hierarchical bishops and Acts 20:28

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Logos1560, Dec 19, 2008.

  1. Logos1560

    Logos1560
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    Some suggest an indication of possible Episcopal bias in the KJV at Acts 20:28. In his history of Baptists, D. B. Ray noted the following about Acts 20:28 in the KJV: "The word overseers in this passage is episcopous in the Greek--the word which is usually translated bishops; but to have rendered it bishops in this place, would have shown that elder and bishop is the same office, which would have condemned the church of the translators" (Baptist Succession, p. 292). Edward Hiscox quoted Henry Alford, Dean of Canterbury, as saying that the English Version [the KJV] "has hardly dealt fairly in this case with the sacred text in rendering episcopous, v. 28, overseers; whereas, it ought there, as in all other places, to have been bishops, that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the English reader" (Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, p. 90). Four times the KJV had translated the same word as bishops (Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:7, 1 Pet. 2:25). In Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary, David Brown asserted that the reason the word was not translated “bishops” at Acts 20:28 was “to avoid the obvious inference that the same persons are here called ‘elders’ (v. 17) and ‘bishops’” (III, p. 150). Eadie wrote: “It has also been alleged, and not without some reason, that in Acts 20:28, the rendering of the clause ‘over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers’ is a deflection from the true translation, and conceals the identity of the ‘elders’ with the office-bearers usually named ‘bishops’” (English Bible, II, p. 271). John Cotton (1584-1652) affirmed that Paul “called for the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:17, whom also he named Bishops, for so the Greek word is, which is translated overseers, verse 28” (Way, p. 47). Calibute Downing (1604-1643), who was a son-in-law of KJV translator Richard Brett, referred to “elders or parochial bishops, or bishops of particular congregations; Acts 20:17, 28” (Clear Antithesis, pp. 1-2). In his 1699 book, Thomas Forrester agreed that Paul described “the elders of that one city [Ephesus] as Bishops” (Hierarchical Bishops, p. 68). The 1380's Wycliffe's, the 1535 Coverdale's Bible, the 1538 Coverdale's Duoglott New Testament, and 1582 Rheims had rendered it "bishops" in this verse while the other pre-1611 English Bibles had “overseers.”


    Would the rendering “bishops” [plural] at Acts 20:28 for several “elders” [plural] of a church [singular] at one city (Acts 20:17) have been a problem for the prelatic or Episcopal church government view that each bishop is over a diocese or district that may include several churches and that a bishop has authority over elders or pastors? Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary gave as its second definition for bishop the following: “in the churches maintaining apostolic succession, a prelate superior to the priesthood, consecrated for the spiritual government and direction of a diocese, bishopric, or see” (p. 187). Would use of the rendering “bishops” at Acts 20:28 have conflicted with the hierarchical sense or definition of the prelate or diocesan bishop? Would not “bishops” have been one of the ecclesiastical words to be used and kept unless its use at this verse was a problem for the prelates? David Calderwood (1575-1650) maintained that “the prelate maketh a confusion of names that he may put himself in the place of the apostle” (Pastor and the Prelate, p. 21). Calderwood noted that “the question is not of the bishop, but of the prelate or diocesan bishop, whether he be the divine bishop” (p. 33). Calderwood observed that “the diocesan bishop is but one, in a diocese, over many kirks [churches]“ (p. 33). Calderwood asserted that “the diocesan bishop hath no particular congregation for his flock” (p. 34). Calibute Downing referred to prelates as “diocesan Lord Bishops, lording over their brethren contrary to Christ’s forbidding” (Clear, pp. 1-2). When quoting from Acts 20:28 in his book Perpetual Government of Christ‘s Church, Thomas Bilson, co-editor of the 1611 KJV, had quoted or rendered this word two times as “bishops” (pp. 211, 269) and once as “overseers“ (p. 134).
     
  2. Jerome

    Jerome
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    I know, the Geneva Bible translators were part of the grand episcopal cabal: they put in ouerseers there too.

    John Bunyan has "the Pastors of the Churches".
     
