Truth or Tradition?

Tevye, Jewish patriarch in Fiddler on the Roof… truth or tradition

It’s a very busy, tedious, hard-scratch life in Anatevka. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word!             Tradition!

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God.

You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. I don’t know.

But it’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as,   As…  As a fiddler on the roof!

As his family responds to the various circumstances of life, they each tear apart Tevye’s sacred traditions bit by bit. His traditions were not transcendent; their foundation was uncertain.

What can we learn from this movie?

Most Baptists recognize that a major part of the errors embraced by Roman Catholicism are enshrined in extra-biblical traditions that are held up as church dogma. While it’s easy to see this in the Roman religion, do we carefully examine our own walk – as individuals and churches – to see if we are guilty as well? I am quite sure we all know the teaching of Scripture on this topic, as Christ quoted Isaiah in saying to the Jews, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Are we Baptist excluded from this rebuke? My personal experience indicates otherwise. I pray these things are not true of you!

When I was first called as a deacon, it took 6 months of discussion to agree that tithing was not a requirement of that office. I was thankful the other deacons were willing to study this topic rather than merely throw me out. When I was in a seeker sensitive church I was ridiculed because I questioned this teaching, not seeing evangelism as inviting lost people to church, as I studied the Bible.

Baptists have traditions and, like Tevye, we often do not know or care where they came from.

While in a 1689 LBC church, I saw how traditions were to be supported without question, and I was looked down upon for not taking these positions on blind faith. The Decalogue is God’s moral law – why would anyone ask where that is taught in Scripture? The “Christian Sabbath” is binding on all people – why would anyone ask where in the Bible this is found?

In the two years since moving to SE Oklahoma, I’ve been exposed to several local Baptist churches and been intrigued by the extra-biblical traditions they embrace. Just as the other groups of Baptists, they are tenacious in the blind faith they have in their sacred traditions. It’s as if, as one church-man said about his “altar call” – “It’s the most important part of the worship service!” And it’s nowhere found in God’s Holy Word. What’s more, there is no altar in the New Covenant church other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Similar attachments are tied to children’s church (unsaved people have their own worship service!) and children parading through the gathered saints, begging for money to put in an offering plate, being applauded by the adults. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 6:1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

In this passage we see that the praise of men is the only reward hypocrites have for their giving; it is not accepted by God as are the gifts from the saints on behalf of the saints (Philippians 4:14-18). The parading children played the part of the hypocrites in the passage cited above, with the adults playing the part of the “others” who praised the hypocrites. As with other acts of worship, giving as worship cannot be performed by those who are not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Proverbs 21:27) and the money earned by sin should not be offered to God (Deuteronomy 23:18).

Celebration of birthdays and wedding anniversaries of all present in a worship service are the norm. Mothers and fathers are honored on those days so identified by the greeting card industry. Veterans and firemen, et al. are honored on Memorial Day as if these men are why we gather. I’ve seen the inside of a Baptist church building virtually clothed in American flags on July 4th weekend.

All of these practices displace the worship of God with lesser things, making man and his domain the focus of at least part of the time God’s people gather to supposedly worship Him.

The standard Baptist membership covenant from the 19th century requires members “abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” The Bible forbids getting drunk and warns about “strong wine” but does not prohibit the sale or use of alcohol for any but a few, such as Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-7). At the end of the time of his vow, the Nazarite was permitted to drink wine (Numbers 6:13-20).

Baptists call the church building “the house of God,” forgetting one lesson from John 4 – that in the New Covenant there are no sacred spaces and that the Bible clearly declares we are the house of God! The church building is not a sanctuary, it is, as an Anglican from New Zealand put it, a rain shelter. Our sanctuary is in heaven where our altar is – Christ Jesus is our all in all!

