"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 9, Number 3, March 2006
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.”
[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org
Gems from Vance Havner
“God works from above with fire from heaven and we put the Gospel to shame by stirring up a fire from our own sparks. Even the world knows the difference, and men only laugh at a church trying to beat the world at its own game. One meeting where God answers by fire is worth all our convocations in the energy of the flesh.”
The Vance Havner Quote Book (Baker, 1986), p. 98
“Alas, even fundamentalists are often guilty of sizing and sorting Scripture to fit the dimensions of their own private theories, lopping off this verse and stretching that, to suit the Procrustean bed of some favorite school of interpretation.”
“Nobody in pulpit or pew needs a revival more than a bitter-spirited fundamentalist with his dispensations right and his disposition wrong.”
My Personal Debt to Dr. Henry M. Morris
When word came last week that Dr. Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., founder and long-time president of the Institute for Creation Research and co-founder of Christian Heritage College had died in his sleep February 25, 2006 (or as he might have put it scientifically--“succumbed to the inevitable consequences of the second law of thermodynamics”), I began to reflect on what Dr. Morris meant to me personally, and the impact he had on my life and ministry.
Through high school, I was a willing follower of the theory of evolution. It was all I had ever been taught or read--I remember distinctly reading a Time magazine article in 1968 or 1969 on the subject and concluding that only the ignorant would question the truth of organic evolution. A fellow student asked me if I believed in evolution (she expressed reservations about it); I assured her that of course I did--what informed person didn’t?
So strong was my acceptance and interest in evolution that among my college electives at Wichita State University, I chose a course on paleoanthropology, which focused on human and pre-human evolutionary evidences (australopithecus, zinjanthropus, ramapithecus, Neanderthal, and all that). Yet strange as it may sound, this course, designed to uphold and enforce the doctrine of human evolution, taught by a devoted evolutionist, and using a textbook written by a leading evolutionist, managed to weaken somewhat rather than strengthen my commitment to evolution, since the evidence and answers given were frankly not very persuasive.
In February 1970, during the first weeks of my studies at Wichita State, I had become a Christian through the reading of the Gospel of Matthew. I was given a Scofield Reference Bible about 8 months later, and began to read and study it-- text, notes and all--with considerable zeal. Halfway through my studies toward a B.A., I was called by God to the ministry and immediately transferred to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. I was still very much an evolutionist--a theistic evolutionist--during the greater part of my first year there.
Harmonizing evolution and Genesis seemed easily done (to my uncritical mind) through the expedients of the “Gap Theory” (namely, that a space of unspecified but no doubt very long time is to be understood as existing between Genesis 1:1, and 1:2, the latter verse being understood as “And the earth became without form and void” rather than the usual “and the earth was “etc.) and the “Day-Age Theory” (namely that the days of Genesis 1 are not ordinary 24 -hour days, but periods of unspecified but no doubt very great length). By these two expedients--both taught and widely popularized by Scofield--my belief in the Bible and belief in evolution were able to reside side-by-side in my theological portfolio.
My ready adherence to both the Gap Theory and the Day-Age Theory are illustrated by an incident that occurred in a class on “The Life of Christ” during my first semester. The teacher--not a trained theologian, but a man with a music background--indicated that he believed the days of Genesis were to be accepted at face value as 24-hour, literal days. Under my breath, I derided the guy as an ignoramus--“why, hadn’t he ever read Scofield’s notes and discovered the truth of the Day-Age Theory? And he calls himself a Bible teacher!”
My smug and arrogant dismissal of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 remained secure until a day in March, 1972. That day, there appeared on campus as an invited lecturer and speaker one Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., a geologist of all things. He spoke in his calm but confident and exceptionally well-informed manner to an audience of several hundred, and in one hour’s time managed to completely destroy my ill-founded beliefs in the Gap Theory, the Day-Age Theory and in theistic evolution in any form. It was a remarkable experience, one in which the Spirit bore witness with my spirit that this man was entirely right and I was entirely wrong. I immediately abandoned these multiple errors and have been a literal no-gap, six-24-hour-day, recent creationist ever since. I had Dr. Morris sign my Scofield Bible that day. “H M Morris Jer. 32:17” it reads.
