Burgon, KJB revision & KJB triumphalism

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Burgon, KJB revision & KJB triumphalism

Postby bibleprotector » 26 May 2014, 22:52

Was Burgon’s revisionary work with the Greek underlying text merely restricted to the Greek, or was he implying, indicating and revealing that the King James Bible should be altered?

First, Burgon spoke of the necessity of “the removal of many an obscurity in the AV”.

Here is the full quotation (from David Cloud's website):

It is often urged on behalf of the Revisionists that over not a few dark places of St. Paul's Epistles their labours have thrown important light. Let it not be supposed that we deny this. Many a Scriptural difficulty vanishes the instant a place is accurately translated; a far greater number, when the rendering is idiomatic. It would be strange indeed if, at the end of ten years, the combined labours of upwards of twenty Scholars, whose raison d'etre as Revisionists was to do this very thing, had not resulted in the removal of many an obscurity in the A.V. of Gospels and Epistles alike.


In the context of that quote, he 1. agrees that there were obscurities in the English, 2. that the Revisionists of the RV have done well in having thrown important light, specifically by new so-called accurate translation and also by alterations of the English idiom, 3. that there were indeed obscurities in the AV Gospels and Epistles which he expected and agreed should be clarified.

This shows that Burgon was believing that revision to the English Bible was right, proper and good. But he favoured a vastly different kind of revision than what actually occurred.

Burgon’s plan, which was never “formalised” consisted of:
I. gaining a full picture of the underlying textual evidence with special reference to the Byzantine tradition,
II. the developing of scholarship in “sound” textual criticism, including acquaintance with the LXX, etc.,
III. making corrections to the TR,
IV. translating afresh in places, while keeping the KJB as much as possible,
V. alterations of the English idiom of the KJB where obscure or imprecise,
VI. updating a few “archaicisms” in the KJB,
VII. as to how this is to be executed, could perhaps as an auxiliary “handmaid” volume, or perhaps by marginal references, or perhaps as a new edition wherein would be introduced as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorized Version.

(I have constructed this outline of a plan from a general knowledge of Burgon's printed work.)

Thus, when Burgon spoke of, “representing certain words more accurately, — here and there translating a tense with greater precision, — getting rid of a few archaisms”, he was in fact laying out what was part of his own plan. In the context of these words he does not condemn this notion at all, but says that the AV should not be endangered, for the sake of making these changes. He is seeing that these changes are right, but that they should not be used as a pretext for wholesale radical modernisation. In other words, he would rather be conservative and have no revision than to allow the needful revision he really desires, when it would be hijacked and destructive to Scripture (like the RV was).

Burgon wrote, “an authoritative Revision of the Greek Text will have to precede any future Revision of the English of the New Testament. Equally certain is it that for such an undertaking the time has not yet come.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 124.)

Note, he says “will have to”. He believed in not only altering the Greek, but the AV. He then uses the words “not yet come”, meaning that there would be a time when the AV would be somehow revised. He is not against a “future Revision of the English”.

Again, Burgon wrote, “Whenever the time comes for the Church of England to revise her Authorized Version (1611), it will become necessary that she should in the first instance instruct some of the more judicious and learned of her sons carefully to revise the Greek Text of Stephens (1550). Men require to know precisely what it is they have to translate before they translate it.” (Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, page 263.)

Note that he believed it inevitable that there would be a revision to the AV, and then says that it would be necessary for it to be done properly, etc. Not only is the Greek to be altered, but then men would “translate it”. That is clearing meaning that he believed and supported and even advocated change to the AV.

Edward Miller recorded that, “we do not advocate perfection in the Textus Receptus. We allow that here and there it requires revision. In the Text left behind by Dean Burgon, about 150 corrections have been suggested by him in St Matthew’s Gospel alone. What we maintain is the Traditional Text. And we trace it back to the earliest ages of which there is any record.” (Burgon, The Traditional Text, page 5.)

These 150 corrections mean 150 changes in the KJB in the Book Matthew! It does not mean less, or just the Greek, as though it would have no affect or manifestation in English. As for even a short catalogue of specific examples of any sort of alterations the Dean suggested, one can probably find allusions to examples in places in his writings.

He said, “my object, the establishment of the text on an intelligible and trust worthy basis.” (Burgon, The Traditional Text, page 6.) And, “Let 500 more COPIES of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles be diligently collated. Let at least 100 of the ancient Lectionaries be very exactly collated also. Let the most important of the ancient VERSIONS be edited afresh, and let the languages which these are written be for the first time really mastered by Englishmen. Above all, let the FATHERS be called upon to give up their precious secrets. Let their writings be ransacked and indexed, and (where needful) let the MSS of their works be diligently inspected, in order that we may know what actually is the evidence which they afford, Only so will it ever be possible to obtain a Greek Text on which absolute reliance may be placed, and which may serve as the basis for a satisfactory Revision of our Authorized Version.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 125.)

