Friday, October 30, 2009

Commentaries on Acts

On Sunday mornings I am preaching through the early chapters of the Book Of Acts. As I have done with the book of Daniel, I thought it might be interesting to give an overview of the commentaries that I am using. In no particular order, they are:
1. Gordon J. Keddie: You are my Witnesses (Evangelical Press). This is one of the Welwyn series of expository commentaries. It is a useful, work for the preacher, setting out the material in a good, helpful manner.
2. Darrell Bock: Acts (Baker Academic). This volume in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series is a huge doorstop of a book. It is however also extremely useful and decidedly evangelical. Bock has also written against the claims presented in the Da Vinci Code. He is a good example of a man who combines deep scholarship with a warm Evangelicalism. This book not only presents technical information, but also matter for preaching. If you have the money for it, it is a single commentary on Acts that counts as at least two or three smaller ones. The size is not a sign that too much irrelevant matierial has been included in this case.
3. I. Howard Marshall: Acts (IVP). This is a small commentary in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series. It is also extremely helpful for the preacher, containing many helpful hints.
4. J.A. Alexander: The Acts of the Apostles (Banner of Truth). This is an older exegetical commentary by a powerful preacher from the old Princeton tradition. It is decidedly Calvinistic, and warmly evangelical.
5. Alexander Maclaren: The Acts (Hodder and Stoughton). This is a volume in Dr. Maclaren's Bible Class Expositions series. Dr. Maclaren of Manchester was one of the great preachers of the late 19th century. His expositions contain much helpful matter for the modern preacher.
6. Joseph Parker: Acts (Hodder and Stoughton). Two volumes in the People's Bible series. This is not strictly speaking a commentary, but a sermon series, and does not cover every part of every chapter. However, the Acts volumes are particularly full and helpful.
7. John Calvin: Acts (Eerdmans/Paternoster). Two volumes in the Calvin's New Testament Commentaries series. Calvin is the prince of expositors, and if the preacher can only have one commentary, Calvin must top the list.
8. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Authentic Christianity (Banner of Truth). This series runs to six volumes. It is a series of sermons rather than a commentary, and as with Dr Lloyd-Jones' Romans series, the divisions are perhaps too small for most modern congregations. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of precious thought in these volumes, which can be judiciously used by the preacher to help think through the Acts.
In addition to which there are the whole Bible commentaries of Matthew Henry, John Gill, Adam Clarke and Matthew Poole. David Brown's contribution to the Jamieson, Faussett and Brown Bible commentary is also well worth consulting. I have not yet had the opportunity to consult Calvin's Sermons on Acts (Banner of Truth), but they must be worth consulting, as all Calvin's sermons are.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dangers of Seeing What is Not There

A while ago I referred to Principal Rainy's words on the dangers of critics seeing what is not there in the Bible. I have now got my copy of the relevant book back, and give the quotation:

"But, then, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that there is an eagerness in the critic's nature; he would always be seeing something, especially something that common people cannot see, or at any rate have not seen. Therefore, unless he is exceptionally self-restraining, he may persuade himself that he is seeing something remarkable, when all the time he is deluding himself with mere arbitrary combinations, And this too can be illustrated. You have sat before a fire, and seen a face in the glowing embers. Now that face, though it might be worth looking at for its lifelike suggestiveness, was nothing real; not a face objectively and actually presented to you. Move your head a little way, and the likeness vanishes. It was all in your point of view, aided by your fancy. In itself it was a meaningless, fortuitous collocation of pieces of glowing cinders, which at a certain angle yielded a deceptive perspective to your eye. So it is sometimes with the critics. I should think this befalls them all, even the best of them...

"Therefore the critic must make good to the public, I mean the public which studies such things, the method of his researches; he must make them see it, and establish it by evidence."

Robert Rainy: The Bible and Criticism (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1878), Pp. 103-4

This applies to Gail Riplinger's seeing the New Age movement in modern Bible versions. I assert that as regards the NASB, the NKJV, the ESV and the NIV, this is merely a "a meaningless, fortuitous collocation of pieces of glowing cinders", nothing more. Just as the Higher Critics have seen in the "glowing cinders" of the five Books of Moses the phantom persons of JEDP, four writers who never existed, so by the same subjective method, certain modern fundamentalists have seen all sorts of evil in words that are not at all evil in themselves, good words like 'the Christ', and such like.

Oh, and I extend the "meaningless, fortuitous collocation of pieces of glowing cinders" to the supposed numerical codes proposed by some.

And I thought of the passage before I read this. Which all goes to show you can't caricature some of these people. If you go to the blog linked to from Dr. White's, you'll see the whole 'English Preservationist' thing referred to in the comments. I am beginning to think this is a straw man set up by the King James Only crowd to say "well, we don't hold this." No, you don't, whoever said that you did?
Picture from James White, of course. I really had no intention of linking to it, but the Rainy quote is just so apposite!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Gospel in a Nutshell

Last Saturday I gave some little assistance to an open air outreach by Stoke Young Life. Asked what I'm doing in Stoke (good question), I replied that I was here to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "What is the Gospel you preach?" I was asked. "Can you define it in 20 seconds?"

"Jesus Christ crucified for sinners!" I replied in under five seconds.

It contains a lot, but in my opinion we all need to be able to define the Gospel briefly.

[N.B. I'm very busy this week, and so I prepared these posts last week]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Systematic Theology for preparation

On Wednesday I am going through a popular-level systematic theology Bible study. In order to get off my obsessive-compulsive NABV series (which I need to do), I thought I would share some of the books I have found helpful in preparation.

1. John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Eerdmans). Of course. This is the great classic of all time in the field. Calvin is warm and cautious, and just has to be in the library.

2. Louis Berkhof: Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth). Another classic. You can either stuff your library with odd books, or go with the classics. Or do both, which is why I have an awful lot of books. Berkhof is one of the greats of the 20th century.

3. John Macpherson: Christian Dogmatics (T. & T. Clark). From 1898, Macpherson is one of the better late 19th century works. It contains a lot of material that is not dealt with in the same way elsewhere, including a discussion of Law and Gospel that would not be out of place in a Lutheran dogmatics.

4. Shedd: Dogmatic Theology (Presbyterian and Reformed). This is a splendid 19th century American production, now in a more user-friendly edition.

5. Robert Culver: Systematic Theology (Mentor). A modern work. I'm not a huge fan, but it can be useful.

6. Charles Hodge: Systematic Theology (Thomas Nelson). Mine is a 19th century edition, and has an index I photocopied from the one in the library when I was at seminary. Hodge is another old standby.

7. Donald Macleod: A Faith to Live By (Mentor). A concise discussion by a noted modern theologian that can be quite useful.

