Friday, March 23, 2018

Baptist Voices: VSA to the RSV

Voices Stating Aversion to the Revised Standard Version

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, was published in 1952. It was met with the plaudits of many and the censure of others. This seems to coincide with the push of publishing documents supporting the King James Bible. “However, one must not assume that fundamentalists began to preach King James Onlyism because they rejected the RSV,” says James D. Price. “The rejection was because of a theologically liberal bias in the RSV, not to textual issues or a sudden need to have a final authority in English.”[i] On the other hand Jeff Straub writes, “Because of the populist nature of the KJV-only movement within fundamentalism, it is not entirely easy to determine when this began to surface within the large and rather amorphous movement of self-identified fundamentalists.” He believes the books by Jasper James Ray (God Wrote Only One Bible, 1955) and Edward F. Hills (The King James Version Defended, 1956) “were probably motivated by the recent publication of the Revised Standard Version.” There certainly was a flurry of activity concerning the RSV and KJV Bibles about this time, possibly beginning with the pamphlets “The New Blasphemous Bible” by Wichita, Kansas Baptist preacher Gerald B. Winrod and “The Eye Opener” by Oregonian J. J. Ray.[ii]

According to Daniel Wallace, “[The RSV] is in fact the most hated English translation of all time.” In November 1952, Martin Luther Hux, pastor of Temple Baptist Church of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, shocked many by announcing his intentions to burn a copy of the Revised Standard Bible.[iii] Others followed suit, and “One straw in the wind of public reaction was the adoption by the city council of Crestview, Fla., or an ordinance prohibiting the burning of the Revised Standard Version...which prescribed a $500 fine or 90 days in jail...”[iv] Another controversy involved the Revised Standard Version ended a church up in court in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[v]

Here is some “odds and ends” history of what a few Baptists thought about it.[vi]

American Baptist Association
“Whereas, the religious worlds is divided into two schools of thought or two parts, the liberal or modernistic and the Fundamental or Conservative, the former denying the Virgin birth of Jesus, the verbal inspiration of the Bible, etc., and the latter accepting both as Cardinal truth and,
            “Whereas, the modernistic group have authorized the recent translation of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible and,
            “Whereas, the Revised Standard Version seems to definitely minimize the truth of the Deity of Jesus; Be it therefore Resolved that this messenger body go on record as opposing the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.”[vii]

Arkansas State Association of Free Will Baptists
RESOLUTION NO. 5. Be it resolved, that we the Arkansas State Association of Free Will Baptist go on record as denouncing the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and that we Petition the American Bible Society to discontinue publishing or distributing same. And a copy of this Resolution be sent to our National paper, the Contact for publication.”[viii]

Baptist Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention
“The Sunday School Board plans to continue the use of the King James Version as the basic text of all its publications. The blessing of God has been upon this Version…No one need have any uneasiness about the fidelity of the Sunday School Board to the Bible and to the faith and convictions of our Baptist people.”[ix] [This was neither a rejection of the Revised Standard Version nor a “King James Only” statement. It was a practical, and probably disingenuous, move to not anger its base who preferred the KJV.]
BMA of Texas resolves against RSV
Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Nov 1952

Bible Baptist Church, North Miami, Florida
In December 1952 George E. Ziemer, pastor of Bible Baptist Church of North Miami, said he wouldn’t “burn a copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible today after all—unless his congregation wants him to...He does intend, however, to denounce the translation as ‘The New Blasphemous Bible,’ he said, and to distribute a pamphlet bearing the same title.”[x]

Big Bear Missionary Creek Association (Northwest Alabama)
At the 118th Session, 1953: “The Committee on Publications made a strong report recommending the King James Version of the Bible to be the rule and guide for the churches. The committee disapproved of the new standard revised Bible of 1952. This revised edition had been studied by Elder Silas Lang, at the association's request, and his recommendation was that it should not be accepted. This was the feeling of the association, too, according to the records.”[xi]

