rays, and ten thousand other matters equally profound
equally needless to the kingdom of God. So far as solid and substantial
spiritual knowledge is concerned ----knowledge of the ways of God,
the ways of faith, the nature of sin, the nature of the world, the nature
of the devil ----the church today is certainly very far beneath
what it was three hundred years ago. Yet the church has imbibed the same
pride and self-importance which has puffed up the world, and complacently
views itself as wise and enlightened, in spite of its prevailing shallowness
and ignorance. How many modern preachers have ever preached on the text,
We know nothing? How many of my readers have ever heard a
sermon on this text?
But I turn from Bildad's acknowledgement to his advice. We,
he says, are but of yesterday, and know nothing.
Therefore, he says, Inquire of the former age. We whose days
are but a shadow, we who have lived but 150 or 200 years, we are but of
yesterday. Let us therefore inquire of the former age, when men lived
nine hundred years
----when they lived long enough to learn something.
To inquire of that age was probably quite possible in Job's day. We assume
from the number of years which Job lived that he was contemporary with
Abraham, or a little earlier. We know too that almost the whole of Abraham's
short life of 175 years was lived during the long life of Shem, the son
of Noah, who rode the ark over the waters of the flood, and conversed
with Noah, the seventh from Adam, for three centuries afterwards. Shem
the son of Noah, Arphaxad the son of Shem, Salah the son of Arphaxad,
and Eber the son of Salah ----all these were doubtless alive during
the lifetime of Job, and doubtless something of the wisdom of the old
patriarchs was yet known to them.
We, however, cannot inquire of that age. It is very much easier to let
wisdom slip than it is to acquire it. One careless and complacent generation
may lose what a dozen diligent and careful generations have acquired,
and it is certain that whatever wisdom the old patriarchs may have acquired
in their centuries of life has been mostly lost by their offspring. We
cannot inquire of the former age. Yet we can inquire of a former age,
though the present age is grown too wise to have much inclination to do
so. About twenty years ago I was upstairs in the used book department
of the old Baker Book House on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids. This was
one of my usual haunts, and I was often enough mistaken for an employee,
by the other customers. One woman came inquiring for a good commentary
on the whole Bible. Good commentaries are almost nonexistent, but as one
of the fuller and more interesting ones, I suggested Adam Clarke. She
asked who he was. A Methodist preacher, said I, of the
late eighteenth century. Oh! she said, I don't
want anything that old.
And why not? The plain fact is, no single generation has time enough to
learn much, but if we incorporate and build upon the wisdom of former
generations, we may perchance make a little progress. But men today are
puffed up with their own supposed enlightenment, and too generally despise
the former ages. They suppose that wisdom was born with them. They want
something modern and contemporary and up
to date. And since the modern fellow who wrote it was probably as
enamored with modern scholarship as they are themselves, and
as much despised the former ages as they do themselves, they shall spend
their money for shallow trish-trash
----for the babblings of a babe,
who was too wise to listen to his fathers. Indeed, it is a great grief
to me, in occasionally looking over the bibliographies at the back of
some modern books, to see that almost all the books they list are modern
ones. There is little chance of learning wisdom at this rate.
But the modern age is too impressed with itself to wish it otherwise.
I once read some detracting comments (by whom I do not remember) on one
of Wilbur M. Smith's books on books. I do not much admire Wilbur M. Smith,
nor his books on books. He had too little spirituality himself to be able
to tell the difference between a spiritual book and an intellectual one,
and though (of course) he lists some good books, he lists more chaff than
wheat. But the comments to which I refer slighted Mr. Smith on another
ground, namely, that many of the books which he listed were a hundred
years old. But this is just what the present age needs, and not only books
a hundred years old, but two hundred and three hundred.
The present age is very shallow
----too shallow indeed to perceive
its own shallowness. It verily believes itself to be enlightened and wise,
but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves
among themselves, are not wise. (II Cor. 10:12). Let the present
age compare itself with the former ages, and there is a chance it may
perceive that the old is better. Better still, there is a
chance it may become better itself.
But let my readers understand, Bildad does not say Ye know nothing,
nor to Job, Thou knowest nothing, but We know nothing.
