Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,
Early this year, our elder team gave every family at Hope Baptist a copy of this great little book by William Einwechter, which has been made available online by our friends at Chapel Library.
Since that was prior to the planting of Sovereign Redeemer, I thought it would be useful to highlight this book again, and to offer a very brief summary. WARNING: The summary won’t deliver the full benefit, and shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for the full read, especially since the entire book can literally be read in a couple of hours.
Einwechter structures the book around two essential pillars:
1. Verbal-Plenary Inspiration.
Simply put, this means that the unit of inspiration is the individual word. With perfect precision and intentionality, God chose every word of the Bible. IMPLICATION: Don’t mess with the words. KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, and The Geneva Bible are prominent translations that embrace the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture. Alternatively, NIV and HCS are examples of translations that have departed from this principle in favor of “thought for thought” translation, so that the thought becomes the unit of inspiration, instead of the individual word. I won’t be addressing translations towards “The Message” end of the spectrum. Those are more commentary than translation, and frequently bad commentary at that.
Jesus understood the Bible to be infallibly reliable (inspired by God) not only down to the word, but even down to the verb tense. With a lot on the line, Jesus rests the entire weight of His argument against the Sadducees on a single verb tense. “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). If the “am” could be “was”, Jesus’ argument comes apart at the seams. No matter. Jesus stands with confidence on the present tense of that one verb.
Likewise, Paul understood the Bible to be infallibly reliable even down to singular vs. plural. In Galatians 3:16, Paul makes his argument based on whether God’s promise to Abraham was to one Seed or many seeds. “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”
SUMMARY: Sticking close to Jesus and Paul and their view of inspiration is always a good thing.
2. Providential Preservation.
So far, most readers have probably been able to stand up and cheer. This is the part where you may encounter implications that you haven’t considered before, and where your translation of choice might get gored. Of the translations which hold to verbal-plenary inspiration, KJV, NKJV, and The Geneva Bible are founded on providential preservation, while NASB and ESV have taken a different course.
Providential preservation affirms that God has sovereignly provided His people with uninterrupted access to the inspired Hebrew and Greek texts. More plainly and to the point, never for a single day, let alone hundreds of years, have the people of God been kept from the inspired texts because those texts were hidden away in a cave. Providential preservation holds steadfastly to a view that God is not only able to do this, but also abundantly willing, and more than willing based on His regard for His own word.
Psalm 138:2b reads, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Think about that for a minute. God has magnified His word even above His name, a name not to be taken in vain, a name that is to be hallowed.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Admittedly, neither verse explicitly says that God could not have a reason in His wisdom why He would keep the inspired Hebrew and Greek texts from His people through the centuries, but what basis do we have for that conclusion, especially given the alternative. The alternative is that men – yes, very learned men, and in some cases very godly men, but nonetheless men – have been able to determine that some texts are older and therefore better than the texts available to the church of God throughout the centuries. Says who? Says them.
I view this as bad theology, but it is also a concept with other practical problems which Einwechter underscores in the book. This process of textual criticism – preferring “better” texts based on presumed age or other evidence – has given us a patchwork of underlying texts (particularly for the New Testament) different from anything used by the church before now.
I’ll take my stand with who I understand the God of the Bible to be, and how I see Him relating to His people, thanks. Every day and all day long.
SUMMARY: Door #1 is God preserving His inspired word for His people in every age; Door#2 is men looking at all of the ancient texts and determining which ones are best in which spot. Uh…
The elders aren’t insisting that you throw away your stack of ESVs. I like my ESV and use it every week for comparison purposes. But we do want to raise awareness of the issues and implications, so that you understand why we defend, prefer, and use a translation in our corporate gatherings that affirms both verbal-plenary inspiration and providential preservation.
I had never thought about some of these things prior to reading the book. But I read the book, I read it critically, and although I haven’t adopted every one of the conclusions (Einwechter prefers the KJV), I found the arguments to be very, very solid and I strongly hold to the two key principles outlined. And while many of the actual translational differences seem to be very minor, we should never think that it doesn’t matter.
Every jot and tittle matters, at least to Jesus and Paul. If nothing else, that should make us think.