Refuting the Calvinist view of Scripture in translation

The Calvinist says, “The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old,) and the New Testament in Greek, (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic”.

The first error the Calvinist makes is to claim that because God initially used Hebrew and Greek, that those languages are somehow more specially, or are the specific method of conveying the truth to the world.

That was certainly not the view of King James Bible translators, who said that the Scripture in English was the Word of God.

Furthermore, the Calvinist claims that the Hebrew and Greek have been “kept pure”, implying as if the perfect Word of God is to be found in a Hebrew Old Testament and a Greek New Testament. The problem is that various copies of the New Testament in Greek disagree with each other, and further, even copies by a Calvinist “champion” like Beza differ to other Greek copies.

Thus there is no natural reason to consider that the Greek or Hebrew Scriptures are specifically authentic over and above Scriptures in other languages. More importantly, there is no spiritual, Biblical reason to think that the real truth is in Greek, or that Greek has greater authority than other languages. No verse of Scripture backs up that idea.

The Calvinist says, “so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them.”

Thus, the ridiculous scenario of having people not use the Bible in their own language — a Reformation principle which people like Tyndale died for — but now the Calvinist has surrendered to merely the Greek. The one organisation that would in theory be pleased with that is the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Rather than finally appeal to Hebrew and Greek, the Church first appealed to them, in their primacy. This was quite properly done in the translation-to-English process as well, so that the King James Bible states that it is translated from the original tongues. But that had been accomplished before the Calvinists ever formalised their statement on the subject, meaning that they intentionally were attempting to reject the pervasive power of the King James Bible — a pervasive power that only thwarted the intentions of the Westminster Assembly, but did so providentially by other more believing Calvinists (e.g. the Cromwellians).

At this point, the Calvinist might appeal to one particular verse in order to attempt to establish the authority of the original languages:

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

This verse describes the law of God, which is indeed communicated by words and letters. But the terminology “jot and tittle” in no way limits the promise to the Hebrew alone or specifically, because that would instantly nullify the Greek, and further, the English language indeed has the words “jot” and “tittle” to describe parts of English letters. Thus, the law means its communication in words, but without limiting it to Hebrew words. And the fulfilling of the law is present and future, when Hebrew (of the Biblical kind) is practically lost, and certainly not used in an everyday sense. Thus, the fulfilling of the law can quite conceivably be argued to be occurring regardless of what language, and can also be argued to be in English, since that is common and because there is a Christian witness of the King James Bible.

The Calvinist then says, “But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them”.

A reference like Romans 16:26 would suffice to show that limitation to the original languages is entirely a false standard. Whereas, the Calvinist appeals to the fact that God’s truth should be known, as though Hebrew and Greek are still really the standards in the present background, and perhaps in some sort of future restoration.

The promised restitution of all things does not require any such idea, but can quite conceivably be the result of having English as the worldwide standard language, since it has been the English speaking Christians who have advanced so far in the doctrines of Christianity, including in Bible translation, with the King James Bible.

The Calvinist says, “therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come”, though rather, the ultimate commonality of English, and of having one final worldwide standard English Bible which is pure and perfect better fulfils their own expectations (e.g. see Matthew 24:14).

A Calvinist may then quote numerous verses from 1 Corinthians 14 in support of translation. The problem here is that Calvinists are usually the first to accuse others of not utilising correct Bible interpretation methods, and as anyone can tell, 1 Corinthians 14 was speaking about Pentecostal tongues (for prayer) and the gift of tongues (for speaking out a message in a congregation), not Bible translations.

However, it is right to use the principles involved of the areas of tongues and interpretation as an indication in regards to Bible translation, particularly that God would have people actually comprehend His Word in their language, not keeping it locked in some foreign tongue.

To a degree, there is a great irony in this, in that the Calvinists and others of that sort like to use Greek terms in their theological speaking rather than English. If they were to be consistent, they should not do this without interpretation, but then, not only are the motives for this often impure (e.g. to bamboozle others showing how “learned” they are), but they can use Greek terms to mean anything other than what the Word of God actually says (perhaps a particular problem with Calvinism).

Several verses include:

1 Corinthians 14:11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

It is quite possible to consider Greek a barbarian tongue according to what Paul said, because it is barbarian to us.

The Calvinist concludes, “that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.”

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.