Untwisting Scripture #11b — The meaning of hé apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. [2 Thessalonians 2:3]*

In our previous installment, we looked at the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 concerning the numerous exegetical, linguistic, and logical fallacies involved in promoting such a view.

As I noted previously, one of the fatal flaws in the arguments put forth by the promoters of this view is that none of the proponents even mention the evidence against their view, let alone engage in any meaningful or serious attempt to refute that evidence.

First, let’s look at what one former proponent of the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” view had to say.

In the late 1950s, John F. Walvoord, then president of Dallas Theological Seminary, and protegé of the seminary’s founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, was an ardent proponent of the view. In his book titled The Rapture Question, he had a chapter devoted to “Fifty Reasons Why I Believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.” In this chapter he listed the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” theory as reason #31. [1]

However, by the end of his life, Walvoord had clearly decided that the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was not an accurate interpretation of the text. He cites as his reasons for rejecting this interpretation and returning to the accepted interpretation of hé apostasía the following:

1: In Classical Greek, the primary meaning of hé apostasía was to denote a political or military rebellion. If you remember from the previous installment, the ONLY linguistic rationale English and his followers could muster for the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” theory was the SECONDARY meaning of hé apostasia in the Classical Greek.

2: In the Septuagint [a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek made around 250 BC], hé apostasía was used of rebellion against God in Joshua 22:16, 18, 29 and Jeremiah 2:19.

3: In 2 Maccabees 2:15 [a non-canonical book written during the time between the Old and New Testaments], the word is used in reference to turning away from the the worship of the one true God and instead embracing paganism.

4: In Acts 21:21, the only other use of the noun in the New Testament, apostasía refers to forsaking or rebelling against the traditions ascribed to Moses.

5: The role of the saints during the Rapture is passive. Hé apostasía refers to rebellion by active participants.

6: In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul referred to the Rapture as “our gathering together to Him.” It seems strange to use the unlikely term [“the apostasy”] for the same event in the immediate context. [2]

Walvoord also affirms that hé apostasía refers to a defection or rebellion in his other magnum opus on Bible prophecy. [3]

The difference between English’s approach to his “apostasía = departure = rapture” hypothesis and Walvoord’s “apostasía = rebellion or defection” is that English and his followers assumed their position to be true, cherry-picked evidence which seemed to support the assumption, and then presented the assumption as if it was a proven fact. This is NOT how one properly studies and interprets the Bible because it offers no process for self-correction.

Walvoord, on the other hand, pointed to the text itself, examined how the word is used within the relevant texts, both linguistically and historically. and then drew conclusions based on research. And having been on both sides of the issue, Walvoord is certainly in a better position to know whereof he writes. In other words, Walvoord is engaging in reputable exegesis [drawing out] of the text, rather than the eisegesis [reading into] that English and his followers are promoting.

Walvoord is not alone. When we look at other authoritative language resources, we find unanimity. Renn, for example, states that apostasía refers to a rebellion against the true faith. [4]

Vine notes: “In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, ‘the falling away’ signifies apostasy from the faith.” [5]

A. T. Robertson notes on the use of hé apostasía in this passage: “It seems clear that the word here means a religious revolt.” [6]

Paul Feinberg, in an article which also appears on the Pre-Trib Research Center website, took his colleagues to task for promoting this errant view, and rebutted the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” hypothesis decisively. [7] In his essay, after carefully documenting the exegetical and logical fallacies over several paragraphs, Feinberg concludes, “…given what we presently know, there is NO reason to understand Paul’s use of apostasía as a reference to the rapture.” [emphasis added]

Charles Ryrie has noted with respect to this passage: “Apostasía, translated ‘apostasy,’ ‘falling away,’ ‘departure,’ does not mean merely disbelieving, but rather an aggressive and definitive revolt or rebellion (Acts 21:21; Hebrews 3:12).” [8]

J. Hampton Keithley III, in his commentary, wrote: “Rebellion is the Greek apostasía, ‘apostasy, abandonment, revolt, rebellion.’ Literally, the Greek has ‘the rebellion.’ The presence of the article suggests Paul is not talking about just any rebellion or apostasy, but something well known as a result of the teaching of Paul and his missionary team.” [9]

John MacArthur notes: “Some have suggested, on questionable linguistic evidence, that this [hé apostasía] refers to ‘departure’ in the sense of the Rapture. Context, however, points to a religious defection, which is further described in verse 4.” [10]

However, the biggest conundrum in this issue is the late Tim LaHaye. Although Thomas Ice cites LaHaye as promoting the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” hypothesis [11], the problem is the source he cites for LaHaye’s supposed support is a book co-edited and co-authored by Ice and published in 2011 [12]. The book cited by Ice is no longer in print — making it difficult for Ice’s claims to be verified. Another blogger claims that LaHaye also stated his support for the view in another work [13].

There is a problem here with both of the sources cited. In the first place, both sources cited as “proof” of where Dr. LaHaye stood on the matter, were edited by Thomas Ice. The second problem is that Dr. LaHaye passed in 2016 — so there is no means by which we can confirm whether or not the statements attributed to him accurately reflect his beliefs. This is of special concern when one considers the statement attributed to him by the anonymous blogger references a book edited by Ice in 2021 — five years after Dr. LaHaye’s passing!

When we look at other works written or edited by Dr. LaHaye, some of which were revised in the period AFTER 2011 [when he supposedly first endorsed the “Apostasía = Departure = Rapture” hypothesis], but before 2016 [when he passed away], but which Thomas Ice had no hand in editing, we find a different view being expressed.

In one source we find the following definition of apostasía: “the abandonment and denunciation of any Christian profession” [14]. Although this work was originally published in 2004, it was revised, expanded, and renamed in 2020. In the 2020 revision, this definition of apostasía remains unchanged [15].

LaHaye specifically attributes the “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to a religious defection from Christianity in Are We Living in the End Times? In fact, in this work, he devotes an entire chapter to promoting the view that “apostasía = defection or rebellion” [16]. In citing the passage, he states: “The Greek word translated ‘rebellion’ [in the NIV] is apostasía, the source word for our English term ‘apostasy.’ It means a defection from the truth or a departure from that which was given at the first. The plain meaning of the prophecy is that before Christ returns, many who once were entrusted with the truth will depart from it” [17].

In another work, originally published in 2006, LaHaye specifically cites hé apostasía in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as referring to a defection from or rebellion against Biblical truth. [18] When this work was revised in 2012, LaHaye did not alter the text to support Ice’s flawed eisegesis.

If the reference cited by Ice is true, and LaHaye actually did believe in the interpretation invented by E. Schuyler English concerning hé apostasía, then the rationale he followed for such belief is subject to the same criticisms as when E. Schuyler English invented the interpretation in 1954. Because, if the reference provided by Ice is accurate, all LaHaye did was simply repeat the same tired fallacies given by English.

So we only have one possible source which supports the claim that LaHaye “departed” from sound interpretation [pun intentional] against multiple citations made after that which indicate he did not change to English’s novel and unproven interpretation. Moreover, since the only sources which support Ice’s claim that LaHaye followed the same view as he advocates are works where Ice himself had editorial control of the content, what proof do we have that Ice has not inserted his own views into those texts and attributes them to LaHaye — especially when the works LaHaye published without any editorial control from Ice show no such support for the view Ice promotes?
In the final analysis, we cannot accept LaHaye’s testimony concerning the English/Ice interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 simply because the evidence for the claims Ice makes is inconsistent with other, more verifiable statements which are known to be from LaHaye and are dated after Ice claims—especially when one of those sources is known to have been edited by Ice AFTER LaHaye’s death in 2016.

In conclusion, there are two points to be made. The first is that there is not a shred of linguistic, historical, or logical evidence to support the teaching that “Hé Apostasía = The Departure = The Rapture” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. While it is marginally possible that the rendering of hé apostasía in the English language as “the departure” is plausible in the sense of a religious defection away from the truth, there is no justification to make a Kierkegaardian leap that the word is referring to the Rapture.

The second, and more crucial, point is that the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture does not stand or fall on the English/Ice [mis]interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), pp. 191-199.

[2] John F. Walvoord and Mark Hitchcock, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Chicago: Moody Press, 2012), p. 122.

[3]John F. Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1999), p. 491.

[4] Stephen D. Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), p. 411.

[5] W.E. Vine, New Testament Word Pictures: Romans to Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), p. 654.

[6]A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. Module in The Word electronic library.

[7]Paul Feinberg, “The Rapture and 2 Thessalonians 2.” Found at http://www.pre-trib.org/articles.

[8] Charles C. Ryrie, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1959), pp. 103-104.

[9] J. Hampton Keithley III, 2 Thessalonians: An Exegetical and Devotional Commentary. Online at http://www.bible.org.

[10] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 1767.

[11] Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles.

[12] Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, Ed Hindson (eds.), The Popular Handbook of the Rapture: Experts Speak Out on End-Times Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2011), p. 171.

[13] Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2021), p. 38.

[14] Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2004), pp. 32-33.

