You may need to enlarge this to see the detail. Here’s something to think about as you pay your taxes this year.
On the eve of the nomination of Donald Trump as President of the United States:
My biggest complaint* of the past year has been this: White “Evangelicals” ignored virtually all of Scripture to support a man who represents a near perfect antithesis of Christianity.
I have watched those on the fringes and outside of Christianity shake their heads, and wonder what is possibly going on in the minds of these Christians, and determine that they never, ever want to embrace a religion with such obvious hypocrisy. The Evangelical swell of blind support for a preacher of hate, lust, greed, lies, and ignorance has done more to harm the cause of Christ than anything else I have seen in my lifetime.
But I remind myself of this: Paul explained we should pray for our leaders—and I shall. Paul did this under perhaps the most corrupt government ever seen on earth, where his brothers were routinely murdered for sport.
So I will pray for (as of tomorrow) President Trump. I will also pray that we are spared from the horrors he has promised. I will also pray that the binding of extremism and near-insanity of the Republican Party to White Christianity is revealed for the disaster it is and forever abandoned. I will also pray for the healing of a nation terribly divided—while I, as promised and commanded, pray for the one who most wanted to divide it for his own gain.
1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–7, ESV)
*This complaint is probably tied for first place with the practice of those same people chain-posting completely fraudulent and easily refutable propaganda. (No, that’s the Black Speech from Lord of the Rings, not a school distributing donuts with verses from the Qu’ran.)
My voter registration is now undeclared. (Sadly, no exotic options, like “Rational Anarchist” are available in New Hampshire—not even Communist.)
In a time when a voice of reason is desperately needed, your leadership has proven itself unable to take a stand against an obvious megalomaniac. You continue to propose revoking the victory of universal health care. You have protected and praised racists and worse. You have gone to war without cause, and destroyed our great nation’s international reputation. You have chosen a Presidential candidate who makes Vermin Supreme a rational choice by comparison. You have defended environmental destruction, and embraced ignorance over science.
I am saying goodbye to the sewage-ridden idiocracy the Republican Party has become. You are now, indeed, “Not my circus—not my monkeys.”
“Sewage-ridden idiocracy,” is a phrase coined, as far as I know, by Connor Houghton.
We live in an amazing, amazing world, and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots.
Comedian Louis CK on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
The other day I was talking to someone who said he had heard on the radio that the US Federal government was going to give free digital television converts to welfare recipients, and that they were spending $100,000 each on plasma TVs in prisons. This came from what was described as “the most trustworthy radio news source in the area.”
Frankly, I couldn’t believe it. There was a coupon program to buy converters at a discount, but the program used up all its money, and had been discontinued. (Recently, it has been given more money by the federal bailout, and is operating again.) However, these coupons are available to anyone who desires them, so it’s hardly being targeted to those receiving government assistance.
But I wondered what the origin of these stories had been, so I hit the internet.
It turned out that millions of households on welfare might be given free digital television converters—in Japan sometime before their digital switchover in 2011. The prison story was a little closer to what’s real—the state of Florida’s department of corrections is spending $100,000 total, approximately $1 per inmate, out of its $2.3 billion dollar budget to convert existing television to digital.
Our opinions are often based on incorrect facts. Part of this is described in basic psychology—it’s called confirmation bias—how we filter evidence that strengthens our preconceptions.
But also our incorrect knowledge of history, various sciences, and current events allows us to hold on to incorrect opinions.
This is especially true in “popular knowledge”—think about all those e-mail forwards you receive that 15 seconds at about.com or Snopes could easily refute. Think about all the people who believe wearing a magnet on their wrist will make them healthy. Or all the “Christians” who espouse the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel and can even quote Scripture out of context to support it. Or that rubber tires protect vehicle occupants from lighting strikes. Or that a metal vehicle acts as a Faraday cage. (It doesn’t.)
At any rate, I have been thinking much of late that we should all do more analysis before we speak.
I wish we could all just be smarter.
I wish I could just be smarter.
Could we just stop with the nonsense? Please?
It isn’t often that you’ll find me writing about the world of fashion, but I feel it’s time for me to stand up to a modern gullibility of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” proportions.
To be frank, those “cool,” often expensive, glasses frames that many women (and men) wear, look just plain dorky. They looked horrible in the 1950s, and they still look horrible today. Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s better. The thick-framed glassed of the 1950s and ’60s were popular because materials science and manufacturing expense required they be made primarily from plastic, and to get plastic to be strong enough (especially at the time), they had to be big, thick, and ugly.
Modern materials give us a host of inexpensive and classy glasses designs. So why do these horrors persist?
Jeepers, Uncle Ian, what were you thinking?
Yes, even the uber-cool companies are not exempt from marketing trash for your face. Be smarter!
Now, I’m going to prove my point by borrowing one of the world’s most beautiful faces, normally belonging to Catherine Zeta Jones.
Let’s see how dorky glasses ruin even Catherine Zeta. Here she is before a trip to the local optician nee fashionista.
We hope Catherine Zeta Jones has better fashion sense than this, but many people with beautiful faces do not.
See how bad it can get?
Do you believe me now?
So … don’t be tempted to look like a dork just because all the cool people are doing it! Just like wearing your breeches half falling off your butt, tramp stamps, and bell-bottoms (and virtually anything from the 1970s), just because it is or was popular, trendy, faddish, or in some way nifty, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Spend your hard earned dollars on something useful, like foreign missions, books by John Piper, or World of WarCraft.
And the cooler they pretend to be, the worse it gets.
One of Nichelle’s and my most eye-opening trips was our first part-time missions trip to Mexico together, about 10 years ago. One of the first rules we made for the kids (and future children) upon our return was, “No whining.” (Getting the children to follow that rule has been difficult, but we never give up.)
Americans, in my opinion, tend to be really whiney ingrates. As someone who has seen life from “the other side,” here are some of the things I try very, very hard never to whine about:
- The price of gasoline. (Go check the consumer prices worldwide for those countries not swimming in petroleum.)
- Government corruption. (When’s the last time you had to bribe someone to get a spot you deserve in university, or paid your traffic “ticket” directly to the police officer?)
- The food I am served, as long as it’s not spoiled. (Complaining about the food or refusing food offered is a huge insult in countries where people are not certain they will get enough food every day.)
- The quality of television and movies. (Watch less. Be more selective. Television and movies have always had both great programming and nearly worthless programming. The great programming and films survive and are remembered, which is why we think that all the “old shows” were like “The Twilight Zone,” when most of them were more like “F Troop.”)
- Being bored. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I was bored. Usually, I have so many things that I want to do, I can’t choose between them.)
- The American justice system. (I know it’s not perfect, but for the most part, our criminal justice system is very fair, and we’re even finally learning about victim rights, too.)
- The amount of money I have. (Do you have any idea how absolutely rich we Americans are?)
- My job. (The US is still, unquestionably, the Land of Opportunity.)
- The weather.
- My wife. (Nichelle is awesome, in far more ways than I can count—although I did try once.)
I’m sure I’ll think of a few others.
A number of churches embrace a King-James-Version-only approach to the English Bible, many espousing a large number of associated doctrines that are unsupportable, irrational, and extrabiblical (maybe even crossing the border into heresy).
I do much of my Bible study and reading using the King James Bible. I have really only one major problem with the King James Bible itself: Its language has become so archaic that it is increasingly impossible for modern American English speakers to understand it. Reading the Bible should not require an 1865 dictionary, a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and a Hebrew-Greek Interlinear.
But I do have big problems with any doctrine that teaches the inerrancy of the KJV. I have big problems with those who would actually deny any honestly-translated English versions of the Bible are the Word of God—or worse, claim such translations are the work of Satan. I have big problems with those pastors and church leaders who would make a congregant feel guilty if he or she merely reads a different version of the Bible. I have big problems with people who claim that those who have trouble understanding the KJV are “just lazy.”
(Of course, some would go even beyond this, claiming that the translation into the KJV was separately inspired by God, or that other language translations of the Bible should be translated from the KJV. These are far less supportable.)
