When I received my copy of Riplinger's Hazardous Materials, my first impression was that this is a huge book. My second was that most of the matter was actually irrelevant, consisting in ad hominem attacks against a wide variety of people. Having read the book, I concluded that much of it was poorly researched, and guilty of the triple fallacies of ad hominem (Against the Man, attacking the writer, not the argument), Petitio Principi (Begging the Question, that is, assuming one's conclusions), and Non Sequitur (It Does Not Follow, the conclusion does not actually rest on the premises, but on an unstated premise). Kirk DiVietro, in his new book Cleaning Up Hazardous Materials (Dean Burgon Society, 2010), comes to essentially the same conclusion.
DiVietro is a King James Only writer who is cited favourably by Riplinger, and it may be that his being linked to Hazardous Materials in this way has moved him to write this book. What concerns him is not that Riplinger defends the use of the AV, but that Riplinger has attacked all study of the original languages, and basically declared that God no longer uses the original languages, but vernacular versions. He disagrees strongly with her view of inspiration as an ongoing miracle that periodically produces new inspired vernacular Bibles from a line of inspired vernacular Bibles that reaches back to Pentecost.
It is DiVietro's contention that lexicons and language study aids are useful tools, and should be used as such. They were not intended to be the final authority for us, and a tool is only as good as the one who uses it. Clearly, if we make improper use of a tool the result will be bad. The purpose of studying the original languages, he says, is not to correct the Bible, but to make sure we actually understand what a passage means. It helps to prevent preachers making fools of themselves (DiVietro gives examples).
He notes that Riplinger's reasoning logically leads to the conclusion that no language can be translated into an unrelated language - which is plainly absurd. We can know what the Greek and Hebrew words mean, in context (Hebrew in particular is a very context-bound language, and has a relatively small vocabulary, certainly compared to Greek). There is, he points out, no evidence at all to support Riplinger's idea that the gift of tongues led to the creation of written documents - in all Biblical mention of tongues it is referred to as spoken (check the AV). Thus it is merely a baseless assumption that Bible translations were produced at Pentecost. This, he quite rightly says, is a huge problem for Riplinger.
It also leads to a misrepresentation of the AV or King James Bible, for it means that, instead of having been translated from the Greek, Riplinger's theory requires it to have been based on a line of vernacular Bibles from the Gothic through the Saxon, through Middle English, and finally to the English of the AV. It means Tyndlae must be understood not as the man who translated the New Testament from Greek to English, but as the updater of an older vernacular version.
DiVietro points out a number of places where Riplinger has misunderstood words and given false etymologies. One statement I puzzled over is the incorrect statement that Scrivener back-translated the AV. He did not, but I knew there had to be a basis for the statement. Riplinger cites D.A. Waite Jr. as the source. It seems from DiVietro's book (endorsed and edited by D.A. Waite) that she misunderstood a statement of D.A. Waite Jr. that in places where the KJV text had no known Greek support, Scrivener "Refused to backwards translate from Latin to Greek" to mean that in other places he back-translated from English to Greek (Pp. 202-8). She is mistaken (please note that I am NOT saying she deliberately misrepresented either Waite or Scrivener, but misundersttod what she read). In other places Riplinger gives false etymologies (probably not her own) for Hell (deriving it from Helios, the Greek word for sun, of all things, when it is fact derived from the Norse Hel, the underworld and the goddess of the underworld), and Ball (deriving it from Baal, when it is in fact derived from a Saxon word meaning a spherical object), neither of which are supported by any scholar at all. On P. 230 DiVietro shows that Riplinger's Greek etymology is apparently no better than her English, as she derives huiothesia from huios, a son, and then bizarrely states the second part comes from "thespian, from theo, means "adoption of." Like DiVietro, I can only hope this is a typographical error! A Thespian is an actor, and the Greek compound word huiothesia is in fact the Greek word for "adoption", derived from huios and thesis, which is related to tithemi, to place (Thus literally "to place as a son, to adopt"). Thesia does not mean to adopt, the whole word does. There is of course nothing wrong in translating the word "the adoption of children" as in Ephesians 1.5 in the AV. Riplinger has in the past admitted that she does not know Greek, and this may simply be an example of someone struggling with matters beyond her expertise. When I try to mend my own bicycle, I make a mess of it, because I am not trained in cycle repair. This does not make me morally wrong, just misguided in thinking I can fix my bike on my own.
Riplinger's defenders like to say that answers to her often pick up on little things. This is true, but then this is the woman who majors in picking up on little things in the works of others, including Archbishop Trench's badge of office and the number of pages in the Old Testament portion of Berry's interlinear! If a writer sees sinister meaning in little details, she should expect to be corrected when she makes mistakes in her own little details.
There are a couple of disappointments about this book. Firstly, it has the feel of having been rushed into print to answer Riplinger. I grant that the rambling nature of Riplinger's book makes it hard to construct a coherent reply, but a little more work on the clean-up would have been appreciated. Those who are not King James Only, and who do not use the TR, will obviously fault DiVietro on these matters, but as a New King James user with a couple of reservations about that Bible (1 John 5.7 and Acts 9.5-6, both of which have very little Greek support, the extra words in Acts having the support of a grand total of NO Greek manuscripts), I found this a very helpful book. Secondly, I do think that in a few places DiVietro is too harsh about Riplinger, finding deliberate deception where I saw only ignorant error, and I would caution against seeing sinister motives where there may be an innocent explanation.
Finally, it seems to me that the explanation for many of Riplinger's errors is that she forulated a thesis and then set out to prove it, quote-mining for that purpose, without taking sufficient care over the actual intent of the author. Anyone who has ever written a paper or an essay has probably done the same, of course! I know I have, and having re-read the section in context I have been deeply embarrassed to see my mistake! I saw what I wanted to see - and I suspect Riplinger has done the same in Hazardous Materials. The only thing that causes some pause for thought is that New Age Bible Versions is still in print, with knowingly doctored quotes. But where charity can lay the blame at the foot of error, she does so. And so do I.
Thus endeth the review, and my dealing with Riplinger for the present time.