The Revised Standard Version of the Bible
THE R.S.V. AND ROMAN CATHOLIC ERRORS
While many Protestants, including Fundamentalists, have improved their vision by more or less removing from their darkened eyes the man-made creedal spectacles inherited from the Dark Ages, and now see their path more clearly in the advancing light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day (which day is fast approaching), others still hold tenaciously to certain erroneous pet theories derived from the heathen religions by the Roman Catholics and adapted to the Christian religion, with certain Scriptures wrested, twisted and mistranslated in order to give a much desired support to them. The R.S.V. frequently gives better and more accurate translations than the A.V., thus assisting in exposing some of the Roman Catholic errors still held to by some Protestants as sweet morsels. This exposure is in large measure behind the name-calling, mud-throwing and Bible-burning activities on the part of some Fundamentalists, though we are glad to say the majority disapprove of their sensational, un-Christian methods.
It must be remembered that the so-called A.V., of nearly 350 years ago, tended to support the errors of the Dark Ages, partly due to the translators themselves being so thoroughly imbued with them, and also due to various spurious passages and interpolations that had crept into some of the manuscripts with which they had to work. Since that time many more ancient and more reliable manuscripts (especially of the New Testament) have been discovered. Those clerics who prefer to hold on to their pet theories and much-preached, Catholic-inherited errors, naturally oppose the more accurate translations based on these manuscripts, especially if they find that their errors are thereby exposed as such or spurious passages on which they were based are thus eliminated; and most especially if such exposures are advertised and circulated widely among the people.
One of the cardinal errors of the Dark Ages thus handed down to Protestants from heathen religions through the Roman Catholics is the doctrine of eternal life in torture as the punishment for sin. This false doctrine was derived from the heathen religions, especially those of Greece and Rome, wherein Pluto was worshiped as the god of the infernal regions, where he ruled over the supposedly immortal spirits of the dead. The Greeks and Romans were "converted" in much larger numbers after they were made to feel more at home in the Christian religion by substituting the Bible's Satan for their Pluto and wresting the Bible hell to fit it to the heathen inferno. It was upon this basis that Dante's "Inferno" was written and many church walls were decorated with hideous paintings. In harmony with the spirit of this torment theory, the Holy (?) Inquisition was instituted; it also was similar to the practices of various heathenish religions, though much worse.
The eternal torment theory, a doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1), is not taught in the Bible, even as we have shown (see, e.g., our booklet on "The Hell of the Bible"). The blasphemous, God-dishonoring, faith-destroying, false doctrine of eternal life in torment, instead of death (Rom. 6:23), as the wages of sin, is "contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:10). However, while Modernists in general and many Fundamentalists have laid aside and rejected the Dark-Age doctrine of an eternal burning hell as a place prepared for the everlasting punishment of the wicked, there are still some who pose as shining lights in our day of greater enlightenment who still hold to this fireproof devil, eternal-torture theory as a precious morsel, and refuse to be deprived of it, even though, in view of the Scriptures to the contrary, it puckers their mouths like an unripe persimmon!
While some clerics stubbornly hold to their Dark-Age traditions, thus coming under the Lord's condemnation: "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:9), we are glad to see that many of the clergy are now awakening to the fact that they have been deceived and are demanding the pure unadulterated Truth from God's own Word. To cite just one instance: A special investigating committee is reported to have asked the pastor and all the deacons, elders and officers of the Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., to resign for not adhering to "strictest Presbyterian doctrine." Failure to teach the doctrine of eternal torment was one of the things mentioned. It is said that those involved wanted to begin afresh and establish a new church entirely. It would indeed be well for all others similarly to repudiate this error!
Many of the laity also are awakening and rubbing the cobwebs of Dark-Age traditions from their eyes. E.g., Clarence Poe, President and Editor of The Progressive Farmer, with a circulation of 1,200,000, has in at least two issues denounced the eternal torture theory. In his Dec. 1952 issue he says in part:
"We all agree that God will punish sinners—but how and how much? 1) Do they merely 'perish,' as so many Scriptures like John 3:15 suggest? Or 2) is a sinner's grief from being forever shut out from Heaven and his loved ones there sufficient punishment? Or 3) does a God who is Love somehow find it His pleasure to manage it so He can keep condemned sinners from 'perishing,' but instead stay alive in a fiery pit where they will suffer forever and ever through all eternity? Since some Scriptures might seem to approve No. 3 and others do not, I prefer to accept those that do not. And I do this for three reasons: First, God's nature: 'God is Love'—not Hate. Second, Christ's precept: He didn't tell us to hate and punish our enemies, but to love and forgive—'forgive 70 times 7.' Finally, Christ's example: He even forgave those who killed Him and asked His Father to forgive. … All my thinking and all my prayers lead me to feel that while some kind of punishment may be everlasting [Yes; it is everlasting death—"the Second Death"; for "all the wicked will God destroy"; "they shall be as though they had not been"; "they are extinct"—Psa. 145:20; Obad. 16; Isa. 43:17 — Editor], everlasting torture is not in keeping with God's nature, with Christ's teaching or example. I should not be so much concerned about all this but for the fact that I believe the doctrine of everlasting torture is keeping millions of people from actually loving God. 'I may be terribly afraid of such a God,' they say, 'but how can I love Him?' Certainly we must love Him in order really to want to serve Him; and people who are only afraid of Him give Him only grudging and unhappy service."