Note that once all this was done, “Only so will it ever be possible to obtain a Greek Text on which absolute reliance may be placed, and which may serve as the basis for a satisfactory Revision of our Authorized Version.” He very plainly, clearly supports a “satisfactory Revision of our Authorized Version”. He is wanting to change the AV, not just the Greek, but the English.

What English was he wanting to change? Certainly not wholesale changes like the RV, because he said, “It is idle — worse than idle — to dream of revising, with a view to retaining, this Revision. Another generation of students must be suffered to arise. Time must be given for Passion and Prejudice to cool effectually down ... Partisanship must be completely outlived, — before the Church can venture, with the remotest prospect of a successful issue, to organise another attempt at revising the Authorized Version of the New Testament Scriptures.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 227.)

He wanted someone to have a “successful” venture, and “organise another attempt at revising the Authorized Version”. He was all for changing the AV. All for the success of a conservative revision.

“Then further,” wrote Burgon, “those who would interpret the New Testament Scriptures, are reminded that a thorough acquaintance with the Septuagintal Version of the Old Testament is one indispensable condition of success.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 128.)

Again, Burgon sees that a new interpretation would be exectued, and gave his ideas on what would make it a “success”? He is not just talking about the Greek, but about creating changes to the King James Bible!

“And finally,” Burgon concluded, “the Revisionists of the future (if they desire that their labours should be crowned), will find it their wisdom to practise a severe self-denial; to confine themselves to the correction of ‘plain and clear errors;’ and in fact to ‘introduce into the Text as few alterations as possible.’” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 128.) And that “the Authorized Version, wherever it was possible, should have been jealously retained.” (Burgon, The Revision Revised, page 226.)

He is not just speaking of errors in the Greek but errors or changes to be made in the Authorized Version. He said that it should be retained “wherever it was possible” meaning that he thought it was not always possible to do so, indeed, giving his blessing and the most certain implication that the work of his sort would differ to the AV as it was.

I cannot supply specific examples of what Burgon though were corrections, but it might be possible to find various throughout his writings. But I am not making a case in support of Burgon’s revising the AV, rather, that Burgon being on the side of good was not wholly wrong. Namely, that he did see the value in retaining much of the AV, and that there were a few corrections that were needful in the presentation of the AV, nothing like the types of corrections which he implied he required. And in time, the purification of the AV was complete. But so much of the Dean’s projections were never fulfilled, nor should they be, and that is why we should not bother about what exactly were his requirements for revision, how much and to what extent he was for “representing certain words more accurately, — here and there translating a tense with greater precision, — getting rid of a few archaisms”. He certainly thought there were at least a few inaccuracies, a few imprecisions and a few archaicisms in the AV. What exactly, how many, we do not know, and it does not matter.

Elements or things of the proper spirit of his requirements were fulfilled, and this can be recognised from the basis of a proper view of the AV itself. This includes that the Septuagint knowledge seems to have been helpful in correcting longstanding typographical errors/variations in names in the AV. And that greater knowledge of the Byzantine tradition connected to TR defence has afterwards confirmed the AV.

I stand by my claim that Burgon had the specific aim and wish for the conservative revising of the KJB, which would certainly include, “representing certain words more accurately, — here and there translating a tense with greater precision, — getting rid of a few archaisms”.

What I have shown is that Burgon had a plan (without specific details) to change both the TR and the KJB, or to agree with such things. It was not just "possible" TR changes, but the design was that some of the suggestions would actually be finally taken. And the changes to the KJB included a desire to alter some minor points, such as archaic words or modifying tenses. We do not have the fine details, because the Dean only broadly promotes this idea in his published works. He says that the TR should be changed, but we don't know fully know what those changes are. He says that the KJB should be revised, but we don't know which verses he particularly means. But we cannot deny that he was a conservative Bible corrector, and much more sound, as when comparing to even the NKJV people.

Burgon’s plan, which was never "formalised", which outline I have constructed from a general knowledge of Burgon's printed work, was promoted by the Dean because he clearly indicated the inevitability and the necessity of revision, therefore, he wished the (deferred) revision to be done soundly:

I. gaining a full picture of the underlying textual evidence with special reference to the Byzantine tradition,
II. the developing of scholarship in “sound” textual criticism, including acquaintance with the LXX, etc.,
III. making corrections to the TR,
IV. translating afresh in places, while keeping the KJB as much as possible,
V. alterations of the English idiom of the KJB where obscure or imprecise,
VI. updating a few “archaicisms” in the KJB,
VII. as to how this is to be executed, could perhaps as an auxiliary “handmaid” volume, or perhaps by marginal references, or perhaps as a new edition wherein would be introduced as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorized Version.