Translations are always imperfect. Learn a second language, and you’ll understand this intuitively. Knowing Spanish, I love to find the differences and changes in meaning or nuance by comparing the recorded dialog to the subtitles in movies, or the original speaker to the voiceover in a newscast. (For instance, there’s a debatable translation of a curseword in one subtitled scene from The Mask of Zorro.) To quote the famous Fundamentalist evangelist John R. Rice:
“A perfect translation of the Bible is humanly impossible. The words in one language do not have exactly the same color and meaning as opposite words in another language, and human frailty and imperfection enter in. So, let us say, there are no perfect translations.” (John R. Rice, Our God-Breathed Book—The Bible, p. 376)
One of the tracts I’ve seen is entitled, “Which Bible?” written by David Hoffman, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Rensselaer, Indiana. It is one of the most flagrant examples of ignorance of history, poor research, and flawed conclusions that I’ve ever seen. And make no mistake, one can argue successfully for the acceptance of the KJV—albeit absolutely not for its exclusivity nor inerrancy. This particular pamphlet, however, makes no attempt to embrace scholarship nor rationality, a flaw which seems to typify the KJV-only movement. (Hereafter, quotations from “Which Bible?” will be marked with WB? in parentheses, and have a light blue background color.) I chose to analyze this particular tract because it is readily available, free from US copyright restrictions, and because it includes many of the most often produced arguments against versions of the English Bible other than the KJV. The following analysis, however, will not cover every possible argument for unibiblism. (Readers may wish to suggest further specific subtopics or arguments for later discussion.)
The “Which Bible?” tract uses logic just as flawless as this “scientific” explanation of Superman’s strength. (From http://superman.ws/tales2/action1/?page=1)
It should also be noted that the purpose of this analysis is not to defame the King James Bible. The KJV does have its flaws, some of which will be pointed out, but so do other translations of the Bible. The discussion about which Bible translation is best is akin to discussing what kind of computer is best: The first question to be answered is for what the computer is going to be used. A Bible translation for public reading may, indeed, be chosen with different criteria than a Bible for personal devotions or one for deeper doctrinal study.
The tract exposes its ignorance in one way (although this is a slightly superficial observation) by constantly referring to the 1611 Authorized Version, while not once using it. The author is apparently blind to the fact that revisions involving spelling, word number, and even rewording phrases were made to the KJV in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1644, 1664, 1701, 1744, 1762, 1769, and 1850. (And does the author refer to the Cambridge text or the Oxford text?—They are not identical.)
One of the two major themes throughout the tract is to associate all “modern” versions of the Bible with the New International Version (NIV), making them all bad by comparison. Now, there are similarities between the NIV and other modern versions of the Word of God, but they are hardly all equivalent. One of the biggest complaints many have about the NIV surrounds its translation philosophy: The translators used a process called “dynamic equivalency,” which translates passages using a thought-by-thought methodology. This is, of course, going to be less literal than a word-for-word translation (and has the potential to be less accurate), just as I my recounting a conversation in ideas presented would be less accurate than repeating one nearly word-for-word, as many people can. (Some knowledge of translation processes is required here: No translation is literally “word for word.”) However, the dynamic equivalency used in the NIV is hardly at the extreme of paraphrase (and paraphrases have their place). There are other criticisms of the NIV, such as the changing of gender-based nouns and pronouns, but it’s hardly a terrible translation. Ultimately, the major fallacy throughout the tract follows this logic:
- The NIV is a modern translation.
- The NIV is flawed.
- Therefore, all modern translations are flawed.
One might conclude just as readily:
- Neil Armstrong is a person.
- Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.
- Therefore, all persons have landed on the moon.
Even then, most of the flaws therein attributed to the NIV translation of the Word of God do not hold up well under real investigation, and it would be wrong to discredit the NIV, although personally I would recommend the ESV. Different Bible translations are useful for different situations.
The other major theme is that all variance from the King James Version is evil (even, as the author repeatedly argues, Satanic in origin). This is evidenced by the constant comparison of all other versions to the KJV, rather than to any accepted extant manuscripts. (This view might also be interpreted as viewing the KJV as inerrant. Although such a view is not explicitly stated in the tract, it does seem to be implied.) One should always compare the accuracy of a translation to its source documents. One must wonder why the author does not cite a single Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic manuscript in attacking virtually all English versions of the Bible.
The “Which Bible?” Tract in Detail (Quotations from the tract itself appear with a blue background in this post.)
The tract’s cover shows a cartoon of a man scratching his head, a look of puzzlement on his face. It then reads:
1611 Authorized King James Version
The Revised Version
New King James Version
New International Version
The Living Bible
American Standard Version
New Revised Standard Version
New World Translation
New English Version
Good News Bible
Basic English Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
New Century Version
Contemporary English Version
New Revised International Version (WB?)
One would get the idea that all the versions of God’s Word listed are similar. They are not. Some of the versions listed, such as the Living Bible or the Phillips Version, are complete paraphrases—designed to be easy to read, but not even true translations. (And, in fact, they do not claim to be translations.) Some versions are similar to one another, such as the American Standard and Revised Version, but lumping all of these disparate versions together is painfully prejudicial—much like criticizing an army tank for not having the gas mileage of a Honda Accord, because both are gasoline-powered vehicles. (A little history: My first Bible was a Living Bible; each child at The Evangelical Congregational Church of Easton was given one when entering second grade. I read through it many times, before switching primarily to the KJV when I got older. Although I am now leaning more toward the ESV, I do not accept the use of a single Bible version at the exclusion of all others.)
The tract continues:
The Bible is the world’s best seller, but it is also the world’s least read. The Bible is the most loved Book known to man, but it is also the most hated. Men have died in its defense; men have died as its enemy. If the Bible is just a book like any other book, why such a fuss about its words? (WB?)
The Bible is the world’s least read book? I rather doubt that. Still, perhaps we can allow a little hyperbole to make a point.
The Bible is the most quoted Book in the world, but it is also the most abused and misquoted. How can so many denominations or beliefs supposedly come from one Book? Easy! Men use the Bible to teach man-made beliefs by the following methods:
Subtract a word or words
Change a word or words
Add a word or words
Remove words from the context (WB?)
I love the bit about, “Men use the Bible to teach man-made beliefs.” Indeed they do—such as the KJV-only advocates who claim to have Biblical support for such a position. Furthermore, this tract itself quotes nearly nothing within context, and seriously removes from context several of its key verses. All these issues will be examined in detail below.
We might also address adding, subtracting, and changing words. As mentioned earlier, the author claims the 1611 KJV to be God’s Word, taking a clear stance that not a single word may be changed, yet he quotes from the 1769 edition of the King James Bible, which differs from the 1611 in over 75,000 places. These changes are mostly grammar and spelling, but there are wording and phrasing changes (see http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon10.html for a list), and there are introduced errors, such as the use of “strain at a gnat” rather than “strain out a gnat” in Matthew 23:24, which occurs nearly universally in King James Bibles printed after 1611.
Any one of these methods will S-C-A-R and/or ruin your life. There is one more ultimate method that is able to completely destroy your spiritual life. The fifth method is to rewrite the Bible; write a counterfeit bible to replace God’s Word.
This tract will show the difference between the true and the false. “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezek. 44:23) (WB?)
Here is a typical example of verses being used out of context. One should note the reference to Ezekiel 44:23 is to the priests of Israel who were the sons of Zadok, who had remained faithful to the Lord when the rest of the people of Israel forsook Him. It is those faithful priests who would teach the nation of Israel, restoring to them the ceremonial and moral law of which the people had grown ignorant. One should be very hesitant about applying this specific prophecy in such a general sense; although it might work as a literary allusion, that does not seem to be the author’s intent.
“Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:” says Proverbs 2:11. If you are saved, discretion will preserve your life’s work and ministry (1 Tim. 4:15–16). If you are not saved, learning the difference between truth and error could save your soul. (WB?)
It is difficult to take a quotation from Proverbs out of context—most verses stand alone—so I won’t quibble the application of Proverbs 2:11 here. However, the author’s use of 1 Tim. 4:15–16 is worthy of note, as he clearly chooses to ignore Paul’s instruction to Timothy:
15Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim. 4:15–16, ESV)
In these verses from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul is writing concerning the doctrines he taught, primarily concerning salvation; he makes no reference (indeed, he could make no reference) to KJV-onlyism, which is interesting opinion, but absolutely not authoritative doctrine. The author is hardly keeping a close watch on his own doctrine; if he were, he would realize the foolishness of a KJV-only position, which cannot claim a single verse of Scripture to support it. He would also realize, given a historical study of doctrine, that it has no support from the King James translators themselves, and no support historically before 1930, when Seventh-Day Adventist Benjamin G. Wilkinson published his book Our Authorized Bible Vindicated. (Wilkinson also appears to be the first person to misapply Psalm 12:6–7 as though it were a promise of the preservation of the Word of God.) He would further realize that the great preachers and teachers of the Fundamentalist movement used multiple versions of the Bible, and that none of them were KJV-only advocates. The ability to completely ignore history, however, seems to be a hallmark of the KJV-only position.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Right! Just because “HOLY BIBLE” is placed on the cover of a book, that doesn’t make it a Bible. If a Ford emblem is placed on a Chevrolet, does that make the Chevy a Ford? If “dog” is written on a pig, will the pig begin to bark? (WB?)