Fundamental Baptists, Jacksonville, Florida
“Fundamentalist Baptist pastors of Jacksonville have rejected the new Revised Standard Version of the Bible because they say it is ‘the attempt of the devil to discredit the holy word of God.’ Their opposition to the new translation was set forth in a resolution adopted at a recent meeting of fundamentatlist preachers and is signed by Dr. R. D. Ingle, and the Revs. Lunsford Heath, J. A. Atkinson and James K. Miller…Ingle said 14 churches in this area with a membership of around 5,000 were represented at the session when the resolution was adopted.”[xii]

General Association of Regular Baptists, Robert T. Ketcham
“Referring to the [Revised Standard] Bible, [Robert T.] Ketcham said, ‘We don’t call it a version. We call it a perversion.’ It is ‘treacherous’ he said, because it eliminates the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ and substitutes the words ‘young woman’ for ‘virgin’.”[xiii]

Missouri Baptist State Association, Minutes of the 1955 Annual Session, 1955, p. 14
“Resolution. Let it be resolved that we as messengers of the churches comprising the Missouri Baptist State Association express our disapproval of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible as a standard of worship, along with any other versions which tend to deny, or question the virgin birth of Christ, His blood atonement, or any other of the fundamentals for which Baptists have stood since the days of Christ.
“Be it also resolved that we express that it is our desire that the teachings and practices of our missionaries and the editor of the Missouri Missionary Baptist be in keeping with this resolution.
“Let it further be resolved that we request that this resolution be printed in the Missouri Missionary Baptist.”

Phoenix Evangelical Ministers Association, Phoenix, Arizona
In 1952, LeRoy D. Thomas, pastor of Palmcroft Baptist Church, was elected chairman of the Phoenix Evangelical Ministers Association. In their December meeting, “The Association adopted a resolution at the meeting which renounced the new revised standard version of the Bible as being ‘modernistic and Unitarian in its handling of many vital portions of the Bible.’”[xiv]
Pastor Obie Barton leads Fellowship Baptist Church (BMAT) in a Rally to support the KJV and oppose the RSV
He appeals to those who believe “in the Old Time King James Bible”
Southern Baptist Church, unidentified, in Missouri
In September 1955 an unnamed Training Union director writes to ask a question of R. L. Hudson of Word and Way about “the new version.” “My church has split over the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. When the new [Southern Baptist] literature came out with the picture of the new version on the back of one of the quarterlies our church went wild and voted out the whole Training Union literature. Our pastor led in the movement and the church voted not to send any more mission money.”[xv]

Tennessee Baptist Convention (Southern Baptist)
“Upon the publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1952, C. W. Pope received at the TBC office numerous letters from Baptists who were greatly disturbed over the new version. Some of the letters were petitions, and others told of churches which had withdrawn from the convention or were withholding contributions to the CP.”[xvi]

It is my opinion that King James “Only” support was not a new thing in the 1950s (or even 1930, see HERE). But the publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible – considered by many to be a liberal translation by liberal translators from a liberal publisher (National Council of Churches) – clearly gave a motive for people to study the issue and eventually turn the negative opposition to the Revised Standard Version into positive support for the King James Version.[xvii]