And I do not say to my readers, Ye know nothing, but say for
all of us, We know nothing. Though for more than thirty years
I have made it my chief business to get wisdom with all my getting,
I certainly cannot pretend to know much. Though for thirty years I have
poured all the money I could into books, denying myself most everything
else to that end, and though I am often up before three in the morning
to delve into those books, still I am constantly impressed with two things:
I know but little after all, and there is little chance I shall learn
much more in the fleeting years which might remain to me. Though for thirty
years I have studied and prayed and observed and conversed and discussed
and inquired and meditated in the diligent pursuit of all the mysteries
of revealed wisdom, and all the avenues of human experience
all of this I must constantly say, I don't know. My most common
answer, when various questions are proposed to me, is, I don't know.
What is thirty years in which to learn anything? The grand desideratum
in acquiring wisdom is experience, and what can we experience in thirty
years? Verily, almost nothing. We may be more than thirty years in learning
a little humility, before we can begin to learn anything else aright.
Bildad was perhaps two hundred years old, and certainly much more than
one hundred, and yet it is he who says, We are but of yesterday, and know
Not that I suppose that I know absolutely nothing
nothing. For more than thirty years I have made it my business to get
wisdom with all my getting, and I believe that God has blessed me with
some little of it, and called me too to teach it to his people. But without
doubt one facet of that wisdom which God has given to me, and called upon
me to testify to his people, is surely just this, that We are but of yesterday,
and know nothing. We aim to call our readers back from the wild frontiers
of self-confident change, to the Olde Paths & Ancient Landmarks. We
aim to call them down from the dizzy heights of self-gratulation to which
the present puffed-up age has borne them, to sober thinking, and humble
and painstaking study. We aim to call them away from the murky smog of
modern intellectualism, to the pure and fresh mountain air of old-fashioned
And this is one of the primary reasons we advocate inquiring of the former
age. There is depth and wisdom in many of the old writers which the present
age does not possess, and which it will certainly never acquire by reading
But observe, we advocate that our readers inquire of the former
age, and not merely of that small segment of it which will serve
to confirm them in their own opinion. There are always some who delight
to consult some small segment of the former ages, in order to find support
for their own doctrines. There have always been, and no doubt always will
be, Calvinists who delight to read Owen and Edwards, and Plymouth Brethren
who pore over the pages of Darby, but this is hardly inquiring of the
former age. This is only narrowing the mind
----only dying the bluish
garment deeper blue, where we want a coat of many colors.
It is the fashion of many just now to read Burgon. So far, so good. Burgon
is most excellent reading, who has more of depth and wisdom in his little
finger than a hundred modern authors have in their whole body. But reading
Burgon is not inquiring of the former age. Most of those who admire Burgon
the most have never yet understood him, and his detractors understand
him but little better. Both sides are destitute of some part of his wisdom,
though not altogether the same part. Reading Burgon has not supplied the
lack on either side. Reading Burgon may be a good beginning, but something
more than this is wanted. Let the men of this day diligently inquire
of the former age. Let them read Bishop Hall and Richard Baxter
and John Fletcher and John Wesley and John Newton and Bishop Ryle, to
name a few among the wisest. Let them spend a quarter century in this
happy employment, and who can tell what wonders might be wrought in the
beloved church of God?
The Editor Answers David W. Cloud
In December, 1997, I published a review of David W. Cloud's book For
Love of the Bible
----which I inadvertently titled For the Love
of the Bible, and discovered the mistake too late to correct it. I sent
that review to Mr. Cloud, along with a letter, asking him to let me know
if he thought I had not done him justice in any matter. I received no
reply. He sent his complaints, however, to Ron Minton, of Springfield,
Missouri. Minton forwarded Cloud's remarks to me. I answered them in a
letter to Cloud, dated December 15. To that letter I received no reply.
I must therefore base these remarks on what Mr. Cloud wrote to Mr. Minton.
Cloud: He forces his own views of 'King James Only' on me and my
book and reviews my book from that light, making me out to be a deceiver
(though he does not call me that). He does not let me speak for myself.
It is not really a review of my book; it is an occasion for re-airing
his own views.
