Presbyteries and Standardization of Bible Version

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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
(Please note the forum this is in, and respond accordingly: i.e., please do not introduce debates on the merits of differing texts within this thread. This is strictly about the church's governing authority. Also, upon further reflection, this may have to be for Presbyterians only, as I doubt most of these questions apply to Baptists.)

1. Is it within the bounds of presbyterial authority to set a standard translation of scripture for use in the churches? Not necessarily in a dogmatic, "This is forever and always the best and only translation," but simply for the purposes of mutable standardization. (Do not confuse this with Q.4 below)

2. If not, is at least within presbyterial authority to bring a church up on disciplinary charges for using a bad translation? A Gender-neutral translation? The Message? The New World Translation? Scripture, indeed, does not dictate a specific version, but can the church enforce a certain standard of purity of worship by only allowing approved (or, at least, disallowing disapproved) translations in worship?

3. Poster has edited this question out to simplify matters

4. Finally, if you answered "Yes" to the above (That such things are, at least, within the authority of synods, presbyteries or sessions), do you think any of the above to be prudent or beneficial courses of action?

Edit to Add;
5. Pastors and Elders, if your presbytery decided to standardize a translation which you had no inherent problem with (such as the AV, NASB or ASV), but you personally preferred the ESV in your services -- would you appeal this? Or would you go along with it?
 
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Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
While I think this is going to come down to a battle of opinions, mine is that there isn't really a reason to give that authority to the church. While it may be "nice" to have a standard version that everyone uses in service, I don't see that it's necessary enough to warrant forbidding any other version.

As far as forbidding only certain versions, well, I think I could sympathize with that. I wouldn't want someone in our pulpit reading from the Living Bible.

But as far as family worship is concerned, there should be no reason(I think) why the church should crack down on a man for preferring a different version. It might be wise to advise him not to use one of the more liberal translations--the Message or the Living Bible--but I don't think the church has the responsibility to go any farther than a caution on that subject.

Just my :2cents:
 

Calvinist Cowboy

Puritan Board Junior
These are good questions. I am not sure that standardization of a particular translation or version is a part of the jurisdiction of presbytery unless a pastor using a bad translation is disseminating error. I would hope that the congregation of that particular church would bring to the pastor's attention such an obvious error (or the large potential for error).

Regarding question 3, I would say that most people who are serious about family worship do not use the Message or a similar version. Family worship has fallen by the wayside; very few families, proportionally, practice it because of the time and effort involved. Therefore, those who are willing to make the time for family worship, I believe, will not use a loose paraphrase like the Message.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
1) I think the session of each local church can choose which Bible to have as Pew Bibles. But I don't think they should tell people what to bring.

2) I would think some kind of debate and proof would be necessary to deem a Bible absolutely un-usable. What if there is a church with very few English speakers? (I still personally would never suggest the Message nor would I attend a church that uses that "version," but I don't know for certain that it is absolutely harmful to do so. (I've honestly never even seen The Message, so it may in fact be indelible blasphemy, if so, I guess I would change this answer to say that no church should use that book in the worship service, but perhaps in a language barrier group or something it would be acceptable on Thursday nights/not Sunday.)

3) I don't think the church should discipline a man for reading a version that is still Christian in the home. I think if he were using the Jehovah's Witness version, yes.
Even if he was using the Catholic Bible, with Apocrypha, but wasn't trying to worship through the Apocrypha, I would think that is OK. It is surely OK to own those books.

4) I said no a few times, so I can't answer!
 

Calvinist Cowboy

Puritan Board Junior
2) I would think some kind of debate and proof would be necessary to deem a Bible absolutely un-usable. What if there is a church with very few English speakers? (I still personally would never suggest the Method nor would I attend a church that uses that "version," but I don't know for certain that it is absolutely harmful to do so. (I've honestly never even seen The Message, so it may in fact be indelible blasphemy, if so, I guess I would change this answer to say that no church should use that book in the worship service, but perhaps in a language barrier group or something it would be acceptable on Thursday nights/not Sunday.)
The Message is very common at a mega-church I used to attend (in fact, I still go there on Wednesday nights because they have a Greek class there). It's not blasphemous or heretical. It's a loose paraphrase that tries to put the language of the Bible into everyday speech. It is annoying, however, because it uses so many metaphors and allusions to try to creatively restate the text.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Great questions.

