Space Age Science by Edward F. Hills

Space Age Science by Edward F HillsEdward F. Hills is best known for his 1956 book The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts (Christian Research Press). Assessments of Hills’ legacy are offered by both King James Only advocates (here and here), and critics (here). All agree that Hills was unique in being the only defender of the King James that had studied in the field of textual criticism, a ThD from Harvard, no less.

It was actually by reading Hills’ work, that I first began to doubt the tenets of King James onlyism, since he is honest with the evidence and admits to a few errors in the Textus Receptus. Hills also espouses a more Calvinistic bent in his theology than I had been exposed to up to that time, but what most made me pause in my reading of Hills, was his unabashed acceptance of geocentrism. He is not the only King James proponent to hold to geocentrism (the idea that the sun and planets rotate around the earth), see this article by Dr. Thomas Strouse.

With this wariness in my mind, I was intriguted when I found a copy of another smaller title written by Edward Hills: Space Age Science (Christian Research Press, 1964). In this title it appears he backs off of his geocentric views, somewhat – but later editions of his more well known work do not clarify matters.

Here is a brief review of this book, which I recently read with interest, particularly in light of the modern debates over science and the Bible.

This book displays an interesting perspective on science and faith, from the early 1960s. Hills does a good job explaining Einstein’s theories, but his critiques and biblical application don’t stand on much. He doesn’t cite authorities backing up his claims.

At first glance, it appears that in this book, Hills backs away from geocentrism (the view that the earth is stationary and the planets rotate around it). He makes the interesting observation that according to Einstein, Ptolemaic theory (stationary earth) and Copernican theory (stationary sun) are interchangeable and both equally true depending on your perspective. But then he clearly distances himself from a geocentric view:

“When we consider what the Scriptures say concerning the movements of the heavenly bodies, we see that they by no means teach the Ptolemaic theory” (p. 55). He goes on to quote Ps. 19:6 as showing the sun moves on its circuit. And points out the context of Ps. 93:1 a verse taken to prove geocentrism. He points out that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7) and says “The astronomy of the Bible is not earth-centered but God-centered” (p. 55).

After doing some searching, I did find that this contradicts what Hills states in his book The King James Version Defended. There (in the 4th edition, 1984, pg. 7) he states that he thinks it likely that Tycho Brahe’s theory (the predecessor of Copernicus) that the earth rotates on its axis and the sun and planets rotate around the earth is “probably correct.” It appears his conclusions in this volume (Space Age Science) are tentative and underplayed.

Another intriguing element of this book was his concession that God’s initial creation may have been just “mere energy out of which matter was later constituted” (p. 71). But then he disavows the deep time involved in modern astrophysics: “No billion years were required for the light of even the farthest star to reach our earth’s atmosphere, for God’s almighty power was able to bring it there in an instant of time” (p. 73). He even suggests that this may be what is intimated by the fact that God “set” the great lights in the firmament (p. 73).

Overall this is a fascinating insight into a Christian scholar trying to grapple with modern science from a believing point of view. I don’t think his qualifications from a scientific background fit him well for writing this book, and I don’t follow him in all his positions; but his attempt to apply the Bible and asses modern scientific developments is laudable.

Pick up a copy of this book at any of the following online retailers: Amazon.com, Bible Baptist Bookstore.

The Origin of the Title “The Authorized Version” for the KJV

I have long thought that the proper term for the King James Version is “the Authorized Version.” At times, I’ve wondered if that title isn’t more of a British title, since most Americans prefer “King James Version” or simply the “King James Bible.” But I recently read a historical essay by David Bebbington, professor of History at the University of Stirling, Scotland, in which he points out the fact that the King James Version was not always known as “The Authorized Version.” Bebbington’s essay, “The King James Bible in Britain from the Late Eighteenth Century,” appears in a collection of important historical essays published by Baylor University Press (2011) under the title, The King James Bible and the World It Made (edited by David Lyle Jeffrey).

Bebbington argues convincingly that the King James Bible did not enjoy universal acclaim in the eighteenth century until the very end of that period. In a post at my personal blog, I excerpted Bebbington’s conclusion, which argues that “the enthusiasm for the translation of 1611 rose and fell with the growth and decay of Romantic sensibility.” In the excerpt provided below, I would like to quote his description of how the title “the Authorized Version” came to be used for the King James Bible.

