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American Revised Bibles

How it all got started!

                      AUTHORIZED BIBLE VINDICATED #20

                          Benjamin Wilkinson PhD


The American Revision Committee and Its Influence Upon the Future
of America

     AS THE influence of the Oxford Movement crossed the ocean
and began to spread in the United States, Dr.Hort could not
refrain from writing to Westcott:

"A most singular movement is taking place among the German
'Reformation' settled in America, the center of the Movement
being Mercersburg. The leading man is Dr.Nevin ... I can compare
him to no one but Newman, and higher praise it would be difficult
to give. I fear he is fast drifting Romewards."   Easter Eve,
1854 (life and Letetrs of Dr.Hort, vol.1, p.277).

     So wrote from England one who knew. The "Mercersburg
Movement," or the "Mercersburg Theology," made a revolutionary
and permanent change in American Theological colleges and
American theology. Dr.Nevin, however, was not the American
Newman. He was only the forerunner. The outstanding leader, his
associate, was Dr.Philip Schaff, President of both American
Committees of Revision, Old and New Testament.
     The following quotation will show, in an introductory way,
how the Mercersburg Movement stood related to American churches,
to the Oxford Movement, and to Dr.Schaff:

"The works of the Mercersburg professors are fraught with
dangerous tendencies. The Reformed Dutch Church has, by a public
and solemn act, withdrawn from ecclesiastical relations with the
German Reformed Church, her ancient ally, on account of her
countenance of those works and of their authors. The General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (O.S.) has suspended her
relations with that denomination for the present year, and awaits
further developments. This painful step has, in both cases, been
taken after much deliberation, and with the calmness and dignity
which befit a Christian Church. Romanism is known to have
recently entered the Church of England in the disguise of Oxford
Tractarianism, to have drawn off no inconsiderable number of her
clergy and members, and to have gained a footing on British soil,
from which the government and public opinion together are unable
to eject her. The Mercersburg writers began with decided
commendation of the system which is called Puseyism. Their own
course has thus far strongly resembled that which has marked its
history. Step by step they have advanced, till Romanism stands
forth almost unveiled in the 'Apostles' Creed,' 'Early
Christianity,' and 'Cyprian,' of Dr.Nevin in the Mercersburg
Review ... Yet Dr.Nevin and these very works are commended and
endorsed by Dr.Schaff in this 'History of the Apostolic Church,'
and that without caution or reserve."

     Before the part played by Dr.Schaff in contaminating
American theology is presented, the fundamental doctrines which
formed the issues of the Mercersburg Movement, as well as the
background of its birth, must be considered. While on a visit to
Germany in 1854, Dr.Schaff lectured before several organizations,
on Dr.Nevin and the Mercersburg Movement. From a report of his
remarks we quote the following:

"The 'Mystical Presence' published in 1846, was his (Dr.Nevin's)
first dogmatic-polemic work, a Vindication of the Mystical
Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, and of the actual
participation of believers in the power of His divine-human life,
in opposition to the prevalent symbolical view in America, which
sees in this sacrament only a commemoration of the death of
Christ now absent in heaven.... But the Movement did not here
stop. Already in the Mystical Presence, the idea of the
Incarnation of Christ came to the front very clearly, as the
central truth of Christianity... In the same track with the more
recent German theology, he (Dr.Nevin) studied with the deepest
interest the entire Puseyite controversy, foremost the writings
of Dr.John H.Newman, with whom he had many points of resemblance,
and read the works of the most important Roman Catholic
apologists and polemics, such as Bellarmine, Bossuet, Mohler,
Wiseman, and Balmes, who of course represent their system of
faith in a much more favorable light than their Protestant
opponents, and know how to idealize it, so that to a deep,
earnest spirit it becomes powerfully imposing. Dr.Nevin gave
expression to his newly gained ideas in the Mercersburg Review,
established by his pupils, edited by him, and read extensively
beyond the Reformed Church, more particularly in the Episcopal.
He there developed, in a series of essays and reviews, full of
life and spirit, and always going back to fundamental principles,
the doctrine of the Person of Christ."

