Upon seeing the title of this article, we are immediately familiar with the story behind it. Elisha has been summoned as a crew full of hungry, blue-collar workers training for the ministry, realize that the mouthful of stew they just spooned down their trap was loaded with poison. You could imagine the horror of such a thing. I suppose the only thing that could be much more frightening is that with Elisha throwing a handful of meal (who says a little cornmeal doesn’t help everything that tastes bad, taste better) in it, the workers are asked to eat the same thing that about killed them five minutes ago. Now, we know this is a miracle, and were not God’s hand evidently involved, this pot of poison would have killed everyone that day. I would just as soon get a fresh pot of porridge on the fire, before I would put another mouthful of that stuff in my mouth; but, alas, these were poor laborers for the Lord and could not afford the waste. The point is, that were not God directly involved, that pot of porridge was poisoned without any hope of making it edible for those present that day.
Today, in the realm of translations of the Bible, and specifically in the area of Chinese translations, there are Bible versions popping up all over the place. The primary Bible used, that is the Union Bible, is nothing but a pot full of poison. Not only was it based off of poisoned manuscripts (the Alexandrian family of manuscripts), but it was also made with borrowed ingredients from another poisoned pot of Bible translation (the Authorized Standard Version in ENGLISH). The application of the story comes into play, when most Bible-believing Christians and missionaries in China today, have no problem calling out the “pot of death,” that is, the Union Bible, but they seem to think that a little meal in the pot will do the trick. Currently, there are 6 translations of the Bible being translated or lately completed into Chinese that all either boasted to be “fixed” by a King James or “brought into alignment” with the Greek Textus Receptus. Now the question at hand is, “fixed” from what, and “brought into alignment” from where? The answer is the Union Bible. Out of six versions, all taking a “King James Only” stance, not one felt the necessity to utilize the Peking Bible (which predates the Union Bible by 40 years, and was done by much more qualified men, and sold more copies than the later Union Bible, and was translated from the same underlying texts as the King James) as their base document for “fixing” and “bringing into alignment”? This is almost unbelievable. The Peking Bible is to be rejected for its seemingly “non-KJV” readings, while “pretend” Bible translators utilize the provably Alexandrian Union translation as their basis, reassuring us that the King James will clean up the poison found therein? By no means do we doubt the ability of the Holy Ghost to put a little seasoning in to fix the most rancorous of poisonous pottage, but we do most certainly doubt the scholarship and wisdom of someone willingly choosing a pot full of poison just so as to tempt God (Matt. 4:7). One of the websites for these “Chinese King James Translations” claims the Peking Bible was sourced, but found to be “poorly translated.” Why didn’t that knock the Union Bible out of the ring as well? You see, it is fear of man, plain and simple. The Chinese church has been using the Union Bible for nearly 100 years, and no foreigner or foreign organization wanted to make that stand against nationalistically-driven indigenous believers. James has shown the incredulity of such a claim, that a poison source could produce pure results. Remember, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” Some probably are thinking right about now that I chose a poor passage to prove my point, as the story actually talks about poisonous pottage being made clean, however I think it quite fitting as, if indeed we are going to claim the good ol’ King James will clean that pot of poison out, surely we have the ability as the “prophet of God,” to clean it up. There are a few things worth noting about this story:
- First, the poison was brought in from another source. The pottage was not poisonous in and of itself. Some aspiring chef decided to add a little secret sauce to the entree that day and brought in some wild gourds that no one had ever seen before. The chef, who, in the process of adding his secret ingredient, about killed off the men of God, was horrified when he realized his poor botanical skills. Those who seem to think the Union Bible just has a little poison in it and only needs God’s holy meal to fix it up, must not realize that the very substance of the Union Bible is poison, poison that was not brought in from elsewhere. The Union Committee set out to translate a Bible from the “oldest and best” manuscripts – these were wild gourds, as these manuscripts included the Apocrypha and 4,000 major differences with the good sound translations put out in various languages such as German, Finn, Spanish, French, and Norse during the 1500’s. The source was entirely corrupt. But it gets worse. The Union Bible, ill-qualified, then chose only to translate it as a reference work, not as a usable Bible, therefore it would be slavishly literal and contain all those “wonderful” (I say that jokingly) addendums in the column and footnotes, causing many to doubt the text. However, nearly 30 years later (1906), things were not going well, and they could not even get a pot of porridge made, because they did not know how to make it, so they tried to imitate the Peking Bible, changing and twisting as they went along. There is not just death in that pot, it is death. What is appalling, is how the self-proclaimed “King James Only-ist” (I use the term facetiously because self-onlyists have hijacked the term) will go into convulsions over places where the Peking Bible translated a variant rendering of the text that was even written in the margin of the