For 13 years a select team of British scholars has been poring diligently over biblical manuscripts, occasionally assembling to compare notes in the tapestry-adorned Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. Their aim was to produce a successor to the 350-year-old King James Version. First fruits of their labors will be unveiled March 14 with the publication by Oxford and Cambridge University Presses of the New Testament of The New English Bible.
Dr. F. F. Bruce, professor of biblical criticism and exegesis in the Victoria University of Manchester, has been commissioned by CHRISTIANITY TODAY to prepare a major review of the New Testament of The New English Bible.
The publishers are optimistic. First printing amounts to 500,000 copies, largest initial order in British publishing history. Another 325,000 copies are being printed in other countries. All but a few highly-prized copies circulated among key reviewers are being held for the March 14 publication date. A sample page taken from the First Epistle of John is reproduced below, along with the corresponding pages from the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version.
The Old Testament is due in about six years, and the Apocrypha after that.
Translators and publishers alike stress that The New English Bible is not simply a revision of the Authorized Version or any other version. It is a completely new translation. The announced intent was to create a Bible “not obscured by an archaic language but enlivened by a clear and contemporary vocabulary” drawn from the original Hebrew and Greek “as understood by the best available scholarship.”
The language used is not overly modern, however, says the prospectus. “The style is neither old-fashioned nor self-consciously modernistic. The translators have aimed at a rendering which is timeless as well as faithful.”
In addition to going back to the original Greek texts of the New Testament, the translators are said to have “weighed the findings of modern textual critics, and they made full use of recent linguistic researches.”
The translation project is a joint undertaking of the Anglican and Free churches of England. Representatives from all the major Protestant denominations participate in the planning and directing. General director is Dr. C. H. Dodd, 76-year-old Congregationalist minister from Oxford.
Discussions on the need for a new English Bible translation date back to the pre-World War II years. The approaching lapse of the copyright in the English Revised Version of the 1880s afforded an opportunity for considering further revision. Accordingly, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge assembled a group of scholars to prepare experimental renderings of specimen passages. Further consideration was interrupted by the advent of war.
The idea got a new lease on life in a memorandum communicated to representative bodies of Christian communions in Great Britain by the 1946 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The church’s memorandum urged initiation of work on a completely new translation. It was received well, and conferences were assembled with representatives from the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, the Congregational Union of England and Wales, the Council of Churches for Wales, the London Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Presbyterian Church of England, the United Council of Christian Churches and Religious Communions in Ireland, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the National Bible Society of Scotland. Oxford and Cambridge scholars also were on hand, and it was agreed that the two university presses would bear the entire cost of translation and publication in return for the copyright. A Joint Committee was formed, which subsequently organized three panels of translators, one for the Old Testament, one for the New Testament, and one for the Apocrypha. A panel of literary advisers also was named.
Each panel invited one person to prepare a draft translation of an assigned book or group of books. The draft was circulated in typescript among the panel members, who discussed it verse by verse and sentence by sentence until a wording was agreed upon. The literary panel then reviewed the revised draft to assure that it met a high standard in vocabulary, idiom, and rhythm (well aware of appropriately varying levels of style in the original). The translation panel rechecked the draft and forwarded it to the Joint Committee, which offered criticisms and suggestions (and in at least one case ordered it back to the translators for revision). Upon completion of the New Testament, the Joint Committee appointed another “revising committee” of three to study the entire work and weigh criticism and suggestions. The New Testament was not finally approved by the Joint Committee until March 23, 1960.
Highlight of this month’s 127th annual Islington Clerical Conference, traditional rallying point for evangelical clergy of the Church of England, was the reading of an extract from The New English Bible by the Bishop of Bradford, chairman of the Archbishop’s Liturgical Conference. The Bishop, Dr. Donald Coggan, read the story of the Prodigal.
Some 400 ministers and scores of laymen attended the conference, held in London’s Church House.
The vicar of Islington, the Rev. Maurice A. P. Wood, presided. His own address, as president of the conference, stressed local church aspects of the conference theme, “The Word of God in the World Today.”
The world’s top-ranking Anglican turned in his resignation this month. Dr. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, 73-year-old Archbishop of Canterbury, said he would step down May 31 after 16 years as Primate of the Church of England and titular head of the worldwide Anglican communion.
There was immediate speculation over who would be his successor.
Leading prospects, according to informed sources, were Bishop Sherard Falkner Allison of Chelmsford, Bishop Robert Wright Stopford of Peterborough, Bishop Joost de Blank of South Africa, and Archbishop Arthur Michael Ramsey of York, second-ranking leader in the Church of England.
Fisher is one of the leading proponents of the ecumenical movement. He presided at sessions in Amsterdam in 1948 when the World Council of Churches was formally inaugurated, and he served as one of its co-presidents. He still serves on the WCC executive committee.
Perhaps his chief claim to worldwide fame, however, came with his visit last December to the Vatican. He was the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury ever to meet a Roman pontiff.