Conjurske: I do not call Cloud a deceiver, nor do I believe him one, though
I believe him mistaken. To using the review as an occasion for re-airing
my own views I plead guilty. Who writes for any other purpose? But I do
and will allow him to speak for himself.
Cloud: I have nowhere stated or even implied that my exact position
is held by many of the men I have quoted. I did not force any position
on them. I let them speak for themselves, and I repeatedly stated that
they did not necessarily believe exactly like I do in regard to all details
of this issue. I very plainly distinguished between those
who defend the Received Text in general and those who defend the King
James Bible in more particular senses. I did not merely say this in passing,
but I emphasized this point not once but repeatedly through the book.
I said plainly that I was not attempting to pretend that all of the men
in my history held the same exact view that I hold. I do not believe that
I took anything out of context or that I forced any man's views into a
mold they would not appreciate.
Conjurske: In all of this Cloud speaks truly enough. I have no doubt that
such was his honest aim and endeavor, and I gladly bear my witness to
the fact. My fear, however, was that his particular statements to that
effect were not sufficient to offset the general impression given by the
apparent thesis of the book, namely that the King James Only doctrines
are not new. If those doctrines are not new, then at least some of those
men of past generations, whom Cloud quotes in his book, must have held
them. In my letter to Cloud of December 15 I say,
You say you carefully distinguished between those who defend the
TR only in a general sense, and those who defend it in 'more particular
senses.' I know you did, but I think not carefully enough. I quoted your
most explicit statement to that effect, but contended it was not sufficient
to counteract the impression given by these many quotations that these
men support your own position, especially when you elsewhere contend that
your position is not new, and even so define 'King James Only' as to include
them. I quoted that also. What more could I say? Perhaps my statement
that you misuse these men was too strong, but in the next sentence I acquit
you of intentionally misusing them. As I see it, you either misunderstand
the men, or the issue.
No doubt much of the difficulty here centers in his definition of King
James Only. He so defines King James Only as to include
Miller and Burgon
----and so of course to include virtually all
of those whom he quotes in the book. He supposes that many of them almost
agree with his position, when in fact they are very far apart. These men
agree with my position, not Cloud's ----and yet Cloud seems well
enough aware that he and I do not almost agree. We agree on the excellence
of the King James Version, but are absolutely at odds concerning its inerrancy,
and of course at odds in all those doctrines and principles which are
involved in the matter. But Cloud seems to have little conception of the
gulf which exists between generally accurate and inerrant.
Cloud: Conjurske is very confused about what doctrines I hold. He
claims I am contending for doctrines that Munhall refutes, but that is
nonsense. I do not believe transcribers, translators and revisers are
inspired. I do not believe in the double inspiration or the KJV greater
revelation or other strange theories of Ruckman. I have publicly denounced
such views and have brought the wrath of the Ruckman crowd upon my head
in the process. They do not consider me a true Bible believer. I believe
that God inspired holy men of old and their writings. Period. I have repeatedly
emphasized in my writings on this topic that inspiration has to do with
the Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic text. Period. A translation is the accurate
and inspired Word of God only insofar as it accurately translates the
Conjurske: I was well aware before that Cloud repudiates the doctrines
of Ruckman, which set the King James Version above the originals, but
the latter half of this statement, concerning the inspiration of the originals
only, I judge to be quite unaccountable, and in direct contradiction to
the statements which Mr. Cloud makes in his book.
But we must define the issues. Cloud says he does not believe in the inspiration
of transcribers, translators and revisers. Yet according to
the plain statements of his book he does believe in the perfection, inerrancy,
or infallibility of both the printed Textus Receptus and the King James
Version, and is not this the same thing as believing in their inspiration?
I do not know how to separate inspiration and inerrancy. If the book is
inerrant, it must be inspired, and vice versa. At any rate, on December
15 I wrote as follows to Mr. Cloud:
You do not believe that 'translators and revisers' are inspired.
I assume by that you refer to the work of the translators and revisers.
But the King James Version is the work of translators and revisers, therefore
according to your statement not inspired, therefore not inerrant or infallible.
