OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

A Review of Biblical Interpretation

I have written a number of articles that talk about different rules and principles important to Scriptural Interpretation and I am putting them together here.  This will highlight the major points that have been discussed in articles and you can go to the referenced article for more insight.

Those rules include:

  • sticking to what God reveals in his word, avoiding opinions, assumptions, speculations and private interpretation so that we rightly divide the scripture,
  • examining scripture in both the local and larger contexts,
  • using translations that accurately reflect the meaning of the text,
  • doing word studies where necessary to get to the precise meanings of the original words used,
  • comparing texts with texts and other writings to find and eliminate changes that have crept into the texts,
  • recognizing figures of speech where applicable,
  • differentiating between the verses addressed to us and those that are for our learning,
  • being aware that the apostles prophesied that there would be teachers rise up and teach twisted scriptures, misinterpreted scriptures to lead people astray, and more.
  • watching punctuation. There is no punctuation in the texts that we translate our Scriptures from. And as there is not a one-to-one correlation between languages the theology of the translators affects the translation to show the theology of the translator.
  • watching capitalization. The originals are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and this affects the meaning.

Let’s talk more about what all this means. First, in The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed we see that part of the word of God is that only some things about God and the spiritual world are revealed. Other things are secret.

The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 WEB)

And the things of God that are not revealed are unsearchable!

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised! His greatness is unsearchable. (Psa 145:3 WEB)

We can’t think like God. Unsearchable means that there is no place that we can look to find out what we want to know about the hidden things of God. God says we can’t figure him out, we don’t even think like him:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9 WEB)

As I said in that article, “The trick is to stick to the text of the word of God, as original as can be found, not adding or subtracting from it. And sticking to what is revealed. Especially remember the downfall of inductive reasoning, that we will never in our current form have enough information to inductively conclude things on God’s plane.

So don’t be afraid to say that there isn’t enough information to know something.  It’s a basic rule in understanding the word of God.”  This also applies to philosophy.  Using words and terms not in scripture is not properly handling the word of God.  Using inductive logic to guesstimate things about God violates the Not Enough Information rule because humans are incapable of understanding God like all other things on the earth. Beyond what has been revealed in scripture we can’t understand his ways because he said his ways are unsearchable.  That’s either true or it’s not.  Scripture says it so I believe it. Beyond what scripture says we can’t understand his thinking because he revealed to us that his thoughts are not our thoughts, that they are beyond us.

Also in that article are comments on the importance of context.  Taking something out of context is a recognized principle in communications of any sort. In the article, I talk about the word all and how all has several meanings, all that there is and all that is available.  You have to look at the context to see which meaning it has.  And it’s not okay to speculate on what Jesus’ words meant, the example of the sower and the seed shows a time when a parable meaning is revealed in the context.

In T 1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1, Rightly Dividing the Word of God we see some of those rules about rightly dividing the word of God and staying away from private interpretations, personal opinions, and impressions of what you and I might think the scriptures mean.  That includes going to the scriptures with preconceived ideas instead of looking at what the scriptures actually say and believing that.  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but I want to know what God meant, what his interpretation is.  And, as Daniel said:

 “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen 40:8b ESV)

Both the words of God and the interpretation of them belong to God.  I want to discuss a particularly strongly worded section of scripture:

I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him. (Deu 18:18-22 WEB)

God is explaining how he works with prophets here. We are talking about people with the office of a prophet, the gift ministry. There are some examples of personal prophecy in the Old Testament but mainly in the New Testament where God through the Spirit gives words of edification and comfort for individual spirit-filled believers to deliver to the ones around them. That’s not the office of a prophet. The office of the prophet predicts famines, wars, and other calamities. The office of a prophet goes to Kings and gives them messages of what the enemy is doing and saying in their bedrooms. The office of the prophet is given visions and words to deliver to the body at large. That’s the kind of prophet we’re talking about here. “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.” Right here we have the prophecy model. God gives the prophet words to say and the prophet says them. Period. End of story. That’s how prophecy works. There are no committees. There are no councils of bishops. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers…”  God selects an individual from the believers and “raises” them up. God works with an individual to be his spokesperson.  In the previous article, we talked about how we got the word of God through the prophets.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was not a council to develop doctrine.  It was a council to resolve a simple issue, and the spirit was involved as it is written in verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…”

What does God’s word say about how we are to treat the words of the prophet, the things revealed by the prophets?

“Whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” says if you don’t listen to God’s word given by the prophet, it’s on you. We are charged to follow the words of the prophet because they are God’s word.

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” This is the most strongly worded part of this section. This is part of the law. (In the New Testament believers are warned to avoid false prophets and false teachers with no mention of the death penalty as under the law.) There is some further explanation on how to tell whether somebody speaks presumptuously, and that is the last part of the section. “You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.”

Let’s take a minute and talk about the word “presumptuously”. It comes from the Hebrew zood or zeed (H2102 in Strong’s) and it has to do with being proud, haughty or presuming.  This points to pride as a cause for someone to speak for God when God hasn’t given them that gift. Look at this:

… We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. (1Co 8:1-2 WEB)

The above verse says that knowledge puffs up. The Greek word is phusio (G5448), which means to blow up, but figuratively means to make proud or haughty.  The above verse is a warning against becoming proud or haughty the more you know. “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know” means that no matter how much you know, don’t get proud because we really don’t know that much.

So, looking at that in context with prophets speaking presumptuously we can see that the temptation for the prophet who has been blessed with knowledge from God is to get proud and to speak more than what God has revealed. But the warning against knowledge puffing up doesn’t just apply to prophets. The warning in first Corinthians is to all of us not to get proud and think we know more than we really do. A Ph.D. from University does not imbue us with revelation knowledge about God. 30 years of pastoring or teaching people in the world gives us a lot of experience, but don’t get proud and presume you know more than you know.

Whether or not something comes to pass is the standard for evaluating a prophet.  Now all kinds of people think that things, certain things, are going to happen all the time and they don’t. A while back people were talking about how long the covid pandemic was going to last. Different people offered different opinions. When people asked me, I thought about it, even prayed about it, and was pretty certain that the government would come up with a plan to vaccinate people by a certain time which was the end of summer in 2021. So, I told people I thought that things would be getting back to normal around that time. However, I did not have any clue about the resistance against vaccination not only here in the United States but in different places around the world. I was shocked to see the extent of vaccination resistance that would prolong the length of this pandemic although I did have an inclination that normal might be different even after people started getting vaccinated. Long story short, we are way past the end of the summer 2021 and the pandemic is still affecting people’s lives. I was wrong, as were a lot of other people. But we weren’t claiming that we had gotten the word of the Lord on it. My thinking was to try to be as upbeat and optimistic as possible and help people look for a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there were people who proclaimed that they knew from God when things would happen.  For example, “29 February 2020 T.B Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria prophesied that Covid-19 will vanish on 27 March 2020.”[1]  It did not.  There are articles on the damage that false prophets did not only in Africa but other places as well.[2]

The church of grace to which you and I belong is not charged to kill false prophets, but we are warned of them and advised to steer clear of them.

Nevertheless, we got the word of God, the scriptures, from prophets, and we are charged to heed what they say. Christian philosophy is the wisdom that we get from the word of God and we are charged to treat it just like we are charged to rightly divide without private interpretation of all of God’s word.

And as far as the situation with prophets and the sin of presumption goes, the same goes for teachers.  Knowledge can puff them up too.  And combine a teaching institution that combines scripture with the worldly methods and tenets of philosophy and you have a recipe for producing false teachers.

The problem with errors in some translated verses is discussed in Examples of Scribal Forgeries in the Bible, There are Numerous Variations in the Texts From Which We Get The Bible; Using an Interlinear Text To See Them, and Trinitarian Forgeries in the New Testament.
For example,

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29 KJV)

“and fasting” is not in some texts.  And fasting appears to be added by zealous scribes emphasizing the fasting and asceticism movements that became popular in the centuries after Christ.

Or the Johannine Comma example. The words “ in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth” are added to 1 John 5:7-8. You can ignore these words. This is generally accepted.[3]

Or the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53 to 8:11, is missing from many texts.  As touching as it is, you can ignore it.

Filtering out changed and added verses is part of rightly dividing scripture.  Interlinear texts can help you see the variations in manuscripts.

In The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies we again see the importance in rightly dividing scripture of studying the terms in the scriptures in the original language and then doing word studies of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words to determine whether the translation accurate represents the meaning of the author.