As to #1, The OPC BCO says,

III. 3. All church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God. "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship" (Confession of Faith, XX, 2).

I think it would be very difficult to show that standardizing a translation can be "founded on the word of God."

#s 2, 3, and 4 are rendered moot by denial of #1.

I realize that this is only the OPC's BCO, but I thought it might help. I doubt other Presb. BCO's are much different in this regard, but have not consulted them.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Does this statement from the Directory for Publick Worship have any bearing on the matter?
All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.
Clark,

Thank you for bringing in your (and my!) denomination's BCO. I was hoping someone would bring theirs up soon. I am admittedly very ignorant of OPC history and order. I'm wondering, however, if #2 especially is necessarily contrary to the BCO section you published. Could the scriptural case be made that the ministers ought to read the pure word of God in their churches, and therefore certain translations are to be commended and approved, or disapproved?

And everyone else: thank you for your responses so far.
 

sastark

Puritan Board Graduate
It seems to me, that the translation used in the pulpit falls under the purview of the one filling the pulpit. In other words, the Minister of the Gospel should be using the translation he finds to be the best/most accurate. In that sense, I don't see how the presbytery could be dictating what version to use in the local congregation.

Further, my pastor often translates whatever passage he will be expounding directly from the Greek or Hebrew. His translation may not match word-for-word with any other English translation. Would a standardization like what you mention prevent him from doing this? If so, I think it would do great damage to exegesis in general.

Just my :2cents:
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Does this statement from the Directory for Publick Worship have any bearing on the matter?
All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.
In as much as the DPW has binding authority on American Presbyterian churches...

(And I say that as one being truly being appreciative of Westminster's DPW)
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
People are leery about passing laws that are not enforceable. It's not just that the whole situation the question is directed out isn't going to happen for other reasons, but also precedent. Which Bible are foreigners from 100 different countries who are members of denominations like the PCA, OPC etc.. authorised to use?

Any push towards adopting those sorts of laws would be rightly seen as disrupting the peace of the church and never get anywhere.
 

Knoxienne

Puritan Board Graduate
People are leery about passing laws that are not enforceable. It's not just that the whole situation the question is directed out isn't going to happen for other reasons, but also precedent. Which Bible are foreigners from 100 different countries who are members of denominations like the PCA, OPC etc.. authorised to use?

Any push towards adopting those sorts of laws would be rightly seen as disrupting the peace of the church and never get anywhere.
That's a really good point.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
People are leery about passing laws that are not enforceable. It's not just that the whole situation the question is directed out isn't going to happen for other reasons, but also precedent. Which Bible are foreigners from 100 different countries who are members of denominations like the PCA, OPC etc.. authorised to use?

Any push towards adopting those sorts of laws would be rightly seen as disrupting the peace of the church and never get anywhere.
Oops -- Sorry, Tim; I meant to quote, not thank (although I suppose one needn't apologize for a thanks!)

Thank you for chiming in. I think, however, that perhaps you read too much into the question. The question is based upon the use of a common version of scripture in public worship within an individual region. I would imagine that someone in an English speaking church in Michigan would be able to understand the Bible being read from at church, if it is in English.

Edit
I can't imagine anyone with a native ______ (insert foreign language here) speaker in their congregation who does not have a good grasp of English telling them that they can't read a Bible in their own language at home! But this also has no bearing on what English version is used in the church.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
It seems that perhaps a case could be made for the church to recognise the best translation in a particular language, but that is a weighty thing to decide and it would be sad and confusing if orthodox presbyteries chose differently. Perhaps the church is too fragmented to make that kind of decision -- and the issue hasn't so far been clear enough to be capable of the sort of cross-denominational unity that it seems it would surely be fitting to have?

