Old Testament

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OOME GEERT—A PROFILE OF GREAT UNCLE GERRIT VERKUYL

 

Grandma Den Ouden , Mrs. Nys Den Ouden (6-9-1881/2-14 -1952) came from a large and distinguished family.  There were eleven children born to Matthys Verkuyl (born 10-1-1833) and Jannetje Streefkerk (born 1840) : Meitje, Hendrick, Arie, Gerrit, Anna, Anneke, Naatje, Jannetje,  Johannes, Pieternella, and Mathila.

Only three of the family emigrated to the United States: Gerrit in 1894, Jannetje (Grandma) in 1912 and Naatje(Nellie—Mrs. Peter Cole—date unknown) who settled in Sacramento, CA.

Tante Anna came for a visit to Grandpa and Grandma in the 30s.  I remember vividly a large trunk and she wore a beautiful black satin dress with black velvet and netting insets.  She was the most regal person I had ever met and now I wonder what she thought of the very modest farmhouse where her sister and family lived.

In 1972 on our first sabbatical, we invited my parents to join us in visiting relatives in Holland.  We made an appointment to see Tante Pie (pronounced pea) (Pieternella) in Leyden at one o’clock.  We had great difficulty in finding the address, De Witte Singel

(The White Canal) and finally parked our VW so close to the canal that my mother feared we would all fall in the water.  The neighborhood was extremely affluent and the house we entered was like a museum with many art objects and vases and statues all over.  I had never been in such a house.  The home had been furnished from their many travels, especially while her husband was in the Dutch consulate in Indonesia. There she sat royally among the rich décor as she “received” us with considerable warmth.  Our children, Christine, 11, Alicia, 8, and David, 4, were angelic and even graciously accepted and ate some overly sweet candy they were offered.  It still is an hour deep in my memory.

But it was Oome Geert, one of Grandma’s older brothers, who with my uncle Bernard, provided and still provide models for me of the Christian scholar.

On my second Christmas (1933), I received a little book, Children’s Devotions, published by Westminster Press in Philadelphia in 1917 with a subtitle: Containing private and united prayers for children, and suggestions for Bible reading, memory work, and clean books.

The inscription reads in flowing European-style writing: To my grand nephew, Nelvin Leroy Vos.  Gerrit Verkuyl.  Christmas 1933.  The dedication states: To the memory of a Christian home in Holland and to the service of every home in America this little book is dedicated.

The book has simple prayers for children divided into various sections such as For Children under Eight and Suggestions for Young People.  In the middle of the book are several pages, God’s Special Messages to Children with passages from the Bible.  And the book concludes with a section, Splendid Reading for Boys and Girls, a remarkably diverse listing of five pages with titles such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Robinson Crusoe(for and Iboys eight years old! ), Hans Brinker, Little Women, and Song of Hiawatha.

My next most prized possession of Oome Gerrit is an undated hand written letter. but within the letter, he indicates he is age 93 so it must have been  about 1966.   I had sent him my resume and a copy of my first book, The Drama of Comedy: Victim and Victor.

He begins by congratulating me: “I am glad you completed your schooling and are happy in the thick of your interesting engagement for which you have been so well prepared.”  He continues by describing his career:” When to me the choice had to be made between teaching and preaching, I decided that teaching was my hobby with preaching occasionally and almost from the first I wrote occasionally for publication.”,,

(An understatement since Amazon lists nine books!).  He then writes of “the joy of seeing your thoughts presented to the public.  This requires intense application, the best that is in you.  It is also a service to your fellow man, also to women, and affords both satisfaction and stimulus for worthwhile production.”  All of this, he writes “has made my life experience interesting to others and to myself.  Now at 93, I am through with the zest and the ability no longer suffice.  But I am still somewhat better for those efforts.”  Then comes a benediction: ”May grace, wisdom and power  be granted you to share with others the Christian experience and ideas you are finding helpful, enriching to others and fostering growth as you move on.” He ends with:” it means to me a happy, useful, life for which I thank God, Nelvin, and those who have inspired me and of whom you are one.  I am glad to have enjoyed partnership with you.  May God continue to bless you and keep you humble.  Yours for Him, Gerrit Verkuyl.

The third item is a small hardbound book, Berkeley Version of the New Testament with Footnotes, published by Zondervan  in 1945. This translation, and later of the Old Testament (he called them Berkeley since his residence was there for many

years) were clearly his most important work.  He had begun the New Testament already in 1936 and began the Old Testament with twenty other scholars in the 50s and published this volume in 1959.

It was some time in the mid-50s when I was teaching at Calvin that the committee preparing the Old Testament met on the Calvin campus.  (I have a Banner photo of the group from my mother’s scrapbook.) Oome Gerrit invited me to sit among the scholars for a session.  All I recall is that it was a passage from Proverbs that was under discussion and that I felt very honored to be among them and to know that it was my great uncle who was the leader of this momentous task.

The website, www.Bible collectors.org reprints an article in which Dr. Verkuyl explains his work with the New Testament.  The first sentence is representative of his direct style:” The conviction that God wants His truth conveyed to His offspring in the language in which they think and live led me to produce the Berkeley Version of the New Testament.”  He says that his work with children and youth made him aware that the King James Version, beautiful as it is, is not easy to comprehend.  So in the light of his concern for such an audience, he began translating the story of the baby Moses in Exodus 2 . Then when he was later employed by the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, he said:” This work allowed me to make use of the New Testament in the original language in hope that someday I might do my own translating of it.”

All did not go easily with the translations. There is an exchange of many letters from 1950 to 1953 located in the archives of the Presbyterian Church in America between Doctor Verkuyl and Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, president of the National Bible Institute and also a professor at a conservative institution, Faith Theolological Seminary, in which several difficulties surface.  Dr. Verkuyl had considerable trouble recruiting scholars for his Old Testament translation.  He had done the New Testament by himself, but did not feel adequate in Hebrew to do The Old Testament although he writes: “Have been digging down into my Hebrew now for a year and am gaining on it.”  The people are busy; they are getting older.  The scholar who translated Isaiah and Job was 89, and Uncle Gerrit was now in his 80s.

And he knew what he was looking for:” But we are now searching for the right men.  We know we want Conservatives…” Later he writes: “And no trend or bias in the footnotes except adherents to the evangelical truth.”  Dr. Martin Wyngaarden of Calvin Seminary did become one of the scholars in the work and Uncle Gerrit comments: “Those Dutchman can work when they have a mind to.”

The correspondence includes a discussion of a Lutheran biblical scholar, Dr. Charles M. Cooper of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, in which a professor from the National Bible Institute calls Cooper “a very pronounced liberal higher critic.”  Buswell adds: “When I showed your letter to the head of our Semitics department, he recognized the name [Cooper]as that of a rather radical liberal.  Now, granted that translation work must be an entirely our objective, nevertheless, there will be an important points.  Radical differences of opinion between those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and those who believe it is a collection of Oriental myths.  Would it not seem wise to make this stipulation for members of the committee?”  My comment would be that although Dr. Cooper was not a conservative such as those who were invited to participate in the translations, he was not by any means a radical liberal who believed the Bible was a collection of Oriental myths.

