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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Logic, Reason, and the Scriptures

On his site, What Is Truth?, a KJV Only pundit presented a rather lopsided perspective on the King James Only position being “the only logical position to take on the English Bible today.” He made it very plain that any other position is inferior to his own. He continues, “Yes. Any other position is illogical.”

Since I have commented on his site but never had a comment approved (largely because he has been banned from this site for insulting other commenters as well as the authors), I thought it might be worthwhile to answer his logic here. I will provide his syllogism and then present the logical fallacies.

Here is his central thesis: One set of words in one set order is the Bible.

(Because he takes such great care to submit this exact word order, I must assume that he intended to write it this way even though it produces a syntactically odd phrasing.)

Without addressing any of the syllogisms he develops from the thesis, let’s ask some questions about this idea.

Is one set of words in one set order the Bible?

We must acknowledge that in order for this statement to be true, it must be ubiquitous. There must be one definitive, absolute order for the set of words. There can be no variation, no alternate readings.

There must be an absolute authority setting down the one set of words in one set order, and that would include the ways the books are put together into an anthology as well as which books to include and which not to include. It requires that someone make a definitive declaration about the one set of words in one set order.

This is not what we see in church history. It took quite a while for the churches to come to a consensus on the books of the New Testament. What’s more, for most of its history, the church relied on a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) as its primary text rather than the original Hebrew. There are significant variations between this Greek version and the Hebrew originals. Which is the one set of words in one set order for the church?

Where is the one set of words in one set order?

Moreover, how does the English translation known as the King James Version represent this one set of words in one set order? Does the King James Version restore the one set of words in one set order? If so, then who knew the one set of words in one set order prior to the King James Version?

If it is not the KJV – if this one set of words in one set order is the Textus Receptus and the Masoretic text, then how did one know the order prior to the publishing of Erasmus and the other TR editions? The manuscripts they have include a number of variants (which are easily sorted for the most part), but there is not a single manuscript that IS the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus is a term for the printed editions composed from the manuscripts available.

Is the one set of words in one set order comprehensible?

Finally, if there is truly one set of words in one set order then it stands to reason that there must be one, absolute standard of understanding these words. The word set, which must be therefore divine and eternal, must be knowable in all ages. There must always be a set of knowledge for the words themselves.

But we find this is not true. The King James translators struggled with many of the words in Hebrew and Aramaic. The languages were dead for all intents and purposes, and the knowledge of the meaning of words was often difficult to decipher. Comparative studies and archaeology have helped us in the intervening centuries, but there are still many words in the original texts that we are not certain how to translate. Any translators will say this – even TR-only translators.

Conclusion

It simply does not make logical sense that God would preserve one set of words in one set order but then allow the meaning of those words to be lost.

It does not make logical sense that one set of words in one set order had to wait for the publication of the Textus Receptus or the restoration of the Hebrew Old Testament in order to be known.

It does not make logical sense that this one set of words in one set order exists in human experience.

What we have is transmitted, miraculously aligned manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. We have many translations in other languages, and multiple editions of those that appear in the original languages. We have a beautiful tapestry of manuscript tradition, woven by several millennia’s worth of believers who reverenced the Word of God. We have good manuscripts and bad ones; and we should reverence them all.

As you can see, logic relies heavily on the thesis. When you begin with a statement and take it as axiomatic, you can represent any position as if it is absolute. The core thesis presented can be demonstrated to be false, but when one does a deductive reasoning from the thesis without questioning it, the thesis appears to be true. As I hope I have demonstrated, this particular thesis is not nearly as absolute as it might first appear.

I don’t fault this pundit for his article or his logic. I believe his central thesis is faulty – but not because he is a bad person or wishes to mislead people. He has the core human right to believe as he does, and I understand that means he will be biased against those who do not accept his logic and ideals.

True objectivity is not as possible as our modernist fore-bearers believed it was.Logic is often faulty and biased because it is developed by humans. It is relative to the experience and beliefs we bring to it. It is a human tool which is used by humans for humans, and as such it falls short of the divine.

And that is only logical.

Was the King James Bible Published on May 2nd, 1611?

I have a confession, I depended on Google to verify the publication date of the King James Bible when I posted my recent video review of Dr. Donald Brake’s A Visual History of the King James Bible. I had heard the date May 2, given for the publishing of the KJB from the Haven Today radio interview of Dr. Brake. I Googled and found that several other sites were saying May 2 was “the date”.

I came across this blog post, where the blogger directly asked Dr. Brake if May 2nd was the date. Here’s an excerpt from his post and I think this answers the question.

