Oswald T. Allis: REVISED VERSION OR REVISED BIBLE? The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Philadelphia 1953 iv, 60 .60
One of the sharp differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is their attitude toward Scripture and its place among the laity. The hierarchy seems happiest when the Bible is safely locked away in a dead language, thus giving them the privilege of being the exclusive distributors and interpreters of God’s message to man. On the other hand the churches of the Reformation confess the perspicuity of Scripture, thereby teaching that it is amply plain unto salvation and that a prayerful study of Scripture is rewarding to all.
Protestantism should therefore rejoice whenever the Scriptures appear in more lucid and current language. The new RSV is ostensibly an attempt to present the English reading public with a version in which the “Word must not be disguised in phrases that are no longer clear, or hidden under words that have changed or lost their meaning” (cf. Preface to the RSV).
However the appearance of the RSV brought as much consternation as rejoicing. There was a good deal of fan-fare and publicity. Favorable propaganda was made for it by the National Council of the Churches of Christ and its affiliated denominations. On the other hand there were loud protests, even to the paint of Bible-burning and Bible-stabbing demonstrations.
One is inclined to sympathize with the thirty-two scholars who worked for 15 years to complete this version, for they now find themselves personae non grata. As one minister remarked : “The sad state of affairs is that one section of Protestantism cares so little about the Bible that one Sunday service during which the new version was introduced they promptly forget about it; while another section of Protestantism, who fervently confess the infallibility of Scripture and its relevance to life react unfavorably toward the new version.”
Now that the noise has subsided we are happy to see Dr. Allis’ critique. Dr. Allis is quick to inform his readers that he is very skeptical of the new version. Even the titIe, “Revised Version or Revised Bible?” suggests that Dr. Allis’ answer will be that it is a Revised Bible, which means that it is an English translation from texts of the original languages which have been changed.
Dr. Allis is a veteran and highly esteemed Old Testament scholar. His evaluation of the RSV will influence our American Orthodox churches.
We are sorry that Dr. Allis offers only negative criticism, and that in one or two instances there are arguments which some will label as ad hominem.
The objections and criticisms raised by Dr. Allis cannot be ignored. He points to several flaws in the marginal reference system. For example, the loose and misleading use of “or” in the footnotes of the RSV. The reader of this version has no way of knowing whether the “or” in the footnote gives another possible meaning for the Hebrew word or whether it is suggesting the translation of one of the versions (i.e., Greek, Aramaic etc.) .
The most serious objection Dr. Allis raises is the fact that the Revisers have taken undue liberties with the Hebrew text. He proves by many examples that the RSV “is not merely a modern translation, but a modernist translation which belongs with the Moffat and the so-called ‘American’ translations and not with AV and ARV.” His list of examples is by no means exhaustive.
In the reviewer’s opinion Dr. Allis is correct that the RSV is more than a revised version. The Committee obviously has taken liberties to add, subtract, and change the consonantal text, which though not entirely errorless, the minor defections are relatively few and unimportant. Therefore the Hebrew text is most trustworthy and translatable. The changes incorporated into the RSV were, therefore, unwarranted, and betray a liberal attitude over against Scripture. The appearance of the RSV reminds us that there are two distinct groups in American Protestantism. That which separates these groups is their radically different viewpoints of God and his Word. Both groups speak of Revelation, but each puts a different content into that word. The orthodox churches who cling to the historic Christian faith speak of the inspiration, infallibility and authority of the Scriptures. These terms find little place in the literature of the liberals. They have not found a place in the Preface to the RSV.
Orthodox believers look upon the RSV in two different ways. One viewpoint is that we should rejoice, for if the RSV is truly a product of the liberal “higher criticism” then the pen of the higher critic has been a tiny chisel chipping away at the Gibraltar-doctrine of the supernatural and substitutionary atonement of Christ. The way of salvation is abundantly clear in the RSV in spite of higher criticism. Another viewpoint is that we err in Tinging festal bells over the new version, and the alarm bell is the order of the day; for if we tolerate minor liberties with the Hebrew text and if we condone moderate liberal leanings in the interpretation of the Hebrew and Greek words then we are carelessly neglecting the trickle in the dike which may soon become a torrent of doctrinal confusion and babble.
Apparently Dr. Allis is of the latter opinion, and rightly so. As watchmen on the walls of Zion we must be careful with Trojan horses which carry only a small part of the enemy. We as a lax generation must be reminded of the enormity of the crime of willfully tampering with the Word of God (Rev. 22:18, 19).
It is recommended that our ministers and leaders acquaint themselves with Dr. Allis’ criticism in order that our church may come to a proper evaluation and make profitable use of the RSV.
It will be of interest to see whether Dr. Allis’ booklet will be answered by the Committee or the National Counsel. Possibly they will deem it best to ignore it.