In subsequent decades, I had a limited few opportunities to hear Dr. Morris in person, but listened to him on tape not a few times, read and studied many of the books he penned, and monthly received instruction from him in the ICR publication “Acts and Facts.” I have taught courses on “the Bible and Science” frequently, both in the States and in Europe (Romania, Hungary and Germany). I have always made abundant use of his writings in my preparations.
On a half dozen occasions, I had cause to write Dr. Morris, and though he was most definitely an extremely busy man, he always and invariably wrote back in short order. Once, when he published a position paper regarding English Bible translations, a position I viewed as marred in part due to misinformation he had gotten from sources available to him, I wrote to point out the defects in his sources and enclosed some articles I had written addressing these errors. He wrote me back in a most kindly manner, thanking me for the articles.
I never once read or heard a harsh or vindictive word come from him, not even toward his most vicious and malicious, to say nothing of dishonest, critics. He was truly a Christian gentleman. A gentleman and a scholar.
What Dr. Morris did for me in March 1972, liberating me from evolution altogether and from a compromising surrender of the teaching of Scripture regarding creation, he did for a broad swath of conservative Christianity. He, and those associated with and influenced by him, rescued us from our intellectual inferiority complex regarding the Bible and science. Instead of shrinking back in fear lest someone challenge us on the scientific accuracy of the Bible and the “fact” of evolution, we are now prepared and equipped to respond to such a challenge with a firm “Bring it on! Let’s examine the evidence.” It is the evolutionists today who have anxiety attacks over the possibility that someone may actually require them to prove their case, rather than just accept it “by faith” and because they say so.
In As I See It, vol. 2, no. 12 (December 1999), I ran an article titled “The Greatest Events and Greatest People of the 20th Century.” My analysis then included the following:
". . . .A third event of surpassing significance was the publication in 1961 of
The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb. This book launched the modern scientific creation movement which has gone far in rescuing Biblical Christianity from its intellectual inferiority complex which developed after Scopes. For decades, we cowered in fear that if we tried to defend the literal accuracy of the Bible, especially the early chapters of Genesis, we would have scientific "facts" shoved down our throats and we would become a laughingstock. We fell back to such expedients as the gap theory and day-age theory, which were neither true to Scripture nor convincing to secularists. But now, almost 40 years later, we can boldly challenge secular atheistic evolution on solid scientific grounds. The Genesis Flood sparked this transformation."
"Who have had the greatest impact for good on 20th century Christianity? . .
. . Judged by the impact for good of his actions on conservative Christianity, I would have to name Henry M. Morris as the most influential individual of the century. As noted earlier, by his writing and speaking, he set afoot the modern scientific creation movement that has transformed the whole relationship of Biblical Christianity and secular humanism. We can now take the battle to them on their home turf, and emerge victorious, supported by facts of science. The credibility of Scripture has been enhanced in our eyes and with confidence we can urge others to find a personal relationship with God our creator and savior, such as we ourselves have found."
I have discovered no reason in the years since to alter this analysis. Let us honor the memory and continue the noble labors of a man such as this.
A Sample Bibliography of Books by Dr. Henry M. Morris
(out of the more than 50 books he authored)
The Genesis Flood, with John C. Whitcomb. Baker Book House, 1961.
Many Infallible Proofs. Master Books, 1974.
Scientific Creationism, (editor). Creation-Life Publishers, 1974.
The Genesis Record. Master Books, 1976.
What is Creation Science? With Gary E. Parker. Creation-Life Publishers, 1982.
The Long War Against God. Master Books.
The Bible Has the Answer, with Martin E. Clark. Master Books, 1987, revised ed.
History of Modern Creationism. Institute for Creation Research, 1992. 2nd ed.