According to this you must not believe in the inerrancy or infallibility
of the King James Version. I honestly believed that you did. Your book
indicates that you do. Observe:
I am well aware that there are two issues involved: 1. the text,
& 2. the translation of it. I keep these issues separate. I believe
that even if the text were perfect, that would not even insure that the
translation was good. But the King James Only movement, as I understand
it, usually does not keep these issues separate, but believes in the perfection
of both the TR and the KJV. You seem to join these issues together in
the following statement, which I quoted in my review:
'We see that Miller, like Burgon, did not consider the Received
Text, the text underlying the King James Bible, necessarily to be absolutely
perfect. We believe they were wrong, but the fact is that this was their
position. Some take hold of this and say it is unethical for today's 'King
James Only'crowd to claim ancestry with these men. The fact is that Miller
was 'King James Only' in the sense that he believed the King James Bible
to be the only accurate English translation of the preserved text of Holy
'This quotation (your own words) explicitly states your belief in the
'absolute perfection' of the TR, and by implication of the KJV, for the
term 'King James Only' must certainly refer to the translation, and not
merely to the original text. You repeatedly quote the language of others,
who contend that there are 'no errors' in the KJV, or that it is 'perfect'
or 'infallible,' and never express any disagreement with their statements.
You say explicitly, 'I do not believe the King James Bible contains any
errors.' (pg. 11).
On the basis of all of the above it was my sincere belief that you
believe in the perfection, inerrancy, or infallibility of both the TR
and the KJV. If I was mistaken in that, it was a mistake I could hardly
help, considering what your book says. But you should understand that
I aim at truth, not victory. If I have misrepresented your position, I
will be more than glad to correct it. And I will let you speak for yourself.
Give me a concise and explicit statement that you do not believe in the
inerrancy, perfection, or infallibility (or whatever you wish to call
it, for they all amount to the same thing) of the King James Version,
and I will be more than glad to publish it. If you do believe in the infallibility,
perfection, or inerrancy of the King James Version, I am at a loss to
know wherein I have misrepresented your position.
Again, Your communication to Minton says, 'I have repeatedly emphasized
in my writings on this topic that inspiration has to do with the Greek
and Hebrew and Aramaic text. Period. A translation is the accurate and
inspired Word of God only insofar as it accurately translates the original
text.' Very well. That is exactly what I believe myself, but I do not
know how to reconcile it with what you have said in your book. When you
come to define 'insofar,' your book says the KJV perfectly translates
the original text
----'I do not believe the King James Bible contains
any errors.' Is there some hair here that I do not know how to split?
As things now stand, I really cannot see wherein I have misrepresented
you, but I am quite willing to hear what you have to say.
But one important matter remains:
Cloud: I have made every attempt to distinguish my views from Ruckman,
and the differences are significant, but Conjurske insists on lumping
me into the Ruckman category.
Conjurske: In case I have given to anybody the wrong impression in this
matter, I here take the occasion to state that I do not identify Mr. Cloud
with Peter Ruckman, or with any of Ruckman's peculiarities
only insofar as to affirm that they both belong to the King James Only
movement, both holding the distinguishing tenet which has created that
movement, namely, the infallibility of the King James Version. I wrote
to Cloud on Dec. 15, I never in my review identified you with Ruckman,
though I may have inadvertently given that impression, by using Ruckman's
name, and failing to explicitly state the contrary. I apologize for that.
Perhaps I should not have used Ruckman's name in the review, but I said
at the outset that I was reviewing the movement, and Ruckman and Fuller
are certainly the fathers of the movement. If I remember rightly, I only
used Ruckman's name when referring to the origin of the movement. And
though at the present day the Ruckmanites and the Fullerites have parted
company, they all agree on the distinguishing tenet of the King James
Only movement, namely, the inerrancy of the King James Version. That is
my definition of the King James Only movement, and I believe any other
definition begs the question. But I fully dealt with that in the review.
