Book Review of
G. A. Riplinger. New Age
(Munroe Falls, OH: A. V. Publications, 1993). 690 pp. $14.95 (paper).
Reviewed by Robert L.
Thomas, Professor of New Testament.
The Master's Seminary
13248 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, California 91352
This work on its cover carries the subtitle, "An Exhaustive Documentation Exposing the Message, Men and Manuscripts Moving Mankind to the Antichrist's One World Religion." Its cover further states, "The New Case against the NIV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NAB, REB, RSV, CEV, TEV, GNB, Living, Phillips, New Jerusalem, & New Century." The authoress, Gayle Riplinger, is reportedly a lay person with degrees in architectural and structural engineering, who lives in Ravenna, Ohio, though this reviewer has not met her and knows little about her. She claims to have documented "objectively and methodically" the hidden alliance between the new Bible versions and the New Age movement's One World Religion (1).
Riplinger has succeeded is creating quite a stir among many Christians because her work conveys the aura of accurate scholarship. Yet this impression is entirely an illusion. Other reviewers have observed the way she distorts the meaning of writings she cites, mostly writings connected with the NASB and the NIV`the main targets of her tirade against recent versions (e.g., James White, "Here We Go Again. . . . Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Quote the NIV. . . . New Age Bible Versions" [a review available through Alpha and Omega Ministries, P. O. Box 37106, Phoenix, AZ 85069]). So this reviewer will examine four of her citations of an older source whom she blames most strongly for fostering this alleged conspiracy between the modern versions and the New Age movement.
His name is Brooke Foss Westcott, a leader in the Church of England toward the close of the nineteenth century. Westcott's expertise with the Greek text of the NT has left its mark on studies of the NT text throughout this century. If he was the villain Riplinger makes him out to be, the church has cause for concern, but if he was a man of God, Riplinger has cause for concern because of her blatant misrepresentation of him. The following four excerpts illustrate her portrayal of him:
(1) Early on, in referring to Westcott, she writes,
The Greek text used to translate the NIV, NASB and others was an edition drastically altered by a Spiritualist (one who seeks contact with the dead through seances), who believed he was in the "new age" (2).
She refers to Westcott, building her proof for labeling him "a Spiritualist" and a "new ager" on an excerpt from a two-volume work by Westcott's son, Arthur Westcott (The Life and Letters of Brook Foss Westcott [London: Macmillan, 1903] 2:252). The segment referred to is from a letter of Westcott written in 1898, in which he refers to
. . . signs that once more in the face of unbelief and non-belief the Son of Man will vindicate His sovereignty by showing that He satisfies every need and every capacity which the struggles of a new age have disclosed" (Life and Letters 252).
The context of the letter gives no indication of Westcott's being a spiritualist. Besides, his reference to a "new age" could well have referred to the turn of the century, very similar to what the church faces in this last decade of the twentieth century. His own church had demonstrated some encouraging improvements, and riding the crest of a postmillennial spirit in his day (as did B. B. Warfield and others), he was speaking optimistically regarding future spiritual conquests for Christ. "New Age" terminology related to today's New Age movement was entirely unknown at that point in history. The authoress has done Westcott a great injustice by misconstruing his words this way.
(2) She continues later with this appraisal:
As a Cambridge undergraduate, Westcott organized a club and chose for its name "Hermes." The designation is derived from "the god of magic . . . and occult wisdom, the conductor of Souls to Hades, . . . Lord of Death . . . cunning and trickery" (400).
Her citation is from a paragraph telling of Westcott and three fellow undergraduates who formed an essay-reading club in May 1845 (Life and Letters 46-47). At first, they called it "The Philological Society" and later changed the name to "Hermes." The subjects of the papers read by Westcott himself were
The Lydian Origin of the Etruscans; The Nominative Absolute; The Roman Games of (or at) Ball; The so-called Aoristic Use of the Perfect in Latin; The Funeral Ceremonies of the Romans; The Eleatic School of Philosophy; The Mythology of the Homeric Poems; The Theology of Aristotle; Theramenes (Life and Letters 47).
These hardly tie him to Satan, as Riplinger contends in her chapter that names him a necromancer (397, 400). She does not give a source for her definition of Hermes, but Merriam-Wesbster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) defines it thus: "a Greek god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel, and theft who serves as herald and messenger of the other gods" (543). Since legend made Hermes a spokesman for the other gods, it is not unnatural to use such a name for a group delving into ancient Greek literature and giving speeches about their research (cf. Acts 14:12). She has leveled trumped-up charges against this man of God again.
