Testimonies about Bible Translations by past leaders of Bible Christianity
|Topic: Bible Translations||Type: Articles||Author: John Gill|
November 23, 1697October 14, 1771
By the Scriptures, I understand the books of the Old and New Testaments. The books of the Old Testament are the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (sometimes called the Pentateuch); the historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, the two books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther; the poetical books: Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Solomon's Song; and the prophetic books, the larger Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, with the Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel; the lesser Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The books of the New Testament are the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the book of history: the Acts of the Apostles; the Epistles: fourteen of Paul, one of James, two of Peter; three of John and one of Jude; and the prophetic book: Revelation. These books are commonly called Canonical Scripture, because they have been always received by the church into the canon, or rule of faith. The books of the Old Testament, by the Jewish church; with which entirely agree Josephus's account of them, and the catalogue of them brought from the East by Afelito ; and the books of both Testaments agree with the account which Origen gives of them in his time, and which have always been acknowledged by the Christian church; and which testimony of both churches, respecting them, deserves our regard, and tends to corroborate their divine authority. Now these are the books which the apostle calls, all Scripture, or the whole of Scripture, said by him to be given by inspiration of God: which include not only the books of the Old Testament, which had been long in existence in his time; but the books of the New Testament, which were all of them then written, excepting the book of the Revelation; since these words of his stand in an epistle supposed to be the last that was written by him; and however what is said by him is true of what might be written afterwards, for the uses he mentions, as well as before.
From these must be excluded, as uncanonical, the books that bear the name of Apocrypha; which are sometimes bound up with the Bible, to the great scandal and disgrace of it; for though there may be some things in them worthy to be read, as human writings; there is such a mixture of falsehood and impiety, that they cannot by any means be allowed to be placed upon an equality with the sacred scriptures. Likewise all such spurious books falsely ascribed to the apostles, or to some of the first Christians; as, The Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus; The Constitutions of the Apostles; Hermes's Pastor, etc. which carry in them manifest marks of imposture. To which may be added, all human and unwritten traditions, pleaded for by the papists; and all dreams and visions, and pretended revelations and prophecies, delivered out in later ages, by enthusiastic persons. Blessed be God, we have a more sure word of prophecy to attend unto; concerning which, I shall:
I. Observe the divine authority of the Scriptures, or show, that they are from God, or inspired by Him; they lay in a claim to a divine original; and the claim is just, as will be seen. They are called the law, or doctrine of the Lord; the testimony of the Lord; the statutes of the Lord; the commandment of the Lord; the fear of the Lord and the judgments of the Lord; by the Psalmist David [PSA 19:7-9]. And the prophets frequently introduce their prophecies and discourses, by saying, the word of the Lord came to them; and with a, thus says the Lord, [ISA 1:10; JER 2:1, 2]. And our Lord expressly calls the scripture the word of God, [JOH 10:35] as it is also called, [HEB 4:12]. And which God "at sundry times, and in divers manners, spoke by the prophets;" and by his Son, and His apostles, in later times, [HEB 1:1, 2]. And is represented as the oracles of God, and may be safely consulted and depended on; and according to which men are to speak, [ROM 3:2; 1PE 1:11]. But before I proceed any further, in the proof of the divinity of the sacred Scriptures, I shall premise the following things:
First, That when we say that the Scriptures are the word of God, or that this word is of God; we do not mean that it was spoken with an articulate voice by Him; or written immediately by the finger of God (the law of the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, indeed, were articulately spoken by Him, and the writing of them was the writing of God [EXO 20:1; 31:18 and 32:15], in which He might set an example to His servants, in after times, to write what might be suggested to them by Him; that it might remain to be read) it is enough, that they were bid to write what He delivered to them, as Moses and others were ordered to do [DEU 31:19; JER 30:2; HAB 2:2; REV 1:11, 19], and what was ordered by the Lord to be written, it is the same as if it was written by Himself; and especially since the penmen wrote as they were directed, dictated and inspired by him, and spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; for they did not speak and write of their own head, and out of their own brains; nor according to their will, and when and what they pleased; but according to the will of God, and what He suggested to them, and when He inspired them [2PE 1:21].