In addition to this, I have volumes on individual doctrines that I consult as and when. Chief among these are the early volumes from the 'Cunningham Lectures' series. Produced by some of the greatest theologians of late 19th century Scotland, these include Buchanan's classic work on Justification, Rainy's Delivery and Development of Christian Doctrine, Smeaton's The Holy Spirit, and Laidlaw's Bible Doctrine of Man.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Commentaries on Daniel

At present I am preaching through the book of Daniel on Sunday evenings. In preparing these sermons, I have consulted a number of commentaries. Commentaries, of course, can be divided into the technical and the expository. There is a certain amount of overlap, of course. The commentaries are, in the order they came off the shelf:

1. Stuart Olyott: Dare to Stand Alone (Evangelical Press). Subtitled Daniel Simply Explained, this is a plain exposition by an excellent Reformed preacher. It is one of the books that a preacher ought to consult on Daniel.

2. Sinclair B. Ferguson: Daniel (Thomas Nelson). This is a volume in The Preacher's Commentary, recommended to me by Pastor Richard Wigham of Tabor Baptist Church, Llantrisant. He also said that in his opinion this is probably the only volume in the series worth reading. Not having read any other volumes in the series, I can't comment. This is a very good volume, though. Like Olyott, this is an expository commentary.

3. Iain M. Duguid: Daniel (Presbyterian and Reformed). This is a volume in the Reformed Expository Commentary. This is a much better series. Like the two previous volumes, this is an expository commentary. One useful thing about consulting several such commentaries is that they show how three excellent preachers have treated the book, all differing slightly in what they say.

4. Joyce G. Baldwin: Daniel (IVP). From the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series. I'll be honest, I got this for a pound in a secondhand bookshop. It is a more technical commentary, but small and useful in its way.

5. Edward J. Young: Daniel (Banner of Truth). An excellent commentary from the old Princeton tradition, first published in 1949. This is another technical commentary. It deals with the objections of the liberals in a masterful way.

6. Allan M. Harman: Daniel (Evangelical Press). A volume in the EP Study Commentary series. This is a mid-level commentary in a series that is intended for those who want to go into the text more deeply. I gave it a very good review for Peace and Truth magazine, though to be honest it can be given a miss if you possess all the rest of the commentaries I have referred to.

7. Ernest C. Lucas: Daniel (IVP/Apollos). In the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series. This is a very useful modern technical commentary. It contains much useful material.

8. Matthew Henry: Commentary (various editions). This is one of the classics of all time. Henry's ability is well known.

9. John Gill: Commentary (various editions). More technical than Henry, Gill combines deep learning with a thoroughly orthodox understanding.

10. Albert Barnes: Notes on Daniel (Blackie). To be honest, I find Barnes rather too in-depth for sermon preparation, where the aim is to get an overview of the whole passage, not to examine all the little details. But Barnes is very good.

11. Adam Clarke: Commentary (Tegg). Clarke is the great Wesleyan expositor, the Arminian version of Dr. Gill. There is a great deal of learning in Clarke, though he has some funny ideas in places. He usually has something to say worth reading, though.

12. Joseph Parker: The People's Bible (Hazell, Watson and Viney). The People's Bible is actaully a series of sermons through the Bible. The date in my copy is 1892. Parker does not cover every part of every chapter, and sometimes his sermons miss the main point of the text, but at least as often he gets the point. Parker was known as "the immortal Thor of pulpitdom", and consulting the treatment given a text by such a noted preacher is usually useful. I actually got this 25-volume set (Old and New Testament) for free at my seminary.

I have an unusually large number of modern commentaries on the book of Daniel. The proportions concerning a book like John's Gospel is a little more representative, being two modern commentaries to three old ones specifically on that book as well as the old standards listed above. Plus Calvin.
[Illustration: A bookkcase full of commentaries. From top left: Matthew Henry, The Expositor's Greek Testament, E.J. Young's Introduction to the New Testament, The People's Bible, Matthew Poole, etc., etc.]

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sermon Prep.

Seeing as many have taken it in hand to write about how they prepare sermons, some in a very poor way, I thought it might help people to say a few words about how I prepare a sermon/message/talk.

1. Prayer. The best way to understand any writing is to ask the author, and in prayer we communicate with God and ask Him to help.

2. Reading the Bible. I prefer to preach an expository series through a Biblical book. This is because such a series helps to ensure that it is the Word of God that speaks, not my ideas. If I am preaching the passage in the context of the book in which it appears, that severely limits my ability to force God's word to say what I want it to. I usually preach from the New King James Version, or the Authorised Version (usually in the Oxford edition, though the difference between the two is the letter 's' on the end of the word 'sin' somewhere in Ezekiel or Jeremiah). In my present situation the Church has agreed to use the NKJV, so I do as well. I occasionally refer to other English translations, principally the ESV and the NASB. I also consult the Greek and the Hebrew.

3. Make an outline of the passage. Before referring to any commentary, I make a preaching outline of the passage, usually with three headings. This outline must be derived from the passage, in the light of the whole Bible. Three things must be taken into account in making the outline:
i). The whole Bible as Christian Scripture. We cannot treat the Old Testament as if the New does not exist.
ii). Law and Gospel. This is often seen as a Lutheran approach, but in fact it is found in many Reformed writers, including John Bunyan. The first question in a law-Gospel analysis is "is this passage law or Gospel, or both?" If the passage is Law, how does it point to the Gospel? If it is Gospel, how does it answer the problem of the broken law?
iii). The place of the book in the history of salvation. Is it Old Testament or New? What is its date?

4. The commentaries. One great function of this is to make sure that I have properly understood the text. Usually, if you come up with an interpretation of the text that no commentator has ever thought of, you're wrong. Commentaries are meant to help, but you cannot plagirise them. Nor should quotes from the commentaries make up more than 10% of the sermon. The goal is rather to, as it were, 'discuss' the passage with the commentators. In doing this I have a number of rules:
i). The commentator may be wrong. Thus there is safety in numbers. You must also watch for the bias of the commentator. The Arminian will usually introduce some long philosophical discussion about Free Will when the word 'will', or 'choose' is used.
ii). Different types of commentary. There are two main types, the technical commentaries and the expository commentaries. Both kinds are useful in their own ways.
iii). Old and new commentaries. If we only refer to commentaries written in modern times we miss a great deal of treasure, and if we only read the older writers, we can conversely miss many fine modern commentaries. I will confess to a bias to the older commentaries myself. Some commentaries are vital, including Calvin, Matthew Henry and John Gill. I know of no modern whole Bible commentary that is as useful as these three.

5. The manuscript. In order to work out my thoughts, I write out a full manuscript. This will not read like the sermon as it will be delivered, it is a way to organise everything I have been thinking about.