     It was in 1844 that Dr.Schaff, still a young man, arrived
from Germany to assume his duties as Professor of Church History
and Biblical Literature in the Theological Seminary of
Mercersburg, Pa. He was just at the beginning of his theological
career in the University of Berlin, and was, says Dr.Appel, "a
gift from the Fatherland to the daughter Church on this side of
the ocean, and we may add, to the country at large, destined to
serve as an important link connecting the theological science of
this country with that of Germany." He came determined to use as
his chief argument, the theory of historical development which,
in the hands of the Catholic Mohler, had struck in Germany and
everywhere, strong blows at Protestantism and brought about the
reinstatement of the Catholic Church to a position of leadership.
On the eve of his leaving Germany, many Protestant leaders of the
new German theology rejoiced with Dr.Schaff over his call to
America. Among others who wrote to him, was Dr.Dorner, whose work
on the Atonement has ever attracted so much attention. Of Dorner,
Andrew Lang wrote in the Forum:

"Dorner's position, however, notwithstanding his protest, is
simply the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory somewhat
rationalized."  Dr.Dorner wrote to Schaff:

"Especially do I ask you to give attention to the Trinitarian and
Christological controversies and the development of the theory of
the Atonement."

     On his way to the United States, Dr.Schaff spent some time
in England, visiting. He met Drs.Jelf, Stanley, Pusey, Maurice,
and Jowett. He described Maurice as of a German temper of mind,
and said of Jowett that he seemed to have more sympathy with
German theological views than anyone else he met there. Pusey
spoke strongly against the sect divisions in America, "expressing
the wish that the bishops of the Anglican Church and the Roman
Catholic Church alone had the ground."
     On his arrival in this country, and at his inauguration into
the office which he accepted within the German Reformed Church,
Schaff made an address entitled, "The Principles of
Protestantism." His speech was so revolutionary that, as soon as
it was translated into English and circulated, it produced a
storm of criticism. It brought forth charges of Romanizing and
Tractarian tendencies. "The address involved the church
irreversibly in the doctrinal agitation which went on within its
pale for a quarter of a century."
     Some attribute to this address the opening note of the
Mercersburg Movement. Others say it began with the tract written
in the preceding year by Dr.Nevin, entitled, "The Anxious Bench."
This tract was a terrific denunciation of the system of revivals
held in the evangelical churches and pointed out the Sacramental
System as a refuge from fanaticism. Nevertheless the inaugural
address of Dr.Schaff resulted in his being tried for heresy. He
was formally acquitted; so he and Dr.Nevin went back to the
Theological Seminary to vindicate themselves and promote their
views among the rising generation. Dr.Berg, pastor of the First
German Reformed Church of Philadelphia, bore the brunt of
opposing the Catholic tide which evidently now had set in, in
America, as it had before in Germany and England. From a
converted Catholic priest he had heard that the professors of
Mercersburg were insidiously instilling Romanizing poison in
their classroom teachings. He tried several times to bring about
a change, but finding the Synod obdurate, he went over to the
Dutch Reformed Church, taking with him the larger part of his

     The time spent by Dr.Schaff at Mercersburg was approximately
twenty years. "The Mercersburg period of Dr.Schaff's career,"
says his son. "coincided with the rise and development of the
Mercersburg theology." In 1864 he removed to New York, and for
six years was connected with the New York Sabbath Committee,
whose aim, says his son, "was not to defend the Sabbath as a
religious festival, but as an institution recognized by civil
legislation." During this time he traveled all over the United
States, north and south, seeking by documents, by editorials, and
from the pulpit and platform, to enforce Sunday Laws.
     In 1870, Dr.Schaff connected with the Union Theological
Seminary where he taught for over a quarter of a century. It must
not be thought, however, that his revolutionary influence upon
American theology was limited to his stay at Mercersburg. In his
later writings and correspondence, we find those peculiar
doctrines which certain German theologians expected him to
promote in the United States, and which he urged, at times with
insistence, upon the Revision Committee.

     Dr.Schaff's teachings endorse the papal hierarchy of the
Middle Ages. He magnifies the priesthood until "its ministers
have more than earthly power; its sacraments have inherent
objective efficiency."  Dr.Schaff's conception of theology rests
upon the doctrine of historical development. In his life's work,
called "The History of the Apostolic Church," begun in 1853, may
be found his scheme of doctrines. His theories in this book were
so startling that several of America's leading theological
reviews denounced them as anti-Scriptural, and anti-Protestant.  
In classifying the sources of history, he puts in first rank the
"official letters, decrees, and bulls of Popes," pronouncing them
"pure, original utterances of history." 