One could, if particularly picky, note that the metaphors here are hardly parallel.
There is one absolute standard by which all bibles are compared. The fact is that all bibles are compared to the 1611 Authorized King James Version. So, it is ONE against the rest. Which one is right? (WB?)
The standard against which Bibles should be compared is the original texts which were written. Unfortunately, we do not actually possess these autographs. We do, however, have reasonably reliable copies of those autographs which have been preserved—albeit not perfectly—throughout history. One should note, for example, that, of the over 5,600 manuscripts or manuscript portions that have been preserved, no two have been found to be identical. Typical samples differ 6 to 10 times per chapter. Does this mean God has not preserved His Word? No. It does mean that we must apply careful analysis and study to determine which manuscripts have the best readings of God’s Word. This practice, known as textual criticism, is hardly new. Textual criticism was used by the translators and compilers of the various versions of the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Textus Receptus—and even by the King James translators themselves.
Further, comparing one version of the Bible with another translation is useful from a comprehension standpoint (and was recommended by the King James translators), but is not the way to determine the accuracy of a particular translation, as every translation will be erroneous in places.
The two main defenses FOR the new translations (NKJV, NASV, NIV) are:
- Changes are minor
- Updated for easier reading
The differences are only minor; these bibles are still 95–99% pure”. Yes, but rat poison is 99.99% nutritious. Rat poison kills rats; fake bibles kill Christians. Would you eat bread that is 98% pure and 2% moldy? Would you drink a pure glass of water with one drop of arsenic? “A little leaven leaventh [sic] the whole lump.” (Gal. 5:9) (WB?)
Perhaps the author does not realize that the 1611 KJV differs from the version he has quoted (apparently the 1769 Oxford revision) in 75,000 places. Since these changes were made in part to correct printing and other errors, what might we conclude about the purity of the 1611 KJV. Some errors still persist. Should the 1769 KJV be abandoned as well, because it is impure? Perhaps it would be better to comprehend the true nature of translations.
I am fascinated by the quotation of Galatians 5:9 here. The context of that particular verse is the false doctrine prevalent in the church at Galatia, which Paul was correcting. The irony is, of course, that the author is propagating his own false doctrine while quoting a verse which is meant to illustrate the danger of such false doctrine.
Regarding the defenses for the new translations, the author is missing two vital points:
- Correction of translation errors
- Updating of archaic language
I’m going to quote the King James translators again. The self-described purpose of the King James Bible was to provide an accurate translation in the language of the common people (of course, there were political motivations for the translation as well, but we will take the translators’ own words as factual, even if we know them to be incomplete):
“But we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.” (“Translators to the Reader”)
I will argue, and it should be self-evident, that the language of 1769 (much less of 1611) can no longer be considered the language of the modern English speaker. This troubles me, especially because throughout history so many people have devoted or given their very lives to the translation of the Scriptures into the language of the common man.
A modern reader might be puzzled about the use of such words as trow (meaning think), conversation (meaning lifestyle), firmament (meaning sky), several (meaning individual or single), betimes (meaning early), mean (meaning poor), fetched a compass (meaning circled around), quick (meaning alive), chasten (meaning discipline), or lively oracles (meaning living messages).
As early as 1758, Bible scholars such as Lowth, Pilkington, Purver, Durrell, and Symonds called for a new Bible translation due to the dramatic changes that had taken place in the English language (Thomas Armitage, 1850).
But the most egregious error by far in this section is the implication that variance from the KJV should be regarded as impurity. This may be based on the author’s premise that the KJV, rather than the extant ancient manuscripts, should be the source by which all Bibles are evaluated. (If the former were the case, the Textus Receptus, all Hebrew Scripture ever written, and the Septuagint (LXX) would all fail, as they differ from the KJV, and that would mean that neither Moses, nor Jesus, nor the apostles—indeed no human before the year 1611—actually possessed the Word of God in written form, at least as defined by Mr. Hoffman.) I have met KJV-only adherents who believe that other English Bibles, such as the Geneva, are indeed the Word of God. They seem to be unable to realize that the same argument against “purity” which defames “modern Bibles” can be used to deny the veracity of every other English Bible (or, indeed, any Bible in any language). In the same manner, if one accepts the Geneva Bible as pure, the KJV would fail this “purity” test, and would need to be discarded.
Another libelous implication is that all the non-KJV Bibles listed are “fake.” Although there are seriously misleading translations available—most notably the New World Translation, which was specifically distorted by the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) to remove evidence of the deity of Christ and to support other official Watchtower doctrine—no such intentional mistranslation can be attributed to any of the other Bibles the author attacks.
We might digress for a moment to note examples of the KJV’s own impurity. Words which absolutely should not be in the King James Bible include Easter, Lucifer, unicorn, and bishop—they are not reflective of a single Hebrew or Greek manuscript. Another theory (there is some room for debate on this depending on how one views ancient languages) says that the word baptism was transliterated, rather than being translated to its real meaning of immersion. Essentially, it is argued, in order to avoid offending a non-immersive baptism, the King James translators (like the translators of most other English versions before them), transliterated the Greek to coin a new ecclesiastical term. (Other possibilities for this word include the idea that the Greek word was never properly understood, and so was left alone, or that, given Latin and French influences, the transliteration was reasonable. However, these do not alter the contextual meaning of the word in Scripture: immerse.)
Are Gen. 6:4 and Num. 13:33 in the NIV easier to understand than the 100% pure AV 1611? What is a Nephilim? Try Gen 12:9. Which direction is Negev? Is “dung” updated in Malachi 2:3 or Phil. 3:8? I trow not! (WB?)
This gets a bit complicated, because the author is attacking some relatively obscure translations from Hebrew:
Gen 6:4, KJV: There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Gen. 6:4, NIV: The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
Num 13:33, KJV: And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
Num. 13:33, NIV: We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
I would suggest reading the following Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim. The fact is, we don’t really know who the Nephilim were. Translating the word as giants as the KJV does seems to be a bit skewed toward inserting the favored interpretation of the translators into the translation. I will not pin myself down to one interpretation, as there are a number of very reasonable possibilities. However, transliterating the Hebrew word Nephilim is a completely appropriate translation possibility in this case, as it definitely seems to name some sort of people group. The author here is criticizing the use of Nephilim in the NIV, without considering that giants seems to be an even poorer choice for translating the word from Hebrew.
Gen 12:9, KJV: And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
Gen. 12:9, NIV: Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Here the author again criticizes what is a valid translation: using Negev as a place name, rather than a direction. Strong’s Hebrew dictionary defines the Hebrew word used in the following manner:
From an unused root meaning to be parched; the south (from its drought); specifically the negeb or southern district of Judah, occasionally, Egypt (as south to Palestine): – south (country, side, -ward).
The premise in both these cases, as well as the reference to dung, is that if a few verses are not “easier to understand” in a particular translation, that translation has completely failed to be easier to understand. The fact is, no single accurate translation is “easiest to understand.” Some translations do a better job of translating a particular verse or passage than others. The King James translators themselves clearly indicated that using multiple translations, and even multiple readings on particular passages, of the Bible was profitable:
Therefore as S. Augustine saith, that variety of translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures: So diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good; yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded.” (“The Translator to the Reader: Preface to the King James Version,” by the translators of the King James Bible)
Convincing … at First Glance
The tract then goes into what appears initially to be a valid argument against modern versions of the Bible. However, when examined properly, few if any of these arguments stand up, and many could be used against the King James Bible itself when being compared to the Textus Receptus (Beza’s version), from which the KJV New Testament differs in 233 separate places (Beacham & Bauder).
The following seven categories could be a checklist for the serious Bible student. Compare any new bible (“… there is no new thing under the sun”, Ecc. 1:9) with the King of books, the Authorized King James Bible. “Where the word of a king is, there is power.” (Ecc. 8:4) (WB?)
Notice the deification of the King James Bible here. (I won’t bother to go into the noncontextual uses of the above verses; that should be obvious to all but the most casual observer, as should the declaration of the KJV as “the King of books” followed by supporting it with Ecclesiastes 8:4. One should always derive doctrine from what the Bible actually teaches, not first develop the doctrine and then attempt to find Scripture which appears to support it.)
