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God, Man, and Marriage

During the August 2014 meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America’s (BMA) Coordinating Council, Dr. John Adams presented a report on behalf of the Moral Action Agency. The report included a sobering description of current trends that contradict biblical teaching on marriage. The council discussed the issue and requested that faculty of the BMA Seminary compose wording for a proposed amendment to the BMA Doctrinal Statement that articulated both scriptural teaching and the persistent belief of BMA churches regarding the institution of marriage. Following consultation with Moral Action’s executive director, the seminary faculty adjusted a prior statement, Article IIIC, and prepared a new statement, Article IIID, for the council’s consideration. Chairman Ed Stephenson, Pastor of the Springhill Baptist Church, Greenbrier, Arkansas, presented the statements to his church for approval. Subsequently, Springhill Baptist Church chose to recommend that the BMA adopt the statements during its annual 2015 meeting as an amendment to the association’s Doctrinal Statement.

In addition to preparing recommended statements, the seminary faculty prepared a formal exposition of Article IIIC and Article IIID for the purpose of clarifying the intent of each statement for BMA leaders and laypersons. Article III of the BMA Doctrinal Statement rightly recognizes God as Creator of the world, angels, and man. The proposed changes to Section C attempt to update the article’s language and affirm biblical teaching related to the origin of human life.  The new statement, Section D, attempts to affirm biblical teaching that clearly establishes God’s original and permanent intention for marriage to occur within the exclusive bounds of a monogamous heterosexual relationship. When taken as a whole, the BMA Doctrinal Statement reflects the inherent dignity of all individuals while addressing the realities and consequences of human depravity and the blessings of God’s mercy and grace. Such a view undergirds the heart of this paper. The authors hope that readers will recognize marriage as a blessing from God, bound by His principles and purposes, to both the joy of individuals and honor to Him.

Proposed Article III Section C: Man – As the crowning work of His creation, God created humankind (male and female) in His own image (Ps. 8; Gen. 1:27; 2:7).  Consequently, every person from conception is of inherent dignity and worth and merits the respect of all other persons (Ps. 51:5; 139:13-16; Gen. 9:6; Matt. 10:28-31; James 3:9).

Human beings are the crowning work of God’s creation (Ps. 8)

A proper theological understanding of marriage necessitates a sound understanding of God’s image.  The revision of Article IIIC attempts to strengthen the current statement and support the new statement on marriage by providing greater clarity on the issue of “man” and God’s image. Clarity in the revised statement begins with the addition of more up-to-date language employed to describe human beings. In the not-too-distant past individuals commonly used the term “man” to describe the entirety of humanity. The use of a masculine word to describe all of humanity, both men and women, was normative throughout English literature. Consequently “man” appears in many theological works, including historic confessions of faith. However, over the past five decades there has been a vast change in the way English speaking people use and understand gendered language. It is no longer common to use the masculine word “man” to describe both men and women. Instead, writers and speakers now employ the use of words such as humanity, humans, human beings, and humankind. Some may decry such change as a consequence of a radical feminism that is unmoored from biblical concepts of womanhood. As a result some may wish to retain the former language, as a small linguistic protest of the changes the sexual revolution has unleashed on American and contemporary culture. Yet the BMA Doctrinal Statement is intended to communicate theological truth to all who read it. Hopefully, the use of current language addresses the truth with clarity and accuracy.

The assertion that human beings are the crowning work of God’s creation is essentially an expression of Psalm 8. David’s contemplation of the entirety of God’s creation, including the vastness of the heavenly bodies, drove him to the inescapable conclusion that humans are entirely unworthy of divine attention. In the vastness of God’s creative activity, humans are but specks on a small planet. Yet God created humans and crowned them with glory and honor. God created humans lower than Himself and the angels or heavenly beings, but created them greater than all the other created beings that inhabit the earth. Humans exist most definitely as earthly creatures with physical needs. Yet humans are also spiritual, designed to commune with God. In Psalm 8, David affirmed that it is the Lord who is majestic and glorious. David then used a similar word, also often translated glory, to describe what God has granted to each human. In this way, David indirectly reminds us that each person bears the image of God. This was not only a part of God’s original design, but has continued even after the entrance of sin into the world. The image of God now exists in a marred form, much like humans are only imperfectly able to exercise dominion over creation (Ps. 8:6-8; Gen. 1:28-30; 3:17-19).

God created humankind (male and female) in His own image (Gen. 1:27; 2:7)

A proper theological understanding of marriage necessitates a sound understanding of God’s image.  The revision of Article IIIC attempts to strengthen the current statement and support the new statement on marriage by providing greater clarity on the issue of “man” and God’s image. Clarity in the revised statement begins with the addition of more up-to-date language employed to describe human beings. In the not-too-distant past individuals commonly used the term “man” to describe the entirety of humanity. The use of a masculine word to describe all of humanity, both men and women, was normative throughout English literature. Consequently “man” appears in many theological works, including historic confessions of faith. However, over the past five decades there has been a vast change in the way English speaking people use and understand gendered language. It is no longer common to use the masculine word “man” to describe both men and women. Instead, writers and speakers now employ the use of words such as humanity, humans, human beings, and humankind. Some may decry such change as a consequence of a radical feminism that is unmoored from biblical concepts of womanhood. As a result some may wish to retain the former language, as a small linguistic protest of the changes the sexual revolution has unleashed on American and contemporary culture. Yet the BMA Doctrinal Statement is intended to communicate theological truth to all who read it. Hopefully, the use of current language addresses the truth with clarity and accuracy.

The assertion that human beings are the crowning work of God’s creation is essentially an expression of Psalm 8. David’s contemplation of the entirety of God’s creation, including the vastness of the heavenly bodies, drove him to the inescapable conclusion that humans are entirely unworthy of divine attention. In the vastness of God’s creative activity, humans are but specks on a small planet. Yet God created humans and crowned them with glory and honor. God created humans lower than Himself and the angels or heavenly beings, but created them greater than all the other created beings that inhabit the earth. Humans exist most definitely as earthly creatures with physical needs. Yet humans are also spiritual, designed to commune with God. In Psalm 8, David affirmed that it is the Lord who is majestic and glorious. David then used a similar word, also often translated glory, to describe what God has granted to each human. In this way, David indirectly reminds us that each person bears the image of God. This was not only a part of God’s original design, but has continued even after the entrance of sin into the world. The image of God now exists in a marred form, much like humans are only imperfectly able to exercise dominion over creation (Ps. 8:6-8; Gen. 1:28-30; 3:17-19).

