New Testament

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Today we present the Inaugural Address of the Rev. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, delivered upon his installation as profoessor at the Princeton Theological Seminary on this day, September 21, 1900. Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was a close friend of Dr. Wilson’s, and he composed a hymn for the inaugural occasion, later published on page six as part of Four Hymns and Some Religious Verse, and which can be viewed here

How many people know that Benjamin B. Warfield was much more than “just” a theologian and exegete of first rank?
He also wrote at least four hymns and a small grouping of religious verse.  Among these, the following example was composed for the occasion of the installation of his close friend, the Rev. Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, as professor of semitic philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, on 21 September 1900:

HOW GLORIOUS ART THOU, O OUR GOD!
Opening Hymn for the Service of Installation (to the tune of St. Anne, composed by William Croft, 1708)

How glorious art thou, O our God!
’Tis Thou and Thou alone
Who dwellest in Thy people’s praise,
On Thine eternal throne.

From Charran and Chaldean Ur,
The River’s banks along,
From Canaan’s heights and Egypt’s sands,
Arose the constant song,—

From all the towns that stud the hills
Of teeming Galilee,
From marts of Greece and misty lands
Beyond the Western Sea.

How many voices, diff’ring tongues,
Harmonious, join to raise
To Thee, O Rock of Israel,
Accumulated praise!

Fain would we catch the accents strange,
Fain train our ears to hear
The notes that hymn Thee, through the years,
O Israel’s Hope and Fear!

’Twas thou didst teach thy sons of old
Thy varied laud to sing,
School Thou our hearts that we may too
Our hallelujahs bring.

How glorious art Thou, O our God!
How mighty past compare!
Thou dwellest in Thy people’s praise,—
Accept the praise we bear.

INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
[delivered on 21 September 1900]

  1. MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:

Let me thank you for the great honor which you have conferred upon me in calling me to take a part in the succession to the labors of those illustrious men who, in their day, made the name of Princeton known and revered throughout the world, and whose memory still is blessed.  May the portion of their mantle which has fallen upon me, cause me to be filled with the same spirit which was in them, and make me worthy of a place among my learned and distinguished confrères in the present faculty of this mother of Presbyterian Seminaries.

It gives me especial pleasure and comfort, in leaving a city which for nearly a quarter of a century has been my home, to see among you here so many of the old familiar faces of those who in College and Seminary were my professors or fellow students, and to receive a charge from one whom I have always deemed one of the dearest of my Seminary friends.

Will you pardon my for expressing the hope that those of you who have known me for so many years and yet have esteemed me fitted for this place, may never be disappointed in your choice

Before discussing the subject which I have chosen for my inaugural address, a few definitions may be necessary.  By Lower Criticism I mean grammar, lexicography and textual criticism ; by Higher Criticism, any literary criticism of the text or any systematic statements of truth, which may be derived from the purest possible text, in strict accordance with the rules of grammar and the most probably results of lexicography.  Following these definitions, we restate the theme of our discourse as follows:  A thorough knowledge of the principles of grammar, lexicography and textual criticism is necessary as a preparation for the critical study of the Scriptures along any line of thought, literary, historical or theological.

Before passing to the discussion of our subject, let us remark that the three branches of Lower Criticism are not mutually exclusive nor logically distinct.  Indeed, there is a sense in which both lexicography and textual criticism may be looked upon as parts of grammar, while on the other hand, no part of grammar or lexicography can be considered without reference to the criticism of the text.

After these preliminary remarks by way of definition and limitation, I proceed to the discussion of the kind and amount of lower criticism which are demanded by the times, and which it shall be the endeavor of the incumbent of the Chair of Semitic Philology and Old Testament Criticism to impart.  The first department of Lower Criticism is that which is commonly called grammar.  For convenience of treatment Hebrew Grammar may be divided into three parts, Phonics, Graphics and Morphics, or sounds, signs and forms.  The study of sounds, in their relation to Higher Criticism, is important only because of its bearing upon the derivation and the variations of the forms of words, and upon the errors of text arising from the confusion of consonants of similar sound.  The study of Graphics, especially in MSS. and in palaeography, is necessary in order to understand the transmission of the text, and in particular the variations arising from mistakes in reading letters which, at some time, have been similar in form.  And when we come to the first part of Morphics, which is commonly called etymology, it is not sufficient to study the forms of words as they are embodied in the traditional punctuation of the Massoretes.  The origin of the sounds back of the written forms, the inflection and meaning of the forms, the ability to change forms in accordance with the demands of exegesis, this must be thoroughly learned before one is prepared to advance with steady tread by the paths of syntax and textual criticism to the higher regions of history, theology and literary criticism.  But if the origin, inflection and meaning of single words is indispensable, what shall we say of the more complex forms of syntax?  You will agree with me, that this is one of the most difficult tasks in the learning of any language.  You will agree with me, further, in my belief that no part of a theological education was formerly more neglected than the study of Hebrew Syntax.  In fact, it was scarcely taught at all in our theological seminaries a generation ago.  If you will look at an old Hebrew grammar, you will find that very little space is given to it.  One was expected to know it by intuition, or to pick it up.  The advance in the importance attributed to a special knowledge of Hebrew syntax, may be gauged by comparing the different editions of Gesenius’ Grammar which have appeared in the last fifty years, or the translation of Conant with the last editions of the English version of Kautzsch’s Gesenius.  We are convinced that the reason why so many of our ministers have neglected the independent exegesis of the Old Testament, has been that they were ignorant of syntax.  Certainly no one acquainted with the subject would suppose for an instant that a knowledge of that difficult and varied instrument for the expression of thought, the Semitic verb, could be gained otherwise than by thorough and protracted study.  The Hebrew imperfect is as varied in its usage as the Greek Aorist, the Hebrew genitive and article as the Greek, and the exegete who attempts to expound the Old Testament, without being master of these, is just as insensible to the requirements of the case as is he who would try in like ignorance to expound the Greek of the New.