THE R.S.V. AND HELL
Additionally, the R.S.V. is probably doing much to arouse Christians in general to a greater interest in the Bible and its real teachings and to repudiations of certain errors inherited from the Dark Ages. The word hell in old English usage, before papal theologians picked it up and gave it a new and special significance to suit their own purposes, simply meant to conceal, to hide, to cover; hence the concealed, hidden or covered condition. In old English literature records may be found of the helling of potatoes—putting potatoes into pits; and of the helling of a house—covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used synonymously with the words grave and pit to translate the words sheol and hades as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death. However, the same spirit that was willing to twist the word to terrorize the ignorant is willing still to perpetuate the error. Thus the R.S.V., like the A.R.V., has usually left sheol and hades untranslated, thus failing to help the English reader in his doctrinal study. Evidently the translators were afraid to tell the truth, and ashamed to tell the lie; so by leaving these words untranslated, they permit the inference to persist that these words mean the same as the word hell has become perverted to mean. Their course dishonors God and the Bible, which the common people are thus led to suppose teaches a "hell" of torment in the words sheol and hades.
Another source of confusion is the A.V.'s translation of the three Greek words, tartaroo, hades and gehenna, all by the one English word hell. Furthermore, in the O.T. the Hebrew word sheol occurs 65 times; the A.V. translates it 31 times hell, 31 times grave and 3 times pit. No wonder people are confused! While the R.S.V. falls short in not defining or in many instances not translating these words into English, it does endeavor to make a distinction between them, which the A.V. fails completely to do. The R.S.V. sometimes translates the word hades as hell, noting in the footnote that the Greek word is hades; at other times it leaves the word hades in the text untranslated. In all cases it translates the word gehenna as hell, but the footnote explains that the Greek word is gehenna, thus distinguishing it from hades. This lack of distinction in the A.V. has in part caused many to confuse hades with gehenna and think that they both refer to the same thing, thus causing them to consider Hades as the Lake of Fire (Gehenna, the Second Death), instead of the condition of oblivion, the unconscious condition of death, the hell into which Jesus went (Acts 2:27—translated hell in the A.V., but left "Hades" in the R.S.V.). Surely Jesus never went into Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, the Second Death—utter, complete and eternal annihilation, but He did give His flesh (His human life) for the life of the world; He gave "His soul an offering for sin"; He "poured out His soul unto death" (John 6:51; Isa. 53:10, 12). Thus the R.S.V., in spite of its imperfections, is an improvement over the A.V. in its handling of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words hades and gehenna, and in its attempt to show a distinction between these words.
POLYTHEISM VERSUS MONOTHEISM
Another cardinal error imbibed from heathen religions and adopted by the papacy is the substitution of polytheism (the teaching that there is a plurality of gods) for the Bible's teaching of monotheism (one God). The Bible states plainly (1 Cor. 8:4-7): "There is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many). But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge." We see this knowledge lacking among the heathen religions which hold forth more than one god, and likewise we find this knowledge lacking among the Catholics and many Protestants, especially some of the clergy.
All the ancient heathen religions had their trinities of gods in one form or another, and in general they pointed back to Nimrod, the first king of Nineveh (Gen. 10:11—more correctly translated by the R.S.V.: "From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh"), who was also known as Ninus and who married his own mother, Semiramis. According to ancient historians and archeological remains, Nimrod, under the name of Osiris, and Semiramis, under the name of Isis, went to Egypt and ruled there. After their death and that of their son Horus, the three were deified as a trinity, and thus came into existence the first trinity, after which others were patterned. E.g., Confucius said: "Tao [God] is by nature one; the first begat the second; both together brought forth the third; these three made all things." The Japanese view is very similar. The Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks, the heathen Irish, Scandinavians, Germans, etc., had similar trinities. Of course, the heathen generally worshiped also a multiplicity of other gods, though many of them were merely other names or forms for one of the gods of their trinities. For a helpful study on God's character and attributes, including false views of God, we recommend the 547-page book entitled, God, by Prof. Paul S.L. Johnson, which we can supply.
