Monday, December 9, 2019

Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions

            Gail Riplinger’s book, New Age Bible Versions: An Exhaustive Documentation Exposing the Message, Men and Manuscripts Moving Mankind to the Antichrist’s One World Religion, covers a very wide variety of subjects which are important but tangential to textual criticism in its first four sections.  Finally at page 464, something like a sustained focus upon New Testament textual criticism begins to materialize.  I intend via this post to test the accuracy of this book’s contents beginning at that point; I have no intention of adding anything here to the author’s critiques of some modern versions, or her warnings against the heresies of Helena P. Blavatsky, the New Age Movement, etc., which can be found in the earlier segment of the book.
            In section 34, “The Majority Text,” the author used quotations from Wilbur Pickering and John Burgon (both of whom, while opposing the 1881 Westcott-Hort compilation, reject some readings in the Textus Receptus, the New Testament base-text of the KJV).  She seems to believe that the Majority Text and the Textus Receptus are the same thing, and readers might be forgiven for drawing such a conclusion in light of sentences such as the one found on page 471:  referring to the Byzantine Text, Riplinger states, “This text type is available today in English in the Authorized Version, or as it is called in the United States, the King James Version.”  That is not 100% true:  when the Byzantine Text (as printed in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform 2005 ed.), representing the contents of most Greek manuscripts, is compared to the Textus Receptus, there are some translatable differences.  With apologies for veering away from my main subject, here are some examples:
            ● Matthew 8:15:  most manuscripts end the verse by stating that Peter’s mother-in-law served “Him” (αὐτω) rather than “them” (αὐτοις), the TR reading.
            Matthew 18:19:  after πάλιν, most manuscripts have ἀμὴν, so as to read “Verily” or “Assuredly.”
            Mark 4:4:  most manuscripts do not have “of the air” (τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).
            Mark 4:9:  most manuscripts do not have “to them” (αὐτοῖς).
            Luke 6:10:  most manuscripts say αὐτῷ (“him”) rather than τῷ ἀνθρώπῷ (“the man”).
            Luke 7:31:  most manuscripts do not have the phrase “And the Lord said” (Ειπεν δε ὁ Κύριος) at the beginning of this verse.
            Luke 8:3:  most manuscripts say that the women ministered “to them” (αὐτοις) instead of “to Him” (αὐτω). 
            Luke 23:25:  most manuscripts do not say that Barabbas was released “to them” (αὐτοις).
            John 2:22:  most manuscripts do not say “to them” (αὐτοῖς).
            John 7:33:  most manuscripts do not say “to them” (αὐτοῖς).
            John 20:29:  most manuscripts do not have Thomas’ name (Θωμᾶ) in this verse.
            Acts 7:37:  most manuscripts do not have the words “him you shall hear” (αὐτοῦ ἀκούσεσθε).
            Acts 9:5-6:  in most manuscripts, there is no base-text for the words, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’   And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’  And the Lord said unto him.”  (These words in the KJV appear to have been based on a harmonization to the similar passage in Acts 26:14-16.)
            Acts 10:6:  most manuscripts provide no base-text for the KJV’s phrase “He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”
            Acts 15:11:  most manuscripts do not include the word Χριστου (“Christ”).
            Acts 15:34:  most manuscripts provide no base-text for this entire verse.
            Ephesians 3:9:  most manuscripts read οἰκονομία (“dispensation”) instead of κοινωνια (“fellowship”).
            Philippians 4:3:  most manuscripts read Ναι (“Yes”) instead of Και (“And”) at the beginning of this verse.
            Colossians 1:6:  most manuscripts include the words καὶ αὐξανόμενον (“and growing”), a phrase which would be vulnerable to accidental loss due to its occurrence between the words καρποφορούμενον and καθως.
            Second Timothy 1:18:  most manuscripts do not include μοι (unto me).
            Second Timothy 2:19:  most manuscripts read Κυρίου (“the Lord”) instead of Χριστου (“Christ”) at the end of this verse.
            Titus 2:8:  most manuscripts refer to things said about “us” (μῶν) instead of “you” (ὑμῶν). 
            Hebrews 2:7:  most manuscripts have no base-text for the final phrase, “And did set him over the works of Your hands.”
            Revelation 1:11:  most manuscripts do not include the phrase ταις ἐν Ἀσία (“which are in Asia”).         
            Revelation 2:22:  most manuscripts read αυτης instead of αυτων, so as to refer to repentance from “her” works, rather than “their” works.
            Revelation 4:11:  in most manuscripts, the twenty-four refer to “our Lord and our God” (ὁ Κύριος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν), instead of referring to Him as “O Lord” (Κύριε).
            Revelation 6:1:  most manuscripts include the word “seven” (ἑπτα) before “seals.”
            Revelation 6:12:  most manuscripts refer to the “whole moon” (σελήνη ὅλη), not just to “the moon.”
            Revelation 8:13:  most manuscripts refer to an eagle (ἀετου) rather than to an angel (ἀγγέλου) here.
            Revelation 15:3:  most manuscripts end the verse with a reference to the King “of the nations” (ἑθνῶν) instead of “of the saints” (ἀγιων).
            (More (but far from all) differences between the Textus Receptus and the majority of manuscripts may be noticed via a consultation of the textual footnotes in the NKJV.)

