Archive for February, 2011

I’ve been reading F.F. Bruce’s History of the Bible in English and have appreciated seeing the progression of historical events surrounding the translation of the Bible into English. We often think of John Wycliffe as being the first to be involved in English Bible translation, but Bruce points out that the first to engage in “straightforward translation of the Bible text” was Aldhelm, first bishop of Sherborne in Dorset, who “is said to to have translated the Psalter into Old English soon after the year 700” (p. 5). But Wycliffe has the distinction of being associated with the first translation of the whole Bible into English. I use the word “associated” because Bruce notes, “It is doubtful if Wycliffe himself took any direct part in the work of Bible translation….” But then he adds, “… but we need have no qualms about referring to the Wycliffite Bible, for it was under his inspiration and by his friends and colleagues that the work was done” (p. 13). Wycliffe and his associates brought the Bible to the ordinary layfolk in the vernacular English for the first time.

The next prominent name in Bible translation is William Tyndale. He has the honor of producing the first English Bible that was printed. Unlike Wycliffe, Tyndale was clearly very heavily involved in the actual work of Bible translation. Because of the circumstances of the church that confronted Tyndale, he was led “to the conviction that the root cause of much confusion in people’s minds on the matter then under debate was ignorance of the Scriptures” (pp. 28-29). Of course, he’s known for the following immortal words to a learned man:

If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost. (p. 29)

Whatever we may think of Erasmus, a contemporary of Tyndale, he also evidenced a burden for vernacular translation. He writes in his preface to his Greek NT of 1516,

I totally disagree with those who are unwilling that the Holy Scriptures, translated into the common tongue, should be read by the unlearned. Christ desires His mysteries to be published abroad as widely as possible. I could wish that even all women should read the Gospel and St Paul’s Epistles and I would that they were translated into all the languages of all Christian people, that they might be read and known not merely by the Scots and the Irish but even by the Turks and the Saracens. I wish that the farm worker might sing parts of them at the plough, that the weaver might hum them at the shuttle, and that the traveller might beguile the weariness of the way by reciting them. (p. 29)

Though Tyndale’s Bible was the first to be printed, it was actually Myles Coverdale who had the honor of having his complete English Bible printed. Tyndale never completed his translation, but Coverdale did, though it was greatly dependent upon Tyndale’s work.

Bruce also explains the fascinating story about Bishop Cuthbert Tonstall, who refused to authorize Tyndale’s translation work. In fact, he became one of Tyndale’s greatest antagonists, even buying his translations with the sole purpose of burning them.  But in God’s amazing providence, Tonstall’s money ended up helping Tyndale get out of debt. Bruce quotes an account which summarizes the situation well: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington [the one who negotiated the deal] had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.” (p. 38) But by 1537 Tonstall actually became a key figure in the authorization of the Matthew’s Bible, a Bible that was largely based on Tyndale’s work! What an interesting twist of providence!

Bruce also explains that the Geneva Bible became the Bible of English Protestantism, especially on the European continent. It was also the Bible of Shakespeare. Even after the production of the Authorized Version (i.e., KJV), the Geneva Bible still maintained a large readership. The impetus of the A.V. was King James and the other English authorities who disdained the Reformed notes in the Geneva Bible.

One more interesting tidbit… The A.V. was originally published with marginal readings of the Greek text. Bruce aptly notes,

They [i.e., the KJV translators] mention that some readers have misgivings about the alternative readings suggested in the margin, on the ground that they may appear to shake the authority of Scripture in deciding points of controversy. This obscurantist objection has been urged against other Bible versions, of much more recent date; some people would prefer a false appearance of certainty to an honest admission of doubt. (pp. 102-3)

Later he quotes the translators when they react to Pope Sixtus V who forbid the marginal noting of variant readings.

They that are wise had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings, than to be captivated to one, when it might be the other. (p. 103)

Should we really be comfortable with a false appearance of certainty today, when Bible translators throughout the ages have expressed their difficulties in knowing in a limited number of places exactly which Greek reading is the original one? Is there more merit in being captivated by one reading, when another reading is equally valid? Isn’t it better to have all the facts in front of us so that we can make decisions ourselves? Thought-provoking questions to consider in light of the present-day version debate today.