The second division of Lower Criticism is lexicography, the science or art of determining the meaning of words.  By most students of the Old Testament, this department of research is given over entirely to the dictionary makers.  What appears in a standard current dictionary is considered final and decisive.  I remember  that when I was in the Seminary two great theologians carried on an important discussion, which depended upon the meaning of a single word, and neither of them thought it necessary to appeal to other authorities than the English edition of Gesenius.  Who was Gesenius, that our Presbyterian ministers and professors should appeal to his dictionary as the final court in linguistic matters?  Should a rationalist of his type, whose opinions in Higher Criticism would be rejected as untenable, shall the work of such a man be accepted as the standard in the field of lexicography?  Do a man’s views of God not enter into his definition of miracles and prophecy and holiness and sin?  Those of you who are conversant with Gesenius’ dictionary will remember the frequently recurring note:  See my Commentary on Isaiah, in loco; and there we find the discussion of the reasons for defining the word as it is given in the dictionary.  In short, a dictionary is but the dicta of the writer on the words defined.  The exegete should be prepared to go back of the dictionary so as to examine the reasons for the definition.  As my learned colleague, in his masterly review of the meaning of the word for inspired, so every searcher after truth should, so far as possible, be prepared to search out the meaning of any disputed term and to thoroughly investigate his premises before arriving at a conclusion.  But it is a pertinent question here to ask, whether this is ever in the range of possibility for the ordinary theological student?  To which I answer : Yes; in large part.

Every theological student learns enough Hebrew to use a concordance.  Now, a concordance of a language like the ancient Hebrew, whose entire literature is found in a single book, gives a comprehensive survey of the usage of a given word.  If the construction in which the word occurs is always exactly the same, little information can be gained in this way ; but if the word is of frequent occurrence, and is found in several or many different connections, a tolerably accurate definition of most words may be made without further help than a concordance.  If there is profit in using Cruden’s and Young’s concordances in the explication of the text, much more might one argue the utility of using those in the original languages in which the Word of God was written, as “The final appeal in all questions of faith and practice.”   The Greek and Hebrew concordances are the airbrakes on hasty conclusions, the safety-valves of the Church against the rash judgments of professional dictators or ignorant enthusiasts.

A second aid which the ordinary student may find in determining the meaning of words, is that to be derived from the meaning of forms.  If it be true that forms have meaning, then a knowledge of the usual meaning of these forms will enable the student to demand that the lexicon shall give a sufficient reason for any departure from the customary meaning of a form.

A third aid which the ordinary student can use in the control of the dictionary is to be found in the ancient versions into Greek and Latin.  These versions are fortunately within the reach of all, and their daily use in the interpretation of the original is to be most highly commended.  It will not merely keep up and increase a knowledge of those languages upon which so much time has been expended, but it will certainly call attention to matters of grammar and exegesis which would otherwise be entirely overlooked.  But as to the point in question, it will be immediately perceived that when there is a difference between one or more of the ancient versions and the lexicon as to the meaning of a word, that there is a subject worthy of the investigation of the exegete.  To my mind no better method for mastering the ancient Hebrew, and at the same time for retaining and perfecting our knowledge of the classics, can be found than the study of the ancient versions in connection with the original text, discovering and seeking to explain every slightest variation of thought or expression.  As tests of dictionaries and suggesters of new ideas they are invaluable and unsurpassed.  While ordinary students must remain satisfied with the study of the Greek and Latin versions, the extraordinary student will acquire Syriac and Aramaic in order to make use of the other great primary versions, that he may derive a full benefit from these great masterpieces of interpretation of the word of God which have been handed down from antiquity.