Spurgeon on the Greek Text of Westcott and Hort
In one of the grossest misrepresentations of Spurgeon’s views ever made, late pastor Bruce D. Cummons of Massillon, Ohio affirmed in print that “Charles Spurgeon loved the KJV and vowed he would withdraw fellowship from any preacher or group of preachers who made light of or ‘down-graded’ the KJV!” (The Foundation and Authority of the Word of God, n.p., n.d., p. 51; this booklet first came to my attention around 1977). It is true, Spurgeon loved the KJV, but he neither believed it to be based on perfectly and verbally preserved and therefore unimprovable Hebrew and Greek texts nor did he believe the KJV translation was always and everywhere precisely correct. And as a result, the claim of a pledge of immediate withdrawal of fellowship from those who “downgraded” the KJV is bogus. Indeed, even a passing familiarity with Spurgeon’s published sermons and other writings will reveal many, many examples of Spurgeon correcting the English on the basis of the original language text, quoting some other version, or of noting a variant manuscript reading which he believed more accurately reproduced the original manuscripts.
There was a “down-grade” controversy in the life of Spurgeon, but it was not an objection to correction or revision of the KJV or its underlying texts, but to the modernist rejection of the original inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures as originally written by the prophets and apostles. Because of tolerance within its ranks by the British Baptist Union of those who openly denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, and further rejected other fundamental doctrines, Spurgeon ultimately withdrew from the Baptist Union altogether. The interested reader should obtain and read The “Down Grade” Controversy, which consists of photographic reproductions of relevant articles and sermons published by Spurgeon in his monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel and in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit between 1887 and 1891. This valuable collection of primary documents can be obtained from Pilgrim Publications, P. O. Box 66, Pasadena, Texas 77501. The best treatment to my knowledge of the Down-grade controversy by a Spurgeon biographer is that by Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Kregel, 1992), pp. 660-716.
When I wrote and challenged him on his source for his aforementioned affirmation concerning Spurgeon, Cummons replied that he had “read it somewhere,” a “somewhere” which turned out (as I discovered some years later) to be the caption to the portrait of Spurgeon which hung in the “Christian Hall of Fame” at Canton Baptist Temple, Canton, Ohio. That portrait, a most hideous production, as well as the caption (which has long since been removed), were the work of Peter S. Ruckman, Sr., of Pensacola, Florida, the chief disseminator of misinformation in the on-going text and Bible translation controversy.
Not to be outdone by Cummons and Ruckman in their perversion of Spurgeon’s views, the late David Otis Fuller (editor of Which Bible) published and widely distributed what was identified as “The Greatest Fight in the World: Spurgeon’s Final Manifesto.” In this one page series of alleged “quotations,” Spurgeon for all the world seems to express absolute KJV-only views and utter revulsion and unconditional rejection of the Westcott-Hort Greek text and translations based on it. But Fuller had “put on a hairy garment to deceive.”
Less than a year before his death, Spurgeon did address the annual Pastor’s College conference, and did deliver what became known as his “final manifesto” which was titled in the published edition The Greatest Fight in the World. However, a careful comparison of Spurgeon’s original unedited and unaltered message with the excerpted “quotations” from it distributed by Fuller will reveal that Fuller has dealt most dishonestly with Spurgeon’s remarks, and has, with what can only be malice aforethought, knowingly edited and altered these out-of-context quotations so as to make Spurgeon seem to believe what he did not at all believe about the text and translation of Scripture. The reading of the unedited message by Spurgeon (reprinted in facsimile by Pilgrim Publications in 1990) demonstrates that Spurgeon never in the least even hinted that the KJV was the only acceptable English version, or that its underlying Greek text was a perfect reproduction of the originals. In truth, some of Spurgeon’s comments not quoted by Fuller--in fact, edited out by him--prove just the opposite.
I responded to Fuller’s deception by writing An Answer to David Otis Fuller (Pilgrim Publications, ca. 1990 and still available), in which I reply statement by statement to Fuller’s sheet, and provide an extensive collection of in-context quotations from Spurgeon demonstrating that he believed the KJV could well be improved as a translation, that it’s Greek Vorlage is liable to correction on the basis of manuscript evidence, and that the English Revised Version (NT, 1881) and its base Greek text, as well as other versions, were in fact at times a clear improvement over the KJV and its text.
In the years since writing that booklet, I have located--or had brought to my attention--many additional quotes by Spurgeon on the same subjects. I have occasionally included these in As I See It (see "Spurgeon and English Bible Translations," in AISI 3:6).