The next section is truly the most effective, though—these were the kind of arguments that, at first glance, would appear to clearly demonstrate the superiority of the King James Bible. These were the arguments that, while knowing absolutely no history of it, allowed me to think the KJV was superior to all other versions. (The author of “Which Bible?” takes this even further—insisting that only the KJV is actually a Bible.) After all, he questions, it would be wrong to remove or add things to the Word of God, wouldn’t it? This is essentially what Revelation 22:18–19 teaches (although the verses clearly refer only to the book of Revelation, it is not unreasonable to apply them in principle to the rest of the Bible).
18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Rev. 22:18–19, ESV)
Let’s look at the list itself:
- Who killed Goliath—David, Elhanan, or both??? (1 Sam. 17:51 vs. 2 Sam. 21:19)
- Is Mark 1:2 found in Isaiah?—Oops, it’s in Malachi.
CASTS DOUBT—Genesis 3:1
- Mark 16:9–20
- John 7:53–8:11
MAJOR DOCTRINAL CHANGES
- Psalm 12:6–7
- Matthew 5:22
- Luke 23:42
- Acts 1:3
- Acts 4:27, 30
- Romans 1:18, 25
- 2 Corinthians 2:17
- Ephesians 5:1
- Colossians 1:14
- 1 Timothy 3:16
- 1 Timothy 6:5, 10, 20
- 2 Timothy 2:15
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Revelation 22:14
- Matthew 1:25 removed “firstborn” (perpetual virginity of Mary)
- John 1:18 changed “Son” to “God” (NASV—created god)
- James 5:16 changed “faults” to “sins”—(confessional)
- Matthew 6:13
- Luke 4:4, 8
- Romans 8:1
- 1 John 5:7
- The NIV removed . . Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; & Romans 16:24 … Just like the New World Translation!
Now we’ll examine each of these objections in detail:
- Who killed Goliath—David, Elhanan, or both??? (1 Sam. 17:51 vs. 2 Sam. 21:19) (WB?)
We don’t even need to refer anywhere other than the KJV to refute this contradiction:
Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. (1 Sam. 17:51, KJV)
And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. (2 Sam. 21:19, KJV)
Notice the words the brother of are italicized in 2 Samuel 21:19. That means that they were not found in the original manuscripts, but that the translators added them to provide clarity. In other words, that phrase was only added at the whim of the translators, and is an interpretation rather than a translation. It is completely acceptable to remove the words, as they do not appear in the manuscripts we have that contain the book of 2 Samuel.
Examining these two verses in context makes the meaning clear: These are two giants with the same name, not the same person. It is clear from the context of the surrounding verses that the Goliath mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:19 is an entirely different person, as it is an entirely different narrative taking place at an entirely different time in an entirely different location.
However, the books of Samuel have parallel accounts in the books of Chronicles, and making those accounts agree seems to be the reason the phrase the brother of was inserted into 1 Samuel:
And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver’s beam. (1 Chron. 20:5, KJV)
So, if 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel are contradictory, it is because they are contradictory in the Hebrew manuscripts, and a strict translation of those manuscripts should, indeed, omit the brother of from 2 Samuel 21:19. The KJV translators added the phrase to 2 Samuel 21:19; it was not part of the Bible. This does not trouble those who understand the process of Biblical translation and the history of the manuscripts, but it must be very troubling to those KJV-only advocates who rely on an elevation of the KJV which intentionally ignores thousands of years of history.
- Is Mark 1:2 found in Isaiah?—Oops, it’s in Malachi. (WB?)
Jesus combines two Old Testament references here, as would be clear from studying the verses in context:
2As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Mark 1:2–3, KJV)
Verse 3 is, indeed, a quotation from Isaiah 40:3, but verse 2 is a quotation from Malachi 3:1. I would agree that prophets is a better word to use, but Isaiah is not beyond acceptance, and a number of translations use the word Isaiah, depending on the Greek source texts that were used. Perhaps Isaiah and the prophets would be even more correct, and would fit with historical idiom regarding how the Jews referred to the Old Testament canon. Such cases are valid alternate readings. The King James translators included hundreds of footnotes in their Bible, indicating where there was a difference of opinion about the best source to use or ultimate translation (although they were forbidden to include notes on particular doctrine or significantly controversial subjects, as the Geneva and other English Bibles had). It is a pity that we do not still typically see their notes in KJV Bibles.
Count them!!! The NIV removed 16 entire verses! In this category the NIV matches the translation of the “Jehovah’s” Witnesses.
Would you be upset if you bought a road map that removed a few roads or cities from the map? Would you be upset if a few roads were slightly changed or altered? “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. heaven and earth shall pass away, but my WORDS shall not pass away.” (Matthew 4:4; 24:35) (WB?)
Again we encounter the fallacy that all change is somehow misguided or evil. A better parallel rhetorical question to ask would be, “Would you be upset if a map maker revised a map to more accurately reflect the streets in your town, changed the street names for those streets that had been renamed since the first map, or made the lines on the map more legible?” Before condemning differences in Bible translations, one ought to have a basic understanding of their origins. For example, no two New Testament manuscripts, of the approximately 5,650 we have in existence (5,200 of which have been carefully analyzed), are identical. Some of these differences are minor, such as spelling, but many differ in words used or even in phrases or passages inserted or removed. (Later in this discussion we will examine in more detail a significant controversy over one phrase in 1 John 5, to better understand how textual differences and opinions thereof can influence English Bible versions.) There are, indeed, valid reasons to include or exclude particular phrases and verses. This is the very necessary practice of textual criticism, and was a very real part of how the King James Bible was created.
MAJOR DOCTRINAL CHANGES
- Psalm 12:6–7
This is a case of a clear error in the KJV becoming the source of false doctrine. The interpretation of Psalm 12:6–7 to mean that God would (supernaturally) preserve His Word “to all generations” was, as mentioned earlier, apparently first propagated by Seventh-Day Adventist Benjamin G. Wilkinson around 1930. We’re actually going to need the view the entire Psalm to illustrate the problem:
1[To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.] Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
2They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
4Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
5For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
6The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
7Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
8The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
The key problem occurs in verse 7, where the pronoun them is used twice. The Hebrew pronouns do not agree in number or in gender with the Hebrew describing the “words of the LORD” in verse 6. The pronouns have to point back to earlier verses, either the “godly man” described in verse 1, or the “poor” and “needy” described in verse 5. The Psalm obviously jumps around in subject: Note that “They speak vanity … with flattering lips and with a double heart” in verse 2 can hardly be describing the “godly man” in verse 1, as we might expect in English. (Ah, poetry!) The ESV and other versions more accurately translate them as us, although true accuracy in English in this case can only be achieved via a footnote:
6The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
7You, O LORD, will keep them; you will guard us from this generation forever. (Psalm 12:6–7, ESV)
- Matthew 5:22
22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22, KJV)
22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[b]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. ([a] Some manuscripts brother without cause [b] An Aramaic term of contempt) (Matthew 5:22, NIV)
To be honest, I cannot see a “major doctrinal change” here. There are only two differences, and neither is particularly worthy of note. The first is the elimination of the phrase “without a cause,” although the NIV includes that alternate reading as a footnote. The second difference is changing the phrase “hell fire” to “hell of fire.” As it turns out, “hell of fire” is a much more literal translation of the Greek; the Analytical-Literal Translation elaborates this clause as: “will be in danger of the hell [Gr., gehenna] of the fire [or, the fiery hell].” The notes provided by the NIV editors are most welcome, especially regarding the meaning of raca.
- Luke 23:42
42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:42, KJV)
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”[a] ([a] Some manuscripts come with your kingly power) (Luke 23:42, NIV)
Note the lack of the word Lord in the NIV. I believe the author is trying to imply that this rendering of Luke 23:42 specifically denies the Lordship of Christ. This accusation would be valid, if, and only if, the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ were not made abundantly clear throughout the NIV in general. Based on a complete look in English, this difference may have arisen merely due to the differences in translation style, although further study shows its origin to be in the Greek manuscripts and variants used in the translation of the NIV versus the KJV. The Textus Receptus, an edited collection of Greek manuscripts (various versions of which were used to produce the KJV), used very late manuscripts (nothing before the 10th century A.D.) from what is known as the Byzantine text type, which, over time and generations of transcribing, tended to become lengthened with additional words to make reading easier or to refine particular doctrine. (This will be more thoroughly illustrated when we examine 1 John 5:7.) Selecting certain manuscripts over others produces such differences. Claiming that the failure to include this one word results in a major doctrinal change overlooks the full context of a complete Bible translation, and overlooks the historical process which actually gave us our English Bibles.
