The World Needs the Original Bible
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1994
The advent of the modern era in producing English versions of the Bible began in 1881 with the publishing of the Revised Version in the United Kingdom. This was followed in the United States in 1901 with the American Standard Version (a much heralded version for its up-to-date language style with a supposed adherence to the Hebrew and Greek texts in its translation). These two modern translations and versions were intended to be improvements upon the King James Version of 1611 (with its several additions up to the end of the eighteenth century). Interestingly, in spite of these two introductory new versions, the King James Version still retained its superiority in the eyes of the general public as far as study and worship in the churches were concerned. Indeed, almost all scholarly research works which are presently used as aids to understand the meanings of the original Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words in the Bible still retain the King James Version of the late 1700's as the standard for their academic works.
It is my personal belief that God deliberately designated the King James Version as one of the finest efforts at presenting the word of God to modern man in the time of the Protestant Reformation. There are major deficiencies in the version of course (such as rendering the Hebrew word olam and the Greek word eon with a meaning of "everlasting" or "eternity" associated with them), but in understanding the nuances of Hebrew words (and showing the influence of Hebrew on the Greek of the New Testament), the King James translators were able to express themselves quite adequately. So good were they that the Jewish Publication Society in their new modern version of 1917 followed the King James so closely in translation that one has to call it a "Jewish King James Version." Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina has expressed to me personally that he is also impressed with the manner in which the King James translators rendered the Hebrew of the Old Testament into English. This does not mean that they were always correct in their renderings, but it does show that they had the right principles in mind in their endeavor to translate the Hebrew and the Greek into a modern English idiom.
In my view, it is no accident that all the basic scholarly works in the English language that relate to Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek linguistic studies of the Holy Scriptures still have the King James Version as their standard for reference. Examples of this are George Wigram's "Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance" (with his "A Handy Hebrew Concordance" in which he gives all the Hebrew grammatical forms) and the Wigram's "Englishman's Greek Concordance" which together give all the English usages in Scripture of the original Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words. These works are indispensable for the study of what the original words of the prophets and apostles meant in the Bible, and (as stated before) they are all based on the King James Version (afterward abbreviated as KJV).
A study of these research works would indicate to any student the need to adopt English words that can best describe the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible and to use them CONSISTENTLY (when it is possible to do so) throughout the whole of any modern version in English (or in any other language). Of course, as in any language, there are always exceptions to the rule in the meanings of words within certain contexts (and these can be explained), but it is better when possible to be CONSISTENT in the use of single English words to express single Hebrew or Greek words. This is known as the "Concordant Method of Translation." It is a proper method when used consistently. When one uses it, it is evident that the one main fault of the KJV is its variety of English words used to denote single Hebrew and Greek words. But with the use of Wigram's works which are mentioned above, it is possible for any student of average intelligence to discover (in the vast majority of cases) the precise meaning of any biblical word in its context in the Scriptures. This method was used by the Concordant Publishing Concern over the past eighty years in producing excellent translations of the original texts of the Old and New Testaments. (I will have more to say about their efforts as we proceed in this article.) Indeed, some of the most erudite lexicons of the biblical languages have utilized Wigram's works mentioned above in their evaluations of what the biblical words actually mean. You and I can do the same thing with those works (which are readily available today for anyone to buy). And again, Wigram used as his standard reference the KJV of the Bible. This is why that early version has become the basis for all scholarly work in the linguistics of the Bible in the English speaking world.
The reason why the comparison of the use of the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words in their biblical contexts is so important in comprehending what the texts of the Scripture actually mean is because the scholar and student alike can see how the prophets and apostles used words to convey their thoughts, not what some meaning based on certain alien or foreign language idioms might suggest. We must learn to stay with the meanings of the words as found in the Scripture if we hope to comprehend what the Bible is trying to tell us. Scholars should use this "Concordant Method." It is a proven procedure that all scholars and translators must heed if they hope to present what the words of Scripture actually mean. And indeed, any layman can check the renderings of any translator (without much fear of being wrong) if he or she will also use the "Concordant Method" by consulting the works of Wigram that are mentioned above. Of course, there are some words in the Old and New Testament that occur infrequently (or maybe only once) and it is perfectly proper to go to the writings of scholars who have used the Bible over the years and centuries (or even secular sources) to get hints at what the scriptures might mean by the use of any particular word. But the teaching derived from such usages must be consistent with the basic understanding of the writers of the Scripture in contexts which are simple to read.
