Friday, June 20, 2008

Protecting Our "Blind Side" - A Discussion of Contemporary Concern in churches of Christ, Earl Edwards

Protecting Our “Blind Side” – A Discussion of Contemporary Concerns in churches of Christ, Earl Edwards

Would it not be a wonderful thing to not have to deal with controversies among those in the Lord’s church and focus solely on evangelism? Unfortunately, as wonderful as that would be, such is not the case in this life. Controversies exist and how we handle these can have a profound impact on the future of the church. Sometimes controversies come out of nowhere like a car can appear out of our “blind spot”. Having good materials on hand to help someone sort through some of these issues is a valuable way to present material in a way that helps reduce the personal element in dealing with controversy.

One book that is worthwhile to have on hand is Protecting Our “Blind Side” by Earl Edwards. Brother Edwards is the Director of Graduate Studies in Bible at the School of Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University. He has been a teacher at Freed-Hardeman University since 1982. He has been a faithful gospel preacher since 1952. His experience and love for the truth makes a volume of this nature weigh heavily with wisdom that should be given serious consideration.

In this book, brother Edwards deals with such issues as the essentiality of Baptism, divorce & remarriage, bible authority, the new hermeneutic, eternal punishment in hell, the work of the Holy Spirit, the restoration plea, role of women in the church, and instrumental music in worship. He provides things to think about relating to hand clapping and other matters relating to the worship of the church.

I have seen brother Edwards deliver lectures and appreciate his comments at the Open Forum at Freed-Hardeman University. I have seen him introduce someone very graciously at the FHU Bible Lectureship, but not hesitate to take issue with the content of someone’s statement in a lecture in order to make sure the truth is upheld. In order to give you a flavor of the writing that brother Edwards displays, a quotation from his chapter on “Divorce and Remarriage” will be provided. Brother Earl does a fine job describing the background of this subject as it relates to the law of Moses and the Jewish schools of thought about divorce during the days of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. He makes a very salient point that all should keep in mind when discussing this matter. Speaking of Matthew 19:9, he writes:

“Jesus is contrasting the teaching of Moses in verse 8 with what “I say unto you” here in this verse. Were Jesus merely trying to make clear the true meaning of the Seventh Commandment and restore it to its proper place, He would have also made it clear that He was restoring the death penalty for unchastity (Deut. 22:22) rather than suggesting that the guilty woman might be put away without blame. The truth is He is contrasting His own teaching for His coming kingdom with what Moses had taught.”
(pp. 70-71).
Brother Edwards deals with issues in a very direct and kind way. You will find this work a valuable resource when facing or preparing to face the issues of our day.


More Christ Like said...

Leslie McFall has an interesting way to deal with the so-called exception clause in Matthew 19:9 that appears to allow for divorce and remarriage for marriage unfaithfulness.
He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

drkenney said...

Thank you for your commment. I have done some research which I have summarized as follows.

McFall shows how Erasmus’ addition of the Greek word ei in Mat 19:9 has lead to the incorrect translation of this verse. What should be translated as an exclusion to divorce “not even for fornication” (McFall Translation) is seen by most to be a[n] exception to divorce and remarry, “except it be for fornication” (KJV). (

In researching for a response to an inquiry to this matter and the work of Erasmus, the following background information was gleaned. Desiderius Erasmus was born October 28, 1465 in Rotterdam and died July 12, 1536 in Basel. One writer described him as “…the most brilliant representative of humanistic culture at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the head of a movement in the interest of a reformation of ecclesiastical abuses which prepared the way for the Protestant Reformation.”—The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 753.

Erasmus, William Tyndale (who used Erasmus’ work to translate the NT into English) and Martin Luther (who used Erasmus’ work to translate the NT into German) all lived during the same period. Luther and Erasmus were at first in agreement on many points, but near the end there was a serious disagreement between the two. Martin Luther would go along with the Protestants, but Erasmus elected to remain with the Catholic Church.

Erasmus most famous work was his version of the Greek & Latin New Testament with annotations; which was published in 1516. The text was viewed as inferior to another work entitled Complutensian Polyglot; however, Erasmus was first to market with his work and captured a larger share of the market since the other product was not ready for market until 1520 (even though written two years prior to Erasmus’ work being published). Possibly in a rush to market, there were several errors in the first edition, but one must remember that this could have been the fault of the publisher rather than Erasmus. F.H.A. Scrivener commented on the first edition’s typographical errors: “It is in that respect the most faulty book I know.” So, subsequent revisions to the work were made. Martin Luther used the 1519 revision of the work to produce his translation, and William Tyndale used the 1525 revision for his translation. Even after his death, Erasmus’ work was revised with chapter inserted, later verses inserted, and other changes to the original work. Robert Stephens revised and printed the work; which is called the Elziver Edition; which served as the basis for the Textus Receptus.