A fourth explanation of the rising tide of admiration for the translation of 1611 was its redefinition as “the Authorized Version.” The title emerged for the first time in a debate provoked by the creation of the [British and Foreign] Bible Society. Whereas the society’s evangelical supporters considered the new agency a bulwark of the existing social order, the High Church party thought it a sinister development. It threatened the work of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the established Anglican organization for circulating the Scriptures. Furthermore, the timing was unfortunate. During 1804, the year of the society’s foundation, Napoleon’s forces were poised to invade the country, and in the heightened alarm, the equal presence of Dissenters alongside Churchmen on the society’s committee seemed poentially subversive. Had not Dissenters once killed an English king, Charles I? Thomas Sikes, the High Church vicar of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, warned that, when the production of the sacred text was being entrusted to “sectaries,” nobody could be confident that they would not tamper with the translations. In order to calm such fears, John Owen, one of the society’s secretaries, replied that the organization was limited to producing versions “printed by authority.” When an opponent pointed out that this restriction had not been stated formally, the society hastened in May 1805 to revise its constitution so as to read, “The only copies in the languages of the United Kingdom to be circulated by the Society, shall be the authorised version, without note or comment.” Thus the phrase “the authorized version” was launched on the world as an apologetic device for the Bible Society. By 1819 the phrase had been heard so often that it crept for the first time into the Times newspaper, though still with a lowercase “a,” showing that it was not yet a title. The steady growth of the usage is documented in the number of times in each subsequent decade the phrase occurred in the Times: 1820s, 7; 1830s, 41; 1840s, 61; 1850s, 91. By the last of these decades, the expression was starting to be capitalized, demonstrating that it had emerged as a title. Thereafter “the Authorized Version” became the standard term for the 1611 Bible in Britain, where the phrase “King James Bible” was hardly ever used. The new title surrounded this particular text, as it was originally intended to do, with an aura of unique legitimacy. It helped forward the process by which the version became embedded more deeply in the national culture. (pg. 53-54)

You can pick up a copy of this book at any of the following online retailers: CBD, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Baylor University Press.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Baylor University Press for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Answering John MacArthur on the Ending of Mark

Recently, Dr. John MacArthur finished preaching through the New Testament (after nearly forty years). His last sermon covered the biggest controversy in the world of textual criticism: the ending of the Gospel of Mark. Dr. MacArthur sided with the majority of careful Christian scholarship and defended the position that Mark ends his Gospel at vs. 8. In the sermon (available to watch on Youtube), he gives a brief survey of textual criticism, the various manuscript types, and the evidence for and against the ending of Mark.

As I listened to MacArthur’s sermon, I winced at his handling of the textual evidence. He painted the picture in rosy kind of way, making the evidence in favor of his position seem insurmountable. In reality, the picture is quite different from the reality, and this question is one that should not be decided so cavalierly. It isn’t black and white and a simple matter of going with the ancient manuscripts on this point. The issue is much more complex than that. At the end of the day, I think MacArthur takes the correct position (I could still be persuaded otherwise, however), but at the very least he should be more transparent with the evidence. I understand wanting to instill faith in the Scripture and wanting to help people have confidence in textual criticism. Bending the truth (at least in the way you present the evidence) doesn’t help, however.

Pastor James Snapp, who is a proponent of equitable eclecticism and has studied long and hard on the issues surrounding textual criticism, has answered John MacArthur in a series of three 13-14 minute YouTube video clips. James is a frequent commenter around here, and doesn’t always agree with every position that I personally have taken. But he is fair minded and tries to go where the evidence takes him. He does a good job marshalling the evidence for the inclusion of Mark 116:9-20 and explains numerous errors that Dr. MacArthur made in his sermon.

Not every error is equally damaging, and not all the evidence that Snapp presents is convincing. I walked away from Snapp’s series with more questions about this matter which I intend to research further, but I am not completely convinced that the majority of Christian scholarship is just completely duped on this point. Snapp doesn’t explain how the various alternate endings of Mark arose, and that is a matter to explore. Why would anyone chop off the ending of Mark and keep the rest of his Gospel? What’s so special about the ending?

Regardless, I wanted to make you aware of Snapp’s rebuttal and post his video clips below. Snapp is very fair and charitable toward Dr. MacArthur, and presents a perfect example of how to engage in a disagreement honorably and respectably.

Has anyone else seen some kind of response or additional elaboration from MacArthur’s church on this question? Or do any of our readers have additional thoughts to share on this matter? Please join the discussion in the comments below.