Recently, Pilgrim Publications issued yet another volume in the series of reprints of Spurgeon’s writings as found in his monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel. This latest reprint (in facsimile), volume VIII, covers the years 1885, 1886. In this volume, there is the clearest direct statement I have yet found by Spurgeon with regard to the Greek text of Westcott and Hort. Originally published in the “Notices of Books” section in the August, 1885 issue of The Sword and the Trowel (p. 431 of the original; p. 154 of this reprint), Spurgeon writes:
The New Testament in the Original Greek. The text revised by Brooke
Foss Westcott, D. D., and Fenton John Anthony Hort, D. D. Macmillan and Co.
This edition of the Greek text of the New Testament is reproduced from a larger edition, published in 1881, with an accompanying volume, containing an Introduction, and an Appendix of Notes on Select Readings, and on Orthography. It is a very important addition to Biblical literature. We are not able to go into the critical question of its accuracy; but granting that matter to be satisfactory, we see the great advantage of having a cheap edition for students and other readers of the Greek text. The more reading of the Scriptures the better; and it is best of all when that reading occupies itself with the original. Every member of our churches, who has a fair English education, should aim to acquire sufficient Greek to read the New Testament; we specially include in this exhortation our sisters in Christ. Every vestry should have its Greek class.
If Spurgeon were ever going to denounce the text of Westcott and Hort, this would have been a perfect opportunity. And that is what he in fact does not do, but commends it and calls it “a very important addition to Biblical literature,” declaring its appearance in an inexpensive and therefore more widely accessible form “a great advantage.” And as for the question of the reliability of the Westcott and Hort text as a modern representation of the ancient Greek original, note well Spurgeon’s remark: “We are not able to go into the critical question of its accuracy; but granting that matter to be satisfactory. . .” Because of the technical and detailed nature of the topic of Greek texts, Spurgeon does not weary the reader with an extended analysis. Rather, he simply assures the reader that he may assume that the Westcott-Hort text is satisfactory in this regard, that is, that it is a good representation of the text as originally given by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. Not a word, not a syllable, of denunciation of the Westcott-Hort text by Spurgeon here.
Let those who try to hijack Spurgeon for the KJV-only/ TR-only camp cease their dishonest works of darkness.
Hebrew New Testament Translations:
A Comprehensive History--Part I
by Doug Kutilek
The OT was originally written in Hebrew (some parts of Daniel, Ezra and Jeremiah, being in Aramaic, excepted). However, because of abandonment of the Hebrew language for Greek, the Hebrew Scriptures had become virtually inaccessible to the Greek-speaking Jews of the Mediterranean world by the last several centuries before Christ. For these Jews to have continued access to the oracles of God, they needed to be provided with a Greek translation of the OT, and such was produced in the period 250-150 B.C.; almost certainly this work was done in Alexandria in Egypt. This translation is commonly called the Septuagint (abbreviated with the Roman numerals LXX). This was the Greek version used throughout the Mediterranean world during the first century as Christianity spread from Aramaic-speaking Judea into the Greek-speaking Roman Empire. Indeed this Greek version in large measure prepared the way for and facilitated the early propagation of the Gospel far and wide by the apostles and others. In later centuries, not a few other Greek versions of the OT were made (three in the second century A.D. alone). (And, incidentally, the modern fable--created out of whole cloth by Peter S. Ruckman, Sr.--that denies the existence of the LXX before the 3rd century A.D. is devoid of a single supporting fact, indeed, flies in the face of a mass of evidence that demonstrates that this Greek version pre-dates the birth of Christ. See “The Septuagint--B.C. or A.D.?”, parts I and II, AISI 7:7, 8).
But translations going the other way--that is from the original Greek NT into Hebrew--came much later (but have been surprisingly numerous). And of course, the reason for this is easy to discern. Whereas Greek was a thriving, widely-known language in ancient times, meaning demand for Greek versions of the Hebrew OT was strong, on the other hand, Hebrew was known by a limited few, even among Palestinian Jews (who spoke mostly Aramaic or Greek), and just such Jews as were generally hostile to the Gospel message. Hence--there was no demand or call for a Hebrew version of the Greek NT early on.
Some have claimed the NT itself at least in part is, like the LXX, a translation of a Semitic original into Greek. Off and on for more than a century, there have been occasional Bible scholars who have proposed that some of the NT was originally in Aramaic or Hebrew, though their arguments are not convincing and have never gained a wide-spread following.
