Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spurgeon on ancient translations

 Spurgeon was recognized as a great preacher and teacher well into the 20th century.  Part of the reason was his sound and practical doctrine.
Spurgeon had words to say on preserving the well-known and often used translations of the Bible; the same principles used by the KJV translators who sought to "make a good translation better" by preserving as much as possible the work of earlier translations then familiar to English hearers. 
Spurgeon, preaching in 1856, spoke on the great statement of Paul found in the second letter to Timothy:
'Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, 
in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.'  - 2 Timothy 1:13.

    "...Keep to your faith, I say again, for the Church's sake, for so you will promote strength in the Church. I saw lying between Chatham and Sheerness a number of ships that I supposed to be old hulks; and I thought how stupid Government was to let them remain there, and not chop them up for firewood, or something else; but some one said to me, those ships can soon be fitted for service; they look old now, but they only want a little paint, and when the Admiralty requires them, they will be commissioned and made fit for use. So we have heard some people say, "There are those old doctrines—what good are they?" Wait; there is not a doctrine in God's Bible that has not its use. Those ships that you may think are not wanted, will be useful by-and-bye. So it is with the doctrines of the Bible. Do not say, Break up those old doctrines, you can do without them." Nay, we want them, and we must have them. Some people say, "Why do you preach against Arminians? we have not much to fear from them now." But I like to practice my men against the time comes for action. We are not going to burn our ships; they will be wanted by-and-bye, and when we sail out of harbour, the men will say, "Whence came these old ships?" "Why," we will reply, "they are just the doctrines you thought good for nothing; now we bring them out, and we will make good use of them." Now-a-days we are having new and marvellous hymn-books, full of perfect nonsense; and we are having new theories, and new systems; and they say, "Why be so stringent? our Christian brethren may believe what they like on those points just now;" but as certain as there is a church in this land, they will want our old ships to fight their battles; they may do very well in times of peace, but they will not do in the time of war. They will then need our broadside to support the faith of the gospel, though now they laugh at us. For the strength of the church, my brethren, I bid you "hold fast the form of sound words."
    "Well," says one, "I think we ought to hold the truth firmly; but I do not see the necessity for holding the form of it; I think we might cut and trim a little, and then our doctrines would be received better." Suppose, my friends, we should have some valuable egg, and some one should say, "Well, now, the shell is good for nothing; there will never be a bird produced by the shell certainly, why not break the shell? I should simply smile in his face and say, "My dear friend, I want the shell to take care of what is inside. I know the vital principle is the most important, but I want the shell to take care of the vital principle." You say, "Hold fast the principle, but do not be so severe about the form. You are an old Puritan, and want to be too strict in religion; let us just alter a few things, and make it a little palatable." My dear friends, do not break the shell; you are doing far more damage than you think. We willingly admit the form is but little; but when men attack the form, what is their object? They do not hate the form; they hate the substance. Keep the substance then, and keep the form too. Not only hold the same doctrines, but hold them in the same shape—just as angular, rough and rugged as they were, for if you do not, it is difficult to change the form and yet to keep fast the substance. "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou has heard of me, in faith and love which is in Jesus Christ."

I need hardly comment on what implications Spurgeon's position on this scripture will have for the Authorized or King James Version of the NT.  

- Rogue Physicist


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. While I think Spurgeon would certainly be against "removing" doctrines or changing the "form of sound words", as any honest scholar should, his view on the translation issue could be easily misrepresented with just that quote.

    Here are some other quotes in which he make his views on translation explicit:

    "Concerning the fact of difference between the Revised and the Authorized Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner, whether it would confirm certain religious opinions and practices, or work against them. All we want is the exact mind of the Spirit as far as we can get it. Beyond all other Christians we are concerned in this, seeing we have no other sacred Book. We have no Prayer Book or binding creed, or authoritative minutes of conferences. We have nothing but the Bible and we would have that as pure as ever we can get it.

    "By the best and most honest scholarship that can be found, we desire that the common version may be purged of every blunder of transcribers, addition of human ignorance or human knowledge so that the Word of God may come to us as it came from His own hand. [Concerning Luke 4:18 and the phrase "he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted"] I confess that it looks a grievous thing to part with words which we thought were part and parcel of Luke, but as they are not in the oldest copies and must be given up, we will make capital out of their omission by seeing in that fact the wisdom of the great Preacher who did not speak upon cheering Truths of God when they were not needed and might have overlaid His seasonable rebuke. Although we have not the sentence in Luke, we do have it in Isaiah, and that is quite enough for me."


    "I do not hesitate to say that there is no mistake whatever in the original Holy Scriptures from beginning to end. There may be, and there are, mistakes of translation; for translators are not inspired"
    (again see

    "Let us quote the words as they stand in the best possible translation, and it would be better still if we know the original, and can tell if our version fails to give the sense."
    (again see

    [Concerning I John 3:1] "A genuine fragment of inspired Scripture has been dropped by our older translators, and it is too precious to be lost. ... The half lost portion of our text is restored to us in the Revised Version. ... [concerning "and such we are" of the RV contra the KJV] That the addition is correct I have not the slightest doubt. Those authorities upon which we depend - those manuscripts which are best worthy of notice - have these words; and they are to be found in the Vulgate, the Alexandrian, and several other versions."

    [Concerning Matt 12:23] Our Revised Version very properly leaves out the 'not' ... But as it is not in the original, we must not allow the 'not'"