King James as a possibility, all the while claiming it is not faithful to the King James. Yet, in regards to the Union Bible, the entire thing was translated from an entirely different source, and he does not see how that is more dangerous. The fact that all these translations cannot step away from the Union Bible shows two things. First, they are married to Chinese Christianity, it is their pope, it declares what is literary and what is acceptable by Chinese Christians. Second, it reveals poor skill in understanding Chinese. We live in a day when terms have become relative. For instance, translators are really nothing more than editors who copy. Out of 6 versions claiming to clean up a Union Bible by a King James, none of the committees (were there even committees?) felt qualified enough to translate on their own? They all had to base it off of a bad Bible to begin with? If you do not believe what I am saying, just compare Philippians 2:6 in a Union Bible and the Peking Bible; the Peking Bible’s reading is actually understandable. Now the truth is, they (the producers of the new, new, newest King James Chinese translations) had probably been introduced, somehow or another, to the Peking Bible, but were convinced by someone somewhere that the Peking Bible could not be used because it had an archaic word for Egypt. No one ever stopped to consider that every major difference found in the Union Bible when compared to the Textus Receptus, was translated correctly in the Peking Bible. Would not that qualify it as at least a good base document? I mean come on, this is a no brainer, it would be like picking Tyndale’s as a base for English, as opposed to Douay-Rheims. So on this count, the Union is not just a poisoned pot of good porridge, it is fully noxious.
- Secondly, the presence of God’s man and God’s cure cleaned it up. The man of God came in and threw a little holy cornmeal into the pot, and voila! The mixture was cured. The wild gourds no longer had their poisonous power. Now, one would think that with 6 versions in the works or completed, all coming from the same source with the same goal in mind, they would produce some similar products. I mean, Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza all seemed to be on the same track. Did not Coverdale, Bishop, and Geneva all kind of run in the same stream? Why is it that with 6 versions all claiming to be from the King James, there is no similarity? It is almost ironic how the King James only-ist has whined and moaned at the Greek crowd for their muddling of the text and producing so many different readings of texts, and he himself, now, is proving, apparently, that we cannot all agree on what every verse means. Let us be honest folks, were I alive in 1603, I would have happily used any one of the Reformation era English translations. The King James translators, in regard to Tyndale, admittedly aimed to make better a “good translation.” The 6 Chinese King James attempts are all divided. Furthermore, their work cannot be compared to one-man translations such as Tyndale’s because these groups or individuals are not translating, they are copying from a Union Bible and editing as they go. Now in fairness, some say they are editing from the King James, and some from the Greek Received text, either way, the editing crews are relying heavily upon the Union Bible, which is evident in Micah 5:2. Some are suspiciously similar to the Peking Bible, even preserving very unique 1900’s Mandarin ways of saying things (the use of 如) without giving credit. With all of this fervor for the King James, which is a good thing, has come many self-proclaimed scholars, who are certain their understanding of the text is correct, and not necessarily the text itself. Translating is not interpreting, however, I digress. The point is, if we are the “men of God” that have been sent from God, surely we would decide to make a “good” translation “better,” but it seems that the new attempts at translation have forgotten which Bible was “good” and which one was “bad.” It would seem the goal is to make a “bad” translation “acceptable.”
- Lastly, the people ate and did not die. The most remarkable evidence that Elisha truly was from God, was how every man ate the porridge that was poisoned and did not die. The reason was, that Elisha was from God, and therefore had power that could stand the test. The Chinese King James versions that are popping up all over, are finding much enthusiasm with missionaries, English-speakers, international believers who are familiar with the King James issue, and people poorly acquainted with Chinese. The awkward Chinese found in these translations, or er…, editions?, are too numerous to expound upon here. Either way, we must ask ourselves whether or not the porridge in the pot is a killer or a nourisher. The Peking Bible sold more copies than any Bible by any Bible society the first year it came out. It was referenced in the works of numerous Chinese scholars of the day. It was copied from by the Union Bible in all places they did not understand, which, after comparing the Old Testaments of both versions, must have been many. It strengthened Christians through the Boxer Rebellion, which was perhaps the era with the most fervently devoted Christianity. It corrected the errors created by the Taiping Rebellion. And today, within 1 year of being reintroduced, was used to start several Chinese churches in the mainland by Chinese pastors. We make no claims of our own. This version stands and falls on its own merits. The question that keeps coming to mind is, why would people claiming to honor and love the King James and the sources it comes from, willingly use a Bible that is provably Alexandrian, over a Bible that is provably Antiochan? This does not add up. There is death in the pot, folks, and it has nothing to do with wild gourds, but it has everything to do with the devil always preserving his counterfeit bible throughout the ages.