6. The notes. These are written in outline form, fuller than the original outline, on one and a half sides of a quarter of a sheet of A4 paper. These fit inside my small red Bible, and go into the pulpit. Most illustrations and anecdotes are extemporaneous, so the notes contain an outline of the argument of the sermon, which is in five parts, a brief introduction, the three points, and a short conclusion.

Finally, if you're a preacher, don't suppose that this method is mandatory, or will work for you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apostolic Preaching

Preaching on Acts 3.12-26 more than a century ago, Joseph Parker noted

“When did the Apostles speak with bated breath and whispering humbleness? When did they try to make the best of the case by appeasing the spirit of the people, and by an endeavour to placate sensibilities which had been strongly excited? They never lowered the tone of their impeachment. Christ’s death was never less than a murder, and the men who had taken part in the crucifixion were never treated as other than murderers. There is no euphemism here; there is no attempt here at the smoothing down of very harsh asperities, on the contrary, we have here the bitter, stern, tragical, truth, and that truth has to be repeated day by day and age by age until every man feels that he himself has been the murderer of Christ.”

-Joseph Parker: The People’s Bible (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1901) Vol. 22, Pp.93-4

I venture to say that it is the loss of this note which is to blame for much of the lack of power in the pulpit today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

King James Only Meltdown

In the comments, 'The Puritan' has melted down and made an accusation that is actually actionable at law (not that I'd sue him for defamation of character if I knew who he was, but I could if I felt like it). Wow! I didn't think he was capable of such viciousness. This is an object lesson in what the King James Only sect are like, I'm afraid.

Time and again I asked him to explain why he thought it was acceptable to make like the comic book villain in the last post with B.F. Westcott's words and to accuse Westcott of holding opinions he never held. And he never answered the question. I asked him to justify Gail Riplinger's behavour, and he could not. I think this speaks for itself. It is apparently a tenet of this sect that you may speak all manner of falsehood against those who dare question any of their members' actions. Well, 'm sorry, but I don't find that in any Bible version, least of all the AV. Instead I find "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." We all sin, and we all break God's law. But to make bearing false witness an acceptable tactic against those you disagree with is frankly antichristian!

The real 'heresy' of Brooke Foss Westcott, according to this pernicious sect, is that he, with Fenton John Anthony Hort (they were probably first introduced by a university friend who said to Hort "Hey, I know a chap why doesn't have any first name, just surnames!"), co-edited an edition of the Greek New Testament that departed from the readings underlying the AV in many places. Then he and Hort were leading lights in the Revised Version project. Undoubtedly both of these projects were flawed. The RV was really a failure. Although many pastors used it in the study, it was generally viwed as unsuitable for the pulpit. In their Greek Testament, Westcott and Hort gave too much weight to two manuscripts, resulting in readings that were not authentic being adopted.

The honest way to deal with this question, then, is to show that the RV is wrong in many places, and that Westcott and Hort's Greek Testament is seriously flawed. Lacking the ability in the original languages to do this, Gail Riplinger instead claimed all modern Bible versions are part of a New Age plot, and made untrue charges against Westcott and Hort. Her follower in turn refused to admit she had lied, even when confronted with the evidence (which is shocking, and which shocked me). Unable to refute the charges, he first attempted to
change the subject, and then attacked me for daring to say that a book which is stuffed with false accusations, altered quotations, logical fallacies and downright lies was... well, a book stuffed with false accusations, altered quotations, logical fallacies and downright lies. A man who began by making a great show of how cultrued he was has ended in the sewers throwing dung. This is the sort of man King James Onlyism either produces or attracts.

Do you wonder why I write against it?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Godhead's Gone" - is That Bad?

On of the sinister signs of the Serpent's subtlety (sorry, it must be catching) that Gail Riplinger 'exposes' in her books is the fact that modern Bible versions have removed the word 'Godhead' from the Bible (Chapter 28 of NABV is titled "The Godhead's Gone". On P. 379 of NABV she gives a chart showing this. She states that the word "Godhead" means "Father, Son and Holy Ghost." Haowever, Gail Riplinger’s idea that 'Godhead' as used in the AV means 'Trinity' is an error, making a common term into a technical one, or in other words importing a systematic theological use of a term into a Biblical one. Let me explain my point further.

First of all, the term ‘godhead’, as used in the 17th century simply meant 'deity', as a perusal of Puritan literature will reveal. Thus in his Commentary on John,[1] first published in 1657, George Hutcheson writes that John's statement in John 1.3 that all things were made by Christ is "a proof of Christ's godhead" (P. 11). I might multiply quotations ad nauseum from Hutcheson, but it would serve no useful purpose. Matthew Poole wrote in 1685 on the same text that “The Divine nature and eternal existence of the Lord Christ is evident from his efficiency in the creation of the world.”[2] Also note that this is a comment on the same passage as the earlier quote from Hutcheson, incidentally showing that the old term ‘Godhead’ is a (now obsolete in this sense) synonym for ‘Divine nature’. Commenting on Colossians 2.9,[3] Poole uses ‘Godhead’ and ‘Divine nature’ interchangeably.

‘Godhead’ is in fact derived from the same root as the German ‘Gottheit’, Deity, that which makes God God, the essence of God. The Puritans – and the AV translators – use the word accordingly.

Second, Riplinger's argument is contrary to the Biblical usage of the term in the AV. In Romans 1.20 we read that creation reveals God’s “eternal power and Godhead.” Does creation reveal the Trinity so that it is “clearly seen’? Incidentally the Greek here is ‘Theiotes’, while in Colossians 2.9 it is ‘Theotes’. Both are translated ‘Godhead’ in the AV. This may seem slight, but remember that at the Council of Nicea the difference between heresy and orthodoxy was this same letter, iota. This letter can make a great deal of difference in Greek. The fact Riplinger does not think so only exposes the fact that she does not know Greek. The word in Romans could be hyper-literally translated ‘Godlikeness’ (German, ‘Gottlichkeit’). All of which is just to confuse you, of course.[4]

Colossians 2.9 is the passage that is most important in the discussion. There we read of Jesus Christ that "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Now, if we understand 'Godhead', when used in the AV as a technical term for the Trinity, it follows that the whole Trinity became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. The 'oneness' sects use this as a 'proof' for their false doctrine by importing the idea of the Trinity into the term 'Godhead', when a comparison with 17th century usage reveals that 'godhead' had not at that point the technical meaning Riplinger assigns to it. Thus switching to a word like "Deity" robs the Oneness teachers of a text they could otherwise pervert.