A fourth aid in the control of lexicons is not open to the ordinary student.  It is that to be derived from the cognate languages.  Its value in correcting the errors of citation and logic on the part of lexicographers can scarcely be overestimated.  I shall never forget the shock which went through my frame when upon looking at an Arabic dictionary in confirmation of a statement made by that imperial scholar, Ewald, with regard to the meaning of a word, I found the facts to be the very opposite to that which he had stated to be the case.  It caused a revolution in my methods ; I have never since accepted the references to the cognate languages in the commentaries and dictionaries without first making an investigation for myself, and even then often with the admission to myself that the inductions of meanings in the dictionaries at hand may be incomplete or misunderstood.  Some of the commentaries and lexicons cannot be comprehended without a partial knowledge of Arabic and Syriac at least.  Would that every one who had the opportunity of perfecting himself in the use of all the means which God has given us for ascertaining with as much fullness as possible the meaning of every word which the Holy Scriptures contain would avail himself of the advantages which this institution may afford of learning these sister tongues of the inspired.

The third department of Lower Criticism is Textual Criticism, the purpose of which is to discover the original text.  One would suppose that the first endeavor of all students of the Bible would be to discover the very words which were written through the inspiration of God.  It is only lately, however, that any critical apparatus, approximating in any suitable degree what it should be, has been prepared.  The publication of the Polychrome edition of the Hebrew bible and the amount of textual changes suggested in many of the latest commentaries, such as Klostermann’s, and in religious magazines, like the Expository Times, have rendered it necessary for the intelligent and conscientious reader to gain as good as possible a knowledge of the correct principles of Old Testament textual criticism.  While Old Testament books are costly, every man can have at least one polyglot which will give most of the data upon which the conclusions of the critics are based.  As to the methods of textual criticism, this is neither the time nor the place to enter into a full statement of what they are.  Let it suffice to say that they should be objective rather than subjective.  The purpose of the critic should be to find out what the author said, not what he would like him to have said, nor what he thinks he ought to have said.  Such a method, moreover, must be scientific, i.e., it must seek to secure a complete induction of the facts without selection or exclusion, because of preconceived opinions or tendency theories of any kind whatsoever.  What the men of God wrote, that is the task of the critic to discover and to pass on to the exegete, the historian and the theologian, that they may have correct premises on which to base the conclusions in their commentaries, histories and theologies.

Here let me guard against two common misconceptions.  One is the supposition that the Hebrew original of the Old Testament has been so preserved as to render all revision objectless.  No one can hold such a theory in view of the evidences of the Hebrew MSS. and the parallel passages alone.  No more will any one who accepts the evidences of the New Testament quotations in their bearing upon the text of the Old, and who recognizes the need for a revision of the New Testament, have a locus standi in defending the impeccability of the text of the Old.

The other error is that the ancient translators or the later revisers of their versions were so characterized by prejudices and tendencies that their translations were intentionally inaccurate and biased from the start, so as to render them largely useless in enabling us to re-establish any original Hebrew text.  In answer to this it may be said that (except in isolated instances and books) no sufficient proof of these intentional variations from the original text has as yet been produced.  My own conviction is (and this is a conviction based upon a more or less extensive study of all the versions), that all of them, primary and secondary, by whomsoever made, bear undeniable evidence of having been designed to be faithful to their original.  Had we the original texts of the versions, we could doubtless, with the aid of the Hebrew textus receptus, reconstruct in most instances the originals from which they were translated.  As it is, the first question to be asked when we find a variation in a version is, why this variation?  Was the original of it different from the textus receptus?  Did the translators misunderstand the original?  Do we misunderstand either the original or the translation, or is either one or other text corrupt?  It will be seen that before one is fitted to answer these questions with anything like accuracy, he must be acquainted with all the departments of grammar and lexicography mentioned above.  Phonics, palaeography, the concordances, versions and cognates will all contribute their portion toward the settlement of every question of text.  The failure to use any one of these factors may cause an error in the result.

Such, then, are the three great divisions of Lower Criticism—text, grammar, lexicon—and knowledge of all three is indispensable to any one who will rightly divide the Word of Truth.  A correct view of the possibilities and attainments of textual criticism, a thorough knowledge of all the parts of grammar, an intelligent control of lexicography – these must be the possession of him who would understand the biblical literature of the day ; these give the logical premises for all conclusions based upon the Word of God.  These are the foundations upon which are to be built the stately structure of literary criticism, history and theology.

We shall seek to lay the foundations deep and broad and firm in the minds of our students, that all men may admire the uprightness and strength and beauty of the superstructures which they shall build.