[15] Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, The Harvest Handbook of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2020) pp. 44-45.

[16] Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times, Updated and Expanded (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2012), pp. 75-94.

[17] ibid., p. 77, emphasis added.

[18] Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2006, 2012), p. 453.

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Untwisting Scripture #11a — The meaning of hé apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. [2 Thessalonians 2:3]*

According to a few commentators, the “proper” understanding of this passage is that the Greek word rendered as “the falling away” is actually referring to the Rapture.

This view was virtually unknown among students of Bible prophecy until the early 1950s. And from then until now, it has been a minority view within dispensational premillennialism. Few reputable scholars hold to the interpretation — and none of those scholars are noted as authorities in New Testament translation. For example, Darby never advanced such an interpretation of the passage. [1] Neither did Torrey, Scofield, or Chafer.

The earliest mention of the “apostasy = Rapture” teaching is found in a book by E. Schuyler English, titled Re-Thinking the Rapture. [2] English’s thesis is that the phrase hé apostasia has been mistranslated as “falling away,” “rebellion” or “revolt.”

At first, English writes tentatively of his novel interpretation, stating, “We suggest, for prayerful deliberation, a deviation from the accepted translation of this passage.” [3]

Three things need to be noted about this statement: (1) While English begins by offering his novel and, heretofore, unheard of interpretation as a “suggestion,” in less than four short pages filled with a lot of speculation and the sketchiest of evidence, he concludes by insisting that his interpretation is not merely plausible, but that his interpretation should be accepted as the definitive interpretation, even though he admits that his interpretation has no sound linguistic basis. (2) It should be noted that the practice long accepted by Bible translators is that when an interpretation is offered which is novel, the one proposing such a novelty has the burden of proving not merely that such an interpretation is possible, or plausible, but that the evidence shows it is the only possible meaning the original writer had in mind. The interpretation offered by English does not meet the accepted standard. (3) When English published his “findings,” they were not vetted or peer-reviewed by other scholars, nor were they published by any reputable publishing concern. Instead, they were published by a vanity press.

So what “evidence” does English offer for his novel interpretation?

1: The secondary connotation of the word apostasia in Liddel & Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon is “disappearance” or “departure.” [4]

2: Apostasia comes from the Greek verb aphistemi, which means “to remove,” “to put away,” or “to cause to be removed.” [5]

3: Prior to the translation of the KJV, every translation of the Bible into English rendered hé apostasia as “a departynge.” [6]

English then concluded: “The departure is… the rapture of the church.” [7]

So, was English correct in his evidence and conclusion? Several pastors/commentators seemed to think he was, among them: H. Wayne House [8], Thomas Ice [9], J. Vernon McGee [10], Ray Stedman [11], J. Dwight Pentecost [12], and Stanley Ellison [13]. Ice also claims that the late Tim LaHaye also held this view. [14]

But there are several problems with the “Apostasy = Departure = Rapture” hypothesis — and none of the proponents of the teaching even try to address the problems.

The first, and most glaring problem is that, although English gives the appearance of attempting to exegete the passage, he fails miserably in the task. He [and those who have followed in his footsteps] are engaging in circular reasoning and eisegesis [reading a meaning into the passage based on their traditions and biases]. Those who follow English are doubly guilty because, instead of offering fresh and better evidence to bolster their views and offering a solid rebuttal to the mass of evidence which disproves their position, Ice, et al, simply repeat the already refuted arguments put forth by English almost seventy years ago.

Looking specifically at English’s first argument, we find two problems. The first is that the source he cites is NOT recognized as an authoritative source for NT Greek studies. Liddel’s and Scott’s work was based on the classical Greek of Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato — not the koine Greek of the New Testament.

The second problem is that English and his followers ASSUME the secondary meaning attributed to the word by Liddel and Scott is the meaning intended by Paul without establishing any lexical or historical rationale for such an assumption.

Thus, English and his followers fall prey to the fallacy of semantic obsolescence [15] I note this because Liddel and Scott’s lexicon was first published in 1846—almost a half century before Joseph Henry Thayer published the first Greek lexicon based on New Testament and Septuagint usage of the language. Thayer, and every lexical authority ever since, have never cited the secondary meaning attributed to hé apostasia by Liddel and Scott as even a possible meaning [16].

This points to a second exegetical fallacy committed by English and his followers: Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings [17]. As noted earlier, those who hold to the hypothesis that “Apostasy = Departure = Rapture” have leapt from the fact of an obscure secondary meaning in the classical Greek for the phrase hé apostasia to an assumption that the obscure secondary meaning was the intended meaning when Paul penned 2 Thessalonians 2:3 under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit.

The problem is that English and his followers have ignored some basic rules involved when attempting to make a case for an unlikely meaning. As I mentioned earlier, first they have to prove the unlikely meaning is even plausible in New Testament usage. An appeal to a secondary meaning from the classical Greek is not sufficient. Secondly, they have to prove that such an unlikely meaning was the intention of the writer by looking at his usage in other contexts. Again, English and his followers have not made a convincing case since the word was only used one time by Paul. Thirdly they have to prove that no other meaning is possible. Since they cannot even meet the first two criteria, it stretches credulity beyond any reasonable limit to believe the third criterion could be met.

When we proceed to English’s second line of argumentation, we find it is also a deficient argument. In this line of reasoning, English argued that because apostasia is a noun which was originally derived from the verb aphistemi, and because the verb means “to remove” or “to cause to be be removed,” then the meaning of the noun must be derived from the verbal root.

This line of argumentation is flawed in two ways. The first flaw is what Carson refers to as the root fallacy [18]. There are many instances in the Greek where the noun carries a different meaning that the verb from which the noun was derived. As Carson rightly observes, meaning is determined by usage, not by etymology.

The second flaw with this line of argumentation rests with the unproven assumption that even if, for the sake of argument, the secondary meaning of apostasia is proven to be the intended meaning, it does not automatically follow that such a “departure” is a reference to the Rapture.

Finally, we come to the third line of argumentation from English and his followers,: that because apostasia was translated as “departing” in all English translations prior to the KJV, then the men who translated the KJV, along with every Bible translator who has followed in their footsteps, have distorted and twisted the true meaning of the text.

Again, English and his followers have leapt from an unproven [and unprovable] assumption to an unmerited conclusion based on the assumption and not evidence. The unproven assumption is that the translations which preceded the KJV were correct in rendering hé apostasia as “departynge” rather than “rebellion” or “falling away.” An assumption is not evidence!

The fatal flaws in English’s “apostasy = departure = rapture” hypothese are these: (1) unproven [and unprovable] assumptions, (2) numerous fallacies in exegesis and logic, and (3) a complete failure to even acknowledge the evidence which refutes the position, let alone respond to it in a coherent manner.

In all of their arguments, English and his followers fell prey to logical fallacies, as well as the semantic fallacies noted earlier.

The first logical fallacy is the failure to recognize distinctions [19]. As I noted earlier, English and his followers assumed that because hé apostasia was translated as “departynge,” then it should limited to that translation always and forever. They further assume that this is a reference to the Rapture without laying any foundation for such a jump from translation to meaning.

Following closely behind this, English and his followers have committed a second logical fallacy: the appeal to selective evidence [20]. English, throughout his promotion of the “apostasy = departure = rapture” hypothesis, nowhere even mentions the evidence which refutes his view. This is irresponsible scholarship at its worst. If there was no evidence with which to refute his view, that would be one thing; but, as we shall see in the next installment, there is a large body of evidence, both linguistic and historical, which refutes English and his followers. And they have ignored that evidence and steadfastly refused to deal honestly with it.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] J.N. Darby, Commentary on the New Testament. Electronic edition in The Word electronic library.

[2] E. Schuyler English, Re-Thinking the Rapture (Traveler’s Rest: Southern Bible Book House, 1954), p. 67-71.

[3] ibid., p. 67, emphasis added.

[4] ibid., p. 68.

[5] ibid., p. 69.

[6] ibid., p. 70.

[7] ibid., p. 70.

[8] H. Wayne House, “A Defense of the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles.

[9] Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles.

[10] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible: First and Second Thessalonians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), p. 118, paperback edition.

[11] Ray Stedman, Expositional Studies. Electronic edition in The Word electronic library.

[12] j. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 332.

[13] Stanley Ellison, “The Apostasy as It Relates to the Lord’s Return.” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles.

[14] Thomas Ice, op. cit.

[15] D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), pp. 35-37.

[16] Thayer Greek Lexicon, ref. G646. In The Word electronic library.

[17] Carson, op. cit., pp. 37-41.

[18] Carson, op. cit., p. 28-33.

[19] Carson, op. cit. 92-93.

[20] Carson, op. cit. 93-94.

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Untwisting Scripture #10 — Matthew 18:15-17: Debunking the Myth that It Is Wrong to Publicly Confront Sin in the Camp

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between him and you alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen or a tax collector.*

I have lost count of how many times, when someone is promoting false teaching [or merely errant teaching] in a public forum, and gets publicly called out for their error, the knee-jerk response is to trot out this passage with the clichéd response, “You are supposed to go to them privately—you are violating the teachings of Jesus.”