Consequently, every person from conception . . . (Ps. 51:5; 139:13-16)

The Bible teaches clearly that a person’s life begins in the womb.  Biblical passages include both direct and implied references to the unborn as children filled with emotional capacity and called by God for specific purposes in life. For example, passages referring to the unborn fetus as a child include Genesis 25:22 and Exodus 21:22. In the Genesis passage, scripture speaks of the unborn twins, Jacob and Esau, as “children” or “sons.” A literal translation of Exodus 21:22 implies personhood of the fetus born prematurely by reading if her “children come out.” As a person with emotions, Luke 1:39-44 records that John the Baptist leaped with joy in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, over the presence of his relative Mary (and the newly conceived Jesus in her womb). Both Old and New Testament writers recognized the Lord’s intimate association with the unborn child, or fetus (Job 10:8-12; 31:13-15; Gen. 25:22-23; Hosea 12:2-3; Matt. 1:18-21).  God sometimes even prepared an unborn person for a specific calling or vocation. Examples include Jeremiah the prophet (Jer.1:5), Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:11), and the Apostle Paul (Gal.1:15).[2]

The strongest evidences for possible personhood at the time of conception, two passages in the Psalter, must be read cautiously in light of their poetic literary contexts.   First, Psalm 139:13-16 indicates that God had intimate knowledge of the Psalmist as an unformed embryo. Using the word picture of intricate weaving or knitting (v. 13; cf. Job 10:11), the Psalmist attested to Yahweh’s intimate knowledge of his frame (as God formed his bones, v. 15) and his embryo (unformed substance, v. 16) long before it had reached maturity in the womb.  This is consistent with a time at or close to conception of the fetus.  Science indicates that “from the moment fertilization takes place, the child’s genetic makeup is already complete. Its gender has already been determined, along with its height and hair, eye and skin color. The only thing the embryo needs to become a fully-functioning being is the time to grow and develop.”[3]  Additionally, Psalm 139:16b mentions God’s foreknowledge of the days which He ordained for the Psalmist, certainly emphasizing personhood of the fetus.  Also, because the primary context of Psalm 139 is that of worship and thanksgiving to God (v. 14), this passage has tremendous theological significance. For example, the passage affirms confidence in God’s sovereignty over a fetus in the womb. Although the term “conception” does not appear in the text, the scripture’s teaching about fetus and embryo from the beginning stages is consistent with the idea of life beginning at conception and speaks unequivocally of life in the womb.

Second, Psalm 51:5[4], seventh verse in the Hebrew text, may indicate sinfulness at conception which would imply personhood. For example, Keil and Delitzsch concluded that “David here confesses his hereditary sin as the root of his actual sin. The declaration moves backwards from his birth to conception, it consequently penetrates even to the most remote point of life’s beginning.”[5]   Yet in honesty one must cautiously interpret David’s passionate words; the context is not a theological lecture but his calling out to God for forgiveness due to his adultery with Bathsheba and his causing the death of her husband, Uriah.  One must not over-read doctrine into such poetic passages, which—not being primarily doctrinal repositories— often use figures of speech (word pictures) to enable the reader to share the emotions  and intense feelings of the author.[6]  “The psalmist has probably employed hyperbole — purposeful exaggeration— in order to express strongly and vividly that he is a sinner, with a long history of such.”[7]  Although God is righteous and desired truth in David’s inward parts (Ps. 51:6), David’s statement in Psalm 51:5 “concedes that his sin proceeds from a longstanding sinful nature. Rather than a clear articulation of the theological principle of ‘original sin’ (though not incompatible with such a view), he recognizes that sin has had long-term and far-reaching influence in his life.”[8]

In conclusion, the Scriptures certainly teach life begins in the womb (as an embryo–perhaps at the time of conception as found in Ps.139:13-16).  As stated earlier, biblical passages include both direct and implied references to the unborn as children filled with emotional capacity and called by God for specific purposes in life. Psalm 51:5 may also support this by acknowledging the inherent sinfulness of David at conception although the passage’s primary purpose is not a theological statement. Such passages clearly demonstrate the presence of life and personhood in the womb from the earliest of stages.

Every person . . . is of inherent dignity and worth and merits the respect of all other persons (Gen. 9:6; Matt. 10:28-31; James 3:9).

Being made in God’s image necessitates inherent dignity and worth and merits the respect of all other persons. The key biblical passage speaking to the uniqueness of human beings is found in Genesis 1:26-27, which locates their inherent dignity and worth in their design pattern.  The structure of the text suggests that humans possess unique characteristics mirroring God’s characteristics in such a way and to the extent that humans are themselves sacred, though on a finite or limited scale.  In effect, this design makes them as much like God as possible for created beings.  Further, the presence of this design pattern, although marred by the effects of sin Genesis 3, prevails even in sinful humans so that to murder a human warrants the most exacting penalty as identified by the key biblical passage prohibiting murder (Gen. 9:6).  This uniqueness also serves as the basis for why humans ought not to even desecrate others by profane speech (James 3:9). The truth that God creates each human being in His image ensures the inherent worth of each person and necessitates that all other persons respect him or her. Genuine respect for others should always demonstrate God’s mercy and obedience to Christ’s teachings of how to treat those with whom one disagrees (Luke 6:27-38).

Every person . . . is of inherent dignity and worth and merits the respect of all other persons (Gen. 9:6; Matt. 10:28-31; James 3:9).

Being made in God’s image necessitates inherent dignity and worth and merits the respect of all other persons. The key biblical passage speaking to the uniqueness of human beings is found in Genesis 1:26-27, which locates their inherent dignity and worth in their design pattern.  The structure of the text suggests that humans possess unique characteristics mirroring God’s characteristics in such a way and to the extent that humans are themselves sacred, though on a finite or limited scale.  In effect, this design makes them as much like God as possible for created beings.  Further, the presence of this design pattern, although marred by the effects of sin Genesis 3, prevails even in sinful humans so that to murder a human warrants the most exacting penalty as identified by the key biblical passage prohibiting murder (Gen. 9:6).  This uniqueness also serves as the basis for why humans ought not to even desecrate others by profane speech (James 3:9). The truth that God creates each human being in His image ensures the inherent worth of each person and necessitates that all other persons respect him or her. Genuine respect for others should always demonstrate God’s mercy and obedience to Christ’s teachings of how to treat those with whom one disagrees (Luke 6:27-38).

Article III Section D. God created marriage (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:23-24). Jesus Christ declared the Creator’s intention for marriage to be the inseparable and exclusive union between a male and a female (i.e. a natural man and a natural woman) (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Rom. 1:25-27). Marriage testifies of the union between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32).

God created marriage (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:23-24).<br />

Psalm 24:1-2 teaches that everything and everyone belongs to God because He created them. Creating all things automatically establishes God’s ownership of what He created and affirms the reality that all of creation, including human beings, must submit to His authority. When asked by the Pharisees to explain the legalities of marital longevity, Jesus recognized their efforts to tempt Him (Matt. 19:3-12). At the time, varied opinions of marriage existed. In response, Jesus went directly to the original intent of marriage as recorded in scripture. The Lord asked the Pharisees a question that clearly demonstrated His belief in creation, in a Creator, and in the Genesis account of creation found in the Bible, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt.19:4-5). In this passage, Jesus referred to Genesis 2:23 and quoted from Genesis 2:24. Because God created both humans and marriage, humans must recognize themselves as accountable to His intent for marriage.