            Riplinger states (p. 475) that “The variations among the Majority Text are minor.”  However, many such variations, such as the ones I just listed, are translatable, whether interpreters consider them “minor” or not.  The Nestle-Aland compilation disagrees with the Byzantine Text much more, and this tends to justify Riplinger’s description of the Nestle-Aland compilation as a text based on 1% of the extant manuscripts.  But the Textus Receptus still has some readings of its own that have only a small percentage of manuscripts in their favor.
            On page 478-479, Riplinger is almost simultaneously on and off target:  she notes that, as D. A. mentioned, “95% of the manuscripts belong to the Byzantine tradition,” but just one page later, she claims, “the KJV readings represent the earliest known manuscripts (i.e., P66 A.D. 175).”  This latter statement is true of a relatively small number of readings in P66, but it is not true in general; P66 agrees much more frequently with the Alexandrian Text than with the Byzantine Text.

            In section 35, “The Earliest Manuscripts,” Riplinger presents data drawn from the work of Wilbur Pickering, as well as quotations from as assortment of text-critical researchers (including Zuntz, Metzger, and Colwell) in which it is acknowledged that early papyri contain some distinct Byzantine readings – a fact which practically dismantles Hort’s foundational basis for rejecting the Byzantine Text.  There can be no serious denial of the veracity of the simple charts that Riplinger presents on pages 484-485, in which papyrus support is listed for 23 Byzantine readings.
            After critiquing the NASB due to its tendency to favor shorter readings in Luke 24 (an effect of Hort’s theory about “Western Non-interpolations”) – making several strong points in the process – Riplinger oversimplifies the testimony of a few important early versions when she says that the Sinaitic Syriac, the Gothic version, and the Peshitta “agree with the KJV.”  The Gothic version and the Peshitta tend to agree with the Byzantine Text, but this tendency is by no means total; meanwhile the Sinaitic Syriac is certainly not a consistent ally of the Byzantine Text, let alone of the Textus Receptus.  Similarly, Riplinger describes Codex A and Codex W as if they both support the KJV, but while this is true of portions of each manuscript, it is also untrue of other portions of each manuscript.
            Riplinger makes a serious error on page 489.  Small spelling errors – such as referring to Diognetus as “Diognelus” and referring to Macarius Magnes as “Macarius Magnus” – might be overlooked, but the claim, “P66 has predominantly KJV readings” is simply ridiculous; P66 has some readings that agree with the Textus Receptus but this is certainly not a “predominant” characteristic of the text of P66.   
            In section 36, Riplinger describes the Nestle-Aland compilation (Novum Testamentum Graece) and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament as if they contain a consistently truncated, shortened form of the text.  Riplinger thus seems to assume that the Textus Receptus ought to be the standard of comparison, as if, when we come to a short reading in the Nestle-Aland compilation where there is a longer reading in the Textus Receptus, we ought to assume that something is missing in the Nestle-Aland compilation, rather than that something has been added to the Textus Receptus.  Hort, Nestle, and most textual critics of the 1900s tended to work from the opposite assumption, generally using “prefer the shorter reading” as a major guideline.  Recent research has shown that copyists tended to make more omissions than additions (thus nullifying what was for generations a common assumption among textual critics) – but it remains precarious to settle contests on the basis of generalizations; there are some cases (for instance, in James 4:12 and Jude v. 25) in which the Alexandrian Text has a reading longer than what is in the TR and the Byzantine Text.
            In her description of the UBS edition, Riplinger makes a strong case for the idea that the UBS Greek New Testament as it is currently printed is largely a Roman Catholic project carried out with an ecumenical agenda.  However, a tint of propaganda blots her point when she refers to the editors’ use of “their Gnostic Vatican manuscript.”  Vaticanus’ text perpetuates a few readings that may reflect the influence of early heretics such as the Gnostics, but their Gnostic-ness is contestable and they are quite rare.