There is a widely quoted statement made by Papias, one of the earliest post-NT Christian writers, to the effect that Matthew originally wrote the “logia” (sayings? oracles?) of Jesus in Hebrew, and everyone translated them as they were able. What Papias meant is not at all clear. If he was referring to Matthew’s Gospel as we know it, there is good reason to doubt the accuracy of his statement, since our Matthew does not have the earmarks of being a translation from a Semitic language. If Papias is referring to a written copy of some of Jesus’ sayings made by Matthew, that possibility cannot be ruled out. Who knows what notes Jesus’ hearers made as they listened to Him?
What “Hebrew” means in Papias’ quote is not certain either. In the NT, the designation “Hebrew” (with the exception of the two uses in Revelation) means the language we today call Aramaic (also sometimes referred to as Syriac or even Chaldee). So Papias may have been referring to something written in either Aramaic or, less likely, Hebrew. But no remains, not even a single word or quote or manuscript of any such ancient “logia” of Jesus in Hebrew (or Aramaic) is know to exist anywhere, nor indeed, of any “original Hebrew” NT book.
While there are no known copies of any NT book in the hypothetical “original Hebrew,” there are “modern” Hebrew translations of the Greek NT, and they are more numerous than one might initially suppose. The Greek NT has been translated into Hebrew repeatedly, beginning in the late Middle Ages, but especially in the Reformation era and after, usually by Christians with a view to evangelizing Hebrew-reading Jews, but occasionally even by Jews, usually with a view to discredit the NT. We shall trace these chronologically. The four primary sources of information we have located are:
1. T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, compilers, Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society [hereafter DM];
2. Gustav Dalman, “Hebrew Translations of the New Testament,” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge [hereafter Dalman]; and
3. Bernard Pick, “Hebrew version of the New Testament,” in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature [hereafter Pick].
4. Thomas Hartwell Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.
(See the bibliography at the end for full particulars about these and other sources.)
The earliest Hebrew version of the NT or any part thereof of which I can find record is a translation of the Gospels (or rather, Matthew’s gospel), dating to around 1385 (or perhaps a generation earlier), and produced by one Shemtob Isaac ben Schaprut, a Jew of Tudela in Castile, Spain (DM, p. 706; Pick, p. 534; Dalman) and preserved in a manuscript located in the Vatican library, and perhaps in other manuscripts elsewhere.
In an unascribed entry in M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, we are informed about the translator of this earliest of Hebrew versions of the NT:
ISAAC SHAPRUT, a native of Tudela. He was a celebrated philosopher, physician, and Talmudist, and wrote, under the title “Eben Bochan [Hebrew for “a tested stone”], The Touchstone, a polemical work against Christianity, inveighing bitterly against the doctrines of the Trinity, incarnation, transubstantiation, etc. One portion of the book consists of a translation of Matthew’s Gospel into Hebrew, said to be so unfairly performed that, among other faults, the names in the genealogy are grossly misspelled, and are therefore of no avail for comparison with the Old Test[ament]. To each chapter are subjoined questions for Christians to answer. An appendix to the work is called “Replies to Alfonso the Apostate.” The MS. is still in Rome, and dated at Turiasso, Old Castile, 1340. He also wrote Remarks on Aben-Ezra’s Commentary on the Law under the title Tsophenat Pa’eneach [Joseph’s Egyptian name, Genesis 41:45] and The Garden of Pomegranates, Pardes Rimmonim, explaining the allegories of the Talmud. (CBTEL, vol. IX, p. 661)
A somewhat physically defective manuscript of Isaac ben-Shaprut’s Hebrew version of Matthew was edited, revised, supplemented, and published by Sebastian Muenster, noted editor and Latin translator of the Hebrew OT, with an accompanying Latin translation, in 1537 at Basel, under the title Torat-Hammashiach (“The Law of the Messiah”). The initial stir that this publication caused when it first appeared--as though this were the long-lost Hebrew Matthew Papias had written about--was soon dispersed when it was realized that it,
had no pretension to be regarded as the text of the sacred original, nor even as an ancient version, for the language in which it was written was not the Syro-Chaldaic, current in Palestine at the time of our Lord, but the rabbinical Hebrew in use among the Jews of the 12th century. It was, moreover, full of solecisms and barbarisms, and bore indubitable marks of having been translated either directly from the Latin Vulgate, or from an Italian version thereof. (Pick, p. 534)
Muenster’s edition appeared in a 2nd edition in Paris in 1541, and a 3rd, accompanied by the book of Hebrews in a Hebrew version (source unspecified) in Basel, 1557 (Dalman); with later reprints reported in 1580 and 1582 (DM, pp. 706, 709).