Three larger issues lurk between the lines of this correspondence.  The first is tension between Uncle Gerrit and Buswell.  He wants Buswell to be involved in the next edition of the New Testament: “… I am inclined to believe we might join forces.”  But Buswell appears to want to do his own translation.  Later, Dr. Verkuyl writes: “my work is not perfect and neither would his be, but by laboring together, it will be much better.  I would be perfectly willing to have Buswell-Verkuyl or Verkuyl-Buswell  as the translators of the N. T. and I wish you might seriously consider it.”  But as far as I know, Buswell did not get involved in the work.

The second is Uncle Gerrit’s difficulty with Zondervan Publishing, the company which did his New Testament and will now be working with the entire Bible.  The company appears to want Uncle Gerrit to do the entire work of revising the New Testament and translating the Old Testament obviously because to involve Buswell and a large committee would increase the royalties.  Zondervan did compromise since later; a committee of twenty was formed to work with the Old Testament.

The third issue is the competition.  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible published by National Council of Churches of Christ was to come out in 1952.  The conservative scholars wanted to give an alternative to what they saw as too liberal a translation and from Uncle Gerrit’s point of view did not do the job well: “The R.S.V., by retaining so much of the K. J. V. [King James Version] vocabulary has succeeded in presenting the Word in the most Elizabethan language of all 20th century translations at the expense of clarity for today’s readers.  To me in modern translation is next to useless that fails to bring God’s thoughts to the Bible-readers in the best words of current use.”  That statement catches the vision and intent of Uncle Gerrit’s momentous almost lifelong undertaking of translating the Bible.

Later, in one of the letters in the Calvin College archives dated September 1956, he writes:  “The work on the Old Testament started six years ago is not yet finished.  Right now it is especially difficult, since four books were turned down by members of the staff when we met in Grand Rapids in June.  I have turned over the book of Isaiah to a new translator to start all over.  But I am correcting the books of Deuteronomy, Job and Ezekiel myself.  Two of those are finished, but I am still wrestling with Ezekiel.  In one more month this too should be ready.  After that, of course it has to be read through once more.  The fault was using more or less than the original text allows.”

Nevertheless, the Berkeley Version is frequently cited on websites by conservative scholars and institutions.  One commentator writes:” A European moved to the United States, so mastered Greek and English languages that in his translating the original, he produced highly readable Scripture.”

The original Berkeley Version is out of print, but Amazon has used copies for sale.  The Modern Language Bible which is called a revision of the Berkeley Version is available at www.Christian book.com for $14.99(hardbound) and $9.99(paperbound).

Dr. Verkuyl’s other publications mostly center on his work in Christian education

(also all out of print  with some used available from Amazon):

— Scripture Memory Work: A Handbook containing selections with helps for the

reader(1918)

— Devotional Leadership: Private Preparation for Public Worship(1925)

— Things Most Surely Believed: A Study in Christian Essentials for Growing Workers

(1926)

— Qualifying Men for Church Work(1927)

— Adolescent Worship: With Emphasis on Senior Age(1929)

— Christ in the Home: Studies in Christian Nurture(1932)

— Christ in American Education(1934)

— Reclaim Those Unitarian Wastes(1935)

— Teen -Age Worship(1950)

 

In contrast to his scholarly achievements, particularly his translations of the Bible, it  has been quite difficult to uncover personal details about Oome Gerrit. He was born on September 14, 1872, in Niewe Vennep, Holland, the same home presumably where Grandma Den Ouden was raised.  He married Tante Minnie in 1912.  They had two children, Janet and Dorothy(one letter speaks of her being on the mission field).  Aunt Gerdena told me that they too lived in California and our family continued to have some correspondence with them in later years.  She also told me that Uncle Gerrit was disappointed and angry that the Woodstock Presbyterian Church did not allow him to preach there when he was visiting our family in the 30s.

According to Ellis Island records, he emigrated to the United States in 1894 at age 21 on the ship Werkendam sailing out of Rotterdam. In 1901, he graduated from Park College in Parksville, Missouri, whose website says that it was founded “as a Christian college” in 1875.  This college awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1921.  He earned a Master of Divinity in 1904 at Princeton Theological Seminary, a very distinguished Presbyterian school, and at the same time, he earned an M.A. (in what?) at Princeton University in 1903.  Then to a New Testament Fellowship to Germany at the University of Leipzig where he received his Ph.D. in 1906.  He also studied at the University of Berlin in 1906.The German universities were and still are noted for their prominence in Biblical studies.   A scholar, indeed!

He was ordained by the Presbytery of North Philadelphia on November 13, 1906, and began serving a Presbyterian church in northeast Philadelphia, Wissinoming, from 1906 to 1908.

He found his true calling when he was appointed to serve as National Field Representative for Leadership Training of the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education which he did from 1908 to 1939 until his retirement at age 67.  According to the archives at Princeton Theological Seminary from which I derived much of the above personal information, he did occasional supply in various churches in the Bay area here and there from 1939 to 1952.  In 1952 to 1953, he served as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, California.  There is no more information about his later years other than that which we know about his translation of the Bible. Thus I could not discover the date of his death.

His position with the Presbyterian Board of Christian education must have included a lot of teaching.  Calvin College and Seminary archives (why?) has three of his letters in his Dutch handwriting, re-typed in Dutch, and then translated into English, one from which I already quoted.  The first was written on the day I was born (July 11, 1932).  The letterhead gives his title and the address of College Avenue, Wheaton, Illinois.  It is written to his sister, Pie, (Pieternella) and her family.  He speaks of working “a lot in Wisconsin.”  He continues:” Now I will leave for New York state to teach there for four weeks; after that two weeks in Indiana.  I will be preaching somewhere not so far from Jannetje in Iowa.  I will take the train to visit her for a day or so.”  So that must have been one of his visits soon after I was born.

In the letter he also speaks of translating his new book, Christ In the Family, and sending a copy to H. Colijn, a very prominent Dutch political figure who was in the Verkuyl family.  Later he asks:” Would you ask Chris [her husband] what conditions Dutch publishers have when they publish a book?  Here in the USA, the publisher takes all the financial risks.  I am contemplating sending Colijn a copy so that it may be placed in “de Heraut”[I could find no Dutch translation for this word] later on.  But the ideas in it may be too radical for Holland.”

And that last comment may well sum up Uncle Gerrit’s dilemma and perhaps his strength.  Although a conservative in his background and in his Biblical translations, he was a progressive in challenging the tradition by doing his very own version of the Scriptures.  Clearly, many of his ideas about leadership and Christian education were ahead of his time.

I was so privileged to know him: his very tall and stately bearing, his warm smile, and his gentlemanly but kindly manner to me — all this is a memory I deeply cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 59. — Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?

A. — From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of world, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Scripture References: Gen. 2:3; Luke 23:56; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1,2; John 20: 19-26

Questions:

1. Why was the seventh day appointed by God as the Sabbath day?

The seventh day was appointed as the sabbath day because it was the day he rested from the works of creation.

2. When did God appoint that day as the sabbath?

He appointed the seventh day as the sabbath right after his works of creation. (See Gen. 2 :2).

3.
How long was the seventh day to be observed as the sabbath day?

It was to be observed as the sabbath day until Christ rose from the dead. (See Matt. 28:1).

4. What day was to be observed from that time, according to the Word of God?

The first day of the week was to be observed and is to be observed by Christians until the end of the world.

