Monthly Archives: August 2022

The Gallio inscription

Scripture: NT Dating Sucks

Before turning to Blunt’s chapter 3, I need to rant about how scholarship attempts to date the various books of the New Testament.

The honest truth is that dating the writings of the NT is really, really, hard. We have no solid external evidence about when they were written. Church tradition (i.e., whatever scraps Eusebius collected in the 4th century from 2nd/3rd century sources) assigns authors but little in the way of dates, and in a couple of key cases (looking at you, Matthew), those externals go against the much stronger internal evidence. Additionally, there is very little internal evidence, because the writers were—largely—not intentionally writing for posterity, but were giving specific advice to specific communities around the growing Christian world! We have no “In the year that King Uzziah died” a la Isaiah for any of the NT writings.

What we are able to do is to peg the Synoptic Gospels using Mark 13 and its parallels in Matthew and Luke. The situation described in Mark 13 seems to describe the Roman armies massing around Jerusalem shortly before the destruction of the Temple but it hasn’t happened yet; Matt 24 and Luke 21 seem to describe the situation after. That’s the best we’ve got for the Gospels… Internally, we can say definitively from the Greek that there was direct literary borrowing with Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The vast majority of scholars agree that Mark was written first, and Matthew and Luke used him. My own perspective is that Luke used both Matthew and Mark, and I’m not sure that we need to theorize a hypothetical document (Q) that Matthew and Luke knew but Mark didn’t.

We’re better off with Paul because we do have external evidence nailing down one particular point in time. Acts 18:12 tells us that the events described occurred “when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia.” This Gallio was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, brother of the Stoic author Seneca, and was proconsul across the years 51-2. Thus, trusting the Acts narrative and using 51 as a date around which to revolve, we can assign some general dates to Paul’s letters.

When it comes to 1 Peter, 1 John, James, etc. we’re pretty much in the dark. These authors are completely uninterested in giving us any information that we can use for dates.

In the absence of actual evidence, various schemes of guesswork have been constructed following a variety of scholarly theories. Unfortunately, these are usually communicated as far more solid and factual than they actually are. Furthermore, the origins of this industry was not a neutral one. NT Studies began in Germany, spearheaded by Lutheran scholars guided by an anti-Catholic agenda. One of their primary early concerns was to “scientifically” foreground what they considered the heart of the Pauline writings due to emphasis on “justification by grace through faith” (Romans, Galatians, Corinthians) over and against parts less focused on that message (Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastorals). This program of Sachkritik (content criticism) led to the uber-parsing of Paul that gives us the category of the Deutero-Pauline designation. That is, the notion that some of the Pauline letters—oddly, the ones the Lutherans thought were squishy—are not actually by Paul and therefore(?) less important/useful/Bible.

The older I’ve gotten, the less compelling I find the Deutero-Pauline arguments. The problem is that most of the arguments tend to assume two things: 1) a single author writes within a single form or genre, and 2) a writer uses vocabulary and theme consistently throughout their writing career. Looking across my own publications, I feel quite certain that any one of these classical Pauline scholars would be able to definitively prove that the author of Inwardly Digest could not possibly be the author of Honey of Souls and that it’s obvious (obvious!) that the sanctoral section in chapter 2 is a clumsy insertion by a later author. [Clumsy, I’ll grant, but not “later” as I was there when it happened…]. The idea that Paul “couldn’t” have used terms differently across works and genres (i.e., a specifically directed occasional letter like Galatians vs. a general letter like Colossians) does not ring true to me.

One of the related, and more pernicious, dating ideas is that the Christian message started simple and got more complex over time. Therefore, simpler writings must be earlier and more complex ones must be later. This fit a Lutheran model of a simple proclamation of justification by faith that was overcome and overburdened by the descent into “early Catholicism”—which is the Hegelian model put forth by F. C. Baur (writing in the early 1800’s) who determined that the only “real” Pauline letters were 1-2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians, and that all of the others were part of a “catholicizing” tendency that trailed through the 2nd century.

One of the popular forms of this argument that I’ve found floating around the Episcopal Church is the idea that the idea of the Trinity is a “late” development, and that anything Trinitarian must be either late or an addition.