Nor is the term 'Divine nature' solely the property of the New Age Movement. The terms are common English ones. Just as Riplinger erroneously asserts that the term 'The Christ' is New Age (despite the AV itself stating that 'Jesus is the Christ', and never using the term 'the Christ' except in a positive way), so she has erroneously supposed 'Godhead' to refer to the Trinity, and 'Divine Nature' to be the sole property of the New Age. Now, I know the date of the origin of the New Age Movement is a bone of contention, but everyone agrees it is within the last 150 years, more or less. So you cannot accuse the Puritan Matthew Poole of New Age tendencies when he wrote in 1685 on John 1.3 that “The Divine nature and eternal existence of the Lord Christ is evident from his efficiency in the creation of the world” (Commentary on the Bible [Reprinted Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1975], Vol. 3 P. 278).

Friendly Footnotes:
[1] Modern edition London, Banner of Truth, 1972. And no, I didn't go hunting through Puritan literature for the word, I have better things to do with my time, I just happened to be using Hutcheson when I noticed his use of "Godhead" and thought 'well, isn't that interesting'.
[2] Matthew Poole: Commentary on the Bible (Reprinted Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1975), Vol. 3 P. 278
[3] Vol. 3 P. 716
[4] From Eadie: A Commentary on the Greek Text of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (Reprint, Vestavia Hills, AL, Solid Ground, 2005) P. 141. The etymology of "Godhead" is quite interesting if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another word on 'The Christ'

The idea that the title 'The Christ' is necessarily evil is frankly bizarre. The elephant in the room that Gail Riplinger does not seem to have fully recognised is that the New Age movement has taken over wholesale Christian language, filling words that can really only be read in a Christian sense, with a meaning taken from Eastern Pantheism.

The fact that New Agers may use the term does not give them ownership of it, any more than the use of the word ‘teacher’ means that Sunday-school teachers are New Age agents. Yet on P. 318 of NABV, Riplinger heads a section in all seriousness: “T-H-E Christ: Antichrist.” The reasoning behind this hatred of the term is difficult to fathom. While the use of the term is rare in the AV, it does occur some 19 times, these are:
1. Matthew 16:16
2. Matthew 16:20
3. Mark 8:29
4. Mark 14:61
5. Luke 3:15
6. Luke 9:20
7. Luke 22:67
8. John 1:20
9. John 1:41
10. John 3:28
11. John 4:29
12. John 4:42
13. John 7:41
14. John 10:24
15. John 11:27
16. John 20:31
17. John 20:31
18. 1John 2:22
19. 1John 5:1
In not one of these cases is it used in a negative way or by a pretender to Messiah-ship. The Bible no-where says that “Antichrist will call himself the Christ,” or, as Riplinger, that “the Christ is antichrist.” In fact the AV says: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5.1). According to the AV, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2.22). So the AV, while it does not use the term “The Christ” often, demands that all Christians must affirm that “Jesus is the Christ.” Riplinger, in her eagerness to condemn the modern Bible versions, and her paranoia about the New Age movement, has inadvertently condemned the AV as well! It would be one thing if the new versions called Jesus ‘Hermes,’ but they do not (though Paul was mistaken for Hermes once). Instead they use a title that the AV itself uses for Jesus.[1] What is illegitimate is the use of a term that never appears in pre-Christian pagan literature to refer to pagan ideas.

Of course Riplinger tries to back up her point. First of all, though, every Christian must confess that the Word of God is the final authority. If the Bible uses a title of Jesus, then to use that title of Jesus cannot be wrong. Secondly, Bob Larson, her authority, does not say what she wants him to say:

“By using the definite article (the) when referring to Christ, mind sciences distinguish between Jesus the man and the divine idea of Christ-realization attainable by men.”[2]

Note what Larson is not saying: he is not saying that the term ‘the Christ’ is the exclusive property or trademark of the mind-science cults. He is in fact explaining how the mind-science cults abuse Christian vocabulary. They also use the word ‘Christ’ with no article. Does this make that word occultic?

Riplinger’s error is that she has missed that the heresy of the New Age does not lie in the use of the term “The Christ” at all; but in their denial (as condemned in 1 John 2.22) that “Jesus is the Christ.” What is heretical and New Age is to make a distinction between the historical man, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Christ, however that is done. Norman Geisler notes that it is not so simple as Riplinger makes out:

“We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as ‘the Christ-spirit’ or ‘Christ-consciousness.’ Generally, when New Agers (and many liberal Christians) speak of Christ, they are not referring to the historical Jesus spoken of in the New Testament and the great Christian creeds. If they do speak of the historical Jesus, they usually refer to Him as only one of several Christ figures in human history.”[3]

“Christ” is not a name; it is a title, a Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew ‘Messiah’, meaning ‘the anointed one’. It is usually preceded in Greek by the definite article, which is usually rendered in English as ‘the’. The Greek article does not correspond exactly to the English in all situations, nor does its use. It is commonly given in Greek before proper nouns, something that is bad English. But it is good English to place a definite article before a title when that title is used to describe a man, for example, “the pastor” or “the captain.” Thus it is good English to say “the Christ”. There is no conspiracy here; a phrase that is used only positively in the AV has simply appeared elsewhere.

Yet Riplinger writes,

“The following verses will be ripe for picking from the serpent’s tree to force feed starving souls following ‘the Christ’. The KJV clearly presents the past tense visit of Jesus Christ. The new version [sic] have ‘the Christ’ to come.”

Of course this is simply not the case. One can give a verse out of context to support all kinds of unbiblical nonsense, but such a procedure can be followed as easily with the AV as with modern Bibles. Remember, the Mormons use the AV!

Those who have written genuine New Age ‘Bible’ versions, doctored to teach their own ideas, have not contented themselves with changes to a few verses, or to words, but have massively re-written whole sections without any sanction from any ancient manuscripts. The ancient Gnostics did not change a few words here and there. Marcion radically pruned the canon, removing the whole Old Testament and reducing the New Testament to “The Gospel (most of Luke) and the Apostle (much of Paul).”[4] The Gnostics created their own books, such as those found in the Nag Hammadi Library. Joseph Smith, who taught that God was once a man and that man could become God, added several books of his own creation to the Bible. The peculiarities of the New World Translation produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society[5] are not the result of the underlying Greek text used by the Society, but the result of forcing the Bible to conform to the pre-existing theology of the Society. The modernist paraphrase Good as New[6] engages in radical editing, and omits several New Testament books, adding the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.[7] In other words, like Marcion, its editor has taken upon himself to revise the canon. What he does not like he omits or changes.

It must also be noted that on P. 321 Riplinger puts words into the mouth of the Apostle John. She writes:

“’Who is a liar,’ says the apostle John, but he who claims to be Christ. ‘Jesus is the Christ,’ not Buddha, a church, ‘each of us’ nor the coming antichrist.”

But what John wrote was: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2.22). John did not say that the one who is “a liar” claims to be Christ, but that he “denieth that Jesus is the Christ.” Why does Riplinger twist the Bible like this? Of course he who claims to be Christ is a liar, and is denying that Jesus is the Christ, but they are not the same thing!

