Unitarian Bias in the ASV (1901)

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
I have always been interested in comparing Bible translations. And I have always appreciated the American Standard Version (1901). Some of my favorite theologians and pastors use(d) it (e.g., Morton Smith, Greg Bahnsen, and Al Martin). I felt that, as far as study goes, it is very useful. However, I noticed a footnote for John 9:38 a while back that really bothers me:

John 9:38 (ASV): And he said [to Jesus], Lord, I believe. And he *worshipped him.​
*The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature (as here) or to the Creator (see chapter 4:20).

I have thought and thought about this, trying to figure out a way to understand this footnote in a way that doesn't end up being blasphemous, and I just can't. No other footnote in the ASV New Testament has the "as here" when worship is ascribed to Jesus. So, I decided to compare the ASV to the English Revised Version (1881/85), of which the ASV is a revision. My horror was confirmed. The ERV has no such footnotes. What's worse, I came to find out that the ASV, even though its New Testament is a full 20 years newer than the ERV, reverses the ERV's use of the Granville Sharp construction in 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13:

2 Peter 1:1 (ERV): Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.​
2 Peter 1:1 (ASV): Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ. (Italics here are original.)​
Titus 2:13 (ERV): ...looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.​
Titus 2:13 (ASV): ...looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Underlining here is mine.)​

I am therefore rather convinced now that the ASV has significant and appalling Unitarian bias. I understand that the ASV reverted these passages to match what is found in the KJV. However, given the fact that this translation decision is a reversion of the ERV, and the fact that John 9:38 has such a horrifying footnote, and the fact that the chief New Testament reviser for the ASV was Joseph Henry Thayer (apparently a known Unitarian), I cannot help but think there is a clear bias here.

Note: Please do not instigate or engage in debate about New Testament textual issues as it regards modern English translations. This thread has nothing to do with that.
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yeah, while the reversions bother me the notes definitely are the more troublesome part.

Oddly enough there’s an independent revision of The ASV called the UASV that is even more Unitarian, minus the Gospel of John.
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
Berkhof also made use of the ASV (I've finally got around to reading his Summary of Christian Doctrine last night, and was struck by all of the "Jehovah's" in the scripture passages).

The rendering of 2 Timothy 3:16 in the ASV and RV annoys me: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness:" I'm not sure though if it is Unitarian bias, or just plain old fashioned Liberalism. Thankfully, descendant translations fix this rendering.

2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 not making use of the Granville Sharp rule bothers me less, as the Granville Sharp rule is from my perspective not a hard and fast rule that was discovered by Granville Sharp, but a translation decision that predates Granville Sharp (cf. Calvin's Commentary on Titus 2:13). The ASV's rendering matches the KJV - maybe it was reverted in the ASV for Unitarian reasons, maybe not. At least I am sure the KJV translators did not make that choice from a Unitarian standpoint!
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 not making use of the Granville Sharp rule bothers me less, as the Granville Sharp rule is from my perspective not a hard and fast rule that was discovered by Granville Sharp, but a translation decision that predates Granville Sharp (cf. Calvin's Commentary on Titus 2:13). The ASV's rendering matches the KJV - maybe it was reverted in the ASV for Unitarian reasons, maybe not. At least I am sure the KJV translators did not make that choice from a Unitarian standpoint!
Do explain.
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
Do explain.
The Granville Sharp rule is treated as a brand new grammatical rule that was discovered post-KJV (remember that grammarians don't define language, they document it), and so given as a reason to update those two passages for example. When I was reading Calvin's comments on the passage (the highlighted paragraph in the link posted, and the footnote referenced in that paragraph), I realised that it was actually a translation decision that translators predating Granville Sharp, made when dealing with Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.

In addition, Granville Sharp's research (if I remember correctly - please correct me if I am wrong) was based primarily on evidence within the LXX/NT. He obviously didn't have access to Papyri, so we can't write it off as a "new discovery", much like the lexical changes that took place post-Oxyrhynchus, etc.

My understanding is that most translators do treat it as a rule today, but personally I am not convinced. Our forefathers were not ignorant of the Granville Sharp rule due to chronological reasons, they just didn't call it that, and chose not to employ that grammatical structure when translating those texts, despite having really strong theological desires to do so.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Taylor,

A similar thing happened in the ERV—and was remarked on twice by a noted Unitarian on its Revision Committee, Dr. Vance Smith, who later wrote,

The old reading [of 1 Tim 3:16] is pronounced untenable by the Revisers, as it has long been known to be by all careful students of the New Testament…It is in truth another example of the facility with which ancient copiers could introduce the word God into their manuscripts,—a reading which was the natural result of the growing tendency in early Christian times…to look upon the humble Teacher as the incarnate Word, and therefore as “God manifested in the flesh”.* …It has been frequently said that the changes of translation…are of little importance from a doctrinal point of view…[A]ny such statement [is]…contrary to the facts.** (*Texts and Margins of the Revised New Testament Affecting Theological Doctrine Briefly Reviewed, by Dr. Vance Smith (London: 1881), pages 39, 47. . .

