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FOLLOW-UP TO GIDEONS AND MODERN VERSIONS
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Updated June 4, 2000 (first published October 16, 1997) (David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, Michigan 48061, firstname.lastname@example.org) - On July 2 we published an article "Do the Gideons Distribute Modern Versions?" which cited a letter from W.W. Vardell, Special Services Manager for the Gideons, to a woman who subscribes to O Timothy magazine. She sent us a copy of his letter, and it appeared that he had failed to acknowledge to her that the Gideons have published various modern versions. In the article we affirmed that the Gideons did publish the Revised Berkeley Version, and that we have a copy in our library. Today I received a gracious call from Mr. Vardell, and he explained to me that he had not understood the woman's question and that he definitely was not trying to deny that the Gideons had distributed modern versions in the past. The following information was provided by Mr. Vardell:
1. The Gideons published the Revised Berkeley Version from 1974 to 1983. Mr. Vardell explained to me that the Revised Berkeley was selected because it is not as radical as many of the modern versions. This is true, but it is based generally on the same critical Greek text as that underlying most modern versions. For example, 1 Timothy 3:16, which reads "God was manifest in the flesh" in the King James Version, reads "He was revealed in the flesh" in the Revised Berkeley. The all important word "God" is entirely removed. This key verse is perverted in almost all of the modern versions, because they use a corrupted Greek text.
2. The Gideons were never satisfied with the Revised Berkeley Version and they subsequently published the New International Version from 1983 to 1986. The Gideons edition of the NIV contained 44 changes which were made to "more strongly emphasize the virgin birth, deity of Christ, and other cardinal doctrines." They stopped publishing the NIV in 1986 and, according to Mr. Vardell, "will never go back to it; will not touch it with a ten foot pole."
3. Today, the only "modern version" published by the Gideons is the New King James Version. Mr. Vardell said that they understand that the NKJV is "far from perfect," that it contains "discrepancies," that it is not as accurate and authoritative as the old King James Version.
4. If the Gideons believe that the NKJV is not as accurate and authoritative as the old KJV, the question which naturally arises is, "Why, then, do you publish the NKJV?" I was told that the motivation for the Gideons to publish a "modern version" is the pressure from distribution channels. Mr. Vardell told me that THE CATHOLICS ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT ACCEPT THE OLD KING JAMES BIBLE. He said the Gideons have learned that if they promote the New King James as a "modern version" many of the Catholic organizations and personnel will accept it; whereas they refuse the old King James Version.
5. Mr. Vardell told me that the leadership of the Gideons hold the "conviction" that the Authorized Version is the most accurate English version textually. When I asked why the Gideons do not plainly state in print this "conviction" that the Received Text is the preserved Word of God and the King James Bible is the only accurate and dependable English version, Mr. Vardell gave me two reasons: (1) they don't want to be divisive, and (2) it is not the mission of the Gideons to enter into such doctrinal debates. I conclude, therefore, that Mr. Vardell is confusing "conviction" with "preference."
I would not question Mr. Vardell's sincerity and I appreciate the gracious attitude he displayed during our conversion, but we reject his unscriptural parachurch, ecumenical philosophy. No Christian organization has the privilege to ignore certain portions of the Word of God and certain duties of the Christian faith. The Gideons cannot escape such passages as Jude 3 and Romans 16:17. They do not have the right to avoid "doctrinal controversies" or to assign themselves a "mission" which allows them to ignore some of the responsibilities of the New Testament faith. The Gideon of old was a weak man in his own right, but he was willing to fight for the cause of Christ and God made him into a mighty warrior. Those who hold him as their namesake, though, draw back from the battle for the Bible which is raging in our day.
A foundational problem with the various parachurch organizations is that they have no Scriptural authority for their existence. The New Testament assembly is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The truth, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and His Word (John 17:17). The Apostles did not organize parachurch entities; they established sound churches, and it was the responsibility of those churches to carry on all aspects of the Great Commission. The New Testament church was given the Lord's mission and it was given everything needed to carry out that mission. In the New Testament Epistles it was given a simple and clear pattern for government and discipline. It was given a complete doctrinal position called "the faith once delivered to the saints" and was instructed to impart this exact faith to every subsequent generation and to earnestly contend for this faith against all false teachings. It was given power and authority to reproduce itself across the world from generation to generation. The New Testament church is perfectly sufficient for the great task which has been divinely assigned to it, and those who form parachurch entities to "assist the church" have no scriptural authority.
The Gideons have assigned themselves the task of distributing the Word of God, and we praise the Lord for every sound copy of Scripture they have sown across the world. We would challenge them to go beyond this and to OBEY the Word of God and STAND FOR the Word of God.
We close with the warning of Dr. John Ashbrook, author of New Neutralism II: Avoiding the Gray of Compromise (Here I Stand Books, 536 Greenside Dr., Painsville, OH 44077): "The Gideons are a good example of the [separation] problem. Putting Bibles in hotel rooms is a good cause. However, the Gideons usually want to be in the First Fundamental Church on Sunday evening after being in the First Modernistic Church on Sunday morning."
On June 4, 2000, I received the following note from Trevor Stoute in Barbados:
"Read your articles re Gideons and their policy on which versions they place. Thought I would pass on that I was in our general hospital yesterday and noted an NIV under Gideon cover. A far cry from the KJV being their favourite, most respected, etc." (Trevor Stoute, email@example.com)
I wrote to Trevor and asked if he was certain it was an NIV, and he replied, "Absolutely. I showed it to my wife."