As stated before, the scholarly standard for linguistic study of the Scripture in the English language is the King James Version. And for one's study purposes, there is a KJV version that is very helpful in aiding one in understanding the original words written by the prophets and the apostles. It is one of the finest versions of the KJV ever produced for the student of the original texts of the Holy Scriptures. It is the Thomas Newberry Version of 1886 which used the KJV as a basis. Its usefulness comes to the student because Newberry adopted an elaborate system of simple but understandable symbols associated with the words and phrases of the text which give an adequate understanding of the actual grammatical forms within the original languages. It is my view that every student of the Bible ought to have this KJV for his or her serious study of the divine scriptures. It is still being published by Kregel Publications of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its major fault is its lack of being exhaustive in its grammatical displays. In several crucial areas for a proper doctrinal understanding, we find that Newberry failed to provide his grammatical symbols to indicate what the real meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words signified. It also is faulty in not adhering to the original order of the books of the Scripture as shown in the manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, and it does not show the original divisions of the biblical books. Thankfully, this major fault will be remedied in the new version being produced by "The Original Bible Project." There is not a version on the market today that presents the biblical books in the arrangement of the manuscripts for both the Old and the New Testaments. It is a sad commentary on all the versions today (even those who adopt a "Concordant Method" for translating the Holy Scriptures) that there is a lapse in avoiding the manuscript order of the books and divisions of the Bible. Publishers have not heeded the teachings of the eminent textual scholars (especially for the New Testament) to return to the manuscript order of the biblical books. Publishers and translators of the Bible have been consistently content in retaining the erroneous order and arrangement that was devised by Jerome in the early fifth century when he brought out his Latin Vulgate Version for Christian people in the western part of the Roman Empire who only understood the Latin language and not the original Hebrew or Greek. And indeed, even Newberry in his otherwise excellent version continued to present his KJV in the erroneous fashion of Jerome and not the manuscripts. If Newberry had only followed the manuscripts with his order and arrangement of the biblical books, his version would have been a major boost toward understanding what the texts of the Scripture were trying to relate. But Newberry failed in this. As far as I know, only one translator (Ivan Panin) has in modern times retained the proper arrangement of the New Testament books. No modern version (and I mean not one version in the entirety of the publishing world) has presented both the Old and New Testaments in the proper order and arrangement of the books. This will be remedied, however, with the new version being produced by "The Original Bible P'roject."
Indeed, I have long hoped that a new version of Newberry's work would be done that would be totally and thoroughly exhaustive in the use of his ingenious symbolic signs and also that the books of the Bible would be placed back into their manuscript order and arrangement. This primary fault in Newberry's otherwise excellent and useful version could be remedied by publishing an updated version with every word and phrase grammatically explained. With it, all versions could then be checked by the layman (along with the works of Wigram mentioned above) as to their accuracy. This needs to be done one of these days because no one (not even Ernest L. Martin, perhaps I should say, most especially Ernest L. Martin) can be relied on to give a 1000/o accurate translation in every single text in the entirety of the Holy Scriptures. We all need checks and balances in such matters. I know that Dr. James Tabor certainly feels the same way as I do on this important matter. But let me say (unless someone misunderstands me) that the principles that are being used by Dr. Tabor and his assistants to produce "The Original Bible Project" are the very ones I have long advocated, and I anxiously await the publishing of this major and important work will be a major step in restoring the original Bible to the world.
As a matter of fact, there have been several versions in English that have led the way in producing some excellent translations, and I know that Dr. Tabor will give credit to the people who have been the pioneers in publishing versions to help people to understand the Scripture even better. One that I particularly hold in esteem is that which was devised and directed by A. E. Knoch called the "The Sacred Scriptures, the Concordant Version." I first met Mr. Knoch in 1955 at his East Los Angeles office when I was a freshman in college, and then later in 1960 when I returned from England to to study for my masterís degree at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. I was very impressed with the academic expertise of Mr. Knoch personally and with his translation work in particular. My own edition of "The Sacred Scriptures" was presented to me personally by Mr. Knoch. I have used it consistently in biblical studies ever since and it has proved itself in worth many times over what other works and translations have afforded to me.