Since writing the above I have addressed Mr. Cloud once more, and received
a letter in reply, in which he writes, I have made a clear distinction
between an accurate translation and an inerrant original Greek and Hebrew
text, but you pretend that I do not. I have made a clear and significant
distinction between my view and that of Ruckman, yet you persist in putting
me so close to Ruckman that there is no significant difference. I have
plainly distinguished between various positions within the camp of the
defense of the TR and the KJV, yet you pretend that I lump every man mentioned
in my book in the same camp. You have me claiming that all of the men
I cited in my book were defenders of the King James Bible in the same
sense that I am, whereas I repeatedly told my readers that they were not.
Contrary to the picture you are giving your readers, I did not misrepresent
their true positions on the Bible. You build straw men. You put words
in my mouth. I believe you are guilty of slander...
This contains no answer to anything which I had written, but only a repetition
of the things which I had answered before. I only add that I do not pretend
anything, but represent Cloud's position just as I actually believe it
to be. Nor is there anything of slander in what I have said. If this were
slander, I would not have sent it to Cloud, to ask him if he believed
it fair. Finally, I quote from my answer to Cloud's last letter:
You say you 'have made a plain distinction between an accurate translation
and an inerrant original Greek and Hebrew text.' True, but this is not
the question. Do you also distinguish between an 'accurate' translation
and an 'inerrant' translation? The above statement seems to imply that
you do not believe the translation inerrant, but in your book you explicitly
say that you believe there are no errors in the KJV. The only way I know
how to reconcile your two statements is to assume that by 'an accurate
translation' you mean an inerrant translation. 'Accurate' may be ambiguous,
meaning absolutely accurate, or generally accurate, but your statement
in the book is absolute, without any room for ambiguity, and it is only
right that I should interpret a possibly ambiguous statement in the light
of an absolute one. You yourself seem to define 'accurate' in the absolute
sense on page 11 of your book: 'I believe the King James Version is an
accurate and lovely translation of the preserved Greek and Hebrew text
of Scripture. I do not believe the King James Bible contains any errors.'
According to this, 'accurate' means 'inerrant.' But as said, if I am reading
you wrongly here, tell me plainly that you do not believe in an inerrant
translation, and I will be glad to publish it
----though I would
then be left with the question of how to reconcile that with the statement
in your book. A month has passed, and I have received no reply to
--- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---
n Book Review n
by Glenn Conjurske
The Honour of His Name, by Sir Robert Anderson
London: James Nisbet & Co., 1912, 80 pp.
This little book is unique, so far as I am aware, in all of Christian
literature. It is a vigorous protest against referring to the Lord Jesus
by his human name of Jesus. This is done so habitually by modern Christians
that I fear even the most reverent and conservative have become quite
accustomed to it, but I confess that I never hear it without some pain.
I spent three years at a Bible institute, of which John Miles was the
president. His brother George was once with us for a week of special lectures,
and in the course of those lectures he spoke briefly of his family, and
remarked, I love John because he loves Christ. This to me
has the right ring, and is such as I can be completely at home with, but
I confess that if he had said, I love John because he loves Jesus,
the precious thing would have been marred, if not spoiled. But I hardly
suppose that many of the old Fundamentalists would have been guilty of
using the name Jesus in such a way, any more than Paul would
have been guilty of saying, To me to live is Jesus.
As for Mr. Miles, it was quite proper for his brother to call
him John. The students, however
----loving and revering
him as we all did ---- all called him Mr. Miles. It
would have been quite unthinkable for us to call him anything else, and
if any of our fellow-students had ventured to call him John,
I dare say they would have met with a prompt and sound rebuke from the
rest of us. How is it, then, that the children of God continually speak
of the Lord of glory as Jesus?
James M. Gray, speaking of The Life of Jesus, by the modernist Harris
Franklin Rall, says, the almost exclusive use of the term 'Jesus'
in referring to him, while satisfactory to the man of the world, to the
Mohammedan, to the Jew and the non-Christian, is not at all so to the
true believer on him as the Saviour of the world.1 I quite assent
The book presently under our review speaks in the same vein:
The Rev. Dr. A. T. Pierson was one of the most intensely reverent
of men. When at the close of a lecture in old Exeter Hall he turned to
greet me, I thanked him heartily for the help his words had been to me,
but I added, 'There was one fly in the pot of ointment: why do you name
the Lord after the fashion of the vagabond Jews of Acts xix.?It
is all the fault of my evil theological training,' he replied, 'but keep
on reminding me.'Indeed theological training is much to blame for
this deplorable habit. For not only is the entire theology of Christendom
influenced by the writings of the Fathers, but very many of our modern
theological works are leavened by German scepticism. In fact our recent
Bible 'Dictionaries' and 'Encyclopædias' are essentially rationalistic,
and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is rarely found in their pages.