5. How can we be sure that the first day is to be observed as the sabbath?

We can be sure because it was instituted by Jesus Christ and has been observed by Christians ever since that time.

6. Is there any correlation between the sabbath of the Old Testament and the sabbath instituted after the resurrection of Christ?

Yes, there is a correlation in that God rested on the seventh day after his work of creation and Christ rested on the first day after going through the suffering that brought about man’s redemption. (Heb. 4:10).

7. Are there other Scriptural proofs of the first day of the week being the new Sabbath?

Yes, there are other proofs such as the Lord putting his name on the first day; Paul speaking of taking the collection on the first day of the week; the disciples being assembled together on the first day of the week. (Rev. 1:10; I Cor. 16:1,2; John 20:19; Acts 20:7).

“REMEMBER”

“Remember the sabbath day … ” It is true that so many people today are forgetting this commandment. Times have certainly changed since Emperor Constantine declared the first Sunday blue laws in 321 A.D. He required all courts, towns, and workshops to be at rest on the Lord’s Day. Today the church has a new ritual. It is the Sunday Absentee ritual of the lake, of the open road, of amusements, of army drill. Relatively few seem to be remembering the sabbath and to be concerned with the fourth commandment.

There is still another meaning to the world “Remember”. It is quite significant that this is the only commandment that begins. with this word. It is as if God knew this was one man would tend to forget. But in addition to how we should spend the day, the word “remember” should bring to our minds two great works: creation and redemption.

The work of creation should be brought to our minds since the sabbath of the Old Testament started when the Lord God rested the seventh day. Every sabbath day it would be good for us to start the day by meditating on creation. Our Shorter Catechism’s definition puts it so well: “The word of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.” How wonderful it is to think on His power and this beautiful world He created.

The work of redemption should be brought to our minds since the Lord Jesus rose from the dead on the first day after going through the suffering. He shed His blood on Calvary’s Tree for you and me. In one way we can say that redemption exceeds creation. Creation was a monument of God’s power; redemption was a monument of God’s love. Think once again: “He was made sin for us.” (2 Cor. 5:21). He died willingly. He loved us. His death, His redemption is everlasting~ These things should melt our hearts, should cause tears to come to our eyes, as we think of how very many times we neglect Him and dishonor His Name. The mediation of Christ and His wonderful love manifested in His redeeming us is something for us to think about on the Lord’s Day.

“Remember the sabbath day … ” This is a good way to start the Lord’s Day. Possibly if more would start the day remembering the works of creation and redemption there would be less breaking of the Sabbath!

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 54 (June 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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dillard_ray“He Did Not Die Too Soon; No Christian Ever Does.”

I remember what a shock it was, back in 1993, to hear of Ray’s death. A beloved friend and professor was seemingly snatched away in the prime of life. It is almost as jarring to realize that twenty-two years have now passed. The following obituary was written by J. Alan Groves and appeared as an insert page in the Westminster Seminary Bulletin, volume 32, no 3 (Fall 1993).

Raymond Bryan Dillard, Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Westminster Theological Seminary, died October 1 while working in the woods near his home. Bom in Louisville, Ken­tucky he was 49 years old.

Professor Dillard graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1969 and completed his Ph.D. at Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning in 1975. He did other post-graduate work at Temple Univer­sity, the University of Pennsylvania and Tel Aviv University. His teach­ing career spanned 24 years, all of it at Westminster. He held adjunct positions at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary and served as guest lecturer in numerous other institutions.

An exacting and careful scholar, a revered teacher, Professor Dillard was a master of classroom drama. Sought after for his lecturing gifts, he spoke throughout the United States, Europe, Israel and the Far East. Over the past five years he led lay seminars in the U.S. and Britain on the significance of the Old Testament.

The author of numerous articles and monographs, Dillard’s earliest scholarly work was as a transla­tor of the New International Version of the Bible, the most widely selling Bible in the English language today. He was the author of a commentary on 2 Chronicles in the Word Biblical Commentary as well one on the book of Joel in the Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Baker). At the time of his death he was working on the book of Esther for the Biblia Hebraica Diplomatica, a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible being produced (under the auspices of the United Bible Societies) by an international team of biblical scholars. He was also the co-author, with Professor Tremper Longman of Westminster Seminary, of the forthcoming Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan).

Chairman of the faculty for much of the past 12 years, Dillard had the respect and esteem of his colleagues older as well as younger. He was an ordained minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church in America and preached regularly in their churches. His professional memberships included the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Besides his academic interests, he loved the outdoors and hunting. Dillard was a master cabinet­maker and handyman. One was as likely to find him with a hammer in his hand as with some tome. A pilot, sometimes judo instructor and radio broadcaster, Professor Dillard still found time for raising three boys and for listening to students.

Professor Dillard was the son of Raymond Eugene and Ruth Wallace Dillard of Fayetteville, North Carolina who survive him. Also surviving him are his wife Ann Albrecht Dillard, with whom he celebrated their 27th anniversary this past June, and his three sons, Joel B., Jonathan B. and Joshua A., all of whom are at home. Dr. Dillard is survived by a brother Bruce of Raleigh, North Carolina, three nieces, one nephew, and his aunt Madeline Wallace of Louisville, Kentucky.

Words to Live By:
We will all come to that moment when this life must end. Are you prepared for what will follow? Are you prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord of all creation? Have you learned to welcome each day as if it might be your last? So pray and so live as to stay ever close to your Lord and Savior.

For Further Reading:
The Death of a Christian, a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon.

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We look today at a sermon delivered by the Rev. Lardner Wilson Moore, who was born on May 20, 1898, in Osaka, Japan. His father was the Rev. John Wallace Moore and his mother, Kate (Boude) Moore. His parents were among the very first Protestant missionaries to serve in Japan.

Like his parents, his heart too was set on foreign service and in 1924 he began his career as a foreign missionary to Japan, remaining there until 1968.  A term of service in the US Army, from 1943 – 1947 had interrupted his work in Japan. In that military service, he was commissioned to oversee the translation work of a core group of Japanese Americans. At the conclusion of the War, he also served as a language arbiter during the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

In the years following the War, he became president of Shikoku Christian College in Zentsuji, Japan, serving in that post from 1950 – 1957.

In 1968, Rev. Moore was honorably retired, and returning the United States, went on to serve as Stated Supply at a Presbyterian church in Antlers, Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1972. It was in 1973 that he was received by the PCA’s Texas Presbytery. Later, on October 31, 1981 he transferred his credentials into the OPC.

Rev. Moore died peacefully in his sleep on December 28, 1987, within a few months of his 90th birthday.

Added note: The Reverend Lardner Moore was a brother of the Reverend James Erskine Moore and an uncle of the Reverend James Balleigh Moore, who were both members of the Presbyterian Church in America. James Erskine Moore was the father of David Moore, a former missionary to Japan with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; and of three daughters: Gwladys, Katie, and Margie. Gwladys is the wife of a PCA ruling elder in Texas and Katie is the wife of a missionary/minister in Japan.

Cunningly Devised Fables

By Rev. Lardner W. Moore
[THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.24 (15 April 1950): 8-9.]

(Sermon preached by Rev. L. W. Moore, retiring chairman, at the opening of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Mission in January.)

