Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 1, 1953

What Does The "RSV" Think Of Christ?

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

(Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of articles by Brother Estes pointing out the modernism of the new translation of the Bible which several gospel papers have been selling so enthusiastically. These articles were sent to one of these papers nearly four months ago, but were not published.)

What is expected of a translation? This is an important question since most Bible readers depend upon the conviction, the honesty, and the scholarship of the translators. A proper translation is imperative because the New Testament is the sole basis of authority and nor for faith and life in Christianity.

The translators then must be accurate in rendering the Greek or Hebrew into the best possible idiomatic English and into the people's language; they must not be prejudiced but honest in rendering the thoughts and intentions of the writers of the Bible into English (it would be a crime to misrepresent them); and finally, they must have respect for God's Word.

It is only fair, therefore, to ask the translators of the Revised Standard Version: Walter R. Bowie, Millar Burrows, Henry J. Cadbury, Clarence T. Craig, Edgar J. Goodspeed, Frederick Grant, James Moffatt, Luther Weigle, and Adbel R. Wentz, along with the others, what they think of Christ. Do they reject miracles? the virgin birth? the unique divinity of Jesus? Do they look upon him as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and all that He claimed to be? or is he merely man, the divine claims written about him being false claims of his disciples palmed off on a naive society ?

This is the crux of the whole matter, for Jesus is the central figure of the whole Bible, the very heart of the New Testament. He is either the divine Son of God, and therefore Savior of the world, or else he is a mere man, and could save no one from his sins. Do modernistic views affect the new translation at this very vital point?

The Virgin Birth

A denial of the virgin birth of Christ means the rejection of the deity of Christ. No modernist accepts the virgin birth as an historical fact. The Hebrew word "alemah," translated "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 in most versions, can also mean, say the translators, any young woman, whether married or not. Gesenius says this word alemah is incorrectly translated "parthenos" (virgin) in the Septuagint. Following this modernism, the Revised Standard Version translates Isaiah 7:14, "Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." But Matthew 1:23, quoting this passage has "virgin" in the text but a footnote reads: "Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary, was the father of Jesus, who is called Christ." Now, do the translators accept the virgin birth or not? The answer is obvious from the above.

A few quotes will show the liberalism of the aforementioned translators of the Revised Standard Version. Bowie writes, "There were traditions among the world's religions of saviors who had been virgin born. Then why not Jesus? Once the question had been asked or once within the Christian fellowship the wondering suggestion had started and had sprung up and spread, belief in it sprang up instinctively like a flame. Among the Christians of that age, uncritical and naive, their thought of what thus appropriate might have been became the conviction of what was.

Like many other unspoiled people, they were poets, and it is poetry of worship which is singing the lovely stories of the Virgin in the introduction to the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke." (The Renewing Gospel, pp. 94-96)

Thus it is evident that Bowie believes the virgin birth to be a bit of fiction borrowed from the myth religions. He further writes, "There is no valid historical evidence that Jesus thought of himself as having been miraculously born." (The Master, p. 94) In his exposition of Luke 1-6, he considers the account of the virgin birth in Luke as a late alteration of the text. (Interpreter's Bible)

Goodspeed, following Bowie in this modernism, believes the idea of the virgin birth sprang up in the Greek circles and declares, "Later devotion thought angels must have sung above his manger, and astrologers must have offered him gifts and homage." (A Life of Jesus, pp. 28, 29) Craig follows the same line of thought. (The Beginning of Christianity, p. 203)

The other translators of the new Revised Standard Version are in full agreement with these quoted. In fact, "All the scholars who determined the final form of the Revised Standard Version belong to the Modernist camp." (Stonehouse: Is the New Testament Modernistic? in the Presbyterian Guardian, June 25, 1946)

These liberal translators attack the divinity of Jesus in many other passages. An example is Romans 9:5. Here the translators have arbitrarily placed a period after "Christ," hence separating it from the word "God." This is contrary to all the rules of grammar. It should read, "Christ, being God over everything, blessed forever." The Greek "ho on" (who is or "being") often takes the place of a relative clause (John 1:18) and belongs with that which precedes.

"The natural way to take ho on (who is) and theos (God is in apposition with ho Christos (Christ)." — Robertson: Grammar of the Greek New Testament.

Paul is in this passage enumerating the privileges of Israel, thus the sudden praise of Christ. For the deity of Christ in this passage we have Westcott and Hort, American Standard Version, King James Version, International Critical Commentary, and the almost unanimous agreement of scholars and commentators of all ages. It remained for these modern translators to remove the deity of Christ from that passage. (To be continued)