During the struggles of the early Christian Church, the Greeks, Romans, etc., who had many gods, laughed and scoffed at the Christians, because they had only one God. As the apostasy came and the great Antichrist system began to develop, some thought it advisable to win heathen converts by appealing to them through the idea of more than one God. Jehovah was therefore gradually degraded to equality with an inferior—a thing that was one of Satan's purposes in inventing the trinity doctrine. By hocus-pocus methods these apostates gradually introduced the heathen mysteries of trinitarianism into the Christian religion, thus befuddling the heads and hurting the hearts of their followers. Justin Martyr, who died about 150 A.D., was the introducer of the error of the soul's indestructibility and eternal torment. He was a Platonic philosopher before his conversion to Christianity, and continued as a Christian to hold Plato's view of human immortality. He began the work of amalgamating Christian doctrine and Greek philosophy, and his errors gradually led to the God-man theory as the basis of trinitarianism as introduced from the heathen religions into Christianity.
Soon the Father and the Son were considered equal and co-eternal, and God's holy Spirit, power or disposition, was also personified, contrary to the Scriptures, and thus Christianity was also given a trinity of gods, similar to that of the heathen religions. And to make the counterfeit taken from heathenism complete, Satan palmed off Mary in the place of the highest of the goddesses of the heathen, who stood next below, and sometimes as one of, their trinities, and the canonized saints in the places of the lower gods and goddesses of heathenism. Thus Catholicism introduced heathen conceptions of the gods and goddesses under Christian names. Therefore it may rightly be classed among the polytheistic religions. While most Protestant sects have taken over the creedal trinity from Catholicism, they fortunately did not take over its Mariolatry and hagiolatry (worship of Mary and saints), thus avoiding these forms of Rome's polytheism.
While God is a person and Jesus is a person, their holy Spirit is not a person. There is no Scripture, apart from mistranslations, that speaks of it as a person. The trinitarian mistranslation, "Holy Ghost" (which implies personality), was rightly rejected by the A.R.V., the R.S.V. and other translations, in favor of "Holy Spirit." This is one reason why some Protestants so strongly oppose the R.S.V., for in this and other ways it exposes them as holding in their creeds to the Catholic doctrine of the trinity, viz., that "there are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God [3 X 1=1; 3=1; 1=3!], the same in substance [as though this were possible!], equal in power and glory"! This foolish impossibility would make a son be as old as his father, and even be his own father; it would make a part of God die on the cross, a part of God pray to another part of God no greater in power than Himself; it would even make the immortal God be tempted, suffer, die, remain dead part of three days and then raise Himself from the dead! That the Holy Spirit is not God Almighty is obvious from the fact that it can be quenched by us (1 Thes. 5:19), which would mean, if it were God Almighty, that we can destroy God Almighty! How Almighty would God be, if we could quench, destroy Him? We read in Acts 10:38 that "God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost" ("Holy Spirit"—R.S.V.). Thus, if the creedal trinity idea is true doctrine, then we have one person in the Godhead anointing another person in the Godhead with the third person in the Godhead, in spite of all three being only one God and of the same substance, therefore one being just as capable of being poured out as the anointing oil as either of the others! How absurd and how unscriptural! Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit were a person, instead of a holy power and a holy disposition, how could he be poured out (Joel 2:28, 29; Matt. 3:16; Acts 2:1-4; 10:44, 45)? And how could we be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), if it is God Almighty, a person?
The Bible says of Jehovah: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD" (or "Yahweh is our God,—Yahweh alone"—Rotherham; Deut. 6:4); "That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD [Jehovah] is God, and that there is none else" (1 Kings 8:60); "I am the LORD [Yahweh, or Jehovah]: that is my name: and my glory [or supremacy] will I not give to another" (Isa. 42:8); "God is one" (Gal. 3:20: James 2:19). The R.S.V. has beclouded the matter and upheld the heathen, Catholic-adopted doctrine of the trinity more than the A.V. did, by translating the Hebrew word for "Jehovah" into "the LORD" in every case, while the name "Jehovah" did appear four times in the A.V. The omission of the name "Jehovah" by the R.S.V. has been condemned by some as "Communistic," and "atheistic." We do not agree with such criticism; we might just as consistently make the same charges against the A.V. for the several thousand instances in which it did not retain the name "Jehovah" untranslated. Though we believe that the R.S.V. made a very serious mistake (as the A.V. also did in most cases) in not leaving the Hebrew word for "Jehovah" untranslated, thus not properly distinguishing Jehovah from all others, we can at least say that they were consistent in always treating the word in the same way.