II Peter 1:1619:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables (myths) when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well to take heed.”

Attention is called to the words “cunningly devised fables.” The King James and the American Standard Versions translate the word “fables.” The Revised Standard Version translates it “myth”, which is no doubt closer to the original. Fables have to do with stories of animals which speak and talk like men, such as in Aesop’s Fables. But according to Webster a myth is “a story the origin of which is forgotten, ostensibly historical but usually such as to explain some practice, belief, institution, or natural phenomenon.” “A person or thing existing only in the imagination.” “Myths are especially associated with religious rites and beliefs.” A myth is a story “ostensibly historical” which explains a belief or institution associated with religion.

It is very interesting that both Peter and Paul, at the close of their ministries warn the believers against myths. Paul says in 1 Tim. 1:3 “Neither give heed to fables (myths) and endless genealogies” and again in 4:7 “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables (myths) and exercise thyself rather to godliness.” In 2 Tim. 4:4“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables (myths).” And in Titus 1:1314 “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables (myths) and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

The contrast is brought out clearly in the two verses of our text. Peter and the apostles knew that the religions of their day not only were based on myths but that the great majority of the people knew nothing of any other form of religion. So he says, “Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my departure to call these things to remembrance.” “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables—but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The religions of his day were recognized as being cunningly devised but Peter claimed the authority of one who with his own eyes had beheld the glory of Jesus or as we find it in John, “we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” It will not be necessary to remind you that Paul bases his authority as an apostle on the fact that he had seen the Lord Jesus.

And yet Peter goes on to say in the 19th verse “and we have a more sure word of prophecy.” We need not go into the discussion as to whether Peter meant to speak of the written word of the Old Testament as on a par with or above the testimony of the apostles; it is sufficient that Peter says we have a surer word since they had seen the Christ and his works, they had been given the Holy Spirit and even the Old Testament prophesies bore the sign and seal of the word of God spoken through holy men who so recorded it. The contrast between the myths that formed the basis of the other religions of his day and the “surer word” which was the possession of the Christians of that day.

How the church has been cursed with myths in spite of the warning and assurance of these apostles! We can only refer to some of the myths which grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, many of them still cherished. The myths of the childhood of Jesus; how he and his friends made clay pigeons and when he commanded, they actually came to life and flew away. Or the myth of the Immaculate Conception; that is, that the Virgin Mary was born sinless. Or the myth that the Virgin Mary has special access to Jesus in Heaven and our prayers will be answered more readily if made through her. Or the assumption of pontifical authority by the Apostle Peter. All of these things are held as historical and much of the life of that church is built on the assumptions associated with them.

As for us here in Japan, we blushed with shame as we read of the ceremonies throughout the land and the world as the arm of Xavier was carried from city to city. We grieved to hear the Japanese Buddhists referring to those performances as being very similar to Buddhist practice. It would seem to insult the reason of man, to say nothing of the power of our Lord, and yet the whole mythical ritual was carried out by a world church.

But has Protestantism, or the Protestant Church, a better record? Since the name of Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Seminary, New York, has been in the religious news, Japanese ministers have asked me of his theological views. Being ashamed to say I had not read any of his books, I was compelled to buy his “The Nature and Destiny of Man.” In that book, he speaks not infrequently of “the myth of the fall” (of Adam). In other words here was a so-called leader of Protestantism who believes that some of the theories of Genesis are based on myth.

It has not been more than ten years ago that I sat in a church in New York and heard Dr. George Buttrick, also of Union Seminary, preach a sermon based on “that beautiful myth” of the raising to life of the man thrown on Elisha’s bones, found in 2 Kings 13. Now when I was in the Seminary in Richmond some thirty years ago, it was generally understood that Union New York had departed from the faith as to the authenticity of the Bible. This year I find Dr. Buttrick speaking at the Centennial of Austin College, and Dr. Coffin, of the same Seminary, invited to speak in Richmond. In other words, we find our own beloved church making common cause with men who believe that much of our Scripture and hence our religion originated in myth and legend.

Now if we are to follow the counsel of the apostles appointed by our Lord we must not “be given to Jewish myths” and Peter denies that the things he preached had anything to do with “cunningly devised myths.” If there are Jewish myths in the Old Testament they should be avoided and yet the leaders of Protestantism for the last half century have been more and more accepting, approving and proclaiming the mythological origin of much of our Bible or, what is worse, they tell us, as long as we follow Jesus, it makes no difference.

What of the effect of this teaching among the Japanese? Now it is readily admitted that the Shinto religion of the Japanese is based on myth. And there are among them stories which could not be published in the language of the people because of the actual filthiness of some of the deeds of the so-called gods. But they were “ostensibly historical” stories which were revered by hosts of people, old and young. What has modern Protestantism offered the Japanese in place of their own myths? We have witnessed the Christian Church trying to lead people to substitute “Jewish myths” for their own revered legends. It is easy to see how the mind of the modern Japanese refused to admit that “Jewish myths” were superior to Japanese myths. And yet we find modern Protestantism trying to do just that It is no wonder that there were and still are, many Japanese who felt that they could fit the moral precepts of the New Testament onto the mythological origins of Shinto. At this point, Protestantism has done, not only the cause of Christ, but the intellectual feelings of the Japanese people a deep injury; an injury which is more devastating than the atom bomb since the atom bomb had to do with physical death while belief in myths is equivalent to “turning away from the truth.”

But there is another myth which Protestantism is propagating to the injury of the cause of truth in Japan. It is that the defeat in war has wrought a miracle in the hearts of the Japanese people. Shinto is dead! The Japanese are turning to the church in crowds! If defeat in war can bring true repentance to the heart of the people, where is the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion? It is true that doors have been opened to the free course of the gospel but we also know that as far as the hearts of the people are concerned there is more knavery of every kind going on freely in Japan than was allowed under the regime of the Militarists. The doors have been opened both ways and it does no good to us nor to the work to preserve “cunningly devised myths.”

What can we as a Mission offer the Japanese? It is our glorious opportunity and duty to present the truth of God in contrast to myths, Jewish or otherwise. Luther and Calvin found the world of their day so burdened with myth and legend that it was impossible to tell what was Christian and what was not What did they do? They turned to “the surer word of prophecy” namely, the Old and New Testaments. They proclaimed the evil of myths on every hand as man-made and as the work of the Devil. In contrast, they proclaimed God’s word from Genesis to Revelation as of God and true and for the edification of all, both Jew and Greek. If the Old Testament is myth, let us shun it as we would poison. If the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are myth, let us face the facts and tear these legends out of our Bibles and be fair with our fellow workers, be they American or Japanese. But the testimony in our hearts bears witness with the testimony in the Scriptures that they are the word of God. We are a Mission which has taken its stand on the word of God as defined in our Confession of Faith. If we hold fast we will be able to repair a part of the breach in the wall in defense of our faith and with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, we can go forth to breach the gates of Hell. No, not with “cunningly devised myths” but by “a more sure word of prophecy.”

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payne01Dr. J. Barton Payne joined the faculty of Covenant Theological Seminary in 1972, having taught previously at Bob Jones University, the Wheaton Graduate School of Theology, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He was an active member of the Evangelical Theological Society, and an ardent student of Reformed Presbyterian history. A member of Illiana Presbytery (RPCES) at the time of his death in 1979, he died in Japan while on sabbatical, in a climbing accident on Mount Fuji.