An independent edition of Shem Tob’s Hebrew version of Matthew, edited by J. Quinquarboreus and issued at Paris in 1551 in octavo, 156 pp., is reported by DM (p. 707)
Another edition of Shem Tob’s Hebrew version of Matthew, made from a manuscript brought from Rome, Italy, and more complete than that used by Muenster was published in Paris in 1555 by Jean du Tillet and Jean Mercier, again with Latin translation (DM, p. 707).
A modern reprint of both the Muenster and du Tillet/ Mercier editions was made in 1879 by Adolf Herbst in Goettingen under the title, De Shemtob ben-Shaprut hebraishe Uebersetzung des Evangeliums Matthaei nach Drucken des S. Muenster und J. du Tillet-Mercier (“The Shemtob ben Shaprut Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Matthew according to the editions of S. Muenster and J. du Tillet-Mercier”). According to Pick, “In this edition the editor proves that the author of this version was none else than Shem-Tob Isaac ben-Shaprut who translated the gospel for polemical purposes” (DM, p. 707; Pick, p. 534). I have examined what is reported to be the final page of Matthew in this version and can say that though it is occasionally literal in its translation, at other times the translator alters his text wildly at will, to make it say what he wishes for it to say, not the least change being the arbitrary excision of the Trinitarian formula in Matthew 28:19, against all evidence of manuscripts and versions (and because of this deliberate corruption of the text, some in the “Jesus Only” cult have seized on this 14th century Hebrew version as sufficient (!) proof (!!) that “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” was not an original part of this Gospel, but a later insertion. Some will believe whatever they want to believe, no matter how discredited the so-called evidence).
Of the lateness of date of this Hebrew version of Matthew, London Pastor John Gill (1697-1771) and noted expert in the whole of rabbinic literature gives his learned opinion in the opening paragraphs of his commentary on Matthew (while discussing the question of whether Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew). He mentions the existence of several Hebrew versions of Matthew, saying of them: “What has been published by Munster, Mercer [sic], Hutter, and Robertson, are translations, made by themselves or others, and of no antiquity” (p. 1)
If, as reported by Dalman, this version by Shemtob ben Shaprut originally contained all 4 Gospels, only Matthew ever seems to have been published.
What is apparently a reprint of Shemtob ben Shaprut’s Hebrew version of Matthew was made in 1995 by George Howard in Hebrew Gospel of Matthew (Mercer University Press; 239 pages). I have not examined this edition.
Darlow and Moule (p. 709) report that F. Petri, a Hebrew Christian, in 1574 published at Wittemberg a Hebrew translation of Luke, made from the Greek text, having in the previous year issued a Hebrew version of the Liturgical Gospels; this latter version was revised and reissued in 1574 at Antwerp. Further, a Hebrew version of Mark was also published at Wittemberg in 1575, this being translated by another Hebrew Christian, one W. Herbst of Hanover.
The first complete translation of the entire NT into Hebrew was made by Elias Hutter (1553-c.1609) in 1599-1600. Thomas Hartwell Horne, in his always informative An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures gives the following account--
The New Testament was first translated into Hebrew by the learned Elias Hutter, who published it in his Polyglott edition of the New Testament in twelve languages, viz. Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, Latin, German, Bohemian, Italian, Spanish, French, English, Danish, and Polish, at Nuremberg, in 1599-1600, in two volumes 4to. In his preface he states, that when meditating that work, he sought in vain for a Hebrew version of the New Testament. No alternative therefore was left to him, but to attempt it himself. Accordingly, laying aside every other undertaking, he translated, corrected, and finished it in the space of one year. For a first translation, especially when we consider the shortness of the time in which it was accomplished, it is truly a wonderful performance.