You will all have noticed that throughout this discourse I have emphasized the study of the cognates, and of the primary versions, at least, for those who would fully master the details of Lower Criticism.  Only after having learned these will they be fully furnished for the more attractive but not more important work of Higher Criticism.  Not forgetting that the primary object of the Theological Seminary is to train men for the Gospel ministry, I should like to see Princeton, and I think that the Church would like to see Princeton, offer to young men of the Presbyterian faith facilities for the acquisition of any branch of knowledge that will help them to discover and defend, in its full meaning, every word of God.  It shall be my aim and ambition, with the hoped for hearty aid of the faculty and directors of this institution, and of our Alma Mater across the way, to present to every student the opportunity of acquiring any language which, as cognate to the Hebrew, throws light upon its grammar and lexicon, or any language in which a version of the Bible was made before the Sixth Century, A.D.  Some of my fellow professors have kindly offered to assist in this plan, which is only an extension of what has hitherto been offered.  With the assistance which the University can render, and which we are happy to believe it will be glad to render, we hope that soon it will not be necessary for any of our students to go abroad to perfect themselves in any branch of theological science.

In my plans for the offering of increased facilities for the more thorough understanding of the Old Testament, I have projected a number of works and series of works which seem necessary to fill out the apparatus criticus. In the completing of these works, I shall invoke the assistance of the students whom I expect to train, the advice of my fellow professors, and, when needed, the financial aid of the friends of this Seminary.

And may God grant His grace and His strength that all our labors may be well done and fully done, to the increase of knowledge and faith, to the honor of His Word and the glory of His name.

Photo source: Inset from a photographic postcard of the 1919 Grove City College Bible Conference, preserved as part of the Robert Dick Wilson Manuscript Collection, at the PCA Historical Center.

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The Rev. J. J. Janeway’s Review of The Divine Appointment, the Duties and the Qualifications of Ruling Elders; a Sermon preached in the First Presbyterian Church, in the City of New York, May 28, 1819, by Samuel Miller, D.D., in The Presbyterian Magazine, 1.4 (April 1821) 170-177.

[Rev. Janeway is pictured at left; Rev. Miller, at right]

The Church of God is that holy society established by Himself on earth for the maintenance of His worship, and the promotion of His glory, in the midst of a race of rebellious creatures. It is styled His house or family; and it ought not to be doubted, that this house of the living God, like that of every wise man, is subject to wholesome regulations.

Under the former dispensation it was governed by laws delivered with great solemnity, and placed under the ministry of men, whose offices and duties were defined with great precision. As government is as necessary to the welfare and prosperity of the church under the present, as under the preceding economy, it were marvelous indeed, if, at a period when God has blessed His people with the clearest light and the greatest privileges, he should have deprived them of the benefit of a government framed by His own wisdom, and committed to their interests to one devised by the wisdom and prudence of fallible men. We believe that He has provided a constitution, and appointed officers for the government of the Christian, as He had done before for the Jewish church.

Great diversity, it is true, does exist in the views of Christians in regard to the plan prescribed in the New Testament for ordering the affairs of this heavenly society; but this diversity of sentiment no more proves that no such plan is to be found in the inspired writings, than the discordance in the views which Christians of different denominations entertain in regard to revealed truths, proves that the particular doctrines in dispute are not taught by the sacred writers. That some doctrines are not revealed with such clearness as to secure uniformity of faith among all the pious disciples of Christ, is manifest; and therefore, while we deplore this want of unity of judgment, and pray for the arrival of that time when all shall be of one mind, we ought to bear with the infirmities and errors of others, and cordially love all who hold the head, Jesus Christ, how much soever they may differ from us in points not essential to the existence of unfeigned piety.

From the fact, that men of great learning and acknowledged godliness have differed widely from each other in regard to church government, it is equally manifest, that the principles of it laid down in the New Testament, are not stated with sufficient clearness to harmonize the views of all Christians on this important subject, in the present state of the world, liable as men are to have their sentiments affected by education and a thousand different circumstances. Whether one and the same ecclesiastical polity will prevail over the whole church, in that day of light and glory, to which the finger of prophecy directs the eye of faith, we shall not undertake to assert. But this we venture to affirm, that, although diversity of sentiment has sadly cut up the church into many sects, yet Christians, by whatever name called, are bound to love one another; and we see no reason why pious Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, and Methodists, and Baptists, &c. might not, in proper circumstances, hold occasional communion with each other at the table of our common Lord and Saviour.

Principles of ecclesiastical government, however, are not to be regarded as matters of indifference. They are important; and it is the duty of every church, to endeavour to discover those which have been laid down in the records of divine truth, and to adopt them in the management of its affairs. A greater degree of harmony of views on this subject existed among the reformers, than exists among ministers at present. Archibishop Cranmer, and many bishops and learned divines of the Episcopal Church of England, so far from advancing the exclusive notions embraced by some of their successors in that church, and elsewhere, entertained the same opinions on church government as the Helvetic churches. (See note N., p. 427, in Mr. McCrie’s Life of John Knox). As Presbyterians, we are sincerely attached to that form of ecclesiastical government which was adopted by the wisdom and piety of our forefathers; and we believe that it approaches nearer to the Scriptural plan than that of any other church.