            Next, Riplinger presents 23 passages – all from the Epistles of Paul – which, she proposes, show that in the base-text of the NIV and NASB the compilers have “used random minority text type readings when an opportunity arose to present New Age philosophy or demote God or Christ.”  Here on pages 499-502 we meet something to support the book’s title that is potentially more substantial than stories about a textual critic being bitten by Helena P. Blavatsky’s friend’s daughter’s dog; there is textual evidence to consider.  So let’s consider it.  My purpose here is not to settle every textual contest in the list, but to test Riplinger’s charge that the base-text of the NIV, NASB, etc., promote doctrines of the New Age movement in these verses.
            (1)  I Cor. 7:15:   NA reads ὑμᾶς where the TR, Byz, P46 and B read ἡμᾶς.  What difference has this made in English translations?  KJV:  “God hath called us to peace.”  NASB:  “God has called us to peace.”  NIV:  “God has called us to live in peace.”  CSB:  God has called you to live in peace.” ESV:  “God has called you to peace.”  NASB:  “God has called us to peace,” with a note that means the reading “you.”  Obviously one reading is original and the other one is not, but where is the New Age philosophy in either one? 
            (2)  I Cor. 8:3:  NA and the TR both include τὸν θεόν, which is not included in P46.  What difference has this made in English translations?  KJV:  “But if any man love God.”  NASB:  “But if anyone loves God.”  NIV:  “But whoever loves God.”  ESV:  “But if anyone loves God.”  NASB:  “But if anyone loves God.”  Where is the New Age philosophy supposed to be?     
            (3)  I Cor. 10:9:  NA reads Χριστόν with the TR, Byz, and P46 where the previous edition of NA read Κυριον, with ℵ B C.  This interchange of sacred names causes a difference in meaning in English:  KJV:  “Neither let us tempt Christ.”  NASB:  “Nor let us try the Lord.”  NIV:  We should not test Christ.”  ESV:  We must not put Christ to the test.”  As in the first example, there is an obvious difference, but where is the exchange of a true statement for one which promotes a doctrine of the New Age movement?  It is not as if some papyrus says, “Let us not tempt Zarathustra.”   
            (4)  I Cor. 11:24:  NA does not have the words λάβετε φάγετε (“Take, eat”) and the word κλώμενον (“broken”), which are read in TR and Byz.  The NASB, NIV, CSB, ESV follow the NA and thus do not include “Tale, eat” and “broken” in this verse.  This may echo a difference in local liturgical practice, or (some would argue) incomplete harmonization to Matthew 26:25.  But what New Age doctrine is thus promoted?        
            (5)  I Cor. 13:3:  NA reads κἂν where TR and Byz read καὶ ἐὰν, but that makes no translatable difference; Riplinger must be referring to the textual contest further along in the verse:  TR and Byz read καυθήσωμαι (“to be burned”) where NA, with P46 ℵ B,  reads καυχήσωμαι (“that I may boast”).  Again, there is a difference – CSB:  “in order to boast.” NIV:  “that I may boast” – ESV:  “to be burned” – NASB:  “to be burned” – but does this look like anything other than the effect of an early scribal mistake involving a single letter?     
            (6)  I Cor. 14:38:   Where the TR and Byz read ἀγνοέιτω (“let him be ignorant”), NA reads ἀγνοέιται, and as a result of this one-syllable difference, the NIV reads “they will themselves be ignored,” the NASB reads, “he is not recognized.” The CSB reads “he will be ignored,” and the ESV reads “he is not recognized.”  Again, there is no question that there is a difference in the meaning – but where is the evidence of a devious doctrinal agenda, rather than scribal sloppiness?
            (7) I Cor. 15:49:  TR (Stephanus 1550) reads φορέσομεν, Byz reads φορέσωμεν, Pickering’s f35 text reads φορέσωμεν, and NA reads φορέσομεν.  Here the NA and TR agree with each other while disagreeing with the majority of manuscripts!  The resultant difference in translations:  KJV:  “We shall also bear.”  CSB:  we will also bear.”     NIV:  so shall we bear.” ESV:  we shall also bear.”  NASB:  we will also bear,” with a footnote that mentions the alternative, “let us also bear.”  That alleged New Age conspiracy is starting to look extremely subtle.           
            (8) I Cor. 15:54:  TR, Byz, and NA all read the same; they all read νικος at the end of the verse, rejecting the reading in P46 and Vaticanus, νεικος.  (This reading νεικος was mentioned in the Preface to the 1582 Rheims version, as if it was a reading which Beza was inclined to adopt.)   The KJV, ESV, NIV, CSB, and NASB thus refer to “victory.”