Baptist churches have sole “pastors,” “senior pastors,” “administrative pastors,” “executive pastors,” “worship pastors,” and the list goes on. All the while the Bible shows a plurality and equality of elders (“Pastor” not being a title found anywhere in Scripture).  Having two or more men who preach and teach provides several benefits, in addition to aligning with the examples and teachings from Scripture (Acts 11:27-30; 14:21-23; 20:7; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; et al.). Two or more men can sharpen one another and hold each other accountable, while the church sees the true Shepherd more clearly when they see Him work through more than one man. The church will see strengths and weaknesses in each man and those men will have the opportunity to be examples of how to serve in unity without letting egos derail the ministry. As they seek to identify others and train them for this service, more men will have opportunity to serve the saints in myriad ways. This is part of life in the body of Christ that is vital and often ignored or undervalued.

Each of these groups, and I pray, none of us, are what I call “white space theologians,” people who build their doctrine and practice on the white spaces in the Bible rather than the words God put there.

Many of these local churches have no statement of faith declaring to their members and interested saints what they believe; they accumulate their traditions along the way and new members find out by experience what’s important. This can be like walking through an unmarked minefield, and just as deadly.

We who are not of Rome tend to cling to our traditions as tightly as do the Roman Catholics. How can we defend this while rightly decrying their practice? Oh how I wish that Baptists would see the danger of our own traditions that are not based on Scripture and cry out for repentance! We were, once upon a time, called “people of the Book” for our tenacious grip on the Word of God. That name cannot, in good conscience, be applied to Baptists at large.

We protest, “Our traditions are not as bad as following Baal!” Yet search the Scriptures and see if you find any commendation for drifting away from God’s instruction in favor of any teaching of man.

My prayer is that each of us here would recognize the need we have to examine ourselves and our traditions – to see if there be any wicked ways therein. If we worship God according to our personal preferences rather than asking how does Scripture advise us to do so, we are in danger of drifting towards the black hole of Charles Finney.

D’Aubigne, in his History of the Reformation, observed, “Nothing terrifies the defenders of human traditions so much as the word of God.” He further recorded a scene in which a Cambridge professor named Bilney in the 16th century was tormented about his salvation and took the advice of Roman Catholic priests – abasing himself in myriad ways to make himself pleasing to God. He grew weak and wondered if the priests were more interested in themselves than in his salvation. He found a copy of the newly available Greek New Testament; he took it up and read 1 Tim 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. He realized that Christ saves sinners and he was a great sinner who needed salvation. With joy in his soul he rose up from the Book and declared that Christ had cleansed and redeemed him, eliminating all doubt and despair. “I see it all,” said Bilney; “my vigils, my fasts, my pilgrimages, my purchase of masses and indulgences were destroying instead of saving me. All these efforts were, as St. Augustine says, a hasty running out of the right way.”

This is what traditions do, if they are not of God and are pressed down on people as if they are required in order to please Him or build up His people. It’s as Paul said, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life! Unhealthy traditions are a burden that many know not they carry; but they weigh down on them more and more until they lose sight of Christ all together, so consumed in seeing to it their sacred traditions are upheld.

God help us so this may NOT be said of us! Let us remember our Lord’s words: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24 & 25)

Romans 2 teaches NCT

Romans 2:12-16 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, New Covenantand all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

(Note: what follows is not a complete exegesis of this passage; it is a focused review of the stated topic.)

A casual read of this paragraph has caused many to get confused about Paul’s use of the term “the law;” it requires careful thought and analysis of what he is saying here and what is revealed elsewhere. Much of Paul’s use of “the law” is clearly meant to refer to the Mosaic Covenant and the Law of Moses. Those without the law are Gentiles: everyone who was not a Jew in Paul’s day, and includes all people in all ages who were not part of national Israel. It was clearly Paul’s kinsmen of the flesh who had “the law” in this paragraph.

Lost Gentiles are not without a law; God’s universal law convicts them of certain truths. We in the New Covenant are not without law; but we are not within the Law of Moses.

