New Age Bible Versions
by H. Wayne House, Paul Carden, Marian Bodine and Rich Poll
A Summary Critique: New Age Bible Versions,
G. A. Riplinger
(A. V. Publications, 1993)
Another book against modern versions of the Bible has entered the marketplace.
Like previous works by King James Version (KJV)-only advocates, it argues for the
KJV and/or majority text-type as being truer to the original manuscripts than the
modern critical Greek texts and their underlying textual traditions. It goes beyond
previous works, however, by developing a conspiracy theory for the KJV-only
view. Author G. A. Riplinger believes that lying behind modern versions (especially
the NASB and NIV, apparently) is New Age influence.
Until the late 19th century, the texts used by scholars generally were built on a
manuscript tradition begun in the seventh century of the Christian era (though I
would concede that some readings found in this tradition date back before the
fourth century). With the discovery of older Greek manuscripts, and other New
Testament manuscripts, critical texts began to be built on manuscripts developed in
the fourth and fifth centuries -- in addition to a number of ancient papyri, some of
which date into the second century. Riplinger rejects these earlier manuscripts and
urges us to return to the Bible of the precritical era.
If there is anything good to say about Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions
(hereafter NABV), it is that the book is not any longer than it is and that the
foolishness of its various claims are transparent when one takes the time to study
them. Unfortunately, NABV has received considerable praise from many popular
authors who either did not really take the time to evaluate the book or apparently
share Riplinger's ignorance of the issues of textual criticism and translation.
NABV is replete with logical, philosophical, theological, biblical, and technical errors.
Riplinger lacks the proper training to write this book (her M.A. and M.F.A. in "Home
Economics" notwithstanding). Many of her errors arise from a lack of
understanding of Old and New Testament textual criticism as well as biblical and
theological studies. In a two-hour debate I had with her, I found her very able to
articulate her position. But she repeatedly mispronounced terms used by biblical
scholars and did not seem to understand the development of the textual tradition
from the Byzantine/"majority" manuscripts to the Erasmian text used by the
translators of the KJV. Moreover, I had to ask her four times before she
hesitatingly admitted that she really could not read Greek.
A seminary degree is not required to understand the matters of Bible transmission
and translation. But one must learn the history and methodology of textual
transcription and transmission, and gain a good grasp of the Hebrew and Greek
languages, before one "pontificates" on the subject as Riplinger has done. Simply
comparing the KJV with the NIV and NASB through endless charts does not prove a
thing. She needs to demonstrate that the specific translations she accepts are
really better textual renditions than the alternatives she rejects, rather than merely
assuming the superiority of the majority text type or the KJV.
I have no personal interest in defending the NIV or NASB. I prefer to use the NKJV
(New King James Version), though I adopt a more eclectic view of textual criticism
than its translators, who hold to the majority text theory.
In order to do justice to a review of NABV in such short space, I will categorize the
types of errors Riplinger makes throughout her work and then provide an
illustration of each.
THE APPEAL TO DIVINE AUTHORITY
Riplinger commits a logical fallacy commonly employed by those whose arguments
are weak: an appeal to authority. In a newsletter, she explains her reason for
writing the book and claims some sense of divine inspiration for her work: "Daily,
during the six years needed for this investigation, the Lord miraculously brought the
needed materials and resources -- much like the ravens fed Elijah. Each discovery
was not the result of effort on my part, but of the direct hand of God -- so much
so that I hesitated to even put my name on the book. Consequently, I used G. A.
Riplinger, which signifies to me, God and Riplinger -- God as author and Riplinger as
Certainly we should not credit God with being a participant in the writing of NABV
unless we are prepared to affirm that God commits the kind of errors manifestly
obvious in her book. This I am unwilling to do.
Another example of this approach may be found in a debate between Riplinger and
James White, where, upon being challenged on her acrostic algebra, she claimed it
was given to her by God. Note her method, which involves deleting the
common letters of NASV and NIV, and then deleting the letters A and V from what
Step 1: (NASV-NIV)-AV = X
Step 2: (NASV-nIv)-AV = X
Step 3: (ASI+NV)-AV = X
Step 4: aSI--NV-AV = X
Step 5: SIN = X
The success of this arbitrary method of determining truth depends on using
NASV rather than NASB (the customary designation for the New American
Standard Bible), and using AV rather than KJV (the customary designation for
the King James Version). When asked about this alternation, Riplinger said God
calls the NASB the NASV.
One may construct a similar "acrostic" to Riplinger's but have far different
results: Rather than using two versions, however, let us use seven (the perfect
number of God): Cunard's Authorized (CA), King James II (KJ2), Hayman's
Epistles (HE), Revised English Bible (REB), New International Version (NIV), New
American Standard Bible (NASB), and Barclay's New Testament (BNT). In
omitting all the letters in common one is left with CKJHRIVST-KJV, and thus
CHRIST. Using Riplinger's logic these versions must be from God.
MISUNDERSTANDING BASIC THEOLOGICAL DEBATE
A major error Riplinger makes is impugning the theological integrity of
evangelical scholars by identifying their thinking with New Age ideology. She
does this without realizing, apparently, that the views she criticizes are
representative of theological positions held by Christian theologians and
laypeople for much of the history of the church.
Riplinger, for example, charges Edwin Palmer, executive secretary of the NIV
committee, with denying that the Holy Spirit participated in the conception
(begetting) of Jesus, seeking to equate his views with Mormon theology (p.
344). The context of Palmer's statement, "The Holy Spirit did not beget the
Son," however, indicates that he was speaking of the eternal begetting of the
Son from the Father within the Trinity, not the physical conception of the
Second Person as the man Jesus. Her quote from Brigham Young, however,
speaks of the physical conception of Jesus through Mary. This is careless
scholarship or confused theology at best, but it may be outright deception on
her part to prove her ill-founded theory about the supposed heresies of the NIV.
When Palmer does speak of the conception of Jesus Christ, he clearly indicates
that the Holy Spirit was personally involved:
The Holy Spirit was needed at the very start of Jesus' human life, at his
incarnation. By the word incarnation we mean that act by which the second
Person of the Trinity, remaining God, 'became flesh and lived for a while among
us' (John 1:14). This act was effected by the Holy Spirit, as is seen by both
Matthew's statement that Mary 'was found to be with child through the Holy
Spirit' (1:18), and the angel's announcement to Mary that the 'Holy Spirit will
come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you' (Luke
1:35). The Holy Spirit is the cause of the conception of Jesus. He is the one,
and not the Father nor the Son, let alone Joseph, who planted the seed of life in
a mysterious way in Mary's womb.
QUOTING INDIVIDUALS OUT OF CONTEXT <