The Christian public are indebted to the pen of the author of this sermon for an able and temperate vindication of the great doctrine of ministerial parity, in opposition to diocesan Episcopacy. In this discourse he has selected as the subject of discussion the office of ruling elders. It was preached in May, 1809, when several individuals were ordained to that office in the First Presbyterian Church in the city of New York, of which he was at that time one of the pastors; but owing to the delicate state of his health, and unavoidable engagements, he was prevented from complying with his promise to his friends, who had requested its publication, till January, 1811.

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OOME GEERT—A PROFILE OF GREAT UNCLE GERRIT VERKUYL

 

Grandma Den Ouden , Mrs. Nys Den Ouden (6-9-1881/2-14 -1952) came from a large and distinguished family.  There were eleven children born to Matthys Verkuyl (born 10-1-1833) and Jannetje Streefkerk (born 1840) : Meitje, Hendrick, Arie, Gerrit, Anna, Anneke, Naatje, Jannetje,  Johannes, Pieternella, and Mathila.

Only three of the family emigrated to the United States: Gerrit in 1894, Jannetje (Grandma) in 1912 and Naatje(Nellie—Mrs. Peter Cole—date unknown) who settled in Sacramento, CA.

Tante Anna came for a visit to Grandpa and Grandma in the 30s.  I remember vividly a large trunk and she wore a beautiful black satin dress with black velvet and netting insets.  She was the most regal person I had ever met and now I wonder what she thought of the very modest farmhouse where her sister and family lived.

In 1972 on our first sabbatical, we invited my parents to join us in visiting relatives in Holland.  We made an appointment to see Tante Pie (pronounced pea) (Pieternella) in Leyden at one o’clock.  We had great difficulty in finding the address, De Witte Singel

(The White Canal) and finally parked our VW so close to the canal that my mother feared we would all fall in the water.  The neighborhood was extremely affluent and the house we entered was like a museum with many art objects and vases and statues all over.  I had never been in such a house.  The home had been furnished from their many travels, especially while her husband was in the Dutch consulate in Indonesia. There she sat royally among the rich décor as she “received” us with considerable warmth.  Our children, Christine, 11, Alicia, 8, and David, 4, were angelic and even graciously accepted and ate some overly sweet candy they were offered.  It still is an hour deep in my memory.

But it was Oome Geert, one of Grandma’s older brothers, who with my uncle Bernard, provided and still provide models for me of the Christian scholar.

On my second Christmas (1933), I received a little book, Children’s Devotions, published by Westminster Press in Philadelphia in 1917 with a subtitle: Containing private and united prayers for children, and suggestions for Bible reading, memory work, and clean books.

The inscription reads in flowing European-style writing: To my grand nephew, Nelvin Leroy Vos.  Gerrit Verkuyl.  Christmas 1933.  The dedication states: To the memory of a Christian home in Holland and to the service of every home in America this little book is dedicated.

The book has simple prayers for children divided into various sections such as For Children under Eight and Suggestions for Young People.  In the middle of the book are several pages, God’s Special Messages to Children with passages from the Bible.  And the book concludes with a section, Splendid Reading for Boys and Girls, a remarkably diverse listing of five pages with titles such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Robinson Crusoe(for and Iboys eight years old! ), Hans Brinker, Little Women, and Song of Hiawatha.

My next most prized possession of Oome Gerrit is an undated hand written letter. but within the letter, he indicates he is age 93 so it must have been  about 1966.   I had sent him my resume and a copy of my first book, The Drama of Comedy: Victim and Victor.

He begins by congratulating me: “I am glad you completed your schooling and are happy in the thick of your interesting engagement for which you have been so well prepared.”  He continues by describing his career:” When to me the choice had to be made between teaching and preaching, I decided that teaching was my hobby with preaching occasionally and almost from the first I wrote occasionally for publication.”,,

(An understatement since Amazon lists nine books!).  He then writes of “the joy of seeing your thoughts presented to the public.  This requires intense application, the best that is in you.  It is also a service to your fellow man, also to women, and affords both satisfaction and stimulus for worthwhile production.”  All of this, he writes “has made my life experience interesting to others and to myself.  Now at 93, I am through with the zest and the ability no longer suffice.  But I am still somewhat better for those efforts.”  Then comes a benediction: ”May grace, wisdom and power  be granted you to share with others the Christian experience and ideas you are finding helpful, enriching to others and fostering growth as you move on.” He ends with:” it means to me a happy, useful, life for which I thank God, Nelvin, and those who have inspired me and of whom you are one.  I am glad to have enjoyed partnership with you.  May God continue to bless you and keep you humble.  Yours for Him, Gerrit Verkuyl.

