New Age Bible Versions
by H. Wayne House, Paul Carden, Marian Bodine and Rich Poll
A Summary Critique: New Age Bible Versions,
G. A. Riplinger
(A. V. Publications, 1993)
Another book against modern versions of the Bible has entered the marketplace.
Like previous works by King James Version (KJV)-only advocates, it argues for the
KJV and/or majority text-type as being truer to the original manuscripts than the
modern critical Greek texts and their underlying textual traditions. It goes beyond
previous works, however, by developing a conspiracy theory for the KJV-only
view. Author G. A. Riplinger believes that lying behind modern versions (especially
the NASB and NIV, apparently) is New Age influence.
Until the late 19th century, the texts used by scholars generally were built on a
manuscript tradition begun in the seventh century of the Christian era (though I
would concede that some readings found in this tradition date back before the
fourth century). With the discovery of older Greek manuscripts, and other New
Testament manuscripts, critical texts began to be built on manuscripts developed in
the fourth and fifth centuries -- in addition to a number of ancient papyri, some of
which date into the second century. Riplinger rejects these earlier manuscripts and
urges us to return to the Bible of the precritical era.
If there is anything good to say about Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions
(hereafter NABV), it is that the book is not any longer than it is and that the
foolishness of its various claims are transparent when one takes the time to study
them. Unfortunately, NABV has received considerable praise from many popular
authors who either did not really take the time to evaluate the book or apparently
share Riplinger's ignorance of the issues of textual criticism and translation.
NABV is replete with logical, philosophical, theological, biblical, and technical errors.
Riplinger lacks the proper training to write this book (her M.A. and M.F.A. in "Home
Economics" notwithstanding). Many of her errors arise from a lack of
understanding of Old and New Testament textual criticism as well as biblical and
theological studies. In a two-hour debate I had with her, I found her very able to
articulate her position. But she repeatedly mispronounced terms used by biblical
scholars and did not seem to understand the development of the textual tradition
from the Byzantine/"majority" manuscripts to the Erasmian text used by the
translators of the KJV. Moreover, I had to ask her four times before she
hesitatingly admitted that she really could not read Greek.
A seminary degree is not required to understand the matters of Bible transmission
and translation. But one must learn the history and methodology of textual
transcription and transmission, and gain a good grasp of the Hebrew and Greek
languages, before one "pontificates" on the subject as Riplinger has done. Simply
comparing the KJV with the NIV and NASB through endless charts does not prove a
thing. She needs to demonstrate that the specific translations she accepts are
really better textual renditions than the alternatives she rejects, rather than merely
assuming the superiority of the majority text type or the KJV.
I have no personal interest in defending the NIV or NASB. I prefer to use the NKJV
(New King James Version), though I adopt a more eclectic view of textual criticism
than its translators, who hold to the majority text theory.
In order to do justice to a review of NABV in such short space, I will categorize the
types of errors Riplinger makes throughout her work and then provide an
illustration of each.
THE APPEAL TO DIVINE AUTHORITY
Riplinger commits a logical fallacy commonly employed by those whose arguments
are weak: an appeal to authority. In a newsletter, she explains her reason for
writing the book and claims some sense of divine inspiration for her work: "Daily,
during the six years needed for this investigation, the Lord miraculously brought the
needed materials and resources -- much like the ravens fed Elijah. Each discovery
was not the result of effort on my part, but of the direct hand of God -- so much
so that I hesitated to even put my name on the book. Consequently, I used G. A.
Riplinger, which signifies to me, God and Riplinger -- God as author and Riplinger as
Certainly we should not credit God with being a participant in the writing of NABV
unless we are prepared to affirm that God commits the kind of errors manifestly
obvious in her book. This I am unwilling to do.
Another example of this approach may be found in a debate between Riplinger and
James White, where, upon being challenged on her acrostic algebra, she claimed it
was given to her by God. Note her method, which involves deleting the
common letters of NASV and NIV, and then deleting the letters A and V from what
Step 1: (NASV-NIV)-AV = X
Step 2: (NASV-nIv)-AV = X
Step 3: (ASI+NV)-AV = X
Step 4: aSI--NV-AV = X
Step 5: SIN = X
The success of this arbitrary method of determining truth depends on using
NASV rather than NASB (the customary designation for the New American
Standard Bible), and using AV rather than KJV (the customary designation for
the King James Version). When asked about this alternation, Riplinger said God
calls the NASB the NASV.