Here’s the key problem. Everyone agrees that the earliest writings we can accurately date are Paul’s letters, written in the 50’s. Read Romans. Read Galatians. Then come back and tell me that this faith was just a simple set of beliefs that would get complexified only later. Read the start of Romans 5 and tell me with a straight face that the Trinity is a late, 2nd century development. Same with the end of Romans 15.

Now—we’ve been talking about Paul, the one guy for whom we have dates. You can see the evidence and dating difficulties when we have a large collection of letters and a biography of the author (Acts). Now imagine cases when we have none of those things—and you have the rest of the NT epistles. When was 1 Peter written? Or James? Really hard to say. We can say that 2 Peter does quote Jude and likely references a scene from a written gospel in 1:17-18. Revelation does appear to be speaking from the time of Domitian (d. 96). But other than that, there’s a lot of guesswork involved, to the point that you’re working with a dartboard helpfully labelled with decade names.

Conversations on Scripture: Blunt, 2

Blunt’s second chapter entitled “Old Testament Writers and Writings” contains just that: a survey of each of the Old Testament books after an initial discussion on the shape of the whole.

The introductory paragraph begins with the opening words of Hebrews to remind his readers that the the multiplicity of books are guided by a single mind and purpose: “these many writers were inspired by One Divine Mind to write with one purpose, that of setting forth the work of redemption and salvation by Christ” (Blunt, 30). The principle of the Unity of Holy Scripture is very important to him. He will not, however, trace the through-line in all cases which is good as identifying and bolstering this single purpose does get challenging in certain of the Minor Prophets.

Organizationally, Blunt notes the Jewish division of the Law and the Prophets, but denies that this division denotes a sacred character—certainly not one the English Bible recognizes. That is, the Law has no preference or precedence over the Prophets from a Christian perspective.

He can’t resist a potshot at Colenso and the German schools when he asserts the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch: “…and although elaborate guesses at a different authorship have been made by a few writers in recent times, such guesses are worth nothing in comparison with the weight which must belong to the testimony of so many nations and so many ages” (Blunt, 31). Following the 1650-4 dating scheme of James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armaugh, Blunt places the composition of the Pentateuch between 1450 to 1490 B.C.

Blunt’s pattern going forward is to briefly introduce the author, assign a date of composition, then to describe the main theme of the book in a paragraph-sized synopsis. When necessary, he will provide a brief narrative outline like the one offers for Genesis:

The contents of Genesis are (1) [Chap. i. ii. (marginal notation)] an account of Creation, given, not as a full History of Creation, but with reference to the fall of man: (2) [Chap iii.] an account of the Fall: (3) [Chap. iv.-vi.] some few particulars respecting the history of the world between the Fall and the Deluge: (4) [Chap. vii.-viii.] an account of the Deluge: (5) [Chap. ix.-xi.] a few particulars of the history of the world between the Deluge and Abraham: (6) [Chap. xii.-xxv.] a rather full history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, with which particulars of many other persons are interwoven. The last event recorded is the death of Joseph, which occurred about 1700 years before Christ, about 2300 years after the creation of Adam, and thus more than 3500 years from the present century.

Blunt, 32.

(Sharp-eyed readers will note that Blunt’s outline was summarily curtailed. I would guess he intended to break out the patriarchs separately since Genesis 25 wraps up the Abraham narrative, but either he or his editors decided to mash them all together and neglected to fix the margin notation! )

As seen at the conclusion of the quote above, Blunt concluded each synopsis with a description of the time elapsed within the events of each book and where that places them with respect to the timeline. For example, the summary of Leviticus emphasizes the brief timespan: “These laws were delivered by God to Moses during the first months after the dedication of the Tabernacle, at the beginning of the second year from the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt. To this month, therefore, the whole of the Book of Leviticus belongs” (Blunt, 34).

I really like his pattern here. The basic scheme looks like this:

  • Brief comment on the name of the book
  • Identification of the author (if needed)
  • Brief outline of the major movements/sections of the book
  • Relation of the book to the overall temporal narrative and the length of time encompassed

I attempted a video form of something like this in my now-defunct “Liturgical Look Forward” series, hoping to provide context for the Daily Office readings through Years 1 and 2, but was never satisfied with the results.

Before leaving the Pentateuch, I must call out his words on the conclusion of Deuteronomy; section 5 describes “the account of the death and burial of Moses, added by an inspired person at some time later, probably by Ezra” (Blunt, 35). This is him grappling with one of complications of Mosaic authorship: did God inspire Moses to write of his own death and burial, or did a later writer add it? Blunt goes with “addition” but assures his readers that it was an inspired author, likely one from a short, well-known, list.