The third item is a small hardbound book, Berkeley Version of the New Testament with Footnotes, published by Zondervan  in 1945. This translation, and later of the Old Testament (he called them Berkeley since his residence was there for many

years) were clearly his most important work.  He had begun the New Testament already in 1936 and began the Old Testament with twenty other scholars in the 50s and published this volume in 1959.

It was some time in the mid-50s when I was teaching at Calvin that the committee preparing the Old Testament met on the Calvin campus.  (I have a Banner photo of the group from my mother’s scrapbook.) Oome Gerrit invited me to sit among the scholars for a session.  All I recall is that it was a passage from Proverbs that was under discussion and that I felt very honored to be among them and to know that it was my great uncle who was the leader of this momentous task.

The website, www.Bible collectors.org reprints an article in which Dr. Verkuyl explains his work with the New Testament.  The first sentence is representative of his direct style:” The conviction that God wants His truth conveyed to His offspring in the language in which they think and live led me to produce the Berkeley Version of the New Testament.”  He says that his work with children and youth made him aware that the King James Version, beautiful as it is, is not easy to comprehend.  So in the light of his concern for such an audience, he began translating the story of the baby Moses in Exodus 2 . Then when he was later employed by the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, he said:” This work allowed me to make use of the New Testament in the original language in hope that someday I might do my own translating of it.”

All did not go easily with the translations. There is an exchange of many letters from 1950 to 1953 located in the archives of the Presbyterian Church in America between Doctor Verkuyl and Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, president of the National Bible Institute and also a professor at a conservative institution, Faith Theolological Seminary, in which several difficulties surface.  Dr. Verkuyl had considerable trouble recruiting scholars for his Old Testament translation.  He had done the New Testament by himself, but did not feel adequate in Hebrew to do The Old Testament although he writes: “Have been digging down into my Hebrew now for a year and am gaining on it.”  The people are busy; they are getting older.  The scholar who translated Isaiah and Job was 89, and Uncle Gerrit was now in his 80s.

And he knew what he was looking for:” But we are now searching for the right men.  We know we want Conservatives…” Later he writes: “And no trend or bias in the footnotes except adherents to the evangelical truth.”  Dr. Martin Wyngaarden of Calvin Seminary did become one of the scholars in the work and Uncle Gerrit comments: “Those Dutchman can work when they have a mind to.”

The correspondence includes a discussion of a Lutheran biblical scholar, Dr. Charles M. Cooper of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, in which a professor from the National Bible Institute calls Cooper “a very pronounced liberal higher critic.”  Buswell adds: “When I showed your letter to the head of our Semitics department, he recognized the name [Cooper]as that of a rather radical liberal.  Now, granted that translation work must be an entirely our objective, nevertheless, there will be an important points.  Radical differences of opinion between those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and those who believe it is a collection of Oriental myths.  Would it not seem wise to make this stipulation for members of the committee?”  My comment would be that although Dr. Cooper was not a conservative such as those who were invited to participate in the translations, he was not by any means a radical liberal who believed the Bible was a collection of Oriental myths.

Three larger issues lurk between the lines of this correspondence.  The first is tension between Uncle Gerrit and Buswell.  He wants Buswell to be involved in the next edition of the New Testament: “… I am inclined to believe we might join forces.”  But Buswell appears to want to do his own translation.  Later, Dr. Verkuyl writes: “my work is not perfect and neither would his be, but by laboring together, it will be much better.  I would be perfectly willing to have Buswell-Verkuyl or Verkuyl-Buswell  as the translators of the N. T. and I wish you might seriously consider it.”  But as far as I know, Buswell did not get involved in the work.

The second is Uncle Gerrit’s difficulty with Zondervan Publishing, the company which did his New Testament and will now be working with the entire Bible.  The company appears to want Uncle Gerrit to do the entire work of revising the New Testament and translating the Old Testament obviously because to involve Buswell and a large committee would increase the royalties.  Zondervan did compromise since later; a committee of twenty was formed to work with the Old Testament.

The third issue is the competition.  The Revised Standard Version of the Bible published by National Council of Churches of Christ was to come out in 1952.  The conservative scholars wanted to give an alternative to what they saw as too liberal a translation and from Uncle Gerrit’s point of view did not do the job well: “The R.S.V., by retaining so much of the K. J. V. [King James Version] vocabulary has succeeded in presenting the Word in the most Elizabethan language of all 20th century translations at the expense of clarity for today’s readers.  To me in modern translation is next to useless that fails to bring God’s thoughts to the Bible-readers in the best words of current use.”  That statement catches the vision and intent of Uncle Gerrit’s momentous almost lifelong undertaking of translating the Bible.