(BTW, the places where marginal readings occur are not plentiful nor do they create uncertainty about the truth in those passages. An example would be where the text might say “the Lord Jesus Christ” and the marginal reading says “Jesus Christ.” Clearly, the identity of the Son of God is not in question!)

I have complete certainty that God has preserved His Word in the sum total of the textual evidence. And I’m so thankful for those who have gone before us over the many centuries to put the Scriptures into English. Many gave up their lives for that cause. I praise the Lord that I have the privilege of putting the same Scriptures into the vernacular languages of people all around the world!

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Support Increase!

The 70’s are already proving themselves to be much more friendly than the 60’s. As of today, I am now at 71% because of the increase of support from a family. Praise the Lord! I look forward to seeing how the Lord will continue to provide, because I know so many are praying fervently for me.

The Lord gave me a blessed time of ministry yesterday at Greenwood Baptist Church in Winchester, VA. The blessings began Saturday evening as I was preparing for the next morning of ministry. Though I’ve looked at John 6 many, many times in preparation for my sermon on the multiplication of loaves and fish, the Lord gave me yet one more insight into the passage. As I thought about the apostles taking the food to the multitude, I reflected on the questions that the people must have asked. “Where did you get that food from?” “We saw someone taking a little boy’s lunch to Jesus, but how is it that you can continue to bring more food to us?” The apostles’ answer could have been summed up in one word–“Jesus!” Jesus multiplied the provisions! He’s the Creator of the universe, so nothing is too hard for Him!

I had tremendous liberty as I taught in SS and then preached in the AM service. What a blessing to know of the Spirit’s enabling as I ministered! I could tell many were praying.

I’ll be hanging out in Winchester until Thursday and will then drive about 8 hours into northwestern OH. I look forward to going further north, but I am praying for the weather to be conducive to driving.

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On May 18, 2010, I reported that my support level leaped into the 60’s with the addition of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN. I had no idea that my stay in the 60’s would last 9 months. And I didn’t anticipate that the 60’s would actually be 15 percentage points long. Because of various increases in expenses, my support went from 69% down to 64% in the fall. But praise the Lord I’m now leaving the 60’s! Lowman Baptist Church in Pine Grove, WV, increased their support and Yates-Thagard Baptist Church in Carthage, NC, became a new supporter. I now have 70%! Praise the Lord! Hopefully the 70’s will not keep me as long as the 60’s did!

I’m saying another goodbye this week–Goodbye to the sunny south. I’ve been in down south since mid December, but this Saturday I’ll start heading north. I have a meeting this Sunday in northern VA, so I won’t actually cross the Mason-Dixon line until some time next week. But I imagine the temps will go down even as I head 4 hours north. I’ll be at Greenwood Baptist Church where I’ll present in SS and then preach in the AM service.

This week I’ve been reading Jakob Van Bruggen’s The Future of the Bible (Thomas Nelson, 1978). He points out that Bible societies, which basically began being formed in the early 1800s (though one was formed in 1710), originally functioned simply as Bible distribution organizations. They helped missionaries distribute their translations. Eventually, however, they began engaging in the editing of those translations. And finally, they began doing the translations themselves.

Van Bruggen also points out that most Bible societies have no doctrinal basis for membership, though there are some exceptions (e.g., Trinitarian Bible Society). Eventually, then, many of the Bible societies began working closely with the Roman Catholic Church.

The societies also evolved from “handmaid of the churches” to “handmaid of the world”, primarily because of doctrinal deviations in the churches. In other words, where they once simply serviced the churches, they became a missions entity in themselves and sought to proclaim God’s message directly to the world.

I thank the Lord that I am part of a Bible society that does not fit the norm. We are a division of a church-planting organization that works in close partnership with local churches, and we have a solid doctrinal stance to which all members must subscribe. Christ’s work is being accomplished through local churches, so we are here to help local churches, both in the States and overseas.

Speaking of local churches, I enjoyed my time at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, VA, this past Sunday. I worshiped with them in the morning and then presented my ministry in the evening. I’m very thankful for the interest as I spoke and the many questions and comments afterward. We’ll see how the Lord leads.