(I think the topic is too complicated for me to understand much, but if an individual presbytery did do something like that, it doesn't seem that the church has any additional authority to discipline people for reading/using another bible version: it would be rather ridiculous if they did because the disciplined member could simply go to another confessionally orthodox church that would legitimately, in accordance with their own orthodox confession, receive them.)
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
To fix any ambiguity concerning #3 -- my question concerns only a persistent use by a man leading his family in worship of a specific translation which the session/presbytery has specifically deemed "unfit," but which the man continues to hold forth to his family as The Word of God.

The question has nothing to do with disciplining someone simply because they are not using the translation used by the church.

-----Added 4/22/2009 at 05:05:34 EST-----

It seems that perhaps a case could be made for the church to recognise the best translation in a particular language, but that is a weighty thing to decide and it would be sad and confusing if orthodox presbyteries chose differently. Perhaps the church is too fragmented to make that kind of decision -- and the issue hasn't so far been clear enough to be capable of the sort of cross-denominational unity that it seems it would surely be fitting to have?
I don't know if I necessarily agree with the bolded portion; although I would certainly be in favor of more commonality in translation among churches within a region, nevertheless, so long as the different denominational presbyteries within a given area are not calling each other out, saying, "Your translation isn't good!" I wouldn't see too much of a problem in that respect from the OPC churches in Michigan using one, and the PCAs another. A church can agree upon one without therein condemning another. I could see a parallel between which confession a church uses: my church uses the WCF; the one down the road uses the Belgic -- we've agreed upon different confessional standards to represent the same faith, but affirm each other's confessions as legitimate.

At the very least, if the OPCs in Michigan decided on a standard, and the PCAs another standard, there would probably be more commonality than there was before.

Your point, however, seems an excellent one: it would have to be done in such a way that it would not cause confusion as to one presbytery's stance regarding another, thereby disrupting unity and peace.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I think on the score of commonality it would surely be an improvement (and my own denomination does this): but considering the really weighty issues involved when the church receives something as the best translation of the Word of God, it would be very sad for orthodox churches to recognize different translations. In that case, it would be better to make sure the reasons are understood to be practical rather than an authoritative reception.

Re: the very helpful clarificaiton: unless orthodox presbyteries agree in deeming which versions are 'unfit' couldn't a man disciplined in one church still conceivably and legitimately be received into membership at another?
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I think on the score of commonality it would surely be an improvement (and my own denomination does this): but considering the really weighty issues involved when the church receives something as the best translation of the Word of God, it would be very sad for orthodox churches to recognize different translations. In that case, it would be better to make sure the reasons are understood to be practical rather than an authoritative reception.
This is a good distinction.

Re: the very helpful clarificaiton: unless orthodox presbyteries agree in deeming which versions are 'unfit' couldn't a man disciplined in one church still conceivably and legitimately be received into membership at another?
This sounds like a good concern, and important. At the same time, however, I'm not sure it differs too much in practice from any other denominational distinctives present in different churches: whether EP, headcoverings, etc. Perhaps it does, however, since this concerns something in one's own home.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Matthew,
I was disturbed by the following quote out of the article you cited. (Sorry I don't know how to do the fancy quoting of other cites as you guys do):

"Is the Church truly guarding this precious deposit faithfully if it does not separate the precious from the vile by warning against translations that corrupt the Word of God and commending the most accurate? If a church allows a variety of translations to be used, it is devaluing the gold standard of the Word."

This seems to imply that it only commends one (the "most" accurate). Further, I think we should remember that no translation is perfect, and that a comparison of good translations is very helpful -- if only to point up passages for the laymen to seek answers for from his pastor.

I think if the original post were rephrased so that it was asking if it fell within the purview of a presbytery to ban, for lack of a better word, an heretical translation, I would say, yes. After all, the ministerial and declarative authority of that judicatory would then be grounding their ruling in the word of God -- using the original languages.

No translation is right 100% of the time. At least I've never seen it -- but then maybe I'm wrong in my evaluation of their error. I hope you see the dilemma. Sure, there are better translations than others. But if your argument is based on depriving someone of the treasure of the scriptures, I think you do them a disservice by taking away tools of study.