In conclusion, what needs to be proved is what Riplinger has not even attempted to prove, that by using the phrase ‘the Christ’ modern versions intend to deny that “Jesus is the Christ.” Since the NIV, the NASB and the ESV all contain 1 John 2.22, denouncing “he who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (ESV), they cannot reasonably be said to separate Jesus of Nazareth from the title that He alone can wear, that of “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Things missing from Hazardous Materials - Footnotes!

[1] This is the only permissible version of the Argumentum ad Hominem, demonstrating that even from the perspective of one’s opponent her argument is faulty. The real reason Riplinger attacks the use of the term ‘the Christ’ in the modern versions is of course that its wider use represents a change from the King James Bible. She seems incapable of discriminating between a change in the underlying Greek Text and a change that exists solely in the English translation. It is for this reason that her position is correctly denominated King James Only, as opposed to the more nuanced Textus Receptus and Majority Text positions.
[2] Bob Larson as quoted NABV P. 318
[3] The Infiltration of the New Age (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale, 1989) P. 142
[4] Harold O.J. Brown: Heresies (Peabody, Mass., Hendrickson, 2003) P. 63
[5] See As I am simply using the NWT as an example, comments attempting to defend the NWT will be regarded as off-topic and ignored.
[6] John Henson, (ed.), Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures (New Alresford, Hampshire, O Books [Imprint of John Hunt Publishing], 2004). I am glad to say that this perversion appears to have sunk without trace. I have only ever seen one copy of it, in a secondhand bookstore. In passing, let me say that it is frankly dishonest for the King James Only lobby to lump together such blatant perversions as this with formal translations such as the NKJV and the ESV. Henson has gone far beyond the NWT, let alone the NRSV or any Evangelical translation!
[7] accessed 03/10/09

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On the use of words. Or: Why you're not a New Ager because you went to the Office today

In many places Riplinger uses common vocabulary to 'prove' a New Age involvement in modern Bible versions. The trouble is that the words she cites are not necessarily New Age or occultic at all. They may be used by the New Age, but they are used by many other people in other ways. The New Age likes to turn words that are used in English in a variety of ways as 'codewords', but the use of these words does not itself prove involvement with the New Age, rather a New Age connection has to be proved before the word can be interpreted in a New Age way. So it is not the title ‘The Christ’ that is evil (contra Riplinger on Pp.318-321 and in many other places)[1], but the meaning that the New Age movement has filled the title with. The AV itself uses the title several times, for example in John 1:41, John 20:31, 1 John 5:1, and 1 John 2:22. Riplinger has reversed the correct procedure, which is first to prove that a writer is New Age, and then (and only then) to understand the words as New Age.

Words mean things, but they mean different things to different people, which is why a Mormon and a J.W. can both call Jesus 'The Son of God', but mean completely different things by it (both of which are wrong). What is more, the New Testament itself uses language that is also used by the Greek philosophers. If mere similarity of language is enough to establish an identity of ideas, then we must concede that the New Testament borrows from pagan thought (it does not). Rather we need to heed the words of Gordon Clark,

“Since the New Testament was written in Greek, it uses words found in pagan writings… But the point in question is not the use of words but the occurrence of ideas … One cannot forbid Christian writers to use common words on pain of becoming pagans.”[2]

This witness is true. Making the necessary changes, we can say that this caution is still in force. Some of the words referred to by Riplinger to make her case are: Demon,[3] Love,[4] One,[5] Teacher,[6] Teaching,[7] Age,[8] and Office,[9] not to mention many other such “common words.” Not one of these words is in itself a technical New Age term. To use these terms does not necessarily make its user a heretic or New Ager. Thus it can be seen that it is not enough to prove that a writer uses a specific term that the New Age uses, it must also be proven that the writer uses it in the same way as the New Age movement’s writers, and this can only be done by citing the use of the word in context.

Of course there are genuine heretical catchphrases and terms. The catchphrase of the Arian is "There was a time when he [Jesus] was not." The Semi-Arian says that Jesus is "Of a similar nature to the Father." The New Ager refers to "The Christ-consciousness," and the Swedenborgian speaks of "Our Lord God Jesus Christ." The Mormon speaks of "The only-begotten of the Father according to the flesh," and so on. It is by these uncommon words and phrases that we identify false teaching.

Necessary Info in the Footnotes

[1] It has been pointed out to me that Riplinger’s quotation of Norman Geisler, “Liberty University's Dean Norman Geisler adds: 'We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as "the Christ" . . . “ (NABV P. 318) to back up her point is dishonest. This is in fact a doctored quotation. The original reads: “We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as "the Christ spirit" or "Christ-consciousness.” Quoted by Bob and Gretchen Passantino, (accessed 29/09/09). Geisler does not say that it is the title ‘The Christ’ that is New Age, but the phrases “The Christ-Consciousness” and “The Christ-Spirit.”
[2] Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey, as quoted in Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003) P. 7. Emphasis added by Nash. The whole of this book, which deals with the claim that the New Testament borrows wholesale from pagan thought, is well worth reading, not only for those interested in the subject and seeking to reply to claims such as those found in the Da Vinci Code, but to those interested in the whole question of how far similarity of language can be used to show dependence of thought. It is fascinating to see how closely Gail Riplinger's method with the modern Bible versions resembles that of the History-of-Religions-School with the New Testament. As well as scary, of course.
[3] P. 13
[4] P. 13
[5] Chapter 5, Pp. 76-97
[6] P.20
[7] Pp. 325-9
[8] P. 283
[9] P. 347

Monday, October 5, 2009

Westcott and 1 John 2.2

The following forms Appendix 3 to my essay 'The Craft of Dishonest Quotation'. The abbreviations in the titles of books are those used in the body of the essay.

On P. 234 of NABV Riplinger writes of Westcott:

“Commenting on I John 2:2 which reads, ‘[H]e is the propitiation for our sins,’ Westcott says this verse is ‘Foreign to the language of the New Testament.’”

The implication is that B.F. Westcott denied that 1 John 2.2 belongs in the New Testament. Since the book I facetiously refer to as The Big Book of Textual Variants (Philip Comfort's New Testament Text and Translation Commentary) lists no variant in this place, it follows that Riplinger is accusing Westcott of engaging in conjectural criticism of the text – a sort of New Testament version of the so-called ‘Higher Criticism’[1] of the Old Testament. If this were true it would indeed be a serious indication of unsoundness in Westcott, rejecting a verse that is in every manuscript that contains 1 John 2 for purely theological reasons. But there’s the rub, is it true?