The following sermon is drawn from among Dr. Payne’s papers preserved at the PCA Historical Center.

 

“THE BIBLE SAYS . . .”

A Chapel Message at Wheaton College, December 7, 1964

By Dr. J. Barton Payne

Standing in first place in Wheaton’s statement of faith is the affirmation, “We believe in the Scriptures. . . as verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writings.” The importance of this commitment is clear: it places Wheaton squarely in the position of historic evangelicalism, or, to put it negatively, in opposition to the majority of organized Protestantism. Further, it gives to Wheaton a voice of authority in today’s relativistic world, an assured knowledge of specific truths that constitute distinctive criteria in the various academic disciplines, for example, in anthropology, of man’s special creation; in literature, of the prohibition of blasphemy; or in ethics, of absolute moral purity. The question, then, to be considered is the desirability of such a distinctive position. Why should we hold to the Bible, when the belief means accepting a minority status in Christendom and the stigma of “fundamentalist mentality” in the world as a whole. Put bluntly, Why do we do this? Is it worth it?

Essentially, I feel there are two different ways of approaching Scripture, or for that matter of approaching life in general: either trust in oneself, the internal approach, or trust in someone else, the external. Both are matters of trust, but it is a question as to which approach provides the more plausible basis. Frankly, I believe the second to be correct: the first can be dismissed as patently inadequate. For if a man has no higher standard than himself, this results in the hopelessness that characterizes so much of modern western thought. Life is beyond us; we are here just a short time and tomorrow we die and are gone. Further, from what we can deduce from our own natural observation, there is no hope beyond the grave. Corliss Lamont’s realistic study, “The Illusion of Immortality,” has been sobering to me, as it demonstrates that there can be no permanence, no transcendent meaningfulness to my life that is, if all we have is our own, internal judgment. Correspondingly, subjective criticisms, based on internal judgments, of the Bible do not really bother me, even though this is the basis on which most thinkers, and even Protestant thinkers, have rejected Biblical infallibility. For example, Millar Burrows, in his Outline of Biblical Theology (pp. 44, 47), begins by saying,

Much ink has been wasted . . . in the effort to prove the detailed accuracy of the biblical narratives. Actually they abound in errors . . . In the field of the physical sciences we find at once that many mistaken and outmoded conceptions appear in the Bible . . .

Archaeological research has not, as is often boldly asserted, resolved difficulties or confirmed the narrative step by step . . . Even in matters of religious concern the Bible is by no means of uniform value.”

[Please note that the above quotation is not Dr. Payne’s view; he is merely citing the view of Millar Burrows as typical of a view of Scripture with which he, Dr. Payne, disagrees. Please don’t misread this, as I did earlier today. Dr. Payne had a high view of Scripture.]

But the whole approach of this “I must pick and choose” position has been well answered by Louis Berkhof in his Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology (p.158)

The reasoning of those who take this position often sounds very plausible. They do not want a  theory of inspiration that is imposed on Scripture from without, but one that is based on an inductive study of the facts. But . . . it does not fit the case. According to it man faces the phenomena of Scripture just as he faces the phenomena of nature . . . which he must interpret and set forth in their true significance . . . He places himself above Scripture as judge, and opposes to  . . . testimony . . . his own insight.

But to whose testimony then can we go? Who is the “someone else” to trust? The response for the Christian is clear, namely Peter’s in John 6:68, “Lord; to whom shall we go: Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Christ, who has been declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead, is my answer to this world’s relativism. But it is here, from the viewpoint of the external authority of Jesus Christ, that Wheaton’s statement of faith in Scripture has, in recent days, received its more serious challenge, from neo-orthodoxy; and I am here using the term broadly for those who claim to be followers of Christ as king but who repudiate the Bible as a divine, binding document. One of my former seminary professors has called “the idea of inerrancy a ‘sub-Christian doctrine’ ” (Aaron Ungersma, Handbook for Christian Believers, p. 8l); and James D. Smart, in his recent volume, The Interpretation of Scripture, has well expressed both neo-orthodoxy’s belief and its disbelief: (pp. l6l, 199; 205):

When Jesus Christ preaches and teaches, His words are the very words of God, and in his actions  God acts . . . The word of Scripture had authority for him, but not in any slavish way … He refused to be bound to every word . . . Once he is bound to an infallible Scripture, his freedom is gone and with it his authority. Roman Catholicism imprisons Jesus Christ within an infallible church; literal infallibilism imprisons him within an infallible Scripture.

This is not to deny, nor does Smart deny, that the Bible contains teachings on its own inerrancy. But this alternative is proposed: forget these teachings; believe in the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, but dispense with the objective inspiration of the Bible.

Let us not, moreover, underestimate the reality of this appeal: why not escape the restraints of traditional orthodoxy, and yet retain the peace and integration of one who, say, has come forward at a Billy Graham meeting and found eternal meaningfulness in that “someone else” who is Christ? In particular I faced this appeal this last spring while in archaeological work with Dr. Free in Palestine. In my classes, students were enrolled from a number of different colleges and seminaries; and hardly a session would pass without somebody’s saying, “Why do I as a Christian have to believe XXXX, just because the Bible says it?” These questions, moreover, were not without basis: much of the Old Testament data is never mentioned by Christ. So finally, when time was available, I got away under a tree on the mound of Dothan, and prayed, “Alright, Lord, I am putting this matter up to Thee. I am willing to forget that I was ever a biblical evangelical, but show me what Christ would have me do.” Then I went through the complete records and words of Jesus asking myself, Does this really require me to hold to the Bible? Let me share with you four conclusions that I formulated.

  1. In Christ’s teachings it appears that the Bible is accepted as a guide and determiner of belief and conduct. For example, in Matthew 12:7, Christ’s statement, “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless,” assumes the authority of Hosea 6:6 on mercy and sacrifice; or, in Luke 16:29, He says, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” This acceptance of Scripture particularly concerns its statements concerning Himself, as He says in Mark l4:21, “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him.” But none of these situations require an inspired Old Testament, simply that what men wrote down did, in these cases, correspond to God’s will and to true revelation (not inspiration).
  1. His often-quoted general statements about the Bible can, if one tries, be limited to these same restricted evaluations, that the Bible possesses authority in certain areas but not necessarily inerrancy. For example, Matthew 5:18, “One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” may mean merely that one ought to obey the law. Or John 10:35, “And the Scripture cannot be broken,’’ may mean that the Bible’s statements, in this instance on possible usage of the word “gods,” are examples of good doctrine. Or Luke 24:25, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” may mean, all that is about Himself, as verse 44, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.”
  1. But in statements of Christ involving specific aspects of the Old Testament, I found situations in which I could not “weasel out.” Let us note two areas: first, literary criticism. Christ’s phrase the “Law of Moses,” as just cited, might signify, not Mosiac authorship, but simply a book about Moses, like the Books of Samuel. But this is not true in other cases. Psalm 110, for example, is consistently written off by modern criticism as one of the later compositions in the Psalter. But in Mark 12:35-36, “Jesus answered and said . . . How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, Jehovah said to my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand . . .” He believed, not simply that Psalm 110:1 was inspired, composed under guidance by the Holy Spirit, but also that David himself wrote it. Even granting, for the argument, a certain inaccuracy in Mark’s records, the Lord’s whole argument still depends on the Davidic composition of this psalm. Again, in Matthew 24:15 He stated, “When ye . . . shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place . . .” But I do not know of a single neo-orthodox critic who believes that the man Daniel really said these words, or that they referred to matters that were still future when Christ spoke, in about A.D. 30. Second, historical criticism. In Luke 4:24-27 Jesus said:

No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows  were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Zarephath, a city of Sidon, into a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian.

