Posted by: Scott | Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When is a Newer Scofield not a Newer Scofield?

I took a friend to the Billings airport today. After she was safely through security, I had to return, on my parents’ behalf, a bag of spinach. After that, I decided that I would go to the Bible Book Store, just for the sake of doing something fun while I was in the “Big City.” I browsed through some books and made my way to the Bibles. I was shocked to discover they had a Scofield III in the ESV. Unfortunately, I could not ease my curious mind to see what this new study Bible looked like inside the cover. I meandered more and came across a similar title Scofield III KJV.

I managed to find one that I could view the inner contents of. I noticed a copyright of 2003 and wondered what textual updates had been made. I scanned to some passages I knew to be updated in the 1967 Scofield. They were all the standard KJV text! Example: prevent in 1 Thes. 4:15 was “revised” in the 1967 New Scofield to precede (which is the meaning in this text). In the Scofield III, it is back to prevent, though there is a margin note about the word meaning precede. Similarly, in the 1967 Scofield, there is a margin note indicating that in the KJV precede is translated as prevent. Confused yet? 😀

I know there are plenty of folks that will contend the 1967 New Scofield is not really a Scofield since C.I. Scofield died in the 1920’s. Usually, they will go so far as to say that the afore mentioned translation is not a KJV (even though it is translated in the vein of the KJV). That’s not the purpose of this post. However, consider the following quotes regarding the language of the people and the Bible:

  • In the present version, the language is, in general, correct and perspicuous; … in many passages uniting sublimity with beautiful simplicity.  In my view, the general style of the version ought not to be altered.  But, in the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place, which, in particular passages, impair the beauty; in others, obscure the sense, of the original languages.  …  they do not present to the reader the Word of God…” (Noah Webster, in the preface to his 1833 KJV revision)
  • For when your Highnesse had once out of deepe iudgment apprehended, how conuenient it was, That out of the Originall sacred tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our owne and other forreigne Languages, of many worthy men who went before vs, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; your Maiestie did neuer desist, to vrge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the worke might be hastened, and that the businesse might be expedited in so decent a maner, as a matter of such importance might iustly require…. (The KJV translators in the 1611 KJV Preface) [to my readers: many a time v’s were u’s and u’s were v’s and there were “extra” silent letters; thus the common old-English KJV of today is not the 1611, but the 1850; see Webster’s note above]
  • When the editor was a teenager and modern translations were just becoming popular, he often thought, “Why don’t they just update the KJV, so that those who have memorized from it will not ‘lose’ their long hours of work.”  In the nearly fifty years since this thought surfaced, no one has ever attempted this specific task.

    The King James 2000 is not a new version.  It is a King James Version brought forward 400 years. … The King James 2000 will provide a version which has been, to some extent, verbally composed already.  Many pastors and other Bible readers have already exchanged “show” for “shew,” “you” for “ye,” and “know” for “wot” in their private and public readings. (KJV 2000 editor in the Preface to the KJ2000 NT)

  • The English Standard Version (ESV) stands in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations over the past half-millennium. The fountainhead of that stream was William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526; marking its course were the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the English Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). In that stream, faithfulness to the text and vigorous pursuit of accuracy were combined with simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression. Our goal has been to carry forward this legacy for a new century.

    To this end each word and phrase in the ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text. … Archaic language has been brought to current usage and significant corrections have been made in the translation of key texts. But throughout, our goal has been to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world and have defined the life and doctrine of the church over the last four centuries. (from the Preface to the ESV)

We must remember that when we are reading the Bible in English, we are reading a translation, whether it be King James, New King James, New American Standard or English Standard (a translation that corrects doctrinal errors of the Revised Standard).

I will freely admit that some translations are better than others. But, why do we worry when a word like prevent is accurately changed to precede so that the Word of God is easily read by anyone that desires to read? Please note I don’t support watering-down so that it is so simple as to have no meaning at all (i.e. The Message, et al). Why do I say all this? Well, back to the original topic, what was wrong with the 1967 Scofield? It brought the language of God’s Word up-to-date? Did Dr. Scofield ever say he would disapprove of such an act? In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, the editors of the 2003 Scofield (aka Scofield III) should have kept the 1967 foundation and built upon it. I have not throughly examined it (Scofield III), so I cannot say it is poorly or excellently done.

I’m not looking for a huge debate here (though I’ve probably already stepped into one).  What I can say (and be certain in doing so) is that these are my thoughts at the moment. Reasoned discussion is welcome.

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