Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 6, 1953

The Original Text -- No. 2

George F. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

As one works through the evidence of the Old Testament passages, it becomes increasingly clear that the Hebrew text is not given a fair chance in the new RSV translation of the Bible. The RSV translators simply assume that the Hebrew text is corrupt and incorrect, and hence must be "corrected" by them. Let no one be so naive and gullible as to think that all these changes were made on the basis of evidence.

"Many, perhaps most, of the changes which it has made were known centuries ago, but were not introduced into the Authorized Version or the American Standard Version simply because AV and ASV were governed by radically different conceptions of the trustworthiness of the Hebrew text and of the way in which it should be dealt with by the translator. The best Hebrew text available today differs very little from the text which was used by the scholars who prepared the version of 1611 A. D. The most important of the "ancient versions" to which the RSV constantly refers, the Septuagint and the Vulgate, were known to them; and all the other versions appealed to in RSV were known to the revisers of 1901." (Allis: Revised Version or Revised Bible? Pg. 6) By treating the text as unworthy in so many instances, the RSV translators have put their translation under a cloud of unreliability, which does not originate in the text but in the word of God. Their attitude is born of modernism and is essentially different from the attitude of the men who translated the earlier versions. These men believed in the integrity of God's word: the translators of RSV had, and have, no such convictions.

Orlinsky, an RSV translator, warns against changing the Hebrew text; many changes had to be discarded because the text was found to be more reliable than it was formerly credited with being. (The Use of Versions In Translating the Holy Scriptures, pp. 257-258) The Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah, which seems to be more than a thousand years older than the Masoretic text, is so close to the later text that the assumption of careless copying is groundless. This scroll supports the essential integrity of the text and opposes the assumption of the superiority of the versions.

"The so-called Masoretic text, which we have in our printed Hebrew Bible represents a textus receptus which has been established by Jewish Biblical scholars of the early Christian centuries and since then has been transmitted with almost incredible accuracy by copyists down to the present day. This explains why the hundreds of Hebrew manuscripts in existence today show practically no variants." (Shick: Concordia Theological Monthly, January, 1953, pp. 1-12)

Probably few scholars today will deny that the Hebrew text which we have today is practically identical with the standard text of the second century A. D. Especially important is the fact that our Lord, while denouncing the Jews for their misusing, misinterpreting, disobeying the scriptures and making them void with their "traditions," accepted these very scriptures, as they did, as the Word of God, and declared, "the scriptures cannot be broken." It is this which has given the Hebrew scriptures their unique authority for the Christian church. Consequently the aim of the translator should always be to ascertain the meaning of the Hebrew text as it has come down to us, always to give the benefit of the doubt and to correct it as little as possible." (Allis: Revised Version or Revised Bible? p. 3)

"The exceedingly strict and burdensome rules which governed the copyist in the Talmud period (about 100 to 600 A. D.) are a guarantee of the preservation and transmission of a pure text of the Old Testament scriptures. The deep reverence of the Jews for their sacred writings and the scrupulous care with which they were copied during the known period of the history of the text would argue for the same reverence and care during the preceding comparatively unknown period. From the first, we know that the Law was carefully guarded and preserved down to the end of the Old Testament; other books were added from time to time, and in the days of Ezra and the 'Great Synagogue,' it was believed the separate books were edited and formed into a 'Bible.' In those days the books were not extensively copied, hence there was not so much danger of errors from copying. Moreover, it was believed that there was one perfect manuscript handed down, by which all copies could be compared and corrected. In the time of Christ it was held that Moses received the Law from Jehovah; that he handed it down to Joshua, he to the elders, they to the prophets, they to the men of the 'Great Synagogue,' and they to the family of scribes. All this would give sanctity, reverence and care. Josephus (around 95 A. D.) speaks of the books as `justly believed to be divine,' and states that no one would be bold enough to add anything to them, take anything from them, or make any change in them; but rather the Jews would, if need be, die for them. The same sentiment continued through the Talmudic and Masoretic periods, and on down. The solemn warning of the old rabbi to the young scribe shows how jealously the transmission of the sacred text was guarded: 'Take heed how thou dost do thy work, for thy work is the word of heaven; lest thou drop or add a letter to the manuscript, and so become the destroyer of the world.' The manuscripts were most carefully preserved while in use, and when they became old or worn, or for any reason they ceased to be of use, they were buried, often with religious ceremony, or laid away in the lumber room (Ghenzia) of the synagogue to await burial," (Miller: General Biblical Introduction, pp. 186, 187) The Hebrew scribe copied with meticulous care. He would copy a section, then stop and compare words, and finally, count the letters. If the section copied more or less letters than the manuscript being copied, it was destroyed and the task was done over.

In the New Testament the RSV omits all nine of the Western non-interpolations. Since these are not found in manuscript "D" and the related Latin manuscripts, we must give them serious consideration. While the first Matthew 27:49) is doubtful, the other eight (Luke 22:19b-20; 24:3,6,12,36,40,51,52) are in the earliest and finest manuscripts. The most important of the omitted passages are: "that is given for you. Do this to remember me." He did the same with the cup when the supper was over. "This cup is the New Testament, he said, in my blood that is poured out for you." "He is not here, but he is risen." (24:6) "As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet." (vs 40) "as he was taken up to heaven." vs 51) (To be continued)