Is He just quoting the well known Old Testament “stories”? On the contrary, He confirms the historical validity of even details in the record of Matthew 11:41 and Luke 11:50-51. Similarly, Christ accepted as fact so-called mythical or legendary events that Scripture associated with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom, Jonah in the fish and Nineveh’s repenting, as well as others.

We must face it: no negative critic can maintain today’s usually accepted conclusions and still find correspondence with the mind of Christ on these points.

  1. The affirmations of Christ, as noted above, then develop necessarily into conclusions of total Biblical inerrancy. That is, if the Bible be accepted to contain valid doctrine, then one very clear doctrine is its teaching about its own full inspiration. Or, let us note the implications of one of the above cited specific teachings, on Adam and Eve. In Matthew 19:4-5, He stated:

Have ye not read, that He with made them at the beginning made them male and female and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife…

quoting Genesis 2:24. But while in Genesis this verse is simply part of the Mosaic narrative, Christ introduces it as a statement by the Creator:  that is, for Him, the words of Genesis are equivalent to the very words of God. The only alternative to such a conclusion is to assume that the Gospel writers have misrepresented Him and do not depict the actual mind of Christ. The previously quoted neo-orthodox writer, James Smart, for example, is forced to a number of such reservations, and says,

Already in the Gospels there are perceptible indications of the tendency to attribute to Jesus in his earthly life both omniscience and omnipotence (e.g., his power over waves and storms and his ability to tell the Samaritan woman the story of her marriages. (Interpretation of Scripture, p. l62)

In other words, when neo-orthodoxy claims that “in Christ’s actions God acts,” it may do so while avoiding the evidence, shifting on internal, subjective grounds, away from the supernaturalistic beliefs of those who were closest to the events. Smart would then cover his procedure by introducing an over-emphasis in the other direction which his evangelical opponents do not claim, namely the idea of omniscience for the incarnate Jesus. There is the one known case, Mark 13:32, in which our Lord disclaimed omniscience, about the time of His second coming. But His own words made this limitation clear; and when He does commit Himself in speaking He possesses truthfulness (John 3:34). To take issue with Christ involves more than His lack of omniscience; it involves His falsehood. Hence Sigmund Mowinckel, a leading advocate of modern Scandinavian Biblical criticism, in his study The Old Testament as Word of God (p.74), seems to have faced the implications of Christ’s Biblical views more squarely, when he concludes,

If it is true that .Jesus as a man was one of us except that he had no sin (Heb. 4:15), then he also shared our imperfect insight into all matters pertaining to the world of sense . . . He knew neither more nor less than most people of his class in Galilee or Jerusalem concerning history . . . geography, or the history of biblical literature.

Here the issue is clear cut. Biblical criticism inevitably entails criticism of Christ. When I got up from under that tree at Dothan, it was with renewed conviction that the consistent follower of Jesus must be a humble follower of the inscripturated word, just as his Master was. Billy Graham’s message of peace, assurance, and power is inseparably associated with his confidence in what “the Bible says.” And if Wheaton ever exchanges its Biblical commitment for status in Protestantism or for a mentality acceptable in the world as a whole, it will have done so in opposition to Christ and His kingdom.

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wilsonrw04A Noble Example

Robert Dick Wilson was the fifth professor, and last apparently, who first served at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and then went on to a career at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The fourth such professor was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Dr. Wilson had received his A.B. and his M.A. from Princeton University and his Th.B. from Western Theological Seminary. Then he had studied for two years at the University of Berlin prior to receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University, whereupon he took up his teaching position at Western Theological Seminary, first as an instructor, 1883-1885, and then as a professor, 1885-1900.

While teaching at Western, Dr. Wilson gathered a group of students about him and breathed into them, even the least promising, the spirit of research and adventure in the study of the Word of God. Undoubtedly he carried this same enthusiasm and pedagogy with him when he left for Princeton in 1900. It was said of Dr. Wilson, that “he seemed to fit into Princeton as an old glove fits the hand.”

Born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1856, Robert Dick Wilson was the son of a wealthy merchant. Like his brother, he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged their children in their studies. Well before graduating from college, Robert was adept in reading nine languages and already had his Latin, Greek and Hebrew well in hand. Over the course of his life, he would come to master several dozen languages, focusing primarily on ancient near-eastern tongues. Wilson’s linguistic talents were judged comparable to those of an earlier Princeton professor, J. Addison Alexander, and in his own day, Wilson was judged by many as the world’s greatest Old Testament scholar.

He devoted all of this vast learning to the defence of Holy Scripture. He believed with all his mind and heart that the Bible is true, and he supported his belief with a wealth of scientific material which even his opponents could not neglect. Only a short time before his death he
was engaged in an answer to a notable mono­graph, published at Oxford, which had recently devoted itself to a consideration of his views.

He was greatly beloved as a teacher and as a friend. With the simplicity of a true scholar, he was always ready to cast reserve aside and receive
his students into his heart. He called them his “boys”, and they responded with affection as well as with respect.

But great as were Dr. Wilson’s achievements throughout a long and fruitful life, his greatest achievement was his last. It was the achievement
by which, putting selfish considerations and unworthy compromise of principle aside, he left his home at Princeton and entered the Faculty
of a new institution devoted unreservedly to the Word of God. It is arguable that no one man sacrificed more in establishing the new school.

Many arguments might have been adduced to lead Dr. Wilson to remain at Princeton Seminary after the reorganization of that institution in 1929. He was at that time in his seventy-fourth year. An honorable and advantageous retirement awaited him whenever he desired. He had a good salary and a comfortable home. He had the friends that he had made at Princeton during a residence there of nearly thirty years. Might he not retain these advantages without being un­faithful to the cause to which he had devoted his life? Would not the new Board of Princeton Seminary keep in the background, for a time at least, the real character of the revolution that had been wrought? Would not the doctrinal change be gradual only, as at so many other institutions, formerly evangelical, which have conformed to the drift of the times? Could he not, meanwhile, serve God by teaching the truth in his own class-room, no matter what the rest of the institution did? Could he not round out his life in peace? Could he not leave to younger men the battle for the Faith?

Those considerations and many like them were no doubt presented to Dr. Wilson in very per­suasive form. But he would have none of them. His Christian conscience, trained by a lifetime of devotion to God’s Word, cut through such argu­ments with the keenness of a Damascus blade. He penetrated to the real essence of the question. He saw that for him to remain at Princeton would be to commend as trustworthy what he knew to be untrustworthy, that it would be to lead Christ’s little ones astray. He knew that a man cannot have God’s richest blessing, even in teaching the truth, when the opportunity to teach the truth is gained by compromise of prin­ciple. He saw clearly that it was not a time for him to think of his own ease or comfort, but to bear testimony to the Saviour who had bought him with His own precious blood.