At this point Riplinger has forgotten to give the reference to Westcott’s Epistles. As the specific quotation is not found in the body of the work on the text in question,[2] but in an additional note, this failure to give the reference actually gives the false impression that Riplinger has given a bad reference, when in fact she has given no reference at all. The context is:

“The Scriptural conception of hilaskesthai is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender, but of altering the character of that which from without occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship. Such phrases as ‘propitiating God’ and God ‘being reconciled’ are foreign to the language of the N.T. Man is reconciled (2 Cor. V.18 ff.; Rom. V.10 f.). There is a ‘propitiation’ in the matter of the sin or of the sinner. The love of God is the same throughout; but He ‘cannot’. In virtue of His very Nature welcome the impenitent and sinful: and more than this, He ‘cannot’ treat sin as if it were not sin.
“This being so, the hilasmos, when it is applied to the sinner, so to speak, neutralises the sin. In this respect the idea of the efficacy of Christ’s propitiation corresponds with one aspect of the Pauline phrase ‘in Christ.’ The believer being united with Christ enjoys the quickening, purifying, action of Christ’s ‘Blood,’ of the virtue of His life and death.”[3]

Note first of all that it is not the verse that Westcott says is “Foreign to the language of the New Testament.” He is not engaging in the 'higher criticism' (or, as James Begg called it, "the lower scepticism"). At first reading the passage the evangelical reader is put on the defensive. Westcott appears to be trying to make the verse say something other than its plain meaning by quoting various extra-Biblical sources and Greek translations of Old Testament texts. Then, however, a second reading clears the air somewhat.

An Evangelical would not have used Westcott’s language, but in fact he is substantially correct. Westcott is right to say that the idea that Christ’s sacrifice changes something in God is unbiblical, and this is in fact the force of the passage. He is also quite right to say that the effect of Christ’s death is finally not in God, but in us. If Christ’s death affects the way God treats those who believe in Jesus, it is because the death has changed something about us, it has taken away our sins. And it is the false idea of Christ’s death changing God’s mind that Westcott, rightly understood, says is “foreign to the language of the N.T.” There has been, sadly, a school of Evangelical preaching that has given the impression of God the Father in a fearful rage being mollified by the self-sacrifice of a loving Son. The impression is given that, before the cross, the Father had no love for us, and that it was the cross that created the Father’s love. This is of course not what the Bible teaches at all, nor is it what the best Evangelical preachers have taught. Most of the time it is merely rhetoric, bad and false rhetoric, but still merely rhetoric and not the actual belief of the speaker. Still, Westcott is quite right to say that such a view of the cross is false, and ultimately dangerous, for it creates the idea of disharmony in the Trinity, the Son loving those the Father does not love. It also gives the impression that the Father’s wrath is ultimately unjust, wrong and merely emotional.

Thus, while I disagree with Westcott that “Such phrases as ‘propitiating God’ and God ‘being reconciled’ are foreign to the language of the N.T.” absolutely, I agree that, if understood as referring to a change produced in God, such phrases are. But, if they are understood as referring to a new relation which we, as Christians, now enjoy due to our position in Christ, the phrases are quite permissible.

The Footnotes Begin Here

[1] “Why ‘higher’? The word bewilders me always.” – B.F Westcott to Archbishop Benson, Life Vol. 2 P. 224
[2] Epistles P. 44
[3] Ibid. P. 87.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Was B.F. Westcott a Communist?

(This post is in the nature of "Appendix 2" to The Craft of Dishonest Quotation.)

It has been said by King James Only writers that Brooke Foss Westcott was a communist. Most found this accusation on a quotation found in Life Vol. 1 P. 309: “I suppose I am a communist by nature.”
A fuller quotation reads:

“But ‘the Speaker’s’ made me bitterly sad. I suppose I am a communist by nature; but surely dress and jewels cannot be tolerated even in this world for ever. What a ‘Commentary on the Bible,’ could the people of Whitechapel have seen it, that would have seemed!”

A few words of explanation are in order. Westcott’s John first appeared as a volume in the Speaker’s Commentary on the Bible series. There was some sort of reception or launch party associated with the commentary, and Westcott records his disgust with the level of display in the clothing of those attending the party. Whitechapel was of course a slum district of London, notorious as the place where Jack the Ripper committed his crimes. The quotation comes from a private letter, and in context can only be a rather acid social comment, that professed Christians, instead of caring for the poor, were adorning themselves with jewellery and expensive clothes. What Westcott is in fact saying is that he would be viewed as a communist by many people for such remarks, not that he actually was a communist.

The other ‘evidence’ for Westcott’s socialism often cited is his involvement in the Christian Social Union. This is to mistake the CSU for a socialist body, or in other words to read the title of the organisation as if it was ‘Christian Socialist Union. Westcott admits, “The title ‘Christian Social Union’ is liable to misconstruction.”[1] Thus he goes on to explain the true meaning of the name:

“The use of the word ‘Christian’ is positive and not negative. It says that the work of the Union is founded on the Christian Creed. It says nothing of others. ‘Social’ again is necessary. It indicates that the aim of the Union is to influence our social life, as distinguished from our individual life. It is perhaps unfortunate that the first two epithets suggest the title ‘Christian Socialist,’ but members of the Union are by no means pledged to what is called Christian Socialism – a most vague phrase.”[2]

It should not need to be added that a genuine Christian Socialist would not view the phrase ‘Christian Socialism’ as vague at all. Nor is there any reason Westcott would have concealed his views. Others did not, after all! Indeed, in his biography of his father, Westcott’s son writes that his father, “Acted as a restraining influence on those who would confine the Union practically to the promulgation of advanced socialistic views.”[3] It must be recalled that Westcott was at this time the Bishop of Durham, and that the diocese contained large industrial areas. This was the age of starvation wages and inadequate housing. In the 19th century many Evangelical believers interested themselves in improving the lot of the poor in society. While Westcott’s theology was hardly evangelical, his interest in improving the lot of the poor does not make him a communist.

Furthermore, the fact that he was offered the Bishopric of Durham, which brought with it a seat in the House of Lords, indicates first of all that his politics cannot have been radically Socialist. W.E. Gladstone would not have offered such an opportunity to air his views to a man known to hold subversive and revolutionary views. Secondly, the fact that Westcott accepted an appointment that brought with it the trappings of aristocracy, including a grand castle (pictured) as his main Episcopal residence, fits ill with any sort of “communism”.


[1] Life Vol. 2 P. 260
[2] Ibid.
[3] Life Vol. 2 P. 198

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Was Brooke Foss Westcott an Occultist?