One may construct a similar "acrostic" to Riplinger's but have far different
results: Rather than using two versions, however, let us use seven (the perfect
number of God): Cunard's Authorized (CA), King James II (KJ2), Hayman's
Epistles (HE), Revised English Bible (REB), New International Version (NIV), New
American Standard Bible (NASB), and Barclay's New Testament (BNT). In
omitting all the letters in common one is left with CKJHRIVST-KJV, and thus
CHRIST. Using Riplinger's logic these versions must be from God.
MISUNDERSTANDING BASIC THEOLOGICAL DEBATE
A major error Riplinger makes is impugning the theological integrity of
evangelical scholars by identifying their thinking with New Age ideology. She
does this without realizing, apparently, that the views she criticizes are
representative of theological positions held by Christian theologians and
laypeople for much of the history of the church.
Riplinger, for example, charges Edwin Palmer, executive secretary of the NIV
committee, with denying that the Holy Spirit participated in the conception
(begetting) of Jesus, seeking to equate his views with Mormon theology (p.
344). The context of Palmer's statement, "The Holy Spirit did not beget the
Son," however, indicates that he was speaking of the eternal begetting of the
Son from the Father within the Trinity, not the physical conception of the
Second Person as the man Jesus. Her quote from Brigham Young, however,
speaks of the physical conception of Jesus through Mary. This is careless
scholarship or confused theology at best, but it may be outright deception on
her part to prove her ill-founded theory about the supposed heresies of the NIV.
When Palmer does speak of the conception of Jesus Christ, he clearly indicates
that the Holy Spirit was personally involved:
The Holy Spirit was needed at the very start of Jesus' human life, at his
incarnation. By the word incarnation we mean that act by which the second
Person of the Trinity, remaining God, 'became flesh and lived for a while among
us' (John 1:14). This act was effected by the Holy Spirit, as is seen by both
Matthew's statement that Mary 'was found to be with child through the Holy
Spirit' (1:18), and the angel's announcement to Mary that the 'Holy Spirit will
come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you' (Luke
1:35). The Holy Spirit is the cause of the conception of Jesus. He is the one,
and not the Father nor the Son, let alone Joseph, who planted the seed of life in
a mysterious way in Mary's womb.
QUOTING INDIVIDUALS OUT OF CONTEXT
Riplinger incessantly quotes people out of context. Certainly any of us might on
occasion take a portion from someone's writing and use it improperly. Riplinger,
however, does this repeatedly, page after page. Often these quotations appear
to be not simply an oversight but a deliberate attempt to characterize her
opponents improperly. Moreover, some of the quotes are constructed with
isolated comments from an author separated by several paragraphs or pages --
sometimes out of order. This procedure would allow one to make a person say
anything he or she wanted that person to say (see, e.g., her quote of Philip
Comfort, Early Manuscripts and Modern Translations of the New
Testament, pp. xvii and 8 in NABV, p. 530).
She derisively charges that Edwin Palmer rejects Christ's deity in the NIV when
she quotes him as saying, "[F]ew clear and decisive texts say that Jesus is
God" (2). When one looks at Palmer's entire statement one discovers that she
has turned his point on its head. Whereas he indicates that the KJV has
obscured a few texts which explicitly state the deity of Christ, either because of
its underlying Greek text (John 1:18) or because of its translation (Tit. 2:13; 1
Pet. 1:2), she quotes him as though he is attempting to minimize the deity
of our Lord.
In another place, Riplinger quotes from Norman Geisler to bolster her view that
when modern translations speak of "the Christ" they reflect a New Age
perspective. It is hard for this reviewer to believe that she was not duplicitous in
this instance. Look at her quote and then the original by Geisler:
"We should be particularly wary when someone refers to Jesus Christ as 'the
Christ...'" (NABV, p. 318)
"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."
READING NEW AGE MEANINGS INTO LEGITIMATE TRANSLATIONS
Riplinger oftentimes reads too much into specific choices modern translators
have made in translating Greek terms. For example, as one can surmise from
the above, she sees New Age influence when modern translations use the term
"the Christ" rather than "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus": "Real references to
Jesus as 'the Christ' are rare: however, new versions literally paint their pages
with this pawn" (318).