The pattern above holds through the Histories, at least up through 2 Samuel. Blunt apparently despairs of offering a sufficient synopsis of 1-2 Kings, appropriately given its 400 year span, and summarizes each in a sentence (“in the first book the reign of Solomon and the building of the Temple are the most prominent subjects: in the second book the prophetic history of Elijah and Elisha, with the reign of Hezekiah, and the final destruction of both kingdoms” [Blunt, 38]). With regard to authorship, Blunt follows Talmudic tradition in assigning 1-2 Samuel to Samuel, Nathan and Gad; 1-2 Kings go to Nathan, the prophet Jeremiah, and Ezra. (And if the inclusion of Jeremiah makes you think of modern discussions around the editor of the Deuteronomistic History, well, you’re probably not wrong!)

Moving to the Wisdom portion, Blunt transmits the tradition assigning the Book of Job to Moses, suggesting that he might have learned of it or met the participants during his 40 years in Midian.

By far the longest section apportioned to any book of the Old Testament is that of the Psalms. Blunt describes the many authors, issues a caution on the accuracy of the superscriptions, describes the five books within the Psalter, addresses the numbering differences between the Hebrew/English text tradition and the Greek/Latin, explains the two chief English versions (the 1540 Coverdale in the BCP and the 1611 from the KJV), then enumerates four classifications: The Great Hallelujah (113-118), The Psalms of Degrees (120-134), The Passion Psalms (2, 22, 38, 59, 69, 88), and The Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). Finally, he concludes with a paragraph-length encomium on the Psalms worth quoting in full:

The Psalms, as a whole, form the central portion of Divine Revelation. They contain the words in which the Church of God has spoken to Him in public offices of praise day by day for 3000 years without intermission. They have formed the devotional utterances of individual saints innumerable during the same 90 generations—half the age of the human race; and they are supposed by some to be embodied in the praises which are being offered in Heaven.

Blunt, 45.

Moving to the prophets, Blunt connects the Major Prophets with sections of the Historical Books where they properly appear or to which their words pertain. By the time we get to the Minor Prophets each receives basically a paragraph. These sometimes mention Christological themes that can be found in these books or where they are used in Prayer Book services.

At the conclusion of Malachi, the chapter abruptly ends with nary a summary statement.

For my own conclusion, while I disagree with his assignments of authors and dates, the intention behind this chapter is both good and necessary. A quick, at-a-glance, summary of the OT books locating them in time and in the narrative/historical sequence remains a really good idea. Based on my reading of Blunt’s text, I can envision a spiral-bound guide of a similar fashion with bright color-coding to group thematic relationships, and including a variety of timelines and maps. Especially for those of us who encounter the Bible chiefly at the level of the pericope in liturgical services, this kind of overview is very helpful. I’d be shocked if such things don’t already exist—my only question is whether such things reflect the current state of biblical scholarship; Bible helps of this sort that I’m familiar with tend to be dominated by very conservative perspectives. A key difference in the kind of thing I’m envisioning vs. Blunt is that rather than one timeline at least two would be needed (and profitably superimposed at points): one to track the historic through-line, the other the track our best guesses on the composition of various sections of various books and editorial efforts.

(And if you are aware of a decent Mainline resource of which I speak, please add a shout-out in the comments!)

Scripture: Blunt and Colenso

In the previous post, an initial foray into J. H. Blunt’s basic introduction to Scripture, I noted that his book had come out shortly after the Colenso affair—the travails surrounding the Bishop of Natal, his translation of the Scriptures into Zulu, and his presuppositions around the Bible and its inspired character that kicked off the Lambeth Conferences. I wondered if Blunt had said or written anything directly around the controversy in order to give me a clear fix on his take. Thanks to his prolific writing, I was able to find just such a thing!

In 1874, Blunt edited a fascinating—and lengthy—work entitled Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought. (No contributors are mentioned and the various dictionary entries are unsigned; as such, I’m going to assume that its articles present the positions of Blunt himself.) Colenso appears in the index under two entries, “Colenso, Bishop, writings of” and “Colenso, Bishop, excommunication of”, both of which point to the article entitled “Broad Churchmen.”