CLARENCE J V0S
Edward J. Young, MY SERVANTS THE PROPHETS. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids. 1953. 231 pp. $3.00.
With this study on the nature of the prophetic institution in Israel, Dr. Young offers us another good book, equal in scholarly approach and critical acumen to his excellent Introduction to the Old Testament.
I was especially intrigued by the fact that it gives all of us ministers who are not expert in Old Testament lore an opportunity to find out what the recent literature on the subject has to say. Most of us will have to confess that since our seminary days we have not always found the time or desire to do justice to this field of theological learning. Hence this treatment of the institution of biblical prophecy is a stimulant as well as a worth-while treatment of an important theme.
The thesis of the book is simply that we must take the presuppositions of Christianity seriously; that the Jehovah of the covenant is the only true God and that this God revealed himself unto his servants, the prophets, that is, that he actually spoke through them, that they were the mouth-pieces of Jehovah. Dr. Young shows conclusively that a comparative approach to the problem of prophetism will not yield an adequate answer, for the whole phenomenon of Messianic prophecy must be explained. Of it there is no parallel in pagan religion. The very idea of a Christology in pagan prophecy is ridiculous. “It is this doctrine of the Messiah which must be explained. We may draw all the comparisons we wish between the experiences of the prophets and those of religious leaders of other nations an.d we have but scratched the surface. We may try to bring the prophets down to the level of other religious workers to analyze them, but by such a procedure we shall not arrive at the truth. The fact remains, ignore it as one will, that the prophets claimed to have received their messages from God. If this claim is not justifiable, we then have no explanation of the prophets and their activity. If they were not actually raised up of God in a special direct manner they were evil men and not to be trusted. They made the claim that God had spoken to them whereas this was not the case. They were therefore deceivers and not to be believed. How could a product so great and good as Messianic prophecy have come from such an evil source? This is the question, and it cries for an answer. Upon the basis of modern naturalistic theories, it cannot be satisfactorily answered (p. 189).
The book has an Appendix in which the extra-biblical “prophecy” of the ancient world is presented as a contrast to the true Word of God by his servants, the prophets. The notes have already been referred to, but I cannot be too emphatic in stressing their value for the man in the manse to keep up with the literature in this field. Good indices and a textual register complete this publication for which we thank the author and commend the publisher heartily. The book ought to be in every orthodox minister’s library as well as in every church and Christian school library in the country!
HENRY R. VAN TIL
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Andrew W. Blackwood, EXPOSITORY PREACHING FOR TODAY. Abbingdon-Cokesbury Press, 224 pp. Price $3.00.
The author of this volume is well-known to all who are interested in the biblical and theological literature of today. Having served 17 years as a pastor and 20 years as professor of Homiletics at Princeton Seminary, he has now voluntarily taken up a lighter teaching schedule as professor of Biblical Homiletics, School of Theology, Temple University. He has written several books, all of them, as far as I know, in the field of practical theology.
The title indicates that the author’s primary purpose in this book is to enlighten the readers as to the genesis, preparation, structure, style, and delivery of expository sermons. This subject is undeniably important for both pulpit and pew. In the course of the discussion many practical suggestions are made even to the ex tent of presenting outlines which are considered worthy of emulation.
As was to be expected, the author shows wide acquaintance with books written in this particular field. His own material is presented in very systematic fashion, which makes his book altogether usable as a reference work. It lacks the thoroughness and profundity which would cause it to be accepted as a classic or as are· placement of those books on homiletics written by such men as Breed, Broadus, and Reu.
There will be those who would place severe strictures on this volume. When it is remembered, however, that many ministers have received very little or no training in the method of expository preaching, one must admit that this volume may serve a laudable purpose. To the extent that the author pleads for expository preaching over against the topical method which has enjoyed such wide popularity, he deserves our hearty endorsement.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
* * *
Clarence E. MacArtney, STRANGE TEXTS BUT GRAND TRUTHS. Abbingdon-Cokesbury Press, 192 pp. Price $2.50.
Clarence E. MacArtney is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is one of the country’s best known preachers. To the many volumes he has already written, among the best of which are several dealing with biblical characters, he now adds this boo\ on Strange Texts.
Those who read this book will find it interesting and at the same time disappointing. The author expresses practical truths for daily living and does so in a manner which makes it easy to grasp the lessons he would teach. The book abounds in illustrative material.
However, I have one serious objection. Although what the author says is true in many instances, the truth is not derived from the text which he uses. He uses the text simply as a basis for moralizing on certain aspects of Christian behavior. This ought to be clear when I mention the topics and texts of some of his sermons: A Common Epitaph based on words in Judges 9:54, “A woman slew him”; What Are You In The Dark? based on Ezekiel 8:8, “Dig now in the wall”; and Temptation Conquered, based on Acts 28:3, “There came a viper.” It seems that the author’s attempt to arouse the curiosity and interest of those who hear or read his sermons has become a pitfall.