Most Bible students understand that the word Christ is a term from a Greek
word meaning "anointed one," which in turn translates a Hebrew word that is
transliterated Messiah. To call Jesus "the Messiah" or "the Christ" in no way by
itself implies New Age ideas. Only when New Agers invest a nonbiblical meaning
into the use of that phrase should there be concern. As a matter of fact, "the
Christ" is actually found 19 times in the KJV and ho christos (Greek for "the
Christ") is found 59 times in the 1551 Textus Receptus (so-called). On the
other hand, ho christos is used 49 times in the Nestle-Aland (26th ed.) text,
and "the Christ" is found 48 times in the NIV. When one adds to this the
instances of ho christos in its other case forms, the total number of times in
the Greek texts in which "the Christ" appears is:
169 Textus Receptus-Stephanus 1551
146 Nestle-Aland 26th ed.
If Riplinger is correct in saying that when a text refers to "the Christ" it is
teaching New Age doctrine, the KJV is based on manuscripts that are more New
Age than are the texts on which modern translations are based. One wonders
how Riplinger can make such a claim about the translation of ho christos as
"the Christ" when this is done in many important verses in the KJV (see John
1:41; 20:31; 1 John 2:22; 5:1).
MISUNDERSTANDING TEXTUAL CRITICISM
Riplinger's understanding of textual criticism appears to be meager. To analyze
this aspect of the book would require considerable space. Suffice it to say that
when the older manuscripts disagree with particular readings found in the
majority text type, they are (to Riplinger) "additions" to the Word of God. When
readings found in the majority text are different from the Textus Receptus (or
Erasmas's earlier text), they go unmentioned so that the reader will not be
confronted with the fact that the majority text on which the Textus Receptus is
built also -- along with older manuscripts -- differs many places with the KJV.
Moreover, if the KJV has verses or words not even found in the Textus
Receptus, Riplinger fails to indicate this.
The bottom line in Riplinger's mind is that the King James Version of 1611 is
alone the Word of God. Anything prior to or after that specific translation is in
some measure not really the Word of God. We are back to the absurd view
that the KJV is the Bible of Paul and the apostles.
A volume the size of NABV would be required to point out Riplinger's
misunderstanding of theology, translation technique, and her fascination with
New Age conspiracy and its association with modern versions. This book will
cause a temporary stir. Hopefully, however, most Christians will recognize
NABV as an ill-begotten book and will turn back to a study of the Word of God
in the language of the people today. In so doing they will fulfill the prayers of
godly translators of centuries past, including the very ones who translated the
King James Version of the Bible.
-- H. Wayne House
About the Author
H. Wayne House, author, lecturer, and professor-at-large at Simon Greenleaf
University School of Law, holds earned doctorates in theology and law, and a
master's degree in biblical and patristic Greek.
1 The End Times and Victorious Living, a ministry of the Paw Creek Church
and Media Ministry, January-February 1994, 15.
2 Personal conversation with James White, June 1994.
3 Private letter from Bob and Gretchen Passantino, 12 January 1994, 4.
4 Edwin H. Palmer, The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 83.
5 Journal of Discourses, vol. 1 (London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot,
6 Palmer, 65.
7 Edwin H. Palmer, The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation,
ed. Kenneth L. Barker (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 143.
8 J. Yutaka Amano and Norman L. Geisler, The Infiltration of the New Age
(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), 142. (Emphasis added.)
9 I wish to express thanks to David Johnson for doing this computer search.
The following are among the most significant works published in recent months
(with a few older, but noteworthy, titles also listed). Inclusion of a work does
not necessarily constitute an endorsement of its contents.
Cults, Apologetics, and Discernment Issues (General)
Contend for the Faith: Collected Papers of the Rockford Conference on
Discernment and Evangelism, edited by Eric N. Pement (Evangelical
Ministries to New Religions, 1992; 312 pp.).
A diverse and important compilation of research by some of the most
important -- though not always the best-known -- specialists in the field of
cults and the occult today.
The Religious Fringe: A History of Alternative Religions in America, by
Richard Kyle (InterVarsity Press, 1993; 467 pp.).