For example, in H3 Four kinds of love in the Bible, When Love is not Love we see that the word “love” can actually come from four different Greek words

The four words are:

  • Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
  • Phileo – friendship
  • Eros – sexual, romantic love
  • Storge – familial affection

This teaching talks about how God’s love is not sexual love which is not family affection which is not the friendship of good friends. The different Greek words really change the meaning of the text and the teaching derived from it.

Or, even prepositions, can have different meanings. For example, en in Greek means a number of things, often “in”, but also “for the sake of” and other meanings.  In “We are created in Christ” in Ephesians 2:10 “in” is the Greek preposition en. It shows we have our eternal purpose in Christ. So, the verse:

For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. (Col 1:16 WEB)

“By” is the Greek word en.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus is the agent of creation, which translating it as “by” implies.  “By” is a mistranslation. Neither does the section “through him and for him” make him the agent of the original creation any more than the verse that says we are created in him make us literally in his Christ’s person, yet we are created in Christ.

The context of this section of scripture actually describes the creation of the new Church in Christ that started on Pentecost.  Colossian 1:13 “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love” describes just that.  Colossians 1:15-23 describes Jesus Christ in action as head of the Church setting things up.  Jesus is the firstborn, we are people born after him.  He is the most important, though, before anything else (v. 17). and he holds everything together in the body.  The context of this section is the workings of the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. That’s what it says right here:

He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18 WEB)

Now everything was created with Christ in mind.  Jesus Christ was the end game from the beginning.  But it’s easy to take things out of context and just read words like creation, heaven and earth, change “in” to “by” and say this verse is saying Jesus is God almighty, but that is twisting this scripture.

Nevertheless, this verse isn’t an easy translation.  The rule is that more difficult verses have to be translated in light of more clear verses.  As we will see below, all power and authority rest in God the Father alone. Verses like John 17:3 and 1 Cor 15:24-28 explain that below and translating  Colossians 1:16 as Jesus is God Almighty contradicts those verses and others. Jesus, as mighty as God the Father has made him is God’s agent who was elevated to his current level of power when he accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross for all of us.  That is when he was seated on the right hand of the Father. But the whole plan of creation centers around Jesus Christ, his only begotten son.

We need to watch prepositions when we look for the meanings of verses.  Prepositions can have different meanings depending on the context.

We especially don’t want to substitute synonyms for words in a translation based on their modern English meanings.  That goes for other languages as well because it is a well-known fact that languages are always changing and the meanings of words can change.  Did you know that leech originally meant doctor, and flux originally meant diarrhea?[4] Or that nice used to mean foolish or simple while hussy comes from the word housewife?[5] Its important to get to the meaning of the words and terms at the time they were written.

In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions we look at the importance of understanding figures of speech and not taking sections of text that use, for example in Proverbs 8 and  John 1, personification to be literal.  Both those sections of scripture speak of wisdom and the Logos as if they were persons when they are not, they are attributes of godliness and the spirit.  Figures of speech are used in scripture and in life to emphasize certain points but it is a huge mistake to take them literally.  For example, Napoleon was a giant in history.  This statement emphasizes that Napoleon had a huge impact on history, not that he was physically a giant.  In fact, Napoleon was a short man and there was not physically anything giant about him at all. While God’s wisdom and logos are huge parts of how God works, they are not actually equal to God. Still, we want God’s wisdom and logos in our lives because they are so dynamic.  That is why they are emphasized in scripture. There are numerous figures of speech besides personification.

Also, the same rules apply to rightly-dividing godly wisdom and philosophy as to rightly dividing God’s word because God’s wisdom comes from God’s word.

In All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations we see that we can learn from all scripture but only part of it is addressed to us. Adam and Eve only had one law, to not eat of one tree in the midst of the garden, but they did and the rules changed.  The patriarchs after Adam had a laxer set of rules in that administration.  The Law brought a rich but strict administration full of pageantry and ritual with numerous specific laws that were to be followed diligently.  It had an assortment of feasts and offerings but also the stiff penalty system of the eye for an eye and the death penalty for a number of offenses. Christ fulfilled the Law and brought us to the administration of the church of Grace.  The letters of the Apostles are written to the church of grace and we are charged to follow the traditions in those letters, the epistles.  As we are told not to follow the Law we don’t circumcise or follow the dietary laws etc.