Genesis 2:24-25 identifies the special and exclusive relationship of the adult human male and female, joined together as husband and wife (Gen. 2:24, 25), as the most fundamental and basic human relationship.  This relationship is said to have been designed directly by God and serves as the sole basis for a distinct family unit in perpetuity (Gen. 2:24, 25; 4:1, 17) and is even intended to be interminable except under specific, extreme circumstances (Matt. 19:8).  These passages declare that God’s reason for creating male and female finds its ultimate purpose in the ability of male and female to become one flesh. The concept of one flesh includes physical (i.e., sexual), spiritual, mental, and emotional components.[9]  While some may argue for the possibility of such oneness outside the bounds of the monogamous heterosexual union, such arguments simply lack legitimate support from the Bible.

The inseparable and exclusive union (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9)

According to the proposed amendment to the BMAA Doctrinal Statement (Article III, Section D.), Jesus Christ declared the Creator’s intention for marriage to be the inseparable and exclusive union between a male and female (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Rom. 1:25-27). Both Matthew and Mark record a response by Jesus to the Pharisees regarding a question concerning a man divorcing his wife. In his answer, Jesus describes God’s original intention for the marriage relationship and speaks to the permanent and inseparable union of the marital bond. Jesus, quoting from Genesis 2:24, says that a man is to cleave unto his wife. The word cleave means “to join closely together, to unite” and in the passive sense (as used in Matthew and Mark), it means to “cling.” Mark’s account uses a slight variation of the word that means “to glue on, to be stuck to, to stick or cleave to.” In the figurative sense, it means “to adhere closely to, to be faithfully devoted to, to be joined to.”[10] The Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:24 carries the connotation of clinging or cleaving in the sense of loyalty and affection.[11] Jesus, therefore, states that when a man enters into a marriage relationship with a woman, he is to continue in that relationship and be loyal to his wife. The result of entering into such a relationship is that the two become one flesh; that is, one in their physical relationship and faithfulness to one another.[12]

A second part of Jesus’ response is in relation to God’s sanction of the marital relationship. Jesus, in Matthew 19:6, refers to “What . . . God has joined together . . .” The Greek word translated “joined together” literally means yoked together and was used of yoking animals together (cf. Luke 14:19 where the noun form of the same Greek word is used of a yoke/pair of oxen). God brings a man and a woman together in marriage so that they might work together as one. Jesus further states that whatever God has joined together, “let no man separate.” The word separate means “to divide or sever.”[13] This word is used with a negative particle written as a negative command to be defined as a general prohibition to be enforced.[14] This same word is used in Romans 8:35, 39 as a question, “Who can separate us from the love of Christ and of God?” The obvious answer here is that no one or nothing can separate or sever one from God’s love. With the use of the negative command in Matthew 19:6, therefore, Jesus is saying that no one should separate or sever what God has joined together in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman.

Not only is the marriage relationship an inseparable union, but it is an exclusive union between a male and female (i.e., heterosexual and monogamous). Of the several possible definitions of “exclusive,” the one that best fits this usage is “ruling out or removing from consideration any and all items or ideas other than what is specifically named.”[15] An “exclusive union between a male and a female,” in this application, rules out any other kind of union. The fact that God created humankind as male and female and told them to populate the earth (Gen. 1:27-28 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth . . .”) suggests that His purpose for making them male and female was so that they could reproduce. This is the reasoning behind Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Creator’s intention for marriage . . . between a male and a female (Rom. 1:25-27)<br />

The principle of sexual complementarity—that male and female were designed for each other—pervades God’s design for marriage. Jesus appealed directly to that design in Matthew 19:4-6, where he quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as part of his response to a question about divorce. God made humankind male and female. Further, he made Eve to be a complement to Adam—together they make complete humanity in God’s image (see Section III.C.). Jesus is making the point that God created man and woman as a complementary pair, to be in a relationship of intimate, lifelong covenant commitment. This pattern of marriage is assumed throughout the biblical story.

On the other hand, same-sex eroticism is forbidden in the Old and New Testaments. While the number of passages that deal specifically with homosexual practice is quite small, those that definitely address it are clear in their meaning.[16] In God’s covenant with Israel, God specifically prohibits sexual activity between men (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) and calls it an abomination (cf. Ezek. 16:50).[17] While there is no parallel prohibition for women in the OT, it is apparent that the Lord also considered this behavior equally sinful in view of the fact that the NT does contain such a judgment explicitly for both women (Rom. 1:26) and men (Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10). It is especially notable that in Romans 1:26-27 Paul judges homosexual practice to be “contrary to nature,” appealing as Jesus did to the created order of male and female as the proper sphere for human sexual activity and ruling out homosexual practice because it is contrary to that design.[18]

So when Jesus appeals to the original, gendered design of the human race in Matthew 19, one can safely conclude that he is doing so in continuity with how that design is worked out in the Old Testament as a whole. Taken together with relevant texts from the Pauline epistles, it is reasonable to conclude that even now in the New Covenant era God intends marriage to be between—not just two humans—but two sexually complementary humans—a male and a female, and that same-sex sexual activity is still forbidden. This excludes the possibility of gay marriage.[19]

The Creator’s intention for marriage to be. . . between . . . (i.e., a natural man and a natural woman)

A marriage is to be comprised of a biological (i.e., “natural”) man and woman. Because of the brokenness of creation as a whole, and the human race in particular, humans made in God’s image sometimes face difficult disorders of sexuality which call for great compassion and sensitivity among God’s people. First, there are some who perceive themselves to be the opposite gender in spite of their physical sexual characteristics (i.e., a biological male identifies psychologically as a woman, or vice versa). As noted above and in Section III.C., God has designed the human race to be male and female, and he has prohibited same-sex sexual behavior. Accordingly, Scripture does not make possible the separation of sex and gender as the transgender movement has done. One who is biologically male must strive, by God’s redeeming and sanctifying grace, to live as a man, and likewise one who is biologically female must strive to live as a woman—hence the language “a natural man and a natural woman” in the doctrinal statement proposal.

Second, a small percentage of people are born with ambiguous sexual attributes (now typically called “intersex” instead of the older term “hermaphrodite”). Intersex disorders occur on a spectrum and are not always easily resolved through medical analysis. People in this condition are nevertheless made in God’s image and must be cherished accordingly. Above all, they may be in need of extra understanding, patience, and love from God’s people as they work through the medical, relational, emotional, and spiritual issues associated with their condition.

