The New Calvinist View of Scripture Part II

The New Calvinists’ Promotion of English Modern Translations

In the past article, we have seen that despite the New Calvinist’s claim of a high
view of Scripture, that their definition of truth contradicts that of Scripture. Their
concept of truth is subjective, defined as the “correspondence between our entire
lives and God’s heart, words and actions, through the mediation of the Word and
Spirit.” Such a definition errs in rooting truth in man’s sensory interactions and
experience with God. In other words, if there is no experience, there is no truth. This
makes man the final arbiter of truth. On the other hand, John 17:17 affirms that
God’s Word is truth itself. Truth is objective and not subjective. Even if man rejects
the Scripture, God’s Word still remains as truth. Such a definition makes God the
final arbiter of truth, and promotes the glory of God.

Moving on from this, we see the New Calvinist’s claim of a high view of Scripture,
which is further negated by their support of modern English Bible translations. Of
all the versions in the market, the English Standard Version (ESV) is the most
common choice for the New Calvinists.

On first sight, the ESV appears as a good choice, as it claims to be an “essentially
literal” and “word for word” translation of the original text. Their advocation of
“formal equivalence” over the “functional equivalence” adopted in the majority of
the modern English versions sets this version above its modern peers. In fact, many
of the New Calvinists chose the ESV because they felt that it was a more essentially
literal and accurate translation from which they can preach from (Young). This is to
the credit of the New Calvinists.

However, problems appear when we examine the texts which is used in the
translation of the ESV closely. The following is found in the preface of the
translation under the section Textual Basis and Resources:

The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found
in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), and on the Greek
text in the 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected
ed.), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum
Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by Nestle and Aland. . . . In
exceptional, difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the
Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and
other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text, or, if
necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text.
Similarly, in a few difficult cases in the New Testament, the ESV has
followed a Greek text different from the text given preference in the
UBS/Nestle-Aland 27th edition…

The issue of the underlying texts for translation is critical. The skill of the translator
does not matter if the text he is translating is corrupted. It is just like a beautiful
building constructed on sinking sand. No matter how beautiful the building is, it will
eventually collapse due to the poor foundation. From the preface, we see that the
original language texts (and hence words) used by the ESV translators, differ
from that of the King James Version. For example, the underlying text of the Old
Testament in the KJV is the Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text. This is the traditional
text accepted by the saints during the 16th Century Reformation. On the other
hand, the ESV is translated mainly from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
(BHS), founded upon the Ben Asher Masoretic Text. This text was constructed in
1937 to replace the Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text. The BHS is chiefly the work of
Rudolf Kittel, a German Rationalist who was well-known for subscribing to the
JEDP of the Pentateuch. There are about twenty to thirty thousand changes from
the traditional text.

What then about the New Testament? The text for the New Testament of the
KJV is the Greek Textus Receptus or the Received Text. On the other hand, the
Greek Text of the ESV is the Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by
Nestle and Aland. This text is heavily influenced by the work of Wescott and
Hort. In their work to edit the Biblical text, they based their work on corrupted
codices, and scissored out the equivalent of 1st and 2nd Peter from the Traditional
text. These were based on the principles of their man-made rules of textual
criticism, which made man the final arbiter of truth. We will examine these rules
a little more in the next article.

Furthermore, we see that there were some places where the translations adopted
readings from other translations (such as the Septuagint, the Samaritan
Pentateuch and the Syriac Peshitta) rather than the original language texts. If the
translators had sought to be faithful in their translation, they should have stuck to
the divinely inspired and preserved Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words of
Scripture rather than adopt the words of translations. The existence of difficulties
in translation should not be used as a reason to adopt such a practice.
Knowing the dubious nature of the ESV texts, why then do the New Calvinists
use the ESV instead of the time-tested KJV? The reason lies in their belief of
their support for modern textual criticism, which undermine the Scriptures.
(To be continued)


Two weeks ago, we saw how there is much demand for doctrine to be removed
from or reduced in preaching. One common excuse for this demand is that
doctrine is only for Bible College professors and is not practical. Nothing can be
further from the truth. As seen in the Adult and Youth Sunday School, the
Apostle Paul spent eleven chapters establishing doctrines, before dealing with
the application of doctrines in chapter 12 onwards. Doctrine rightly understood is
most practical for our daily living. No doctrine, no practice!
It thus cheers my heart to learn of two ongoing series of messages that
demonstrate how practical and applicable doctrine is. I would like to recommend
the following courses.

The first is the series on the course, The Doctrine of Providence, taught by Rev
(Dr) Jeffrey Khoo, principal of the Far Eastern Bible College. As noted by the
Principal, the doctrine of providence is much neglected today. Hence, many end
up troubled, confused and frustrated in life. There is also a lack of good counsel
and patience when dealing with fellow men. Do you really believe in Proverbs
3:5-6? Study the doctrine of providence and set it in your heart.
The second is the current series for the Sunset Gospel Hour (SGH) on the three
omnis of God – “Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotence”. “The issue for
believers is not the knowledge of these doctrines but how these doctrines impact
our lives. This has escaped many believers. These are doctrines that are
divorced from many believers’ reality. They can be recited and defined but
cannot be felt and experienced. This series of messages hopes to deal with the
application and impact of these doctrines in every believer’s daily life. “ (from
the introduction to the series on Calvary Pandan BPC’s website)
Apply your heart to learn sound doctrine, and you will be sober and steady in
your life.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew