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Highlights of Our Heritage—Random Reminiscences from KBC/SCC

by Dale Jorgenson

In the fall of 1954 my family and I left Louisville on a leave of absence from Kentucky Bible College to attend graduate school in Indiana, and to serve as minister of the Bryantsville Church of Christ near Mitchell.  When we prepared to return to the College in the fall of 1956, we had to move to Winchester, where we had a new campus, new programs, and a new name, Southeastern Christian College.

          The Bible and religious study programs were considerably strengthened from the KBC days, and during the course of a few years we enjoyed Bible teachers such as Frank Mullins, Sr., George Knepper, Winston Allen (President of the college), Robert Boyd, LaVern Houtz, and J. Edward Boyd.    The elder Brother Boyd was in his retirement years but still enjoyed a sharp mind,  his mind and his heart both reflecting faithfully the knowledge and the spirit he had acquired as a student at the old Nashville Bible School under Harding and Lipscomb and as a student contemporary of R.H. Boll.  He had taught at other Christian institutions and the academic life was natural for him.  He was a proficient teacher of biblical languages and a quiet but effective scholar of the Word.  His son, Robert Boyd, was a teacher of Bible at SCC and a very popular and effective evangelist in churches throughout the fellowship.  Although he was much more forthright than his father, they shared similar spiritual and theological convictions.

          The extended opportunities for Bible study which came with the Bible Institute at Winchester attracted some excellent young students—many of whom became valuable preachers and teachers in their own right.  At this stage of their theological development,  some of them were getting their wings as defenders of the faith once delivered, and the vibrancy of youth was still in play.  Since the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was first published in 1946, and the complete Bible in 1952, it was of course still a subject of lively discussion in the fall of 1954.

          A few of our students were observing the list of translators in the front of the RSV and found that list somewhat dismaying.  Bringing their concern to J. Edward Boyd, they asked whether the presence of known liberal language scholars on that list might not preclude a committed Christian’s use of the new translation.  Brother Boyd thought about the question for a moment, and then commented quietly, “Boys, you should be glad for the objectivity of that group of translators.  For if some of them are liberal, their very lack of pre-judged opinion may contribute to the lack of bias and the objectivity of your Bible.”

          The students were vindicated in their concerns over time, however, as Evangelical scholars continued reporting problems with the new RSV.  The prime center of focus was the translation of Isaiah 7:14, where the word almah in the text was translated as “young woman” by the RSV Committee.  The quotation from the passage in Matthew’s Gospel, 1:14, in the new translation, however,  read, “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”   

   The web site, Textus receptus.com, contains one of numerous critical comments,  “The 1952 creation of the liberal National Council of Churches Revised Standard Version reveals the unbelieving bias of the majority of its translators in Isaiah 7:14.”

   Speaking of the “contradiction” between the prophetic passage in Isaiah with the Gospel quotation of the same passage,  the Site adds, “The RSV corrupts doctrine of the virgin birth in this verse.  The word used in the original Hebrew language has long understood to mean specifically a virgin in this context.”

  The root word, according to some commentators, can be somewhat ambiguous when standing  by itself.  It might refer to “maiden” or “young woman,” but would specifically refer to a virgin supported by the context.  I have a Catholic version of the RSV, issued in 1972, containing  apocryphal books, footnotes “explaining” alternative relationships for Jesus’ siblings listed in Matthew and Mark, and Isaiah 7:14 translated “a virgin shall conceive.”  It is easy to understand why Catholic theologians, in order to maintain the “perpetual virginity of Mary,” would agree that at the birth of the Lord Jesus his mother was a virgin.  The King James translators, the NIV, and other modern translations agree on the word, “virgin.”  The footnote provided by the Catholic  translators provides this information:

          The Hebrew word ‘almah is not explicit.  The Greek translates this as parthenos, “virgin,” and may be regarded as a witness to late Jewish traditions as to the meaning  of the prophecy.  The virginal connection is, of course, universally stated in the Gospel where   this prophecy is quoted.

    The 1971 edition of the Protestant RSV bears a footnote on Isaiah 7:14 which provides the alternative translation, “virgin.”  Martin Luther’s translation of the Old Testament, completed  in 1534, uses the German word Jungfrau.  My German dictionary prefers the translation “virgin” but allows the term “maiden” as an alternative.  On the other hand, the adjective, jungfraülich, would seem to mean specifically and only “virginal.”  Luther, using the same term  in both Isaiah and Matthew clearly intends to convey the meaning of “virgin.” 

   On the basis of context, as well as the quotation in Matthew 1:14, it would seem that the young preachers at Winchester had a good point.  Unless we all learn to read Greek and Hebrew, it seems that we need to exercise care with the text of any translation we use. 

 

Dr. Dale Jorgenson is a retired college professor both in Bible and in Music.

 




2 Responses to “Highlights of Our Heritage—Random Reminiscences from KBC/SCC”

  1. D.L. McGee says:

    Dale,

    This is a great article. I would like to see you post any information that sheds light on our part of the Restoration Movement.

    Don McGee

  2. George Mckee says:

    Lots of people overlook the Septaguent. It uses the the word ,virgin



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