Could they say that you can't preach from the NWT? Sure. Absolutely. Could they say that you can't use it for family worship? I think I'd have to say yes. But that's an entirely different thing than saying you must use the ESV, because it's the best. There are lots of things that go into making a translation good. Text criticism, hermeneutics, readability, etc.

I had the privilege of teaching the Bible in NC public schools. I was in a community that was KJ only. The problem was that the community also had literacy problems. Basically, the parents deprived their kids of the Bible, because the kids had a hard enough time with modern English. NONE of them knew what it meant to "wist".

Disapprove bad translations -- and I mean heretical ones? Yes. And so, in that sense authorize, okay. But I think it would be a mistake and would go beyond their rightful authority to approve only one.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
1. Is it within the bounds of presbyterial authority to set a standard translation of scripture for use in the churches? Not necessarily in a dogmatic, "This is forever and always the best and only translation," but simply for the purposes of mutable standardization. (Do not confuse this with Q.4 below)
Peacemaker said:

I will insert my thoughts in bolded quotes
1. Define "Use". The presbytery can if it chose to vote this into the BOCO to require it of ministers, I suppose as far as what to preach out of and use in the pews. But what about study with? Would they say he could not use other versions, or Greek or Hebrew? Could he no quote scripture from the Greek text then?
What about other languages? Spanish speaking people would not be allowed to use their own Bible in the pew???
I don't see how it would work or be enforced.
As for requiring it of members, this would seem inconsistent with the Pres being able to require ministers to hold the the Confession, which they don't, but not require it of the members. To require a version for personal use seems unnecessary and unimportant and unenforceable.

Preferable would be a recommendation for a few best versions or a recommendation to avoid a list of perversions.

If this was done at a Pres level instead of a GA level, would you not let a minister preach out of his different version Bible approved by his presbytery?
Hey we can't even enforce only letting Reformed Pres ministers preach in our pulpits. We have a Baptist man who is not an elder preach in ours occasionally.

So this would only be considerable at the GA level not presbyterial, if at all.

2. If not, is at least within presbyterial authority to bring a church up on disciplinary charges for using a bad translation? A Gender-neutral translation? The Message? The New World Translation? Scripture, indeed, does not dictate a specific version, but can the church enforce a certain standard of purity of worship by only allowing approved (or, at least, disallowing disapproved) translations in worship?

If a list of forbidden versions were made and a session persisted in using one of those, sure discipline them.
3. If yes to #1 and #2, can this rightly in any manner pertain to a man's use of scripture in leading his family in worship? If a translation has been "Disallowed" for use in church (we'll use the Message as an example, since I don't the rejection of this will cause any sparks to fly here), could a man be brought up on discipline for persisting in its use as The Word of God in family worship after he has been admonished?


I think it unenforceable and should be a matter of conscience. But certainly recommendations to use what the pew Bible is would be in line.
4. Finally, if you answered "Yes" to the above (That such things are, at least, within the authority of synods, presbyteries or sessions), do you think any of the above to be prudent or beneficial courses of action?

I like the idea of unity, I like the ease from consistency when all think of the same verse and wording, but today with all the choices, unlike the "BEST" version wording of the DPW where there only was one available obvious best version, it would be unwise.
There is no senses making rules you can't and won't enforce. What would be the penalty for catching one reading from the LB, excommunicate him, but his playboy mag and internet peeks go unchallenged??

Just make recommendations
Edit to Add;
5. Pastors and Elders, if your presbytery decided to standardize a translation which you had no inherent problem with (such as the AV, NASB or ASV), but you personally preferred the ESV in your services -- would you appeal this? Or would you go along with it?
There is no sense making a rule you can't or won't enforce.
This is where recommendations might even be stronger since they would not provoke rebellion in people.