It is not the purpose of this paper to address these complex issues in detail, yet it is important to acknowledge their reality and relevance to the discussion at hand—specifically, that while God intends marriage to be only between a man and a woman, the church must be prepared to help people who through circumstances beyond their control have difficulty determining whether they are male or female.[20]

Marriage testifies of the union between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32)

Throughout the Scriptures marriage serves as an illustration of the relationship between God and His covenant people.  One will not find this relationship explicitly declared prior to the writings of the prophets, but the clues appear early in the scriptures.[21]  In Exodus 34:15 and Leviticus 17:7 God warns the people not to “whore after” the false gods of the nations,[22] thus implying that for Israel to worship the one true God alone is like clinging faithfully to one’s spouse. The prophets more explicitly use the image of God as husband and Israel as wife to extol God’s covenant faithfulness toward Israel (Ezek. 16:8), but it is always in the context of Israel’s covenant faithlessness (Ezek. 16:15).

While the Old Testament prophets use this image to extol God’s covenant faithfulness toward Israel (Ezek. 16:8), it is always in the context of Israel’s covenant faithlessness (Ezek. 16:15).  God stands as the faithful husband who has done everything to protect his wife and to provide her with all she needs to flourish, but Israel behaves like the wandering adulterous woman who goes seeking other lovers, giving her body to other men and seeking their protection and luxurious gifts.  Israel did this by seeking prosperity and protection from foreign nations, by adopting their gods and worship practices, and by intermarrying with them. Even after all her adultery, God continues to be faithful to His covenant (Hosea 2:14-15).

This concept takes on new life with the revelation of Jesus Christ and the eternal purpose of God in redemption throughout the New Testament, where it is also unveiled that God’s people are a bride in preparation for Christ, her husband. In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul presents the relationship between Christ and the church as the divine reality to which the institution of marriage points.

In verses 22-30, Paul develops the idea that God has called wives and husbands to relate to their spouses as Christ and the church relate to one another.  Wives are to submit to their husbands with the love and joy with which the church submits to Christ.  Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  Furthermore, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies, for this is the example of Christ, who nourishes and cherishes his body, the church.

Thus far, Paul is employing an analogy.  Wives are to husbands as the church is to Christ, and vice versa.  In verse 31 Paul quotes Genesis 2:24, God’s institution of marriage at the creation of humankind.  He does this to remind readers that husband and wife really are one flesh and one body.  However, Paul recognizes the institution of marriage from Genesis 2:24, not only to show that husband and wife are one flesh, but also to show that Christ and the church are one flesh, and he moves from mere analogy to theological revelation.[23]

In verses 31-32 Paul claims that, in speaking the words of Genesis 2:24, he is talking about Christ and the church, and he calls this fact a “great mystery.”[24]  His quotation of Genesis 2:24 begins with “for this cause,” or “therefore.”  Paul does not use these words simply because they are in Genesis 2:24, but in order to unveil the surprising idea that the real reason that a man leaves his father and mother and becomes one flesh with his wife is that “we are members of his body,” that is, the church is one flesh with Christ.  Paul indicates that marriage, being much more than a convenient illustration, exists in order to show and proclaim the relationship between Christ and the church.[25]  One scholar says that, in effect, Paul is saying, “The mystery I am about to describe is especially mysterious, but I am going to say it anyway: when I refer to the well-known establishment of marriage in the book of Genesis, I am talking about Christ and the church.”[26]

What emerges is a “typology that serves Paul’s pastoral purpose of providing a model for Christian marriage which is grounded in primeval human origins and reflective of ultimate divine reality.”[27] God instituted marriage between man and woman in anticipation of Christ’s union with the church, just as he instituted the sacrificial system to typify the work of Christ as the great high priest and sacrificial offering.  The sacrificial system had an immediate purpose in the life of ancient Israel, but would be a fleeting shadow in the full light of the Gospel.  In the same way, marriage has immediate purpose to serve as a foundation for the family and human society.   However, marriage is a mere shadow cast in this world by an immense reality in the next, where the everlasting communion of Christ and the church is the real thing to which marriage points.

Paul is digressing; in the course of giving practical instruction for godly family living, he has begun to exult in the glories of the Gospel.  He indicates this in verse 33 when he returns from his digression and says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  The word translated here as “nevertheless,” is a word Paul uses often to break off from a digression and return to the topic at hand.[28]  One might imagine him finishing verse 32 with a faraway look in his eye, and returning to the subject of husbands and wives abruptly, but somewhat reluctantly.[29]

Paul’s mystery is not like the obscured mysteries of certain false teachers, for it is revealed in Christ and has a serious impact on Christian life and doctrine.  In chapter 3 Paul revealed that the salvation of the gentiles and their unification with the Jews in Christ was a mystery that has now been revealed to “his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”  This revelation had a significant impact upon the nature of the church, which is thus a body of redeemed souls from every tribe and tongue and nation and language. Each of these mysteries now revealed becomes a part of the whole counsel God.  Thus, the ultimate purpose of marriage as an image of the eternal communion of Christ and the church must be considered when defining marriage and establishing a doctrine of marriage and human sexuality.

There are many reasons why a redefinition of marriage to include unions between same-sex individuals is unscriptural, but the one which emerges in light of Paul’s revelation in Ephesians 5:31-32 is that marriage between a man and a woman is a testimony of an eternal divine reality.  Nowhere in Holy Scripture is it suggested that a marital union of two people of the same sex is typological of the union of Christ and the church.  In fact, homosexual behavior, among other sexual perversions, is presented as the direct result of idolatry, an idea which is well-represented in ancient Jewish literature.[30]  In Romans 1:22-27 Paul asserts that men “exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”  In so doing, they fashioned idols resembling human beings and animals.  This exchange resulted in God handing humankind over to “vile affections,” which included homosexual behavior.

Paul asserts a causal relationship between idolatry and sexual sin.[31]  He portrays it as a destructive spiral in which man’s descent into sin mirrors his descent into idolatry.  Man’s rejection of truths about God leads to worship of false images of God.  The fact that Paul mentions “images like unto man” first is perhaps significant.  Corruption of the truth about God led people to worship idols which resembled humankind.  Man’s descent from worshiping the true God to worshiping images of human beings is a tremendous failure, one marked by God handing man over to dishonorable passions, homosexuality in particular.  Sexual behavior between persons of the same sex is a reflection of idolatry, in which the worshipping human prefers the attributes of man to the attributes of God.  Paul highlights homosexual behavior, not necessarily because it is a more grievous sin than any other, but because it best illustrates idolatry.[32]  Whereas God instituted marriage to testify of the union of Christ and the church, Paul asserts here that God handed humanity over to a specific manifestation of sin in order to testify of the heinous nature of idolatry.  Both idolatry and homosexuality turn the created order upside-down.[33]

This is not to say that all homosexuals are homosexual because they, as individuals, are idolaters.  Paul’s assertion is that humanity’s corporate descent into sin mirrors its corporate descent into theological corruption.  It would be a grievous error to single out homosexuals for discrimination or ill treatment as a response to this passage, for Paul goes on to describe the full descent of man into all forms of unrighteousness.  He lists more than twenty types of sin for which all kinds of people are guilty and stand condemned. He lists many of these same sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 when he says:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind[34], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul acknowledges that, among faithful Christians there are those who were guilty of these sins, but whom God has cleansed, saying in verse 11:  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Thus, to single out any particular kind of sinner for ill treatment or special condemnation is a denial of the true nature of God’s grace toward sinners and the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings.  In fact, it is in the lives of homosexuals and transgendered individuals that the glories of the Gospel are uniquely manifested when God grants them faith leading to repentance, just as God’s glory is uniquely manifested when murderers, thieves, adulterers, or even disobedient little children repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus Christ was crucified so that sinners can be presented to Christ, together with the rest of the church, as a holy bride without spot or blemish.

