Concerning the Bible
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man (Vol. 1)
After hearing a recent message given at Melodyland, I was quite troubled concerning the remarks about Witness Lee and the study of God’s Word in the local churches. The speaker’s remarks reveal that he knows little of the real situation, and I question whether he has ever attended a meeting.
Bible Studies In the Local Churches
“How many have your Bibles here?” the speaker asked in that meeting at Melodyland. After the Bibles and hands were raised, he commented, “Not enough!” But I have observed that in all the local church meetings, everyone brings his Bible. In my experience as a pastor I found this situation at Melodyland to be typical, revealing not only neglect to bring the Bible to the meeting, but more than that, neglect to open the Bible daily and spend time in individual Bible study. The speaker, while addressing that same audience, and knowing very little of the lives of those in the local churches, made this accusation: “The local church does not have individualized Bible study. All study is exactly in harmony with Witness Lee.” On the contrary, however, my experience and observation these past six years in the church in Los Angeles has been the opposite. My own individual study of the Word of God has increased and surpassed that which I did as a seminary student and as a pastor. Also, I have observed that this is the experience of those who are in the local churches in Orange County and throughout the world. I have to say also that I praise the Lord for Bible study in harmony with Witness Lee. Having had the opportunity to sit under the ministry of some of the best Bible teachers, no one that I know of ministers the riches of the Word like this man. And yet, it is ironic that rather than receive these abundant riches, there are those who would rather occupy themselves with the same art as the Pharisees and scribes of the Lord’s day who sought only to find fault, “…that they might find an accusation against him” (Luke 6:7).
Recovery Version Bible
The speaker went on to deride the Recovery Version of the Bible. He says, “One of the other traits that mark this as cultic is that they have in their so-called Bible studies Recovery Versions of the Bible.” Does the translating of the Bible make the translator cultic? What a slander this is! He goes on, “The Recovery Version consists of the text of Scripture, sometimes altered or added to by Lee.” I have had six years of Greek and three years of Hebrew, and I find that the Recovery Version is an accurate and true translation of the original language of the Bible, not the Scripture text “sometimes altered or added to.” In comparison, Letters to Street Christians, a paraphrase of the Epistles, whose author, Jack Sparks, the writer of The Mindbenders is endorsed by the speaker, is written in language that not only is of the street, but at times goes into the gutter. I would be ashamed to give a copy to my sister, mother, wife, or daughter.
Having spent fourteen years under some of the best Bible expositors, I was surprised when I came to the church in Los Angeles to find that the Lord had gone on and had opened the Word of God through the ministry of Witness Lee in a way that was far beyond what I had seen or heard. For this rich ministry of the Word I am grateful because this ministry has changed my life and living.
In the meeting at Melodyland opposing Witness Lee and the local churches, the speaker made a very serious charge. He said, “One of the other traits that mark this [the local churches] as cultic is that they have in their so-called Bible studies Recovery Versions of the Bible. The Recovery Version consists of the text of Scripture, sometimes altered or added to by Lee.”
Not Altered or Added To
He is charging Witness Lee with altering and adding to the text of the Scripture. We want to answer this charge strongly and clearly. I personally, together with Witness Lee and two other brothers, am responsible for the text of the Recovery Versions. I can state with absolute certainty that the words of the text have never been altered or added to. Every week we meet together and cover a large table, four feet wide and eight feet long, with all kinds of versions of the Bible, together with the inter-linear Greek-English text and numerous word studies and lexicons. Our goal is to ascertain from the original language, by comparison with many versions, and with the help of word studies and lexicons, the most precise wording in modern English to utter the sacred text. We do this work very strictly, carefully, and prayerfully, word by word, phrase by phrase, verse by verse.
Every time before we translate, we pray, “Lord, renew our minds and cover us with Your precious blood. Keep us fully in the Spirit, and may Your Word come forth just as You would want it.” We seek to be those who are poor and contrite in spirit, who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2, Heb. ), and not be “as many, which corrupt the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17). Thus, we are absolutely not altering the text or adding anything to it. We consider our version to be the most accurate.