The initial paragraph of this entry serves as a very clear introduction to Blunt’s perspectives on the Broad Church movement as a whole and is worth quoting in its entirety:

A modern school of Latitudinarians, composed of those clergy and laity of the Church of England who dissent from the principles developed during the revival of exact theological learning. The designation “Broad” has been assumed as expressive of the comprehensiveness which the theology of this school offers to men of various opinions; but it is scarcely a fitting designation, as well defined opinions of a positive kind are not included. The most distinctive characteristic of the Broad Church School is, in reality, its rejection of traditional beliefs, and the substitution in their place of what has been aptly called a “Negative Theology,” in which much is doubted and rejected, and very little believed.

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 85

Blunt identifies F. D. Maurice as a central star of the party and refers derisively to his Theological Essays of 1853 as a work expressive of the party’s principles. The key quote here is this classic line: “In these [essays] the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, Inspiration, and Eternal Punishment, among others, were dealt with in language remarkable for its beauty, and for its inconsistency with the opinions of orthodox Churchmen” (ibid.). Apart from this, Blunt identifies the “greatest literary success” of the the Broad Churchmen as “a composite work of third-rate merit”, the Essays and Reviews published in 1860. Blunt explores each of the seven essays in the volume, presenting a paragraph-length synopsis of each.

The pertinent essays are the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh. Broadly, these indicate the influence of the German academic tradition and the efforts of scholars like Baur and Strauss. I see Strauss coming through in the description of the fourth: ” [Williams] considers many of the ‘traits in the Scriptural Person of Jesus’ to belong to an ideal rather than an historical person; e.g., the Temptation did not really happen, but is an imaginary scene put into the Gospels to complete the picture. The Annuciation ‘may be of ideal origin’ also, the writer says, and much more to the same purpose” (Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 86). The fifth raises his ire regarding Creation: “…[Goodwin] considers the Book of Genesis to have been written by some Hebrew man of science, who invented a theoretical account of creation, but living in a time when he had no geological discoveries to guide him, simply wrote down what proves to be full of mistakes” (ibid.). The last essay by Benjamin Jowett is seen as a collection and amplification of the rest of the volume’s themes: “…its chief object appears to be to lower the authority of the Holy Scripture by showing that very little of it was inspired in any ordinary sense of inspiration.” (ibid.). For a clarifying view of this essay, a modern assessment of it in the Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation states that it “urged that the Bible be read ‘like any other book'” (Pals, “Jowett, Benjamin, DBI, 1.632).

(For what it’s worth, this tack—that the Bible be read as and subject to the same canons of interpretation and investigation as any other work from antiquity—is one of the essential characteristics for the emergence of modern academic Biblical Studies. Within the Guild, Jowett is seen as a hero rather than a villain.)

Describing the aftermath of this publication, Blunt notes that High and Low Churchmen were in agreement on its total condemnation. Williams and Wilson were condemned by the (ecclesiastical) Court of Arches, but were acquitted on appeal by the Queen’s Judicial Committee. This reversal, then, leads Blunt to his account of Bishop Colenso.

It was probably under the encouragement of this supposed victory that Dr. Colenso, Bishop of Natal in South-eastern Africa, published his speculations on the Pentateuch, by means of which he endeavoured to make the high-road of Biblical interpretation so very broad that the most arrogant sceptic would find no difficulty in walking along it. The purpose of this work was to minimize to the utmost the authority of the Pentateuch, and with it of all Holy Scripture; the first principle of the author being indicated by the words, ‘There is not the slightest reason to suppose that the first writer of the story in the Pentateuch ever professed to be recording infallible truth, or even actual historical truth. He wrote certainly a narrative. But what indications are there that he published it at large, even to the people of his own time, as a record of matter of fact, veracious history?'”

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 87.

Blunt then cites the work of Ernst Hengstenberg, a German Lutheran much opposed to the emerging Biblical Studies faculties, criticizing Essays and Reviews including the key passages, “‘The authors of the Essays have been trained in a German school. It is only the echo of German infidelity which we hear from the midst of the English Church. . . . All of these Essays ten toward atheism. Their subordinate value is seen in the inability of their authors to recognise their goal clearly, and in their want of courage to declare this knowledge.” (ibid.).