It is always 'Jesus' or 'Jesus Christ.' And this even with writers who
are punctiliously careful to prefix the name of an Apostle with the title
of 'Saint.' . . .
'Saint Mark' and 'Saint Peter,' but always 'Jesus'! Is it not evident
that this 'Jesus' is the dead Buddha of the Rationalist? No one could
write thus about our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, before
whose judgment-seat we all must stand. (pp. 9-11).
Yet it is a fact, whatever may be the reason, that many Evangelicals are
just as guilty of this as the modernists. Anderson (pg. 2) calls this
a habit that would have grieved and shocked the disciples of early
I say this advisedly; he continues, for in New Testament
days the disciple always declared himself by the manner in which he named
his Master. As we all know, the name of 'Jesus' occurs many hundreds of
times in the Gospels; but this fact lends great emphasis to the further
fact that whenever the narrative introduces words spoken by the disciples,
whether addressed to the Lord Himself, or to others about Him, He is invariably
named with a title of reverence.
We wish to grant, however, that there have been many throughout history
who have undoubtedly been deeply spiritual, who have nevertheless been
quite given to the habit which Anderson thus condemns. Richard Rolle (died
1349) was very much so, though it hardly seems offensive in him, so bright
a light was he in those dark times, and so unaffected and fervent was
his love to Christ (and my reader will observe that I naturally recoil
from saying his love to Jesus, as he himself would likely
have expressed it). The Moravians were guilty of it, along with a great
deal of irreverence and undue familiarity in speaking of the Lord. It
was probably from the Moravians that the Wesleys learned it, and Charles
especially was guilty of it, as were most of the Methodists for a century
(and more) afterwards. Fanny Crosby is excessive in it. Spurgeon is likewise
guilty, along with many others of the best of men.
This being the case, we are unwilling to be overly hard on those who use
this habit. Early training and associations may have much to do with it.
Alas, for those who are raised as Christians, their early training may
be the main source of the evil. Many who have sound views in the main
leave their sound views behind in any ministry which is addressed to children.
They preach God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to the
adults, and Jesus to the children.
Of this Sir Robert says, And what is to be said of 'children's hymns'?
Many books for the young are a special grief. The idea prevails that in
the case of little children it is necessary to resort to what the cynic
would describe as 'drivelling.' God is kept in the background to check
or scare them when they are what is called 'naughty'; and 'Jesus' is represented
as a gentle kindly being who will befriend them when they are 'good.'
It is taken for granted that they would be repelled by truth such as that
which moulded the character and guided the early life of Samuel and David,
of John the Baptist and Timothy.
Was there ever such a blunder! (pp. 71-72).
Mr. Anderson has much to say about popular hymns. Among other things,
One word more: that Stephen saw 'Jesus' at the right hand of God,
the divine narrative records. But 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit' was
his dying prayer. 'O Jesus' would presumably be the language of not a
few of our hymn writers. (pg. 40).
Elsewhere, The exigencies of rhythm and rhyme have much to answer
for in our hymnology. But without even this excuse some of our best hymns
are marred by unintentional irreverence. (pg. 70). The excuse to
which Mr. Anderson refers is that it is usually easier to fit Jesus
into poetic verse, than the Lord Jesus Christ. This excuse,
however, is not excuse enough, for it is certainly possible to refer to
Christ in poetry as he is referred to in the New Testament epistles. But
the hymn books of the present day are literally filled with references
to Jesus. There are actually two evils in this, the familiar
and irreverent reference to Christ, to which Mr. Anderson objects throughout
this book, and another evil which he does not mention. But since my book
reviews exist for the purpose of airing out my own views, I take the liberty
to mention it.
