CES's book One God and One Lord makes a serious effort to evaluate Bible translations and ancient Greek texts as the authors attempt to eliminate all "Trinitarian" interpretations of Bible passages. The authors show that they have some grasp of the practice of comparing Greek texts and translating them into English. They certainly know more about this than the vague references to Greek texts in V.P. Wierwille's book Jesus Christ is Not God, which originally formed the authors' theology of Jesus Christ and their approach to Scripture.
However, in spite of their better knowledge of translation, they leave their readers with the impression that:
a) modern English translations are pro-Trinitarian because the translators are biased
b) it is probably best to use translations that have the fewest "Trinitarian" readings, regardless of other factors that affect their accuracy
c) that Greek texts are compiled by theologians who use their theology as a criteria for choosing which Greek readings to use
All of these impressions are misleading and inaccurate.
One God... isn't completely consistent on these topics. Sometimes the book seems to address these topics clearly, while other times the book drifts off into muddy thinking or inaccuracy. Perhaps this is due to the struggles in getting the Bible to read in uniformly non-Trinitarian ways, or perhaps due to different levels of knowledge of these topics among the three authors.
This review is an attempt to evaluate some of the book's assertions about Bible translations of "Trinitarian" texts.
Appendix M of the book, "Modern Versions and Trinity 'Proof texts'" offers a chart which reviews the readings of eight Bible passages in eleven English translations. It indicates whether the translations use a Trinitarian or nonTrinitarian reading. The authors conclude, "The reader is encouraged to read Moffatt's translation of the Bible" (p. 617). The appendix does not explain basic reasons why translations have different readings of these verses, nor the significantly different foundations upon which they are based. Readers are left with the impression that Moffatt is an accurate source and that the main criteria for choosing a translation is that it has fewer Trinitarian readings.
Apparently these authors knew you need to draw a line somewhere, because they don't recommend the New World Translation (NWT) which has no Trinitarian readings at all. The NWT is produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) which, like CES and its predecessor The Way International, is a very small but strongly anti-Trinitarian group. The NWT throws all accuracy and scholarship out the window in a brazen attempt to produce a Bible which promotes all JW teachings and dramatically alter all passages which threaten them. CES shares a common motivation, thought it does not go to the extremes the JWs have.
The appendix doesn't mention that the Moffatt and King James versions use an outdated Greek (and Hebrew) text which don't include the more accurate readings found in ancient manuscripts (MSS) which were found and published after those versions were produced.
Translations are made from Greek texts (and Hebrew in the case of the Old Testament) which compare and collate thousands of Greek manuscripts). The authors of One God... know this, because they sometimes refer to the United Bible Societies (UBS) and Nestle-Aland text (which are the same text). The current UBS text uses readings from older MSS which weren't available when the Moffatt and KJV versions were produced. Newer translations have a more Trinitarian reading in verses such as John 1:18 and Romans 9:5 because they are based on better Greek manuscripts than Moffatt and KJV had available, not because the translators were biased.
The world of Biblical texts was rocked by dramatic discoveries of every old Bible texts in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A collection of papyrus manuscripts now called the Chester Beatty papyri were acquired by Mr. Beatty in 1930-31. They dated from the second century on (the AD100s) so were much older than the manuscripts Moffatt and the KJV used, which excited textual scholars. They included p45, 46, 47, 52, 66 and 72 ("p" means "papyrus;" it is normally written in a special script, but we use an italic here because of html formatting).
The Bodmer papyri were acquired by M. Martin Bodmer in 1955-6 (both sets of papyri took a few years to be edited and published). This included p72, 74 and 75, dating from the second century on.
Important uncial MSS (written in capital letters, usually on leather) were also found in this time period. The codex Vaticanus (called this because it was found at the Vatican), normally called B, dates to the third century and was published in 1890. Another text, Siniaticus (called this because it was found in a monastery on Mt. Sinai), normally called X (this ir normally written as a Hebrews aleph, but we use an italic X here because of html coding). It also dates to the third century and was published in 1862. Another major discovery of texts in the mid-1900s was the Dead Sea Scrolls, but these relate to the OT, not the NT.
In general, older MSS are better, because they are closer to the time when the Bible was actually written. The authors of One God... know this rule, because they use it to eliminate the Trinitarian reading of 1 John 5:7-8 (and rightly so).
These ancient MSS are the reason for the Trinitarian readings of John 1:18 (supported by p66, p75 and X) and Acts 20:28 (p74, B and X).
These MSS are important to Biblical scholarship. Yet CES recommends Moffatt many CES followers use KJV because they used them in The Way International, and One God... cites Wescott and Hort even though none of these sources had access to these most important MSS. This recommendation of out dated sources is something TWI did also, mainly because founder Wierwille was a poor researcher.
One God... is very inconsistent in applying the basic rule that older MSS are generally better than new ones. They do apply it to 1 John 5:7,8, and Acts 20:28 because it supports their thesis that Jesus Christ is divine, but not really Divine. One God... quotes the NIV Study Bible, "The addition is not found in any Greek manuscript of NT translation prior to the 16th century."