These same people also drag out Matthew 7:1-5 and misapply it with the nonsensical idea that one must be living a life of sinless perfection before he or she is qualified to correct or rebuke those sinning or in error.

To make their blundering misuse of Scripture even worse, they tie this to an unScriptural view of Jesus—a Jesus who, according to them, never expressed anger or judged sin.

To clarify matters, let’s tackle the last issue first. Did Jesus ever display anger? Even a cursory reading of the Gospels shows that the answer to that question is a definite “YES!”

At the very beginning of His earthly ministry, He had to cleanse the temple [John 2:13-25]. In verse 17, His actions were said to be motivated by “zeal.” The Greek word is zēlos [pronounced “DZAY-los”], and it suggests that one’s actions have been provoked to the point of anger. [1]

Do these people really believe that Christ was devoid of any emotion when He referred to the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers?” [Matthew 12:17; 23:33]

Do they really believe Jesus showed no anger when He had to cleanse the Temple a second time? [Matthew 21:12-13]

In one passage, we note that the Gospels specifically describe Jesus’ response to the hardness of the Pharisees as “anger.” [Mark 3:5] The Greek term is orge [pronounced “or-GAY”] and it denotes the wrath of one who is entitled and empowered to seek vengeance on wrongdoers.[2]

So it is a fallacy to assert that Jesus never experienced or displayed anger.

It is also a fallacy to assert that believers are NEVER to judge others. The command in Matthew 7:1 is NOT an absolute decree. It is conditional—something which tends to be lost in translation.

In Greek, the text reads Mē krinĕtĕ hina mē krithĕtē. Translated, it states, “[if] you [plural] do not condemn others, then you [plural] will not be condemned.”

The grammatical structure is called a purpose clause—and that purpose is not to prevent or prohibit followers of Christ from making moral distinctions, but, as verse 2 makes clear, to caution them about the standard being used for making those moral distinctions. Verses three through five also make the condition that we must be in a position where we cannot be accused of hypocrisy. Now the passage is not demanding sinless perfection, as some would claim, but as the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans 2:1-24, it does require that those who render moral judgments must not be guilty of the same sins they condemn.

But we cannot take the Matthew passage alone as Jesus’ final and only statement or teaching on the matter.

In the same context as He stated, If you do not condemn, then you will not be condemned, He then went on to command His followers: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. [Matthew 7:15] This raises the following question—how does one recognize false prophets [and teachers] as such without first making a judgment about them and their teachings?

Jesus also commanded, Do not judge [mē krïnĕté] according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. [John 7:24] So this passage provides two criteria, one positive and one negative. The negative is that we are not to judge according to appearances. The positive is that we are to judge righteously.

We have to bear in mind that when Jesus is speaking in both the context of Matthew 7 and the context of John 7, He is addressing groups which included a large number of Pharisees. As most Bible students know, the Pharisees were infamous for adding their traditions to the law of Moses and then judging people according to their own man-made traditions. They judged based on appearances only, rather than seeking to judge righteously. [3]

Finally, we come to the issue of private correction versus public correction. More often than not, those who make Matthew 7:1 a blanket prohibition against Christians exercising any discernment, also make Matthew 18:15-17 a blanket prohibition against all attempts at public correction.

But the questions we need to ask are: (1) Is what they claim the text means really what the text says? (2) Did Jesus intend for this to be a blanket command for dealing with EVERY sin—private or public?

When we carefully examine the text of Scripture, we see that Matthew 18:15-17 only deals with PRIVATE sin. Note the condition stated in verse 15: If your [singular] brother [singular] sins against you [singular]…. So clearly Christ is not speaking about situations where a supposed believer publicly proclaims false teaching or publicly engages in other types of sinful behaviors.

Scripture also requires that public sin merits public correction and rebuke, as we shall demonstrate.

SITUATION #1—Romans 16:17-18

Paul, writing under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, commanded the church in Rome to “note” false teachers and to avoid [shun] them. The Greek word is skopéō, and indicates making a public indictment against false teachers. [4] Public sin requires public correction.

SITUATION #2—Galatians 2:11-21

Again, Paul writes under the prompting and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, recounting an instance in which the apostle Peter fell into public sin. Did Paul take Peter aside, saying, “Hey, Pete, we have a problem here…?” No, Paul tells us that he withstood Peter, calling him out, “before them all.” (verses 14-21) How did Peter respond? While Paul does not record Peter’s response, Peter, at the end of his life, also writing under the prompting and superintendence of the Holy Spirit, wrote that Paul’s writings were Scripture—the word of God (2 Peter 3:15-16). So, by example and approved precedent, Scripture teaches that public sin requires public rebuke and correction.

SITUATION #3–1 Corinthians 5:1-13

We see yet another example of public sin requiring public rebuke in 1 Corinthians 5. The church in Corinth had a “member” who was engaged in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. It was not a private sin against another member of the congregation—it was an open scandal being advertised to the entire city. And what did Paul, under the authority of the Holy Spirit, tell them to do about the matter? He told the church to make a public example of him. He told the church to deliver him to Satan, (verse 5) to purge him, (verse 7) not keep company with him, (verses 9, 11) and to put him away [remove him] (verse 13). So, in other words, a so-called believer engaging in public, unrepentant sin was to be publicly rebuked and shunned.

SITUATION #4–1 Timothy 5:20

Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence OF ALL, that the rest may also fear.

Note the context carefully. Paul is not talking about a private matter between two believers. He is dealing with the issue of elders caught in public sin [and teaching false doctrine IS a sin]. Public sin requires public rebuke and correction.

At the same time, there is a double-edged sword in play here, because Paul is dealing with elders being accused of sin, there is the antithesis here that those who publicly bring a false accusation against an elder [pastor] must face public rebuke.

So we see in the final analysis that there is no absolute command that all sin must be privately confronted prior to public correction being implemented. As indicated in Scripture, some situations demand public correction without any attempt at prior private correction.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (Chattanooga, AMG, 2015), p. 2423.

[2] Zodhiates, p. 2500. See also William Mounce, Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 22.

[3] We still see churches today seeking to impose man-made traditions over the word of God when they impose rules like: (1) No attendance at movies or stage plays. (2) No playing card games. (3) No playing games using dice. (4) No use of tobacco products. (5) No consumption of alcoholic beverages. (6) No consumption of carbonated soft drinks. (7) No consumption of drinks containing caffeine. And these are only some of the man-made traditions which have made their way into some churches.

[4] W.E. Vine, New Testament Word Pictures: Romans to Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), p. 146.

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Untwisting Scripture #9: Genesis 2:7 — Debunking the Myth that Human Life Does not Begin Until One Takes His/Her First Breath

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

A meme which keeps popping up on Facebook — presumably created by someone claiming to be a Christian — states that human life does not begin until one takes his/her first breath.

The first problem with the meme is that it cites no authority, religious or materialistic, to justify the statement, but given the source, it is apparent, that the intent of the meme is to somehow provide theological justification for the infanticidical practice of abortion.

The only biblical passage which even remotely comes near to supporting the assertion of the meme is the passage I have cited above. The problem is that there is nothing in the text itself which justifies, let alone necessitates, such a broad, overreaching interpretation or inference. In facct, the opposite is the case. A careful reading of the passage in context makes it clear that this was a one-time only occurrence. It has never been repeated anywhere else in Scripture.

Therefore, there is no theological warrant or merit which justifies the inference that a human being is not to be considered a human being until he or she draws his/her first breath.

As a corollary to this inference, the people who promote this nonsense then conclude that since infants in the womb do not “breathe,” they do not deserve to be considered to be human. And since they are not considered to be human, then it is not murder to abort a child prior to birth.

To bolster their claim, they cite as evidence that a child in the womb is not to be considered as fully human.

But is that what the passage really says, properly translated and cited in context?

If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follow, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,

eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Exodus 21:22-25

The key phrase in this passage is rendered “she gives birth prematurely” in v. 22 of the NKJV. The Hebrew phrase is veyātzeŪ yelāĐEIhā, the most literal translation being “and she brings forth a child early.” This is a Hebrew expression for a live birth.

But those who argue that this passage somehow implies that God has no moral objections to abortion and does not consider the practice to be a form of infanticide will argue that the proper translation of veyātzeŪ yelāĐEIhā can only refer to an induced miscarriage. As proof, they cite numerous translations promoted by theological liberals [a better term for these would be “apostates], such as The Message, the [not such] Good News Translation, and the New Revised Standard Version to mention the major malefactors. This is not merely eisegesis — these translations represent a deliberate, blasphemous twisting of Scripture solely for the purpose of providing a religious cover to justify infanticide.

