Saturday 16 July 2011

Living Fossils of the Herbozoic (1)

Thumbing through the May/June issue of the BAR I nearly had a coronary, right there in the Borders store in Albany.  A double shot of Ernest Martin in two full page ads.

The first was for "The Holy Bible in its Original Order" (page 7).  This volume had its genesis in the desire of Ernest L. Martin (often referred to as ELM) to 'restore' the Bible to its 'original' order.  The initial idea, according to James Tabor, was to gain permission to reprint the long forgotten Rotherham translation in an appropriately reshuffled edition.  The 'original' order for the New Testament was, according to Martin:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts... (so far so conventional).
James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude... then,
Romans, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians...
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and, finally,

You learn something new each day.

I'm not sure how ELM worked that out, or how the book order could be considered such a significant issue, but he self-published a large tome on the subject (The Original Bible Restored, which weighs in at over 500 pages and is still procurable on Amazon).  There was strong support for the idea among his followers, disenchanted adherents of one-time ad man turned apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong.  (Martin had been Professor of Theology at Ambassador College prior to the convulsions of 1974, and one of Herb's most influential lieutenants.  His doctorate - in education - was also from unaccredited AC.  Wikipedia calls him an archaeologist, but that's definitely a stretch.)  Eventually it was decided to go it alone with this 'original' Bible, which was a mistake.  Martin died before the translation project got off the ground.

Loyal supporters decided to continue with the project which, some years ago, fell into the hands of Dr. Tabor (UNC, Charlotte), another former Ambassador lecturer and disciple of Armstrong.  There's little indication however that "The Original Bible Project" will ever now see the light of day, with Tabor's last web entry advising progress on The Transparent English Bible dated November 2009.

But fear not little flock!  Into the breach stepped Fred Coulter, an ex-Armstrong minister, and one of the few who'd bothered to learn Greek at AC.  Fred released his own 'original order' New Testament in 2004, and later bought the rights to a KJV clone to bung together the Old Testament part (after, I assume, water-boarding the appropriate proof texts till they surrendered) with his New Testament.  The result was the very expensive item ($119.50 or $99.50, depending on the cover) advertised in the BAR.  My advice?  Save your money.

So far nothing new.  This 'unique' Bible has been promoted in the pages of the BAR for a very long time.

No, the near coronary occurred when I flicked over to page 13.

(To be continued)


  1. As I have always said, if the authors of the bible had wanted to preserve the original, they would have chiseled it in stone.

    It was the Catholic Church that decided which writings went into the NT and in which order they should appear.

    Scholars know that the seven (yes, only 7) authentic letters of Paul should be first in order, starting with 1 Thessalonians. Next should be Mark. All the rest should be trashed.

  2. In all honesty? The book is not bad, as a daily Bible reading tool; but for actual comparative study, obviously not, and there are a few whoppers that gave me pause.

    As for "the original order" -- that definitely smacks of bibliolatry, and does not reflect the teaching of the Church that I remember, to wit, that the Bible was a collection of many books, authored by different, fallible men, over the space of thousands of years, inspired by God. Mentions can be found, in copies of Good News, of both the Didache, and the Gospel of Barnabas, so we were definitely never canonical, KJV-only, inerrantists, not by a long shot.

    Still, the Coulter Bible is good for one's blood pressure, as one does not have to wade through mis-translations, additions of the false Johaninne Comma (don't get me started on the professing Christian addition to the 7th chapter of Mark; Young's Literal Translation, and the Coulter Bible, are the only two I've found that have managed to avoid that error), blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, etcetera.

    I firmly believe that it is good to read a Bible translation that offends you, however; I find that, running up against "difficult" (mistranslated or proof-texted) scriptures, keeps one sharp, and clearly in sight of the truth, at all times.

  3. Velvet, you mean the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7, not Mark 7 which has the same 37 verses in Coulter as everywhere else). You haven't been looking very hard if you think the dippy Fred Coulter version and Young's Literal are the only ones to expunge the additional words. So does:


    And that's just for starters. In fact I can't think of a single contemporary NT translation that keeps the comma!

    Sometimes your apologetic enthusiasm runs way, w-a-y ahead of the facts.

  4. Sorry I wasn't clearer about the reference in Mark 7, which was actually a second verse I was referring to, I was not conflating Mark 7:19 with the Johaninne Comma, I was digressing about a 2nd problem verse, to wit, the parenthetical that is added in almost every translation, even though it is not to be found in the earliest manuscripts.

    Sorry, again, for any confusion, I hope that clears it up. (Or at least makes things as clear as mud.)