The Revised Standard Version of the Bible
In The Light Of True Doctrine
MUCH uncertainty prevails as to the merits or demerits of the new translation of the Bible known as the "Revised Standard Version" (R.S.V. for short). A 32-man committee, with 91 scholars representing 40 denominations eventually participating, completed it in 1952, after 15 years' work. It was published under the auspices of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Protestant churches in general set aside the week of Sept. 28—Oct. 5, 1952, timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible, as "Religious Education Week." Celebrations were organized in 3,000 communities before the first copies even reached the market. Great sales campaigns were conducted, and by Nov. 30th 1,600,000 copies of the "new Bible" were sold.
However, knowing that the National Council of Churches is "modernistic" in its tendencies and that the translators in general are "liberals," many of the Fundamentalists viewed the R.S.V. with suspicion, especially because copies had not been made available for review before it was distributed generally. After examining the R.S.V., especially its Old Testament part (the N.T. was published in 1946), they found what they considered ample reason for opposing it. Some of their objections are well founded; others are not. Some have been very fair in their criticisms (several of which are very masterful), reminding us "that criticism of details does not mean wholesale condemnation." But others have sought to arouse public sentiment against it by vilifying and slandering the translators, and appealing to the mob spirit, rather than to consider it on its own merits. In the public press (under such headlines as, "The New Unholy Bible," "The New Blasphemous Bible," etc.) some of the more radical preachers have denounced the R.S.V. as a work of the devil, as a masterpiece of deception and a tragic fraud foisted upon themselves and others in general by a shrewd advertising campaign and "as part of a master plan to denature and devitalize our historical and evangelical Christian Faith" (this includes in large part, of course, their own erroneous theories as to what is correct Christian doctrine).
A few have gone so far as to burn these Bibles publicly, or threaten to do so, and to urge their congregations to do likewise! E.g., in Rocky Mount, N.C., a preacher burned part of an R.S.V. Bible in his church, with his congregation looking on. While many condemned this Bible burning as a "deplorable sacrilege," Dr. Carl McIntire, President of the International Council of Christian Churches (a prominent Fundamentalist group), is reported in the public press to have said before an audience of 1200 at a Denver rally that, while he wouldn't burn the new Bible, he was "glad that old boy down in North Carolina did." He condemned the R.S.V. as the work of "Satan and his agents," "an unholy book" produced by "liberalists and modernists" who "do not believe in the deity of Christ." Another news report stated that when a Fundamentalist evangelist in Crestview, Florida, announced that he was going to burn an R.S.V. Bible, the city council immediately passed an ordinance imposing a $500 fine or 90 days in jail for such an act. What a shame it is—in this enlightened country of ours—that civil authorities have to pass laws to stop preachers from burning Bibles!
Of all the condemnations of the R.S.V. that we have witnessed, whether by act, word or in print, we have seen few indeed that in a calm, careful, sober and unbiased way examined it pro and con. Many of those who speak or write against it just pick flaws here and there, and sometimes even condemn correct translations and advocate instead corresponding incorrect translations in the A.V. that suit their purposes better. While we find the R.S.V. incorrect in many instances, some of its mistakes being indeed quite serious, and while we do not advocate it as a replacement for the A.V. (Authorized, or King James, Version), we do believe in fair play and honest criticism. Like all other translations, the R.S.V. has its good points and its bad points—for no translation of the Bible is perfect.
Some Fundamentalists condemn the R.S.V. because of its translators being largely modernistic in their views and because the R.S.V. reflects their liberal theological position. We are Fundamentalists in the strictest sense of the word, and we realize the dangers that lurk in Higher Criticism, Modernism and Infidelism. We believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and all the other teachings of the Bible as God's infallible Word; but we believe that the R.S.V. should be judged on its own merits regardless of who authorized it, and who the translators were or what their personal views on doctrine might be. We disapprove of prejudice being aroused against any work by vilifying or impugning the motives of its author or authors. We decry the methods used by some of our brother Fundamentalists to this end.
MAIN OBJECTIONS TO THE R.S.V. NOTED
Without attempting an exhaustive examination, let us note the main objections to the R.S.V. itself. These are against (1) The text used in the O.T.—instead of using only the Hebrew text, the Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint translations' variant readings were sometimes used and incorporated into the text, rather than as footnote comments; (2) Conjectural changes made in the text without any support from the Hebrew MSS., some being indicated by "cn" in the margin, but others not so indicated; (3) Modernization of the forms of expression in the original Greek and Hebrew, thus leaving words untranslated or inserting extra words, changing grammatical construction, sometimes paraphrasing rather than translating accurately; (4) Failure to italicize supplied words for which there are no corresponding words in the original; (5) A tendency to ignore the proper tense, thus sometimes straining out the prophetic element; (6) Translation of some Old Testament passages in a way that contradicts its own translation of the same passages where they are quoted in the New Testament. It is also objected to on the ground that (7) It is antagonistic to the blood atonement and that (8) It denies the virgin birth, pre-human existence and deity of Jesus. There are other (minor) objections, some of which we will consider, but these are the main ones offered by many of the Fundamentalists.