[i] King James Onlyism: A New Sect, James D. Price, Singapore: Saik Wah Press, 2006, p. 2
[ii] Winrod was a Baptist, and some have claimed that Ray was. The case for the latter is not clear.
[iii] “Rocky Mount Bible-Burning Set Tonight,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina) Sunday, November 30 1952, p. 1; The Rocky Mount Ministerial Association declared that none of their members had any sympathy for and part in the Bible burning episode of Hux. (“Ministers Deplore Burning Of New Bible By Local Pastor,” Rocky Mount Telegram, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Wednesday, December 3, 1952, p. 1B); According to a history of Temple Baptist Church published in The (Nashville/Rocky Mount) Graphic October 16, 1987, Hux actually on burned “…a page from Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14…”
[iv] “Fundamentalists in Bitter Attack Upon Revised Standard Version of the Bible,” Decatur Sunday Herald and Review (Decatur, Illinois), Sunday, February 1, 1953, p. 39
[v] See Reid v. Johnston -- Reid v. Johnston, 85 S.E.2d 114 (N.C. 1954); also “Text Of Judgment Rendered By Judge Paul In Rocky Mount Church Case,” Rocky Mount N.C. Evening Telegram, Thursday, December 31, 1953, p. 8, and “North Carolinians Brew Revolt In Southern Baptist Ranks,” The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) Sunday, July 23, 1955, p. 3, Section 3; William C. Lassiter, attorney and Baptist layman – speaking of Southern Baptist leaders who testified in a way to keep the North Rock Mount Church in the Baptist Convention –  wrote, “These gentlemen, in their enthusiasm over the prospects of saving an individual Baptist church ‘for the conventions,’ have repudiated and recanted some of the basic things each of them had previously written in their book which had been widely published for the education and enlightenment and guidance of ordinary Baptist laymen.”
[vi] There were Baptists who viewed the RSV positively, but that is someone else’s story to tell. For example, in “Local Minister Scores Proposal Of Rocky Mount Pastor to Burn Bible,” G. Durham Ipock, pastor of the Nashville (North Carolina) Baptist Church “described the new Revised Standard Version as ‘the best Bible news in 341 years’.” (The Nashville Graphic, Thursday, November 27,  1952, p. 1)
[vii] History of the American Baptist Association, Robert Ashcraft, editor, Texarkana: American Baptist Association, 2000, pp. 323-324; See also “Baptist’s Convention Ends With Resolution Opposing New Bible,” The Montgomery Advertiser, Friday, March 13, 1953, p. 1C
[viii] Minutes of the Fifty-Eighth Annual Session of the Arkansas State Association of Free Will Baptists, September 28-30, 1955, pp. 14-15
[ix] “A Statement About the Revised Standard Version,” Word and Way, Thursday, January 8, 1953, p. 4
[x] “Bible Burning At Church Up To The Congregation,” The Miami Daily News (Miami, Florida), Sunday, December 14, 1952, p. 12; Ziemer was a graduate of Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee, now Bob Jones University (The Miami Daily News, January 12, 1946, p. 7).
[xi] History of the Big Bear Creek Association, 1835-1977, Silas Lang & Jewel Moore, n.p., n.d., p. 100
[xii] “Fundamentalists Object to New Bible Version,” Detroit Free Press, Saturday, October 25, 1952, p. 9; Ingle was Director of Missions for the World Baptist Fellowship; the resolution was passed at the Tri-State Fellowship of Fundamental Baptists (see, e.g., “Bible Opposition Not Voiced Here,” Tallahassee Democrat, Sunday, October 12, 1952, p. 18)
[xiii] “Says New Bible Is A Perversion Of The Truth,” The Algona Upper Des Moines, Tuesday, December 16, 1952, p. 1
[xiv] “Palmcroft Pastor Heads Unit; New Bible Version Renounced,” Arizona Republic, Saturday, December 13, 1952, p. 11; “In part, the resolution reads, ‘Resolved that we, as a group of pastors, believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God and that the Authorized Version (King James) is so translated as not to destroy the original meaning of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity which according to Webster’s Dictionary are: ‘Belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, biblical miracles, especially the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ.’ The Resolution continues: ‘Resolved that we hereby reject the new modernistic, National Council of Churches’ translation, as being improperly translated.’”
[xv] “Counselor’s Corner,” Word and Way, Thursday, September 22, 1955, p. 7
[xvi] Tennessee Baptists: A Comprehensive History, 1779-1999, Albert W. Wardin, Jr., Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1999, p. 507; TBC is the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and CP is the Cooperative Program.
[xvii] It is interesting to note that many concerns voiced in Carl McIntire’s “The New Bible (Revised Standard Version): Why Christians Should Not Accept It” find voice in KJVO publications.

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