However, other translations coming from translators who have acknowledged the plenary Divine inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture — the New American Standard Bible, the New King James Version, the New International Version, the English Standard Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible — have uniformly rendered veyātzeŪ yelāĐEIhā as referring to giving birth prematurely — a rendering which is supported by all recognized authorities.[1] According to other sources, this phrase always refers to live birth.[2]

It is a demonstrable fact that up until the last half of the twentieth century, no Bible translation or commentary ever rendered or interpreted the phrase veyātzeŪ yelāĐEIhā in such a way as to refer to a miscarriage or abortion.

If, as the apostates claim, the intended meaning was to indicate a miscarriage [aka abortion] had occurred, the Hebrew language has a different word entirely — a word that is not used here: shâkôl — a word that unambiguously means to miscarry or abort.[3]

The context of the passage also makes it clear in vv. 23-25 that any additional harm or injury [“if any harm follows”] to either the child or the mother as a result of the initial injury to the mother was subject to the lex talionis [law of retaliation] — including execution by the avenger of blood if the child died. So it is a specious sophistry to suggest that this passage in Exodus represents, if not God’s stamp of approval, His neutrality on the morality of the abortion industry.

But if we were to grant, for the sake of argument, that veyātzeŪ yelāĐEIhā in Exodus 21:22 might be referring to a miscarriage rather than a premature live birth, it has to be noted that the passage would be referring to an unintentional act committed by a third party against a woman. The passage would not and could not, by any sound exegetical process, be applied to condone the deliberate conspiracy of a pregnant woman and a so-called “health care provider” to intentionally, volitionally, and maliciously terminate the life of an infant en utero — without any moral justification or provocation.

Going further, it can also be adduced from both approved precedent and necessary inference, that Scripture teaches that human life begins at conception. Consider the following evidence:

EXHIBIT A: Genesis 25:21-24

Verse 22 is the key point in this passage. Rebekah had conceived twins—and they were fighting for dominance in the womb. Note that the passage calls them “children” [Hebrew: bah-NEEM] — not mere blobs of tissue.

EXHIBIT B: Psalm 139:13-16. See also Isaiah 44:2.

Here King David writes of the miracle of human life as it grows in the womb. Since David attributes this to the handiwork of God, any attempt by mere men to thwart or circumvent God’s purposes in procreation and gestation apart from proven medical necessity can only be regarded as a callous act of blasphemy.

EXHIBIT C: Isaiah 41:1. See also Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15.

These passages point to one inescapable truth — that those who are God’s elect are chosen and set apart from the womb. This raises the question: If God recognizes individuals in the womb as such prior to birth, then doesn’t it logically follow that He recognizes human life in the womb as having the same level of sanctity as human life outside the womb?

EXHIBIT D: Luke 1:15.

Here we read that John the Baptist was to be filled [indwelt and empowered] with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. Nowhere in Scripture will you ever find a mention of the Holy Spirit filling lifeless blobs of tissue. Nor will you find even a single mention that the Holy Spirit fills non-humans. Only those God considers to be living humans are filled with the Holy Spirit. So if John was filled with the Holy Spirit “from the womb” [a Hebraism indicating the entire time of gestation from conception to birth], then the reasonable conclusion is that God regards human offspring as being fully human — even en utero.

EXHIBIT E: Luke 1:41-44.

In this case, we see the child John the Baptist, although still in the womb, expressing cognition, emotion, intention, and action — all attributes of humanity.

EXHIBIT F: Amos 1:13.

This is probably the most damning indictment against America. Through the prophet Amos, God condemned the nation of Ammon for slaughtering children in the womb for the purpose of “enlarging their borders.” In other words, Ammon committed infanticide for reasons of expanding their political power, for convenience, and for increasing wealth — the same motivations we see at play in our culture to justify the abortion industry.

So we can see than when one looks at the body of Scripture, God places a high value on human life from the womb to the tomb. And to deprive the most innocent, the most helpless of humans of life is a form of blasphemy — because practicing such infanticide have determined to usurp the role of God in determining who is worthy to live and executing them solely for profit and pleasure.

A friend of mine once observed that in Scripture, God soon judges governments who institutionalize any form of infanticide. In the case of Egypt in Exodus 2-19, that judgment came in eighty years from the time Pharaoh decreed male offspring of the Hebrews were to be drowned in the Nile. In the case of Judea, from the time Herod decreed the slaughter of innocent male children under the age of two years old in Bethlehem, less than seventy-five years elapsed until Judea ceased to exist as a nation. Since Roe v. Wade was decreed by the US Supreme Court in 1973, forty-eight years have passed. The clock is ticking and time is running out.

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, n.d.), p. 423.

[2] Jenni-Westermann-Biddle, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997), pp. 544-545. See also William Mounce, Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 294.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, NKJV Edition (Chattanooga: AMG, 2015), p. 2237.

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Untwisting Scripture #8: Genesis 1:1-2 and the So-Called “Gap Theory” of Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the earth. [Genesis 1:1-2]*

What is the “Gap Theory”? The Gap Theory rose in the late 1800s in a vain attempt to accommodate secular theories in uniformitarian geology and the belief that the earth was supposedly a few billions of years old. Further, the Gap Theory postulated that the creation account in Genesis 1:3-2:25 does not record the original creation, but a re-creation of the earth following some sort of cataclysmic catastrophe.

Consequently, Gap Theory proponents postulate that the fossilized remains of animals and humans represent life which was destroyed in this catastrophe.

Further, the proponents postulate that the catastrophe which brought about this destruction was the rebellion of Lucifer/Satan and a supposed pre-Adamic human race which followed after Satan.

The following sources promote this errant view of cosmology: The Scofield Reference Bible(1), The Nelson NKJV Study Bible(2), Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible(3), Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth(4), and The Believer’s Bible Commentary(5).

The question is whether or not this interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2 is accurate? Or does it represent mere speculation on the parts of Scofield, Dake, Lindsey, Radmacher, et al?

Proponents of the “Gap Theory” base their entire speculation on the claim that the Hebrew word translated “was” in the clause “The earth was without form and void” in verse 2 should be translated “became”–thereby justifying their claim that some forms of animal and human life existed on earth prior to Genesis 1:20.

But is this a valid handling of the text? It should be noted that Scofield, for all of his genius, was unschooled in Hebrew—as was Finis Jennings Dake.

While Lindsey did study Hebrew at Dallas Theological Seminary — it was in a special program Dallas offered in the 1950s for people seeking a seminary education, but who had no undergraduate degree, and was intended to grant students who completed the program the B.A., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees simultaneously. Lindsey never completed the program and therefore can hardly be considered an expert on Hebrew. While a student as DTS, Lindsey’s professor of Old Testament was Merrill F. Unger,who was himself a graduate of DTS, and learned Hebrew from Lewis Sperry Chafer, a protegé of Scofield, and whose knowledge of Biblical languages would be considered sketchy at best — having been self taught.

While it is readily admitted that the Hebrew verb hayah [pronounced “hah-YAH”] can be translated as the transitive “became,” proponents of the Gap Theory need to prove that this rendering is not merely possible, but exegetically necessary. This they have not done — and cannot do for at least two reasons.

The first reason why rendering hayah as “became” is not justified exegetically is because Hebrew verbs are inflected—the translation being determined by the form the verb takes in its context. In the case of Genesis 1:2, the clause ha eretz hayetah follows a grammatical structure which is always static, not transitive.

The second reason why rendering hayah as the static is correct is because the verb form hayetah is a qal perfect, which is always static. In order for a transitive interpretation to even be possible, the context would require the verb to be written in the lamehd imperfect form.(6)

So we know the Gap Theory is undermined because of textual and grammatical reasons in verse 2. But there are additional reasons to reject the Gap Theory.

Another reason we have for rejecting the Gap Theory is that it cannot be reconciled with other passages which teach that all of creation was accomplished in six literal days.

One such passage is Exodus 20:11, which states: For in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…. [See also Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 31:17.] The Sabbath rest has no meaning if the gap theory is accepted. Furthermore, one cannot be logically and theologically consistent in holding to the Gap Theory while affirming the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

Finally, in order for the Gap Theory to be a valid interpretation of Genesis 1:2, proponents must be able to prove that Satan and the rest of the angelic host were created and Satan’s rebellion against God occurred before Genesis 1:2. This cannot be done—either by direct proposition or by indirect inference.

In fact, the inferences which can be adduced from Scripture suggest that angels were created during the creation week.

EXHIBIT A: Angels exist as ministering spirits for those who are the elect [Hebrews 1:14]. That being the case, it seems reasonable to believe that angels [including Satan] did NOT exist for billions of years prior to the creation of Adam.

EXHIBIT B: Scripture describes the stars as physical manifestations of the angelic host [Job 38:7]. Some might dismiss this as some type of metaphorical or poetic language, but the construction of the passage in Hebrew suggests otherwise — that to speak of the stars is to speak of angels. This is why the Scriptures speak in such strong terms against astrology and the worship of stars [Isaiah 47:13-15; Amos 5:25-27] and of angels [Colossians 2:18-19].

EXHIBIT C: The stars were not created until the fourth day of the Creation week [Genesis 1:14-17]. While this is not conclusive proof that angels were not existent before the Creation week, the passages cited in EXHIBITS A and B provide strong support for the belief that there is no Scriptural basis for the belief that angels existed prior to the Creation week.

