Campbell's Living Oracles. Though at the time it was reviled by fundamentalist preachers, especially among the Baptists, it has been viewed by scholars since in a positive light. Marion Simms classic, The Bible in America: Versions That Have Played Their Part in the Making of the Republic, makes this statement about the Living Oracles,
"Campbell was a man of scholarly attainments, and it was the unsatisfactory character of the King James Version chiefly that inspired his effort to provide a better text, and while at it he translated baptidzo as he interpreted it. The was unquestionably the best New Testament in use at the time" (p. 249).
In its day, however, it was under frequent attack outside the Stone-Campbell Movement. But in Campbell's mind the KJV had "as a whole, it has outlived its day by at least one century." Throughout the 1830s, Campbell continued to revise and improve his NT. To show the continued need for replacement he wrote a series of articles in 1835 under the heading "Mistranslations" Beginning with Genesis the Reformer takes on Gen 1.6 in the KJV: "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." The King's Men followed the Latin Vulgate rather than the Hebrew, according to AC, giving rise to the mockery of skeptics. The Hebrew, rakeea, properly means "the expanse or space." The rendering should be changed to "Let there be an expanse [or space or atmosphere] in the midst of the waters..." It it worth noting that the NIV reads, just as Campbell suggested, "Let there be an expanse between the waters." Another passage, one that has become a traditional favorite in the Church of Christ debate tradition, Campbell criticized in the KJV is Gen 6.14: "make thee an ark of gopher wood." This is not even a translation Campbell declared. It is simply the Hebrew term in English letters. The Hebrew gopher meant simply "cypress." God told Noah to use a broad family of cypress tress. Again it is noteworthy that the NIV agrees with Campbell: "make yourself an ark of cypress wood." Campbell carries his examination of "Mistranslations" on for sometime ...
Campbell's understanding of the nature of textual criticism and translation is illustrated in a variety of ways. In criticizing the KJV, for example, he notes that the King's Men did not recognize the "special character" of NT Greek. Due to the LXX it has "the body of Greek but the soul of Hebrew." Thus the 1611 translators often approached NT Greek as a Classical scholar would Homer or Plato. They are often "what might be literally correct" yet have "failed to give the meaning." Campbell's recognition of the Semitic dimension to the NT is remarkable for is time and that translation is more than simply word for word. But perhaps the most remarkable demonstration of his commitment is his relegation of the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 7.53-8.11) to a footnote. Daring indeed!
Campbell thought we should be more concerned with what the biblical writers actually said than traditional religious lingo.
"The sacred regard for the phraseology of the old version arises from the superstitious reverence for things that are old; hence it is too often the case, I fear that the professed friend of the Volume of Truth looks upon it as a relic of authority, like some quaint old Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Norman ballad, than as the living word of God, adapted to the moral and spiritual wants of the present age."
With Campbell spearheading the way, with courage and conviction, the Stoned-Campbell Movement, pressed for a Bible in today's English using the most accurate Hebrew and Greek texts around. James Challen (not Foy E. Wallace Jr nor Robert Taylor) captures well our heritage in this field in his speech delivered to the American Bible Union in 1852,
"The Bible translated,' is our motto, not the Bible in hid in the past, buried in the tomb of an obsolete and forgotten language, but the Bible trembling all over with the spirit of life; the Bible full of eyes before and behind, like the living creatures in the Apocalypse. And as the ocean reflects the image of the sky will all its brilliant jewelry, so, to a world shrouded in darkness, the lights of the spiritual firmament may be mirrored forth by true and faithful translations of the oracles of God."
Almost gives you the shivers ...