23 Mar 2016

Alone in the Spirit and His Word: Reading K. C. Moser’s Bible

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Bobby's World, Holy Spirit, Jesus, K. C. Moser, Ministry, Precision Obedience, Restoration History, Sectarianism, Spiritual Disciplines, Unity
Moser with his Bible in 1949

Moser with his Bible in 1949

Discovering K. C. Moser

I have been fascinated by the life of Kenny Carl Moser (1892-1976) since my days in college when Jim Massey recommended The Gist of Romans in his class on Romans.  The significance of Moser did not occur to me at the time nor did the work really sink into my head and heart. In fact Moser faded from my mind.

It was really Leonard Allen’s gem, Distant Voices, that opened my eyes to gift of K. C. Moser to our fellowship.  Not long after reading Allen, I joined Wade Tannehill to go hear John Mark Hicks give a lecture at Harding School of Theology on Moser (this was 1992).  To say that Hicks painted a fascinating picture is an understatement.  I soon was trying to find every article, and book, I could by Moser and soak it up.

I found that understanding Moser was actually a way of understanding myself and my life within the Churches of Christ. Over the years I have read every known Moser article, discovered previously unknown works (like his book of Six Gospel Sermons), that he was an editor, close friends with the Wallace’s (Cled & Foy), that he underwent a major theological conversion in the 1920s, presented lectures at ACU Lectures on him and at the Christian Scholars Conference. I’ve been slowly working on a theological biography of Moser that I have titled K. C. Moser: Apostle of Grace (there have been, as they say, some detours in my life that have interfered with this project). I have written other blogs on Moser: Student of the Word.

Moser's "main Bible." American Standard Version purchased in 1941.

Moser’s “main Bible.” American Standard Version purchased in 1941.

Alone with the Spirit & His Word

Reading K.C. Moser’s Bible! What kind of Bible? What reading habits did Moser exhibit? How and where did he annotate his Bible? … part of a chapter in my book: “Alone in the Spirit and His Word.” A juicy note, written for himself,

We do not so much grow into the possession of new Spiritual truths as we awake to them (the truth of the gospel and the ‘glory of Christ’ dawned upon me.)

Moser, like most of us, had several versions. In the 1930s he is one of the few writers who freely quoted various other translations in his writings. He quoted Williams New Testament and Moffatt as an alternative to the ASV many times. He was a fan of Edgar J. Goodspeed’s New Testament. Later in life he read the New English Bible and J. B. Philips.  Interestingly enough in the early 1970s the elderly Moser frequently quoted from the just published New International Version.

But Moser’s main Bible for many years was the 1901 American Standard Version labeled “Teachers’ Edition” published by Thomas Nelson & Sons. The text is arranged in parallel columns with center  references. There is a lectionary for daily Bible reading in the back. Then a series of 24 black and white maps, followed by a 233 page “New Concordance of the American Revised Version.” It closes with an Index to the maps and finally has 12 color maps. Moser purchased this Bible in Oklahoma City in 1941 for the hefty price of 4 dollars. Twenty one years later in 1962, he had it rebound for 8 dollars.

Ephesians heavily annotated by Moser in his main Bible

Ephesians heavily annotated by Moser in his main Bible

Bible and Bible within the Bible

Moser read the whole Bible this is clear. But he enjoys, or values, some books of the Bible more than others. Though accepting all the Bible as God’s word, Moser’s Bible reading was impacted by the lingering cancerous effects of Dispensationalism of the Stone Campbell Movement. Most of the books of the Hebrew Bible are “clean” compared to the New Testament. He has inserted dates at the beginning of books and accepts the 15th century BC dates for the Exodus as he has “1588 BC” written under the title. Annotations in the first testament usually cluster around traditional messianic prophecies. Isaiah is certainly important for Moser but his comments focus on chapters 1-2, 6-7, and 53. Moser did not ignore the Psalms (thankfully).  But they are surprisingly annotation free though not completely.  Moser’s understanding of worship is shaped by the Psalms.  He appeals to Ps 148 to explain “worship” which was an unusual move for one of us at that time. In his Bible he has “Worship” as the heading for this psalm and divides it into three sections: 1) Worship in heaven; 2) Worship from Earth; and 3) Why of Worship.

Romans and Galatians are Moser’s Canon-within-a-Canon. We are all products of our time and our environment – I am no less than anyone. And Moser’s attitude toward the Hebrew Bible frequently reflects the biases and misunderstanding that has plagued Christians in the Restoration Movement from the beginning. Of course Moser transcended this occasionally as we have seen with Ps 148.