James gives the same counsel as Paul: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25) We see reference to a different law than that of Moses; one that is given to the church, not national Israel. He picks this up again in chapter two, My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. (James 2:1) Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:8-9) This phrase, love your neighbor as yourself, is the second great command, taken from Lev 19:18. It is the other side of the coin which also conveys the greatest command: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, cited from Deuteronomy 6:5. On these two commands, neither taken from the Decalogue, hang the Law and the prophets – all the scripture then in hands of man. This shows us that while the Law of Moses is not our master, certain truths that apply to all of God’s people are found in his books. Jesus draws out two and declares them to be supreme to the Old Covenant, the essence of the New Covenant – love for God and one another; love as defined and portrayed in the Bible, not as our culture as deceitfully defined it these past few centuries.

Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Galatians, wherein he gives another term for the perfect law, the law of liberty, the royal law. These are not different laws we must figure out, they are different terms for the same divine concept, in simplicity for those in Christ, contrasted to the endlessly complex scheme developed by the nation of Israel. The New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant in several places, the most familiar one being in Hebrews 8 where the old covenant is described as obsolete and ready to vanish. In Galatians 4 the old covenant is described as earthly Jerusalem and represents slavery while the new covenant is heavenly new Jerusalem wherein lies liberty. We, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise, children of the free woman. And our apostle gives us clear counsel on how to keep this law. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2) This is the love of God expressed in the body of Christ – we love Him by loving one another, and this is an example of biblical love – confronting a brother caught in sin. Not exactly what the world presents as love, is it?

While only the redeemed truly love God, even we are unable to love Him with all that is within us, as the first commandment requires. In the age to come, unstained and not tempted by sin, we will be able to fulfill this law. We can, however, love one another because Christ first loved us. This must be a deliberate focus as our fleshly desires will work against us. There can be no fatalistic “let go and let God” into our lives for He tells us to work out our own salvation (here meaning the present tense “being saved” that characterizes our daily walk) with fear and trembling. As one preacher put it years ago, “The path of least resistance makes both man and rivers crooked.” Seek after the Lord – He will make your pathway straight!

You will hear simple rules such as “if it’s not repeated in the NT it applies” and its corollary, “if it’s not repealed by the NT it applies.” These are easy to remember but not at all accurate. Tithing is seen before the Mosaic Covenant and required during it, including those Jews who lived in last century of that covenant, during Paul’s time. Such activity is taken note of the NT but not once is tithing taught by word or example as a New Covenant rule. Without understanding the rule of covenants, one cannot comprehend what rules apply. As Martin Luther summed it up, we follow Christ Jesus, not Moses – and Moses stands with us, accusing those who think their feeble attempts at keeping the Law of Moses will merit favor with YHWH (John 5:45).

The ancient preacher agrees with his New Testament brothers. He gave this advice as the sum of all he had written: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Jesus said the same thing: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

Note these tangible actions of loving one another in Christ. This is fulfilling the law of Christ, the law of liberty, the royal law – the focus being on truly loving one another within the body of Christ in response to being loved by Him. This is the same thing Paul, James, and Peter have taught.

After feeding the five thousand, many followed after Him because He fed them. Seek after the food that leads to eternal life, He told them. They then asked Him What must we do to be doing the works of God? (John 6:29) Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  This is the law of Christ – believe in Him, love Him, love one another.

Many Christians are struggling to keep the Law of Moses, having a faulty guide for interpreting Scripture. The right view of man and his need of Christ, with the biblical record of the faithfulness and sufficiency of Christ Jesus will provide the guardrails we need to keep from thinking the heavy yoke of the Old Covenant is ours. Acts 15:10 has Peter rebuking Jewish Christians who taught this: Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? Jesus, on the other hand, said Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There is an old covenant, and old law, and a heavy yoke that was given on stone tablets to a people with stone hearts who worshipped in a stone temple. There is a new covenant with an easy yoke, a spiritual law written on tablets of flesh, given to people with hearts of flesh who worship as a spiritual temple; our Savior bids us find our rest in Him.

All will be made plain on the day of judgment, when God brings this age to its end.

Defective Views Of The Church

This article was written decades ago; much more is this counsel needed in our day.