Riplinger’s doughty defender has written that Riplinger’s method with the writings of Westcott is quote correct, because

“Riplinger is reading him between the lines as his fellow occultist [sic] did”

Of course, this defence fails first of all on the ground that we are supplied with no evidence that Westcott intended his writings to be thus interpreted. We have instead the ipse dixit that occultists hide their true beliefs in their writings, a method I have facetiously compared to a scene in Without a Clue an otherwise very bad spoof Sherlock Holmes film I saw many years ago, where Holmes, who is in the film a bungling American (don’t ask), declares that Moriarty has hidden clues in his name, and comes up with the remarkable deduction that Moriarty is really called Arty Morty. How do we know Westcott’s writings have to be read in this manner? Because Riplinger’s defender says so!

Secondly, he fails on the count that Westcott was not an occultist at all. The sum of the evidence for Westcott’s occultism presented by Riplinger is as follows:

1). While an undergraduate at Cambridge he was a founder member of a club called ‘Hermes.’

2). While a graduate student at the same University, he was a founder member of an institution called ‘The Ghostlie Guild.’

3). A man called W.W. Westcott, who founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, might be an alternative identity of B.F. Westcott.

None of these proofs, however, can support the weight Riplinger wishes to hang on them, that Westcott was an ‘occultist.’

1). The Hermes Club.

Arthur Westcott writes in his biography of his father B.F. Westcott:

“These four, together with W.C. Bromhead, J.E.B. Mayor, and J.C. Wright, were the original members of an essay-reading club, which was started in May 1845, under the name of ‘The Philological Society.’ At a later date the society took the name of ‘Hermes.’ The society met on Saturday evenings in one or other of the members’ rooms, when a paper was read, and a discussion, not infrequently somewhat discursive, ensued. The following were the subjects of papers read by my father:- The Lydian Origin of the Etruscans; the Nominative Absolute; The Roman Games of (or at) Ball; The so-called Aoristic Use of the Perfect in Latin; The Funeral Ceremonies of the Romans; The Eleatic School of Philosophy; The Mythology of the Homeric Poems; The Theology of Aristotle; Theramenes.”[1]

This is all the evidence that we have of the activities of the ‘Hermes Club’. It tells us firstly that it was an “essay-reading club”, and originally christened the “Philological”, a name that sounds dull rather than sinister. Take the subjects, and behold, the true nature of the club becomes apparent – a group of earnest young classicists meeting together to discuss classical subjects! The only danger I can conceive in the meetings of this club might be that of extreme boredom in some of the meetings! Seriously, only Riplinger, who regards the poetry of Homer as satanic, would find anything sinister in this list of classical subjects. I can think of far worse activities for students to engage in on Saturday nights. And most of them happen in the city centre here!

As for the identity of ‘Hermes’, Riplinger on P. 400 of NABV refers to “Hermes Trismegister”. She is confusing the Egyptian Hermes, usually identified with the ancient Egyptian god of Wisdom, Thoth, with the Greek. Of course those classicists who met to discuss the mythology of Homer referred to the Grecian Hermes. They were not Egyptologists or occultists. This is the same Greek Hermes whose name appears in the Greek New Testament in Acts 14.12. The AV translators, Latinists as many of them were, render the name “Mercurius”, but the Greek is ‘Hermes’. J.A. Alexander writes that Hermes was “the interpreter or spokesman of the gods.”[2] In other words, Riplinger has confused the Hermes’! This I call the ‘Another Man of the Same Name’ fallacy. I hope to be able to show you a picture of the true Egyptian Hermes as soon as I am able to get out to Biddulph on my bicycle! You will agree he looks most unlike the Grecian Hermes.[3] Also that Paul is unlikely to have been confused with him.

It seems that this harmless “essay-reading club” existed only as long as Westcott was an undergraduate.

2). The ‘Ghostlie Guild’
According to Westcott’s biographer, the chief source we have for this club, its aim was to investigate reports of supernatural activity. It was not engaged in séances or attempts to provoke or cause supernatural events.[4] Arthur Westcott writes:

“What happened to this Guild in the end I have not discovered. My father ceased to interest himself in these matters, not altogether, I believe, from want of faith in what, for lack of a better name, one must call Spiritualism, but that he was seriously convinced that such investigations led to no good.”[5]

Please note that the only source Riplinger quotes to prove Westcott’s involvement in the occult limits that involvement to a few years during his years as a graduate student! A man who dabbled in the investigation of alleged ghost sightings as a graduate student is not properly called an ‘occultist’, yet that is all the evidence we have of Westcott’s involvement with the occult. Yes, I labour the point. It needs labouring! Note also that Westcott’s mature judgement was that: “such investigations led to no good,” and that he "ceased to interest himself in such matters" for that reason.

3). W.W. Westcott

It has been satisfactorily proven that William Wynn Westcott was an individual separate from Brooke Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham. Riplinger’s speculation is to be found on Pp. 676-7 of NABV, where she speculates that Bishop Westcott of Durham was also W.W. Westcott, founder of the ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” Riplinger writes, “The similar identity of these two is not a matter of historical record.” Now, I will admit to not being a logician, but two men are either “identical” or “similar”, I suppose she means ‘the identity of these men’ (i.e. their in fact being the same man). They are in fact two different people. She sheepishly admits, “The connection between B.F. Westcott and the activities attributed to the possible allonym W.W. Westcott are speculation on my part.” The fact remains that that they were as much different persons as were Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole! And yes, the Hermes of ‘Golden Dawn’ was the Egyptian, not the Grecian. Yet Riplinger refers to Bishop Westcott as "B.F Westcott, a London Spiritualist" on P. 25, a description that only fits if Brooke Poss Westcott was also W.W. Westcott. If the two were not the same man, then Bishop Westcott is not the man whom "Secular historians and numerous occult books see... as 'the father' of the modern channeling phenomenon, a major source of the 'doctrines of demons' driving the New Age movement" (NABV P. 25).

Of course it is possible, given the information Riplinger supplies, to think that the identity of W.W. Westcott is a mystery, that he is nothing but a name. He is not; he is a real person whose life is documented extensively, there are even pictures of him - as seen above! Nor does he suddenly appear on the scene out of no-where and disappear again about the time of Bishop Westcott's death. For this reason it is impossible to suppose that he is a mere “allonym” of Bishop Westcott. And in fact "allonym" is the wrong word, as a dictionary definition of 'allonym' is 'the name of a historical figure taken as a pen-name.' The correct word for a literary alias that is not the name of a historical figure would be a "pseudonym". Thus, were I to write under the name 'Spartacus', that would be an allonym. 'The Highland Host' is only a nom de plume or pseudonym. But to return from nit-picking... (I apologise, but Riplinger twits others for their use of English, so hers is fair game in my book)

Brooke Foss Westcott was born in Birmingham on 12th January 1825. His father was Frederick Brooke Westcott. He was baptized according to the rite of the Church of England in St. Philip’s Church on 7th February.[6] He went to school in Birmingham and took his degree at Cambridge. On leaving Cambridge in 1852 he taught at Harrow School.[7]

William Wynn Westcott was born in Leamington, Warwickshire, on 17th December 1848. He was adopted by his uncle after the death of his parents when he was ten, and educated at Kingston-upon-Thames. He studied medicine at University College London, and on taking his medical degree he became a rural doctor.[8]

In 1869 Brooke Foss Westcott became a canon of Peterborough Cathedral,[9] in 1870 he became Regius professor of Divinity at Cambridge.[10] In 1890 he became Bishop of Durham.[11] Brooke Foss Westcott died on 27th July 1901.[12] He wrote a number of books, including commentaries on John's Gospel and Epistles, on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and on the Epistle to the Ephesians.