Although a biblical marriage is one consisting of a naturally born man and a naturally born woman, the Bible does not declare that a person must be married in order to please God or to live a full life, or even to be happy.  In fact, God is especially pleased to honor the childless[35], the eunuchs[36], and the celibate[37] who choose those things that please Him and who keep his word.  All people, no matter their temptations, are called to reject sin in all its forms with God’s help, living humble and holy lives as they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus and the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Accreditation and References

Prepared by BMA Seminary Faculty:

Dr. Philip Attebery

Dr. David Erickson

Jacob Gucker

Dr. David Hellwig

Dr. Charley Holmes

Dr. Ronnie Johnson

Dr. Greg Parsons

R. Brian Rickett

Dr. James Shine

Dr. Andy Snider

 

 

 

[1] The phrase “pair bond” is intended to highlight the 1-to-1 relational nature of marriage, i.e. “pair,” which inherently precludes multiple partners, such as in polygamy or polyamory.  Additionally, it assumes that the two individuals involved are sexually mature adults, precluding the participation of 1 or more non-adults in marriage, where “adult” requires at least sexual and cognitive maturity.

[2]Cf. http://christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-bibleandabortion.html

[3] http://www.gotquestions.org/life-begin-conception.html#ixzz3O74t7SWu

[4]The actual numbering of verses differs between English versions and the Hebrew text. The English version of Psalm 51 appears as the seventh verse in the Hebrew text. This paper references numbering assigned in the English versions while acknowledging the differing Hebrew text.

[5] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 367.

[6] Poetry does not necessarily teach theology.  A psalm (as a musical poem) cannot be read in exactly the same way as an epistle or a section of law which purposefully intends to teach. See Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: 4th ed.  Zondervan, 215.

[7] Fee and Stuart,  215.

[8] Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms Volume 1 (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 16423-16428). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[9] Robert Bergen, “Genesis” in Holman Christian Study Bible, ed. Jeremy R. Howard (Nashville: Holman, 2010), 12.

[10] Wilson, 89.

[11] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), 179.

[12] According to the NIDNTT, “marriage is indissoluble, because in it two persons become one living being. This refers to the relationship of the partners and not merely the sexual union.” Brown, Colin, ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Vol. 2, Translated with additions and revisions from the German Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 349.

[13] George V Wigram. The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1983), 441. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, London, 1852.

[14] Rogers and Rogers, 42.

[15] This definition of “exclusive” is an amalgamation of information from a number of online dictionaries.

[16] Noticeably absent from this paragraph is any discussion of Gen. 19 and the destruction of Sodom. While it is clear that homosexual lust was one of the sins of Sodom, it is not clear that this was the main reason for its destruction. See the thorough discussion of this question in chapter 3 of the forthcoming (2016), yet-untitled book on homosexuality by Preston Sprinkle. In short, there is ample OT witness to the impropriety of homosexual eroticism without appealing to Genesis 19 as a key text.  Ezekiel 16:49, 50 provide the complete list of sins concerning Sodom.

[17] James Hamilton, following Robert Gagnon, points out that the word for “abomination” in Ezek. 16:50, referring back to the sins of Sodom, is the singular of toevah, which occurs in the OT only two other times—in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 to describe homosexual intercourse. See Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 79–85, cited in James M. Hamilton, Jr., “How to Condone What the Bible Condemns: Matthew Vines Takes on the Old Testament,” in God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, ed. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (Louisville, KY: SBTS Press, 2014), 35.

[18] For an effective summary of differing views of Paul’s teaching here, see Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 92-97. For broader discussion of the NT texts mentioned here, see Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 303ff; and Sprinkle, forthcoming, chapter 7.

[19] Note that this discussion only covers the practice of same-sex sexual activity and does not address the issue of same-sex attraction (or same-sex orientation). For helpful practical discussion of this question see Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010); and Sam Allberry, Is God Anti-Gay? (n.p.: The Good Book Company, 2013).

[20] Unfortunately, evangelical resources on intersex and transgenderism are quite sparse.

[21] Raymond C. Ortlund, Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), 25.

[22] Ibid., 27, 33.

[23] Peter Thomas. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 432.

[24] Frank. Thielman, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010), 389.

[25] Ortlund, Whoredom, 156

[26] Thielman, Ephesians,  390.

[27] O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, 433.

[28] Thielman, Ephesians, 390.

[29] Ibid., 390.

[30] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 93-94 ; Douglas J. Moo, Romans 1-8 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 108-109 ; Charles H. Talbert, Romans (Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys, 2002), 65; Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 89.

[31] Schreiner, Romans, 92-93.

[32] Ibid., 94.

[33] Ibid., 94.

[34]The Greek word translated “effeminate” and the Greek word translated “abusers of themselves with mankind,” refer to both positions in a homosexual relationship.  They refer to the passive “receiving” participant and the active “giving” participant, respectively.

[35] Isaiah 54:1. Psalm 113:9.

[36] Isaiah 56:4-5. “For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

[37] 1 Corinthians 7:32. Although not limited to those who practice celibacy, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 verifies abstinence from sexual immorality as essential to keeping God’s will, the ability for individuals to control their passions in honorably, warning of punishment, a call to purity, and that rejecting such instruction is a rejection of God not man.

Bible Versions

REPORT OF THE SPECIAL SEMINARY COMMITTEE ON A THOROUGH
STUDY OF THE NEW KING JAMES AND OTHER BIBLE VERSIONS, APRIL 1983

In April of 1982 a resolution was passed by the B.M.A. of America giving the faculty of the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary the challenging assignment of making a thorough study of The New King James Version of the Bible, and the almost superhuman task of forming a judgmental decision of its true value, and of reporting the findings of the special committee through the various denominational papers.

The Seminary faculty has spent much time in prayer over this awesome responsibility, has asked God to direct the research, and has striven to be honest before God in formulating the conclusions reached. In every undertaking of this nature there are likely to be varying degrees of acceptance of the report. The Seminary professors involved in the study did not ask for the assignment, but as servants of the Association they have felt obligated to do what they were asked to do, with the hope that their report will be received with sympathetic understanding and open minds.

