Comparing Bibles: Trust on Present Grace, or Hope for it Later?

 

Here we compare translations of 1 Peter 1:13 from Wycliffe in 1380 to the present. William Tyndale’s translation is based on the understanding that we receive grace when we are redeemed through faith, and then we await our entrance into eternal life. Therefore we trust on present grace and hope for the life to come. Eternal life is the object of our hope. Others say we hope for future grace; in particular, we set our hope on grace to come when Jesus returns. Here grace is the object of our hope.

At first I intended this only to be a simple comparison. But it grew into more. I experienced joy in the Holy Spirit studying Tyndale’s translation in The October Testament, as I entered into the mystery of the revelation of Christ that we receive through his word, and what it is to be in him now through faith, in this, the age of grace and fulfilment of prophecy. In the end, I felt obliged to express some concerns about the NIV and Geneva commentaries, which change the message and, at least as far as I am concerned, lose the joy.

Tyndale and the Reformation Bibles: The declaring of Jesus Christ brings grace

At 1 Peter 1:13 in the Matthew Bible, Tyndale had (with context):

13Wherefore gird up the loins of your minds, be sober, and trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you by the declaring of Jesus Christ, 14as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves unto your old lusts of ignorance: 15but as he which called you is holy, even so be ye holy.

From this we learn that the grace we are to trust on is brought when Christ is declared; that is, when he is preached. The old English ‘declaring’ was a broad word, and carried the senses of speaking forth, telling, and revealing. When Christ is preached, he is revealed, and we believe, and receive grace now. This is salvation by faith unto eternal life. In his 1534 prologue to 1 Peter, Tyndale summarized the first chapter as follows:

Tyndale: In the first he [Peter] declareth the justifying of faith through Christ’s blood, and comforteth them with the hope of the life to come, and sheweth that we have not deserved it, but that the prophets prophesied it should be given us, and as Christ which redeemed us out of sin and all uncleanness is holy, so he exhorteth to lead an holy conversation [a holy life]: and because we be richly bought and made heirs of a rich inheritance …

By the declaration of Christ, who is the enduring word (1Pe 1:25), he is revealed and comes (or is brought) to those who hear. This is a secret revelation to the elect, for the wind blows unseen where it will (Joh 3:8). The word planted within is an immortal seed (1Pe 1:23), and is the seed of eternal life, which is our “rich inheritance.” Rogers explained in a note on 1 Peter 1:3 that “a living hope is that whereby we are certain of everlasting life.”

Post-Reformation Bibles: The second coming will bring grace

In v.13 in later Bibles, the coming of grace and the revelation of Christ are not through ‘declaring’ him, but will happen at a later time or event. In modern Bibles, this event is identified as the second coming. I compared the NIV Nestle text with Jay Green’s Received Text, and no MS variation explains the difference. It is purely a matter of interpretation. See what happened over the years:

1 Peter 1:13

In Wycliffe 1380 Hope ye into the grace that is proffered to you by the showing of Jesus Christ. [In old English, ‘showing’ = preaching, revealing by telling]

Matthew Bible 1537/1549 Trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you by the declaring of Jesus Christ. (Also 1535 Coverdale & 1539 Great Bible)

Geneva 1557 & 1560 Trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you, by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Also Bishops’ Bible 1568)

Rheims 1582 Trust perfectly in that grace which is offered you, in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Geneva 1599 Trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you, in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

KJV 1611 Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

RV 1895 Set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (RV Marginal note: Gr. is being brought.)

RSV 1946 Set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Jerusalem Bible 1968 Put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Living Bible 1971 So now you can look forward soberly and intelligently to more of God’s kindness to you when Jesus Christ returns.

NKJV 1982  Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

NIV 1984  Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

NIV 2016 Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

ESV 2016 Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So then, in later Bibles, we look to the future for grace. In the Living Bible, it is not even grace anymore. As the verse evolved, there was more than a change in verb tense. The preposition ‘by’, which denotes instrumentality, morphed to ‘at’ in the KJV, denoting place, time, or event. Then ‘at’ became ‘when’. Also starting with the KJV, ‘trust’ became ‘hope’. The versions that speak of hoping ‘on’ future grace are a bit confusing, because in English we do not speak of hoping ‘on’ a thing that we trust will be given later. Rather, we hope ‘for’ it. Therefore it is fair to characterize the later versions as saying we are to hope for future grace – which is in fact how the commentators put it below, and explains why some versions changed the wording to ‘set hope on.’

The Geneva Influence

Though it looks as if the KJV began the shift from present to future grace, in fact, the early English Puritans introduced it in their Bible notes:

1 Peter 1:13 in the 1560 Geneva Bible Wherefore kgird up the loins of your mind: be sober, and trust perfectly on the grace that is brought unto you, by the lrevelation of Jesus Christ.