Later, in one of the letters in the Calvin College archives dated September 1956, he writes:  “The work on the Old Testament started six years ago is not yet finished.  Right now it is especially difficult, since four books were turned down by members of the staff when we met in Grand Rapids in June.  I have turned over the book of Isaiah to a new translator to start all over.  But I am correcting the books of Deuteronomy, Job and Ezekiel myself.  Two of those are finished, but I am still wrestling with Ezekiel.  In one more month this too should be ready.  After that, of course it has to be read through once more.  The fault was using more or less than the original text allows.”

Nevertheless, the Berkeley Version is frequently cited on websites by conservative scholars and institutions.  One commentator writes:” A European moved to the United States, so mastered Greek and English languages that in his translating the original, he produced highly readable Scripture.”

The original Berkeley Version is out of print, but Amazon has used copies for sale.  The Modern Language Bible which is called a revision of the Berkeley Version is available at www.Christian book.com for $14.99(hardbound) and $9.99(paperbound).

Dr. Verkuyl’s other publications mostly center on his work in Christian education

(also all out of print  with some used available from Amazon):

— Scripture Memory Work: A Handbook containing selections with helps for the

reader(1918)

— Devotional Leadership: Private Preparation for Public Worship(1925)

— Things Most Surely Believed: A Study in Christian Essentials for Growing Workers

(1926)

— Qualifying Men for Church Work(1927)

— Adolescent Worship: With Emphasis on Senior Age(1929)

— Christ in the Home: Studies in Christian Nurture(1932)

— Christ in American Education(1934)

— Reclaim Those Unitarian Wastes(1935)

— Teen -Age Worship(1950)

 

In contrast to his scholarly achievements, particularly his translations of the Bible, it  has been quite difficult to uncover personal details about Oome Gerrit. He was born on September 14, 1872, in Niewe Vennep, Holland, the same home presumably where Grandma Den Ouden was raised.  He married Tante Minnie in 1912.  They had two children, Janet and Dorothy(one letter speaks of her being on the mission field).  Aunt Gerdena told me that they too lived in California and our family continued to have some correspondence with them in later years.  She also told me that Uncle Gerrit was disappointed and angry that the Woodstock Presbyterian Church did not allow him to preach there when he was visiting our family in the 30s.

According to Ellis Island records, he emigrated to the United States in 1894 at age 21 on the ship Werkendam sailing out of Rotterdam. In 1901, he graduated from Park College in Parksville, Missouri, whose website says that it was founded “as a Christian college” in 1875.  This college awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1921.  He earned a Master of Divinity in 1904 at Princeton Theological Seminary, a very distinguished Presbyterian school, and at the same time, he earned an M.A. (in what?) at Princeton University in 1903.  Then to a New Testament Fellowship to Germany at the University of Leipzig where he received his Ph.D. in 1906.  He also studied at the University of Berlin in 1906.The German universities were and still are noted for their prominence in Biblical studies.   A scholar, indeed!

He was ordained by the Presbytery of North Philadelphia on November 13, 1906, and began serving a Presbyterian church in northeast Philadelphia, Wissinoming, from 1906 to 1908.

He found his true calling when he was appointed to serve as National Field Representative for Leadership Training of the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education which he did from 1908 to 1939 until his retirement at age 67.  According to the archives at Princeton Theological Seminary from which I derived much of the above personal information, he did occasional supply in various churches in the Bay area here and there from 1939 to 1952.  In 1952 to 1953, he served as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, California.  There is no more information about his later years other than that which we know about his translation of the Bible. Thus I could not discover the date of his death.

His position with the Presbyterian Board of Christian education must have included a lot of teaching.  Calvin College and Seminary archives (why?) has three of his letters in his Dutch handwriting, re-typed in Dutch, and then translated into English, one from which I already quoted.  The first was written on the day I was born (July 11, 1932).  The letterhead gives his title and the address of College Avenue, Wheaton, Illinois.  It is written to his sister, Pie, (Pieternella) and her family.  He speaks of working “a lot in Wisconsin.”  He continues:” Now I will leave for New York state to teach there for four weeks; after that two weeks in Indiana.  I will be preaching somewhere not so far from Jannetje in Iowa.  I will take the train to visit her for a day or so.”  So that must have been one of his visits soon after I was born.

In the letter he also speaks of translating his new book, Christ In the Family, and sending a copy to H. Colijn, a very prominent Dutch political figure who was in the Verkuyl family.  Later he asks:” Would you ask Chris [her husband] what conditions Dutch publishers have when they publish a book?  Here in the USA, the publisher takes all the financial risks.  I am contemplating sending Colijn a copy so that it may be placed in “de Heraut”[I could find no Dutch translation for this word] later on.  But the ideas in it may be too radical for Holland.”

