Are Versions Necessary?

Continuing our trek through Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology as a Bibliology Primer we now come to the question of the necessity of versions. For Turretin, this question is divided into two main heads: 1.) the necessity of the versions and 2.) the authority of the versions. Today’s post concerns the former. Turretin writes quoting the Roman Catholic, Arboreus,

“‘[T]he translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular tongue is one source of heresies.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 Second Topic, Q. 13, Sec. I.

He goes on to quote others as saying of the translation of Scripture as,

“a curious invention of heretics banished from orthodox religion, and therefore useless to the church, and impiously and iniquitously devised for the purpose of spreading heresy.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 13, Sec. I.

To these objections Turretin offers the following 3 arguments:

“(1) The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures is enjoined upon men of all languages, therefore the translation of it into the native tongue is necessary.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 13, Sec. II.

Don’t you think with all this talk about the necessity of versions that Turretin would address, indeed, call for, multiple versions of the Bible for a single native language? But, it’s not there. Certainly, there were multiple English versions by the time of Turretin, but what you won’t find is theologians and pastors arguing that all those versions are essentially the word of God at the same time and in the same way. Even the 1611 KJV Preface to the reader interprets “meanest” versions as virtuous in many forms and in that sense not the same word of God at the same time and in the same way.

“(2) The gospel is preached in all languages; therefore it can and ought to be translated into them.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 13, Sec. III

Here we have multiple versions translated from the Greek and Hebrew, but those versions are all in different languages.

“(3) Vernacular versions are necessary on account of the constant practice of the church, according to which it is certain that both the oriental and wester churches had their versions and performed their worship in the vernacular tongue, as their liturgies evince.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. 13, Sec. IV.

Next time we meet on this topic we will tackle the authority of versions in the Church.

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