Charles D. Alexander
All By Grace
Sola Christus          
Sola Scriptura           
Sola Gratia           
Sola Fida           
Soli Deo Gloria
Defective views of the Church lie at the root of most prophetical errors, and have played havoc with the holy art of Bible exposition. “Dispensations” have been invented to account for the insertion of the Age of the Christian Church where the kingdom of earthly Israel should have been established according to the literal interpretation of prophecy. So convinced are the dispensationalists that all prophecy is for the nation of Israel that they have introduced the extraordinary theory that the Church as such is nowhere envisaged in OT prophecy, but is hidden from the view of the prophets. This despite the fact that the Day of Pentecost was the subject of the main prophecy of Joel, as Peter asserts in his great Pentecostal sermon   and James’s subsequent verdict at the council of the Church at Jerusalem that the calling of the gentiles into the Church was the subject of the prophecy of Amos in his ninth chapter (see Acts 15:13 18). Paul teaches the Ephesians that the Church, so far from being an unexpected event in history was all along that to which God was working from before the foundation of the world, as the means by which He should make known to all creation His manifold wisdom (Ephesians 3:9 10).
 
In Galatians Paul makes it plain that the Church in her NT form is the continuity of the Israel of the OT and the inheritor, as of rights, of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26   4.7).
 
There has been but one Church from the foundation of the world, and one faith (which Paul describes in its continuity from Abel down to his own day, and from then on to the end of time   see Hebrews 11). Faith does not change either as to its nature or its object. The object of faith is the promise of life in Christ Jesus, first made in the Garden in the presence of our first parents, around from the beginning. The priesthood of Abel anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. Enoch’s translation was an assurance to the antediluvian world that immortality was pledged in the promise death would be overcome. Abraham’s faith was sealed by the same anticipatory sacrifice as was Abel’s. Paul assures us that so far from the promise to Abraham ‘and his seed’ being the exclusive preserve of the natural seed of Abraham, it was in fact the promise of life to all who believe, be they Jew or gentile. Abraham’s altered name was a pledge of this – “The Father of Many Nations”. “They who are of faith are blest with faithful Abraham”, declares Paul. (Galatians 3:9)
 
The promise of life, made to Abraham, was not to be the prerogative of an earthly people who throughout their history thrust it from them, but was something which only faith could grasp. Hence “It is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”. (Romans 4:16)
 
Abraham’s seed was Christ: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one: And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). So the natural seed of Abraham was never the subject of the promise only that spiritual seed which by faith and the new birth partake of the new life in Christ. This is the only Israel which inherits the promises, and it is an Israel of Jew and gentile, on terms of absolute equality and right, indifferent as to ancestry, a people of faith and repentance.
 
This Church will continue unchanged as to its calling and nature, till the end of time. No assembly of the Jewish people in Palestine can be regarded as the fulfillment of any promise to Abraham. The land of Canaan was not in itself the fulfillment of the promise, but only a temporal pledge until the seed should come to whom the promise was made, even Christ. Any restoration of the nation of Israel to its ancient privileges would be a reversal of the divine order by which the temporal only foreshadows the spiritual. All the prophecies under the figure of the land of Palestine have been fulfilled in the Church, and are intended to be spiritually understood. The literal interpretation requires that the temple be rebuilt and a ‘most favoured nation’ be established; Christ must vacate His eternal throne to come down to earth as a temporal monarch at Jerusalem. The New Testament knows nothing of this and the New Testament is the sole interpreter of the Old Testament   not the reverse.
 
Our readers should not be startled by the present Jewish occupation of Palestine. It may or may not be permanent, but it is certainly not the fulfillment of any prophecy as understood according to the New Testament. The only ‘nation’ to which the kingdom of God is given is one which brings forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43). To avoid the force of this verse Dr. Scofield introduces a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven a distinction which does not exist in Holy Scripture.
Literalism has sealed up large tracts of the Divine Word from any relevance to the people of God, and lies at the root of much ineffective preaching today. It also lies at the root of much commercialism in the writing and sale on an enormous scale, of books which purport to foretell the future and read current events in terms of Bible prophecies. It is for this reason that we press on without hope of earthly reward, in our task of presenting our thesis  REVELATION SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTOOD.
 