The only instance in the N.T. in which the religious worship or adoration of Christ was apparently implied, has been altered by the Revision: ‘At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,’ [Philippians 2:10] is now to be read ‘in the name.’ Moreover, no alteration of text or of translation will be found anywhere to make up for this loss; as indeed it is well understood that the N.T. contains neither precept nor example which really sanctions the religious worship of Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added] (Texts and Margins, Smith, page 47.​

Perhaps Thayer was aware of this precedent by his Unitarian brother of a couple of decades earlier and followed suit with his own "corrections".
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
@Taylor - have you been able to find out whether or not there were any other editions of the ASV without the offending footnote? Another theologian who used it a lot was Lorraine Boettner. In fact, I first came across the ASV via his books.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
The only instance in the N.T. in which the religious worship or adoration of Christ was apparently implied, has been altered by the Revision: ‘At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,’ [Philippians 2:10] is now to be read ‘in the name.’ Moreover, no alteration of text or of translation will be found anywhere to make up for this loss; as indeed it is well understood that the N.T. contains neither precept nor example which really sanctions the religious worship of Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added] (Texts and Margins, Smith, page 47.
That is appalling.

@Taylor - have you been able to find out whether or not there were any other editions of the ASV without the offending footnote? Another theologian who used it a lot was Lorraine Boettner. In fact, I first came across the ASV via his books.
I have not. As far as I know, the footnote is part of the original work. So, any edition without the footnote is only so because it is not the full edition.
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
A quick side note: off topic I admit but interesting. I wanted to compare the ASV with other formal equivalent translations so I did a Google search "most accurate translation of the bible". The New World Translation was the first result. Yikes!

That text is on a whole different level in terms of heresy.
 

pmachapman

Puritan Board Freshman
A quick side note: off topic I admit but interesting. I wanted to compare the ASV with other formal equivalent translations so I did a Google search "most accurate translation of the bible". The New World Translation was the first result. Yikes!

That text is on a whole different level in terms of heresy.
You've got to love SEO spam! My ASV was printed by Watchtower (although I rebound it in leather recently). Thomas Nelson's copyright stopped Watchtower from making any modifications (including to footnotes), so at least this is one case where copyright is helpful! Not that they would want to remove the Unitarian sounding footnote...
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
You've got to love SEO spam! My ASV was printed by Watchtower (although I rebound it in leather recently). Thomas Nelson's copyright stopped Watchtower from making any modifications (including to footnotes), so at least this is one case where copyright is helpful! Not that they would want to remove the Unitarian sounding footnote...
Oh, that's fascinating. I suppose the ASV's usage of 'Jehovah' for God's name fits well with the Watchtower cult. I received an easter tract in the mail the other day from the Jehovah's Witness'. Unfortunately, they display Christ as having been crucified with his arms straight up (like on a tree trunk, and not stretched out). It is small unorthodox details like this and subtle unitarian footnotes that might make any organisation even remotely affiliated with the Watchtower highly suspect.
However, I'm not sure if the Wachtower were involved in the editing of the ASV. I now wonder if the JW's influenced the idea of using 'Jehovah' instead of 'LORD' in the OT; for they insist that God's only name is Jehovah. But this might have to be saved for a different discussion.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Unfortunately, they display Christ
We got one too. I didn't care so much about the manner of depicting him as in the fact that they tried to depict him.

The letter with it was handwritten. I sent a quick note back asking them to refrain from violating the Second Commandment, at least "as for our house...."
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
We got one too. I didn't care so much about the manner of depicting him as in the fact that they tried to depict him.

The letter with it was handwritten. I sent a quick note back asking them to refrain from violating the Second Commandment, at least "as for our house...."
To them since Jesus isn’t God there’s no 2nd commandment violation. They end up breaking the first more than the second.
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
To them since Jesus isn’t God there’s no 2nd commandment violation. They end up breaking the first more than the second.
No, they break all sound doctrine. If they don't repent they will be committing the same sin as the Jews who said Jesus was performing miracles by the power of hell. J.W's are under the law of anathema, if there were such a thing.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
J.W's are under the law of anathema, if there were such a thing.
Now I'm drifting even farther, but this reminded me of my dear wife.

When we first moved here a decade ago, the Mormons and JWs pounced. I was always gone starting my law practice. Lauren got tired of answering the door.

So she made a nice sign on our door:

"If you come in the name of the Lord, Welcome!
If you are a non-trinitarian proselytizer or other form of devil-worshiper, you should leave now and repent!"

It seemed to work. Nobody has bothered us in ten years.
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
Now I'm drifting even farther, but this reminded me of my dear wife.

When we first moved here a decade ago, the Mormons and JWs pounced. I was always gone starting my law practice. Lauren got tired of answering the door.

So she made a nice sign on our door:

"If you come in the name of the Lord, Welcome!
If you are a non-trinitarian proselytizer or other form of devil-worshiper, you should leave now and repent!"

It seemed to work. Nobody has bothered us in ten years.
Oh wow! :bouncy:God bless you and your wife.
 
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