Interview Questions for Iain Provan of Regent College

In your book, The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture, you pointed out that the early church father Irenaeus did not argue based on his episcopal authority but on the basis of what Scripture said. You drew a contrast here with Martin Luther’s theological opponents, who, you said, “displayed a strong preference for appeals to episcopal authority over against argument based on or even involving scripture.” How important is a vernacular Bible to the Lutheran and Protestant tendency you name here, the tendency to appeal directly to Scripture in theological argument?

You quote Calvin as saying that “there is nothing in scripture which is not useful for your instruction.“ Can Scripture be useful for instruction if it’s not translated?

What kind of biblical literacy did Luther and Calvin and the other Reformers expect from laypeople? What did they expect them to get out of personal Bible reading?

I think I see strong parallels between today’s insistent efforts to retain the KJV and yesterday’s insistent efforts to retain the Vulgate. Do you see any parallels between the two?

At the same time, you point out in your book that the Vulgate was made from the original Greek and Hebrew texts of Scripture and was made “for the use and benefit of the faithful.” How does a translation made for Christians to read become over time a barrier to Christian understanding of God’s word?

I typically avoid talking about textual criticism when discussing the KJV. I find that it confuses the two wholly separate issues of text and translation. However, do you think the Reformers had a fundamentally different view of textual criticism than do modern evangelicals, or do you think they had merely an earlier one?

Are you aware of movements in other nations parallel to the defense of the KJV? Are there are Elberfelder-Onlyists or Reina-Valera onlyists? Is one-Bible-translation-onlyism a perennial problem?

Would the Reformers be in favor of multiple Bible translations in a given language?

How should Protestant evangelicals, heirs of the Reformation, people who love and value the Bible, distinguish translations from the originals?

Can we have a doctrine of perspicuity, of the clarity of Scripture, without translation into the vernacular? Can we have a doctrine of sufficiency or necessity or authority?

Luther famously held on to certain familiar Catholic practices in an effort to avoid shaking up individual lay Christians with a violent iconoclasm. How happy would Luther be with keeping a vernacular Bible translation that was no longer fully readable by average people? Would he look to revision or to education?

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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