- Acts 1:3
3To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:3, KJV)
3After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3, NIV)
The only difference I can find here is the use of convincing instead of infallible. In the Greek, the two words translated as infallible proofs or convincing proofs are one word. Both versions here are valid translations, with perhaps the best translation being one that neither the KJV nor the NIV uses: proofs. The word proofs does not require an adjective modifier—a proof is a proof—if it is not valid, it is not a proof.
- Acts 4:27, 30
27For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, … 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:27, 30, KJV)
27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people[a] of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. ([a] The Greek is plural.) … 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:27, 30, NIV)
There is not a single real difference in these renderings, other than the word order in the NIV being much easier to understand.
- Romans 1:18, 25
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:18, 25, KJV)
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, … 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:18, 25, NIV)
Again, there is no real difference in meaning here.
- 2 Corinthians 2:17
17For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Cor. 2:17, KJV)
17Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Cor. 2:17, NIV)
Ironically, the NIV here is both clearer and closer to the Greek context, especially the use of peddle the Word of God for profit, rather than corrupt. I’ll cite Thayer’s Greek Definitions here, which provides a little more detail than Strong’s:
1) to be a retailer, to peddle
2) to make money by selling anything
2a) to get sordid gain by dealing in anything, to do a thing for base gain
2b) to trade in the word of God
2b1) to try to get base gain by teaching divine truth
2c) to corrupt, to adulterate
2c1) peddlers were in the habit of adulterating their commodities for the sake of gain
Part of Speech: verb
A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from kapelos (a huckster) (Thayer’s Greek Definitions)
- Ephesians 5:1
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Eph. 5:1, KJV)
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children (Eph. 5:1, NIV)
Most readers will now see a pattern emerging in the classification of “major doctrinal changes.”
- Colossians 1:14
14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:14, KJV)
14in whom we have redemption,[a] the forgiveness of sins. ([a] A few late manuscripts redemption through his blood) (Col. 1:14, NIV)
Here at last there is a real difference in the rendering, although the footnote in the NIV indicates an arguably valid alternate reading. Remember that the Textus Receptus, as used by the KJV translators, was not prepared from any manuscripts earlier than the 10th Century. Archaeology has given us far more manuscripts (on the order of 750 to 1,000 times more), many far older (although age is not the only criterion to be considered in textual analysis), that allow us to observe and infer the changes that have occurred in the manuscript copies over the centuries. This is is one such case.
- 1 Timothy 3:16
16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Tim. 3:16, KJV)
16Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He[a] appeared in a body,[b]
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
([a] 1 Timothy 3:16 Some manuscripts God; [b] 1 Timothy 3:16 Or in the flesh) (1 Tim. 3:16, NIV)
The key difference here is the use of the pronoun He, rather than the word God. The oldest Greek New Testament manuscripts were written in all capital letters (they are referred to as the Uncials for this reason), without accents or spaces between words. The words themselves were often abbreviated.
According to Barnes in Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
The small, cursive Greek letters which are now used, were not commonly employed in transcribing the New Testament, if at all, until the ninth or tenth centuries. It was a common thing to abridge or contract words in the manuscript. Thus, πρ would be used for πατερ pater, “father;” κς for κυριος kurios, “Lord;” Θς for Θεος Theos, “God,” etc. The words thus contracted were designated by a faint line or dash over them. In this place, therefore, if the original uncials (capitals) were Θ¯C¯, standing for Θεὸς Theos, “God,” and the line in the Θ, and the faint line over it, were obliterated from any cause, it would easily be mistaken for OC – ός hos – “who.”
This particular passage in the Alexandrian manuscripts (which I realize some Textus Receptus advocates reject), has been of such interest, that the extant manuscripts have been examined with microscopes.
Barnes further states:
The “probability” in regard to the correct reading here, as it seems to me, is, that the word, as originally written, was Θεός Theos – “God.” At the same time, however, the evidence is not so clear that it can be properly used in an argument. But the passage is not “necessary” to prove the doctrine which is affirmed, on the supposition that that is the correct reading. The same truth is abundantly taught elsewhere; compare Matt. 1:23; John 1:14.
So, this may indeed be a mistake in the NIV, but it does not represent a major doctrinal change, as the deity of Christ is quite clear throughout Scripture. Furthermore, the pronoun He used is quite clearly linked to the “mystery of godliness,” with an implied antecedent of God.
- 1 Timothy 6:5, 10, 20
5Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. … 10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. … 20O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: (1 Timothy 6:5, 10, 20, KJV)
5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. … 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. … 20Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, (1 Timothy 6:5, 10, 20, NIV)
Here the only difference is the clause, “from such withdraw thyself.” Adam Clarke’s commentary on the Bible notes how few manuscripts actually support this rendering: “this clause is wanting in AD*FG, some others, the Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, and Itala, one copy excepted. It is probably spurious.” Is this a “major doctrinal change”? No, especially interpreted in light of the whole Bible.
- 2 Timothy 2:15
15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV)
15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV)
Thayer’s Greek Definitions backs up the validity of correctly handles. Both expressions are metaphors which mean to do something correctly or rightly.
- 2 Timothy 3:16
16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Tim. 3:16, KJV)
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV)
In yet another case of irony, the NIV is much clearer and more literal rendering, than the KJV on the meaning of given by inspiration.
- Revelation 22:14 (WB?)
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22:14, KJV)
14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22:14, NIV)
This one is quite interesting. Depending on which Greek manuscripts one selects, the changes in the phrase here are both valid. However, one should note that the manuscripts many would prefer, although not the later Byzantine manuscripts, contain the wash their robes phrasing. In addition, within the context of the book of Revelation, wash their robes seems to be a better fit. In Greek, the two phrases are nearly identical in spelling, so it is very plausible that the later rendering “do his commandments” is the ultimate result of scribal error. The bottom line is that we have reliable Greek manuscripts with both readings.
- Matthew 1:25 removed “firstborn” (perpetual virginity of Mary)
- John 1:18 changed “Son” to “God” (NASV—created god)
- James 5:16 changed “faults” to “sins”—(confessional) (WB?)
Condemnation without investigation seems to be the hallmark of this tract.
25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. (Mat. 1:25, KJV)
25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Mat. 1:25, NIV)
If the NIV were truly attempting to remove the adjective firstborn describing Jesus (and thus support the clearly nonscriptural belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary), why would it include the term in Luke 2:7 and 2:23? Furthermore, why would it include Matthew 12:47, Mark 3:32, and Luke 8:20, which all talk about Jesus’ mother and brothers?
18No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18, KJV)
18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,[a][b]who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. ([a] Or the Only Begotten; [b] John 1:18 Some manuscripts but the only (or only begotten) Son) (John 1:18, NIV)
18No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18, NASB)
This variant is caused by differences in the Greek manuscripts selected, but is hardly erroneous, unless one does not believe in the deity of Christ.
16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16, KJV)
16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16, NIV)
Claiming that this verse (or the NIV) supports the practice of a priestly confessional is completely unsupportable. There is nothing in the verse or its surrounding context which indicates this refers to confession to a priest or other clergyman. Just the opposite—the verse clearly speaks of confessing “to each other.” Furthermore, the NIV and other versions are clear in 1 Tim. 2:5 that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” a perfect refutation of the practice of confession or other mediatory prayer. According to both Thayer and Strong, either sin or fault could be used here. However, by using the context of James as a whole, and examining the rest of the New Testament, we can determine which selection is actually best. It is clear from the context that there is some benefit to the confession described herein. Confessing faults or mistakes may be beneficial, in promoting self-awareness, but honesty about sin is arguably significantly more beneficial, as it shows such honesty in the worst situations as well as adding accountability between the Christian and his brethren. Confession and accountability that keep believers from sin could also be seen in the light of 1 Cor. 11:29–30, where illness (as a divine punishment) is linked to sin and hypocrisy in abuse of the Lord’s Supper, which would seem to tie in well with the message of James. (Note: Scripture does not teach that sickness is necessarily a specific divine punishment.)
Of the three examples of the promotion of heresy, not one of them stands up to even minor scrutiny.
- Matthew 6:13
- Luke 4:4, 8
- Romans 8:1
- 1 John 5:7 (WB?)
These partial omissions are the result of different Greek manuscripts or different readings being used. Remember, that of the over 5,600 Greek manuscripts we have (not to mention translations in other languages and other writings which quote these verses), no two of them have been found to agree perfectly. Although most KJV-only advocates would insist that the Textus Receptus is the epitome of perfection, most are blissfully ignorant that the Textus Receptus itself exists in several different versions, that it is (just like the Old Testament Masoretic text) the result of the application of textual criticism, that none of the manuscripts used to create it are older than the 10th century A.D., or that it contains a number of readings that are not found in a single extant Greek manuscript. See the For Further Reading section for a number of books which present the history of the English Bible.