He did bear that testimony. He left his home at Princeton, and all the emoluments and honors that awaited him there. He cast in his lot with a new institution that had not a dollar of endow­ment and was dependent for the support of its professors upon nothing but faith in God.

wilsonRD_grave_closeupDr. Wilson was supremely happy in that decision. He never regretted it for a moment. He entered joyfully into the life of the new seminary, and God richly blessed him there. Then, having rounded out more than the allotted period of three-score years and ten, a Christian soldier without tarnish of compromise upon his shield, he entered into the joy of his Lord. He died early in October of 1930, at the beginning of Westminster’s second academic year.

Words to Live By:
The gospel cannot well be preached unless there be a school of the prophets to train men to preach it in all its purity and all its power. And these schools must be found consistently faithful to the Lord if they are to properly fulfill their role. Pray for these schools. Pray for the men who are being raised up to proclaim the precious Gospel of saving grace in Christ Jesus alone. Pray that they would be courageous, sparing no effort in giving all their time and talents in serving the Lord. Pray for those who teach, for those who administer, and for those who serve. Pray that together all their efforts would serve to expand the kingdom of our Lord and Savior throughout all the earth.

[A large portion of the above is taken from “The Power of a Noble Example,” a tribute published by Westminster Theological Seminary upon the death of Dr. Robert Dick Wilson. To view that document and other tributes to Dr. Wilson, click here.]

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Cunningly Devised Fables

By Rev. Lardner W. Moore
[THE SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL 8.24 (15 April 1950): 8-9.]

(Sermon preached by Rev. L. W. Moore, retiring chairman, at the opening of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Mission in January.)

II Peter 1:16, 19:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables (myths) when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well to take heed.”

Attention is called to the words “cunningly devised fables.” The King James and the American Standard Versions translate the word “fables.” The Revised Standard Version translates it “myth”, which is no doubt closer to the original. Fables have to do with stories of animals which speak and talk like men, such as in Aesop’s Fables. But according to Webster a myth is “a story the origin of which is forgotten, ostensibly historical but usually such as to explain some practice, belief, institution, or natural phenomenon.” “A person or thing existing only in the imagination.” “Myths are especially associated with religious rites and beliefs.” A myth is a story “ostensibly historical” which explains a belief or institution associated with religion.

It is very interesting that both Peter and Paul, at the close of their ministries warn the believers against myths. Paul says in 1 Tim. 1:3 “Neither give heed to fables (myths) and endless genealogies” and again in 4:7 “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables (myths) and exercise thyself rather to godliness.” In 2 Tim. 4:4 “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables (myths).” And in Titus 1:13, 14 “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables (myths) and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

The contrast is brought out clearly in the two verses of our text. Peter and the apostles knew that the religions of their day not only were based on myths but that the great majority of the people knew nothing of any other form of religion. So he says, “Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my departure to call these things to remembrance.” “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables—but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The religions of his day were recognized as being cunningly devised but Peter claimed the authority of one who with his own eyes had beheld the glory of Jesus or as we find it in John, “we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” It will not be necessary to remind you that Paul bases his authority as an apostle on the fact that he had seen the Lord Jesus.

And yet Peter goes on to say in the 19th verse “and we have a more sure word of prophecy.” We need not go into the discussion as to whether Peter meant to speak of the written word of the Old Testament as on a par with or above the testimony of the apostles; it is sufficient that Peter says we have a surer word since they had seen the Christ and his works, they had been given the Holy Spirit and even the Old Testament prophesies bore the sign and seal of the word of God spoken through holy men who so recorded it. The contrast between the myths that formed the basis of the other religions of his day and the “surer word” which was the possession of the Christians of that day.

How the church has been cursed with myths in spite of the warning and assurance of these apostles! We can only refer to some of the myths which grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, many of them still cherished. The myths of the childhood of Jesus; how he and his friends made clay pigeons and when he commanded, they actually came to life and flew away. Or the myth of the Immaculate Conception; that is, that the Virgin Mary was born sinless. Or the myth that the Virgin Mary has special access to Jesus in Heaven and our prayers will be answered more readily if made through her. Or the assumption of pontifical authority by the Apostle Peter. All of these things are held as historical and much of the life of that church is built on the assumptions associated with them.

As for us here in Japan, we blushed with shame as we read of the ceremonies throughout the land and the world as the arm of Xavier was carried from city to city. We grieved to hear the Japanese Buddhists referring to those performances as being very similar to Buddhist practice. It would seem to insult the reason of man, to say nothing of the power of our Lord, and yet the whole mythical ritual was carried out by a world church.
But has Protestantism, or the Protestant Church, a better record? Since the name of Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Seminary, New York, has been in the religious news, Japanese ministers have asked me of his theological views. Being ashamed to say I had not read any of his books, I was compelled to buy his “The Nature and Destiny of Man.” In that book, he speaks not infrequently of “the myth of the fall” (of Adam). In other words here was a so-called leader of Protestantism who believes that some of the theories of Genesis are based on myth.

It has not been more than ten years ago that I sat in a church in New York and heard Dr. George Buttrick, also of Union Seminary, preach a sermon based on “that beautiful myth” of the raising to life of the man thrown on Elisha’s bones, found in 2 Kings 13. Now when I was in the Seminary in Richmond some thirty years ago, it was generally understood that Union New York had departed from the faith as to the authenticity of the Bible. This year I find Dr. Buttrick speaking at the Centennial of Austin College, and Dr. Coffin, of the same Seminary, invited to speak in Richmond. In other words, we find our own beloved church making common cause with men who believe that much of our Scripture and hence our religion originated in myth and legend.

Now if we are to follow the counsel of the apostles appointed by our Lord we must not “be given to Jewish myths” and Peter denies that the things he preached had anything to do with “cunningly devised myths.” If there are Jewish myths in the Old Testament they should be avoided and yet the leaders of Protestantism for the last half century have been more and more accepting, approving and proclaiming the mythological origin of much of our Bible or, what is worse, they tell us, as long as we follow Jesus, it makes no difference.

What of the effect of this teaching among the Japanese? Now it is readily admitted that the Shinto religion of the Japanese is based on myth. And there are among them stories which could not be published in the language of the people because of the actual filthiness of some of the deeds of the so-called gods. But they were “ostensibly historical” stories which were revered by hosts of people, old and young. What has modern Protestantism offered the Japanese in place of their own myths? We have witnessed the Christian Church trying to lead people to substitute “Jewish myths” for their own revered legends. It is easy to see how the mind of the modern Japanese refused to admit that “Jewish myths” were superior to Japanese myths. And yet we find modern Protestantism trying to do just that It is no wonder that there were and still are, many Japanese who felt that they could fit the moral precepts of the New Testament onto the mythological origins of Shinto. At this point, Protestantism has done, not only the cause of Christ, but the intellectual feelings of the Japanese people a deep injury; an injury which is more devastating than the atom bomb since the atom bomb had to do with physical death while belief in myths is equivalent to “turning away from the truth.”