We ask the speaker at Melodyland to point out which word, which verse, in which chapter, we have altered or added. Let him show us, if he can, one instance in the Recovery Version that is not true to the original language of the Bible. He has made a serious, and we believe, a reckless and unsupported charge.
Because of the nature of this charge, having to do with the Word of God and our fundamental faith, we declare that this is something for which the speaker is legally responsible. We all know that if anyone alters or adds to the Word of God, it is a most despicable and abominable thing, deserving of the curse of God (Rev. 22:18-19). So to charge us with such a sinful act is not a light matter. We must make this matter very clear. We ask the speaker to respond. If he really considers that some part of our text is at fault, he should point out specifically the problem. If he is unable to do this, he certainly should apologize and make public rectification, for he has made such a gross charge in public.
“Is It Cultic To Have Another Version?”
Moreover, the speaker says that the fact that we have made another version of the Bible is “one of the…traits that mark [the local churches] as cultic.” But, we ask, “Is it cultic to have another version?” Because some heretical cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation, does it make us cultic because we have been burdened to produce another version? This is not sound reasoning. Because the unbelievers build houses and we also build houses, does that make us unbelievers? “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
The Motivation For The Name “Recovery Version”
Furthermore, the speaker at Melodyland, in a mocking tone, said that he “was not under the impression that the text [of the Bible] had been lost, but according to Witness Lee it has now been recovered.” At no time have we ever said that the text of the Bible has been either lost or recovered. This is the speaker’s unfounded sarcasm. We praise God that the text of the Bible has been preserved through all the centuries. We have chosen to call our version of the Bible the Recovery Version because God today is in the process of recovering the testimony of His church among His people, and we are in His recovery. May the Lord vindicate His testimony.
It is an understatement to say that the speaker at Melodyland has a blind spot, which becomes obvious in the way he quotes the Bible. He omits what is in the blind spot and quotes only what he can see. This is due to what we call deductive reasoning. With deductive reasoning, one begins with a premise which he already holds. He then brings it to the Bible, and because he already has the premise, he quotes only what agrees with the premise and omits what disagrees with the premise.
Blinded By A Preconceived Premise
Take for instance 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” The speaker at Melodyland brings the premise to this verse that Christ cannot be Spirit. He begins with that premise, so he reads it like this: “The Lord is the Spirit,” but all the time he knows in his mind that the Lord here cannot be Christ, because he already has the premise that Christ cannot be the Spirit. This is so even though in this passage the word “Lord” can absolutely be proved to mean Christ. It can be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to anyone who does not have a blind spot, that in this passage “the Lord” is Christ.
In chapter three, verse 14, Paul says that the veil is taken away by Christ. Then he says in verse 16, “Nevertheless, when it [the heart] shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” Is the Lord who takes away the veil in verse 16 different from the Christ who removes the veil in verse 14? Is the Lord who takes the veil away in verse 16 Christ or someone else? Surely the Lord spoken of is Christ. “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” You can only arrive at a different conclusion if you have a big blind spot.
The Son Being the Father
The speaker at Melodyland quoted John 1:1 according to his premise. These are his words: “Witness Lee says the Son is the Father. He is? If the Son is the Father, you’ve got a terrible problem with John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was face to face with God. Who was He face to face with?” Then he makes the joke: “A cosmic mirror looking at Himself?” He doesn’t finish quoting John 1:1; he only quotes the first part, which says, “The Word was with God.” The blind spot causes him to omit the last part, which says, “And the Word was God.”
The teacher at Melodyland has no problem with the aspect of the three. He does have a problem with the aspect of one. I have never heard him refer to the aspect of one, although I have heard him speak a number of times. He always refers to the aspect of the three of the Trinity, never to the aspect of the one of the Trinity.