"Through the misty drapery of Dr.Schaff's philosophy, every
essential feature of the papal system stands forth with a
prominence so sharply defined, as to leave doubt impossible, and
charity in despair," said one Reviewer.

     The following quotations from contemporary writers of
standing present the danger of Schaff's teachings:

"It is quite time that the churches of our country should awake
to the extent and tendencies of this movement in the midst of
American Protestantism. After a series of advances and
retractations, strongly resembling the tactics of the Tractarian
party in England, we have at length a bold avowal of the 'primacy
of Peter,' the fundamental and test doctrine of the Papacy,
followed by a concession of every vital point of Christianity
Church, Ministry, Worship, Sacraments, and the Right of Private
Judgment - to Romanism, and that too, while the name and the
forms of Protestantism are (as far as possible) studiously

     Remember, these are not the teachings of a Catholic, but of
the great modern leader in American theology, President of both
American Revision Committees which produced the American Standard
Revised Version. One of his tendencies is described as follows:

"The first of these which we shall mention is the 'primacy of
Peter,' which Dr.Schaff pronounces 'a subject of vast
importance,' and justly observes that 'the claims of the Papacy
are well known to center here.' Dr.Schaff fully asserts 'the
primacy of Peter,' and devotes about thirty pages of his work to
the proof of it, and the exposition of its relations to the
Christian church and its history." 

     We shall now see that Dr.Schaff's anti-Scriptural doctrine
of the "Person of Christ," modifies all doctrines and destroys

"As the conception of Christianity as a principle or life, the
divine-human life of Christ, leads to unscriptural views of His
person; modifies essentially the scheme of redemption, and the
mode of its application; involves the theory of organic
development, with all its consequences; so, finally, it includes
a new and thoroughly anti-Protestant view of the Church." 

     Or, as this writer says in another place on Dr.Schaff's
conception of Christ:

"It involves the doctrine of organic development, which overturns
all the established views of the nature of revelation and of
Christian doctrine. Revelation can no longer be understood as the
supernatural objective communication of divine truths, but the
elevation of human nature to a higher state, by which its
intuitions of spiritual objects become more distinct."

     What an indictment of this modern doctrine of the Person of
Christ! This teaching transfers the revelation of God from the
Bible to the feelings, emotions, intuitions, and human judgment
of the individual. It places a church composed of such
individuals above the written Word of God. May we not here direct
the reader's attention to this startling truth, that rejecting
the infallibility and inspiration of the Bible leads to seeking
refuge in another infallibility. Among Hindus and others, this is
the infallibility of the individual; among the Papists, it comes
to the infallibility of the Church.

     We further quote, from a monthly magazine of standing, to
show that Dr.Schaff's system of doctrines is truly papal, and
that he was disloyal to the faith he professed: "The Church of
Rome has committed it (treason). She has denied the sovereignty
of her Lord, and appropriated His royal attributes to Peter, in
order, from that shadowy source, to derive them, by her
fictitious 'succession,' to herself. She alone, of all the
nominal churches of Christ, has done this, and a heavy reckoning
she will have for it. Dr.Schaff has taken his position in this
system so boldly and distinctly, that he quite spares us the
invidious office of giving him or his theory an odious name ...
He has determined, too, to write a 'history of the Christian
church' on this system. He has thus laid the foundation of it. We
shall have occasion to see hereafter that he carries up the whole
building plumb and true to the ground-plan, and 'after the
pattern showed him' by the most approved masters of papal

     "That such a work should have proceeded from the bosom of
the Protestant church, and from a chair of ecclesiastical history
in a church especially renowned of old for its learned and
powerful champions of reformed Christianity, is a portentous
fact. It is, to say the least, not less so, that it has somehow
gained the strongest testimonials from several of the most
respectable and influential Protestant journals. The Papacy has
never won a victory but by stealing a march. Her tactics have
fairly been successful this time. This book is circulating
through the Protestant church with an imprimatur from authorities
which no American Protestant has been in the habit of
questioning. One of them goes so far as to recommend that
Dr.Schaff's book (then only published in German) be translated
and introduced as a textbook into our theological seminaries. It
would be well, as a preparatory measure, in case that were done,
to apply to the 'General of the order of Jesus' to send us over
professors to teach it. Our Protestant professors would (till
properly initiated and trained) betray some awkwardness in laying
down the primacy of Peter as the foundation of the church of
Christ, drawing the waters of history from such sources as bulls
of the Popes, and weaving together beautiful legends and oral
traditions into an osier-work of church history, instead of
piling up, as heretofore, the solid granite of historical fact,
and the pure marble of Christian doctrine. Our students of
divinity, too, for whose 'benefit' Dr.Schaff's work is especially
intended, would be sorely puzzled when set to learn 'beautiful
legends' by heart, to search among 'bulls of the Popes' for
'doctrine and government,' and to take, for the first lesson in
Church History, 'the Primacy of Peter.' A sad change must come
over our Theological Schools when this 'broad road leading
Rome-ward' is substituted for the 'old path.'"