Therefore, if angels [including Satan] did not exist prior to the Creation week, there exists no other basis for believing that some catastrophic judgment on a pre-Adamic race occurred as collateral damage because of Satan’s rebellion.

Finally, the remaining argument against the Gap-Reconstruction Theory is that of the Fall itself. According to Romans 5:12; 8:19-22, death and corruption did not entire the cosmos until Adam sinned. But the Gap-Reconstruction Theory postulates that death occurred prior to the Fall. This is an irrefutable argument against that theory.

So we see that, while the Gap-Reconstruction Theory has a superficial appearance of reconciling the Biblical account of creation with materialistic science, upon closer inspection, the Theory is only credible if one reads meanings into the passage that do not harmonize with the entire teaching of Scripture. One can only hold to the Gap-Reconstruction Theory by calling the plain affirmations of Scripture a lie—and by extension, blaspheming the character and nature of God.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

(1) C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford University, 1917), p. 3. It should also be noted that in his original notes [which were removed in the Scofield III edition], that Scofield also denied the Genesis account of the creation of the sun, moon, and stars—stating that they were part of the original creation but were hidden from view until the fourth day of the re-creation.

(2) Earl Radmacher (ed.), NKJV Comfort Print Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018), p. 4.

(3) Finis J. Dake, The Dake Annotated Reference Bible NKJV (Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Publishers, 2019), p. 1.

(4) Hal Lindsey, Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), pp. 41-50.

(5) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Second Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015), p. 34.

(6) Robert L. Reymond, “Does Genesis 1:1-3 Teach a Creation out of Nothing?” in Scientific Studies in Special Creation (Terre Haute: Creation Research Society, 1990), pp. 9-21. See also John C. Whitcomb, “The Ruin Reconstruction Theory of Genesis 1:2” in Scientific Studies in Special Creation, pp. 32-40.

 

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Unintentional Additions to Scripture

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)*

One of the ways people nowadays add to the word of God is by attributing Divine inspiration and/or inerrancy to features which were not part of the original text.

My desire with this blog entry is to dispel some of those myths — not to dishonor God’s word, but to better distinguish between God’s word and the human traditions which have been added to it.

Nor is it my intent or desire to disparage some of those traditions. Some of those traditions are beneficial, even helpful — but we have to recognize the limitations of those add-ons.

The first myth we need to bust is that any translation of the Bible into English has or deserves unqualified acceptance as Divinely inspired and, therefore, inerrant Scripture.

This is not to say we cannot recognize translations as inspired and inerrant — but that such recognition will be qualified and conditional.

The condition for recognizing translations as inspired and inerrant is the extent to which those translations faithfully represent the text of the original, both as to the words and the grammar.

So, to the extent that any translation of Scripture reflects the general intent, thought, purpose, and message of the original, that translation may also be regarded as inspired and inerrant. This means we cannot dismiss ANY translation as perverting the word of God unless such a translation is disqualified by deliberate misrepresentation and mistranslation of the original in order to advance aberrant theological positions. I know of several such translations which fall in tyhis category — two of note being the New World Translation published and promoted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society [more commonly known as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”] and the so-called “Inspired Version” promoted and published by the “Community of Christ” [formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints].

Other translations which might be considered as deliberate mistranslations would be those which have been “translated” in order to appease and accommodate Marxist ideologies using “gender neutral” language. Examples of Bible translations made to the standard of cultural appeasement would be the NIV revision of 2011, the NASB revision of 2020, the CSB, the NRSV, the NLT, and the CEV.

Yet other additions to Scripture are more subtle. One example is the division of Scriptural books into chapters and verses. With the exception of the Psalms—which has always been divided into individual Psalms—none of the other books had chapter divisions prior to the thirteenth century AD. The division of the chapters into verses did not occur until the sixteenth century.

And, yet, now, when a publisher puts out a “reader’s edition,” with the verse divisions/markers removed, the outcry of some fundamentalists resembles the sounds of scalded alley cats.

The same outcry is elicited whenever an edition of the Bible is published using paragraph formatting instead of verse-by-verse formatting. Now, I confess that I prefer verse-by-verse formatting, but the original manuscripts, in addition to not having verse divisions, did not even have paragraph divisions. Paragraph divisions/markings were not introduced into the Hebrew texts until the early eleventh century AD. They were not introduced into the Greek text until the publication of Erasmus’ published his edition of the Greek New Testament in the early sixteenth century—and in this he followed Wycliffe’s translation into English from the Vulgate.

Another subtle means by which people add to the text is by their insistence that all pronouns used in reference to the Persons of the Godhead must be capitalized. The claim is made that modern translations do not capitalize pronouns referring to the Persons of the Godhead and, therefore, do not give God the reverence He is due.

The people making such claims are, without exception, under the sway of a deviant belief system called “KJV-Onlyism.” The problem with such claims is this—the KJV itself never capitalized pronouns which refer to the Persons of the Godhead. Therefore, KJV-Onlyists are guilty of either ignorance or duplicity for invoking a standard for evaluating other translations which even their own pet translation does not meet.

Conversely, some of the translations most vilified by the KJV-Onlyists — the NASB and the NKJV — make a point that ALL pronouns referring to the Persons of the Godhead ARE capitalized. Other translations which capitalize such pronouns are the HCSB, and the MEV. Some translations take a middle way—capitalizing pronouns referring to the Godhead in the subjective case, while not capitalizing pronouns in the possessive and objective cases. Examples of this are the CSB, the ISV, and the NET. Translations which do not capitalize any pronouns referring to the Godhead are [in addition to the KJV], are the ESV, the NIV, the GNT, the NLT, and the RSV.

It should also be noted that in the original languages there was no distinction between upper case [capital] and lower case letters, as the Hebrew alphabet only has one case. While there is a distinction between upper case and lower case in the Greek, that distinction did not come about until the sixth century AD — over 500 years AFTER the completion of the writing of the last book of the NT. If one looks at printed copies of the NT, even the Textus Receptus — the edition venerated by KJV-Onlyists — does not capitalize pronouns referring to the Persons of the Godhead.

That being the case, there is no case to be made for capitalizing pronouns in reference to the Godhead apart from mere personal preference. One cannot make a case for such based on theological considerations, historical considerations, or even linguistic convention since no other languages make this distinction and, in English, the recognized manuals of style such as those promoted by the University of Chicago, the Modern Language, and the American Psychological Association all agree that such is a matter of personal preference.

Finally, the last manner in which modern evangelicals add to Scripture comes in the concept of “red-letter editions.” I have read “reviews” of certain editions of the Bible which have said that “real” Bibles feature the words of Christ in red.

This is palpable nonsense. Red-letter editions were not invented until the late 1890s [a little over 120 years ago] — by Walter Klopsch, then editor of the Christian Herald. So none of the writers of the books of the NT were like, “Oh, I have to change to a different quill and red ink since I’m writing the words spoken by Jesus.”

So we see that such features in modern editions of the Bible: chapter divisions, verse divisions, capitalization, and red-letter editions were expediencies, inventions by uninspired human designers, added for our convenience—but they are not part of the inspired text of Scripture itself.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Why I Am Not A KJV-Onlyist, Pt. 2

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [Psalm 119:89]*

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160]

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Timothy 2:15]

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

In the first part of this series we examined the assumptions which underlie the KJV Only cult’s beliefs and gave examples from the King James translators themselves as to why those beliefs are defective. In this installment, we shall look at other problems with the KJV-Onlyists’ beliefs and the evidence against them.

One of the arguments advanced by KJV-Onlyists as the justification for their misguided views is that the KJV translators had a perfect knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. As a corollary to this view, they assert that translators who worked on modern translations are inferior to the KJV translators intellectually and spiritually. They basically use a form of circular logic, in which one argues from a point which has yet to be proven to prove that point. The argument goes something like this:

1: The KJV is superior to any modern translation.

2: It is a perfect translation because the translators had a superior knowledge of Hebrew and Greek than any translator who has worked on modern translations.

3: The translators proved they had a superior knowledge because they produced the King James Version of the Bible.

Now I would grant that the men who translated the King James Version were men of great academic accomplishment for their time, but the question of whether or not their knowledge of the biblical languages was superior to what is known today is highly debatable, if not patently false. Certainly they did not claim such for themselves. And, given what we know about the nature of the text and what has been discovered over the past 250 years, the claim is arguably false on the face of it.

In the first place, the men who translated the KJV were totally unaware of the nature of the Greek language used in writing the New Testament books. They knew it differed from the classical Greek demonstrated in the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer, but they attributed this to the language being some special form of the Greek language. We now know from the work of linguist/archaeologist Alfred Deissman that the language of the New Testament was koine [common] Greek, the language of the marketplace and the streets, not the language of the academics.