An unbiased examination of the R.S.V. in the light of these objections indicates that points (1) and (2) are serious defects. The original Hebrew text alone should be used as a basis for translation. Any deviation from it should be indicated clearly. The same applies to conjectural changes. We also agree with objections (3) and (4). Some verses have been obscured by paraphrasing; but, in all fairness, we must say that some have been clarified, e.g., in Psa. 119:147 (which the A.V. renders: "I prevented the dawning of the morning") the R.S.V. reads: "I rise before the dawn." We see no objection to paraphrasing, if it is indicated as such. Surely all words that have no corresponding words in the Hebrew or Greek original should have been so indicated, as is done by italics in the A.V. and other translations. The R.S.V. of Ps. 72 indicates that objection (5) is well taken. 1 Tim. 2:5, 6 is another example, as it uses the past tense: "the testimony to which was borne," whereas it should be in the future tense, as in the A.V. and the A.R.V. Objection (6) is also well taken, as we will see when we discuss (8).
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Objection (7), if true, would be most serious, for the ransom through Jesus' blood is the Bible's central doctrine. While we cannot agree with the infidelistic tendencies of Higher Critics, Evolutionists and Modernists against the efficacy of Jesus' life blood as our all-sufficient ransom-price, still we decry the spirit manifested by some Fundamentalists. E.g., a prominent preacher writes as follows: "Modernism, the bastard offspring of Talmudism, is an enemic, bloodless religion that rebels against the doctrine of Christ's vicarious atonement. This no doubt explains why the word 'blood' has been deleted from so many passages in the new 'Bible.' Col. 1:14 may be taken as an example: The King James Version says: 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.' The Revised Standard Version says: 'In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.' … True believers have no choice but to reject it, and try to keep others from becoming ensnared by what Peter would call its 'damnable heresies.'" It is such statements as this that unfairly and prejudicially arouse resentment against the R.S.V. and prepare people in a riotous mob spirit to take extreme measures, such as holding public Bible burnings, which are a disgrace, not only to the clergy, but also to the laity who join them in such shameful Dark-Age acts.
Let us now calmly, soberly and with the spirit "of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7) examine the R.S.V. of Col. 1:14. First, we examine Dr. B. Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott translation and the original Greek text, and we note that there is no corresponding Greek word for blood in this text! The Diaglott's literal translation is: "In whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of the sins." Hence the R.S.V. is correct in rendering it: "In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," while the A.V. is wrong in adding the words "through his blood"—not that we do not agree that it is through Jesus' blood that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins, for surely this is a Scriptural doctrine, but the A.V. here adds to God's Word, regardless of whether the thought thus injected is correct or not. Note also that many of the standard and generally accepted versions do not add the spurious words "through his blood" found in the A.V. Why is it, then, that the preachers who lift their hands in holy (?) horror and shout to the high heavens because the R.S.V. omits the spurious words "through his blood" in Col. 1:14, and claim that therefore it should be rejected—why is it that they do not do likewise with all the other standard and generally accepted translations that also eliminate these words from this text as being spurious? There must be some special reason that is not openly revealed.
These preachers appear to be dishonest in charging that the R.S.V. in general eliminates reference to the blood of Christ for our salvation. Note, e.g., the following R.S.V. translations: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24); "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1 Cor. 11:25); "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life … For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:53-56); "the church of the Lord which he obtained for himself with his own blood" (Acts 20:28); "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood" (Rom. 3:24, 25); "now justified by his blood" (Rom. 5:9); "In him we have redemption through his blood" (Eph. 1:7); "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22); "You know that you were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). The R.S.V. honestly refused to inject the words "through his blood" into Col. 1:14, for they were not a part of the original text, and whoever inserts them is adding to the Word of God (Rev. 22:18); but it did not neglect to translate these words in Eph. 1:7 (where they do appear in the Greek text): "In him we have redemption through his blood." Surely the R.S.V. emphasizes the necessity and merit of the blood of Christ! It has been grossly misrepresented on this matter.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
Under Objection (8), we consider the R.S.V. of Isa. 7:14: "Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The use of young woman instead of virgin is taken as a denial of the virgin birth, pre-human existence, and deity of Jesus. Some Fundamentalists condemn this as "blasphemous," claiming that it supports the Talmudic teaching that Jesus was born of fornication, the son of a lewd woman; extremists among them insist that this is sufficient reason for discarding the entire R.S.V.
We agree with our brother Fundamentalists that the R.S.V. gives a wrong translation of Isa 7:14. We stand unreservedly for the defense of the virgin birth of Jesus, for it is clearly taught in the Scriptures. The redemption of father Adam and his race required someone with a perfect human life to be the ransom, or corresponding price (1 Tim. 2:6), for the perfect human life of Adam. None of Adam's race, which is fallen, imperfect, could by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him ("give to God the price of his life"—R.S.V., Psa. 49:7). Therefore, for Jesus to be Adam's redeemer, He could not have been a son of Joseph, for as such He would have inherited the fallen imperfect life of the Adamic stock; thus He would have been but another member of Adam's condemned race, unable to redeem Himself or anyone else.
