Are Versions Necessary (Part 3)

Continuing our discussion of the necessity of versions of the Bible we now turn to the relationship of the version to the original and the similarities and differences that therein lie.

I. The version is not authentic in itself. The version derives its authenticity from the original which underlies it. Thusly construed, we deny the doctrine of double inspiration or the teaching that God immediately inspired the originals and then immediately inspired a receptor language version of those originals.

“Hence it follows that the versions as such are not authentic and canonical in themselves (because they are made by human labor and talent).”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XV.

II. The authenticity which the version derives from the original is the self-credible substance of the words [e.g., the meaning] found first in the originals and then in the versions.

“There is one perfection of thing and truth to which nothing can be added and from nothing can be taken away; another perfection of the version itself. The former is a strictly divine work and is absolutely and in every way self-credible (autopiston). Such perfection is in the word carried over into the versions.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XVI.

Note that Turretin divides the original from the version by saying that the original can have nothing added nor taken away from it. If only the vast majority of the American church believed this about their Bible. You would think we could at least get the Protestants on board, but alas this is not the case.

III. There is no doubt that we need educated men to do the work of analysing the Greek manuscripts and understanding the Greek language. That said, while the person in the pew may not know Greek, he/she can still be certain of the conformity of the version to the originals.

“The certainty of the conformity of the versions with the original is twofold: the one merely grammatical and of human knowledge apprehending the conformity of the words in the versions with the original (this belonging to the learned, who know the languages).”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XVII.

Again, we here at affirm the necessity of trained clergy and churchmen and their role in encouraging and bolstering the believing community. But this is not where the buck stops. The unlearned, the non-seminarian, the non-Ph.D. can also have certainty of the conformity of the version to the original.

“…the other spiritual and of divine faith, relating to the agreement of things and doctrines (according to the measure of the gift of Christ, as he himself says, ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ Jn. 10:27; and Paul, ‘he that is spiritual discerneth all things,’ 1 Cor. 2:15).

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XVII.

Turretin further drives the point home by writing,

“Although a private person may be ignorant of the languages, he does not cease to gather the fidelity of a version as to the things themselves from the analogy of faith and the connection of the doctrines: ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself’ (Jn 7:17).'”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XVI.

This is something we have been arguing from the beginning. Right in the middle of talking about the authority and reliability of versions Turretin reassures the average blood bought saint that they too can have certainty of the versions conformity to the originals without knowing any original languages. In short, the historical orthodox Protestant position has been to say, “Yes, we need scholars to do their work, but their opinion is not the sole or even primary ground for whether the version is in proper conformity to the original.” CT folks reading this, if we can agree on the immediately above sentence, I would say we are closer in position than perhaps originally thought.

IV. Conformity to the original is not equality with the original.

“Conformity to the original is different from equality. Any version (provided it is faithful) is indeed conformable to the original because the same doctrine as to substance is set forth there.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XVIII.

V. In one respect the version is divine and infallible. Again, something not easily admitted by critical text advocates.

“Although any version made by fallible men cannot be considered divine and infallible with respect to the terms, yet it can well be considered such with respect to the things, since it faithfully expresses the divine truth of the sources even as the word which the minister of the gospel preaches does not cease to be divine and infallible and to establish out faith, although it may be expressed by him in human words.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XIX.

VI. The version can be corrected because it must be in conformity to the original. The original on the other hand, “neither can nor ought to be corrected.” Again, when is the last time you heard such a conclusion coming out of a seminary lectern?

“If a version could contain the pure word of God in divine words, no correction could take place. For the sources neither can nor ought to be corrected because they are God-inspired (theopenustoi) in things as well as in words.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second topic, Q. 13, Sec XX.

In sum, a version can be authentic and self-credible as to the substance of the words and the original, a canonical apographa, is a document the Reformers claimed to have and believed it to be such. That canonical apographa neither can nor ought to be corrected because it is inspired by God. Put these two beliefs together, this belief in a version coupled with this belief in the apographa and you have a ground for a robust belief in Scripture that will change the English-speaking church and even the world.

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