This translation of Mr. Knoch's is especially good because he based his translating on the "Concordant Method" of rendering the Greek words (and later his Hebrew version) into single English words when at all possible. This allowed the student to see consistency throughout the version. Mr. Knoch was a master at using the English language and his understanding of the Greek was first class. But he got himself, and the integrity of the Version, into trouble with the academic world by reserving the outside column of his translation page for his personal comments involving doctrinal matters rather than staying with a simple explanation of what the words or any particular word in the text may have meant. What intensified the ire of his Protestant critics was his insistence that the New Testament taught the reconciliation of all human beings to Christ. They did not like his rendering (for example) of the Greek word eon as an indefinite period of time. The Protestants wanted the word in many cases to mean "everlasting" or "eternal." Of course, Mr. Knoch was correct in his rendering, but his critics began to clamor that his translation was intended for the sole purpose of teaching a universal reconciliation for mankind (which they did not believe) and they unkindly launched a vicious full frontal attack on the validity of the Version to vilify it in every way they could.
There was another major factor in the Greek about which the eminent Greek scholars of the Protestant world took him to task. This was Mr. Knoch's explanation of what the Greek aorist (often called a tense) in its verbal form actually meant. In simple terms, Mr. Knoch expressed his belief that the Greek aorist (which verbs are found in abundance in the New Testament) was to be rendered by the simple English present tense. This brought on the wrath of the Greek scholars of the Protestant world who reckoned his opinion to be absurd. While the word aorist means "without horizon" (that is, "without limits" as to space), the Christian scholars were more often than not assigning the meaning of the Greek aorist in its New Testament texts to a past tense rendering. In no way could they concede to Mr. Knoch's opinion that the simple present tense in English could explain the aorist in many cases. The past tense made sense to them.
I personally believe, though, that Mr. Knoch was right in a basic sense. But he could well have avoided the ire of many of his critics in the academic world if the word "tense" (which means "time" - or, to express a "time relationship" would not have been used by him in his explanation of the Greek aorist. What he should have done, in my view (and looking at the situation in hindsight) is to explain that even the English language itself has the aorist as a grammatical use in a profound way but that English grammarians are prone not to mention the use of the aorist in English. If the grammarians would do so, they would notice that almost invariably the English aorist is what we in English call the "present tense." Actually, though, the English aorist (or the Greek aorist) is not a present tense. After all, the present tense can easily be rendered in the Greek of the New Testament. The aorist in English or Greek is not the present tense.
Still, the first thing that must be understood is the fact that our modern English (and all major European languages) have the aorist embedded within their languages though it is usually disguised or camouflaged as a "present tense." But a problem emerges when grammarians try to identify it. This is because the word "tense" is used to describe the aorist. The aorist is not a tense! The word "tense" relates to "time," but the aorist is not in any way related to "time." It rather indicates an aspect of space, a state or a condition. And whereas "time" (a tense) refers to the past, present or future in its various forms, the aorist refers to space such as behind, where the speaker is, or in front of the speaker, yet even here (and this is most important to realize) the limits or the boundaries of this aspect of space are always undefined. The aorist is simply an indefinite aspect in relationship to space, to a state or to a condition which is being described.
This aorist aspect is found abundantly in English, but it is shown by utilizing words that sound and look like the "present tense," but in actual fact are NOT the "present tense" at all. The English aorist (unlike the Greek aorist which uses extra letters to show an aoristic aspect) uses words that appear to the eye to be the "present tense." But the words are not showing the "present tense." They are simple homonyms that are presenting the aorist state or condition (not tense, or time). In fact, the aorist (both in English and Greek) does not express any time relationships whatever and it is an anachronism to call the aorist a "tense." The aorist is simply without limits in regard to space, state or conditions. The aspect of time, let me repeat, is not associated with the aorist of itself either in the English or the Greek. Let me give some examples.
If a person says: "Tap water is liquid," it may appear that the English present tense (with the verb is) is being used in this sentence. But this is not the case at all. The verb "is" is a homonym usage for the aorist state (not tense, or time). It describes an aorist condition. Let's face it, as it is normally understood, all tap water is indeed liquid whether the phrase relates to the past, the present or the future. The aorist (even in its English usage) is giving a state or a condition, and has no relationship of itself to time (either past, present or future). And, using the word "is" in the statement that "tap water is a liquid," is NOT using the present tense in English. The present tense would be "tap water is being a liquid," which is not only awkward in its wording but it is also silly to say it that way. But the verb "is" in the above illustration is not in the present tense (though it outwardly appears to be). It is actually a usage of the English aorist (which is an aspect of space or a state without limits or boundaries).
