ON Saturday, 11 September, 1999, the Trinitarian Bible Society held a Scottish Day Conference in Inverness. Over 150 persons were present, some of whom had travelled from as far as Edinburgh and the Isle of Lewis. The Chairman was the Rev. Donald MacLean, minister of St. Judes Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Glasgow. Mr. MacLean opened the meeting with prayer, and read 2 Timothy, chapter 3. Psalm 19:7-10 was sung.
The first speaker was the Rev. Malcolm Watts of Salisbury Evangelical Church, and his subject was The Authentic Text of Holy Scripture: Reformation Principles. He emphasised that it is God who has originated His own Word using human instruments. The Reformers view of inspiration was that it extended to the very words and tenses employed. Therefore any translation must be exact. Christ Himself based arguments upon minor details of the text. Mr Watts then traced the production and preservation of the Old Testament Canon from the times of the Book of the Law that Book being kept within the Ark of the Covenant and added to as the Lord directed. Before the destruction of the original, copies had been made, and these held the same authority as the autographs. The growing Canon of Scripture was preserved in its purity by the continuing presence of its authors, by the accurate copies which were made and by the activities of the Masorites. An increasing number of pure copies were circulated, as was evidenced by the fact that up to 90% of surviving manuscripts contain essentially the same text.
In tracing the providential preservation of the Received Text, Mr Watts asked the important question, “Why would the Lord have allowed inaccurate copies of his Word to spread throughout the world for hundreds of years and only given the Church an accurate version when the manuscripts which modem scholars claim represent the most accurate text, had been discovered?” Finally, he exposed a number of serious weaknesses in the arguments of Westcott and Hort, who initiated the modern trend of rejecting the Received Text.
Mr. D. Paul Rowland discussed the work of the Society in Bible translation and distribution. Most of the Societys work centred around the distribution of the Authorised Version, which is the best version in the English language. However, the Society is involved in the production of Bibles in many languages, employing the same principles of translation as were used by the Reformers in Europe. Although the Reformation translations in the European languages corresponded very closely to the original Hebrew and Greek, since 1880 most new translations were no longer literal, but rather paraphrases. Some of the work in foreign languages involved improving the literal translations already available. Mr. Rowland then surveyed the work in countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, and highlighted some of the local difficulties as well as the many encouragements.
Lastly, Rev. Hugh M. Cartwright, of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, spoke on The Authorised Version of the Bible and the Mission of the Church. He remarked that although many claim that use of the Authorised version hinders the work of the church, the Society maintains that this is not the case. In defining the church he said that it is in the church that the Word of God is preserved and propagated. The Word of God is the authority governing the church in her mission, and the instrument by which she carries it out. God ensured that the Scriptures communicated precisely what is in His mind, and, in the English language, the Authorised Version does this best. When the Authorised Version was produced the church was still one, and basically orthodox. Modern translations are the product of a time when the church is deeply divided and in no position theologically to safeguard the orthodoxy of translations. The emergence of texts and translations based on different principles from those operating in the production of the Authorised Version coincided with the capitulation of the churches to rationalistic thought in belief and practice. By contrast, the Authorised Version was produced in a period characterised by scholarship and faith.
The primary concern of any translator should be to convey the Word of God faithfully. Accuracy is much more important than a style which is immediately comprehensible. The Authorised Version conveys the very forms of speech of the original. Attempts to make the Bible comprehensible by paraphrasing the original fail to take account of the work of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the mind of the reader. Mr. Cartwright noted the dignity and devotional quality of the Authorised Version and remarked that the reverence in worship which goes along with its use is no coincidence. Some argue that the language used in the Authorised Version is an obstacle to non-Christians but it was suggested that it is rather the truth expressed which is an impediment for them. New versions have not increased the success of the church. Repentance, and confidence in the Bible, and the power of the Holy Spirit to accompany the proclamation of the everlasting Gospel, are what is needed for the church to grow.
Mr. MacLean closed the meeting with prayer, and Psalm 119, 140-144 was sung: “Thy words most pure therefore on it / thy servants love is set. . .”
The conference was a very successful and encouraging occasion for the Scottish members of the Society. Those who attended were afforded a comprehensive over-view of the principles and activities of the Society, as it stands by, and promotes, Reformation principles of Bible translation.
We apologise for the late appearance of this report, which has been kindly written by a friend who attended the Conference. Tape recordings of the Conference addresses may be obtained by writing to the Societys head-quarters at Tyndale House, Dorset Road, London, SW19 3NN.