Campbell’s Living Oracles and Context

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This was originally published July 07, 2010 on Facebook as a Note. But I publish it here, to help tell about my faith journey.

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This is a continuation of the notes on the Living Oracles

See also: The Living Oracles as offered by Alexander Campbell

I just love it when I find my own Restoration History saying the things that I say. Does that make me egotistical? Perhaps. But really it seems like vindication, I now have the power and authority of Campbell to back up my claims.

In the 1835 edition of the Living Oracles, the “Preface to the Fourth, or Stereotype Edition” has the following paragraph about the removal of verses, except for a small verse indicator at the beginning of a paragraph:

The verses are placed at the commencement of the paragraph, merely for convenience in referring to the common version [KJV]; and, although much called for by many readers, they are, in our judgment, of no advantage in understanding the book. We have, however, kept the connexion unbroken, before the eye of the reaer, as in the former editions; and, it is to be hoped, that but few now regard the verses, as so many detached precepts or proverbs. This custom of versifying is, we rejoice, yielding to the more enlightened judgment of the present age, and we were much gratified to see, the other day, a recent octavo impression of the common version [KJV], published at Boston, in the manner of our first edition.
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By the way, I sure would like to get my hands on a copy of that “common version” that was printed “in the manner of our first edition.”

I love what they are saying, “Context Matters.” That is not the phraseology used, but that is exactly what he means when he exhorted the readers not to “regard the verses, as so many detached precepts or proverbs.” Interestingly, the Preface also states that all previous versions used this contextual paragraph style mechanism.

And like him, I rejoice at the idea that the “custom of versifying is” yielding itself to contextualization because of the powerful idea that verses provide “no advantage in understanding the book.” They are saying the exact same thing I have been trying to communicate, “Verses outside of the narrative context of their association with the written letter have no true identifiable meaning.” Powerful stuff. I love the fact that Campbell boldly put this concept of removing verses and reading contextually into his translation effort.

I would like to offer an example from The Living Oracles, here is the Epistle of Third John:

I.–THE elder to Caius, the beloved, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I pray that with respect to all things, you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came, and bore witness to your truth, even as you walk in truth.

4.–I have no greater joy, than that which I have, when I hear my children are walking in truth. Beloved, you do faithfully what you perform for the brethren, and for the strangers. These have borne testimony to your love, in the presence of the congregation; whom, if you help forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well. Becaue for his name’s sake they went forth, receiving nothing from the Gentiles. We, therefore, ought to entertain such, that we may be joint laborers in the truth. I wrote to the congregation; but Diotrephes, who affects a pre-eminence among them, does not receive us. For this cause, when I come, I will bring his deeds to remembrance, which he practises–prating against us with malicious words; and, not content with this, he does not himself receive the brethren, and forbids them who would, and casts them out of the congregation. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good, is of God; but he who does evil, has not seen God. Testimony is borne to Demetrius, by all, and by the truth itself: and we also bear testimony; and you know that our testimony is true. I have many things to write; but I do not incline to write them to you with pen and ink: for I hope immediately to see you, and so we shall speak face to face. Peace be to you. The friends here, salute you. Salute the friends by name.
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