However, they don't apply this principle to verses that don't support their thesis. They reject the phrase "only begotten God" in John 1:18 although it is supported by the earliest MSS we have (p66, p75 [175 AD], X, B). They quote Westcott & Hort in defense of this deletion even though Wescott & Hort was published before the Beatty papyri, the Bodmer papyri and B were available (One God... p. 473). They reject the article "the" from John 10:33 even though the earliest papyrus, p66 (200 AD) includes it (One God... p. 622)..
Their treatment of Matthew 28:19 is the most radical. They admit that all MSS read "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (including X and B). But they conclude that it doesn't make any difference anyway, "we believe that the earliest manuscripts read 'in my name,' and that the phrase was enlarged to reflect the orthodox position as Trinitarian influence spread." (One God... p. 455). Although One God... unfairly dismisses many of the texts as being Alexandrian in type, most actually are mixed texts.
In other words, the One God... authors don't really care what the earliest and best Greek manuscripts said. When the MSS support their anti-Trinitarian views, they cite them. But when the earliest and best MSS oppose their anti-Trinitarian views, they declare them to be made up by the copyists.
The One God... authors learned this from their mentor, Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International (TWI), a group they left because they recognized its cultic nature. They read Wierwille's article Forgers of the Word which made exactly that case, though in a way that sounded less theologically sophisticated than One God... does. Wierwille also taught them the approach of rejecting Trinitarian texts simply because they are Trinitarian, rather than because of objective manuscript evidence. They seem to be embarrassed about being identified with Wierwille and his writings such as Forgers of the Wordand Jesus Christ is Not God, because they never mention them even though the authors of One God... studied the books and copied many of Wierwille's arguments.
In fact, One God... copied its argument against Matthew 28:19 directly from Wierwille, who copied it from E. W. Bullinger. They claim that Eusebius, a bishop and author of Ecclesiastical History "always finishes the verse with the words 'in my name.'" They quote two examples of this and conclude that Eusebius never saw a manuscript with the words "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (One God... p. 455).
However, this third hand information is inaccurate. Eusebius uses the full Trinitarian formula at least four times- in Contra Marcellum (twice), in De Ecclesiastica Theologia, and in a letter written to the church at Caesarea (see The Way: Ancient Heresies Modernized, Douglas Morton). Bullinger probably never realized this because these writings by Eusebius weren't available in English during his time. In addition, many scholars believe that B and X, which contain the Trinitarian formula, were two of the 50 copies of the Scriptures which Emperor Constantine commissioned Eusebius to have written (The Text of the New Testament, Bruce Metzger, pp. 47-48). This is further evidence that Eusebius had only Trinitarian texts of Matthew 28:19. It is surprising One God... doesn't mention this, because they had access to monographs by Morton and myself before writing One God... (Bullinger also died before some of the new MSS cited above were discovered. If Bullinger knew of the newly found MSS and of the additional occurrences of the Trinitarian formula in other writings of Eusebius, he likely would have changed his views.)
At the end of their appendix on Textual Corruptions Favoring the Trinitarian Position, the authors admit that "the modern versions of the Greek New Testament attest to their honesty in trying to restore the original text" and so they cite the NIV, NASB and other modern translations in their book. But then the One God..,. authors go on to show much less scholarly integrity by being very biased in their use of Greek manuscripts.
As much as One God... refers to Greek manuscripts, there are indications that the authors don't really understand or can't fairly explain how textual criticism works and its relationship to theology. (Even though they refer to an excellent book on this subject, Metzger's The Text of the New Testament). One God... says,
"The NIV and NASB represent theologians who believe that the original text read... 'only begotten God,,' while the KJV is representative of theologians who believe that the original text was... 'the only begotten Son'" (p. 473). This is very muddy thinking at best. Before theologians ever read the NT, textual critics examine Greek texts and establish a compiled text which they think is closest to (or the same as) the texts as the NT authors wrote them. They use as objective a set of criteria as possible, and as much as possible do not let their personal theology influence them. The most important criterion is the age and quality of the manuscripts, which is why readings from the Beatty papyri, Bodmer papyri, X and B are so influential. Later, after the text is established, Bible translators translate Greek into English (and other modern languages) and theologians read the text and draw their beliefs and teachings from them.
The One God... authors may be revealing their own approach to the texts more than that of the textual critics who examine the Greek texts. Actually, the majority of the textual critics on the UBS/N-A committees are not evangelical orthodox Christians, so their beliefs don't even coincide with many of the Greek texts that they conclude are most accurate, although One God... seems to think that is the case. The One God... authors let their anti-Trinitarian theology color their assessment of Greek texts much more than the textual committees do.
One God... is dressed up in scholarly clothes. But the core principles of the book are far from it. Instead, the authors clearly follow the same biased and inaccurate principles they learned from V.P. Wierwille, even though they are embarrassed to refer to him or his books. Like Wierwille, they let their preferred beliefs determine their selection of Greek texts, use outdated sources when contemporary ones don't support their views, and are inconsistent in the use of rules of textual criticism. The One God... authors know more about scholarship than Wierwille and The Way International, but when their beliefs are threatened by textual reality, they revert to the entrenched biases they learned in The Way International.
Dr. John P. Juedes, 2005
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