Much of the material covered in their research has already been recorded as facts of history; for example, the following statements of truth:
1. It is a fact that all Bibles in the world are merely translations of the most ancient manuscripts and/or revisions of previous versions;
2. The original manuscripts, inscribed by about forty authors of the Bible’s sixty-six books and under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, no longer exist for comparative purposes;
3. Some Bible versions translated from the most ancient texts are excellent works and acceptable to a number of Christians;
4. Some Bible versions are poorly done, contain numerous errors, and are unacceptable;
5. In various human efforts to translate from the same oldest manuscripts available, one translator’s work has often differed from that of another
6. There were approximately 24,000 differences in punctuation and text found in the four major revisions of the King James Bible from 1613 to 1769;
7. The King James Version in common use today is not identical to the 1611 original, but is the one which in 1769 was made official in an effort to standardize it and to discourage further revisions.

The nine Seminary faculty members who participated in this diligent and honest research present their findings and conclusions as follows:

I. MANUSCRIPT SOURCES FOR THE KING JAMES VERSION

Until the invention of the printing press with moveable type and renewal of interest in the classical languages during the Renaissance and Reformation periods, few copies of the Bible were available to scholars, much less to the general public, and these were primarily in Latin. Soon, however, the 1522 third edition of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament became the foundation for what was later called the “Textus Receptus,” thus creating a standard for versions that came after Erasmus. However, the perpetuating textual tradition was begun by William Tyndale in 1525. Nine-tenths of the 1611 Authorized Version came from Tyndale’s English translation. Also from Tyndale’s work came the Great Bible of 1539, the first English Authorized Version, by order of King Henry VIII.

Other versions followed. However, the first printed edition of the entire Bible in the English language was that of Coverdale, published in 1536. Translators of the King James Bible made use of the works of Erasmus, Tyndale and Coverdale and studied other Bible versions, as Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. Although previous versions and texts came down to us in the King James, it was mostly a revision of the Bishop’s Bible, the 1568 revision by Archbishop Parker and the one officially used in the Church of England. The King James Bible of1611 is itself one of the best proofs of the value of Bible revisions.

The King James Bible is wrongfully referred to as the original. Translators of it fully recognized the fact that numerous Bibles, including several in the English language, existed before their 1611 version. Their lengthy preface (no longer included in recent editions) to the 1611 Bible strictly ruled out the idea that the King James was the “original Bible,” even in English. They examined Bibles in French, German, Italian and Spanish, all previous versions in English or otherwise, the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, and even the Rhemish or Roman Catholic Bible in search of a correct rendering of the Scriptures. Through all the versions and revisions God still preserved His inerrant Word.

Because God has had constant oversight of the Bible, it can be said without fear of contradiction that the Scriptures have been handed down to every generation in a pure enough form to engender trustworthiness in the message which they contain. The King James versions from 1611 to 1769 and The New King James Version, as well as some other versions listed below, have been faithful to this trust.

II. TRANSLATORS AND REVISERS OF THE 1611 AND 1982 VERSIONS

In January, 1604, King James, the ruler of the British Isles, assigned fifty-four eminent scholars the task of revising the Bishop’s Bible. Because of death and voluntary withdrawal, only forty-seven men were involved in the completion of the task. Those selected were Oxford and Cambridge University professors, Anglican (Church of England) and Puritan ministers, and the most “learned” men of the “church.”

Those who were commissioned by King James to work on a new and improved Bible version were men with special skills and learning in Hebrew and Greek. Also, they were from the established (state) church, although some had Puritan leanings. In a sense their Bible was to be a Church of England version. All of them had to have the approval of the king and the Church of England hierarchy.
On the other hand, out of more than 130 scholars, editors, and church leaders enlisted to work on The New King James Version, 119 persisted in completing the task. Before they were commissioned each one had to sign a statement of faith declaring belief that the “Scriptures in their entirety are the uniquely inspired Word of God, free from error in their original autographs.” Those who were selected represented a multiplicity of religious backgrounds–Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Assembly of God, Nazarene, Churches of Christ, and others.

In spite of the careful planning, the backing of the king’s authority, and the care with which the 54 translators were selected, the original King James Version of 1611 took about forty years to become established. It met with heavy competition from the Geneva Version. This was the Bible favored by Queen Elizabeth and the Puritans, and also the one brought by the Pilgrims to America in 1620. Between 1611-1982 about 250 different versions of the Bible have been offered to the public. The 1769 King James Version remains the best seller. As a fifth revised edition of the King James, The New King James Version of 1982 will also face competition. How long will it take for it to be accepted?

III. WORD AND PHRASE DIFFERENCES OF THE 1769 AND 1982 VERSIONS

It has already been pointed out that there were approximately 24,000 differences found in the first four major revisions of the King James Bible. With each new version corrections were made in punctuation and sometimes alterations of the text. It took time and change to give us the improved King James Bible in common use today.

The New King James Version contains every verse of the original 1611 translation of the Old and New Testaments and is based upon the same ancient texts. It conforms to the literary style of the 1611 Bible. The sequence and identity of the words and phrases of the new edition are much clearer, yet they hold closely to the traditional structure. While modernizing the vocabulary, the scholars maintained the lyrical quality and the graceful, often musical arrangement of the original King James. With remarkable ease one can listen to the reading of either version while following the other. As to word order, the policy of The New King James Version was that the more famous a passage is, the less change allowed, such as John 3:16 and Psalm 23. Theological terms were retained in their original form throughout. Important words such as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption are an integral part of Christian vocabulary and therefore were not changed.

In The New King James Version archaisms have been removed and the original meanings of words have been restored. Updated verb forms, pronouns, punctuation and format improve clarity without detracting from the literary excellence for which the King James Version is known. “Sheweth” reads “shows.” “Thee,” “thou” and “thy” read “you” and “your.” When referring to God, “You” and “Your” are capitalized.

Following are some of the changes made in the Old Testament to improve clarity. The mythical dragon (Job 30:29), cocatrice (Isa. 11:8), and unicorn (Job 39:9) have all rightly been replaced with their proper meanings of jackals, “viper,” and “wild ox.” The obsolete “fourscore and five” is updated to the modern equivalent of “eighty-five” (2 Kings 19:35), and the same procedure is followed for other outdated expressions of numbers. Verses such as Prov. 27:16, “Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand bewrayeth him,” which is quite obscure in the King James Version have been made understandable in a vivid way such as in this verse by “whoever restrains her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand” in The New King James Version.

In the Old Testament good examples of the change from archaic words that are no longer understood are found in Exodus 25-28; “knops” is made clear by “knobs,” 25:33-35; “taches,” by” clasps,” 26:6,11; fillets, by “bands,” 27:10,11; “ouches of gold,” by “settings of gold,” 28:13,14;and “habergeon,” by “coat of mail,” 28:32. There are many other such Old Testament improvements in language form, but these will suffice for examples.

The New Testament of The New King James Version also is made more clear to the average reader. Acts 28:13 is a good example of the type of revision made. The King James Versionreads: “And from thence we fetched a compass.” The New King James Version reads: “From there we circled round.”

