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Apostasy and Textual Criticism - the Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon
May 19, 2005 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)
The field of biblical scholarship has become deeply polluted with theological modernism in the last two centuries. Theological rationalism spread like ivy, the growth stages of which have been described as sleeping, creeping, and leaping. That is what happened with modernism. It was planted in the 18th century and slept for a time. It began to creep in the early 19th century; and from the middle to the end of that century it leaped across the Christian landscape. By the end of the 19th century it was so well entrenched in high places of Christian scholarship in British Protestant and Baptist denominations that it was able to win the day. Not only were many scholars themselves afflicted with modernistic views of the Bible, but a vast number of others, not themselves modernistic in theology, were nonetheless too spiritually weak to resist modernism boldly. Instead, they were quite willing to work hand-in-hand with the modernists, ignoring God’s warnings, “evil communications corrupt good manners” and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

Consider the Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, which is a product of this apostasy.

FRANCIS BROWN (1849-c. 1917)

a. Brown was president of the liberal Union Theological Seminary in New York City. After graduating from Union in 1877 he studied in Berlin and then began his teaching career at Union in 1879. He was appointed Davenport Professor of Hebrew and the Cognate Languages in 1890, and in 1908 he succeeded Charles Cuthbert Hall (1852-1908) as president of Union. He was awarded honorary degrees from the universities of Glasgow, Oxford, Dartmouth, and Yale.

b. Together with Charles Briggs and S.R. Driver, Brown produced a revision of the Hebrew lexicon compiled by F.H.W. Genenius. The
Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon (also called A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic) is based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius (known as “the father of modern Hebrew lexicography”) as translated by Edward Robinson and has wielded vast influence in biblical studies in spite of the rank modernism of its authors.

c. Brown was a modernist in his approach to the Bible. As president of Union in the early 20th century, Brown oversaw one of deepest cesspools of unbelief in America.

(1) Brown supported his friend and co-laborer Charles Briggs when he tore apart the Bible in his inaugural speech at Union in January 1891, upon his appointment to the chair of Biblical Theology. In that address, misnamed “The Authority of the Holy Scripture,” Briggs proposed that the Bible was only one of three “great fountains of divine authority,” the other two being the Church and Human Reason. He questioned the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and one-Isaiah authorship of Isaiah. He questioned the Bible’s miracles. He claimed that the doctrines of verbal inspiration and inerrancy were two of the “barriers” that hindered a proper approach to the Bible. Another alleged barrier was “minute prediction,” and under this point Briggs attacked Scripture’s predictive prophecy. Francis Brown stood unhesitatingly with the heretic Briggs because he was likeminded in unbelief.

(2) Brown had a close relationship with another heretic who was condemned by the Presbyterian Church. This was
A.C. MCGIFFERT (1861-1933), who was co-author with Brown of The Christian Point of View (1902). While McGiffert was a professor at Lane Seminary in Pennsylvania, fellow professor Henry Preserved Smith was tried for heresy. McGiffert testified in Smith’s defense in 1892. (Smith was found guilty and suspended.) McGiffert had also supported Charles Briggs in his trial at about that same time. When McGiffert moved to Union Seminary, where his liberal views were welcomed, his inaugural address was described as “a direct onslaught on the very basis of Protestant theology.” In 1897, McGiffert publicized his heresy in A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, in which he denied the supernatural inspiration of Scripture and “questioned the genuineness of half the books in the New Testament.” McGiffert claimed that all Christian teaching is relative, that “there is no such thing as Christianity in general,” implied that the Lord Jesus was mistaken in some of his views, and denied that early Christians held the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement. The next year, the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly asked McGiffert to reconsider his views and conform to the doctrines of the church or to withdraw. McGiffert responded in 1899 with a brazen article in which he denied any church’s right to define or enforce orthodox doctrine. The New York Presbytery passed a resolution condemning McGiffert’s opinions, and he resigned from the Presbyterian Church in 1900. He joined the Congregational Church and succeeded his fellow liberal and co-laborer Francis Brown as president of Union (from 1917 to 1926).

SAMUEL ROLLES DRIVER (1846-1914)

a. Driver was an influential Hebrew scholar and textual critic. He was Regius Professor of Hebrew, and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. From 1876 to 1884 he was a member of the Old Testament translation committee for the English Revised Version. He authored
Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1891) and collaborated with Charles Briggs and Francis Brown in a revision of the Hebrew lexicon compiled by F.H.W. Genenius. The Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon (also called A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic, Based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius as translated by Edward Robinson) has wielded vast influence in biblical studies in spite of the rank modernism of its authors.

b. Driver’s theological modernism was evident in his writings. The Briggs and Driver Hebrew lexicon is founded upon the unbelieving, Christ-denying J.E.D.P. theory of Old Testament interpretation. (Briggs was convicted of heresy and dismissed from the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.)