We need to be wary of the possibility of scriptures being twisted in the different denominations and traditions. In T 1.3.2, The Apostles Prophesied That Misinterpreted Things Would Be Taught, While They Were There, After They Passed, And In Later Times we look at how the apostles prophesied that scripture would be twisted by people both in and outside the church and the importance of avoiding twisted scripture.  This is very prevalent these days as there are many, many disagreements on what the scriptures say. God hasn’t told some believers that the manifestations of the spirit ceased while he tells others that manifestations of the spirit are available to all during the church of grace administration.  It is twisting scripture to say the manifestations ceased. T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches and T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine show examples of traditions developed based on twisted meanings of scriptures as well other errors in rightly dividing scripture.

We need to be aware of how punctuation affects translation and meaning. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available we see the example of Acts 24:14, which says,

When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Act 21:14 WEB)

But there is no punctuation in Koine Greek, just letters all running together.  The translated words just are:

When he would not be persuaded we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.

Rearranging the words as translated just to make read like it was written in Greek, Acts 21:14 reads “And since he was not being persuaded we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” In other words, the prophets and believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord.  So this is where it gets tricky.  Tradition evidently had grown to the point where the translators believed Paul followed the will of the Lord here so a straightforward translation of 21:14 doesn’t fit with that.   So, by adding commas, you can change the meaning of this verse.  Look at this verse:

“And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done.”  That could mean that they reversed their position, or that they were saying that the will of the Lord is going to happen here even though Paul was warned.

This is an example where the punctuation completely changes whether “the will of the Lord be done” was said or not, and if it was what it meant.  It’s also an example that shows that the theology of the translators may override the true meaning of the text.

We need to be aware of changes in meaning by the use of capitalization. The original texts are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and it affects the meaning.  In T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father we see how the theology of the translator determines the use of capitalization.  In English God refers to the Supreme Deity, God the Father, the Creator. Small “g”, god, can mean people like judges, magistrates, the Adversary, devil spirits, Lords, Kings including the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  The point of that article is to show that the term “god” in scripture applies to a number of entities so just because someone is called god doesn’t make them God the Father. As I wrote in the above mentioned post, it may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called god in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus himself delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Jesus himself tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

It is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.

Still, this area is an example that shows where the use of the capital G in God and other words referring to Jesus infers that Jesus is God over all when scriture says Jesus is and always will be subject to God the Father.  To properly understand the scriptures you have to watch out for capitalization errors.

We can reduce the thousands of denominations and myriad disagreements over what scripture says by sticking to these principles of rightly dividing the word of God.

[1] Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590051X21000332

[2] Realistic Hope, Not False Hope: Prophecy and COVID-19, PAULINE WANJIRU NJIRU,
JUNE 8, 2020, https://jpcp.org/realistic-hope-not-false-hope-prophecy-and-covid-19/

[3] http://www.bible-researcher.com/comma.html is one site that points this out.

[4] Five words that have changed meaning over time, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/znbct39

[5] 20 words that once meant something very different, https://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/

Revised 2/21/2022

February 3rd, 2022 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments

All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations

Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, (2Ti 3:16 WEB)

Scripture is the Greek word graphe (Strong’s G1124) which just means writing. Of course, this verse is not saying that everything that has been written in the world is God-breathed. That would be ridiculous, everything in the local library is not God-breathed. Every here just means every writing that is part of the word of God. But look what this verse says about those writings. It uses the figure of speech “God-breathed” to emphasize these words emanated from God even though they had human writers. And it lists three different uses or profits. The first is to teach us. Some versions use the word doctrine, but doctrine just means teaching. The second is reproof which is to tell us when we’re doing something wrong. And the third is correction, which is what to do instead of what we are doing wrong.

The biggest point above is that God is the source of his word which can teach us, reprove us, and correct us. Next, we’ll start to see that everything written, even though we can learn from it, is not written to us.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 WEB)

This verse says that the things written before, before meaning before Christ died and paid the price for our sins, were for our learning. They were not written to us, even though there’s a lot of things we can learn from them, and even some things that are universal principles of God. But we shall see that, specifically, things like the law were written only to the children of Israel, and not to us.

Let’s look at another example:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mat 19:21 WEB)

This is not a command for everyone to sell everything they have and give what money they receive to the poor!  Jesus gave this instruction to a young ruler who had great possessions.  How do I know that? Because we read it in the following verse.

