Tuesday, January 05, 2021

In search of J. J. Ray

While searching for biographical information on J. J. Ray, author of God Wrote Only One Bible in 1955 (1976 edition at link), I ran across a June 14, 2004 Baptist Board thread by Paul of Eugene (Oregon) titled Can any body tell me about JJ Ray? Paul was looking for information on Ray for Maurice Robinson of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Paul and Maurice may have found what they were looking for by now. As for me, I could not find much of anything readily available, so went through and to see what I could find. In doing so, I have tried to answer some of the questions originally put forward.

...what denomination JJ Ray was...Was he also 7th day adventist? ...any other work JJ Ray was involved in besides his book. If he was a missionary or pastor in any capacity for any denomination... What was his “world-wide ministry”? I wonder if he was someone using a pseudonym? Any other Rays in that town? Children, grandchildren?

WorldCat library catalog lists only the one book by Ray. His initial foray in the subject appears to be an 8-page pamphlet titled The Eye Opener: an Unbiased, Non-sectarian Examination of the Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted in 1953. It even elicited a response in A Malicious Attack on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: A Review of the Booklet “The New Blasphemous Bible” by Dr. Gerald B. Winrod and “The Eye Opener” by J. J. Ray, by Rev. Carl J. E. Nelson of Colorado Springs, Colorado that same year. In 1978, Ray published “The New Eye Opener,” a tract apparently about the TEV Bible. Those were the extent of his writings, so far as I found. The current Eye Open Publishers of Eugene keep for sale “The New Eye Opener” and an updated version of God Wrote Only One Bible.

Readers of this book claim that Ray copied from Our Authorized Bible: Vindicated by Benjamin G. Wilkinson (1930). In The Real Eye Opener Gary R. Hudson wrote, “As I continued reading Ray’s material, something kept seeming familiar...And then it suddenly hit me—ah ha!—why, it’s old Benjamin G. Wilkinson all over again!” Wilkinson was a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, educator, and theologian. Though using the material of a Seventh-day Adventist, it is very unlikely that Ray was affiliated with that denomination. He was a preacher and moved in evangelical circles. I never found what his membership was. From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man: A Layman’s Guide to How We Got Our Bible (edited by James B. Williams) called J. J. Ray “a Baptist minister.” Unfortunately, he gives no source. The obituary of Ray’s mother says she was a Methodist. Ralph H. S. Wolverton – husband of Ray’s sister – was a Baptist pastor.

In 1920, he was the manager of a dry goods store in New Plymouth, Idaho, but by 1930, he is listed in the census as a Secretary of Home Missions. The Oregon Exchange (Newspaper Directory), Volumes 5-6 lists Ray as an owner, with Thomas Nelson, of the Junction City weekly Times in December 1922. (Nelson was Ray’s father-in-law.) In 1934, living in Junction City, Oregon, he is listed as a missionary in the Eugene City Directory. In 1936, he became the new missionary for the American Sunday School Union in the Lane Field (Lane County and vicinity). He apparently was already with the ASSU before then, and he remained with them as long as I found any such references, into the early 1960s. He preached and did Sunday School work in many differently denominations – Baptist, Bible Churches, Christian & Missionary Alliance – but there was nothing that ever identified him with any particular denomination.

According to God Wrote Only One Bible, Ray’s world-wide ministry was his publishing business. “The Eye Opener Publishers is a world-wide ministry operating on a no-profit basis. It is international and absolutely non-sectarian, serving the entire body of Christ.” (unnumbered page 2)

Eye Opener Publishers is what appears to be in Oregon considered an “Assumed Business Name.” (Apparently this is the same as what we call in Texas “Doing Business As” or DBA.) J. J. and Ruth E. Ray are mentioned as the owners of this Assumed Business Name in the Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), February 4, 1959 (Wednesday, p. 7B). There is someone still doing business as Eye Opener Publishers at present in Eugene, Oregon.

Jasper James Ray was born July 10, 1894 in Montana, the son of T. H. Ray and Sadie Glassley. He died 1 September 1, 1985 in Lane County, Oregon. Ruth Etta Nelson Ray died April 4, 1973. Their children (actually still living when Paul made his initial inquiry in 2004) are also deceased.

Both KJVO and anti-KJVO writers often cite J. J. Ray. Both sides might be surprised that he wrote the sentences below! 
“The Revision of 1881 [et al.]...are in no true sense a revision of the King James of 1611. If they were, they would follow the same Greek text, the Textus Receptus. All that they should have done, was to replace the obsolete words, correct a few errors in translation, and clarify some hard-to-be understood expressions...The crying need of today is still for an honest, trustworthy revision of the King James Bible. However, it remains the very best English translation now extant.” God Only Wrote One Bible, pp. 30-31)

Albany Democrat Herald, September 20, 1947, p. 4

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