In conclusion, Blunt is of the same mind as Hengstenberg and concludes the article with a final salvo against the Broad Churcmen:

This school is of a distinctly rationalist type, carrying Broad Church views about inspiration to the length of practical disbelief in Scripture; Broad Church views about our Lord to the length of Unitarianism; Broad Church views about everlasting punishment to Universalism; and Broad Church views about the priesthood and Sacraments to an utter denial of their reality. Such is the natural terminus of the original school, and such must be the logical outcome of its opinions when they are taken up by men who are not satisfied to rest in negations and generalities.

Blunt, Dictionary of Sects, 87-88.

So—it’s pretty safe to say that Blunt was not a fan… He is relentless in his attacks on the Broad Church theological agenda and upon their perspective on the Bible. If I had to summarize the Broad Church take present in the Essays and Colenso, it would be a focus on historical context—that the Bible has to be read with attention to each author’s historical and cultural context, not from the post-facto perspective of Holy Scripture that Blunt and others take. And, as a modern biblical scholar, I’d agree with them rather than Blunt…

Ok. Having said all of this, what is it that Blunt does believe, then? The simplest and clearest presentation of Blunt’s view appears in two lists that preface his larger books on the Old and New Testament:

Blunt, Companion to the Old Testament, 1872
Blunt, Companion to the New Testament, 1881

The first principle establishes continuity: our Isaiah was their Isaiah. I have no substantial issues with this idea generally. My specific issue is that it elides away differences between the Hebrew Texts and those transmitted in the Septuagint—the variation here varies by book. However, this principle also artificially fixes a canon, implying that what is in our Old Testament/New Testament also constituted what the NT authors thought of as “canon.” This is a much more dubious principle. There were many writings of the Second Temple period that influenced New Testament thought than are contained in our OT, and a number of contemporaneous writings—thinking of texts like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache—that influenced the Early Church but do not appear in the NT.

The second principle introduces a host of terms that are left undefined and thus not terribly clear. The italicized emphasis on “authentic”, though, seems to be of first place. If I’m reading it as intended, this principle is foregrounding the idea that the books we have were truly written by the men identified as their authors who are also inspired. This is precisely the view I’m interested in defining more carefully and will engae at length.

The third principle states that the original writings contained true statements, histories, and doctrines. Furthermore, that the books even as we have received them have not been substantially altered by any additions or alterations. Additionally, I believe that this article is implying that any additions and alterations (unless otherwise specified—I’m thinking of a couple of carve-out exceptions) are inherently uninspired.

The fourth principle states that, essentially, Scripture itself serves as the standard of truth. Any historical, scientific, or doctrinal statements to the apparent contrary must either be reconciled or discarded.

On the whole, then, when it comes to the emerging field of Biblical Studies, Blunt sides with those who reject it. He, alongside other critics, saw atheism as its inevitable end and responded by retrenching assertions as to the genuine, authentic, and trustworthy witness of the Scriptures in all respects. This—ultimately—is what is at stake for him: Can Scripture be trusted? To affirm this in the positive, for Blunt, all of Scripture must be seen and shown to be trustworthy.

Now—back to the primary text…

Conversations on Scripture: Blunt, 1

I’m entering into a conversation of sorts with a companion with whom I share a number of interests and convictions, John Henry Blunt (1823-1884). A priest of the Church of England and a scholar of Scripture, theology, and the medieval Church, Blunt was a voluminous author passionate about communicating his knowledge to a popular audience. As such, Blunt represents a serious scholar from the latter half of the nineteenth century interested in conveying to “the churchman” of his day what should be thought, known, and believed about a wide variety of topics. Theologically, he was of the High Church party and saw its great work as “preserving the substantial catholicity of the the Church of England…and also that of renewing its life and vigour.” (Dictionary of Heresies, p. 200).

The text I’m interested in at the moment is A Key to the Knowledge and Use of the Holy Bible published by Rivingtons in 1868. It’s laid out in a set of nine chapters along with an appendix and an index:

Blunt’s Table of Contents

To move through it logically, I’ll begin with the first chapter…

Blunt’s initial chapter, “Literary History of the Holy Bible” is an investigation of the authorship of the biblical books and how they passed through a succession of translations to the reading public of his day. He breaks this discussion into 5 major topics:

  1. Universal Interest in the Bible (I.e., why is it that modern people care about an old book)
  2. General Structure of the Bible
  3. Gradual Growth of the Holy Bible
  4. Ancient Copies [and translations] of the Holy Bible
  5. The English Bible

On the whole, I find his writing clear and informed. It is the strongest in his discussions of the historical material in sections 4 and 5. He does, to my mind, exaggerate a bit the breadth of the circulation of the sections of the Scriptures in Old English, but does appropriately convey the presence of the vernacular Scriptures during the medieval period. He and I part ways in two major places: first, in his initial discussions of the intent and worth of the Scriptures; second, in the authorship and dating of the various biblical books.