Based largely on secondary sources, this is the best historical overview of
the cults and the occult yet produced by an evangelical author.
Jehovah's Witnesses on Trial: The Testimony of the Early Church
Fathers, by Robert U. Finnerty (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1993; 164
This long-overdue book carefully exposes the Watchtower Society's
deliberate misrepresentation of the early church fathers' views on Christ, the
Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the afterlife.
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness, by Jerry R.
Bergman (Witness, Inc., 1992; 342 pp.).
Bergman, an ex-Witness and a mental health professional, presents statistics
and case histories indicating that Jehovah's Witnesses are over-represented
in mental hospitals. He also suggests reasons behind this serious problem.
Jehovah's Witness Literature: A Critical Guide to Watchtower
Publications, by David A. Reed (Baker Book House, 1993; 207 pp.).
This practical reference work critically surveys more than 100 years of
Watchtower literature, chronologically documenting the changes in the
Society's beliefs and practices.
Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record, by H.
Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters (Signature Books, 1994; 244 pp.).
Two of Mormonism's most thoughtful and scholarly opponents join forces to
prove that Joseph Smith's testimonial claims conflict with the evidence of
historical fact. Exhaustively documented -- and strongly recommended.
Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons, by Mark J. Cares (Northwestern
Publishing House, 1993; 299 pp.).
Cares, a pastor in Mormon country, gives unusually insightful,
compassionate, and practical approaches to evangelizing Mormons. This
important book emphasizes recent and undeniably authoritative Mormon
sources. Very highly recommended.
New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical
Methodology, edited by Brent L. Metcalfe (Signature Books, 1993; 446
Ten devastating essays, written mostly by Mormon and ex-Mormon
scholars, that one BYU professor called "the most sophisticated attack on
the Book of Mormon currently available."
Faith Movement and Charisma
Man as God: The Word of Faith Movement, by Curtis I. Crenshaw
(Footstool Publications, 1994; 442 pp.).
A distinctively "Reformed" analysis, packed with quotes and footnotes. At its
best when refuting the biblical proof-texts most often used by Faith
teachers; at its weakest when relating Faith teachings to the Mind Science
cults and the New Age movement.
The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, by G. Richard Fisher, M. Kurt
Goedelman, Stephen F. Cannon, and Paul R. Blizard (Personal Freedom
Outreach, 1993; 67 pp.).
Subtitled "A Call for Discernment of the Teaching and Ministry of the
Popular Healing-Evangelist," this collection of seven articles focuses on
Hinn's doctrinal errors and flip-flops, biographical quirks, and other
The Love of Power or the Power of Love, by Tom Smail, Andrew Walker,
and Nigel Wright (Bethany House Publishers, 1994; 174 pp.).
"A Careful Assessment of the Problems within the Charismatic and
Word-of-Faith Movements" by three British charismatics connected to
the C.S. Lewis Centre in London.
New Age Movement and the Occult
When the New Age Gets Old: Looking for a Greater Spirituality, by
Vishal Mangalwadi (InterVarsity Press, 1992; 287 pp.).
An Indian evangelical scholar takes a fresh approach to New Age
dilemmas in this eloquent effort to reach seekers frustrated by their
search through the esoteric maze.
Thieves of Innocence, by John Ankerberg, Craig Branch, and John Weldon
(Harvest House, 1993; 345 pp.).
For discerning parents, a detailed and eye-opening handbook for
identifying and resisting New Age and occult influences in our schools.
Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke, by Jon Trott and Mike
Hertenstein (Cornerstone Press, 1993; 475 pp.).
Two investigative reporters for Cornerstone magazine deliver an
unprecedented expose of one of evangelicalism's most disturbing frauds.
††††-- Paul Carden with Marian Bodine and Rich Poll
Book Reviews by H. Wayne House, Paul Carden, Marian Bodine and Rich Poll. Taken from the Book
Reviews column of the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1994, page 46. The Editor-in-Chief of the
Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller. Permission kindly granted to Faith & Reason Forum by
Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688-7000.
Copyright ©1994 by the Christian Research Institute. End of document, CRJ0187A.TXT (original
CRI file name), "Book Reviews" release A, December 1, 1994 R. Poll, CRI. A special note of thanks
to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.