From Hutter’s Polyglott the Hebrew text was detached, and printed separately, with some corrections, under the superintendence of William Robertson, 8vo. London, 1661. It is a volume of extremely rare occurrence, as the greater part of the impression was consumed in the great fire of London, in 1666. Robertson’s edition was beautifully reprinted in 12mo. at London in 1798, by the Rev. Richard Caddick, with the pious and benevolent design of enlightening the minds of the Jews.
DM note these two revised editions of Hutter’s Hebrew version (p. 715; 723), as does Dalman, though both state that Caddick’s intended complete reprint was only partially carried through the press (part I, Matthew-Mark, alone being issued). Pick (p. 534), in mentioning these, identifies the reviser of the 1798 edition as Caddock. DM indicate that in 1800, all four Gospels of Caddick’s revision of Hutter were published in a volume of 319 pp., with separate issuings also of Matthew, Romans (1804), and Romans and I Corinthians together (also 1804), these latter two in polyglot versions, with interleaved Greek and Latin texts in parallel columns (see DM, vol. II, part I, p. 28)
In 1668 at Rome, Hebrew Christian Giovani Batista Giona’s (a.k.a. Johannes Baptista Jona) Hebrew version of the Gospels, made from the Latin Vulgate and complete sometime before 1639, was published, the Latin and Hebrew being in parallel columns. The translator, born in Galilee and professor of Hebrew in Rome, nevertheless produced a version that fell short of what might be expected from a man of such background and position (Pick, p. 534; DM, p. 716). Horne (p. 107) says that “A copy is in the King’s Library, in the British Museum.”
Dalman mentions a Hebrew translation of Matthew by Johannes Kemper (d. 1714) with an accompanying Latin version by A. Borelius extant in manuscript (and therefore never published?) at the University of Upsala, as well as a Hebrew version of Hebrews by F. A. Christiani (Leipsic, 1676) and Luke 1:1-22:14 by I. Fromman (Halle, 1735). DM state that F. A. Christian was a Hebrew Christian (p. 716), but give no information about either Kemper or Fromman or their Hebrew versions; Pick says nothing about any of these three translators.
Dalman mentions a complete Hebrew translation of the entire NT as being made by Jewish translator Ezekiel Rachbi (d. 1772) and an assistant from Germany. No other information is provided, and no other source mentions this version.
Horne relates (p. 107) the following account of a Hebrew version of the NT prepared by a rabbi in India for polemical purposes, but which resulted in his conversion to Christianity:
The late Rev. Dr. Buchanan, during his researches in the interior of India, obtained a Hebrew manuscript of the New Testament in the country of Travancore, which is now deposited in the University Library at Cambridge. It is written in the small Rabbinical or Jerusalem character. The translator was a learned rabbi, and the translation is in general faithful: his design was, to make an accurate version of the New Testament, for the express purpose of confuting it, and of repelling the arguments of his neighbors, the Syrian or St. Thome Christians. His own work was the providential instrument of subduing his unbelief; and he lived and died in the faith of Christ. A transcript of this Travancore Hebrew New Testament is in the Library of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews.
In a footnote to this, Horne adds,
The reader will find a critical account of this Hebrew version of the entire new Testament in the Congregational Magazine for October, 1831.
Also in this footnote, Horne adds, “There are extant various other Hebrew translations of detached books of the New Testament, by different individuals, which we have not room to enumerate.” For these, he directs the reader to Dr. Adam Clarke’s Bibliographical Dictionary, vol. vi, pp. 218-222, a detailed work published in 1802-4 in 6 vols., 12mo., which I have never seen, but which Horne describes thoroughly, along with a two-volume 1806 supplement, in his own An Introduction to the Study of Bibliography, London: 1814, vol. II, pp. 529-531. (These older writers were so industrious and productive and their published writings so voluminous, I almost wonder when did they ever sleep!). Not unlikely, the partial Hebrew versions listed by Clarke include some, perhaps all of those noted above.
[Hebrew New Testament Translations: A Comprehensive History, Part II, will appear in the next issue of As I See It]