Note: While this article was written over thirty years ago it is as timely as the current [2006] conflict between “Israel” and Lebanon.

A Light View of Sin

Each week day I drive through a small town on my to and from work. For the past month or more, this sign has been in the yard of a church building. Even with good content, having a message board can be more of a burden than a benefit – it takes work and diligence to keep truth in a short message updated often enough so people notice. But when the message is wretched, one wonders why it is there at all.

Sin like a credit card

While it’s true that sin can seem enjoyable – what value would temptation be to Satan if the end product was rightly portrayed? – it is a biblical fact that we are to hate sin, not enjoy it. Paul addressed this in teaching how abundant God’s grace to towards His children, far greater than our sin, and then asking the rhetorical question:  Romans 6:1-2 (HCSB)  What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Does the apostle’s instruction seem more biblical than that of the church board in the picture? Again, the apostle –  2 Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB)  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Knowing this, that Christ Jesus took our sin upon Himself, for them on the cross and was the object of God’s wrath that was due us, how can we abide a professing man of God who tells us to be cavalier towards sin?

Enjoy it now, pay for it later? It was PAID IN FULL on the cross! We add to the debt we owe Him every time we sin. It’s too often when we diligently seek to pursue Christ, how much more wretched would our track record be if we thought we were supposed to enjoy sin? Let the lyrics of this old hymn pierce your heart and mine. May we NO LONGER be at peace with our sin – or those who tell us to enjoy it! Let us not grow weary in well doing, but press on toward the prize that will not tarnish and be done with lesser things!

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

The Origins of the KJV

I’ve been told by some KJV-only advocates that one reason they believe the KJV to be THE KING-JAMES-ONLY-115396838242English Bible is that they claim it has been purified 7 times and the Bible prophesied it would be so! Here’s one web site that explains their position. And their summary is:

The seven English versions that make the English Bibles up to and including the Authorized Version fit the description in Psalm 12:6 of the words of the Lord being “purified seven times” are Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, the Great Bible (printed by Whitechurch), the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the King James Bible.

The Wycliffe, Taverner, and Douay-Rheims Bibles, whatever merits any of them may have, are not part of the purified line God “authorized,” of which the King James Authorized Version is God’s last one — purified seven times.

They allude to but do not explain how they made these determinations, but conclude that the 1611 KJV is YHWH’s purified Word. I do find it curious that only English Bibles are included in their lineage of purified Bibles. What does the non-English speaking world do? As for the lineage of the KJV, there is no basis for argument. Here’s how HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations records it:

When in 1604 King James authorized a committee of scholars to publish a new Bible, he directed them to start with the Bishop’s Bible and retain what was already accurate and elegant and excellent, while consulting the original language sources to see if any modifications were necessary. In the introduction, Miles Smith states,

Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one . . . , but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark.

So the KJV, strictly speaking, is not a translation but a revision. In fact, it is a revision of a revision (Bishop’s Bible) of a revision (Great Bible) of a revision (Matthew’s Bible) of a revision (Coverdale’s Bible) of Tyndale’s translation. “A great deal of praise, therefore, that is given to it belongs to its predecessors. For the idiom and vocabulary, Tyndale deserves the greatest credit; for the melody and harmony, Coverdale; for scholarship and accuracy, the Geneva version.”

Yet the authorized version continued to undergo change. From the same book:

By the time the 1762 Cambridge and 1769 Oxford editions were printed, English spelling was standardized. There were nearly 24,000 changes from the 1611 editions.

Advocates of the KJV argue that the only changes were punctuation, spelling, and correction of printers’ errors. Even that would qualify as an “update.” However, also included in the 24,000 changes were around 1,500 significant changes.