I may introduce that evil thus: I have in my possession one Roman Catholic
hymnal, compiled by the Basilian Fathers. This book contains four hymns
to God, three to the Trinity, four to our Blessed Lord, some
few others to him under the headings of Sacred Heart and Blessed
Sacrament, and sixty-eight to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Something is desperately wrong here. But when we look into evangelical
hymnals, and see dozens of hymns to Jesus, and a mere handful
to God the Father, we must also say, Something is wrong here. For many
years it has been customary for certain Evangelicals to speak of the Holy
Spirit as the neglected Person of the Trinity, but if that
was ever true, it certainly is not so today. I mentioned to a friend some
years ago that I had it in mind to write an article on The Neglected
Person of the Trinity. He immediately responded emphatically, the
Father. And this is the plain fact. Though the New Testament epistles
give always to the Father the most prominent and pre-eminent place, he
is scarcely present at all in most evangelical hymn books, and is everywhere
eclipsed by Jesus. Fanny Crosby generally wrote her hymns
just as though the Father did not exist, her only Deity being Jesus.
Many other hymn writers, especially modern ones, are equally guilty. This
serves to disqualify many hymns which are otherwise good, and for this
reason alone, were there no other, I am rendered unable to comfortably
use any hymn book on the market.
The New Testament epistles, of course, use Jesus Christ much
more freely than they do the simple Jesus, and Anderson writes,
Some Christians who recognize that the common practice is unscriptural
and wrong, adopt what may be described as the compromise of always adding
'Christ' to 'the simple name.' Their motive is most praiseworthy, but
we do well to consider not merely what depth of meaning 'Jesus Christ'
may have with those who use it thus, but what it means to the vast majority
of people who hear or read their words. The infidel uses it as freely
as the Christian. (pg. 58).
This is undoubtedly true. Modernists are as notorious for speaking of
Jesus Christ, as they are for their talk of Jesus,
where Christ is added only as a sort of human surname. This
is the usual terminology of R. A. Torrey, and I have never been comfortable
with it, as I have always supposed it a relic of his early modernistic
training. I once spoke to a young lady about the way of salvation. She
rather curtly informed me that she was not interested, as she was Jewish.
I said, Aren't Jews interested in salvation? She replied scornfully,
We are very interested in salvation, but we are not interested in
Jesus Christ. Her use of the name Jesus Christ was certainly
not intended to honor him.
Well, but we cannot cease to speak as Scripture does, merely because Jews
or modernists do. No, but we can cultivate reverence. The old Jews may
have carried their reverence to the point of superstition in refusing
to say the name Jehovah at all, but their reverence was at
any rate commendable. We ought to put off our shoes from off our feet
when we use the name of God, and at any rate speak carefully and advisedly,
and have nothing to do with the careless irreverence which is always talking
The error of which Anderson writes was common in ancient Romanism, and
also in the church fathers. Sir Robert says, Indeed the errors we
deplore in the fully developed apostasy of Christendom are the fruit of
seed that is scattered freely throughout the Patristic writings. And when
we read 'The Fathers' in the light of the Epistles we cannot fail to see
to what extent the 'Jesus' of 'the Christian religion' was already supplanting
the living Lord of the pristine faith. (pg. 29).
Addressing a matter which is certainly of greater importance, Anderson
also contrasts the New Testament Gospels with the Epistles. In the
Gospels, he says, the narratival mention of Christ is always
by the name of His humiliation, but never in the Epistles. (pg.
30). Again, And the more we investigate it, the plainer will the
proof appear, that while throughout the Gospels the Lord is habitually
called 'Jesus,the simple name' is never used in the Epistles, save
with some peculiar significance either of doctrine or emphasis. The Apostle
Peter never uses it even once. And in no single instance does 'James the
Lord's brother' ever name the Lord without some title of Deity. And in
the passages already quoted from the First Epistle of John, 'the simple
name' is used with an obvious significance. To speak of believing that
Christ is the Christ, or that the Son of God is the Son of God, would
be quite unmeaning. (pp. 34-35).
This much is obvious. It is a simple necessity to say that Jesus
is the Christ. Elsewhere Anderson endeavors to account for every time
the simple name Jesus is used in the Epistles, by some necessity
of doctrine or emphasis. I suspect that he is mistaken in some of these
explanations. I cannot speak with the same confidence which he does on
that, though I have wrestled with the matter for a quarter of a century.
