A Critique of Thomas Holland’s View of the Last Six Verses in Revelation

I recently noticed that the Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism chose to address the writings of an influential King James Only proponent: Thomas Holland. Holland represents the best kind of King James Onlyism, from what I have heard of him. He is honest and deals with the evidence at hand – or at least tries to. At the end of the day, he sticks with his guiding principles and faith in the perfect preservation of all of God’s words, no matter what the evidence. But his writing style is more helpful than many of the KJV proponents I have read.

The journal article focuses on Holland’s explanation of the last six verses of Revelation and his valiant attempt to explain away the consensus that Erasmus translated these verses from the Latin into Greek (for his N.T. edition), since he had no Greek manuscripts that covered that portion of Revelation.

Jan Krans, whose written a book on how Erasmus and Beza handled their translation work, takes Holland to task for what amounts, ultimately, to poor scholarship. Here is the abstract for his paper:

With Thomas Holland’s lengthy discussion of a reading in Rev 22:19 as an example, this article shows how Holland’s way of doing New Testament textual criticism falls short on all academic standards. With respect to the main issue, Erasmus’ retranslation of the final verses of Revelation, Holland fails to properly find, address and evaluate both primary and secondary sources.

I was impressed by how carefully and fairly Krans treated Holland, even as he systematically dismantles his every argument. At the end of the day it is quite apparent that Erasmus did translate from the Latin into Greek resulting in several unique Greek readings in these few short verses.

Equally apprent is the fact that Holland engages in special pleading and circular reasoning in trying to explain away the obvious. He casts doubt upon this historical reality (and definite problem for the TR – since most of the errors remain in all copies of it) in any way he can. He throws suspicion on whether Erasmus really said he translated it from the Latin, then he says the translation job was really good, then he says actually Hoskier thinks that another manuscript was used by Erasmus. In each case, Holland is misreading his sources and misses the mark of the truth.

Like it or not, Erasmus translated from Latin into Greek. The only Greek copies which support his mistranslations were copied after the presence of his Greek NT, and were influenced by it. This fact is admitted by Hoskier and is the consensus of careful scholars. Anyone who claims the Textus Receptus is perfect, has to grapple with this fact. I would argue that we can’t just believe what we want to believe and turn a blind eye to history and textual evidence. We have to face them head on. Reading thisarticle will help in that process. And I’d recommend William Combs’ articles on this matter as well.

Here’s some more info on Krans:

Jan Krans, Ph.D. (2004) in Theology, is Lecturer of New Testament at VU University, Amsterdam. He is currently working on a comprehensive overview and evaluation of important conjectures on the Greek New Testament. He is the author of Beyond What Is Written: Erasmus and Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (Brill, 2006) and also contributes to the the Amsterdam NT Weblog. His book is available online through archive.org.

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The Etymology of “Belief”

In reading through a new book, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes, grandson of John R. Rice, I came across a fascinating quote about the etymology of the English word “belief”. The quote comes from Karen Armstrong, The Case for God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), pg. 86.

When the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin by Saint Jerome (c. 342-420) pistis became fides (“loyalty”). Fides had no verbal form, so for pisteuo Jerome used the Latin verb credo, a word that derived from cor do, “I give my heart.” He did not think of using opinor (“I hold an opinion.”) When the Bible was translated into English, credo and pisteuo became “I believe” in the King James version (1611). But the word “belief” has since changed its meaning. In Middle English, bileven meant “to praise; to value; to hold dear.” It was related to the German belieben (“to love), liebe (“beloved”), and the Latin libido. So “belief” originally meant “loyalty to a person to whom one is bound in promise or duty.” …During the late seventeenth century, however, as our concept of knowledge became more theoretical, the word “belief” started to be used to describe an intellectual assent to a hypothetical–and often dubious–proposition. Scientists and philosophers were the first to use it in this sense, but in religious contexts the Latin credere and the English “belief” both retained their original connotations well into the 19th century.