In 1881 W.W. Westcott became Coroner for central London,[13] an official post of great responsibility, meaning that he had to carry out inquests into deaths within central London. It is estimated that he carried out more than ten thousand inquests – a level of activity incompatible with also being the Bishop of Durham and having another family up north. He held this post until 1910 – nine years after the death of the Bishop of Durham. In 1918 he emigrated to South Africa, where he died in Durban on 30 June 1925.[14] Willim Wynn Westcott seems to have become involved with the occult after moving to London. There he joined (and eventually led) the Societas Roscruciana in Anglia, and co-founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as well as being a member of the Theosophical Society. He authored more than a dozen books on the occult, including An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah, Sepher Yetzira, The Number 666: Its Symbolism, The Occult Power of Numbers, and The Magical Mason. He was active in the occult from the 1880s onwards, although in the latter part of the 1890s he was forced to curtail his occult activities by the authorities, who did not want the bad press attendant on a senior coroner being a leading spiritualist.

There is simply no way that Brooke Foss Westcott and William Wynn Westcott could be the same person. Both were highly educated men whose lives left a long paper trail. Neither man’s origin nor end is shrouded in mystery, and their activities do not overlap in location. The Bishop died nearly a quarter of a century before the occultist coroner, who was born more than twenty years after his namesake. Their lives overlap, but that is all. Riplinger refers to Bishop Westcott as "B.F Westcott, a London Spiritualist" on P. 25, a description that is most inapt for the Bishop of Durham, but fits perfectly with William Wynn Westcott. While Brooke Foss Westcott spent very little time in London, and is most linked with Durham and Cambridge, William Wynn Westcott was based in London for more than thirty years, and held his most prominent post in London. He was also deeply involved in the London occultic scene. It is William Westcott whom "Secular historians and numerous occult books see... as 'the father' of the modern channeling phenomenon, a major source of the 'doctrines of demons' driving the New Age movement" (NABV P. 25). Thus Riplinger, on the basis of wild and errant speculation, has libelled Bishop Westcott. About the only connection between the two men is that they both had the same surname! It is as if someone should suppose Dr. James White and Dr. John White to be the same person.

The alternative is that Brooke Foss Westcott took the identity of William Wynn Westcott, who either died naturally or was bumped off by the Bishop at some point. Did he do this when W.W. Westcott was a doctor in the West Country? Certainly not during W.W. Westcott's time in London, as it would be impossible to replace such a prominent public official without someone noticing!

We would then have to belive that this clergyman, in order to keep up the pretence that W.W. Westcott and B.F. Westcott were two different people, instead of opening a private clinic in London, applied for the post of coroner for central London and was employed in that post. He then accepted a post as a university professor at Cambridge, and then the Bishopric of Durham, hundreds of miles from London. In an age when the fastest mode of transport was the steam train, Brooke Foss Westcott was able to live a double life in London and Durham, often being in both places at the same time, or at least managing to appear to be. He faked his own death in his bed in 1901, and then lived for another twenty-four years in the identity of William Wynn Westcott without anyone suspecting until Gail Riplinger. Moreover, the period of W.W. Westcott's emergence as an occult leader coincides with the period at which B.F. Westcott was at his busiest, first as a Cambridge Professor, and then as Bishop of Durham. You will pardon my inability to believe such errant nonsense.

The fact that there is no dark veil of mystery over the identity of W.W. Westcott means that Riplinger’s speculation is utterly pointless. So why does she do it? The same reason she engages in all this misquotation – the hope that if she slings enough mud, some of it will stick!

So let me recap.
1). The Hermes Club was a harmless essay-reading club of young classicists.
2). The 'Ghostlie Guild' was a club to investigate reported sightings of Ghosts, and after leaving Cambridge Westcott abandoned all such activity.
3). Brooke Foss Westcott and William Wynn Westcott were two completely different individuals. There is no eveidence the two men ever even met each other.

The evidence that B.F. Westcott was an occultist is therefore non-existent. The most that could be said is that he dabbled in the paranormal for a few years while a graduate student, before giving up such invesigations as dangerous. And don’t bother coming up with the quotations using supposed occultic vocabulary. Remember, what must be proved is that Westcott intends the words in an occult way, and to do that, you must first prove that he was an occultist. B.F. Westcott, not William Wynn.

If I receive an answer along the lines of “but of course he hid the fact…”, I think I will laugh very loudly and advise the writer to read some elementary texts on research. Or boil his head, whichever he likes.

Here come the footnotes!
[1] Life, vol. 1 P. 47
[2] Joseph Addison Alexander, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Reprinted London, Banner of Truth, 1963) Vol. 2 P. 54
[3] He is to be found beneath a pyramid of topiary, in a secret underground grotto. Those who know Biddulph Grange gardens will know of what I speak.
[4] Life vol. 1, Pp. 117-8
[5] Ibid. P. 119
[6] Life Vol. 1 P. 1
[7] Ibid. P. 173
[8] It amuses me to give this citation, as Riplinger uses the same site to link Charles Dodgson (‘Lewis Carroll’) with the Ripper murders. Perhaps she can link B.F. Westcott too! W.W. Westcott is also a highly unlikely suspect, suggested ony by recent conspiracy theorists. See also
[9] Life i. 301
[10] Ibid. P. 366
[11] Life ii. P. 91
[12] Ibid. P. 401
[14] Ibid.

A Note:

Our 'Puritan' Commenter has written of Westcott that:

"he was a dark-minded, dishonest, consciously dishonest individual who knew very well he was dishonestly putting a false bible over on the Christian world ..."

It is a common piece of rhetoric to argue that those you disagree with are dishonest. However, unless one is able to prove it (as I believe I have done with Riplinger), it really amounts to little more than saying "I don't agree with your interpretation of the evidence." Fine. It's a free internet, after all. But Christians ought to be cautious of throwing such accusations around. After all, lying is a sin. So unless you can prove the charge, don't make it. The same goes for the accusation Westcott was an occultist, and incidentally the charge he was a pederast.