In Section 1, Blunt identifies three principal reasons why the Bible deserves to be the subject of universal interest:

[1.] The Bible has always been received as the original source of all our knowledge respecting God’s dealings with mankind in respect to spiritual things. [2.] It contains the only reliable account of man’s future beyond this life. [3.] It offers itself as a guide to the attainment of happiness for ever in the world to come.

(Blunt, 2-3)

I have few quibbles with the first point and quite like the emphasis on reception–I think that’s key in a way that he doesn’t explore. I have more issues with his points 2 and 3. I am probably more of a Christian humanist than Blunt, and think his focus on the future life after death overly narrow. Surely the Christian message, the biblical message, is about the relationships between God and humanity that start on this side of death–the virtues of Christ and the life of salvation are birthed in the sacraments and not at our graves. If I were to rewrite point 3 it would simply state: “…it offers itself as a guide to the attainment of happiness in the presence of God…” a formulation that encompasses both the present and what is to come.

In terms of authorship and dating, Blunt follows a strictly traditional scheme based in patristic and medieval writings that flatly attribute the various books of the Bible with the authors in their titles as displayed in a chronological table:

Beginning of the Chronological Table (Blunt, 5)

On the formation of the Old Testament itself, he explains that:

…before the captivity, Hezekiah caused other sacred writings [apart from the Pentateuch] to be collected together, though not to be added to the “Law;” and after the [Babylonian] Captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah, under Divine direction, collected all those which are now reckoned by the Church of England among the number of the Canonical books of the Old Testament, re-copied them uniformly in the Chaldaic character (that now known as Hebrew), and arranged them in three divisions…

Blunt, 8

Thus, while he admits the framework of an editorial process, he sees it operative only at the level of collecting whole books

At this point in biblical scholarship, the Synoptic Problem—the project of untangling the literary relationships between Matthew, Mark, and Luke—had been underway since the turn of the century in German circles, and questions regarding the unity of the Pentateuch were active but not as developed. It’s worth noting that five years before the publication of Blunt’s book, The first missionary bishop of Natal, John Colenso, had been censured by his brother bishops because—in his research around translating the Bible into Zulu—he had questioned the historical accuracy and literary unity of the Pentateuch and Joshua. Insisting that his fellow bishops had no jurisdiction over him, Colenso continued in his work and was, in large measure, the occasion of the calling of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.

It’s equally notable that the High Church party was vocally opposed to Colenso and his biblical thought.

[At some point I really should dig deeper into Colenso’s own writings; I know of them chiefly through later summaries.]

Blunt’s final paragraph of this chapter conveys his final word on all matters canonical, textual, and linguistic:

The conclusion, then, for those who are not very conversant indeed with the learned languages, is this:– that the Authorized [i.e. King James] Version of the Holy Bible is a just and faithful representative of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek Apocrypha, and the Greek New Testament; and that in using it for his instruction or his devotion, the plain man may use it with a firm confidence that he is using that which will give him substantially true impressions of what has come down to us under the name of Holy Scripture.

Blunt, 29.

The goal here is to give confidence to the ordinary person that the text they are hearing in church and reading at home is a faithful witness of the original. The motive is sound; the content, generally so, given the amount of hedging in “substantially true impressions.”

I can’t agree with the paragraph before this one where Blunt avers that “[the KJV] has been severely criticized in past (and especially in recent) years; but really learned theologians are agreed that whatever faults may exist in our English Bible, it is so nearly perfect, that it is almost hopeless to try and improve it; while all attempts at improving it have confirmed this verdict.” (Blunt, 29). Yes, the sound and meter of it have never been matched in subsequent English translations. The quality of its base texts and the limited knowledge of Ancient Near Eastern philology possessed by its translators, however, remain a whole other story.

Update: Following up on a hunch, I found some very interesting material from Blunt on Colenso and contemporary German scholarship. I’ll post on that next before continuing on…