This rings true to me. I looked to a quick online etymological tool, and found this entry for “belief” which seems to confirm this sense that the English word “belief” has shifted in meaning.

belief

late 12c., replaced O.E. geleafa “belief, faith,” from W.Gmc. *ga-laubon (cf. O.S. gilobo, M.Du. gelove, O.H.G. giloubo, Ger. glaube), from *galaub- “dear, esteemed.” The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c. Belief used to mean “trust in God,” while faith meant “loyalty to a person based on promise or duty” (a sense preserved in keep one’s faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of L. fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to “mental acceptance of something as true,” from the religious use in the sense of “things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine” (early 13c.).

This illustrates the difficulties of translation, and the reason why studying the original languages is so important. Any translation will of necessity be inferior to the original, and the receptor words will not always match up one-for-one with the original Greek or Hebrew. It also points out the problem of words changing meaning over time. In our scientific age, “belief” has many connotations that weren’t necessarily there when the King James Version was translated in 1611.

From a theological standpoint, I think the idea that belief is loyalty, covenant faithfulness stands up to Scriptural teaching. Being a believer is not merely assenting to a set of facts, it is committing to follow Christ your entire life long.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on all this. It is especially appropriate given Easter weekend here, that we think a little more closely about what it means to believe. So feel free to discuss the theological takeaway, or the translational takeaway from this.

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.

Update on the Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text

Paul Anderson requested I post an announcement regarding the board of directors for the new organization. New resources and materials are being regularly added and descriptions of the various families of Byzantine texts are forthcoming, I’m told. So if you are interested in the Majority Text, bookmark the Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text’s website.

The Most Reverend Archbishop Chrysostomos, Ph.D., Director
Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece, Synod in Resistence
Senior Scholar, Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies
Etna, California

Archpriest Victor Potapov, Director
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox scholar and leading ROCOR hierarch
Washington, D.C.

Wilbur N. Pickering, Ph.D., Director
New Testament Textual Scholar
Valparaiso, Brazil

Kirk DiVietro, Ph.D., Director
Secretary of Dean Burgon Society
Pastor of Grace Baptist Church
Franklin, Massachusetts

David Warren, Ph.D., Director
Professor of New Testament Greek & New Testament Textual Scholar
Amridge University
Montgomery, Alabama

Paul D. Anderson, President
Founder of CSPMT
New Testament Textual Scholar
Rockville, Maryland

13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You

NT Resources blog has an interesting post from David Alan Black, professor of NT and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Dr. Maurice Robinson also teaches). I thought I’d share it here as most of the contributors and many of the readers of this blog, know some Greek. And all of us know a little Greek who has a shop around the corner. (Lame attempt at a joke is over, please read on.)

The latest issue of The Reader’s Digest has an interesting article entitled “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Here are “13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You”:

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there. (You’ll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek had to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!

Now who wants to tackle “13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?

[The only way to distinguish blog posts at Dave Black’s blog is by date. This post comes from: 9/30/2010, 12:20 PM.]

Announcement: Upcoming Interview of Dr. Maurice Robinson

I wanted to let everyone know that Monday morning, we will post the first installment of a 2 or 3 part interview of Dr. Maurice Robinson, co-editor of The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform (1991, 2005). Subsequent parts of the interview will be posted throughout next week.

Greek Scholar Bill Mounce: Textual Criticism 101

Greek scholar Bill Mounce, author of The Basics of Biblical Greek (Zondervan, second edition 2003), discussed John 5:4 on his blog today.  His discussion of that text included a basic explanation of what textual criticism is and why it is necessary.

Go over and check out his post, and let us know what you think.  I agree with his concluding assessment:

But God in his sovereign love made sure that the differences among the manuscripts would not hinder our faith.

  • About 5% of the Greek text is in question
  • No major doctrine is brought into question by 5%.

You can trust your Bible!

Read the whole post.  (HT: Jason Skipper)