THE R.S.V. AND JESUS' PRE-HUMAN EXISTENCE
Jesus is not God, but "the Son of God" and the "mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus Himself calls Jehovah "the only true God" (John 17:3); but He does not thereby deny His own pre-human existence; for in v. 5 He speaks of "the glory which I had with thee before the world was made"—R.S.V. Jesus did not believe in the doctrine of the trinity, nor did He teach it, but to the contrary, as evidenced in many Scriptures, e.g., John 8:28, 29, 54; 5:19, 26, 36; 6:57, 58; 12:49, 50; 14:10, 24; etc., Jesus tells us plainly that He was not co-eternal with His Father (father means life-giver), but that He was created by God—in fact He says that He was "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14; see also R.S.V.); "the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15),—"of all creation"—R.S.V. Thus the R.S.V. upholds Jesus' pre-human existence.
Trinitarians object to the R.S.V. of Matt. 27:54, "Truly this was a son of God." They say that rendering it "a son of God" (see also Mark 15:39), instead of "the son of God," as in the A.V., is a denial of the deity of Christ, because it "lowers Him to the level of humans generally." In all fairness, let us ask: Would the translators have done right to inject the definite article the before "Son of God," seeing that the definite article for the is not in the ancient manuscripts? The E.R.V. and A.R.V. suggest "a son of God," and most other reliable translations throw out the word the as an improper translation. Would the preachers who so strongly object to the R.S.V. not injecting the word the, have put it in if they had been translating? Would they have thus proven themselves dishonest and unreliable as translators, injecting their own thoughts into the text, instead of merely giving a correct and unbiased translation?
The R.S.V. has been strongly faulted and opposed for its translation of Micah 5:2, which says of Jesus: "whose origin is from of old, from ancient days." Naturally, those who still believe in the Catholic, heathen-derived doctrine of a trinity of Gods would not like the thought of Jesus' having an "origin”—even though He Himself said that He did (Rev. 3:14—which text Trinitarians would scarcely want to use as a text for a sermon!). Also they sometimes combine with Psa. 90:1, 2 the A.V. of Micah 5:2 to try to prove that Jesus is Jehovah, and that Jesus also is "from everlasting"; hence they strenuously object to the R.S.V. translation: "from ancient days" (though the A.R.V. and the American Baptist Publication Society's Improved Edition likewise give "from ancient days" as a correct translation, and Dr. Young's Literal Translation—a Presbyterian authority—renders it "from days of antiquity"). But the efforts of Trinitarians to misuse this verse to prove that Jesus is Jehovah are futile, for in Micah 5:4 Jehovah is spoken of as Jesus' God! Thus the R.S.V. here, though upholding Jesus' pre-human existence, helps to dispel the darkness of polytheism in its trinitarian aspect.
The R.S.V. of Rom. 9:5 is also strongly objected to by Trinitarians, who, despite many Scriptures to the contrary, insist that Jesus was in His pre-human existence equal to, co-eternal and con-substantial with His own Father! It reads: "To them [the Israelites] belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen." They accuse the R.S.V. here of "tearing away from Christ the descriptive clause 'who is over all …' and wrongly making out that the clause is an independent sentence not referring to Christ." But careful examination of the Greek text shows that it is the Trinitarians and the A.V. that are wrong here. The Greek words, ho ōn, should not be translated by the one word who, as trinitarian translators render this passage, for they so translate it to make the last clause refer to Jesus, instead of to God. The literal translation is "He being over all, God …" The He refers to God, not to Jesus. The A.R.V. (margin) is a more correct translation: "Of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh; He who is over all, God, be blessed forever. Amen." The R.S.V. is very similar to this. They are both correct in translating the two Greek words, ho ōn, by the two English words, God who, or He who … God. It is the A.V. that is at fault; and the Trinitarians, in translating the two Greek words by the one word who and trying to force it to refer to Jesus, instead of to God, make it contradict the universal teaching of the Bible that Christ is not God over all, i.e., the Supreme Being, but that the Father alone, as God Almighty, is such (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 15:24-28).
