Ben Witherington's boring discovery...

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A United Methodist professor at Asbury Theological Seminary named Ben Witherington keeps a blog, and this past Monday he posted a piece titled, "The Problem with the ESV."  Witherington is a run-of-the-mill feminist trying hard to hold on to an evangelical commitment to the authority of Scripture while at the same time pushing the very thing explicitly forbidden by God--namely, women exercising authority over men. As men falling into this error go, Witherington strikes me as being in the "That's not what Paul really meant" camp. None of the honesty of the late Paul King Jewett who was man enough to say, essentially, "Yeah, Paul said it and Paul was wrong."

Speaking personally, I always admired Jewett for his courage. If my son's going to disobey me, I'd rather he did it like a man: "Yes, Dad, I know you told me to come straight home from youth group but I stopped and had a frappuccino with Emily. I disobeyed you and I'm sorry." Woe betide him if he tries to lie his way out of it: "But Dad, I know how important Emily's and my sexual purity is to you and we figured Starbucks was a good public place for us to sit and talk. You do want us to avoid being alone, don't you? I mean, when it comes to weighing which you care more about--me coming straight home or sexual purity--don't you think I made the right choice?"

But back to Rev. Dr. Witherington. Breathlessly, he reported the following New Information this past Monday...

Breathlessly, he reported the following New Information this past Monday...

I was having an e-chat with a member of the TNIV committee and he chronicled for me the story of how the ESV came into being. It was troubling in the extreme, and shows the ideological biases that led to its creation. I will allow this TNIV committee member to remain anonymous so he is not vilified and may fight his own battles should he choose to do so, but something needs to be said.

The ESV we owe chiefly to one particular scholar who has spent much of his career opposing the idea of women being involved in ministry. I am told that this scholar did everything he could possibly do to scuttle the TNIV, in the main because he abhorred the idea of the use of inclusive language... [Ben Witherington goes on to assure his readers that this unnamed scholar is such a misogynist he can't conceive of] women present (in the New Testament) who were not mere ciphers or appendages of the men who were there.

This scholar sought, and obtained a hearing before the TNIV committee years ago, and when it would not acquiesce to his demands that inclusive language NOT be used in the TNIV, it is my understanding that the process was then set in motion to buy the rights to the old RSV, make a few significant interpretive changes of a conservative sort, and then put this out under a new name (the English Standard Version) although it was almost entirely a retreading of the old RSV.

Now let me get this straight. A feminist scholar who was paid by Zondervan to do a feminist revision of the New International Version told Dr. Witherington that the English Standard Version had its origin in the work of another evangelical scholar who opposes feminism and Dr. Witherington found this information "troubling in the extreme?" You've got to be kidding me--"troubling in the extreme"?

When feminist ideologues on the TNIV committee such as Gordon Fee change the text of God's Word to minimize or delete Its patriarchal language and theology, how exactly did they think men faithful to Scripture's patriarchal language and theology would respond? Did they think we had taken vows to guard the good deposit for nothing? Did they think there were no faithful prophets left in Israel who would speak the truth? Did they think their corruption would go unanswered?

But oh, Dr. Witherington breathlessly reports the very account told him by Dr. Fee (or some other member of the TNIV committee) and he just assumes everyone who reads his secondhand account will see this unnamed misogynist scholar's actions as a nefarious plot rather than an act of godly courage.

Well of course we all know the unnamed scholar being pilloried by Dr. Fee (or one of his colleagues) and excoriated by Dr. Witherington is none other than the indefatigable Dr. Wayne Grudem who for many years now has chosen to honor God and to fight for the biblical doctrine of patriarchy (or what he prefers to call it, "complementarianism").

When Wayne fought the neutering of the NIV, it was not to his condemnation but to his everlasting credit. And a large part of the reason he fought it was his understanding that the subversion of the patriarchal text of Scripture would further the Evil One's designs to subvert not just the complementarity of the sexes, but finally the Arechetypal Fatherhood of God.

Later, when it became clear that the long term submission to Scripture's authority on the part of Zondervan and the International Bible Society (copyright holder of the NIV) could no longer be trusted, Dr. Grudem joined forces with other evangelical leaders and scholars to plan, raise the money for, and do the hard work of a new Bible translation.

Quickly, men of international scholarly reputation such as J. I. Packer and Vern Poythress joined the work and a publisher with unquestioned integrity in all matters related to the issue of Scripture's patriarchal language and theology was found--Crossway Publishers in Wheaton. And now, years later, we have the Bible birthed from that controversy, the excellent English Standard Version.

In a comment posted earlier this evening under my brother's post, ESV origin...," Fr. Bill Mouser provided a link to an old article published in the June 5, 1999 issue of "World" titled, "Decline of the NIV: Two new Bible translations and one revised one take the spotlight." The article was co-authored by David and me and it remains an accurate summary of the things under debate:

The second translation hoping to pick up some of the Bible share lost by the NIV is the English Standard Version (ESV), announced in February by Crossway Books. The version had its roots in discussions that took place before the May 1997 meeting called by James Dobson at Focus on the Family headquarters to resolve the inclusive NIV issue.

The night prior to the meeting, critics of regendered language gathered in a Colorado Springs hotel room to discuss the next day's strategy. During the course of the evening it became clear their concerns with the NIV extended beyond gender issues. The group discussed the merits of the Revised Standard Version, first published in 1952 by the National Council of Churches and recently replaced by the New Revised Standard Version, a regendered update.

Some months later, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor Wayne Grudem and Crossway President Lane Dennis entered into negotiations with the National Council of Churches to use the 1971 revision of the Revised Standard Version as the basis for a new translation. An agreement was reached in September 1998 allowing translators freedom to modify the original text of the RSV as necessary...

Although Crossway does not want its translation thrust linked to "Stealth Bible" concerns, feminists were quick to notice connections between the Crossway team and the conservative Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's critics of a regendered NIV. "This is not a CBMW project," said CBMW president Wayne Grudem.

To some it may be confusing that Crossway would deny the ESV's inception in the gender-neutral Bible controversy, but it's natural for corporate marketing departments to keep new product rollouts as far away from controversy as possible. The investment required for a major national rollout of the English Standard Version is many, many millions and the risk of failure is huge. Why buy trouble?

But let's remember Hudson Taylor's exhortation, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies."

So yes, Dr. Witherington, you're right: not just one, but several new Bibles were helped along the way by men opposed to the emendation and deletion of Scripture's patriarchal language by your friend and his colleagues who, for their work of destruction, were well paid by Zondervan and the International Bible Society.

But then again, no, Dr. Witherington, you're wrong. Not one of these men was ever engaged in a nefarious plot. Rather, they each acted with godly courage.

And at the beginning when almost no one was prepared to stand against the juggernaut of evangelical corporations and scholars on their payroll who had assembled to attack anyone who dared to criticize their destruction of Scripture, there were a few brave hearts who stood faithfully, holding up God's standard. Yes, it was that clear--I was there and saw it with my own eyes. And to this day my heart feels a rush of pride as I recall the work of the Holy Spirit through those men and women--three of whom I will single out as especially worthy of our praise: Vern Poythress, Wayne Grudem, and Mrs. Marvin (Susan) Olasky.

May God give us many more such men and women who have courage and are willing to stand in godly opposition to the spirit of our age. Feminism is a heresy and it must be rooted out of the Bride of Christ.

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(Note:When this article first ran in World, a Christian leader demanded World issue a retraction denying the substance of what David and I had written in the paragraphs above. Since I personally was a participant in the events recorded, I was able to provide sufficient documentation that any question concerning David's and my accuracy was removed. Copies of that documentation remain in my possession.)