In the New Testament “letteth” and “let” of 2 Thes. 2:7 are made understandable by today’s opposite meaning, “restrains” and “restrain.” “Charity” of I Cor. 13 reads “love” as it appeared in the Tyndale Bible before King James, “sheweth” is “show” and “Holy Ghost” is “Holy Spirit.” Over 200 words of the King James Bible before 1982 have changed their meanings, some to the very opposite.
The New Testament quotation of Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive,” is made even more emphatic in The New King James Version by conforming to the ancient manuscripts in saying, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive.” This even more clearly affirms the virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Passages expressing the deity of Christ remain virtually unchanged from the 1769 version. In Romans 1:3 a slight change is made in an effort to express the Greek original in more meaningful English terms. The Greek literally translates “who was born” of the seed of David in this newest King James instead of “which was made” in the King James Version of 1769.

In Philippians 2:10, where the Greek does not distinguish between personal and impersonal things, the old translation reads, “of ‘things’ in heaven, and ‘things’ in earth, and ‘things’ under the earth.” The context, however, clearly suggests that people are in view (every knee should bow, and every tongue confess). The New King James Version, therefore, translates as follows: “of’those’ in heaven, and of ‘those’ on earth, and of ‘those’ under the earth.” In Philippians 2:8 the words of the original version, “And being found in ‘fashion’ as a man,” are changed to–“And being found in ‘appearance’ as a man.” This seems to be an improvement by conforming more to the Greek schemati (outward form, likeness, nature, etc.).

The new version consistently translates hilasterion and its derivatives as “propitiation” and not sometimes as “reconciliation” like the 1769 version (Heb. 2:17). A change was made in the somewhat difficult phrase of Romans 3:25 which from the Greek literally reads, “through the passing over of the having occurred previously sins.” The reading from the 1769 version, “for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,” has been changed to–“because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” thus conforming more to the Greek.
In realms of eschatology, the Greek word apokalupsis, translated in the 1769 as either “coming,” “appearing,” or “revelation,” is consistently rendered “revelation” in The New King James Version (See I Pet. 1:7; I Cor. 1:7).

IV. VALUE OF THE 1769 AND 1982 KING JAMES VERSIONS

The Authorized (King James) Version became the English Bible of the vast majority of the Bible-reading public. It has been the Bible for preaching, memorization, commentaries, and most other Biblical pursuits short of scholarly studies in the original tongues. In the King James Version we have an English masterpiece on the level of the ancient Septuagint for the Greek-speaking world and of the Vulgate for the Latin-speaking world.

However, the King James Version has many real difficulties of comprehension for young people who do not have a solid foundation in English literature. The New King James Version also faces some difficulties with regard to commentaries and concordances adapted to the original King James. Even though the word order in both versions is very similar, there will be small adjustments in memorization, responsive readings, and other liturgical activities.

It may be said that The New King James Version from the standpoint of being written more in the common language of today is an improvement over the 1769 version. Many things that would be a mystery or misunderstood by the new Bible student and ordinary layman are made clear in the new version. Ministers would not have to explain that certain words in the time of King James meant the opposite of what they mean today, as “letteth” and “let” in 2 Thes. 2:7. The new version correctly changes “letteth” to “restrains.”
Some Bible students would consider the style and format of The New King James Version to be an improvement, while others might not. The traditional verse divisions were retained, but paragraphs are indicated by verse numbers in bold face italics. The words of Christ are in red, but it is a brick tone that is less blatant. There are not as many italicized words as in the original King James, but use of italics was to denote words supposed to make the English read more smoothly. Old Testament quotations are printed in oblique type with the reference in a footnote.

The New King James Version uses a modern format to enhance the clarity of the message. Non-interpretative subject headings identify topics and transitions in Biblical context, making those portions much easier to locate. Distinctive indentations are used to set apart specialized literature, such as the Ten Commandments, and to highlight the important elements of that section. Poetic passages, as the Psalms, are written in poetic form.

A definite advantage in The New King James Version is that it shows textual variants in the Majority Text and Nestle’s Text in footnotes at the bottom of the page, the most complete set of footnotes found in any English Bible today. This is very important to the serious Bible student. By way of comparison this fifth version of the King James Bible is as much the 1769 version presently used as the 1769 edition was the 1611 edition. Changes have occurred in all the improved versions from the second edition shortly after 1611 to the current edition in 1982. All are King James versions and might be considered revisions of their predecessors as the 1611 version was of the Bishop’s Bible. There is no reason why they should not be compatible and exist side by side. “Compatible” means capable of existing together in harmony. The New King James Version may never replace the Authorized Version, but they can exist together in harmony until a better version is found.

The special study committee does not recommend any substitute for the 1769 King James Bible now in use. However, in all candidness the committee must say that The New King James Version poses no danger to the reader. It seems to be as faithful to the Hebrew and Greek texts as the earlier versions. It compares favorably verse by verse with the 1769 Authorized Version. Its publishers claim that it has preserved “the 1611 King James for the 20th century readers without violating the theological integrity, the majestic grandeur, and the lyrical cadence of the original.” This may well be true.
For those Bible readers who want to use or only occasionally refer to a modern language version, the special committee can honestly recommend The New King James Version to be safe for their pursuit of divine truth.

V. EVALUATION OF SOME MODERN POPULAR VERSIONS

In the last thirty years more than forty modern language versions of the Bible have been published. Some of them are reliable for the Christian to use, and others are not. It is the belief of the Seminary special faculty committee that BMA Baptists want in a Bible what God literally said and all that He inspired men to write, but not what some person or persons supposed God meant to say. The following lists are incomplete, but they will give some idea of how different versions may be approached.

VERSIONS THAT SHOULD BE APPROACHED WITH CAUTION

l. The Revised Standard Version was the work of thirty-two scholars. First published was the New Testament in 1946, and after six years of editing it was followed by the whole Bible in 1952. Although the revisers made use of Masoretic Hebrew, the Aramaic text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and of more ancient manuscripts than those available in 1611, as well as a large body of Greek papyri that helped to recover more of the original Greek text and to make consideration of its language more certain, this version still has its failings.
One of the disputed features of the Revised Standard Version was the unwise translation of the Hebrew almah in Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” instead of “virgin.” Also, when the revisers believed that the original reading was not found in either the traditional Hebrew text or in the ancient versions, they arrived at their supposed reading by conjectural reconstruction. This was assuming too much liberty in dealing with God’s Word, and it makes that version even more unacceptable.

2. The Good News Bible, or Good News for Modern Man, was the work of Robert G. Bratcher and a Translations Committee of the American Bible Society. The New Testament was issued in 1966. Although the language used is clear, natural, simple, and ambiguous, it is not a word for word translation, but is what some call an equivalent translation. As was planned, changes have been made in all four of the later editions, with as many as 700-800 in the second. It is partly oriented to please the Women’s Liberation movement by changing the words “man” and “men” to impersonal terms where the male is not the sole intent.