Erasmus, unfortunately, did not utilize either the older or the majority of manuscripts available at the time. He did not utilize the Codex Vaticanus (a fourth century manuscript which Erasmus knew of—seventeen years after his publication and three years before his death) or the Codex Sinaiticus (fifth century manuscript discovered in 1844—years after Erasmus died). Erasmus utilized manuscripts largely from the 12th century. Sources claim he used five to ten manuscripts for his New Testament. Defenders of the smaller sample size for the work state that the manuscripts Erasmus used were practically identical to the thousands of others available.

One of the criticisms that lead some to concern is Erasmus treatment of the Greek when the manuscripts he had seemed imperfect or incomplete. To supplement or revise the Greek, Erasmus utilized the Latin Vulgate and translated it back into the Greek for his edition. Textual Critics point out that this is one of the reasons that there are Greek expressions in Erasmus’ work that do not appear in any original Greek manuscripts. This has lead some to be concerned since Erasmus work is the basis of the Textus Receptus (or Received Text). One expert states that neither those favoring the Majority Text nor those favoring the Critical Text recognize the Textus Receptus as the most reliable product. While the concern is real, the question is how real of a concern is this?

For example, as stated above, one writer claims that the exception clause in Matthew 19:9, “except” was inserted by Erasmus’ work and made its way into the Textus Receptus which ultimately made its way into English translations. The argument is basically stating that there are no grounds for divorce ever. The verse in the English Standard Version reads “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” One writer, while seeking to omit “except”, turns around and inserts “even” in their translation of the term “And I say to you that who, say, may put away his wife—not even for fornication—and may marry another commits adultery; and he who did marry her that has been put away commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9, McFall Simplified) One wonders why one person can insert an English term to clarify the passage but Erasumus may not. Several important points in response:

·There are two forms of the exception clause—“except on the ground of unchastity” and “except for unchastity” which are the same doctrinally.
·Some manuscripts include an additional statement at the end of verse 9. Some manuscripts conclude with “and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” while others have “makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Some versions, such as the English Standard Version just quoted, omit this phrase since it is perceived to be an addition by later scribes. Whichever manuscript one uses, these all teach basically the same message.
·The Bible in 26 Translations; which utilizes the KJV and records any significant differences among 26 translations, shows the exception clause in all instances.
·Under the Old Testament Law, those guilty of adultery were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10)…no need for a bill of divorcement.

It seems the matter comes down to determining what was Jesus communicating. All agree that God hates divorce, but does He intend for no divorce for fornication? Unless one is arguing for the death of the offending party, there is strong evidence for an exception. Surely God is not intending for the innocent to remain in a marriage with an unfaithful partner under all conditions when He had not done so in the past.

One question to ponder is who is the better textual critic, Erasmus or others who seek to eliminate the exception? Erasmus’ work is backed up by other Greek manuscripts so the possibility that he deliberately inserted “except” is really a mute matter. The exception clause stands.


Lewis, Jack P., The English Bible from KJV to NIV, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Bible Book House,

Lewis, Jack P., Questions You’ve Asked About Bible Translations, Searcy, AR: Resource
Publications, 1991.

Lightfoot, Neil R., How We Got The Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1963.

Metzger, Bruce M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, New York, NY: United
Bible Societies, 1975.

Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament, New York, NY: Oxford University Press,

Schaff, Philip, Editor, Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, New York, NY: The Christian Literature
Company, Volume 1, 1889.

set 2 free said...

I have read this article with interest because no one presents the greek text to see what it means in the greek before searching thru various translations for answer.
In the Collins New Testament Polyglot the Greek is present on line one and the Romanized on line two and the meaning of only the words with out form or grammar.
In the text of Matt 19:9 the is no mention of the word "except" in the Greek Text. It would help if you would show the Greek Text so we could see how you arrive at the English Translation and why.

Set 2 Free

drkenney said...

While there is some variations on the "exception clause", reputable translators have examined the evidence and concluded that the exception clause part of Matt. 19:9. Does this same concern manifest itself in Matthew 5:32?