Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1960

Unscriptural Denominational Names

Paul Foutz, Midland, Texas, (From "Southside Reminder, May 19, 1960)

Since 1946 we have had two translations of the Bible in our library which were published by the American Bible Union, a Baptist publication society. The first was published in 1885 (second edition) and was the work of Baptist scholars Hackett, Kendrick, and Conant. The second was a revised or "improved" edition, published a number of years later by the same Baptist publishing society, and was largely the work of such renowned Baptists as Hovey, Broadus, and Weston.

The American Bible Union Version came largely because of a difference between Baptist scholars and the American Bible Society. The Baptist wanted to render an ACCURATE translation of the Greek New Testament, and thus when such words as "baptisms" and "baptizo" appeared in the Greek text, they wanted to translate them (not anglicize them) as "immersion" and "immerse." Thus the American Bible Union translation came into being; and in such passages as Matthew 3 we find "immerse", and "immersed" rather than the anglicized words "baptize," "baptized", and "baptism." In fact, every time you find the words "baptize" or "baptism" in most translations (such as the King James, American Standard Version, or Revised Standard Version) these words are translated "immerse" and "immersion" in the Baptist version — the American Bible Union Version. It is also true that in the earlier editions of this Baptist translation "John the Baptist" is translated (and correctly so) as "John the Immerser." (Matthew 3:1, and uniformly.)

However, some time after the Bible Union translation came from the press, the Baptist people awakened to the fact that in giving an accurate translation they had lost their religious or church name! They could hardly afford to change themselves to "The Immerser Church". So, by their own translation, they had no authority, not a single passage in the word of God, for their religious name "Baptist"! Thus they found it difficult to explain why they were called "Baptists", for no one could read their version and find the term or the authority for the name they wore.

Realizing what they had done in giving this accurate translation, the Baptist made great efforts to call in as many copies of the earlier version as they could possibly find; and did everything they could to prevent any further circulation of this version. At the same time they also decided to correct their "mistake", as much as possible, and publish a better or "improved" version — one that would retain their name "Baptist" in a few passages.

This new or "improved" translation is almost exactly like the earlier work. It reads "immerse." "immersed," and "immersion," rather than "baptize," "baptized," and "baptism," just as the 1884 and 1885 editions; and so they were faithful in their translation of these words. But there is one marked and prominent difference — the "improved" edition retains the translation of John as "John the Baptist" and does NOT translate the phrase as "John the Immerser" as in the earlier editions!

Be it said to their credit that not all the Baptist went along with this obvious inconsistency. Even some among the number who composed the American Bible Union Society could not accept the idea that although "baptism" and "baptize" should rightfully and honestly be translated "immerse" and "immersion" yet "John the Baptist" could not and should not be translated "John the Immerser". However, the majority opinion prevailed. Those in charge of the Society felt that they could not regardless of the inconsistency, or whatever the cost, translate out of existence their hallowed name "Baptist." But Mr. John Fuller of Louisville, Kentucky, who was President of the Bible Union Society said this:

"If a faithful and pure version of God's Holy Word takes away from me my denominational name, then I say, let it go! Let it go!!"

This statement from Fuller is a classic gem, worthy to take its place alongside the great and memorable words of John Wesley regarding "human and party names." We sincerely hope that all our religious friends and neighbors will think carefully and honestly about Mr. Fuller's words.