Something I was unaware of is that many English Bibles relied on Latin rather than source language sources for most of the Old Testament:

in the chain of revisions from Tyndale’s Bible to the KJV, the last 34 books of the Old Testament were never translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic! Tyndale only translated the Pentateuch before he was martyred, and Coverdale translated the rest of the Old Testament from the Latin. Therefore, technically, even the RV, ASV, RSV, and ESV contain 34 books of the Old Testament that were originally translated from the Latin and then “carefully compared” to the Hebrew and Aramaic. (ibid)

With the recent availability of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls we have access to more and older manuscripts for nearly all of the Old and much of the New Testament. Part of the main goal of accuracy in translation deals with the target language; how can the idea given by God in Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew be best translated into today’s English? Advances in translation techniques and software in the late 20th century had given translators the best tools yet to ensure English Bibles deliver the meaning of the inspired texts given to His prophets and apostles.

Those who think English forms of speech from 500 years ago and the faulty sources used by the KJV, it is difficult for me to comprehend why some Christians think the KJV is the best and/or only English Bible we should use. It is a good English Bible, but it is not inspired. Once more from Hcsb: navigating the horizons in bible translations:

The first words of Pr 26:23 were always taken as “silver dross,” and it was hard to understand the sense of the verse. Then starting in the late 1920’s thousands of clay tablets were unearthed at Ras Shamra. The language turned out to be Ugaritic, and the tablets greatly increased our knowledge of Near Eastern poetry, Canaanite mythology, and Semitic vocabulary. The Ugaritic word spsg was discovered, which means “glaze.” By dividing the Hebrew differently, the first line can be translated, “Like glaze on an earthen vessel,” which is an apt comparison to “flattering lips with an evil heart.”

As archaeology and linguistics improve our understanding of the language and culture of the ancient Near East, at some point it becomes incumbent upon the English-speaking church to produce a new translation of God’s Word.

May God grant us wisdom to truly seek the meaning of His message to His people, and avoid treating any translation as a religious relic to be revered.

As a postscript, because some people commenting are mistaken in believing the KJV to be supreme, here is a short article examining errors in the KJV. It’s a good translation, but it is the product of man.

Robert Haldane on Mortifying Sin

Robert Haldane quoting William Romaine in his commentary on the book of Romans: Haldane

True spiritual mortification does not consist in sin not being in thee, nor in its being put on the cross daily, nor yet in its being kept upon it. There must be something more to establish perfect peace in thy conscience; and that is the testimony of God concerning the body of sin. He has provided for thy perfect deliverance from it in Christ. Everything needful for this purpose was finished by Him upon the cross. He was the Surety. He suffered for thee. Thy sins were crucified with Him, and nailed to His cross. They were put to death when He died: for He was thy covenant-head, and thou wast legally represented by Him, and art indeed dead to sin by His dying to sin once. The law has now no more right to condemn thee, a believer, than it has to condemn Him. Justice is bound to deal with thee, as it has with thy risen and ascended Savior. If thou dost not thus see thy complete mortification in Him, sin will reign in thee. No sin can be crucified either in heart or life, unless it be first pardoned in conscience; because there will be want of faith to receive the strength of Jesus, by whom alone it can be crucified. If it be not mortified in its guilt, it cannot be subdued in its power. If the believer does not see his perfect deadness to sin in Jesus, he will open a wide door to unbelief; and if he be not persuaded of his completeness in Christ, he gives room for the attacks of self-righteousness and legal tempers. If Christ be not all in all, self must still be looked upon as something great, and there will be food left for the pride of self-importance and self-sufficiency; so that he cannot grow into the death of Christ in sensible experience, further than he believes himself to be dead to sin in Christ. The more clearly and steadfastly he believes this, as the Apostle did–I am crucified with Christ–in proportion will he cleave to Christ, and receive from Him greater power to crucify sin. This believing view of his absolute mortification in Christ, is the true Gospel method of mortifying sin in our own persons. Read the sixth of Romans, and pray for the Spirit of revelation to open it to thee. There thou wilt discover the true way to mortify sin. It is by believing that thou art planted together with Christ in His death; from thence only thy pardon flows, from thence thy daily victory is received, and from thence thy eternal victory will be perfected. –

In Robert Haldane, An Exposition of The Epistle to the Romans, 253-254