Below I have provided the verses for comparison, and will discuss in greater detail the phrase in 1 John 5:7, which is known as the Comma Johanneum,.
13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matt. 6:13, KJV)
13And lead us not into temptation, / but deliver us from the evil one.[a]’ ([a] Or from evil; some late manuscripts one, / for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.) (Matt. 6:13, NIV)
4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (Luke 4:4, KJV)
4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'” (Luke 4:4, NIV)
1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1, KJV)
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] ([a] Some later manuscripts Jesus, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit,) (Rom. 8:1, NIV)
1 John 5:7–8 is one of my favorite textual debates. The KJV reads:
7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1 John 5:7–8, KJV)
The NIV includes this translation, with excellent notes:
7For there are three that testify: 8the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. ([a] Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)) (1 John 5:7–8, NIV)
This omitted clause, called the Comma Johanneum, can best be summed up by this quotation from the Wikipedia entry on the Comma Johanneum.
The Comma Johanneum is a comma, or short clause, present in most translations of the First Epistle of John published from 1522 until the latter part of the nineteenth century, owing to the widespread use of the third edition of the Textus Receptus (TR) as the sole source for translation.
The basic story goes like this: Erasmus, who was editing a complete Greek manuscript collection of the New Testament (which became known as the Textus Receptus, did not find any evidence that the Comma Johanneum existed in the Greek manuscripts he had, even though it was in the Latin Vulgate. So, he left it out in his first edition.
He also left it out of his second edition.
By his third edition, he had been repeatedly pressured by the powers that were in the Roman Catholic Church to include the Comma Johanneum. He gave an ultimatum that stated, “If I can find one manuscript that supports it, I’ll put it in for the next revision.”
Voila! Off in Italy, a manuscript was discovered, apparently with the ink barely dry, that included the Comma Johanneum. Erasmus was forced to keep his word and include the clause.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible has this excellent summary of this passage:
There are three that bear record – The Father, who bears testimony to his Son; the Word or Λογος, Logos, who bears testimony to the Father; and the Holy Ghost, which bears testimony to the Father and the Son. And these three are one in essence, and agree in the one testimony, that Jesus came to die for, and give life to, the world.
But it is likely this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every manuscript of this epistle written before the invention of printing, one excepted, the Codex Montfortii, in Trinity College, Dublin: the others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve.
It is wanting in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, Ethiopic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc., in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct manuscripts have it not. It is wanting also in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin.
The words, as they exist in all the Greek MSS. with the exception of the Codex Montfortii, are the following:
“6This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness because the Spirit is truth. 7For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one. 9If we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater, etc.” (1 John 5:6–9)
The words that are omitted by all the MSS., the above excepted, and all the versions, the Vulgate excepted, are these:
[In heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one, and there are three which bear witness in earth].
To make the whole more clear, that every reader may see what has been added, I shall set down these verses, with the inserted words in brackets.
“6And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth],the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one. 9If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, etc.”
Any man may see, on examining the words, that if those included in brackets, which are wanting in the manuscripts and versions, be omitted, there is no want of connection; and as to the sense, it is complete and perfect without them; and, indeed much more so than with them. I shall conclude this part of the note by observing, with Dr. Dodd, “that there are some internal and accidental marks which may render the passage suspected; for the sense is complete, and indeed more clear and better preserved, without it. Besides, the Spirit is mentioned, both as a witness in heaven and on earth; so that the six witnesses are thereby reduced to five, and the equality of number, or antithesis between the witnesses in heaven and on earth, is quite taken away. Besides, what need of witnesses in heaven? No one there doubts that Jesus is the Messiah; and if it be said that Father, Son, and Spirit are witnesses on earth, then there are five witnesses on earth, and none in heaven; not to say that there is a little difficulty in interpreting how the Word or the Son can be a witness to himself.”
It may be necessary to inquire how this verse stood in our earliest English Bibles. In Coverdale’s Bible, printed about 1535, for it bears no date, the seventh verse is put in brackets thus:
And it is the Sprete that beareth wytnes; for the Sprete is the truth. (For there are thre which beare recorde in heaven: the Father, the Woorde, and the Holy Ghost, and these thre are one.) And there are thre which beare record in earth: the Sprete, water, and bloude and these thre are one. If we receyve, etc.
Tindal [Tyndale] was as critical as he was conscientious; and though he admitted the words into the text of the first edition of his New Testament printed in 1526, yet he distinguished them by a different letter, and put them in brackets, as Coverdale has done; and also the words in earth, which stand in 1 John 5:8, without proper authority, and which being excluded make the text the same as in the manuscripts, etc.
Two editions of this version are now before me; one printed in English and Latin, quarto, with the following title:
The New Testament, both in Englyshe and Laten, of Master Erasmus translation – and imprinted by William Powell – the yere of out Lorde M.CCCCC.XLVII. And the fyrste yere of the kynges (Edw. VI.) moste gratious reygne.
In this edition the text stands thus:
And it is the Spirite that beareth wytnes, because the Spirite is truth (for there are thre whiche beare recorde in heaven, the Father, the Worde, and the Holy Ghost, and these thre are one.) For there are thre which beare recorde, (in earth), the Spirite, water, and blode, and these thre are one. If we receyve, etc.
The other printed in London “by William Tylle, 4to; without the Latin of Erasmus in M.CCCCC.XLIX. the thyrde yere of the reigne of our moost dreade Soverayne Lorde Kynge Edwarde the Syxte,” has, with a small variety of spelling, the text in the same order, and the same words included in brackets as above.
The English Bible, with the book of Common Prayer, printed by Richard Cardmarden, at Rouen in Normandy, fol. 1566, exhibits the text faithfully, but in the following singular manner:
And it is the Spyryte that beareth witnesse, because the Spyryte is truthe. (for there are three which beare recorde in heaven, the Father, the Woorde, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One) And three which beare recorde* (in earth) the Spirite, and water, and bloode; and these three are one.
The first English Bible which I have seen, where these distinctions were omitted, is that called The Bishops’ Bible, printed by Jugge, fol. 1568. Since that time, all such distinctions have been generally disregarded.
Though a conscientious believer in the doctrine of the ever blessed, holy, and undivided Trinity, and in the proper and essential Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which doctrines I have defended by many, and even new, arguments in the course of this work, I cannot help doubting the authenticity of the text in question; and, for farther particulars, refer to the observations at the end of this chapter.
If we look at just the Greek Byzantine manuscripts, all dating after AD 1000, there are approximately 17 which contain the book of 1 John in whole or in part. Of those, only 4 manuscripts include the Comma Johanneum in the text, and 4 include it in notes.
An analysis of all the manuscripts available to us, including other ancient writings such as letters, clearly shows that the Comma Johanneum is a very recent addition to Bible manuscripts, and, one must conclude, should not be included in our English Bible translations.
- The NIV removed . . Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; & Romans 16:24 … Just like the New World Translation! (WB?)
Matthew 17:21 is included as a footnote in the NIV, as are Matthew 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, and 15:28; Luke 17:36, and 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, and 28:29; and Romans 16:24.
The reason those verses are removed from the main text (in the case of the NIV—many other modern versions actually include them) is that the manuscripts selected for the basis of those versions do not contain those verses. This will shock some who are not familiar with the history of the Bible or the manuscripts archaeology has recovered for us, but people have, indeed added to the Bible over the years. Sometimes this occurred due to a desire to clarify; sometimes it happened accidentally via a spelling change or duplicated word; sometimes a particular doctrine was emphasized via some intentional rewording (as with the Comma Johanneum described above). We have manuscripts which clearly illustrate this; further, we have quotations of Scripture from other surviving ancient documents which clearly illustrate this.
Who changed Scripture? Who is responsible for this confusion? Satan is the author of confusion. Proof? Compare Isaiah 14:12 in the NIV with the truth. “O Lucifer” is removed; “O morning star” is added. Who is the morning star? “I Jesus … am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and MORNING STAR.” (Rev. 22:16) Satan is getting worship by writing a book with “HOLY BIBLE” on its cover that calls him “Jesus.” “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (WB?)