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I just sent this out to my email contacts, and I thought it would be good to post it on my blog too:

Dear family and friends,

This week I began making plans to extend my deputation into Minnesota in the fall. The fall marks a significant point in my deputation, because it indicates that I will be finishing a fourth year and beginning a fifth. Now, I am very thankful for the many blessings the Lord has poured out upon me on deputation, and I’m content to be on deputation as long as the Lord wills. But I’m asking for increased intercession for me, that I would finish raising support and be able to give my full attention to the ministry to which the Lord has called me.

I’m pleading for this on the basis of the Lord’s command: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Mat. 9:38). The verb “send forth” is key, because it includes not just the raising up of laborers, but also the enabling of churches to support those laborers. It seems that most churches can no longer give of their “abundance” as in former years, but will now have to give out of their “poverty” to support this present generation of missionaries. Many churches have expressed an interest in my ministry, but they have also lamented that they don’t have the funds.

But God is able to enable them, for He owns all the silver and gold. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27) The Lord knows my need. He knows the needs of believers around the world who are still waiting to receive God’s Word in their own language. He understands that I cannot fulfill all the activities of my ministry until I have full support. He is fully aware of all these things, but He also commands us to pray. So could I ask you to please increase your prayers?

At first, I sent this email out only to my supporters, but I felt compelled to send it to all my email contacts. By signing my list, you have expressed your interest in my ministry of helping people around the world gain access to the Word of God. But as long as I’m still on deputation, I can’t give full attention to this ministry. Pray that I would gain my full support by the end of this year. I currently have 70%. Let’s pray with full faith in Jehovah Jireh’s ability to provide!

Together for Christ,

Troy Manning

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The Story of the Topical Index

I just sent the final version of the Topical Index to Myanmar for two of our projects, and I thought this was a good time to capture in one post the story of this extended project.

On Friday, Jan. 14, we at BI decided that two of our projects needed to have a Topical Index and that I was the one to produce it. Normally, we create a word concordance, generated by taking all the words in their whole NT and then culling it down to only the more significant words. But these two languages in Myanmar are structured in such a way that this method of producing a word concordance wouldn’t work. It separates words into multiple morphemes, such that one piece of a word might occur in one spot on the word list, and another piece might occur far removed from the first piece. Therefore, our only option was to have them use a Topical Index. One problem–we hadn’t been able to create an English “model” for them to use yet. I had given that project to another consultant, but she was working on other things. A month or so ago, that project was transferred to another consultant, since she had more time to give higher priority to it. But then she went on a 3-week trip.

We thought we would wait for her to resume her work when she returned, but then the urgency of the situation became apparent. If we were going to help the believers with these two Burmese languages, we would have to produce a Topical Index. And since our team is in Myanmar right now, we couldn’t delay any longer.

The Lord obviously knew that this urgent need would arise, so He arranged my circumstances ahead of time such that I would not be moving from location to location during the week, as I normally do between deputation meetings. Instead, I would be staying at the Military Christian Center in Norfolk, VA, for 5 total weeks. This allowed me to have less distractions, because I didn’t need to worry much about packing and unpacking (though I have had Sunday meetings in other cities each Sunday). Plus, my other responsibilities were somewhat lesser, though I did have other things to keep up with each day.

I used Nave’s Topical Bible (electronic version) as my base, since it’s beyond of copyright restrictions. I also used Nelson’s Topical Bible Index (that just happened to be at the Center’s library). I reduced Nave’s document from 1,400 pages to around 30. Almost every reference was checked in Bibleworks. What a joy it was to trace each topic through the NT! But what an eye-blurring exercise too!

As I rounded the last corner and began heading down the homestretch, I began considering the need to recruit volunteers to help with proofreading. I couldn’t just ask one person, because the work was too large for one person to do very quickly. I knew I would need around 24-25, about one per letter of the alphabet. So I sent out an email to those on my prayer letter email list.

What a wonderful surprise to see so many respond with a desire to help! Pastors sent my email to their church members. Seminary students sent it to other students. Friends talked to other friends. In the end, I had almost 50 people volunteer! I soon realized that I actually needed the extra 15 volunteers, because another consultant sent me a document 15 pages long, which contained references that BI had compiled and that needed to be somewhere in the Index. God knew my need!

It was a real joy to hear of the volunteers’ excitement for this project. They wrote of their joy in being able to have a tangible part in a real-life missions project. They were thankful for the opportunity to help believers around the world, many of whom have no other resources to study the Bible with than what we provide in our Scriptures.