            (9) 2 Cor. 1:10:   The TR and Byz read ῥύεται (“does deliver”) where NA reads ῥύσεται (“will deliver”).  This is why the KJV says “doth deliver” where the CSB, NIV, ESV, and NASB say “will deliver.”   
            (10) 2 Cor. 1:11:  The TR, Byz, and NA all read ἡμῶν at the end of the verse; thus the KJV and other versions refer to “on our behalf.”  Had the reading in P46 (ὑμῶν) been adopted instead, the phrase would say “on your behalf.”  
            (11) 2 Cor. 1:12:  The TR, Byz, and NA all read ἁπλότητι, which means “simplicity” or (in the NIV) “integrity.”  The NASB reflects the alternative reading supported by P46 ℵ* B, ἁγιότητι (adopted in NA previously), which means “holiness.”  Again I find myself asking, “Where is the insidious introduction of New Age philosophy??”       
            (12) 2 Cor. 2:1:  Where TR and Byz read δε, NA reads γαρ; the resultant difference in translations is the difference between “But” and “For” at the beginning of the verse. 
            (13) 2 Cor. 2:17:  TR and Byz and NA read πολλοὶ (“many”), and P46 reads λοιποί (“the rest”).  The CSB, ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB, and NIV read “many.”
            (14) 2 Cor. 3:2:  ℵ reads ὑμῶν where P46, TR, Byz, and NA read ἡμῶν.  This is the same sort of variant seen in 2 Cor. 1:11.   A few English versions had adopted ὑμῶν; this is why the RSV and the Living Bible refer to “your” hearts rather than “our” hearts.     
            (15) 2 Cor. 3:9:  Where the TR, Byz and B read ἡ διακονία, NA, with P46, reads τῇ διακονίᾳ.  This difference seems to have had no effect on English translations.
            (16) 2 Cor. 8:7:  Where the TR and Byz read ὑμῶν ἐν ἡμῖν, NA, with P46 and B, reads ἡμῶν ἐν ὑμῖν.  Thus while the KJV refers to “your love for us,” the ESV refers to “our love for you,” and so does the NRSV.  The CSB’s base-text agrees with Byz, reading “your love for us.” (I suspect that the CBGM, plus common sense, may elicit the adoption of ὑμῶν ἐν ἡμῖν in the future.)  As in other examples of this kind of exchange of pronouns, the difference in the readings looks much more like an effect of scribal sloppiness than an effect of a doctrinal agenda to smuggle New Age doctrines into the text.
            (17) Gal. 1:3:  Where the KJV’s base-text, along with the text in most manuscripts, means “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,” translations of NA say, instead, “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  In other words, the substance of this textual difference is a matter of where the word “our” (ἡμῶν) belongs.  Where is the New Age doctrine in either reading?
            (18) Gal. 1:8:   TR and Byz include the word ὑμῖν, and thus the KJV reads “to you” in the first reference to preaching, as well as the second reference.  The NA only has this word within brackets.  The NIV lacks the first reference to preaching “to you,” whereas the ESV, NASB, and CSB has it.          
            (19) Gal. 1:15:  the TR and Byz include ὁ θεὀς (“God”), which NA included within brackets; ὁ θεὀς is not there in P46 B Pesh, and an earlier edition of NA did not adopt it.  (Bruce Metzger added a special note in his Textual Commentary emphasizing his view that ὁ θεὀς is secondary here.)  The difference, when the verse is translated into English, is a difference between Paul referring to God directly (as in, “But when it pleased God, who separated me,” in the KJV) or implicitly (as in, “But when he who had set me apart . . .  was pleased” in the ESV).      
            (20) Gal. 4:25:  Where TR and Byz read τὸ γὰρ before Ἅγαρ Σινᾶ, NA reads τὸ δε.  The translation effect of this difference consists of whether or not the sentence begins with “For.”  What New Age teaching is supposed to be supported by this?    
            (21) Gal. 4:28:  Where TR and Byz (and ℵ A C) read ἡμεῖς at the beginning of the verse and ἐσμέν at the end, NA (with P46 and B) read ὑμεῖς and ἐστέ.  Thus while the KJV says “Now you,” most modern translations say, “Now we.”      
            (22) Gal. 6:2:  The one-letter difference between ἀναπληρώσατε in the TR and Byz (and ℵ A C), and ἀναπληρώσετε results in a slightly different meaning; this is why the KJV reads, “fulfil” while the NIV reads, “you will fulfill.” (Interestingly, the ESV and NASB agree with Byz here.)
            (23) Gal. 6:13:   Where Byz reads περιτετμημένοι αὐτοὶ (“those who are submitting to be circumcised,”) TR and NA read περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ (“Those who are themselves circumcised”).  Either way, the reference is to the same group of people. 