Consequently, the translation of the New Testament of the KJV abounds in grammatical errors caused by this lack of knowledge. The most glaring of these is found in Titus 2:13, which is a clear testimony to the Deity of Christ, calling Him “God and Savior.” The KJV muddles the translation by making the reference separate God from Christ. They simply did not know how to translate the phrase correctly. It wasn’t until Granville Sharp, working almost two hundred years after the time of the KJV translators, discerned the relationships of regular nouns joined by a conjunction in reference to a proper noun that the correct translation became clear.

Interestingly, the modern translations which KJV-Onlyists falsely accuse of downplaying the Deity of Christ are in agreement that Titus 2:13 presents the clearest witness to the Deity of Christ. The ONLY translation which follows the KJV in its erroneous translation of the passage is the equally erroneous New World Translation published by the Jehovah’s Witness cult.

Another myth proposed by the KJV-Only cult is that the modern translations dishonor God by not capitalizing pronouns which refer to Deity. These are the most prominent translations which capitalize pronouns referring to Deity: the CSB [Christian Standard Bible], the Amplified Bible, the NASB [New American Standard Bible], the MEV [Modern English Version], the NKJV [New King James Version], and the HCSB [Holman Christian Standard Bible]. And the prominent translations which do NOT capitalize pronouns referring to Deity [which according to the logic of the KJV-Onlyists means the translators do not really worship God] are: the ESV [English Standard Version], the NIV [New International Version], and… wait for it… drum roll please… the KJV itself! So, as I noted, by their own arbitrary and capricious standards, the KJV itself should be jettisoned because the translators profaned the honor of God by not demanding that pronouns which refer to Him be capitalized.

A very real example of an error in the translation of the KJV may be found in Mark 6:20, which reads, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Compare this to the NKJV rendering of the same passage: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Did Herod observe John the Baptist, or did he protect him? The Greek term is suntereo [pronounced “soon-tay-REH-ŏh”] and according to all recognized authorities, it means to protect, guard, keep safe. In other passages where suntereo appears, such as Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:38, it is rendered “preserve” in the KJV, giving a correct rendering to the term.

Another infamous mistranslation in the KJV is found in Mark 9:18, which reads: And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. The NKJV renders the passage: And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. The Greek word is xeraino [pronounced “xay-RAH-ee-nō”. This is what is known as a deponent verb where the meaning changes according to the form it takes. While it can mean “to wither [or pine] away” — that is only if the verb is in the ACTIVE voice, where the focus is on the subject of the verb. In this context the verb is in the PASSIVE voice, where the focus of the verb is on the object. And in the PASSIVE voice it always means to become rigid, like a piece of wood when it dries up and is no longer flexible. This is especially crucial when we note what was happening in the passage. The demon which possessed the child was causing the child to have seizures. Anyone ever witness someone having grand mal epileptic seizures? They don’t wilt and become limp. They stiffen up.

Another infamous passage where the KJV translators did not render the verb accurately is in Luke 18:12: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. In this case, the error is perpetuated by the NKJV. The NASB renders the passage: I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. This is another example of a deponent verb, which changes meaning according to how it is used. In this case, the verb is ktaomai [pronounced “KTAH-ŏm-eye”], it means “possess” only if it is in the perfect tense. Here the verb is in the present tense and therefore can only mean “to acquire,” not to have already as a possession.

Another way in which KJV-Only cultists denigrate modern translations is through the ignorant claim that the modern translations have removed parts of the text. They claim that this violates the command of God in Deuteronomy 4:2 because the modern translations have taken away from the word of God, citing such passages as Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7-8, among others. The problem is that they make the assertion without evidence, but based on the unproven presumption that the KJV itself is perfect and therefore is the standard by which all translations are to be measured, not the original texts themselves.
What they fail to consider, or hypocritically ignore is the very real possibility that the Bible version they idolatrously worship may have added to the text something that was not in the original texts, and thereby securing their own condemnation under the same passage they use to condemn others.

Their ignorance or hypocrisy is further displayed when it is pointed out that in many passages the KJV itself has taken away from the word of God. For example, look at Hebrews 9:7: But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. Now look at the same passage in the NKJV: But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance. It is dishonest to apply a standard of critique to one translation of Scripture if one is not willing to apply the same standard of critique against one’s pet translation. But then, from my experience, KJV-Onlyists aren’t exactly known for acting from honest motives or logical, intellectual, or moral consistency.

Another problem with the KJV-Onlyists is their head in the sand attitude towards changes in the English language which have occurred over the past four hundred years. While James White documents many instances where the language has changed such that the Elizabethan style of the KJV [which is late Middle English] is almost incomprehensible, [1] let us look at one of the most famous instances in 2 Thessalonians 2:7: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Although this was a correct translation at the time, the problem with this translation is that the word has changed in its meaning. Originally, the English word “let” meant to prevent, or hinder. The contemporary meaning is to permit or allow — the opposite of what it originally meant. This is why modern translations translate according to what the words actually mean and do not tie themselves to an English word which as radically changed in meaning over 400 years, rendering the passage as For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.

Another infamous example of an anachronistic error in the KJV is found in Acts 12:4: And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. As much as the KJV-Only cultists refuse to admit it, this is an error pure and simple — a poor choice of translating the Greek word pascha [pronounced “PĂS-khăh”]. The word appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and twenty-eight times the KJV translators rendered it correctly — as “Passover.” There is no possible linguistic or logical justification for this error.

What is equally confounding here is that most KJV-Onlyists are the first to attribute the term “Easter” to pagan origins and accuse translators of modern translations of attempting to foist New Age neo-paganism on unsuspecting churchgoers. Why are they inconsistent in this matter — is it because of ignorance or dishonesty? [2]

Yet another red herring KJV-Onlyists use as a criticism against modern translations is that they are copyrighted. They argue that God’s word cannot be copyrighted. The inference being that the KJV was never copyrighted. First, it should be noted that this argument is utterly false. Because the work of translation was subsidized by the British Crown, upon its completion it became the property of the British Crown, and this ownership, unlike an ordinary copyright in modern times, exists in perpetuity. Every publishing house in Britain which publishes copies of the KJV has to pay a fee to the Crown for a license to publish the KJV. Even Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, the largest Christian publishing concern in the United States, has to pay royalties to the British Crown for the privilege of publishing copies of the KJV. That sounds a lot like a copyright to me. Again, are KJV-Onlyists merely ignorant or dishonest?

And, finally, one of the most absurd reasons the KJV-Only cult gives for their rejection of modern translations is that the translators on those translations are not Baptists, but [to use their words] “baby sprinklers.” This is absurd because when one reviews the lists of translators involved in such translations as the NKJV, the NASB, the ESV, and the NIV, over half of the people listed are affiliated with denominations who have strong beliefs in believer immersion. What makes this rationale absurdly ironic at best, if not hypocritical, and reveals the KJV-Onlyists as either total ignoramuses in matters of history at best, is the number of men who translated the KJV who believed in and practiced believer immersion: ZERO. Yup, every single man who was involved in the translation of the KJV was an Anglican—a BABY SPRINKLER. So again, what is the basis for their belief—ignorance or dishonesty?

In the final analysis, the proof of any truth claims rests on two foundation stones. The first stone is that of historical, verifiable facts, and the KJV-Onlyists have no facts with which to back up their outrageous and utterly false claims.

The second foundation upon which the truth claims of the KJV-Only cult has to rest is that of what fruit is produced by their beliefs. When one reads the writings [ravings would be more like it] produced by those in the cult, we do not find the love of Christ which desires that all men might repent and be saved. Their churches are not active in missions, instead they are insular and inbred, placing themselves in the judgment seat over other believers over the most nitpicky issues. They are legalists who would make the first century Pharisees proud with their man-made rules and regulations which have no basis in Scripture. And in truth, when one sees them engaged in various forms of sexual immorality, one wonders, “Where is the fruit of true holiness in their lives if their beliefs are so true?”

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] See James White, The King James Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995, 2009) pp. 276-296, for a detailed listing of the multiplicity of errors and mistakes in the KJV.

[2] This of course is dependent on one accepting the ahistorical myth perpetrated by Edward Hislop in a nineteenth century work titled The Two Babylons, in which Hislop, without any evidence, claims the word “Easter” is derived from the Canaanite pagan goddess Ishtar and represents a springtime fertility ritual appropriated by the Roman Catholic church after the conversion of Constantine. The true nature of the term “Easter” is that it derives from the German word Ostern, which derives from the Teutonic word Erstehen, which meant “resurrection.” So there is nothing pagan about the term, but it is still anachronistic to read a modern English word back into a first century Greek document.

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Why I Am Not A KJV-Onlyist, Pt. 1

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [Psalm 119:89]*

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160]

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Timothy 2:15]

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

One of the more insidious cults infesting the church today is called “King James [Version] Onlyism.” This cult venerates an archaic version beyond what even the scholars who translated it would consider proper—to the point of making one’s salvation dependent upon whether or not one uses this translation alone. They ignore the facts of history, and even Biblical teaching itself. They truly manifest a form of idolatry called bibliolatry because of their literal worship of the translation itself over what it teaches.

