On this day in 1836, the Baptist churches in America withdrew from the American Bible Society to form a denominational Bible society of their own.  The issue that caused this division stemmed from the vast number of Baptist Missionaries who were translating the Bible in the languages of their country.

By the early 1800s, dozens of Bible societies existed through the United States.  Some of these societies were founded by wise, old men who loved God’s word and desired to see it spread.  Others where founded by influential, rich young men with the means to print and distribute the Bible.  One society was even founded by a young man who had his Bible stolen from him and concluded that, if someone was desperate enough to steal a Bible, there must be a major shortage of Bibles.  In 1816, delegates of the different societies met in New York and united their Bible societies into one, unified force: The American Bible Society.  The Society took this as their reason to exist:

‘The object of this Society is to distribute the Bible only–and that without notes–amongst such persons as may not be able to purchase it; and also, as far as may be practicable, to translate or assist in causing it to be translated into other languages.”

The Baptist, lovers of God’s word, readily and happily joined in supporting this new society.  And the Society, in return, supported the work of Baptist and their missionaries.  In 1830, the Society sent $1,200 to the Baptist Triennial Convention for Adoniram Judson to use in printing his Burmese Bible.  For the next five years, over $18,000 was given by the Society to the Baptist to use in printing Bibles on the mission field.

But trouble began to brew.  When Judson translated his Burmese Bible, he literally translated the words relating to Baptism as immersion (Which is what the Greek word means).  The Baptist liked this and soon the Triennial Convention passes a guideline for their missionaries:

‘Resolved, That the Board feel it to be their duty to adopt all prudent measures to give to the heathen the pure word of God in their own languages, and to furnish their missionaries with all the means in their power to make their translation as exact a representation of the mind of the Holy Spirit as may be possible. Resolved, That all the missionaries of the Board who are, or who shall be, engaged in translating the Scriptures, be instructed to endeavor, by earnest prayer and diligent study, to ascertain the precise meaning of the original text, to express that meaning as exactly as the nature of the languages into which they shall translate the Bible will permit, and to transfer no words which are capable of being literally translated.’

The American Bible Society, an interdenominational group, highly disliked this.  Many of their other denominations did not practice immersion and didn’t want the Baptist making this change in their translations.  So when the Baptist asked for funds to print the Bengali New Testament, the Bible Society responded by saying, “we do not deem it expedient to recommend an appropriation, until the Board settle a principle in relation to the Greek word baptiso.”  To simply it, they said, “You are not getting any money from us until you start start using the word Baptism, not immersion.”

The Baptist responded with this:

The Baptist Board of Foreign Missions have not been under the impression that the American Bible Society was organized upon the central principle that baptizo and its cognates were never to be translated, but always transferred, in all versions of the Scriptures patronized by them. Had this principle been candidly stated and uniformly acted upon by the Society in the appropriation of its funds for foreign distribution, the Baptists never could have been guilty of the folly or duplicity of soliciting aid for translations made by their missionaries.

As there is now a large balance in the treasury of the American Bible Society, as many liberal bequests and donations have been made by Baptists, and as these were made in the full confidence that the Society could constitutionally assist their own denomination, as well as the other evangelical denominations comprising the Institution, in giving the Bible to the heathen world, therefore, resolved, That $– be appropriated and paid to the Baptist General Convention of the United States for Foreign Missions, to aid them in the work of supplying the perishing millions of the East with the Sacred Scriptures.

Since the formation of the American Bible Society, over $170,000 had been given by Baptist to the Society.  Only $30,000 had been given to the Baptist missionaries for their translation work.  Realizing that much of their money was being used to support men of a different mindset, the Baptist withdrew from the American Bible Society and formed their own, a society that could make ” translation as exact a representation of the mind of the Holy Spirit as may be possible.”


A History of the Baptist

On this day in 1896, Daniel Landsmann, a missionary to the Jews of New York, died.

Daniel was born into a very strict Jewish family and raised to obey the law.  But as a young man, he heard about the Messiah and put his faith in Jesus Christ.  This brought fierce opposition from his family and he found himself facing severe opposition from those he loved.  Without a home, hated, and facing danger, he left his home and studied to be a missionary for his new King, Jesus Christ.

Daniel successfully for many years in Constantinople, where he started a few churches and saw many saved.  But when the opportunity arose for him to return to New York and work among the his people, the Jews, he gladly agreed!  The last fifteen years of his life was spent winning his people to Christ.  He died from a serious illness.

His funeral was attended by many of his fellow clergy, missionaries, and a host of converted Jews he had won to Christ.  The passage preached at his funeral was Rev. 14:13, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”


The Lutheran Witness

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