(1) Driver used his pen to fight against men who defended the historicity and infallibility of Scripture, such as Professor James Robertson of Glasgow (McDonald,
Theories of Revelation: Historical Studies 1860-1960, p. 120).

(2) In 1911, Driver collaborated with A.F. Kirkpatrick on
The Higher Criticism, concluding that the Old Testament was the product of natural rather than supernatural forces. In this book Driver “scorns the idea of verbal inspiration and contends that the process of inspiration did not assure freedom from ‘imperfection, error, and mistake in matters of fact’” (McDonald, Theories of Revelation, pp. 238, 239).

(3) “The Bible is a ‘library,’ showing how men variously gifted by the Spirit of God cast the truth which they received into many different literary forms, as GENIUS PERMITTED or occasion demanded” (S.R. Driver,
An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 1956, p. ix). This is a complete denial that the Bible writers wrote under divine inspiration.

(4) “None of the historians of the Bible claim supernatural enlightenment for the materials of their narrative. ... in many parts of these books we have before us TRADITIONS, in which the original representation has been insensibly MODIFIED, and sometimes (especially in the later books) COLOURED BY THE ASSOCIATIONS OF THE AGE IN WHICH THE AUTHOR RECORDING IT LIVED ... some freedom was used by ancient historians in placing speeches or discourses in the mouths of historical characters” (Driver,
An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, pp. x, xi). Thus Driver even claimed that the Bible writers doctored historical records.

(5) “[CHRIST] ACCEPTED, AS THE BASIS OF HIS TEACHING, THE OPINIONS RESPECTING THE OLD TESTAMENT CURRENT AROUND HIM: He assumed, in His allusions to it, the premises which His opponents recognised, and which could not have been questioned (even had it been necessary to question them) without raising issues for which the time was not yet ripe, and which, had they been raised, would have interfered seriously with the paramount purpose of His life” (Driver,
An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. xii). Thus, according to Driver, the Lord Jesus Christ, Truth incarnate, stated things that He knew were wrong.

(6) “The consensus of so many acute and able [critical] scholars, of different countries, of different communions, trained independently in different schools, and approaching the subject with different theological and intellectual prepossessions, cannot, as some would have us believe, rest upon illusion” (Driver,
An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. xvii). The deluded Bible scholar thought that the majority opinion in scholarship must be right and ignored the Scripture’s warnings about Satan’s activities and end-time apostasy (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11:1-15; 1 Tim. 4:1-6; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4;3-4; 2 Pet. 3; Jude).

(7) “The Book [of Job] cannot be the record of an actual history. … it is reasonable to suppose that the poet built upon materials handed down to him by tradition, as other dramatists have often done, the Greek tragedians, for instance, and Shakespeare” (Driver,
The Book of Job in the Revised Version, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908, pp. x, xi).

CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS (1841-1913)

a. Briggs was a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the co-author (with Francis Brown and Samuel Rolles Driver) of the
Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (completed 1906). The Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon (also called A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic) is based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius as translated by Edward Robinson and has wielded vast influence in biblical studies in spite of the rank modernism of its authors.

b. Briggs was a theological modernist. In fact, he was defrocked by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. because of his liberal views of the Bible.

(1) In November 1890, Briggs was appointed to the Edward Robinson Chair of Biblical Theology at Union.

(2) On January 20, 1891, Briggs delivered his inaugural address entitled “The Authority of the Holy Scripture.” It was a bold assault upon the Bible. He proposed three “great fountains of divine authority” -- the Bible, the Church, and Human Reason; thus denying that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. He questioned the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and one-Isaiah authorship of Isaiah. He questioned the Bible’s miracles. He claimed that the doctrines of verbal inspiration and inerrancy were two of the “barriers” that hindered a proper approach to the Bible. Another alleged barrier was “minute prediction,” and under this point Briggs attacked Scripture’s predictive prophecy.

(3) Briggs was charged with heresy and in June 1893 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church found Briggs guilty and suspended him from the ministry.

(4) Standing behind their heretic 100%, Union Seminary declared its independence from the mother denomination, and Briggs stayed on as Professor of Biblical Theology.

(5) In 1899 Briggs was received into the ministry of the Episcopal Church in America.


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