Moser accepts the “Old Testament” as the word of God but simply misunderstands it in places. I offer two examples, Moser understands the phrase “fear of the Lord” that appears in the Psalms and other places to mean the Israelite was “afraid” of God. This is completely wrong. Moser in a long note at the end of Ecclesiastes says “God’s commandments under law and under grace differ. Under law DOING [sic] the command was the GROUND of divine acceptance …” This is is a profound misunderstanding that neither Ecclesiastes nor the Hebrew Bible teaches in even a single solitary verse.  But this is typical restorationist and Protestant understanding for the day

As an aside, Moser read Song of Songs because there are some verses checked and some underlined. There are no notes and I have never seen Moser comment on the book in his journals or in print. I would like to know if he had an allegorical approach to the book. But judging from the number of poems Moser for or about his lovely wife Ardis in his book of poetry, Reflections, I suspect that he at least (like Bernard) understood the Song instinctively For the most part, Moser’s notes in the “Old Testament” cluster around messianic prophecies. He has annotated Isaiah 53 heavily. Psalm 22 not as much. Isaiah 7 has notes.

Sweet Publishers published a series of books by Moser in the 1960s. Moser purchased ASV New Testaments to study each book afresh. This is his 1963 ASV NT

Sweet Publishers published a series of books by Moser in the 1960s. Moser purchased ASV New Testaments to study each book afresh. This is his 1963 ASV NT. The was for his book “The Living Word: Galatians” published in 1965.

Awakening: Some Annotations 

Now I want to give a sample of his commentary on various passages in the NT. He has written so much that passages have various colors in them and bleed through the page.

At times Moser offers insight into his own Spiritual pilgrimage (and the reason I called this chapter ‘Alone with the Spirit and His Word’). Commenting on 2 Cor 3.17-18 on the Lord is the Spirit, where the Spirit is there is Liberty and being transformed from glory to glory. He writes, “We do not so much grow into the possession of new Spiritual truths as we awake to them (The truth of the gospel and the ‘glory of Christ’ dawned upon me.)” Moser believed the Holy Spirit does in fact work in disciples to illuminate. We come awake.

Moser, once he rejected the legalism of the Texas Tradition, was intolerant of legalism. He had seen its destructive power and felt deceived by it. Writing in the margin of 1 Timothy 1.7, which he also underlines, “teachers of the law though they understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm.” Moser writes “No Legalist does!!!!!

At the head of 2 Thessalonians 2 regarding the ‘man of sin.’ Moser wrote “Not the Pope as such. He is anti-God, anti-morals. He claims all man’s devotion.”

Commenting on 1 Thessalonians 5.19, 22 combined, “Quench not the Spirit … abstain from every evil.” Here we encounter the issue that pushed Moser out of the Texas Tradition in the 1920s: how can you have a spiritual Christian without the Holy Spirit? So Moser writes, “The LEGALIST has no basis for ‘good fruits.’ With him there is no real regeneration – new birth.” The basis for godliness, as Moser understands it, is the Holy Spirit actually living, and working, in the disciple. To quench the Spirit means to leave the human with no divine aid. It is a human powered religions. This is why Moser declares “legalism is the Father of the denial of the indwelling Spirit.

Moser's heading for Romans in his 1962 American Standard Version New Testament

Moser’s heading for Romans in his 1962 American Standard Version New Testament

Commenting on Titus 3.7, “justified by grace.” Moser writes a longer note:

The Grace of God: His appearing brings salvation to all men; instructing to holiness; inciting hope of the 2nd coming. Basis of Grace: the Cross, v.14 {that is 2.14}.

What does God do ‘by grace’?

The Legalist’s answer: ‘He gave us a ‘plan of salvation which is by works’!!”

Commenting on 1 John 1. 3, 7, Moser revealed his thoughts on unity and fellowship repeatedly in his journals and margins of his Bible. Legalism destroys unity and fellowship. Moser, Alone with the Spirit and His Word, wrote: “Christian fellowship is fellowship with PERSONS, not merely with a ’cause,’ our fellowship with each other is related to the fellowship of the Father and the Son. One can easily loose sight of Christ in his zeal for a ’cause.”

Commenting on Ephesians 4.4-6, reveals more of Moser’s inward thinking on unity. He writes, “Not an intellectual apprehension of Christ as such, but a Spiritual, subjective, apprehension is the basis of unity and fellowship, See 3.6″

In Galatians, Moser reveals what I have come to call his “Hermeneutic of the Cross,” that I believe guided his Scripture reading from the early 1930s. There is a hierarchy of being in Scripture! He writes a lengthy note:

This letter concerns personalities: Paul – Peter – James – John – Barnabas – Titus – unnamed Judaizers. The problem centers around the gospel. Always there are the dangers a) of perverting it b) of neglecting it c) of resisting it. Paul shows that the gospel is the criterion of both doctrine and practice. The integrity of the gospel must be preserved at all costs.” (The bold reflects Moser’s underline)

In a note on Matthew 11.15, the cleansing of the Temple, Moser writes, “Jesus, if he were to enter many churches, [he] would cast out some who pose as Christians!!