            Not a single one of these textual contests involves a reading which presents New Age philosophy. Not a single one of these textual contests involves a reading which demotes God or Christ.  The tone of Riplinger’s argument in sections 34-36 of her book, to the effect that the NIV and NASB are “New Age Bible versions,” hits a wall when the actual evidence is considered:  the presentation of New Age philosophy is simply absent from the 23 passages she has presented.  This is not to say that the Alexandrian readings in these 23 passages are all correct and original; it is to say that they are doctrinally benign.
            My general impression of New Age Bible Versions – from cover to cover – is that it was written by an author who has taken a valid concern – namely, concern about the many doctrinal errors that were promoted in the late 1800s by Blavatsky and various spiritualists – and transferred it to the text-critical work of B. F. Westcott (an Anglican bishop, and a different person from William Wynn Westcott) and F. J. A. Hort, as if their revision of the Greek New Testament, coming from the same place, and at around the same time, as Theosophy and Spiritualism, must be linked to those heresies in some way.    
            It is easy to claim an association between the New-Age-ism of the era in which Westcott and Hort worked, and their text-critical work itself.  And Hort did himself no favor by attending a séance on one occasion, by insisting on the inclusion of a Unitarian on the committee in charge of producing the Revised Version, or by joining a group of scholars who wished to put spiritualism under the microscope of scientific investigation.  But the strengths and weaknesses of Hort’s text-critical evidence and arguments are strong or weak on their own, and do not depend at all upon the theological integrity of Hort or of their other advocates.  In addition, many renderings which Riplinger finds objectionable are translation-related, and emanate from translators, not from the base-text being translated.   
            Riplinger would have done well to consider Hanlon’s Razor:  do not rush to attribute to malicious motives what can be explained by simple incompetence.  When we set aside Riplinger’s transferred alarm about Blavatsky & Co., and take the time to examine the textual centerpiece of her case – the 23 textual contests she has listed in which Alexandrian readings are supposed to present New Age philosophy – it becomes spectacularly clear that they do nothing of the sort. 

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.


1 comment:

Maiar said...

I am no scholar, but I remember the early ads for her book which indicted the NKJV as well as all the other 'modern'versions. I looked up in the Greek all the references listed in the ad as supposedly egregious errors and concluded the NKJV was superior in every instance. The one good thing about the whole controversy was getting me interested in textual criticism. I recently read and appreciated your books on the ending of Mark and the Pericope.