Nevertheless, this much I do say, that as the New Testament Epistles are
very sparing in their use of the simple name of Jesus, we
ought to be so also.
I have but one word to say in conclusion, namely, Get this book. I wish
I could tell my readers where to get it, but that I am unable to do. The
book is scarce, though there have been some modern reprints of it. He
that seeks will find.
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n Stray Notes on the English Bible n
by the Editor
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American usage (not British), as long as a couple of centuries ago, began
to drop the u from all such words as neighbour
and honour. By the same process Saviour was turned
into Savior. But though the change from labour
to labor, and from honour to honor,
has long since been universal in America, Saviour has yet
held its own, and is still in use at the present day. The most recent
dictionary which I possess, and that not a very conservative one (Funk
& Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, 1966), lists both savior
and Saviour, defining the former as one who saves,
and the latter as A title sometimes applied directly to God, but
chiefly to Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer.
The spelling of this word has been the occasion of some controversy in
our day. In a typed paper entitled An Evaluation of Gail Riplinger's
Comments on Ron Minton's review of her book NEW AGE VERSIONS, by
Mr. Minton, Mrs. Riplinger is quoted as saying, Finally, note that
the KJV's seven letter spelling of 'Saviour,' according to WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY,
belongs exclusively to 'Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.' The new versions'
six letter (the number of a man) spelling 'Savior,' can be given to anyone
who 'saves or delivers.' Once again, the new versions opt for the potentially
pluralistic, polytheistic, or universalist word choice. The KJV always
evidences its doctrinal superiority.
This is of a piece with most of Mrs. Riplinger's arguments, and Mr. Minton
may be pardoned for calling it hocus pocus, which is apt enough.
But I wish to go a little deeper. Granting that Mrs. Riplinger's arguments
are fiction and fallacy, the question yet remains, Why do people continue
to use the spelling Saviour, when in all similar cases the
old spelling has long since given way to neighbor, labor, honor,
I believe there are two explanations for this fact. The first, and probably
most important, lies in the fact that the form Saviour has
been endeared to the hearts of the saints through long usage, and many
of them are not willing to part with it. In this respect, Saviour
is very similar to Jehovah. Jehovah is the familiar
form, endeared by long usage, and the saints of God simply cannot find
it in their hearts to give it up for the cold and unfamiliar Yahweh
if the modernists and other scholars should happen to convince
them that the latter is the proper form. Reverence and devotion call for
an adherence to Jehovah, whatever intellectual niceties may
dictate. I grant that there is a far greater difference between Jehovah
and Yahweh than there is between Saviour and Savior,
but the same sort of principles and emotions obtain in both cases.
Some have attempted to replace Saviour with Savior,
but none of them have succeeded. Many Americans have used the newer spelling,
over a period of two centuries, and yet for all that the old spelling
holds its own to this day, and that among those who are as far from Riplinger's
position as they are from her arguments. I have noted Saviour
used by Bob Ross, in Not One Stone, published in 1993
Ross certainly does not belong to the King James Only camp. I myself wavered
for a time, and yielded for a while to the modern spelling, but I was
never comfortable with it, and soon returned once for all to the old one.
But I believe there is another reason that the old spelling holds its
own. Saviour is for all practical purposes a name of Christ,
and names are much more resistant to change than other words are. Taylor
still remains as the common spelling of the name, though the word has
long since evolved to tailor. Clarkremains as
the common spelling of the name, though the word whence the name was derived
has long since been altered to clerk. Older spellings remain
in other names as well, and we occasionally see even a Smyth.
Saviour, however, is much more common than Smyth,
and will doubtless remain so, and for reasons which are quite sufficient
to those who love the Saviour's name. I believe the new Bible versions
have erred in abandoning the old form
----which they might have
retained without even sacrificing any of their liberal principles.
OP&AL is a testimony, not a forum. Old articles are printed without
alteration (except for correction of misprints) unless stated otherwise,
and are inserted if the editor judges them profitable for instruction
or historical information, without endorsing everything in them. The editor's
own position is to be learned from his own writings.