  3. Logos1560

    Logos1560
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    The Geneva Bible translators likely simply kept "overseers" from some of the other pre-1611 English Bibles. William Tyndale is known for his use of variety and synonyms in his translating. It was perhaps due to his tendency to use so much variation in rendering that Tyndale first used "overseers" at Acts 20:28. While William Tyndale was part of the Church of England, he was not necessarily an advocate of all typical Church of England doctrinal views. Miles Coverdale used "bishops" at Acts 20:28 in his 1535 Bible. The 1537 Matthew's Bible kept Tyndale's rendering. The 1539 Great Bible which was a revision of the 1537 Matthew's Bible kept the rendering of the Matthew's. The 1560 Geneva Bible likely simply kept the rendering of the Great, Matthew's, and Tyndale's at Acts 20:28. The translators of the Geneva Bible were not strong advocates of episcopal church government. They would likely be more associated with presbyterian church government views than episcopal church government views though they had likely been taught episcopal views when younger. So far as I know, none of the Geneva Bible translators considered "bishops" or "overseers" to be a different office than "elders" or "presbyters." The Geneva Bible translators did not have a rule instructing them to use ecclesiastical words. Ecclesiastical words would seem to include the word "bishops." Therefore, the Geneva Bible translators cannot be claimed to have kept the rendering "overseers" for the same reason that it may have been in the 1611. Thus, I would not think that the Geneva Bible translators had the rendering "overseers" at Acts 20:28 because of possible episcopal bias.

    The translators of the 1568 Bishops' Bible were all diocesan bishops in the Church of England, and they would have been advocates of the episcopal views of their day. Even though they would have defended episcopal church government, the Bishops' Bible translators did not yet advocate the apostolic succession and divine origin of bishops' view that would be developed and advocated by Richard Bancroft in 1589, Thomas Bilson in 1591, Arian Saravia, and perhaps later Lancelot Andrewes. The development of this new theory before 1611 by several men associated with the making of the KJV is one valid reason for considering whether or not this theory influenced the translating, and this verse could be considered an example of episcopal influence.
     
  4. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    Good thoughts Logos. The anglical/episcopalian slant to the AV is obvious even to a casual reader.

    Must of that is from the Latin (remember, Anglicans are simply English Catholics, heading to the same hell) which was the source of study for the priests. All textbooks were in Latin, little "English" works were available.

    So Tyndale, Matthews, the Bishop's Bible (Great Bible), etc, in ENGLISH will reflect more of the Vulgate than any would do today. It was the product of that time. Hence the AV is closer to the Catholic Douay that also predated it than to modern English translations.

    Always makes me go "huh?" when Baptists, who rejected and would not use the Anglican slanted translation, now claim it is the "only" or "preferred" translation (with some bow down and worship it as perfect). Amazing turn around in thinking.
     
  5. Logos1560

    Logos1560
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    Concerning Acts 20:28 in his commentary on Acts, J. A. Alexander asserted: “Over the which is not a correct version, as it makes the overseers entirely distinct from and superior to the flock, whereas the original makes them a part of it, although superior in office” (p. 249). Alexander indicated that it would better have been rendered “in which, in the midst and as a part of which” (Ibid.). At this verse, Haak’s 1637 English translation of the Dutch Annotations affirmed that the Greek meant “in which.“ Concerning these same words in his notes on Acts, Melancthon Jacobus commented: “literally, in which--wherein--as yourselves a part” (p. 329). The KJV kept its rendering over the which from the Bishops’ Bible. Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Great, and Geneva Bibles have “whereof,” and Coverdale’s has “among the which.” The Companion Bible maintained that “out of 2,622 occurrences of en, it is rendered ‘over’ only here” (p. 1635).

    On the other hand, at this verse, the KJV did keep or follow the rendering “to feed” from Coverdale’s and Geneva Bibles instead of the rendering “to rule” in Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Great, and Bishops’. The 1611 KJV’s keeping of “feed” from the Geneva Bible at this verse could be understood to indicate that the KJV translators intended “overseers” to be understood as “pastors” [“priests” as they were called in the Church of England] instead of as bishops who rule over a diocese. The diocesan bishops of the Church of England of that day did not feed or preach every week to one congregation or flock as the overseers of Acts 20:28 were instructed to do.
     

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