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THE NEW VERSION
The revised version of the New Testament recently published to the world by the translators, has excited very general attention and criticism among all interested in God’s word, as it should, being so important.
Doubtless by this time most of you have examined it and are able to judge of its points of merit and demerit for yourselves.
While it could have been improved upon by more radical changes, yet it could have been far worse: and it certainly is in many respects much superior to the old version.
We might offer commendation of their course in omitting certain interpolations—passages not found in ancient manuscripts, etc., but this is needless for of course it was their duty to eradicate all words of men. We regret to notice that all of these interpolations have not been excluded—perhaps the most important of these stumbling blocks being the first clause of Rev. 20:5—”The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”—already referred to in these columns.
We notice that the words—Christ and Baptize are left untranslated as in the old version; these are Greek words transferred into our language and it would have been a help to the general reader had the English of them been given, viz.: anointed and immersed. The Greek word hades left untranslated in the new version, is certainly better than to have it as in the old version rendered hell, which to the general reader conveyed anything but the correct meaning—though all scholars well understood it to mean death or the condition of death.
We have heretofore called your attention to the fact that the Greek words, kosmos, oikoumenee, and aion, are in the old version all translated by the English word, world, which does great violence to their meaning and grossly misleads the reader. We are very much surprised to find that the new translation leaves them just the same: we are at a loss to see how men of so much learning could do so by mistake, for doubtless each of them would if asked, particularly answer that kosmos signifies the world of mankind, or present order of things—that oikoumenee signifies the habitable
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earth or land; while aion means an age or period of time. It is because of the mistranslation of this last word that so many have been led to expect “the end of the world” at the second advent of Jesus, instead of the end of the gospel age, and hence they are expecting “a wreck of matter and a crush of worlds” instead of the ending of one age and gradual beginning of another which is now in progress. Can it be that the learned translators feared that articles of human creeds would have been exposed as false and erroneous by a proper rendering? Only error requires covering—truth courts the light and always shines the brighter for it.
The Greek word psukee signifying existence or being is in Matt. 16:26 rendered life—”What shall a man be profited if he shall gain the whole world and forfeit his life—or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” This is certainly a great improvement over the much misunderstood word soul. Had psukee in every case, as here, been translated life or better—being, it would have helped people in the understanding of God’s word, but, at the same time it would have dissolved some of the mysteries with which the traditions of men—the church creeds—have surrounded the nature and destiny of man—and that might destroy confidence in those creeds—hence psukee is generally translated by the mysterious word soul as before, the above exception and a few others being made because it would here have been very absurd to translate it soul and would have conflicted with the very idea the creeds and traditions seek to uphold—viz.: that soul is a thing in a man yet separate from him. From the orthodox (?) standpoint how absurd it would sound to say “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.”—(Luke 9:24,) or to translate the word psukee, soul in Matt. 10:39, or Mark 8:35, and Luke 17:33. Yet in these the same word occurs which elsewhere is translated by the mysterious word soul.
Another word left by the new version as it was in the old is
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of which H. V. Reed in the Restitution pointedly says:
“The reader has been led to infer that this was among the most approved and clearly stated ideas of the original scriptures. Nothing can be more unfair. The word godhead is not good English: it means nothing in itself and conveys no idea to the reader. What is a godhead? The idea in the original is simple and beautiful. We will note the three texts wherein it occurs. Acts 17: ‘Being, therefore, already offspring of God, we ought not to be supposing that which is Divine to be like unto gold, or silver, or stone, etc. (Rotherham.) Rom. 1:20; ‘For his unseen things from a world’s creation are to be clearly seen by the things made being perceived, both his eternal power and divinity.’ (Rotherham.) Col. 2:9: ‘For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the completeness of the Divine nature in a body.’ The word godhead like the word trinity, carries with it the idea of a society, which is not the idea of the original. Had the word been left out of the revised Testament it would have removed another impression from the ‘three-in-one-God’ theory. Modern criticism has forced certain interpretations from the sacred texts, and it will be a long time before doctrinal harmony and Biblical exegesis will expurge from the creed of man the theories of endless misery, the destruction of our globe, and the heathen dogma of the God society, or trinity. No effect on the part of authorized versions will succeed in bolstering up theories which are contrary alike to sound reason and the Scriptures of truth.”
Taken as a whole, however, the new version is as good as we could expect: it is better in fact than we did expect, for well we all know that a man’s creed or belief as to the general teachings of the word, must have an effect and bearing upon his translation of any particular passage which in his judgment would cause it to conflict with the general teachings. Then too, it is almost impossible to translate word for word from the Greek to the English language and if this were accomplished as is attempted with considerable success in the translations known as “Rotherham’s, Young’s and The Diaglott it produces a reading so peculiar and rough that it would not meet with acceptance by the general readers and any attempt to give a smooth English reading gives opportunity and license for the use of the translator’s personal views on the passages translated.
We say then: Thank God for the “New Version;” it is a step nearer pure light and perfect truth at least; it will serve too to draw the attention of all to the basis of all faith—God’s Word—and away from church creeds—the traditions of men—the sandy foundation upon which the faith of most of the nominal church is at present resting.
But as every progress in knowledge is a step toward freedom and a blow to bondage so is this comparatively good work, to prove a powerful element in the storm which already begins to sweep over the nominal church of all denominations, and which eventually will sweep away all refuges of lies (Isa. 28:17)—all the falsities and errors of those who exalt themselves, their words and their churches which they have organized and rule: instead of exalting the Lord and His words and His church (whose names are written in heaven) which He organized at Pentecost and the rule of which He has not given to another.
— July And August, 1881 —