1689 London Baptist Confession Chapter 1 Part 8-10: The Use of Scripture
Roman Catholicism hated John Wycliffe translating the Bible into the common language of English. The Roman Catholic system was built on the idiosyncrasies of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation. For example, what we know as the word ‘justified’ which means to legally declare one righteous implying a new legal status was translated into the Latin as ‘make righteous’ not ‘declare righteous.’ Wycliffe’s English Bible cut the throat of Rome’s hold on the common mind by his translation. He translated the word ‘presbuteros’ as elder not priest highlighting that there is no NT warrant for a priesthood. He translated ‘ekklesia’ as congregation not church recognizing and legitimizing local churches as churches not the monolithic church of Rome. He translated ‘metanoeo’ as repent and not do penance making forgiveness a direct exchange between the believer and God and not depend upon following stipulations laid out by the church. He translated exomologeo as acknowledge/admit and not confess to show that the Bible did not intend one to go to a confessional and obtain forgiveness from a priest but obtained it directly from God. The word of God in the common tongue is a powerful tool that can bring about personal and societal transformation.
We are looking at the 1689 chapter 1 paragraphs 8-10 and we have begun to stress the importance of translation. We have noted the historical resistance to the effort, and the insistence on the Bible being able to be understood and being reliably transmitted down to us. Today we continue looking at this point and others. In paragraph 8 the emphasis on the word of God being given in the Hebrew and Greek was not an attempt to undermine translations but a recognition of the faults in the Vulgate which Erasmus and others had highlighted. It was also a direct critique of the Roman Catholic practice to appeal to the Vulgate to shore up its errant practices and beliefs. The drive here is to ensure that the Scriptures not the Church is the final authority in all things. B. B. Warfield highlights how these closing paragraphs stress the proper use of scripture: ‘These sections contain the application of the principles laid down in the preceding sections, to the burning practical questions raised by the very existence of Reformed religion. Their declarations enunciate the fundamental principles of Protestantism: that the appeal to doctrine is not to be to the Latin Vulgate, but to the original scriptures; that the people have the right to the Scriptures in the vernacular; that Scripture, not an infallible interpreting Church is the Supreme interpreter of Scripture; and that Scripture not the Church is the Supreme judge in religious controversy.’1
We will conclude this section looking at some principles of translation and the better translations to use; then the matter of scripture being its own interpreter and how scripture must be the final arbiter in all matters.