Space Age Science by Edward F. Hills

Space Age Science by Edward F HillsEdward F. Hills is best known for his 1956 book The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts (Christian Research Press). Assessments of Hills’ legacy are offered by both King James Only advocates (here and here), and critics (here). All agree that Hills was unique in being the only defender of the King James that had studied in the field of textual criticism, a ThD from Harvard, no less.

It was actually by reading Hills’ work, that I first began to doubt the tenets of King James onlyism, since he is honest with the evidence and admits to a few errors in the Textus Receptus. Hills also espouses a more Calvinistic bent in his theology than I had been exposed to up to that time, but what most made me pause in my reading of Hills, was his unabashed acceptance of geocentrism. He is not the only King James proponent to hold to geocentrism (the idea that the sun and planets rotate around the earth), see this article by Dr. Thomas Strouse.

With this wariness in my mind, I was intriguted when I found a copy of another smaller title written by Edward Hills: Space Age Science (Christian Research Press, 1964). In this title it appears he backs off of his geocentric views, somewhat – but later editions of his more well known work do not clarify matters.

Here is a brief review of this book, which I recently read with interest, particularly in light of the modern debates over science and the Bible.

This book displays an interesting perspective on science and faith, from the early 1960s. Hills does a good job explaining Einstein’s theories, but his critiques and biblical application don’t stand on much. He doesn’t cite authorities backing up his claims.

At first glance, it appears that in this book, Hills backs away from geocentrism (the view that the earth is stationary and the planets rotate around it). He makes the interesting observation that according to Einstein, Ptolemaic theory (stationary earth) and Copernican theory (stationary sun) are interchangeable and both equally true depending on your perspective. But then he clearly distances himself from a geocentric view:

“When we consider what the Scriptures say concerning the movements of the heavenly bodies, we see that they by no means teach the Ptolemaic theory” (p. 55). He goes on to quote Ps. 19:6 as showing the sun moves on its circuit. And points out the context of Ps. 93:1 a verse taken to prove geocentrism. He points out that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7) and says “The astronomy of the Bible is not earth-centered but God-centered” (p. 55).

After doing some searching, I did find that this contradicts what Hills states in his book The King James Version Defended. There (in the 4th edition, 1984, pg. 7) he states that he thinks it likely that Tycho Brahe’s theory (the predecessor of Copernicus) that the earth rotates on its axis and the sun and planets rotate around the earth is “probably correct.” It appears his conclusions in this volume (Space Age Science) are tentative and underplayed.

Another intriguing element of this book was his concession that God’s initial creation may have been just “mere energy out of which matter was later constituted” (p. 71). But then he disavows the deep time involved in modern astrophysics: “No billion years were required for the light of even the farthest star to reach our earth’s atmosphere, for God’s almighty power was able to bring it there in an instant of time” (p. 73). He even suggests that this may be what is intimated by the fact that God “set” the great lights in the firmament (p. 73).

Overall this is a fascinating insight into a Christian scholar trying to grapple with modern science from a believing point of view. I don’t think his qualifications from a scientific background fit him well for writing this book, and I don’t follow him in all his positions; but his attempt to apply the Bible and asses modern scientific developments is laudable.

Pick up a copy of this book at any of the following online retailers: Amazon.com, Bible Baptist Bookstore.

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Coffee With Sam: What’s the Big Deal about the KJV?

A new website has launched called BigDealKJV.com, in which (according to the video creator) 8-10 video episodes will eventually be published. In this first episode, KJVO advocate Sam Gipp sits down over coffee with a student to explain to his confused mind why the KJV is the final authority.

In this well-produced short video, Gipp offers many of the same arguments and presuppositions posited by KJV advocates. While Gipp has said things that place him in the Ruckmanite category, he comes off here as a humble and wise professor seeking to take the complex issue of biblical transmission and make it fit into a simple construct with contemporary analogies. Here are some arguments given:

1. The Bible(s) we have today have to be exactly the same as that given by inspiration in order to be authoritative. 

Gipp makes this point in the very beginning when he declares the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, and then clarifies that he’s “not talking about an imaginary book” but “a book that I’m holding in my hand right now.”  He proceeds to point to the Bible in his hand as the final authority.