Second, Not all that is contained in the scriptures is of God. Some are the words of others; yes, some are the speeches of Satan, and very bad ones too; as when he suggested that Job was not a sincere worshipper of God; and requested he might have leave to do injury both to his property and to his person [JOB 1:9-11; 2:4-6]. So when he tempted our Lord, and moved Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and destroy Himself; and not succeeding in that, urged Him to fall down and worship him [MAT 4:5, 9]. But now the penman of these books, in which these speeches are, were moved and directed by the Lord to commit them to writing; so that though they themselves are not the word of God; yet that they are written, and are on record, is of God; and which was directed to, and done, to show the malice, pride, blasphemy and impiety, of that wicked spirit. There are also speeches of bad men, as of Cain, Pharaoh and others, ordered to be written, to discover the more the corruption of human nature: and even of good men, as of Moses, David, Jonah, and particularly the friends of Job, and their long discourses, in which they said not that which was right of God, as Job did; and he himself did not say in every speech of his what was right of God; though he said more that was right, than they did; and yet these speeches are on record, by divine order, to prove matters of fact, to show the weaknesses and frailties of the best of men. Some of the writers of the scriptures, as Moses and the historical ones, being eye and ear witnesses of many things they wrote, could have written them of their own knowledge, and out of their own memories; and others they might take out of diaries, annals and journals, of their own and former times; yet in all they wrote, they were under the impulse and direction of God as to what to leave out, and what to insert into their writings and transmit to posterity. So that all they wrote may be truly said to be by divine authority. In the writings and discourses of the apostle Paul, are several quotations out of heathen authors; one out of Aratus, when he was discoursing before the wise men at Athens; as certain, says he, of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring [ACT 17:28]. Another out of Menander; Evil communications corrupt good manners [1CO 15:33]. And another out of Epimenides, a poet of Crete, a testimony of his against the Cretians, who said they were, always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies; which were produced ad hominum, for greater conviction; and which he was directed to quote and write in his epistles and discourses, for that reason. So that though the words are not of God, yet that they were quoted and written, was of God.
Third, Let it be observed, that not the matter of the Scriptures only, but the very words in which they are written are of God. Some who are not for organic inspiration, as they call it, think that the sacred writers were only furnished of God with matter, and had general ideas of things given them, and were left to clothe them with their own words, and to use their own style; which they suppose accounts for the difference of style to be observed in them: but if this was the case, as it sometimes is with men, that they have clear and satisfactory ideas of things in their own minds, and yet are at a loss for proper words to express and convey the sense of them to others; so it might be with the sacred writers, if words were not suggested to them, as well as matter; and then we should be left at an uncertainty about the real sense of the Holy Spirit, if not led into a wrong one; it seems, therefore, most agreeable, that words also, as well as matter, were given by divine inspiration: and as for difference of style, as it was easy with God to direct to the use of proper words, so He could accommodate Himself to the style such persons were accustomed to use, and which was natural to them, and agreeable to their genius and circumstances; and this may be confirmed from the testimonies of the writers themselves. Says David, one of the writers of the Old Testament, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was in my tongue [2SA. 23:2]. The apostle Paul speaks of himself, and other inspired apostles of the New Testament, Which things, says he, we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches [1CO 2:13], and it is the writing, or the word of God as written, that is, by inspiration of God [2TI 3:16].
Fourth, This is to be understood of the Scriptures in the original languages in which they were written and not of translations [Emphasis added -aal]. Unless it could be thought, that the translators of the Bible into the several languages of the nations into which it has been translated, were under the divine inspiration also in translating, and were directed of God to the use of words they have rendered the original by; but this is not reasonable to suppose. The books of the Old Testament were written chiefly in the Hebrew language, except some few passages in Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Esther, in the Chaldee language; and the New Testament in Greek: in which languages they can only be reckoned canonical and authentic. This is like the charters and diplomas of princes; the wills or testaments of men; or any deeds made by them; only the original exemplar is authentic; and not translations, transcriptions and copies of them, though ever so perfect. To the Bible, in its original languages, is every translation to be brought, and by it to be examined, tried, judged and to be corrected and amended. If this was not the case we should have no certain and infallible rule to go by; for it must be either all the translations together, or some one of them; not all of them, because they agree not in all things. Not one, for then the contest would be between one nation and another which it should be, whether English, Dutch, French, etc. and could one be agreed upon, it could not be read and understood by all. The papists, plead for their vulgate Latin version; which has been decreed authentic by the council of Trent; though it abounds with innumerable errors and mistakes. No, so far do they carry this affair, that they even assert that the Scriptures, in their originals, ought to submit to, and be corrected by their version; which is absurd and ridiculous. Let not now any be uneasy in their minds about translations on this account, because they are not upon an equality with the original text, and especially about our own; for as it has been the will of God, and appears absolutely necessary that so it should be, that the Bible should be translated into different languages, that all may read it, and some particularly may receive benefit by it; He has taken care, in His providence, to raise up men capable of such a performance, in various nations, and particularly in ours; for whenever a set of men have been engaged in this work, as were in our nation, men well skilled in the languages, and partakers of the grace of God; of sound principles, and of integrity and faithfulness, having the fear of God before their eyes; they have never failed of producing a translation worthy of acceptation; and in which, though they have mistaken some words and phrases, and erred in some lesser and lighter matters; yet not so as to affect any momentous article of faith or practice; and therefore such translations as ours may be regarded as the rule of faith. And if any scruple should remain on the minds of any on this account, it will be sufficient to remove it, when it is observed, that the Scriptures, in our English translation, have been blessed of God, either by reading them in it, or by explaining them according to it, for the conversion, comfort, and edification of thousands and thousands. And the same may be said of all others, so far as they agree with the original, that they are the rule of faith and practice, and alike useful.
John Gill, A Body of Divinity. 1769-1770
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