A series of Church-State disputes imposed an embarrassing backdrop upon the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the first Roman Catholic president in U. S. history.
Roman Catholics figured prominently in all of the disputes.
New York: Francis Cardinal Spellman denounced a gigantic federal aid-to-education proposal as “unfair” to the nation’s parochial and private school children.
Despite the fact that his own archdiocese apparently has far more educational funds than it knows what to do with, Spellman lamented the exclusion of parochial schools in a proposal advanced by Kennedy’s task force on education.
He told a high school rally in the Bronx that a $25,000,000 local fund-raising campaign had been oversubscribed by more than $15,000,000.
The cardinal nonetheless assailed as discriminatory the task force proposal which asks enactment of a 5.8 billion dollar aid program for public schools.
“I cannot believe,” he said, “that Congress would discriminate against Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic or Jewish parents—Americans all—in the allocation of educational funds.”
The remarks drew an immediate disclaimer from Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffman, public relations director of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which operates the nation’s largest Protestant elementary school system.
“Let Cardinal Spellman speak for himself,” said Hoffman. “He does not speak for us Lutherans.”
“As Americans who accept the traditional American policy of Church-State separation, we Lutherans would not feel discriminated against if Federal funds were appropriated for public schools only. In fact, we think that Federal assistance, if there has to be such assistance, should be restricted to public schools.”
Haiti: A crisis erupted with the expulsion by the Haitian government of five priests, including the native-born chief prelate, and the closing of the Roman Catholic newspaper La Phalange.
President Francois Duvalier charged that the priests were “social and political subversives.”
Their deportations came less than two months after Archbishop Francois Poirier of Port-au-Prince was whisked back to his native France on charges of having encouraged a strike of anti-government students at the University of Haiti in protest against the jailing of a student suspected of being a Communist.
Bishop Remy Augustin, one of the five deported from the French-speaking Negro republic, had taken over church affairs following the expulsion of the archbishop.
The Vatican promptly excommunicated “all those who committed these crimes,” referring to the deportations, but no names were given. It was believed, however, that Duvalier was among those who had incurred the supreme Roman Catholic penalty.
Texas: A group of citizens in the Bremond school district demanded that the state board of education crack down on the leasing of Roman Catholic classroom space.
Cited was a Roman Catholic elementary school in Bremond leased by the local school board since 1947, purportedly to ease financial strain. Plaintiffs charge that the school is being operated in such a manner that public school students obliged to attend are being subjected to sectarian religious instruction.
Archbishop Luis Concha Cordoba of Bogotá, Colombia, publicly conceded this month that some of his priests have acted “unwisely.”
The Roman Catholic archbishop made the concession in London while en route to Rome, where he was one of four prelates to be elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals.
The new cardinal said that “Lutherans and Episcopalians in Colombia show no anti-Catholic bigotry and live on good terms with their Catholic neighbors.”
He added, however, that “others, mainly Protestants arriving from the United States, have sometimes insulted the Catholic religion, especially the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Eucharist, and this has aroused popular indignation.”
“This natural reaction among the people of a country almost wholly Catholic causes incidents which are difficult to check,” he said.
He declared that there have even been cases of Roman Catholic priests “whose indignation has led them to act unwisely.”
Observers said this was the first time that such a high-placed Roman Catholic prelate had made public as much as a reference to the persecution of Protestants in Colombia. In the past, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has steadfastly denied anti-Protestant incidents or has ignored them.
An error discovered in scientific atomic dating methods necessitates revision in previous estimates of the age of many archaeological finds, according to U. S. government researchers.
The error affects dates assigned to the famed Dead Sea Scrolls.
A more accurate value for the radioactive “half-life” of carbon-14 has been determined by scientists of the National Bureau of Standards. The value holds the key to estimating the age of ancient materials through the measure of radiant energy they emit.
Previously the value determined was 5568 years. Now the scientists say it is 5760 years.
For the Dead Sea Scrolls this means that they are now reckoned to be 1983 years old—plus or minus 200 years.
Under the old system they were thought to be 1917 years old—still plus or minus 200 years.
Frank Carey of Associated Press describes the phenomenon upon which the carbon-dating system is based like this:
“All living things—from plants to man—have radioactive carbon in their systems during life. It comes from the atmosphere. When a living thing dies, it no longer absorbs radioactive carbon, but whatever it has absorbed during life continues to radiate after death—thus providing a kind of calendar, because the radiation dissipates at a constant rate.”
Outgoing Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield announced a few days before leaving office the smashing of the largest lewd photo ring discovered in the history of the Post Office Department.
Indictments returned by a Federal grand jury in Chicago involve more than 500 homosexual men who have been preying on teen-agers.
The ring has been operated under the name of the Adonis Male Club and the International Body Culture Association, said Summerfield.
A post office spokesman said members of the club, indicted for conspiracy to violate obscenity laws, include many prominent college professors, teachers in high schools, grade schools, and private academies, a choir director, professional and business executives, office workers, and government employees.