I started using the ESV in home worship for consistency with my grandkids ever since our church adopted the ESV for the pew Bible and I don't even like it and no one recommended we do it.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Originally Posted by PeaceMaker
The presbytery can if it chose to vote this into the BOCO to require it of ministers, I suppose as far as what to preach out of and use in the pews. But what about study with? Would they say he could not use other versions, or Greek or Hebrew? Could he no quote scripture from the Greek text then?
What about other languages? Spanish speaking people would not be allowed to use their own Bible in the pew???
I don't see how it would work or be enforced.
As for requiring it of members, this would seem inconsistent with the Pres being able to require ministers to hold the the Confession, which they don't, but not require it of the members. To require a version for personal use seems unnecessary and unimportant and unenforceable.
Don, none of these things would follow. I am merely asking about a standard translation for the reading/preaching of the Word, and other such things.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
At the same time, however, I'm not sure it differs too much in practice from any other denominational distinctives present in different churches: whether EP, headcoverings, etc. Perhaps it does, however, since this concerns something in one's own home.
It is probably because of my confusion on some of these issues, but I can't help feeling that EP, a doctrine we either see or do not see in Scripture, is on a different level than what the church accepts or in this case rejects as being Scripture. I understand that I could just be getting hung up on something and am not trying to argue the point specifically, just adding that I think any official statement about what the church does not accept as the word of God (which is necessarily an authoritative rather than a practical statement) will be confusing to people like myself if it isn't shared by other orthodox churches.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Heidi,

Well said. That is, all except for this part: "It is probably because of my confusion on some of these issues," which I highly doubt is true. You seem to speak quite to the point and accurately.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
As to #1, The OPC BCO says,

III. 3. All church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God. "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship" (Confession of Faith, XX, 2).
Rather than rule out the possibility of a standard Bible translation, the claim that all church judicatory decisions are to be founded upon the Word of God requires the church to define what the Word of God is. The reality is that without a standard Bible translation the church has no "Word of God" in its mother tongue to which to appeal. This effectively binds the church to unwritten traditions and imposes implicit authority on the people.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
Are there actually any translations that we would consider heresy? I have certainly not read or heard of one. Even The Message - which I dislike and think is unhelpful for study - doesn't seem like it crosses the line into heresy.

My point being that I do not think a church could rightly "ban" a translation unless it was actually heretical. To do so would not only be wrong, but also unproductive and confusing.

Apologies if I'm coming off a bit strongly here - but I simply can't see a reason to prohibit a translation unless its heresy. Recommending some translations over others is fine, and in most cases probably quite useful, but a ban seems like a misuse of church authority. :2cents:
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Originally Posted by PeaceMaker
The presbytery can if it chose to vote this into the BOCO to require it of ministers, I suppose as far as what to preach out of and use in the pews. But what about study with? Would they say he could not use other versions, or Greek or Hebrew? Could he not quote scripture from the Greek text then?
What about other languages? Spanish speaking people would not be allowed to use their own Bible in the pew???
I don't see how it would work or be enforced.
As for requiring it of members, this would seem inconsistent with the Pres being able to require ministers to hold the the Confession, which they don't, but not require it of the members. To require a version for personal use seems unnecessary and unimportant and unenforceable.
Don, none of these things would follow. I am merely asking about a standard translation for the reading/preaching of the Word, and other such things.
That is what I am pointing to. What "other such things"?

And if you limit to preaching and or pews, the rest of my concerns still apply.

You asked about requiring it for home worship as well.
I don't see why we would say other versions are fine to read and study to get the truth, but not fit to read or preach from, whether at home or in the pulpit??

And if it is only for convenience of congruity, I see more challenges than benefit. Again, if you can't discipline it, like reading a bad version in the home, why have a rule? What pastor would argue with a man who says I choose to raise my kids by helping them learn to read scripture they can understand even if you say I can't use that version?

Maybe I am missing you. I'll scoot out, I think its pretty clear why it hasn't been done though maybe Joel Beeke and some TR and KJV only men might like it.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
You asked about requiring it for home worship as well.
You have misread. To remove any ambiguity, I further specified this in a subsequent post: the question about family worship had to do with a man persisting in leading his family by calling a specific translation the authoritative Word of God which the church has declared unfit. I apologize again for a lack of clarity on my part.

Edit
Of course the pastor is going to study the scriptures in Greek and Hebrew; at least, I sincerely hope he is. And of course he is going to bring the fruits of these studies to bear in his preaching and explanation. But this is different than having a specific translation which serves as the standard for the church.
 
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