     It may be urged that Dr.Schaff at times spoke against the
Papacy. This point is noticed by the following writer:

"It is quite true that Dr.Schaff has said some hard things of the
Papacy. He speaks of the 'extravagant claims,' 'the deadly coils
of the Papacy.' But we have not yet forgotten that Mr.Newman
pronounced the Roman Church 'impious,' 'blasphemous,' 'gross,'
'monstrous,' 'governed by the Evil One,' 'bound by a perpetual
bond and covenant to the cause of Antichrist' which 'we ought to
flee as a pestilence.' Yet a short time after, beheld him at the
feet of a Romish priest, exclaiming, 'I ask your blessing,' and
'withdrawing' before the world 'these expressions and the
arguments derived from them.' His peace was easily made.... 
Dr.Schaff has said, also, handsome things of Protestantism. He
has used Protestant phrases, and made Protestant observations not
a few. If Dr.Schaff had written a book of unmixed Romanism, it
would have found few readers in this country." 


     As in England, so in America, two Companies were formed for
Revision, one for the Old Testament, one for the New. Bishop
Ellicott and Dr.Angus of the English Revision Committee requested
Dr.Schaff to take the initiative and a leading part. In
consultation with them, he selected the American members. The
Episcopalians, having declined to nominate members from their
body, Dr.Schaff filled out the list. He drew up the provisional
draft of the Constitution, made arrangements for the organization
and first meeting. During the fourteen years of their labors, Dr.
Schaff was the life and soul of the work. He often traveled to
England, meeting with Ellicott, Westcott, Hort, and others to
smooth out difficulties and save the day in delicate situations. 

"For the American share in the work," says Dr.T.W.Chambers, a
member of the American Old Testament Committee, "the Christian
public is indebted to Philip Schaff more than to all other
persons together." 

     The American Committees entered upon their work prejudiced
in favor of the Vulgate. They considered the Bible of the Papacy
more accurate than the King James. "But the text which the
Protestants used," said the final editor of the American Version,
"was in many cases, it is now acknowledged, less accurate than
that represented by the Vulgate."  This attitude of mind
certainly would be one desired by Catholics. We have evidence
that Dr.Schaff felt at liberty to read his Roman prepossessions
into the Sacred Text. In his 'Church History' he translated that
famous passage in Matt.16:18, more in favor of Peter being the
first Pope than even papal writers, thus: "Thou art a rock, and
upon this rock I will build my church." One writer, reviewing his
"Church History," said, "Dr.Schaff has laid his hand on the text
itself. With unparalleled audacity he has translated Matt.16:18,
'thou art a rock, and on this rock, etc., as if 'Peter' and the
'rock' were expressed in the original by the same word.
Bellarmine has not ventured to do this, nor any other Romanist
within our knowledge."   

     Could one who had such papal leanings and who dared to
mistranslate the Scripture in his own history, be considered safe
as a leader in translating all of the rest?

     The sacerdotal leaning of Dr.Schaff can be further seen from
the fact that the American Committee changed, at his personal
insistence, the rendering of the English Revision Committee of
Acts 20:28, from "overseers" to "bishops." The report of this
incident, by his son, we give in full:

"The final Revision, Paul's address to the elders, Acts 20:28, as
it came from England in 1879, contained 'overseers' in the text
and 'bishops' in the margin. In Dr.Schaff's own copy he has
written on the margin 'Bishops in the text in all passages, and
overseers in the margin (moved by Schaff and adopted unanimously
April 30, 1880). The discussion was long.' The printed copies of
the Revision, it will be seen, contain the American change and
read: 'Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in the
which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops."

     Dr.Schaff was on such good terms with the Papacy that he
sought and obtained unusual privileges to study Vatican
documents. His biographer writes: "Through Cardinal Hergenrother,
the Cardinal librarian, he received almost unrestricted access to
the Vatican Library and Archives. The latter is a distinct
department, containing the papal correspondence, encyclicals,
regesta, and other documents pertaining to the curia."