Finally one last look over Moser’s shoulders at Luke 18.9-16, the Parable of Pharisee and Publican at prayer in the temple.  Here we see, again, the link between Spirituality and legalism in Moser’s mind,

Obstacles to Pharisees Prayer: 1) A misconception oh his real relation to God; 2) Self-Righteousness; 3) Dependence upon Externals; 4) Lack of humility or sense of need. NO one can truly pray who knows not that he needs divine mercy!!”

MAn Inscription that No One Ever Saw

Inside the cover of his 1963, ASV New Testament, K. C. Moser wrote a long inscription.  It is unattributed so until I know differently I will assume are his own words.  They are quite powerful and show that for Moser Christianity was not mere intellectual exercise but for the world.

When I see the way some poor families in N. Y. have to live — when I walk the streets thinking of innumerable boys who never will know any other playground then the street afford, or go into homes where little children who ought to be asleep work until midnight make paper flower; — when I think of the thousands in the city who live, careless, useless, futile, frittered lives, with time for business, dress, bridge, golf, dance, theater, and automobile, but who never sacrificially think of their brothers living in an earthly hell or of children robbed of childhood’s heritage, I sometimes wonder how God Almighty in his infinite patience lets our miserable lives go on.

Jesus = God’s MAN of Salvation

Moser is a student, a genuine disciple, when Alone with the Spirit and His Word. He refers to typical Protestant writers like J-F-B, Barnes, Clarke. In later annotations he makes mention of Leon Morris which is a comment that has to date to the late 1960s or early 70s (Apostolic Preaching of the Cross). He even marks some old comments out.

He took notes while other people preached from time to time. Jess Hall, whom I know from Moser’s journal, preached from Isaiah 35!!! (yay!) on Oct 23, 1966. Moser had underlined a couple sentences in this passage previously but has scribbles from Hall’s sermon in a different hand and ink squeezed along the top and down the inner margin (How Moser wrote so neatly there I dont know lol!).

Moser was always open to the possibility that he would come “awake” to new Spiritual truth … he may have read, studied and preached on a passage many times only to have the Spirit awaken him to something as basic and fundamental as the “glory of Christ.” Once you have had that experience you know that God’s Spirit can surprise you about anything! I can’t help but believe it was one such moment that brought the significance of Psalm 148 for worship to him. The Bible’s ultimate purpose, Moser writes in the margin of John 3 is to let Jesus reveal the character of God.  I will close with his annotation:

“Jesus = God’s MAN of Salvation. God reveals his real character more by giving than by demanding – The Cross! It has bowed man in gratitude, Chastened them into penitence, Wakened them to hope, Inspired them to devotion – and Redeemed them from sin!”

6 Responses to “Alone in the Spirit and His Word: Reading K. C. Moser’s Bible”

  1. Terry Bouchelle Says:

    I started preaching full time in 1965, but I learned the gospel reading the Gest of Romans & Way of Salvation in 1969.

  2. Fran Moser winkles Says:

    Thank you Bobby,this is beautiful….Fran Moser

  3. Andrew Swango Says:

    I love: “To quench the Spirit means to leave the human with no divine aid.”

    I also love: “Christian fellowship is fellowship with PERSONS, not merely with a ’cause.’ ”

    What is the Texas Tradition?

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      The Texas Tradition is a trajectory of theological thought within the Churches of Christ. It is represented in the origins of the Firm Foundation, Austin McGary, R. L. Whiteside and Foy Wallace Jr. There were specific issues that cluster around this trajectory that were in contrast to a set of themes that centered around the Gospel Advocate of the day, the Nashville Bible School, David Lipscomb and James A. Harding. I will post more on the Texas Tradition. You can find out more however in the book John Mark Hicks and I did together called Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding.

  4. David Robertson Says:


    I have read this article many times and I find it fascinating. The pages that you showed of Moser’s bible is pretty much how my whole bible looks: cramped with personal notes, commentaries, and my cross references, along with print outs and cut outs crammed in it. My bible of choice is the New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV. This has been my bible for about 18 yrs so it’s held together with electrical tape.

    I was curious how were you able to get ahold of Mosers bible? Do you have anymore pics? Are there any audio recordings of Moser sermons? What is your preferred bible?

    I hope I get a reply. You can also just email me at: prayerwarrior105@hotmail.com

    Thank you,

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