3. The New English Bible was begun as a cooperative effort of churches in the British Isles. After thirteen years of work the New Testament was published in 1961, with the whole Bible following in 1970. The ambitious goal of the translators was that of producing a completely new translation” of the best available Greek text into the current speech of our time, and a rendering that should harvest the gains of recent biblical scholarship.”  This version makes frequent use of paraphrase. The revisers chose what they deemed the best rendering when more than one interpretation was possible. Readers, especially those who are not familiar with the original languages, are at the mercy of random choice. The scholars depended more upon other versions than earlier English Bibles did. They unjustifiably practiced giving Jewish feasts the names of Christian festivities, such as “Whitsuntide” (I Cor. 16:8). In several places they also have made changes in expressions that refer to days of the week; for example, “Saturday” instead of “Sabbath” (Acts 20:7); “Sunday” instead of “first day of the week” (Luke 24:1) and “Friday” instead of “day of preparation ” (Matthew 27:62). The free method of translation rather than word for word was used by them. Sometimes many words were used to translate just one word from the Hebrew or Greek texts. It took twenty English words to translate the nine words of Job 9:34. This Bible uses both paraphrase and free translation methods, thus making it less dependable than some others.

4. The Living Bible Paraphrased was the result of sixteen years of work by Kenneth N. Taylor. Portions of it were released from 1962 to 1970, and the whole Bible was published in 1971. Taylor planned to make continuous revisions of this work and to offer them to the public. It is difficult even to think of this as being a Bible, since it is merely a paraphrase. Bible paraphrases like this and The Good News Bible should always be used in conjunction with a bona fide and acceptable version such as those mentioned below.
In a paraphrase something is said in different words than those found in the original, thus restating the thoughts of an original author in order to arrive at what he meant. The Living Bible Paraphrased can hardly be the Word of God although it may contain portions of Scripture. It is what it declares itself to be–a paraphrase of the Bible, and not a translation.

5. The Reader’s Digest Bible was published in 1982. Its basic text is the Revised Standard Version, about forty percent of which was left out. In the preface the editors state that it is not intended to replace the full biblical text. They state that they were concerned “with every individual word of the text every phrase, sentence, paragraph and chapter, as well as the larger portions or blocks of texts in relation to both the immediate context and to the whole.”
Reverend Bruce M. Metzger, the General Editor says, “Nothing has been changed. . . nothing added to or removed from the text that in any way diminished its spirit, its teachings or the familiar ring of its language.” He also certifies “that the work has been thoroughly objective, without bias toward or against any particular sect or beliefs.” Some regard it as made up of Bible excerpts. However, it is what it claims to be–a free digest of the Bible.

VERSIONS THAT MAY BE APPROACHED WITH CONFIDENCE

1. The New International Bible of 1978 is included here because of its popularity and its reverential approach to the Word of God. It is too good a work to be placed with the adverse versions listed above. However, due to its theory of “dynamic equivalent” translation, its reliability as an authoritative text might be questioned by some Bible scholars.
This version was the work of fifteen scholars, the Committee of Bible Translations, from various denominations. The New Testament portion was issued in 1973, and the whole Bible was published in 1978. This version, designed for old or young and for private or public reading, is easy to read and comprehend. Masoretic manuscripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient versions were used in the work. It seems to have been faithful in preserving both the theology and other subject matter of the originals. It has done much to update the language to that of modern usage. Awkward constructions are few in number. Its approach is straightforward, clear and reliable. Colloquial expressions are usually avoided in order to maintain its dignity as the Word of God.

2. The American Standard Version was begun in 1872 by a group of American scholars representing nine denominations. The object was “to make a good translation better, and to bring it up to the present standard of Biblical scholarship.” After twenty-nine years of work this Bible was published in 1901. Variant readings of the Greek text were discussed and studied by the revisers, and the oldest manuscripts were consulted in preparing the finished product. Although it inconsistently translates some Hebrew and Greek words into different but synonymous English words, it has changed a number of archaic English words for the better, while at the same time being faithful to the subject matter and the original texts.

3. The New American Standard Bible, the work of fifty-eight anonymous scholars, appeared as the New Testament in 1963 and as the whole Bible in 1970. It was an improved version of the American Standard Version, making use of the Dead Sea Scrolls which were not available at the time of the earlier version. Both, however, followed versional readings less than the Revised Standard Version did. As a whole the New American Standard Bible makes use of grammatically correct, contemporary English. It appears to be a faithful version and is a conservative and literal word for word translation of the Scriptures.

4. The New King James Version has already been discussed. The New Testament portion was published in 1979 and the whole Bible in 1982. The 119 scholars working on it were under the auspices of the American division of Thomas Nelson and Sons. The new American company which was purchased from the English based publishers was much more conservative and turned to the King James Bible for the basis of its new version. The scholars had as their goal to allow only minor word changes from the original languages and avoided paraphrasing and what some call “thought translation.” They showed profound reverence for the text and form of the 1611 version in its presently used 1769 edition. The New King James is a Bible for conservative, Bible-believing Christians.

5. Although the original King James Bible, also called Authorized Version, is not a recent work, it is included here as one of the versions that can be approached with confidence, in spite of its archaic words, many of which have lost their original meaning.
When the 1611 version was published, it employed the English of the Elizabethan Age. Because of the rapid change of that language and its increased vocabulary, some words that lost their past meaning had to be replaced in later versions. A few of the words that disappeared from the common language of the people were anon, fain, goodman, graff, list, mete, pap, script, strait, trow, wist and wot. They were omitted from later versions. The English language continues its rapid change and at such a rate that it is hard for modern language versions to keep up.

CONCLUSION AND ACCREDITATION

The purpose of the original King James Bible of 1611 was to produce a Bible in the language of the common people, one that even children and the uneducated could understand. If King James and the scholars whom he commissioned to translate the 1611 version of the Holy Bible were now living and in similar authority as then, he would authorize them to translate the Bible into the language of our time, so that even the poorly educated could read and better understand it. That was their goal then, and it would be their goal now.
In spite of other good and accurate versions, the nine BMA Seminary professors who worked on this study do not recommend any substitute for the 1769 version of the 1611 King James Bible, but for those Bible readers and students who want to use or occasionally refer to a modern language version, they can honestly express that some modern versions, including The New KingJames Version, are safe for the pursuit of divine truth.

Scholarly Bible study will not stop at present versions and their sources, but will make use of the oldest and most recently discovered manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was written, and of even older manuscripts than those now available as they are discovered. One day some of the original autographs may be found.
So far as we can determine, none of the above versions that can be approached with confidence change the theology or subject matter contained in the most ancient and reliable Bible manuscripts. From the time of the original autographs; the Bible has gone through many stylistic and word changes and has been translated into many languages, but it still remains the Word of God wherever men possess it and read it.

Prepared for B.M.A. of America by Committee on Bible Versions,
Louis F. Asher
Wilbur K. Benningfield
James C. Blaylock
Dr. Philip R. Bryan
Edwin Crank
Dr. Kenny Lee Digby
Dr. John W. Duggar
Dr. Buster Ray Jackson
Dr. Gregory W. Parsons