One report said that clergymen were also involved, but there was no immediate confirmation. Names of those indicted were not disclosed, pending their arrest by U. S. marshals.
• A six per cent enrollment increase is reported by the 12 Methodist theological schools for the fall of 1960, as compared with the previous year. Current total is 3,210. The increase contrasts with a five per cent overall enrollment decline among member institutions of the American Association of Theological Schools (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, January 16).
• The Dutch Reformed Church of Africa will shun this year’s World Council of Churches assembly in New Delhi, presumably in protest of resolutions adopted by a WCC conference on apartheid in South Africa last month. The church, smallest of three Reformed bodies in South Africa, was represented at the conference, but strongly disassociated itself with the resolutions, which criticized the South African government’s apartheid policy.
• A National Council of Churches’ agency plans to sponsor a study of four aspects of the U. S. economic situation: industrial relations, sharing peaceful uses of atomic energy, justice for farm workers, and preparations for the “economic impact” of disarmament. The program will include dissemination of large amounts of NCC literature for use in local churches.
• Spanish government officials are permitting a Baptist church in Seville to reopen its doors. The church was one of five Baptist churches ordered closed by Spanish police in 1958.
• The Universalist Four Corners Chapel of Cumberland, Rhode Island, is joining the state Congregational Conference. The minister, the Rev. Arthur G. Seabury, a former Baptist clergyman who recently resigned as superintendent of the Rhode Island Universalist Church, said his parish has voted twice against joining the Universalist-Unitarian merger.
• The Reformed Church in America is uniting its young people into a national youth organization to be known as the Reformed Church Youth Fellowship.
• Lincoln (Illinois) Bible Institute dedicated a $500,000 library and administration building last month.
• The Methodist Church announced this month that it will hold its next quadrennial General Conference in Pittsburgh. The policy-making and legislative body will assemble for two weeks beginning April 26, 1964.
• Seabury-Western Theological Seminary plans to add a new academic program leading to a master of arts degree in Christian education. It is the first Episcopal seminary to establish a degree program in Christian education. The seminary also plans, for the first time in history, to admit women for regular accredited study.
• Toccoa Falls (Georgia) Institute, a Bible college, affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, celebrated its 50th anniversary this month with special services.
• A four-volume Braille edition of the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal was published this month, climaxing a four-year cooperative effort of Lutheran churches. Funds were provided by the United Lutheran Church Women.
• A national census report lists 11 “Protestant” church groups in Poland with an aggregate of 223,000 members. The report published by the Government Statistical Office says the largest Protestant body is the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) with 110,000 members in six dioceses. The others: Reformed Evangelical Church (5,000), Polish National Catholic Church (50,000), Old Catholic Mariavite Church (25,000), Catholic Mariavite Church (2,000), The Methodist Church (12,000), The Polish Church of Christian Baptists (5,000), The Union of Sevcnth-day Adventists (5,000), The United Evangelical Church (8,000), The Community of Examiners of the Bible (6,000), and The Lay Mission of the Epiphany (5,000).
• Taylor University, now located in Upland, Indiana, plans to move its campus to Fort Wayne, where Jaycees have unanimously pledged their efforts to raise $1,500,000 over a three-year period, plus the amount needed to purchase new land.
Metropolitan Pitirim of Krutitsky and Kolomna, one of the top leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, emphatically denies the possibility of a union of Orthodox churches with Roman Catholic or Protestant churches.
He was interviewed this month along with Bishop Nicodim, head of the foreign affairs department of the Moscow Patriarchate, following their return to the Soviet capital from a month-long tour of Orthodox centers in the Near and Middle East under the leadership of Patriarch Alexei, supreme head of the Russian church.
At the same time, Bishop Nicodim, whose post is one of the most influential in the church, intimated that the Russian church is anxious to establish close ties with Christian churches in Europe and the Middle East. However, he appeared less encouraging about concrete contacts with American church organizations, at least in the near future.
In his meeting with the newsmen, Bishop Nicodim seemed especially uncertain about any return visit to the United States of Archbishop Boris, Exarch for North America and the Aleutian Islands. The archbishop’s last visit was in 1960, on a six-month visa. In 1958 the U. S. State Department declined to permit him to remain in the country indefinitely.
Metropolitan Pitirim said any talk of union of Orthodox churches with Catholic or Protestant churches would contradict the position of Orthodox believers that theirs is the one true Church of Christ.
His statement was echoed by Bishop Nicodim who, in addition, refuted any suggestion that Orthodox churches would accept “concessions” by other Christian bodies in the interest of union, so as to maintain the prestige of the Orthodox communion.
The bishop said the question of Orthodox relations with the Roman Catholic church was touched upon only indirectly during the recent overseas tour. When one newsman questioned him regarding the visit of Dr. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Pope John XXIII, he simply commented: “That is their own business.”
He went on to say that “the Russian Orthodox Church is for contacts with Christians throughout the world, but in every particular case, we do not care much about talk of Orthodoxy’s prestige. In other words, we do not want any canonical concessions.”
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