     What Greek text was followed in the American New Testament
Revision Committee, may be gathered from the report given by Dr.
Schaff of his visit to the home of Bishop Westcott, Durham,
England, 1869. He said,-- "Westcott and Hort's Greek Testament I
think will suit me exactly." 

     Dr.Riddle tells us that in discussing the readings of the
Greek New Testament to be adopted, that, "while in the vast
majority of cases the preferences of the English Revisers were
approved, this was due to independent judgment."  Dr.Riddle
further informs us that the Versions, English and American, are
in substantial agreement.

     While time does not permit to study theologically the
individual members of these two committees, it is evident that
Dr.Schaff carried into the committees, the atmosphere of his
doctrines and European contacts. All the serious changes in the
English Revised, which so greatly aroused public hostility, also
appear in the American Revised. In the New Testament Company, in
which the most critical questions came up, Dr.Ezra Abbott was
accounted the most competent in problems of textual criticism. He
was a Unitarian. As a Unitarian he differed on some points from
his fellow Revisers. Of him Dr.Riddle writes, "Dr.Ezra Abbott
presented a very able paper on the last clause of Romans 9:5,
arguing that it was a doxology to God, and not to be referred to

     He succeeded in getting his view into the margin. In the
article by Dr.Abbott on Bible Texts, in Schaff-Herzog's
Encyclopedia, he claims that the early church was not so bent, as
those of this generation, upon preserving the exact words of the
original autographs of the apostles. Who will believe that those
who lived nearest the apostles cared less for the sacred writings
than we do now? To make such an arbitrary - and in the very
nature of things, unreasonable - statement indicates too low an
estimate of the sacred words for us to trust him as a qualified
Reviser. Unitarians and Romanizers may serve to revise the Bible
for others, but not for evangelical Protestants.

     Thirteen colleges and universities located along the
Atlantic seaboard had members of their faculties on these two
Revision Committees. What the result has been of linking
America's educational institutions with European theology, which
Dr.Schaff set out to do; may be seen in the letter written him by
the famous Dr.Weiss of the Berlin University. He says:

"If today the famous theological seminaries in the United States
have become nurseries of theological science, so that the old
world no longer gives to them alone, but receives from them
instruction in turn, this is owing chiefly to your activity." 

     If the influence of Dr.Schaff's scheme was so revolutionary
upon all the theological seminaries of the United States, what
must have been his influence and that of his Revision activities
upon the American Revised Version? Will not this explain the
peculiar acceptability of the American Revised Version to those
who lean toward advanced and liberal theology?

     Cardinal Newman and Dr.Schaff drank their inspiration from
the same fountain, from the higher critical theology of Germany,
at the same time both pagan and papal. As to the results of
Newman's life and the Oxford Movement, let a quarterly Review

"He (Newman) had left the leprosy of Popery cleaving to the very
walls of Oxford, to infect the youth of England, through an
unknown future." 

     As to the effect of Dr.Schaff, the Mercersburg theology, and
his doctrines, let the same witness testify again:

"Our examination has extended only to a little beyond the middle
of Dr.Schaff's work (i.e. his 'History of the Apostolic Church').
But the positions he has already advanced, are such as to lay the
whole truth and grace of God, and the whole liberty, hope, and
salvation of the human race, at the feet of the Roman Papacy." 

     Under such influences were born the English and American
Revised Versions.



As before mentioned Wilkinson gives his sources of quotes via the
"number system" in the body and at the bottom of the page, which
I have not reproduced. Anyone wanting these reference can
probably obtain Benjamin Wilkinson's book from a Public Lirary.

Such was the start of the modern NT translations in the USA. It
is surely a blessing we still have editions of the Bible like
Dr.Jay P.Green Sr. Hewbrew/English and Greek/English Interlinear
Bibles, widely published and obtainable. We also have scholars
who have seen the Received Greek Text is more trustworthy than
manuscripts from the Catholic church that only surfaced in the
middle 1800s and whom upon Westcott and Hort doted as if
transfixed in a coma, but having a Roman Catholic theology mind-
set, such manuscripts were very much in line with their love for
Rome, sacriments, rituals, and Romanism theology.

If the reader has not yet done so, I encourage the reading of
Green's Introduction to his Hebrew and Greek Interlinear, on this

Keith Hunt

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