12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isa. 14:12, KJV)
12How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations! (Isa. 14:12, NIV)
This can be answered by going no further than a Hebrew dictionary, such as the one found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
The Hebrew word used here is הילל, or hay-lale’, which means “the morning star.” To apply the meaning of Lucifer to the word is a case of interpretive translation. There are those who believe that this passage speaks metaphorically of Satan, but to insert the word Lucifer (which clearly does not come from the Hebrew) is not at all called for, and may lead the reader astray when interpreting the passage. In fact, the origin of Lucifer in this passage appears to be from the Latin Vulgate:
12quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes (Isa. 14:12, Vulgate)
The author is using a mistake (or at least extreme liberty in translation) in the KJV to argue against the NIV.
Let’s go further and look at the accusation the author is making: All versions of the Bible other than the KJV are forms of worshiping Satan. Perhaps the martyrs (such as Tyndale) who died for the crime of attempting to provide the Bible in the language of the people, would disagree. This is a grossly inaccurate, clearly bigoted statement to make.
Don’t Fall into the Devil’s Trap!
“For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares: they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit …” Jeremiah 5:26–27
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences [sic, 1611 spelling] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and AVOID THEM.” Romans 16:17
Context! Context! The Apostle Paul refers to those who were teaching heresy (that’s the word used for “divisions” in Rom. 16:17), things which were against the doctrine (especially the gospel) which he had taught. One might point out Jesus’ quotation of a common saying: “Physician, heal thyself.” The teaching in this tract is clearly divisive, heretical, and offensive.
What should you do ?
- Believe and receive the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Saviour. (John 1:12–13; 3:1–8; Romans 10:9–13; Ephesians 2:8–13; 1 Peter 1:23–25)
- Believe and receive the King of books, the King James Bible, as your Scripture. (Psalm 138:2; Acts 17:11; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:15)
2I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2, KJV)
11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11, KJV)
17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17, KJV)
15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV)
David Hoffman, Pastor, Bible Baptist Church
722 N. Summer Street, 30th Judicial District
Rensselaer, Indiana 47978 (WB?)
Few, if any, of the statements made by this tract bear up under even the tiniest degree of scrutiny. In a few cases, errors within the KJV are used to attempt to illustrate errors within other versions.
Although this tract is not a complete summary of the teachings of the KJV-only movement, is it a fair representative of what many neofundamentalists proclaim: Only the King James Bible is the Word of God. This is simply not true. The KJV is an important work, written in beautiful language, and represents one of the ways God used to deliver His Word to the English-speaking world. It is, however, an increasingly outdated English version, and no less error-prone than the many other English versions that exist.
Sadly, all too many Christians will readily adhere to extrabiblical doctrines such as unibiblism. When examining this tract, they will look at the verse list, conclude, “See, look at all the areas the NIV is wrong,” and consider the matter no further. They will completely ignore the example of the Berean believers, who were praised for not merely listening to the Apostle Paul’s preaching, but doing their own further study to see if he was correct. Neofundamentalists need to do the same.
For Further Reading
- The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (David Daniell)
- History of the Bible in English (F. F. Bruce)
- One Bible Only?: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible (Roy E. Beacham & Kevin T. Bauder, gen. eds.)
- From God To Us:How We Got Our Bible (Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix)
- Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Craig A. Evans) Although not devoted to the subject, this book contains a number of chapters which illustrate very practically the art of textual criticism.
- I highly recommend using the free e-Sword Bible software. In addition to providing multiple versions of the Bible in several languages, it offers a wealth of study tools and cross-reference features, from Bible commentaries to Greek, Hebrew, and English dictionaries. After using the Online Bible for years, I have found e-Sword to be significantly superior.
- BibleGateway.com is a Web-based tool with multiple versions of the Bible. I have used it for a few licensed versions of the Bible that e-Sword does not include for free.
- “The Translators to the Reader,” the introduction from the King James translators to the readers. This site contains scans from an actual 1611 Bible.
- The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism—an excellent resource on a host of topics.
The following did not quite fit into the analysis above, but are perhaps worthy of examination:
“From Tyndale to Geneva to King James there was a definite movement toward greater precision. This served at least three purposes. First, it sharpened the sword, as it were, of Protestant advocates. Secondly, it served the cause of theological refinement, a kind of dogmatic housekeeping. Third, it promoted wide acceptance of the versions, by allowing different interpretations. Tyndale and the Geneva translators were conscious also of their obligations as teachers, and so provided many helps for interpretation, which were in fact made more needful by the literalness of their versions. But when King James sought to avoid controversial interpretations, these helps were taken away. This was acceptable to most, because it was assumed that a competent pulpit ministry would supply whatever interpretation was needed.” (Michael D. Marlowe, in http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon9.html, in which he noted, “I wish to acknowledge my debt to F.F. Bruce’s book, The English Bible: A History of Translations [Oxford, 1961].”)
I was unaware until relatively recently that the KJV is actually not a new translation, but the fifth revision of the work of William Tyndale:
- Foundation – Tyndale (incomplete; he was martyred in 1536). Published with minor revisions by Coverdale, 1535
- 1st rev. [Thomas] Matthew’s (John Rogers’) Bible – 1537 – combined O.T. texts of Tyndale and coverdale with 1535 revision of Tyndale N.T.
- 2nd rev. Great Bible – 1539 – Another revision of Matthew’s Bible (removed most notes and prologues)
- 3rd rev. Cranmer’s Bible – 1540 (plus 5 later revisions) – revision of the Great Bible (5 editions, total) – actually Authorized (by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury), which the AV (KJV) was not.
- 4th rev. Bishop’s Bible – 1568 – Basis for the KJV, better Greek than Hebrew work
- 5th rev. KJV – 1611 – “Follow[ed] the text of the Bishop’s Bible, unless Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, Whitchurche, and Geneva more closely agreed with the original text.” 1516 and 1522 eidtions of Erasmus’ Greek, including the infamous 1 John 5:7 interpolation. Many ecclesiastical words retained.
Significant Corrections and Edits in this Post
(05/25/2007) Fixed quotation and explanation of 1 Timothy 3:16. I had originally quoted the wrong version and documented it as the KJV, leading to an incorrect conclusion on the similarity between the KJV and NIV. (Amusingly, this is also serves as an example of scribal error.)
(05/29/2007) Edited the paragraph on the transliteration of baptism to include alternate theories. Essentially, there are several possibilities for why the word was transliterated, as well as different conclusions on the appropriateness of doing so; the motivation may not have been merely political, although many writers draw that conclusion.
I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (1 Co 10:15)
I am oppressed by what I like to think of as Christian idiocy. Why is it that Christians are not allowed to think? Christ said the world would think poorly of us, but must we invite the world’s wrath for all the wrong reasons? As I explain to my children, “It’s laudable if your classmates don’t like you because you’re Geekier than they are, not interested in social conformity, or not willing to do what’s wrong to fit in; it is not acceptable if they don’t like you because you smell bad.”
I grew up a Christian idiot. I attended churches which taught things like women should not wear pants (because pants are men’s clothing—clearly they were unfamiliar with Mary Tyler Moore in “The Dick van Dyke Show”). They taught that no one in the Bible drank wine containing alcohol. I believed it was wrong to attend movies (but not wrong to attend live theater). I wouldn’t eat in a restaurant that served alcohol. I found fault with Big Band music. (I once refused to let a schoolmate borrow Allan Sherman’s “You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louis,” to play for his history class; Paul Pendagrace, I apologize.) I attended a large Bible college/church where the pastor’s argument (to loud praise) for why the Bible was the Word of God was, “Because I’m afraid of Momma,” where the students were not allowed to take notes on the sermons, and where every college-owned board game had its dice replaced by spinners. Another very large Christian college prohibits students from reading the Bible in a large common area. Another infamous Christian university has only recently reversed its racist policies, which for decades it claimed were Scripturally supported. I’ve heard everything from tattoos to beards (anyone remember that Jesus guy?) presented as unchristian. I spent decades thinking that I might somehow ruin God’s perfect will for my life, and be stuck with His second-best “acceptable will.” I hated sermons on Hebrews 12, because I had been taught chastisement referred only to punishment (it means discipline), and wondered how I could be saved without seeing evidence of God constantly punishing me. I laugh now, but the wonderful dancing my 3-year-old daughter does, or the way she insists on clinking glasses together and exclaiming “Cheers!” at dinner, would have been offensive to me a decade ago.
Meanwhile, the wondrous, complex depth of themes and doctrines contained in the Word of God and the rich historical background of the cultures therein described were glossed over much of the time.
As one of my coworkers likes to exclaim, “Non-sense!”
Why don’t we compare what we believe to the Word of God? Why don’t we actually study the Word of God enough to know what it really teaches? Why can’t we learn from the Berean example in Acts 17:11–12?