They make the following claims concerning the KJV and other translations: (1) The translators of the KJV were divinely inspired in the translation. (2) Where the translation differs from the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, it is advanced revelation which supersedes the originals. (3)Therefore the KJV as it was originally translated in 1611 is the only “perfect” translation and all other translations are corrupted. (4) Anyone who does not vernerate the KJV and use it alone is not really a Christian. But are these claims really true? In a word, no. And we shall go more in-depth into why these beliefs are wrong historically, factually, and theologically as we proceed.

Were the translators of the KJV divinely inspired for the task?

Whenever one looks at the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, one is struck by the fact that whenever the writers wrote, they were aware that what they were writing was Scripture and Divinely inspired. Examples are seen in 2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 45:1; 1 Corinthians 15:37; 2 Peter 3:15-16. Those who penned the words of the books of the Bible in the original languages KNEW that what they were writing were the words of God.

Can the same be said for those who translated what we know as the King James Version? The men who translated this version would be the first to claim that there was no Divine inspiration involved in the process.

It is unfortunate that contemporary editions of the KJV no longer include an important preface written by Miles Smith, one of the translators, called “From the Translators to the Reader.” Originally written as a defense of the KJV against detractors in the seventeenth century, it stands today as a critique against those who vilify and demonize modern translations and those who use them.

For example, Smith wrote in the preface, “Now to the latter [our adversaries] we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [poorest] translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, IS the word of God.” This strikes at the very heart of the KJV-Only cultists’ argument: Because they claim that the KJV alone is the word of God and all other translations are perversions. The men who translated the KJV believed otherwise. They believed all godly attempts to translate the Bible were worthy of honor as the word of God—even the most poorly executed. Smith explained further using this analogy: “As the King’s speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere.” In other words, to follow this analogy, the King’s speech, no matter how it may be rendered differently in translation due to the Translator’s skills, remains the King’s speech.

Smith further notes: “Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see.”

This is important to note. Miles did not claim any sort of Divine inspiration for their labors. Instead, he said, “we did not think much to consult” various commentaries or other translations in the process. The phrase “did not think much” is a colloquialism which means they had no objections to consulting those authorities for guidance in translation.

Miles also noted that “neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered.” One has to wonder: If the KJV carries with it the Divine Inspiration those who slavishly engage in the sin of bibliolatry attribute to it, then why did the translators have to engage in any form of revision and editing? So we see from the hand of one of the chief translators of the KJV that the translators attached no sense of Divine inspiration to their labors.

This brings us to the second error of the KJV-Only cultists: that the original languages must be discarded whenever they disagree with the KJV. This is stated repeatedly by one of their own, one Peter Ruckman, who wrote: “Mistakes in the KJV are advanced revelation!”§ “Moral: in exceptional cases, where the majority of Greek manuscripts stand against the A.V. [Authorized Version – another name for the King James Version] 1611, put them in file 13.”ŧ

What is the most confounding of Ruckman’s statements is this one however: “Where the perverse Greek reads one way and the A.V. reads the other, rest assured that God will judge you at the Judgment on what you know. Since you don’t know the Greek (and those who knew it altered it to suit themselves), you’d better go by the A.V. 1611 text.”† In this statement, Ruckman and his cult make several errors. In the first error, KJV-Onlyism is much like Roman Catholicism. Pope Ruckman has spoken and his followers must accept his declarations as fact without question.

The second error evident in Ruckman’s thinking is that “God will judge you…on what you know,” so people just better accept the A.V. 1611 without thinking about anything else. But when looking at Scripture itself, the teaching throughout Scripture is that believers have an OBLIGATION to examine every matter for him or herself. We are to test teachers to make sure what they teach is indeed consistent with the word of God [Matthew 7:15-20] and beware of those who do not teach the word of God. Those who are faithful in examining all teaching [including Ruckman’s] are considered noble-minded [Acts 17:11]. Those who blithely and blindly accept false teachings, whether out of fear, laziness, or ignorance, are not.

Finally, Ruckman, whether he was aware of it or not, impugned the character of the men who translated the KJV by insinuating that they themselves were guilty of altering the Greek text to suit their purposes. It should be noted however, that Ruckman, for whatever academic attainments he may have possessed, was never an authority in any of the Biblical languages and therefore can hardly be considered a competent authority in the matter. To grant him authority over such matters is like recognizing a mere EMT or LPN as an authority on neurology or cardiology.

Let’s look now at the third question: Is the KJV a perfect translation? The translators who worked on the translation for four years did not think so. Again, the words of translator Miles Smith in the preface: “…neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered….” If the translation was perfect, why was there any need for revision?

More pointedly, and what the KJV-Only cultists do not realize is that the version they venerate without sound reasons for doing so, is NOT the KJV as it was originally published in 1611. That translation underwent revisions in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. While KJV-Onlyists dismiss these revisions as simply “corrections in spelling,” they are either ignorant of the facts or being deliberately dishonest. These were not “corrections in spelling,” but major changes in the translation itself, in many cases affecting the interpretation of the revised passages, as a careful comparison of the 1611 edition and any modern printing of the KJV [which is the 1769 edition] will show. The fact that KJV-Onlyists do not check these matters out can only be attributed to either laziness or dishonesty.

Finally, there is the issue of whether or not a person who does not use the KJV can be considered a Christian. I do not find, in any version of the Bible, where Jesus said that His followers would be known by their slavish devotion to an archaic translation of the Bible. Instead, He declared that the mark of true disciples would be their love for one another [John 13:35]. The apostles taught that our obedience to Christ would be the measure of our true love and devotion [1 John 2:5]. We are also taught that our confession would be proven by the fruit of our lives [Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23].

So what kind of fruit do we see in the lives of the KJV-Onlyists? Wherever they go they stir up dissension, discord, and distrust. Proverbs 6:20 states that such a person is an abomination to the Lord. That puts the KJV-Onlyists in the same category as those who practice sexual perversion. [Leviticus 20:10-21]

But there are other examples as well. Peter Ruckman, whose writings and attitude dominate the KJV-Only cult, was a serial adulterer. He was married four times in his life. He was divorced three times. Although he is dismissive of his divorces as being cases of his wives abandoning him—the fact remains that they abandoned him because of his adulteries.

Ruckman’s is not the only case. I know of one case personally where a vociferous KJV-Onlyist abandoned his wife to have an affair with a woman he had met online.

Of course, one could easily rebut this by claiming that the cases of Ruckman and my acquaintance are aberrations and not the norm. And they might be right, but at the same time, I could claim that such behavior might be the tip of the iceberg. Maybe the others are simply smarter when it comes to hiding their infidelities.

However, what is not isolated in the KJV-Onlyist world is their hubris, especially when one considers that no one in the KJV-Only cult has what would be considered a high degree of education. Even the preachers go to schools where the only Bible taught from is the KJV—so how are they really qualified to do any form of textual analysis and be accepted as credible? It should also be noted that those schools [and I’ve looked at their catalogs, their course syllabi, and their reading lists] are usually no better than diploma mills. Those that do actually require any form of work require a level of academic performance which could best be described as less than rigorous. The teaching faculties of such schools represent a form of academic inbreeding such that one wonders why the schools aren’t located in Appalachia.

The first and greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” [Matthew 22:37]. KJV-Onlyism demands turning off your mind and blindly accepting whatever you are told. In other words, KJV-Onlyism represents rebellion against the greatest commandment.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§ Peter Ruckman, The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence, Pensacola: Pensacola Bible Press, 1990, p. 126.

ŧ Ruckman, p. 130.

† Ruckman, p. 138.

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“The Lord Gave Me This Song,” And Other Nonsense Uttered By Well-Meaning, Yet Ill-Informed Believers

Without going into a long introduction, I’d like to examine some of the top phrases uttered by Christians which seem to have a veneer of piety, but which, upon closer examination, reveal an appalling lack of sound doctrine to back them up.

#1:  The Lord gave me this song.

This was a popular phrase back in my high school days when someone was playing at a coffee house and wanted to introduce a song they had written. I think the basic intent of the statement was to express deference and humility, but it had the opposite effect.

In the first place, the underlying inference in the statement is that the song is a direct revelation from God and not merely the product of a human seeking to express something of God and His ways to other humans through music.

This leads to some serious questions:  Are we to then accept those songs as additional Scripture?  Based on what authority?  Is the songwriter claiming to be an apostle or prophet? Again, based on what authority? Have their claims been objectively confirmed or are we merely to take their word for it?

Another interesting conundrum this statement leads to is the fact that many times, the songs which were claimed to be given by direct revelation from God were awful.  The musical structure was tedious–at least when it wasn’t trite.  Moreover, oftentimes the lyrics, when not lacking completely in any Scriptural foundation, were vapid and shallow, more about the writer than about God.

I am familiar with one songwriter who recorded three albums’ worth of songs claiming that the songs were all theopneustos–inspired by God.  He even titled the albums Songs from the Savior, Songs from the Savior Volume II, and Songs from the Savior Volume III: Come into His Presence.