Let us look at another example: '(The Rocky Mountains are in North America." Though it appears that the verb is in the English present tense, it is really a homonym that uses the same word as the present tense but means something entirely opposite - it is describing a state or a condition that can rest assured that in any normal usage of the above sentence, the Rocky Mountains would be in North America whether centuries ago, right now at the present, or in the foreseeable future. Anyone with common sense can see this principle. It is time that English grammar classes in schools, colleges and universities begin to show clearly that the aorist state or condition is as much in evidence in English - in a multitude of ways - as it is in Greek or other similar languages. The only difference is that in Greek there are letter forms attached to the verbs that clearly show them to be aorist, while in English we use the homonymic form of words that appear as though they are showing the present tense when they are not. In English and in Greek the aorist aspect shows indefinite boundaries as to space, state or condition. It has nothing to do with tense (or "time"). And, Mr. Knoch rightly stated in his lexicon that the aorist is the indefinite, not any specific time indication that so many western scholars have come to imagine.
To get over his point (which was basically correct in concept), what Mr. Knoch should have done, in my opinion, was first to show that the English is itself full of aorist expressions (which are normally rendered in words that appear to be present tense, but are not). He could then have proceeded to show that the Greek aorist is not a whit different than our English aorist state or condition, and that it is easy and proper to render the Greek aorist into an English aorist. The aorists are equal.
Now look at how understandable things can become when this is done. As an example, the translators of the KJV (and almost all modern translators) will take the aorist indicative to be a past tense in English, even though the very meaning of the word "aorist" demands that no time indications or limits be associated with it. Look at Romans 8:30 as translated by the KJV. "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Now, the verbs shown in bold letters are all in the Greek aorist. Notice how all the words by the King James translators are rendered in the English Past tense. While it may make doctrinal sense to say that God predestined us (in the past), that he called us (in the past), that he justified us (in the past), it is not true that God has glorified us (in the past). Indeed, our glorification will not come to us until the second advent (which is future). What the apostle Paul actually meant was that God foreordains, he calls, he makes righteous, and he glorifies (without reference to time). True, to foreordain something involves a time when the ordaining occurred, but the apostle Paul used the indefinite aspect which also shows that God may in the future foreordain others (in other worlds besides our own). Paul was showing that it is God who ordains, who calls, who makes righteous, and who glorifies people (no matter what the time is). This is like saying that tap water is liquid. It is liquid no matter what time it is being described. And the English verb describing this condition of water is not in the English present tense, it is in the English aorist which appears to be (as a homonym) like the English present. I plan to write a paper on this very subject one of these days showing extensively that the English language (in fact, with every modern European language) uses the aorist in everyday parlance and in most cases the grammarians are calling it a modified form of the present tense when it is not. The only difference between the Greek aorist and the English aorist is the fact that the Greek uses letter forms within their words to indicate the aorist and the English does not. English uses what appears to be the present tense, but it is not the present. But even the use of the "present" (as does Mr Knoch) for the aorist is not a farfetched procedure because even in the Testament we find that one writer speaking of the same event will place the verb in the present while the other places it in the aorist (see Luke 11:3 with Matthew 6:11; Luke 6:30 with Matthew 5:42; and Matthew 5:12 with Luke 6:23). Mr. Knoch could hardly be accused of inventing some newfangled grammatical usage when the apostles used either the present or the aorist to explain the same thing.
Even our modern English could easily adopt the Greek style of indicating the aorist by adding a letter to the form of the verb when an aorist state or condition is intended though it would be unnecessary to demand it. But as a suggestion, the letter "t" or the letters "st" could be added to a "to be" verb every time the speaker wants to use the aorist. Just as Jesus in Matthew 6:9 gave the model prayer in the KJV (using the old English) "Our Father which art in heaven," if we wish to indicate the aorist when no time relationships are intended by us, we could say: "The Rocky Mountains art in North America." That way all people would know precisely by the grammar that no time indications were intended because in this context the Rocky Mountains are always in North America whether one means a hundred years ago, now, or a week from now. [By the way, the word "art" in Matthew 6:9 where Christ said "Our Father which art in heaven" is supplied by the KJV translators. There is no verb in the Greek at all and no time indication was even intended by Christ in his phrase. All he said was: "Our Father in the heavens" without reference to time. Christ intended in this model prayer that the Father is always to be understood as being in the heavens no matter if we pray in the past, the present of in the future).
