HE BEGAN HIS LIFE WORK AT 65!
WHEN the Berkeley Bible came from the press in 1959 it was the fulfillment of a dream. Gerrit Verkuyl began this translation at the age most men are retiring. Who is this man and what is his background for undertaking a work of such magnitude?
Born in Holland in 1872 he came to the United States at the age of twenty-one and joined his brother in California as a farm laborer. By the aid of a Dutch-English dictionary and diligent application he taught himself English. At the age of twenty-two, when most students are graduating from college, Verkuyl began studying in the preparatory school with the idea of eventually entering college. After completing his precollege work he set himself the task of working through the next four years to his B.A.
Finishing at Park College, Missouri, he went to Princeton to begin his studies in theology. In 1904 he graduated from the seminary there with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He was also granted a fellowship in New Testament study in Germany.
In just ten years after his arrival in California, where he landed with only S10 in his pocket, Gerrit Verkuyl had a Bachelor of Arts degree from Park College, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts degree from Princeton University, a fellowship for study abroad, $400 in the bank, and a dedicated wife-—a young woman he had met while doing his undergraduate work. Entering Leipzig University, he began work on his Doctor of Philosophy degree, upon the completion of which funds were awarded him for further study in the New Testament at the University of Berlin.
On returning to the United States he accepted a call to one of the Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia. In 1908 he became a staff member of the Board of Education of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. His work consisted mostly of teaching and conducting conferences. In 1921 Park College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Although his work was varied and constant, the desire to translate the New Testament was an urge he could not suppress. His interest in this was first aroused in college, when close application to the Greek revealed that the Dutch Bible was more faithful at times to the original than was the English. In 1936 he began to prepare this translation work in earnest.
The next year he moved to Berkeley, California, where conditions were more favorable for his undertaking. Two years later he resigned from the Presbyterian Board of Education, that he might devote his full time to the work of translating. In 1945 the Berkeley Version of the New Testament came to the public. (It was named for the city in which the work was done.)
Five years later the Zondervan Publishing House bought all rights to this translation from Gillick Press and invited Dr. Verkuyl to undertake the translation of the Old Testament. A group of Hebrew scholars, twenty in all, representing a number of different denominations were invited to join him. It was a major undertaking and they were eager to bring into this translation the results of scholarship from as many areas as possible. Naturally, the Dead Sea scrolls were of special interest in this work.
Nine years later, in 1959, when the editor in chief was eighty-six years old, this new translation was completed and the Berkeley Version of the Bible in Modern English went on sale in bookstores from coast to coast.
Some of our readers may not be familiar with this translation. We would therefore emphasize that it is one of the most useful and scholarly translations available. In a few places, such as Daniel 8, we could wish for a little clearer text, but taking the work as a whole it is excellent and represents in a scholarly way evangelical conservatism.
The following fitting words by Dr. Verkuyl expressed the thoughts of this group of dedicated scholars as the Book left their hands. "With expectant joy and acknowledgment of our Father's sustaining grace we surrender the results of our endeavors to the readers of the Bible, supremely grateful to Him who first inspired its contents. We pray that this version may be instrumental in the fulfillment of God's purpose, a translation of His teachings into Christlike living. This will most amply reward our labors." Yes, he began his real lifework at sixty-five, and twenty-one years later, at the age of eighty-six, this dedicated scholar saw his dream come true.
A group of psychiatrists and educators recently gave the results of their study of the best way to preserve life. In effect they said, "Accept some new challenge when you reach about sixty-five, for by that time you are able to see life in true perspective. Tackle something that requires new vision and new enterprise. This will do more for you than anything else." Dr. Verkuyl did just that, and although fifteen years younger than was Moses when the Lord called him to his great lifework, many would have said of Verkuyl that he was too old.
If a worker for God is spared to reach the age of retirement, why not see this as an opportunity to make a rich contribution to His service?
The true minister of Christ should make continual improvement. The afternoon sun of his life may be more mellow and productive of fruit than the morning sun. It may continue to increase in size and brightness until it drops behind the western hills. My brethren in the ministry, it is better, far better, to die of hard work in some home or foreign mission field, than to rust out with inaction. Be not dismayed at difficulties; be not content to settle down without studying and without making improvement. Search the Word of God diligently for subjects that will instruct the ignorant and feed the flock of God. Become so full of the matter that you will be able to bring forth from the treasure house of His Word things new and old.—Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 221.
These wonderful words from the pen of Ellen G. White are not just poetry; they are a philosophy of life that an aging servant of God dare not ignore. When one hears the divine call and accepts the challenge of a task, it may be that the Lord will permit him to see a completed work before the sunset of life's little day. This adds new zest to living.
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