Another text used by Trinitarians to prove that Jesus is equal to God is Phil. 2:6, which in the A.V. says that Jesus, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." True, Jesus in His prehuman existence, ever since His creation by the Father (Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14), existed in God's form (as a Spirit being), but the Catholic-imbued trinitarians who translated the A.V. gave us a most wretched translation here, which entirely perverts the sense of the passage and context, as agreed by all competent authorities. The original Greek text, as indicated in the Emphatic Diaglott, shows that Jesus, "though being in God's Form [mode of existence, i.e., as a Spirit being], yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God ["counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped"—A.R.V., as Satan did—Isa. 14:13, 14], but divested ["emptied"—A.R.V.] Himself [of His pre-human nature, office and honor], taking a Bondman's [servant's] Form [without His former office and honor as the Logos, God's Active Agent in the Universes, His great Vicegerent, Michael the Archangel, etc.], having been made in the Likeness of Men [thus becoming of a lower nature, even human nature, that He might thus be a ransom, a corresponding-price, for Adam, who forfeited his life by disobedience]." Thus we see that the A.V., translated by trinitarians about 350 years ago, here teaches contrary to the real Word of God; and by saying that Jesus "thought it not robbery to be equal with God," it favors the trinitarian thought that Jesus was actually equal with God, in fact of the very same substance, and it ascribes to Jesus the very same sin committed by Satan in saying, "I will be like the Most High"!
Let us now notice how the R.S.V., by giving a better translation of Phil. 2:6-11, shows the prehuman existence of Jesus, His laying aside that glory and becoming a human being, His death on the cross, and His resultant reward and high exaltation above every name [even higher than the glory that He had with the Father before the world was], and how it thus knocks the props out from under the trinitarian claim that Jesus in His pre-human existence was equal with God, yea, even God Himself. It reads: "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Thus the R.S.V. does not deny Jesus' divinity or deity, though in the above text (and that in harmony with the original Greek) it eliminates the unscriptural thought that He was Divine in His pre-human and earthly existence. No wonder the trinitarians prefer instead the incorrect, trinity-favoring A.V. of Phil. 2:6!
Another trinity-favoring A.V. rendering is found in 1 John 3:16: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us. …" Trinitarians lay hold on this as a proof that God and Jesus are one and the same person, thus endorsing the papal claim that it was God who died on the cross. In effect they agree that it is quite all right to speak of Mary as "the mother of God"! It seems so hard for some to get away entirely from such absurdities and mysticism! The R.S.V. is faulted for deleting the words "of God" from this text. But they are not a part of God's Word. They were added in the A.V., as indicated by the italics. Most recent translations, including the Emphatic Diaglott, the E.R.V. and the A.R.V., omit them, though, of course, the trinitarian Roman Catholic Douay Bible inserts them, with no indication that they were added. The R.S.V. does well to omit these added words. How strange that some Protestants still hold to the papal teaching that Jesus and God are the same person, and even hate the light that exposes their darkness!
The last straw that breaks the trinitarian camel's back and thus exposes this heathen-invented, Catholic promoted, God-dishonoring, erroneous mysticism of the Dark Ages, is the R.S.V.'s omission of the spurious portion of 1 John 5:7, 8. In the A.V. only the first seven words of v. 7 and only the last 14 of v. 8 are a part of God's Word, and all of v. 7 after these first seven words together with the first nine words of v. 8 were added, or interpolated, centuries after John's Epistle had been written. This is universally recognized and admitted by Bible scholars who study original Greek manuscripts, in none of which does this interpolation appear prior to the fourteenth century, though it was inserted earlier into some Vulgate manuscripts. Trinitarians admit that there is no Scripture that clearly states their doctrine, for it entirely lacks genuine Scripture support. The sense of the need of some Scripture to support their theory doubtless led to inserting interpolations into 1 John 5:7, 8. Trinitarians naturally fight against this information getting too much into the hands of the public, hence they strongly oppose the R.S.V., so widely advertised and distributed. It is doing their Dark-Age trinitarian ideas much more harm than other less widely distributed translations that similarly reject this spurious trinitarian interpolation. However, in their many criticisms brought against the R.S.V., its rejection of this spurious trinitarian interpolation is passed by in silence, for to complain against this would be to expose the errors of the trinitarian critics themselves!
There are many other points we would like to discuss, but space will not permit. Above we have endeavored to note a few of the imperfections and a few of the virtues of the R.S.V. It makes some serious blunders, and it exposes some of the serious blunders of the A.V. and other versions. It is probably the best translation in modern English to be found anywhere. It makes clear the real meanings of hundreds of words that in the A.V.'s Old English style are not easily understood. But with the Modernistic tendencies that are manifest in some of its translations, together with other outstanding defects, it should never be allowed to supplant the A.V., but should with various other translations, be considered as a valuable contribution to a fuller understanding of God's Word, and should therefore be used mostly for comparative study, but not as an unquestionable authority on correct translation.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible:
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