Our churches—and thus, our Christian culture—are rife with extrabiblical teaching. The ancient rabbis declared, “God has spoken, and everything else is commentary.” History and Scripture would indicate that it is indeed human nature to expand God’s doctrine. Indeed, a study of the book of Acts or of Paul’s Epistles will make it clear that debates about such human-driven doctrine were with Christianity virtually from the beginning. Granted, the Word of God was not yet complete, which no doubt added to the debate—but things haven’t really changed. We would be wiser to heed the words of Christ:
7You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Mat. 15:7–9, ESV).
The Separatist Pilgrims had the right idea: One of their constant questions, which ultimately led to their departure from the Church of England, was, “Does the Bible really teach that?” Our American tradition of marriage being a civil, rather than strictly religious, ceremony, comes partly from their understanding that nowhere in the Bible was a pastor shown to officiate in a marriage ceremony. They disavowed many ceremonial creations, such as crossing oneself when uttering Christ’s name, merely because such creations could not be supported by Scripture. A friend who is a skilled student of Greek tells me she often encounters what she calls “Christianisms”—teachings or traditions that have become a common part of Christianity that have no real basis in the New Testament Scriptures.
We sound like idiots because we espouse idiocy. We’ve stopped thinking, because, while we criticize the sound bytes used in the media, our churches are preaching nothing more than sound bytes with a Christian flavor. We’re afraid of starting a discussion of doctrine, either because we are afraid might be wrong or because we lack a comprehensive knowledge of God’s Word. We study our Bibles using “What does this passage mean to me?” rather than starting with a grammatical-historical hermeneutics methodology. We rant about “Biblical standards,” when expecting outward conformity to rules of behavior that have absolutely no Biblical basis, and then we use these extrabiblical issues to divide believers from each other.
“I do not believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” —Galileo Galilei
It’s worth exploring one of the big debates of the New Testament believers: Should a believer eat meat that had been offered to idols?
The first time this is encountered is in Acts 15:24–31.
24Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
30So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. (Acts 15:24–31, ESV)
The scenario was that the early Christians were being pulled in a number of directions. Some people told them they had to obey all or part of the Old Testament Law to be saved. This is understandable, considering the number of Jews who became followers of Christ, who had believed all their lives that following the Law was a vital part of pleasing God. These believers were, understandably, confused. So they wrote to the Apostles and said, “Hey, can you clarify this, please?”
Acts 21:25 summarizes the conclusions of Acts 15:24–31 quite beautifully:
But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 21:25, ESV)
The prohibitions against eating things strangled or animals that had not had the blood drained seems to have not caused much controversy. The command to avoid sexual immorality would be repeated throughout the epistles, though there was no danger of that being misunderstood (although the believers at Corinth seem to have been very skilled at disregarding it).
But eating meat that had been offered to idols (which was, as I understand it, available inexpensively in the marketplaces—essentially idolatry-subsidized food) seems to have continued to be a large controversy. Paul would devote two more passages related to that topic in his epistles (one dealing with specific food taboos in general, and another dealing directly with food offered to idols), providing clear instruction of how such derived prohibitions are to be handled. It is also interesting to note that Paul did not consider the recommendation the Apostles made to be binding; it clearly was meant to address the concerns of a particular group of new believers, an idea backed up in the context of what Paul wrote.
1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
14I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
22The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:1–23)
Romans 8 gives us several important principles for dealing with differences of opinion about what is right and wrong. Key among these is the idea that it’s wrong to flaunt liberty among those who are weaker or less knowledgeable to the point where it causes them to be troubled, or worse, causes them to sin by giving in to peer pressure to do something they don’t believe is right. But notice also that Paul says judging another in either direction is wrong. Those who have stronger convictions about foods were not to criticize those who understood that it didn’t matter. Ultimately, Paul agrees that there’s nothing wrong with eating specific foods, even though some found them offensive, but warns, “Stop tearing down the work of God for the sake of food.” (Rom 14:20, ALT) Ah, balance!
In his first letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul deals specifically with the topic of food that was offered to idols:
1Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Cor. 8:1–13, ESV)
My sister grew up loathing the common ignorance about this passage. We tend to use it metaphorically, failing to see the obvious fact that the Apostles were describing a real, practical, everyday situation.
The night was hot and still, a power outage meant that the ceiling fans weren’t moving and the hiss of the gas lanterns made the small brick church in central western Brazil seem even hotter than usual. The pastor was away, so one of the deacons was leading the Wednesday night Bible study. He read the passage [1 Cor. 8], halting a bit here and there, for he was more accustomed to farming and outdoor work than to reading. I wondered what he could possibly find to say about this rather obscure passage. To my surprise, he looked up from his Bible, his sun wrinkled face beaming and said, “Oh my brothers and sisters, how kind the Lord is to give us a passage like this that tells us just what we need to know! You know that the owner of the big ranch that is close to our property is having a party and has invited us all. But he has told us that he is going to sacrifice the bull to the voodoo gods before he barbecues it. Here we have the answer to whether or not we can eat the meat at the party!” (Frances Wilcox Matheson, unpublished study of 1 Cor. 8 )
Verse two is very much in need of being noted: “If you think you know everything, you’re wrong.” We often disregard further education in a matter. (Paul’s further instruction regarding meat should cast illumination on the fallacy of this idea.) I’ve heard people tell me when discussing doctrine, “I studied this x years ago …” with no interest in even consideration of further study. I try to always be aware that some of the things I believe so deeply now may change in the next decade or even less; one cannot grow in knowledge without having to revise some opinions.
Paul clarifies who is likely have trouble eating meat offered to idols (v. 7)—those who formerly worshiped them. I have often seen that a person who has newly been brought to grace will be very sensitive about certain areas in which sin dominated in their particular lives. Over time, this tends to change, as the believer’s knowledge increases and faith becomes stronger.
But is all this loving? Why even bring to the table such a discussion? Because this Christian idiocy does nothing to help the cause of Christ; just the opposite. We impose our own nonbiblical standards on other believers, completely contrary to the Scripture. We make them guilty—causing them to sin. Or, we are proud of how righteous or spiritually sound we are, either from the approach of liberty or the approach of restrictions. This stubborn insistence on self-righteousness ignores the love we are commanded to show to our brothers.
Does it mean that there aren’t things which are obviously wrong for a believer? Of course not. God’s Word is full of commandments about how a believer should live his life. Drunkenness (but not drinking) is prohibited. Dishonesty is prohibited. Sexual immorality (a much more expansive word in the Greek than the KJV’s fornication would imply) is prohibited. Gossip and backbiting are prohibited. Revenge is prohibited. Hatred is prohibited—and its presence is used to disprove faith in Christ.
But so much is also prescribed. Adhering to sound doctrine is prescribed. Edifying other believers is prescribed. Giving is prescribed. Propagating the gospel is prescribed. Studying the Bible is prescribed. Earnest prayer is prescribed. Loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is prescribed. Why do our children think practicing Christianity is merely composed of avoiding a long list of behaviors defined as unrighteous? Pastor Erik DiVietro put it this way:
I am a Christian, but I’m often ashamed of it. Don’t get me wrong! I am not ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ—it is the hope of salvation for the world. I am not ashamed of HIM; I am ashamed of the people who take his name and then use him as an excuse to be arrogant, self-righteous snobs.
The church is the hope of the world, but we pretend like we’re the center of the world instead. Everyone should look like us, sound like us. We never consider anything outside ourselves. Forming a Christian opinion often goes like this: (a) This is what I like to do. (b) This is a verse I can use to say that it is good to do what I like to do. (c) I will try to coerce everyone else to do what I like to do. (d) I am spiritual doing what I like to do even if no one else agrees with me. (e) I can look down on those carnal people who don’t do things like I do. (Erik DiVietro, “Fear of Becoming an Activist”)
I am not saying that personal holiness is wrong, nor am I flaunting my liberty in Christ, saying, “Ha! Look what I can do!” Scripture—the revealed will of God—needs to be our first directive for behavior. I will strive to be loving toward those who are weaker or less knowledgeable Christians, which means I won’t try to coerce them into behavior they might find sinful, nor try to mash my own derived applications of Scripture into their heads.
I am angered at the disregard for the deep and the elevation of the shallow in modern Christianity. I’m mortified by the lack of Bible knowledge that is actively persisted in our churches, while the same tired “Christianisms” and misapplied, historical taboos are given serious weight. I’m saddened by the labeling that allows us to exclude any believer who falls even slightly outside our cliquish assemblies’ definitions of likemindedness.
We should be ashamed.