Note k: Prepare yourselves to the Lord

Note l: Until his second coming.[1]

The 1560 Geneva notes say we are to prepare ourselves for the Lord until the second coming. I do not say this is wrong, but it changes the message. Then the 1599 edition, in a set of six new notes, conflated grace with “full salvation”, such that salvation is not by grace, but is grace, and is the second coming. This is an unbiblical soup. Though the Puritans retained the present perspective in the Scripture, their (muddled) notes put grace in the future:

1 Peter 1:13 in the 1599 Geneva 1Wherefore 2gird up the loins of your mind: be sober, 3and trust 4perfectly on the grace 5that is brought unto you, 6in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Note 3: He setteth forth very briefly, what manner of hope ours ought to be, to with, continual, until we enjoy the thing we hope for: then, what we have to hope for, to wit, grace (that is, free salvation) revealed to us in the Gospel, and not that, that men do rashly and fondly promise to themselves.

Note 6: He setteth out the end of faith, lest any man should promise himself, either sooner or later that full salvation, to wit, the later coming of Christ: and therewithal warneth us, not to measure the dignity of the Gospel according to the present state, seeing that that which we are now, is not yet revealed. [2] (Emphasis added. Other notes in endnote.)

The Puritans had the earlier Bibles at hand, but for reasons best known to themselves, reinterpreted v.13. It would be interesting to explore this further. Jesus’ first coming was for salvation by grace, which is abundantly testified by many Scriptures, as “The grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared” (Tit 2:11). The second coming will be for the final judgment (M’t 25:31-46, etc). Did the Puritans wrongly conflate the two comings at this verse? In any case, they divided the revelation of Christ from present grace, and perhaps due to their influence, the KJV changed v.13 to make grace a future thing.

Modern treatment

Verse 13 gradually evolved, so that the Living Bible boldly changed the Greek to the “return” of Christ. In 2016, the NIV committee added the words “at his coming” to clearly articulate the prevailing interpretation. But what ‘grace’ are they talking about, and what ‘coming’? The NIV Zondervan commentary acknowledges a “beginning of grace” in the present time, but says it is not the main point:

1 Peter 1:13 in the NIV 2016 Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

NIV Zondervan commentary: The main emphasis of v.13 is on putting one’s hope wholly in the final consummation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. At the present time, we enjoy only a beginning of that grace (cf 1Jn 3:2-3). This longing for the unveiling of Jesus at his second coming permeates the NT.[3] (Emphasis added.)

So grace now is not the main thing? We have a “beginning” of it, but not the “abundant grace” that the apostle Paul speaks of everywhere: “Where there was much sin, there was more abundance of grace” (Ro 5:20; see also 5:17)? Nor is there any mention anywhere in the Zondervan notes of eternal life as the substance of our hope. As for the second coming, of course all believers long for it, but by emphasizing it, and making it the time of grace, do we lose the Gospel, and all understanding of the revelation of Christ through the word?

I thank God for Tyndale. His translation and exposition raise no doubts or questions in my mind. He is perfectly consistent with everything the Scriptures say. Needless to say, the New Matthew Bible restored his translation:

1 Peter 1:13 in the NMB 2016 (The October Testament) Trust perfectly on the grace that is brought to you by the declaring of Jesus Christ.

So many issues are raised by this! I wish I could explore more. But space and time are limited. One thing I can say: I thank God for the grace I have received, on which I trust, as I hope for my rich inheritance in Christ, whom I know now by faith.

© Ruth Magnusson Davis, June, 2017

 

Endnotes:

[1] Geneva Bible (1560), 1st printing, 1st edition (Arizona: facsimile by The Bible Museum, 2006). Missing the preface and possibly other preliminary pages, but presumed an accurate facsimile as to the balance.

[2] Geneva Bible (1599), Tolle Lege Press edition (White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2006). The full set of notes on 1 Peter, verse 1:13, were:

Note 1: He goeth from faith to hope, which is indeed a companion that cannot be sundered from faith; and he useth an argument taken of comparison: We ought not to be wearied in looking for so excellent a thing, which the very Angels wait for with great desire.

Note 2: This is a borrowed speech, taken of a common usage amongst them: for by reason that they wore long garments, they could not travel unless they girded up themselves: and hence it is that Christ said, Let your loins be girded up.

Note 3: See article.

Note 4: Soundly and sincerely.

Note 5: An argument to stir up our minds, seeing that God doeth not wait till we seek him, but causeth so great a benefit to be brought even unto us. [No need to seek to find?]

Note 6: See article.

[3] Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: An Abridgment of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 1 Old Testament, Vol. 2 New Testament. Consulting Eds. Kenneth L Barker and John R Kohlenberger III, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 1045.