(3) Further, her case for concluding Westcott was a spiritist (or spiritualist) rests on the following quotation:
Westcott's "Ghostly [sic, "Ghostlie"] Circular" reads, in part: "But there are many others who believe it possible that the beings of the unseen world may manifest themselves to us. . . Many of the stories current in tradition or scattered up and down in books, may be exactly true . . ." (406).
From this she concludes, "the members apparently had their own `experiences' and the circular was to elicit `information beyond the limits of their own immediate circle'" (406).
The "Ghostlie Guild" was a group Westcott belonged to whose purpose was to investigate reports of supernatural appearances and effects. Riplinger's quotation from the group's "Ghostlie Circular" is part of their discussion of procedures to obtain objective reports of these phenomena with a view to either verifying or discrediting them. Nowhere in the extended quotation is there any indication of Westcott or his associates having their own `experiences' in these matters. Her insinuation that they did rests on her inclusion of them in the reference to "their own immediate circle," which in the context of the words refers to "some members of the University of Cambridge," not to Westcott and company (Life and Letters 118-19). Here is another falsely founded allegation against the man.
(4) A final citation illustrates how badly this authoress wrests phrases from their context: "Their subversive and clandestine approach continued, as seen ten years later when Westcott writes to Hort, `. . . strike blindly . . . much evil would result from the public discussion'" (408). The fuller statement from Arthur Westcott's work is,
. . . Have you entered into the Maurice controversy? I only hope it may pass away quietly. At the first onset we always strike blindly; and much evil would result from the public discussion of the moot points just now. It is well, I believe, that they have been named; and it will be well for men to get familiarised with them. Then at length they may debate if they please. This is a strange symptom of belief or disbelief`that Mr. Maurice's views on the Atonement seem to have called forth comparatively little criticism (Life and Letters 229, emphasis added).
Riplinger has lifted from the preceding paragraph the italicized words and cited them alone to prove Westcott's "subversive and clandestine approach." If she had paid attention, she would have seen that he did not write those words to Hort, but to J. F. Wickenden. If she had aimed for accurate representation, she would have noted that Westcott's statement is probing how to deal most effectively with Mr. Maurice's inadequate view of the Atonement. He says, in effect, "At first, we don't know how to approach such a matter, and it is best that we avoid public discussion until people have become informed of the issues involved."
Such perversions as these four pervade the book. In addition to notice of such misrepresentations, two more general observations are in order. First, some have found an endorsement page included in some of the printings of New Age Bible Versions to be troubling. The longest of the endorsements`though an endorsement not of the book, but of the King James Version`is from Frank Logsdon (probably known more widely as S. Franklin Logsdon). It is a repudiation of the NASB with which he had a loose association for a while. This reviewer knew Logsdon (who died about four years ago) and knows to be false the endorsement's claim that he was "Co-founder" of the NASB. Logsdon's only tie to the NASB was his personal friendship with Dewey Lockman. Lockman was the sole founder of the NASB project, and Logsdon's role was extremely minor as an occasional adviser to Lockman. This reviewer remembers well the meeting of the Editorial Board of the Lockman Foundation when Lockman read the letter from Logsdon declaring his desire not to have any further association with the NASB. Lockman was crushed personally, but Logsdon's role was so minor that Lockman saw no need to interrupt the project in even the slightest way when he received this letter.
Second, it is a pity that someone has taken upon herself to slander men of sound doctrine, including B. F. Westcott. As a nineteenth-century scholar, Westcott contributed much to his day and to the church throughout the twentieth century. His commentaries on the gospel of John, the epistles of John, and the book of Hebrews are classics that have enhanced the understanding of those books for many. Two brief citations illustrate how biblical his Christology is in these works. In one he speaks of "the permanence of the divine essence of the Son during His historical work" (The Epistle to the Hebrews 9). In another he speaks of recognizing "the union of the divine and human in one Person, a truth which finds its only adequate expression in the fact of the Incarnation" (The First Epistle of John 142). It is outlandish even to hint that someone with this high view of the person of Christ could be a promoter of New Age causes.
Whatever good qualities Gayle Riplinger must have, the above examples illustrate that reliability as a biblical and theological researcher and writer is not one of them. She has thoroughly discredited herself in these areas. It would be a mistake to judge whether she intentionally misrepresents her sources so often, but intentional or not, a reader cannot trust her representations in this book. Her main thesis that moderns versions of the Bible are part of a New Age conspiracy is totally her invention, evidenced in the faltering of its support at every phase of its development. If the "father of lies" (John 8:44) is on one side or the other in this debate, he is certainly not on the side of B. F. Westcott and recent translations of the Bible.