This idea has been propagated in numerous ways across the spectrum of King James Onlyism. What this concept does is it provides a basis to later declare all modern versions as less than authoritative because they do not all equally match each other. The KJVO advocate may deny it, but if he uses this argumentation, he really is looking for a photocopy of the originals, albeit in English.

2. There are only two Bibles, the Egyptian and the Antiochan.

Over coffee, Gipp tells his suspicious catechumen that despite the hundreds of Bible translations in the bookstores, all Bibles come from just one of two lines of manuscripts: those that come from Alexandria, Egypt, and those that come from Antioch in Syria. From this simplistic categorization of text types, Gipp then uses the guilt-by-association tactic to prove the superiority of the KJV because of its affiliation with Antiochian manuscripts.

Never mind that the Bible provides no precedent to use a distinction between Egypt and Antioch for a basis of judging translations, or that the Son of God was called out of Egypt, or that Athanasius, the champion of trinitarian orthodoxy, came from Alexandria. Because the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch and Egypt is generally spoken of negatively in the scriptures, the issue is presented very matter-of-fact by Gipp that the KJV descends from the Antiochian line, and is therefore superior.

3. The Textus Receptus is the Antiochian line of manuscripts

Gipp says the TR “is the Greek that comes out of Antioch.” So, the line of reasoning is as follows: Inspiration in Antioch > copies and publishing in Antioch > Textus Receptus > KJV.

Unfortunately for Gipp’s argumentation, the transmission of the text is not that simple.

4. The Critical Text is bad because it’s called the Critical Text

I chuckled at the statement, “Just the fact that it’s ‘critical’ should tell you there’s a problem.” All the while he’s promoting the TR, which is a Greek text. A text, by its very nature, is critical. Variant readings from manuscripts have to be compared in order to produce a finished product. In this way, Erasmus’ TR editions are critical, although worked from far fewer manuscripts and with less of a science of textual criticism.

5. Modern translations cannot help a Christian grow in the same way the KJV can.

Thankfully, Gipp admits that people can come to the knowledge of the gospel and be saved through reading versions other than the KJV. However, only the KJV is incorruptible, and corrupt modern versions are not appropriate for the Christian’s growth. No evidence is given here, but at this point, the episode is coming to a close, so I suspect we’ll get more details in the future.

St. Catherine’s Monastery: An Ark in the Wilderness

John Chitty, known in the blogosphere as Captain Headknowledge, recently had the opportunity to attend a symposium on the St. Catherine’s monastery library and the significance of the Sinai manuscripts, held at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM).

Chitty has shared the text of Father Justin’s lecture: “St. Catherine’s Monastery: An Ark in the Wilderness”. I encourage you to take a look as the lecture covers the well known and the not so well known about St. Catherine’s Monastery. I’m not sure I had heard that they made some new manuscript discoveries there as late as 1975.

Here is an excerpt from the lecture notes, but I encourage you to go read the whole thing:

The monastery has never been destroyed or abandoned in all its centuries of existence. The climate at Sinai is surprisingly dry and stable, the humidity averaging from twenty to thirty percent. All of this, and the diligent care of the monks, account for the preservation of many manuscripts. The Sinai library is today a remarkable treasure for the antiquity and the significance of its volumes.

The library contains 3304 manuscripts, written in eleven languages. These are predominantly Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavonic. The manuscripts range in content from copies of the Scriptures, services, and music manuscripts, to sermons, writings of the Fathers, lives of the Saints, and books of inherited spiritual wisdom. The library also includes medical treatises, historical chronicles, and texts in classical Greek, which is the pinnacle of the Greek language.

A few of the manuscripts are splendid works of art, with gilded letters and brilliant illuminations, created in Constantinople in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, when the City was at its height as the centre of culture and devotion. But no less significant are the humble manuscripts written at Sinai, often on reused parchment, bound between rough boards, the pages stained from long use, a witness to the deprivations and austerity of Sinai, to the generations of monks who have maintained the life of devotion and the cycle of daily services at this holy place.

But perhaps we would come to a greater appreciation of the Sinai library if I could describe four manuscripts in particular, all of which have been recently studied by scholars.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery is a treasury filled with things new and old. Scholars still have much to learn from its library, its numerous icons, vestments, ecclesiastical vessels, its architecture. In all of this, it is a veritable ark in the wilderness.

See also a few related posts from John Chitty on the Sinai manuscripts: