Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 1, 1956

The Great Approach

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

Brother J. W. Roberts of Abilene Christian College is taking a place in the limelight as a Greek scholar. I do not say that disparagingly. He is doing some good, for his arguments based upon an appeal to the Greek have caused ole Thayer, Liddell & Scott, Robinson and others to be dusted off and utilized. Brother Roberts has earned a Ph.D in Greek and thus he deserves a hearing and some consideration. But his doctorate does not give him infallibility. He does not claim such and lesser lights in academic standing should not look on him in any feeling of awe. I have learned that Ph.D's are as apt to err as those who have nothing but temperature degrees. In an experience in a Lutheran college where I was studying Greek I asked a respected Lutheran scholar what baptizo meant. The doctor said he would check on its derivations and let me know in the next class period. I am sure he knew then what it meant, but I think he wanted to see if there wasn't some way he could read sprinkling into the meaning — and he was honest and sincere. Well, I truly believe Brother Roberts is putting something into his Greek that does not belong to be there.

In an article in the Firm Foundation on December 20, 1955 entitled "According To The Greek .. . ." Brother Roberts says he has "seen several attempts to disparage any attempt to learn the meaning of the New Testament by appealing to the language in which it was written." Where did he see these attempts? I have not seen them and would like to review them. Notice the adjective any in his charge — that takes in a big scope of activity.

Without meaning to reflect on the integrity of Brother Roberts I think it well to present the words of John Wesley as quoted by Guy N. Woods in his "How To Use The Greek New Testament" (pages 16-17): "A guide to souls ought to know the literal meaning of every word, verse, and chapter in Scripture; without which there can be no foundation on which the spiritual meaning can be built. Can he do this, in the most effectual manner, without a knowledge of the original tongues? Without this will he not frequently be at a stand, even as to texts which regard practice only? But he will be under still greater difficulties, with respect to controverted scriptures. He will be ill able to rescue these out of the hands of any man of learning that would pervert them; for whenever an appeal is made to the original, his mouth is stopped at once." Now it seems to me there is a movement to "stop the mouths" of the opposers of the Herald of Truth type of cooperation by appealing to the Greek. Exponents of the sponsoring church type thing have not been able to do much with English versions, they find themselves moving against the grain of a revealed pattern, so they turn to Greek exegesis.

Now let it be emphasized that the use of the Greek in efforts to make truth clearer, simpler and more vivid is certainly not condemned. But the use of Greek in attempts to lay aside great principles is to be exposed. And when some brother's Greek exegesis conflicts with the general principles governing the particular item under question we know assuredly something is wrong with the brother's findings. For an example: The Russellites appeal to the original languages seeking to destroy the idea of everlasting torment in hell. In so doing they impugn the justice of God as it is manifested in such passages as Ezekiel 18 and Mark 9:38-50. Catholic authorities seek comfort in the figurative use of baptizo as a "washing" and thus assert that they wash spiritually in the sprinkling ceremony. This not only violates the essential meaning of baptizo but it does violence to principles governing the action and spirit of baptism as set forth in Acts 8 and Romans 6.

Now the Greek exegeses of Brother Roberts are scholarly but wrong because they stand opposed to the general principles governing congregational action and the spirit of autonomy. Brother Roberts denies that his actual conclusions are based upon an appeal to the Greek. He asserts the arguments for sponsoring church cooperation are merely strengthened by the appeal to the original. However it seems he cannot present his case for the Herald of Truth type cooperation without an appeal to the original.

The exegesis of numerous scholars, olden and modern can and have been arrayed against Brother Roberts by writers in the Preceptor and Gospel Guardian. This shows the scholarly ground on which he stands is controverted and it is not to be accepted merely at the suggestion of scholar Roberts.

The main principle that is violated by Brother Roberts is that of independent congregational organization and action as it is manifested in the appointing of elders in every church (Acts 14:23), and in the limitation of their authority and oversight to the one flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. (Acts 20, 1 Peter 5.) Brother Roberts interpretation would have one eldership acting for or on / in behalf of another and such activity is exactly in harmony with what took place immediately after apostolic days. It took several hundred years for this departure to develop into the Catholic hierarchy but all movements must have their fetus and embryo stages.

The linguistic constructions and inferential conclusions of Brother Roberts are out of kilter with the whole New Testament pattern of organization which is designed to ward off universal apostasy. When smaller congregations yield funds to the more prominent congregations for brotherhood, worldwide operations, centers of authority are created and a unit or society of influence is established which will be united in any "drifting" movement. If Brother Roberts' case for sponsoring church is generally accepted we might well see Highland Avenue in Abilene handling the brotherhood radio work, Broadway in Lubbock the sending out of preachers, Madison in Nashville the educating of preachers, Garfield Heights in Indianapolis the benevolent work, et cetera. Hold 'em down brethren, they are leaning toward Rome!