And that last comment may well sum up Uncle Gerrit’s dilemma and perhaps his strength.  Although a conservative in his background and in his Biblical translations, he was a progressive in challenging the tradition by doing his very own version of the Scriptures.  Clearly, many of his ideas about leadership and Christian education were ahead of his time.

I was so privileged to know him: his very tall and stately bearing, his warm smile, and his gentlemanly but kindly manner to me — all this is a memory I deeply cherish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 33. — What is justification?

A. — Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ. imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Scripture References: Eph. 1:7; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 4:5; Rom. 3:22, 24, 25; Rom. 5:17-19; Rom. 5:1; Act. 10:43; Gal. 2:16.

Questions:

1. What does the word “justify” mean in the New Testament?

The word means “to deem to be right” in the New Testament. It signifies two things: (1) to show to be right or righteous; (2) to declare to be righteous.

2.
Who is the author of our justification?

God is the author of our justification. In this Question we have the first of a series in which the words “an act of God’s free grace” is used. We are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The grace of God is the deepest ground and final cause of our justification.

3.
What are the two parts to justification?

The two parts are: (1) the pardoning of our sins; (2) the accepting us as righteous in his sight.

4.
What two great truths are present in these two parts?

The first truth is that the pardoning of our sins is a continued act. (See Calvin on John 1:29). All our sins are forgiven. The second truth is that we are not only pardoned but our Lord does not abhor us but accepts us as righteous.

5.
How is it possible that he accepts us as righteous?

It is possible for him to accept us as righteous because his righteousness is made ours by imputation. (Rom. 4:6).

6. What is imputation and how does it apply to us?

Imputation is God’s act of reckoning righteousness or guilt to a person’s credit or debit. It is as if we had obeyed the law and had satisfied justice.

7. How are we justified?

We are justified purely by faith without any kind of work beings involved.

JUSTIFICATION – FAITH AND WORKS

In the Epistles of Paul, the Apostle tells us time and time again that we are justified freely by the grace of God. A. A. Hodge tells us, “It (Justification) is ‘in the name of Christ,’ I Cor. 6:11; ‘by his blood,’ Rom. 5:9; ‘freely,’: ‘by his grace,’ ‘by faith.’ Rom. 3:24, 28.” And yet so many times the argument is presented, “James stated: ‘Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.’ (James 2:24) How can both Paul and James be right?”

It is true that both Paul and James are right. The apostle Paul affirms and proves by many arguments that justification is by faith, faith in the object of Christ and his righteousness. Paul affirms and proves that it is by faith and without works. Paul goes on to prove that instead of our being justified by good works, the works are only possible to us in that new relationship to God into which we are introduced by justification.

James does not treat the matter of justification by faith in the chapter cited above. He is treating the very important matter of what relationship the good works of the believer have to be a genuine faith. James is simply saying that a genuine faith, which A. A. Hodge calls “the instrumental cause of justification”, will produce a living faith, a faith with works. An old divine used to say, “Faith justifies our persons, but works justify our faith, and declares us to be justified before men, who cannot see nor know our faith but by our works.”

Combining Paul and James the believer has two important truths:
(1) Justification by faith includes two wonderful elements, both freely bestowed upon the believer by God. The first is remission of sIns and the second, restoration to divine favor.
(2) Because we are justified by faith the justification will always be accompanied with sanctification, without which our justification cannot be true.

Two verses that combine the above two truths, and two verses that would help the believer greatly, are Philippians 3:8,9. Commit them to memory and pray that they will be living and vital in the life, all to His glory!

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol 3 No. 33 (September 1963)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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Pioneer Translator Among Presbyterians

We all know and love the John Newton of “Amazing Grace” fame, but this John Newton, while named after that beloved minister, was a Presbyterian missionary who sailed to India with his wife in the middle nineteenth century.  He was to have a fifty-six year ministry to the inhabitants of that country.

Leaving in 1835, he took along a printing press and countless pieces of literature.  Not only did he learn the language in Panjabi, he prepared a dictionary and grammar for the people. He translated the entire New Testament and a whole series of tracts for his congregations.

He was characterized as being a powerful preacher both in English as well as in the native language.  Yet it was said that he won respect and confidence from his patience and tact in dealing with the masses. There wasn’t any narrow-mindedness in him. He invited the Church of England missions into his field of labor. By that, there was a span of forty years of fraternal relationships which only doubled the spiritual workers in India.

He went to be with the Lord on July 2, 1891, reaping the fruits of his labors on those foreign shores.

Words to Live By: When both character and conduct agree as one in a Christian’s life, you can be sure that the witness for Christ will be amplified to both the glory of God as well as the everlasting good of the unsaved people around us.  Work, dear reader, in both of these areas in your lives.

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