But there is another myth which Protestantism is propagating to the injury of the cause of truth in Japan. It is that the defeat in war has wrought a miracle in the hearts of the Japanese people. Shinto is dead! The Japanese are turning to the church in crowds! If defeat in war can bring true repentance to the heart of the people, where is the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion? It is true that doors have been opened to the free course of the gospel but we also know that as far as the hearts of the people are concerned there is more knavery of every kind going on freely in Japan than was allowed under the regime of the Militarists. The doors have been opened both ways and it does no good to us nor to the work to preserve “cunningly devised myths.”

What can we as a Mission offer the Japanese? It is our glorious opportunity and duty to present the truth of God in contrast to myths, Jewish or otherwise. Luther and Calvin found the world of their day so burdened with myth and legend that it was impossible to tell what was Christian and what was not What did they do? They turned to “the surer word of prophecy” namely, the Old and New Testaments. They proclaimed the evil of myths on every hand as man made and as the work of the Devil. In contrast, they proclaimed God’s word from Genesis to Revelation as of God and true and for the edification of all, both Jew and Greek. If the Old Testament is myth, let us shun it as we would poison. If the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are myth, let us face the facts and tear these legends out of our Bibles and be fair with our fellow workers, be they American or Japanese. But the testimony in our hearts bears witness with the testimony in the Scriptures that they are the word of God. We are a Mission which has taken its stand on the word of God as defined in our Confession of Faith. If we hold fast we will be able to repair a part of the breach in the wall in defense of our faith and with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, we can go forth to breach the gates of Hell. No, not with “cunningly devised myths” but by “a more sure word of prophecy.”

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Born this day on September 9, 1880,

allis01Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on this day,September 9, in 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913, with a dissertation focused on the study of selected Babylonian cuneiform texts.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til. Over the summer of 1929, plans were laid for the organization of Westminster Theological Seminary. Classes began in that autumn and Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and then as Professor of Old Testament from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death, with many of his articles appearing in that publication.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

“It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
“Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under his teaching is to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.”

Words to live by: The Word of God is sure and reliable, and the Christian can rely fully and completely upon His every promise to the believer. In all that comes against us in this life, He is our refuge. The very character and nature of God is our strong sanctuary in times of trial.

A Sample from the Writings of Dr. Allis:
That the Bible is a self-consistent, self-interpretive book has been the belief of Jews (as regards the Old Testament) and Christians alike throughout the centuries. It is clearly set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith in the following significant statement: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture in the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one,) it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” A distinguished theologian, Dr. Charles Hodge, has expressed it as follows: “If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place any thing which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture.

[Excerpt from “The Law and the Prophets,” as published in The Evangelical Student 4.1 (October 1929): 11-28. To read the full article, click here.

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The hour being late, today’s entry is drawn directly from Alfred Nevin’s Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church (p. 333), with just a little elaboration.

Third in an Illustrious Line of Medical Doctors

H. Lenox Hodge was born in Philadelphia, July 30th, 1838. His father was the eminent physician, Dr. Hugh L. Hodge. [His uncle was the equally eminent Princeton Seminary professor, Dr. Charles Hodge]. Lenox received a collegiate education, which terminated in 1855, in his native city, and afterwards studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1858.

In the Fall of the same year he became resident physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital, retaining that office till the Spring of 1860, when he opened an office for the practice of medicine in Philadelphia. He was appointed Demonstrator of Surgery in the University of Pennsylvania, and, in 1861 commenced giving instruction to private classes, on Chestnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, and subsequently lectured in Chant Street, on Anatomy and Operative Surgery. During the Civil War, Dr. Hodge served at West Philadelphia’s Satterlee Hospital, and he was also attached to the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps of Surgeons, serving as a field surgeon at Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In 1870 he was appointed Demonstrator of Anatomy in the University of Pennsylvania, and was, for nearly ten years, attending surgeon at the Children’s Hospital. At the opening of the Presbyterian Hospital, in 1872, he was appointed attending surgeon to that institution.

Dr. Hodge, by his talents, industry, integrity and energy, attained a high rank in his profession. He was a gentleman of polished address and peculiar benevolence. For a number of years he was an exemplary, active and useful ruling elder in the Second Presbyterian Church. Removed by death, in the midst of his years, June 10th, 1881 [surviving his uncle by not quite three years, Charles Hodge dying in 1878], he bore his last and lingering illness with marked resignation, and left the record of one who had adorned all the relations of life by his cultivated intellect, kind disposition, and exemplary Christian character. At the time of his decease he was a member of many medical societies and associations.

Words to Live By:
When we think of Christians who are, or were, medical doctors, the easy association is to the New Testament author, Luke, who wrote one of the four Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts. Next to the pulpit ministry, the medical profession is perhaps preeminently an appropriate one for Christians, focused as it is on the art and science of healing. As much as we need to be reminded to pray for our pastors, don’t we also need to be praying for doctors and other medical professionals? In a culture that seems fixated on death (Prov. 8:36), Christians in the medical profession face unique challenges today.

For Further Study:
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia maintains an archival collection of Dr. Hodge’s case notebooks. The finding aid for that collection can be viewed here.

H. Lenox Hodge was buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. His gravesite, with an accompanying photograph, can be viewed here.

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1973 – Dr. Oswald T. Allis, one of the founding faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, died on this day, January 12, 1973, at the age of 92.

Oswald Thompson Allis was born in Wallingford, Delaware county, Pennsylvania to Oscar Huntington Allis, M.D. and his wife Julia Waterbury Thompson Allis, on September 9, 1880. He was raised in the family home at 1604 Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. Decades later, this same location was to serve as the cradle for the newly formed Westminster Theological Seminary.

His education included an A.B. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1901; the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1905; the A.M. degree from Princeton University in 1907; and finally the Ph.D. degree from the University of Berlin in 1913.

Dr. Allis first served as Instructor in Semitic Philology at the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910-1922 and then as Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology at the same institution, from 1922-1929. Reorganization of the Princeton Seminary placed modernists in control of the school and so prompted the resignations of Drs. Allis, J. Gresham Machen, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til and the subsequent formation of the Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Allis served as Professor of Old Testament History and Exegesis at Westminster from 1929-1930 and as Professor of Old Testament at the same institution from 1930-1936. When Dr. Machen and others were forced in 1936 to leave the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. denomination over their involvement with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Dr. Allis chose to remain in the denomination, but retired from his teaching post. Independently wealthy, he was able to devote the remainder of his life to research and writing.

Dr. Allis was the editor of The Princeton Theological Review from 1918-1929 and, beginning in 1929, maintained a position as Editorial Correspondent for The Evangelical Quarterly up until the time of his death.

A 1931 promotional brochure for Westminster Theological Seminary prepared by the Student Committee on Publications had these comments regarding Dr. Allis and his teaching:

It is the painstaking and thorough accuracy of Dr. Allis in whatever he does, that causes his students to marvel. We watch him unravel the intricacies of Hebrew syntax, and his patience is a constant example and inspiration to us.”
Dr. Allis’ favorite class room pastime is to answer critics who seek to prove the Old Testament untrue and unreliable. He shows how these would-be Bible destroyers are often false or inaccurate, and frequently so even in the realm of sheer facts. To sit under Dr. Allis to have one’s faith renewed in the Old Testament as the altogether reliable inspired Word of God.

Words to Live By: Obviously not everyone is called to be a biblical scholar like Dr. Allis, but we can and should, each of us, bring a similar care and attention to our life and work, in all that we say and do.—”And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23, KJV.)

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