I cannot produce any particular reference off hand where the Dean said, "this particular archaic, obscure or imprecise word should be altered", etc., but we know Burgon did give hints that this was his thinking. From what he stated, it is clear that he thought some revision in the KJB was necessary. Also, he never says the opposite, namely, he never says or rules out that the King James Bible should not be revised or altered. The closest he comes to that is by pointing out the danger of altering the KJB which is a binding religious link, and a recognised monument, etc. I submit that the presentation of my view of Dean Burgon as a potential corrector of the King James Bible is based on sound reality. I emphasise that he must have been on the right side, because he was kept from actually carrying out his designs in this regard.

Those who hold that the King James Bible is perfect in English are not doing so out of lack of knowledge. It is not a blind statement. No, it is the very opposite. It is made on the basis of knowledge of the Word of God. Since we know that "their works do follow them" (Rev. 14:13b), we acknowledge that John William Burgon, Edward Hills and many others historically and presently have highlighted the superiority of the textual basis, the translation and the very English of the King James Bible.

The point is this: we do not have to yet continue investigating various issues, such as 1 John 5:7 as if the case were unsettled. (I suspect that the people who do so often begin with the case unsettled in their own mind, and place the authority of the case upon the "Greek" and "men" until they are convinced of the genuineness.)

But there is now a shift in the view: since everything is going toward English being common throughout the world, since the King James Bible is clearly the best of all Bibles, why should the authority of the King James Bible yet rest upon the Hebrew and the Greek, when the translators and a massive testimony since that time shows that they got it right? In other words, we are now privileged to get hold of just a few succinct presentations of information to gain an understanding of the doctrine that the vast opinion of so many witnesses is greatly and fully in favour of the King James Bible as it now stands.

Just as we accept that the translators got it right in 1611, so that there does not need to be any more textual gathering and translating, so likewise, we should now accept that godly people to this time have presented enough for us to accept the finality that the King James Bible translators got it right in every particular.

We should be able to say now, "I accept the English as is, that it is presenting the autographs exactly, and that this is God's very message, down to the very jot and tittle, for the whole world for everyone".

As a "triumphalist", I am not attacking the foundation of our position. Our triumphal position is based upon the witness of the facts which men like Burgon, etc. have presented. In my own writings, I have presented Burgon accurately and drawn an interpretation from his work. However, it is really the gathering of the case as a whole, rather than each part of it, to see that all worked together (in a providential continuum) building up and contributing toward one central and final position, namely, that the King James Bible is the standard and only Bible for the whole world.

We are at a point of history where we may gather and reap of what all came before us. Just as the translators were able to get the KJB right in 1611, so we should be convinced from, say 2007, that they actually did get it right. (That is, that God ensured that the right men at the right time with the right learning etc. all came together for the KJB, but also that the right things have all come together that we now be confident in the English Bible as it stands today. This is called practical faith in the providence of God.)

So, the English is final. The meaning of the God's Word is there in English. The certainty is there in English. We don't have to go anywhere else to find the "real" meaning. We don't have to harbour any uncertainty as to various textual or translational questions at any point. In fact, the whole battle of comparing to modern versions is really won. (I walk by faith, not by sight.) We shouldn't be reacting to modern versions, because we are on the rock and we cannot be moved. Modern versions are dashing themselves in vain on this rock. Thus, our triumphalist position is to hold the victory that we actually have God's Word, and not that we are still trying to find it (as many seek in all the wrong ways and places).

In an age of gross darkness, where the saints ask “how long O Lord?” We find that the patience of the saints is to POSSESS, to keep the Word of God and the testimony of Christ. We must therefore OBTAIN by faith, knowing that all who came before us have contributed to us: "their works do follow them" (Rev. 14:13b). That these things are already supplied to us shows that we are in the privileged position to ATTAIN the blessing.

Thus, God's providence has been to give us the King James Bible, and God's providence has been to allow for us a foundation of vindication of that Bible, which is such a mountain of victory, that we find that we have the fruits of those who came before us in the great provision of the Almighty. Thanks be to God who has graciously multiplied such wisdom to us!

There is nothing wrong with dredging through old writings, or yet discussing the various things to do with the underlying text. The point is that it is not necessary to pursue the details of this when we have a gathered form of witness. It is exactly the same as saying that we do not know how exactly the King James Bible was made, though we have some idea, but we accept the result. In like manner, we do not have to know the entire body of evidence which vindicates or yet delves into the Greek and Hebrew, etc., to know this simple thing: God’s Word is fully true, right, accurate and exact here and now in this book.

In other words, “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37b).
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