By having Jehovah God as His Father (the word father means life-giver) and being made flesh through the Virgin Mary, Jesus could indeed be holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26), in every way fitted to be the ransom (the corresponding or equivalent price) for Adam, his race being in his loins when he sinned, hence included (Heb. 2:6-10). By arranging for Jesus to be born of a virgin, God gave special assurance that Jesus was not begotten by a human father. By pouring out His soul (His human all) unto death (Isa. 53:12), Jesus provided the ransom-price with which to pay Adam's debt ("The wages of sin is death"—Rom. 6:23; Gen. 2:17), and is now in position to offer eternal life to Adam and his race: for "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin"; "by one man's offence [Adam's sin] death reigned by one [came through Adam upon all his race]" (Rom. 5:12, 17). Therefore, "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).
The Hebrew word in question, which the A.V. translates "virgin" and which the R.S.V. translates "young woman," is almah. This word almah undoubtedly means virgin. It occurs seven times in the Hebrew Scriptures (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Psa. 68:26; Prov. 30:19; Cant. 1:3; 6:8 and Isa. 7:14); and in the plural (alamoth) it is also used, in connection with the heading of Psa. 46:1 and in describing certain psalteries in 1 Chro. 15:20, to indicate soprano music, and is to be translated, in the manner of virgins, i.e., the soprano voice, the treble clef. Before Christians referred to Isa. 7:14 in proof of Jesus' virgin birth, Jewish scholars, as proven by the Septuagint, understood the word almah in Isa. 7:14 to mean virgin; but after Christians quoted it in proof of the Messiah's virgin birth, in order to evade the argument the rabbis invented for almah the meaning young woman, young bride, and they claim that "the Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah, not almah."
Let us see if this is true: In Gen. 24:16 we read that "the damsel [Hebrew, naarah—a girl] was … a virgin [Hebrew, bethulah], neither had any man known her." If the word bethulah necessarily implied virginity, the explanatory clause following it would not have been used. Its use here proves that the word bethulah does not necessarily mean a woman of virginity. In view of the explanation concerning Rebekah in v. 16, she is properly called an almah, a virgin, in v. 43. Moreover, in Joel 1:8 the word bethulah clearly refers to an aged widow, mourning for the dead husband of her young years; for she is here used as a simile of God's people bidden to lament their loss of true teachers: "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." Thus we find that the rabbis' claims are not Scriptural; and we see that the Fundamentalists are right in their objection to the R.S.V.'s substitution of "young woman" for "virgin" in Isa. 7:14, for the word almah definitely means virgin, as just seen.
Another proof is found in the fact that in the Hebrew text the definite article occurs before the word for virgin. This strengthens the virginity thought, for the statement, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive," gives the thought that here someone unusual and important is referred to. Moreover, a miracle (Hebrew, oth, here translated sign) is here implied; and there would not be a miracle, if a non-virgin maiden would bear a son, a thing that unfortunately often happens naturally. The miracle consisted in this: that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, which implies that no sexual intercourse preceded the conception and birth. Jesus' name, in the sense of His office, was to be Immanuel ("God with us"),—for as High Priest He reconciles God and man, effects it that God is on our side, takes our part, favors us.
We note that the R.S.V. does not in general mistranslate texts that prove the virgin birth of Jesus and show that He was the Son of God. Note, e.g., its translation of Matt. 1:18, 20: "before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit"; "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit"; and in v. 23 it gives a true translation, which should have prevented the false translation in Isa. 7:14, the prophecy here quoted: "Behold, a virgin [Greek, parthenos] shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel." Many instances could be cited where the R.S.V. correctly translates Jesus' words testifying that He was the Son of God, not of Joseph, but to note just a few: "I must be in my Father's [not Joseph's] house [business]" (Luke 2:49). The Pharisees maligned Jesus as an illegitimate child, saying, "As for this man, we do not know where he comes from" (John 9:29). Note how the R.S.V. gives Jesus' explanation: "He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me" (John 7:28, 29). "They said to him therefore, 'Where is your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also. … You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.' They said to him, 'We were not born of fornication [implying that Jesus was]; we have one Father, even God.' Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God [not from Joseph]'". (John 8:19, 23, 41, 42). Also note the R.S.V. of Luke 3:23: "Jesus … being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph"—which is a correct translation and implies that Jesus was not really Joseph's son, but merely was supposedly such. But how inconsistent the R.S.V. is, when, in the face of all these and many other Scriptures to the contrary, it in a footnote to Matt. 1:16 gives place to the thought that Joseph was the father of Jesus! Surely this is one of the serious blunders made by the R.S.V., as is also its translation of John 3:16, where the word begotten is dropped out of the text.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible:
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