One can learn from the author’s style and even fro·n some of the things he says, but let us beware of making a use of Scripture which is beneath its dignity and at times does violence to its meaning. Let both minister and parishioners insist on a treatment of God’s Word which is characterized by a thoroughly exegetical exposition.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
* * *
Dr. G. Brillenburg Wurth, KENTERING IN DE VRIJZINNIGHEID. J. H. Kok, Kampen, 1952. 75 pages. 2.95ff. (less than a dollar).
As the title suggests the Professor of Ethics at Kampen Theological School of the Gereformeerde Kerken, who is the author, presents an investigation of the alleged change in current modernism toward a more biblical position. However, the author has a very specific goal in mind namely, to evaluate the alleged change in connection with the object, the subject and the message of evangelization. For, it is just at this point that the problem is very actual to the author, since the Gereformeerden have historically always considered modern liberals objects of evangelization. But if the historic position of modern liberalism has been given us, then the question arises whether we can still cling to that approach in the work of evangelization.
The author first gives a short history of Dutch liberalism which is most instructive, also for the Reformed community in America. Secondly, the changed mentality of Dutch modernism is sketched under four headings. The change is described as from rationalism to irrationalism, from optimism to pessimism, from humanism to eschatology, and from rank individualism to the social consciousness. Next the author gives a short sketch of the different emphases in the field of dogmatics, in so far as modernism may be said to have a dogmatics. But at any rate in its God-concept the monistic immanentism gives way to a greater emphasis on the revelation of God in Christ. In the doctrine of man the change is noticeable in the concept of sin, which was formerly a natural evil or shortcoming but now is seen as guilt. In the older modernism the doctrine of Christ had practically degenerated into vague conception of the “historical Jesus,” but today there is some appreciation for the person of Christ and some reference to him as the Son of God.
However, the central question remains, has modernism changed essentially? To answer that question the author asks the question: “What is modernism essentially?” His answer is that it is an attempt to find a synthesis between Christianity and modern culture (p. 42). Schleiermacher was the leading spirit who tried hard to bring Christianity and culture together. In The Netherlands there was a certain A. Pierson, who resigned his ministry because he could not resolve the problem; and a contemporary figure like Roessingh who held on to the Christian faith only because of a dualism in his thought. But many have become spiritual shipwrecks because of this dualism. Prof. Wurth explains the shipwreck of faith in the case of many moderns in this fashion: “We see it in this way: that they, standing before the decision of what ultimately was most precious, that is, the biblical conception of Christianity and the modern consciousness, decided in favor of the latter. They would like to have been biblical and Reformed Christians. But at the decisive point they were deathly afraid to believe things as Christians or to confess and do them. which would arouse doubt as to their identity as moderns” (p. 47).
The verdict of the author is that even today the modern liberal in The Netherlands is devoted to modern culture more than he is to the revelation of God in Christ. The conclusion as to our own attitude then becomes apparent. It is the conviction of the author that there is no warrant for an acknowledgment of modernism as a valid variant of biblical Christianity. Consequently, we ought to take a negative stand against it and show in our evangelization that there is an antithesis between the Gospel and that which arises out of the natural man, which comes to expression in so much of modern science and philosophy. On the other hand, to do effective work as an evangelist one must see the problem of the modern man, one must have a real appreciation for the divorce of culture and Christianity, and help to resolve it.
This little treatise is recommended for preachers, teachers and all those who would be serious witnesses of the Christ in our contemporary world. A treatment of this problem in the American language is, in our opinion, highly desirable.
HENRY R. VAN TIL Grand Rapids, Mich.
* * *
Rockwell C. Smith, RURAL CHURCH ADMINISTRATION. Abbingdon-Cokesbury Press, 176 pp. Price $2.00.
The author of this book has served several rural pastorates in Massachusetts and Wisconsin and now is professor of Rural Church Administration and Sociology at Garrett Biblical Institute. He designed this volume to serve as a workbook for the town and country church pastor and thus deals with many aspects of pastoral work ordinarily included in bonks on practical theology.
Some of the chapters touch on very important subjects such as “The Minister’s Schedule,” “The Pastor’s Ministry to the Sick,” “The Pastor’s Ministry to the Bereaved,” and “Principles and Pattern in Parish Worship.” Our criticism would not be one or disagreement with material presented but or the sketchy treatment given.
This book is written in a simple, lucid style. One finds it reachable and interesting. It presents a great deal of material with which the average pastor is familiar but of which he may well be reminded. It is my candid opinion that if one were to follow the author’s advice in each case, one would be so overwhelmed with matters of secondary importance that primary matters would be neglected. The author might well have included a chapter on delegating work to others. This would be profitable for those to whom specific tasks were assigned and would at the same time give the pastor the necessary time to meet actual spiritual needs.
Grand Rapids, Mich.