Friday, September 29, 2017

Scriptural Macroevolution (modified)

Sorry, the title is crass click-bait. Or is it?

The Septuagint is the common (Koine) Greek version of the Old Testament. It was translated from the Hebrew during the inter-testament period. It was revered, to say the least, with many Jews believing that the translators were inspired by God. Let us call this species of zealots Septuagint-Only-ites.

Jump ahead a half a millennium. In the early fifth century, Jerome and others, using Hebrew texts rather than the Septuagint, translate the Old Testament into Latin as part of the overall Latin translation known as the Vulgate.

Septuagint-Only-ites included in their ranks the usually level-headed Augustine. The Bishop of Hippo saw the riots in Tripoli that erupted following the introduction of the Vulgate as a sign that Jerome’s translation was attempting to usurp the True Word of God, i.e., the Septuagint.

So in the fifth century we have Septuagint-Only fundamentalists decrying the ultra-modern, heretical, commie-pinko, gender-challenged, feminist, National Anthem Disrespecting, Vulgate.

Here we also see the effectiveness of mutation in the evolutionary process. We see this in the case of the Vulgate’s mutation of the Greek word “repent,” metanoeite, as "do penance". This aberrant recessive gene still lingers in the pool, often skipping generations before being expressed:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17, Douay Rheims) 
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17, ESV)

Eventually, from survival of the fittest (aka he with the biggest stick wins) the Vulgate took over. Over the next millennium, a new species of only-ites evolved, for they surely were not intelligently designed, and those were, of course, the Vulgate-Only-ites. The Vulgate-Only-ites were just as certain that their translation was inspired and inerrant as their least universal common ancestor, the Septuagint-Only-ites. In fact, with evolutionary novelty, they one-upped them: Vulgate-Only-ites argued that the Vulgate’s Latin New Testament was inspired and inerrant, and superior to the Greek from which it was translated! The preface to the Roman Catholic Rheims New Testament argues the Latin Vulgate "is not only better than all other Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they disagree." (Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582).

The Council of Trent (1545-1563), called in response to the Reformation, declared, regarding the Vulgate:
Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.
Now around this time, just a bit before, we have the almost-Reformer Erasmus, influenced by the Renaissance, thinking that it would be a good idea to go back to the oldest sources and, with modern standards of scholarship, do a new translation from the extant Greek texts. Erasmus’ translation went through several editions, ultimately to be known as part and parcel of the “received text,” or the Textus Receptus.

So at the time of the Reformation, we have Vulgate-Only-ites. And we have the new modern interloper, the destroyer of tradition, the Textus Receptus.

The Textus Receptus is the basis of the Authorized Version, or the King James Bible.

Of course we now have a new speciation event: there now litters the landscape a peculiar hominid known as the KJV-Only-ite. Like the Vulgate-Only-ites, many KJV-Only-ites also believe that their One True translation is superior to the documents from which it was translated.

To review this sad tree:
  1. The Septuagint-Only-ites believed that their beloved translation was inspired and inerrant. The fiercely fought the heretical newcomers…
  2. The Vulgate-Only-ites, who believed that their beloved translation was inspired and inerrant. The fiercely fought the heretical newcomers…
  3. The Renaissance translators who are responsible for the Textus Receptus which forms the basis of the King James Version which, obeying the law of Unforeseen Consequences or “no good deed goes unpunished” resulted in…
  4. The KJV-Only-ites, who we see as merely the latest in the phylum Fundamentalicus Textular Extremicus.
What will come next? With evolution such as this, who can predict? I suspect it will be the "Okay-Google-Only-ites."


  1. Slight correction: Erasmus and the "Renaissance translators" did not make a Greek translation, but formed a scholarly text from the best Greek manuscripts he/they could find.