David Norton in his book A Textual History of the King James Bible says “The printing history of the KJB is plagued throughout by inadequate publishing records. Presumably because it was considered a revision rather than a new book, the first edition was not entered on the Stationers’ Registers, so we do not know when in 1611 it appeared.” (page 46)

Norton’s book was published in 2005 so I thought maybe some new evidence had surfaced which fixed the date to May 2nd. I immediately thought of Donald Brake. After reading his first book, A Visual History of the English Bible, I had emailed him a couple of questions and he quickly provided me with answers. Since he just published a book specifically on the history of the King James Version (A Visual History of the King James Bible) I thought I would try him again. Two days later came his reply. Here’s what he wrote:

“The actual date of the publication is unknown. Tradition has placed it in May but no specific date can be verified. We know it was being sold in November from a diary of a resident in England, a Mr. Throckmorton. I believe David Norton is correct and I too am puzzled by the fact it was not in Stationer’s Registers. They were generally disciplined to include all new publications. I question the reason ‘because it was considered a revision rather than a new book.’ While it was designed to be a revision of the Bishops’ Bible as clearly stated in the Introduction, few would consider it an actual revision of the Bishops’. The translators consulted most of the 16th century Bibles (as set forth in the 15 rules for translators) plus the Greek and Hebrew texts. Having said that, I don’t have a better explanation. Perhaps it was released over a period of time as the copies were sold.”

As it turns out Brake was in DC during May 2nd and 3rd for a celebration of the KJV anniversary. The date, he said, was a “date the anniversary committee decided as the official day.”…

[Read the whole post]

Embracing the KJV Tradition and Modern Technology

I use the English Standard Version as my standard reading Bible. Our church, however, has the New International Version in the racks so when teaching, I usually use it. (I even have a red ‘preaching Bible’ that I seem to misplace more often than I’d like to admit.)

This might be surprising to some of the readers who know that I am not a big fan of the Greek Critical Texts. It is my firm belief that with modern technology available to us, there is no reason we cannot use a modern version and hold to a more traditional or majority view of the texts.

Here is how it works out in my life and ministry.

More often than not, I teach from whole books or large passages of the Scriptures. For example, we are currently in the middle of a five week study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). During tessarakoste (Lent for those of you in the western tradition), we will be journeying through the major books of the Exile (Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah). After Easter, we’re doing an expositional study of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

As I am teaching through a book, I am studying it. Really, I don’t spend much time on word studies because in real life, we don’t do word studies. We read to understand. If we don’t understand a word, we look it up and move on. Instead, I read the passage repeatedly. My office is full of whiteboards, and I will write out large passages in the original languages and read over them to familiarize myself with them.

This is where technology comes in. In my version of Logos Bible Software, I have a number of Greek texts. When I’m studying the New Testament, I use Scrivener’s 1881 text and I lock it to both Nestle-Aland 26 (I’m too cheap to upgrade so I have 27) and Stephanus’ 1550. I scroll through the texts, watching for variants and reading along in English – both the ESV and the KJV, as well as the NASB usually.

This allows me to see, at a glance, everything that is going on – all the competing ideas. Because I spent years reading the KJV, I can usually recognize a major variant in the English pretty quickly. If there’s a valid reason for the variant (because I don’t believe the TR is infallible), then I accept it and move on. If the variant is pointless or silly (like removing “broken for you” in 1 Corinthians 11:24), I just add it back in when I read.

When teaching, I will often point out that translation is an imperfect art. It is not uncommon for me to ask someone in the congregation to read a passage from the KJV, or read it myself (although I don’t preach with notes or a pulpit, and bringing another Bible up with me would look silly). At these times, I remind the congregation that translation is a community activity and we need to be connected with our heritage as well as with our contemporary culture.

I love the King James Version of the Bible, and I love it for a lot of reasons and I believe we can still learn a lot from it. It is, and should continue to be considered, the fount from which all English translations should flow. With modern technology at our fingertips, there is no reason why we can’t connect to that stream and use a version of the Bible people find readable.

A Question Regarding the KJV and “Eis”

I am curious as to why the King James Version translators translated eis as into, unto, for instead of consistently using one word.

For example, when reading verses about baptism, John baptized unto (eis) repentance and preached the baptism of repentance for (eis) the remission of sins.  Peter preached that people should be baptized for (eis) the remission of sins.  Paul said we are baptized into (eis) Christ, and that Israel was baptize unto (eis) Moses.

I cannot see that the word actually has a wide variety of meaning from one of these texts to  another.  It would have been helpful, I think, for it to have been translated with a little more consistency.

Perhaps someone could help me on the whole issue.

Book Giveaway: The KJV 400th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

Hey all, just a brief word to let you know of a new study bible site (new to me, anyway). StudyBible.info has an incredibly comprehensive list of Bible translations to compare, most of them being older translations or revisions to the KJV. Several classic commentaries, and a good number of interlinears and Greek helps are included in the site. Take a while to browse around, bookmark it and come back to it when you’re studying. It should prove useful.

The contest runs through midnight Saturday, 12/18 (sorry for the late notice). The prize is a hardcover 400th anniversary edition of the KJV 1611 Bible, by Hendrickson. Jump on over to the site for additional details on how to enter for your chance to win the free copy of a classic, high quality Bible.

Thanks to StudyBible.info for sponsoring the contest.