Remember that consultant who left for a 3-week trip? Well, she came back. Though she was still rubbing the jet lag away from her eyes, she helped me by looking up the 400+ significant verses that my volunteers couldn’t find in the Index. She assigned a topic to each one so that I could easily insert them into the Index today.

After inserting them, I formatted the Index so that it would be in the format we use for our Scriptures. The goal was for it to be 50-60 pages long. Guess how long it is. 59 pages!

Praise the Lord! How good God has been in helping with this project every step of the way! I almost get the feeling that God cares about the readers of our New Testaments! I speak as a fool.

Pray for our translators as they begin translating this Index into their language. Many complications could arise as they transfer it into their language. I tried to anticipate some of them, but it’s impossible to anticipate all.And pray for the Lord to bless this Index as readers in Myanmar make use of it. Eventually, it will be put into other New Testaments, so you can pray for readers in other countries as well.

What about an OT Topical Index? I don’t even want to think about it right now!!

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I had a great time in Rocky Mount, visiting old acquaintances and making new ones. On Mon-Thurs I was with a couple that I stayed with when I visited their church in November. They said I could stay with them any time I’m passing through the area (I almost always take people up on this offer so beware!). I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship as well as the use of their home during the day (not for parties but for work).

On Thursday I got to meet a former BI representative and his wife, Pat and George Carapelle. I found out that they were in the area, so I took advantage of their close proximity to meet them. We had warm fellowship over lunch and learned that we have a number of mutual friends, since Pat lived in the Chicago area for a number of years.

Then I traveled back to Rocky Mount to stay with Pastor Lee Price and his wife. I presented my work at his church about a year ago and stayed with them later in 2010. We had fun fellowshipping and playing games in the evenings.

I visited Monticello on Saturday afternoon, the former home of Thomas Jefferson. His knowledge of so many different subjects was quite impressive. He traveled broadly (for his time) and amassed much information on how other countries do things (e.g., grow plants, design buildings, etc.). But apparently, Jefferson died a lost man. It’s sad that such a brilliant man never came to know the Possessor of all wisdom and knowledge.

My meeting at Grace Baptist Church in Orange, VA, went well. I had difficulties getting my heart prepared for the full day of ministry, for some reason, but the Lord enabled me to minister the Word in all three slots. The people had already heard about BI through Kim Hibbard, and their interest only increased as I shared more with them.

Now I’m back in the Virginia Beach area and back to work on the Topical Index. I hope to have it done by Thursday. Pray that we would catch any mistakes during these last few days.

This coming Sunday night I’ll present my ministry to the people at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Va Beach. I enjoyed my time in their seminary chapel a few weeks ago, so it should be another good day of fellowship and ministry.

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Following His Leading

This evening I read Mark 4. The last section in the chapter is about the disciples following Christ’s leading, which led them into a storm on the Sea of Galilee. As I reflected on my day today, which included speaking to various pastors who are unable to even have me in for a meeting, I applied this passage to my life. Though my situation is definitely not on the level of a storm, there’s the temptation for me to become “timid” and faithless, as the disciples were. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” I must not doubt the Lord’s care or power during this time of testing called “deputation.” The Lord does care and He will deliver me from this time according to His will. He led me to this point, so He will lead me through.

And besides, deputation is really not all that bad. I had a wonderful time this past weekend with Pastor Coffey, his family, and his church. I told the church that I am so encouraged by the testimony of Pastor Coffey’s son, Aaron. I knew Aaron when he was an unsaved college student who’s only goal in life seemed to be having fun. I never thought that he would eventually become an evangelist whom the Lord would use greatly in many lives. Praise God for the power of His transforming grace!

Since Pastor Coffey’s church has been supporting BI and my predecessor for a number of years, I could focus on updating rather than just educating, as with most other churches. It was a joy to preach in the AM service and to present my ministry in the PM service.

This Sunday I’ll be speaking in SS, presenting in the AM, and preaching in the PM at Troy Thacker’s church, Grace Baptist Church, in Orange, VA.

I just finished a chapter in On the Death and Life of Languages about the revival of Hebrew. What a fascinating story! Maybe I’ll share some of the details on my blog some time.

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