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Hebrews 10:12, Vulgate, & the Mass (James White’s Lie)

Hebrews 10:12, Vulgate, & the Mass (James White’s Lie) September 3, 2021

This is a reply to an article by Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White: A Rarely Discussed Vulgate Reading and the Importance of the Original Languages of the New Testament Illustrated, With Some Reflections on Rome’s Claims Appended (A Truly Puritan Style Title) (2 June 2003). Back in 2003, Bishop White used to actually write articles, too, rather than simply talk on his podcast all the time (ah, the good ol’ Internet days). “Dr.” [???] White is, in my opinion, the most influential, well-known, and able Protestant anti-Catholic apologist / sophist / polemicist of our time: and certainly the most published and “heard”: through his podcasts and oral debates. His words will be in blue.

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In writing a brief exegetical article on Hebrews 10, [Dave: I have responded to his similar commentary on Hebrews 8] I encountered a little-discussed mistranslation in the Vulgate text that not only illustrates the importance of studying the primary texts of Scripture (over against a secondary translation) but one which also speaks to the issue of the development of the dogmatic structure of Roman Catholicism over time.

The reading is found in Hebrews 10:12, but to get the context from the New American Standard Bible we provide verses 10-14:

Hebrews 10:10-14   10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;  12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,  13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.  14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. . . . 

[L]ater, in discussing the issue with some friends, I mentioned the Douay-Rheims translation should be consulted.  Its rendering truly illustrates the danger of using a translation of a translation of a translation:

Hebrews 10:12 But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God,

What a horrific misrepresentation of the original intention of the author!  And to think this was the ‘official’ version of the Council of Trent!  Not only is the present tense ‘offering’ completely in error, but to even attempt to make sense out of the sentence the phrase ‘for ever,’ which is plainly in the context associated with the offering, is transposed so as to become associated with His being seated on the right hand of God!  The entire point of the author, that of contrasting the repeated sacrifices of the old priesthood to the singular, forever offering of Christ, is turned upside down, so that Christ ends up offering (present tense) a sacrifice for sins, just like the old priests!  A truly amazing example of one translational error leading to another. [my bolding in this paragraph]

The only problem is that the notion of “forever” can indeed be applied to the clause referring to Jesus sitting down at the right hand of God. No less a reputed linguistic authority than Baptist A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament) says so:

When he had offered (προσενεγκας). Second aorist active participle (with first aorist ending -ας in place of -ον) of προσφερω, single act in contrast to present participle προσφερων above.

One sacrifice (μιαν θυσιαν). This the main point. The one sacrifice does the work that the many failed to do. One wonders how priests who claim that the “mass” is the sacrifice of Christ’s body repeated explain this verse.

For ever (εις το διηνεκες). Can be construed either with μιαν θυσιαν or with εκαθισεν (sat down). See Hebrews 1:3 for εκαθισεν.

What White thinks is a “horrific misrepresentation” and “plainly . . . associated with the offering” Robertson thinks “can” indeed be properly applied to describing Jesus’ sitting down at the right hand of the Father. White can say he knows Greek, but Robertson is the Greek expert and scholar, and so any reasonable person would defer to him.

And not only that; we also have the evidence of no less than 14 non-Catholic Bible translations, which apply “forever” or similar concepts in the way that White decries and blasts as a supposed outrage:

Tyndale (1526) . . . sat him doune for ever on the right honde of god

Bishops’ Bible (1568). . . is sit downe for euer on the ryght hande of God:

Geneva Bible (1587) . . . sitteth for euer at the right hand of God,

Moffatt . . . then seated himself for all time at the right hand of God.

Williams . . . and once for all took His seat at God’s right hand.

Wuest . . . sat down in perpetuity on the right hand of God.

Darby  . . . at down in perpetuity at [the] right hand of God,

Lamsa . . . sat down on the right hand of God for ever.

Webster . . . for ever sat down on the right hand of God;

Anderson . . . he himself sits continually at the right hand of God,

Godbey . . . forever sat down on the right hand of God;

Haweis . . . for ever hath seated himself at the right hand of God;

Mace . . . sat down on the right hand of God for ever:

Worsley . . . is for ever sat down at the right hand of God;

None of these fourteen are using a translation of a translation of a translation.” They worked from Hebrew and Greek texts, and not the Latin Vulgate (which is what Catholic versions, till the last fifty years, did). And they all concluded (agreeing with Robertson’s opinion) that “forever” could be applied as it was in their versions. None have a “Catholic bias.”

If they do not, and can translate this way, then by analogy so can Catholic versions like Douay-Rheims, without being falsely and absurdly accused by Bishop “Dr.” [???] White of offering “horrific” renderings of the original, because of Catholic bias (or the original Greek passed through an “intermediate” Latin). Thus, White’s argument collapses.

The supposed “Doctor” then goes on to boilerplate polemics against Catholicism for the rest of his article. I have no interest in that (nor should anyone else who is interested in rational and objective, fair-minded argument). I have disposed of the heart and essence of his contention, which is vacant and false.

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Photo credit: “Don’t stretch the truth, Bishop White!” Photo from the mid- to late-1990s.

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Summary: Bishop “Dr.” [???] James White tries to make a mountain of a molehill: trashing Catholic translations of Hebrews 10:12. I cite a Baptist linguist & 14 non-Catholic translations against him.

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