It is the same with Isaiah 9:6: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Quoting the Melodyland speaker again: “Ah, says Witness Lee—there it is. The everlasting Father is Jesus. He should take some lessons in Hebrew, and he should take some lessons in what the Jews meant when they wrote titles.” I would like to ask why he didn’t give us the lesson in Hebrew. We are open to any lesson that is valid. We will listen to anything that is genuine. Why did he not give us the Hebrew lesson? I am disappointed. And what did the Jews mean when they quoted titles?
I do not know Hebrew, but I can read English. For instance, I have read Isaiah in three volumes by Edward J. Young, a man whose credentials are impeccable in the matter of Hebrew. He was for many years head of the Old Testament Department at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, one of the most conservative, fundamental seminaries in the United States. It says on the jacket of his book that he writes not primarily concerning textual problems but with the meaning of the text in view. On the section where it says in Isaiah 9:6, “And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,” this is what he says:
The thought is that the Child is worthy to bear these names, and that they are accurate descriptions and designations of His being and character. In the Bible the name indicates the character, essence or nature of a person or object. [He is telling us what the speaker at Melodyland failed to tell us concerning the meaning of the title. ] When, therefore, it is stated that He shall be called, we are to understand that the following names are descriptive of the Child and deserve to be borne by Him. …To maintain with George Adam Smith that the text merely says he will be called, not that he actually will be what the names indicate, would be a gross misunderstanding of the nature of the prophecy, indeed, of the nature of the Biblical language generally.
I would ask, do the words in Isaiah 9:6 mean what they say? Take all the words and ask concerning each one—does it mean what it says? “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Does this really mean a child? Or does it have some other meaning in view? Is this really a son, or does it mean something else? “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.” Does this really mean the government, or does this mean a chair, a house, a scroll, or something else? “His name shall be called Wonderful.” Is His name wonderful? “His name shall be called…Counselor.” Is He a counselor to you? It says that He is the Mighty God. Do you believe that? And “the Eternal Father.” Does that mean what it says or not? It does—if you do not have a blind spot. But if you have a blind spot and begin with a preconceived premise, when you get to this point in the verse, you will twist it, turn it, or do something with it to explain it away because you cannot allow it to say what it actually says. “His name shall be called…The Eternal Father.” This means Jesus Christ.
The Twofoldness of Divine Truth
At this point I call the reader’s attention to a little book entitled The Twofoldness of Divine Truth by Robert Govett. He says this:
Two hedges define the road; from two abutments springs the bridge. Does the bird fly with one wing? No—with two. Cut off one and it must forever keep to the surface. Thus does God try His people. Will they trust Him when He affirms that view of truth which runs counter to their temperaments and intellectual bias? or will they trample on one of His sayings in their zeal for the other? The humble, child-like saint will acknowledge and receive both; for his Father, who cannot err, testifies to each alike.
Again he says,
It must not be forgotten or denied that there are continually exhibited within its [the Bible’s] pages truths seemingly opposed to each other. It is the glory of man’s intellect to produce oneness. His aim is to trace different results to one principle, to clear it of ambiguities, to show how, through varied appearances, one law holds. Anything that stands in the way of the completeness of this, he eludes or denies, as something destructive of the glory and of the efficiency of his discovery. But it is not so with God.
This is exactly what the Melodyland speaker does. This is why we say he has a blind spot. He cannot accept the two, which seem like opposing sides, but are in reality two sides of one thing. He simply has to make everything fit. He has to force it into his theological mold. What he cannot make fit he either does not quote, or else wrenches, in order to make it say what his premise already holds. So he either eludes it or denies it.
It is so good to be able to come simply to the Word of God with no premise and derive our premise from within the Word; not to superimpose our premise upon the Word. We love to study the Bible to find out what is in the Bible.
Copyright © 1994 Living Stream, Anaheim, CA, USA. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.