The suggestion has been made that the article on "The First Christian Convention" in Unsearchable Riches for March, 1953, ought to be answered. For some time past I have felt this also; but I have been very reluctant to make the attempt, for the matter is much more difficult than it seems at first sight and the issues deeper and more complicated. At the outset, we are confronted by two serious problems.
The first is the charge that James corrupted the text of Amos 9:11-13. A charge of that sort is so easy to make, and so superficial. Before it can be sustained, the following are essential requirements.
(1) An accurate and concordant translation of every
passage in the Hebrew Scriptures which is quoted or referred
to in the Greek Scriptures.
(2) A similar translation of these passages as rendered in
the Septuagint, the early translation of the Hebrew Scriptures
(3) A thorough examination of these, not only in bulk but
also in groups; as used by the Lord Jesus Himself, and by
each separate speaker and writer in the Greek Scriptures. This
involves an examination of each, with classification, tabulation
and analysis of the various sorts of divergences from the
Then, and then only, can we determine accurately whether James' quotation differs from the others in such a way as to justify describing it as a corruption.
Even so, the further question of inspiration raises itself. These men were all speaking or writing what was destined to be Scripture. In other words, the Holy Spirit was, in some measure at least, behind their utterances, even when their actions were not in line with God's declared will.
The classic example of this is the advice of Caiaphas to the Sanhedrim in John 11:49-53; a matter about which the late Rev. William Sewell, D.D., devoted some twenty-four pages of his very fine book "The Microscope of the New Testament" (Published by Rivingtons of London, Oxford and Cambridge in 1878). It is impossible to quote here more than part of his summary (p. 263).
"Caiaphas' words were a prophecy. Every detail which he may have pointed out as intended to be realised in the death of that human victim we know was realised. Every hope which he held out was fulfilled. Unconsciously to himself he was foretelling the whole of Christ's atoning death; and, as in the case of Balaam and of Saul, there may have been, even in the wicked Caiaphas, an overruling power which thus compelled him to speak the truth. But the suggestion itself, must not this have come from the source of all evil? Has not Satan from the first made the misinterpretation of Scripture one of his greatest engines of seduction and mischief? And lastly, if underlying the true view commonly received, there does lie the other which removes difficulties not removed by the ordinary view; if both are equally supported by accurate grammatical interpretation; if, according to this second view, our Lord was not merely tried and condemned as a malefactor, but actually and intentionally sacrificed as a human victim,—so that the term victim and sacrifice, applied to our Lord's Death upon the Cross, are no figurative terms but simply and literally true; if this is the case, it will show that the more we scrutinise Holy Writ, the more intently we bring the microscope to bear upon its jots and tittles, the more we shall discover multitudes, indeed, of new truths, but those truths also old truths,—nothing new, to contravene the old, only to illustrate and confirm it."
Here I must leave these startling ideas for the consideration of my readers, pointing out, however, that if the recorded utterances of these men are a true part of Scripture; how can we rightly aver that anyone of them, even Caiaphas, was corrupting Scripture when uttering them?
The subject of quotations in the Greek Scriptures from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint has no doubt received attention; but whether any attempt has been made to study it concordantly and scientifically is doubtful.
The second difficulty, for me, at any rate, is that the author of the article and I do not speak the same language. We cannot discuss this question scripturally if one party insists on using such unscriptural terms as "the kingdom ecclesia." I do not know what is meant by saying that Cornelius "was saved under kingdom conditions" or that he "presages the salvation of the nations when the kingdom comes"; for in him the apostle Peter unlocked the Kingdom to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles are still entering in without any hindrance or need to become proselytes of Israel. On the contrary, only when the earthly Kingdom is about to be set up will Peter's deed be reversed, and then the only way for the Gentiles into it will be as before Peter acted. Once more, too, I must protest against this misuse of the word "nations," Paul had no apostleship to "the nations," for he was not apostle to one of them, Israel. His apostleship was to the Gentiles, as distinct from Israel. I have already gone over this ground in detail, and my case remains unanswered.
I, too, like to see a teacher a bit modest in his assertions; particularly in handling a problem which is very complex and difficult, and about which the last word certainly has yet to be said. Anyhow, I propose to remain modest enough to decline to publish any solution of this problem until I have found one which will bear critical examination. It would be well for us all if others would do likewise. Far too many people are content with the first apparently plausible solution of a problem of Scripture which comes into their minds. Such shallowness works no good.
Recently I was studying an article full of quotations from the Prophets in the A.V. (King James); but without the slightest indication of awareness that there might be any doubt at all about their accuracy, that the Hebrew text is uncertain, that the Septuagint Greek text conflicts with it in a very great number of places, and that no version of either has yet been published which can claim to be concordant. Yet he went on happily building on a quicksand.
Anyone who wishes to find out something of the difficulties which beset our present problem should study Lightfoot's book on "Galatians." Under Gal. 1:19 he poses the question: "Is James here styled an Apostle or not?" His cautious verdict is: "It seems that St. James is here called an Apostle, though it does not therefore follow that he was one of the Twelve." The C.V. rendering leaves no doubt of its concurrence, for it reads: "Yet I did not become acquainted with any other one of the apostles, except James the brother of the Lord." Lightfoot adds his opinion that the plural in the corresponding account (Acts 9:27) "is also in favour of this sense, but this argument must not be pressed." His discussion of over eight pages on "The name and office of an Apostle" is fair and lucid and well worth close study. In a footnote about 1. Cor. 15:7 he says that in this passage "St. Paul certainly appears to include James among the Apostles." See also his remarks on 1. Cor. 9:5 there; his very lengthy discussion about the brethren of the Lord and also "The later visit of St. Paul to Jerusalem," all most important and instructive.
Here the problem must be left for further light. To charge James with "usurping authority" and "crass corruption of the Hebrew Scriptures" is to take a very serious step warranted only if completely supported by the whole of the known facts.
R. B. WITHERS. Last updated 11.4.2006