Which leads to another question, if the songs are divinely inspired, why isn’t God entitled to a songwriting credit?  In the three albums mentioned in the previous paragraph, God’s name does not appear in any of the publishing credits–only the singer’s name is shown. And given the fact all three albums sold enough to merit gold record status–or would have if they had been sold through conventional record store networks instead of through small independent Christian bookstores and directly through his coffee house appearances, I’m certain the singer raked in quite a bit of coin since the label was a small indie label created by the singer himself. So why didn’t God receive those royalties instead?

#2: “We have no creed but the Bible.”

This is an example of what, in the area of logic and debate, is known as a self-refuting argument. For several years I attended a congregation which took this stance.  What became laughable was when they started printing on the backs of their weekly bulletins a statement of “what we believe.”  Here is where the argument is self-refuting.  The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credere, which means… wait for it… to believe. So, this congregation, which claimed to not have any “creeds,” was publishing a creed every week in its bulletins.  So even if one calls it by another name, such as  a “statement [or confession] of faith [which is a synonym for belief],” one cannot escape the fact that one has a creed.

Even the Southern Baptists who claim:  (1) that they are not a denomination, and (2) that they have no creed, have a creed.  It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message  Statement. Last revised in 2000, it is modeled after the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833). Keep in mind, the word “faith” in this usage is synonymous with “belief” [credere in Latin]. So one can legitimately title the document the Baptist Belief and Message Statement. Moreover, at the annual convention every summer, every voting messenger is required to sign a statement affirming acceptance of the Statement before being issued credentials recognizing their status.  In the local congregation to which I belong, all members are required to sign an acknowledgement of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement before being accepted into membership.
Creeds actually serve a useful purpose. They provide a summary of doctrine by which we can know if we are actually understanding Scripture correctly. So any creed is only useful or accurate if it correctly interprets Scripture.

#3: We don’t need doctrine or theology, only Jesus.

Again, this is a nonsensical statement on the face of it. How do you know if what you believe about Jesus is correct?  You have to have been taught what to believe!  No one just picks up the Bible and comes to a proper understanding of sound doctrine by reading it cover to cover like one reads a novel.

For sake of example, what does the word “doctrine” mean?  The primary meaning is, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, “teaching, instruction.” According to Matthew 28:19-20, the primary purpose of the Church, as commanded by Christ Himself, is to TEACH.  So if any church diminishes the importance of doctrine, they can only do so by diminishing their obedience and loyalty to Christ.  If Christ thought doctrine was important enough to include it as part of the Great Commission, who are we to say otherwise?

What makes this statement even more appalling is that I have heard it come from the mouths of pastors.  Yet when one looks at the qualifications for a pastor, we see that he must be able to teach [1 Timothy 3:2], and he must be able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict. [ Titus 1:9]
Paul instructed Titus to speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. [Titus 2:1]

When one looks at the New Testament, one sees that great stress is placed on teaching sound doctrine.

The whole statement that we don’t need doctrine, just Jesus, is also nonsensical because it is a self-refuting argument.  Why do I say that?  Because in making such a declaration, one is making a doctrinal statement.

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Untwisting Scriptures #7: Romans 10:17

So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17

I have often heard this passage misquoted, usually in Arminian circles, but increasingly in Southern Baptist circles, as indicating that all that is necessary for faith is hearing the word of God. According to these Scripture twisters, if we simply present the gospel, people will just naturally desire to become Christians.

Typically, the passage is misquoted by omitting the phrase “and hearing by,” so they quote it as “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”

Such distortion of Scripture is false for many reasons, not the least being that what they claim, is not what Scripture actually says.

First, why do they make this claim and distort the Scripture so? The reason for that lies in their acceptance of a heresy called Cassianism [or semi-Pelagianism], after a contemporary of Augustine, named John Cassian, who sought a mediating position between Augustine’s belief and that of a bishop named Pelagius.
Augustine, based on Scripture and not human philosophy, taught that because of our total depravity, which has made us totally dead in sin and at war with God, we are simply incapable of faith and repentance apart from a sovereign act of God, by which saving faith and the ability to repent from sin are imparted to believers based on the sovereign decree of God as a RESULT of the new birth. Augustine taught that our depravity was TOTAL—that it not only extended to our bodies being subject to death, but our will, our intellect, our emotions—EVERY aspect of our being was dead because of sin and that this condition was passed to every human being through the bloodline. Further, Augustine taught that the only grounds for our acceptance before God was because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Christ’s death on the cross was not merely sufficient to make us savable, but to actually accomplish salvation for those who were the elect of the Father according to His decree in eternity past.

Pelagius, countering Augustine, claimed that the Fall did not result in man’s total depravity, but that it only resulted in man’s physical corruption. Pelagius further taught that one could live a perfectly moral life apart from being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He taught that man did not sin because it was his nature, but because of influences. Finally, Pelagius subscribed to the view that the death of Christ on the cross simply provided us a moral example of the sacrifice to which we are called, not that it had any efficacy in accomplishing the salvation of believers.

John Cassian, as I noted, sought a mediating position between Augustine and Pelagius. However, it should be noted that the actual outworking of his thought places his followers closer to Pelagius than to Augustine, so really he did not mediate so much as try to make Pelagius’ teachings seem less heretical.

Cassian taught that the result of man’s fall was not that he was DEAD in sin, but merely incurably ill. He taught that man did not inherit a sin nature, but merely a propensity toward sin. He also taught the doctrine of “prevenient” grace as modeled by later false teachers in the Arminian tradition—that God embues all persons with a certain amount of grace to keep their wills free to accept or reject Christ. Cassian taught further that it is an act of the human will by which sinners repent and display saving faith, and it is because of their faith that they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit as a reward for their choice. The problem with Cassian’s teachings is that they were grounded in neo-Platonic philosophy, and not sound exegesis from Scripture alone.

So what does all this have to do with Romans 10:17? Romans 10:17 is the focal passage where all these differences are most readily displayed. The problem is that the passage, as it actually appears, does not support the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian understanding of how grace effects us.

Most commentators, not looking at the actual construction of the language, the grammar and the syntax, simply gloss over the passage as simply expressing the need to proclaim the gospel and if we are faithful in proclaiming the gospel correctly, people will just naturally be attracted to it and want to respond.
As I indicated earlier in this article, they do so by omitting the phrase, “and hearing by” from any reading of the passage.

This is where the scripture has been twisted to mean something the writer did not intend. So let’s parse out this passage.

There are two independent clauses in this sentence:

Clause 1: So then, faith comes by hearing,

Clause 2: and hearing [comes] by the word of Christ.

In the first clause, the verb “comes” does not appear in the Greek text. It has been supplied by the translators in order to make the passage read more smoothly. It is based on the Greek preposition ex [pronounced “ex”] with the noun rendered as “hearing” being in the genitive or ablative case. Because of this construction, the preposition + genitive phrase actually acts as the subject of the clause, as that which produces faith, so it is quite proper to supply a verb which suggests that hearing is the cause of faith.

Now we turn to the second clause. It is joined to the first by the conjunction de [pronounced “deh”]. This conjunction may act as either an adversarial or contrastive conjunction [such as the English conjunctions “but” or “however”] or as a continuative [like the conjunction “and” when the second clause further clarifies the content of the first clause]. The context of the passage suggests that it is the latter usage. In this second clause, it is now stated that hearing comes from or is the result of an agent outside of oneself. Again, the verb is understood from the preposition, which in this second clause is dia with the genitive rhmatov [pronounced “HRAY-mah-tohs”], which indicates, not merely a passive speech, but a specific command directed to the hearer, by which he or she is thereby enabled to hear and obey.

This is crucial because, as passages such as Romans 3:10-14; Romans 8:7-8; and 1 Corinthians 12:3 indicate, men and women in their natural estate not only have no desire to seek God, they have no ability to seek God, let alone submit to Christ and confess Him as Lord. Yet, Romans 10:9-10 states that our salvation is dependent upon us not only desiring Him as Lord, but confessing Him as such.

Since our salvation is dependent and conditional upon our confession and submission to Christ as Lord, and we cannot do this without an enablement of the Holy Spirit to do so, when does this enablement occur? It cannot occur before regeneration because prior to regeneration we have no such enablement, therefore it must occur subsequent to regeneration, both logically and temporally, although this operation of the Holy Spirit occurs basically in the blink of an eye as humans measure time, so as to appear almost to be simultaneous.

So, as we see, it is not merely the preaching of the gospel which produces conversions based on manipulating people into making “decisions for Christ.” Rather it is the sovereign act of God in which He regenerates people as He wills by the Holy Spirit [John 1:12-13; John 3:8; 6:37, 44, 65; 17:2, 6, 9-12; Romans 9:14-15; 1 Corinthians 12:3], and in so doing, gives His people faith and repentance.

§ Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. I am aware that some versions of the Bible use the phrase “word of Christ.” This is not a critical variant because preferring one variant over the other does not effect the overall thrust of the passage since Christ is God incarnate.

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