But back to our illustration. We could be certain we are not using the simple present tense if instead of "The sky is usually blue," we could say: The sky ist usually blue." The adding of the "t" would make it certain that no time indication was intended because under usual circumstances the sky is always blue. Of course, it is equally effective in modern English to leave the "is" as it is because it is automatically understood by all English readers that no time indication was meant when we say the sky is usually blue (because the sky is usually blue whether in the past, or in the present or in the future).
There are many, many examples of the aorist being used in English though it appears as the present tense in its verbal form. If someone asked you how you communicate with your parents, you might say "I write." As it appears in English grammar this would have to be reckoned as a form of the present tense with a special qualification. But it is not a present tense. It is an indefinite (aorist) aspect! The present tense would be "I am writing" -not "I write." After all, if you communicated with your parents last month (in the past), or right now present) or in the future, the clause "I write" applies to all periods of time without distinction. This clause is a clear aorist and if we wish to indicate it grammatically (as does the Greek), we could (as I suggested) add an "st" to the word "write" and say "I writest." From our modern point of view it would be absurd to do so because any reader would know precisely what you meant, though most - even many college graduates - would not state that the aorist was being used in English when it most certainly is).
I have taken considerable time in explaining this matter of the English aorist (and how the Greek aorist can be rendered into the English aorist quite easily), but this is an important point for students of the Bible because it involves not only verbal usage within the Greek New Testament but the aorist aspect is also used (though most grammars will not say it is) in numerous places in the Old Testament. Newberry explained the Hebrew verb as a "long" tense and a "short" tense, but the use of the word "tense" gives a wrong impression. It is better to explain the Hebrew verb as giving "aspects," not "tenses." I will have more to say on this in a future article. If you wish more information on this matter, see the introduction to Young's Literal Translation of the Bible and the Introductory notes to Newberry's Version.
As for Mr. Knoch's renderings of the Greek aorist by the English present tense, I feel he would not have been so castigated by the Protestant scholars of the Greek had he first shown that the English itself has the aorist aspect in many, many of its verbal forms but it is hidden from English view by its homonymical usage in what appears to be the present tense. The fact is, the word "tense" (which means "time" or to show a "time definition") should never be applied in association with the aorist aspect in grammar. The aorist (which is found in abundance in the New Testament and also in numerous ways in the Old Testament Hebrew) indicates a state, a space or a condition WITH-OUT LIMITS (without borders or lines of demarcation), though words in any context can provide an understandable "time aspect." But the aorist has nothing to do with time aspects of itself and should not be used as a time indication.
Indeed, there are words (normally nouns) in the Bible which denote within themselves an indefinite time, but the use of aorist is not such a grammatical usage. Indefinite time is found in words like olam in Hebrew or eon in Greek which have the aspect of time associate with them but without any definite verbal boundaries to distinguish the time aspect. The word olam and eon are practically synonyms with one another and they mean something close to "age" or "age-lasting" without any precise time limits of the age being given in the word itself. True, the words may indicate a particular time such as "Abraham's age," and the age must refer to the period of 175 years during which Abraham lived, but the meaning of the words themselves are still indefinite as to time.
In conclusion, what is needed is the Bible as it left the hands of the canonizers. It needs to be rendered in an English manner that all can understand and appreciate. To aid in the accomplishment of this essential task, I have just finished a new (and completely revised) book of researched entitled: "Restoring the Original Bible." This book is 512 pages long (with bibliography, index and notices of other books) and it is jam-packed with historical and biblical information which clearly shows that the original manuscript order of the biblical books is essential for modern man. Thankfully, "The Original Bible Project" is now producing such a version of the Bible. It will be a Bible that all can understand. Because of this, all of us should be behind this effort so that the world will be given an English version that everyone on earth can comprehend.
Ernest L. Martin
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