But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. (Mat 19:22 WEB)

Jesus was teaching here that it is difficult for people with earthly riches to be part of the kingdom of God. How do I know that? Because of these verses.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.” When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mat 19:23-26 WEB)

Jesus taught here that it’s hard for someone with wealth to enter into God’s kingdom. But he didn’t say it was impossible, in fact, here is where he says that with God all things are possible. Now I’m not saying that Jesus only said that this one person has to sell what he has and give to the poor. That message has probably been given to people via the spirit to people on a regular basis who have great wealth and are not able to enter the kingdom of God because their wealth is controlling them. But here Jesus is just not saying it to everyone.  He just said it to that one man although others might profit from following suit.  The point is it’s not written to everyone.  All Christians are not called to give everything away.

Here’s an important concept in Scripture; the Law and who it was given to.

who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; (Rom 9:4 WEB)

The above verse says that the law was given to the children of Israel.

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that you may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. (Deu 4:1 WEB)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days,” says the Lord; “I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Heb 8:10 WEB)

The above verse refers to the fact that God gave the Law as a start, afterward he would put a law in the hearts of his people.  But first, the children of Israel were given the Law.

The children of Israel were bound to all the penalties, and rituals specified in the law.  It is important to remember that much of the law was the civil law of a sovereign nation in the world. Whether or not we agree with some of the strict penalties today we have civil authorities that inflict punishment for crimes but the children of Israel were a theocracy, a nation-state where priests rule the state in the name of God with the laws given by him. Our laws of retribution, lex talionis, are founded on the eye for an eye component of the Law. As barbaric as some of the law may seem modern legal education teaches that lex talionis as outlined in the Law actually changed the practice of lawful punishment in the world.  It introduced a policy of proportional restraint in punishment.[1]

The Law had civil, ceremonial, and moral components. The civil law had that eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, lex talionis, basis.  The ceremonial law included circumcision, as well as offerings and feasts. The moral law included the 10 Commandments, you shall not murder, lie, steal, covet, etc. And while the law is fulfilled, it’s impossible to walk by the spirit of God today, and not honor the moral law of God even though we are no longer bound to the Law of Moses.

But the Law was imperfect, just a shadow of the things to come.

For the law, having a shadow of the good to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (Heb 10:1 WEB)

But Christ fulfilled the law and ushered in the administration of grace.

For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4 WEB)

if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; (Eph 3:2 WEB)

For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom 6:14 WEB)

What we have here are verses that show that the law is fulfilled and has been replaced with a grace administration. Note that it is called an administration in scripture (Eph3:2). The grace administration, which replaced the Law administration, is the administration we are in. Adam and Eve had their own administration which ended when they were cast out, and the Patriarchal administration, the time of the patriarchs with their lax rules, began.  Whenever the rules change for believers, that marks the change of administration.

Grace is divine favor.  Even though we don’t deserve it we have been saved.  We got forgiveness for the sins in our past when we accepted the Lord.  And we can get forgiveness for our sins by acknowledging them to the Lord.  We aren’t subject to the penalties of the Law anymore.  That’s amazing.  We still are charged, commanded to do things, but we are not bound to the rituals, precepts, and penalties of the law.

Of, course, that doesn’t mean we can do anything we please although seeing some of the people in different churches it may look like it.  That’s why Paul wrote this:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (Rom 6:1-2 WEB)

And later Paul expands on the spiritual reality of the freedom we have in Christ.

What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?  (Rom 6:15-16 WEB)

Now there’s a lot more to this. But, at the very least you can see that there’s an old covenant and a new covenant. And our administration is marked by grace, but that is not a license to sin. But, even more than that, there have been different administrations throughout the Scriptures. For example, in the garden of Eden there was only one rule. The rule was that you could eat out of anything in the garden except for the tree of life in the middle of the garden. That was the rule. That rule no longer exists, that passed with the garden of Eden. After the garden of Eden, we have the time of the patriarchs, from Adam to Moses. The Law was not given yet, so this time period or administration had a different set of rules which were fairly loose.

Right now, we are in the age, the administration, of grace as we read above in Ephesians 3:2. But that time will pass and we will enter into administrations that see the tribulation, the return of Christ, and the age to come.

The important concept is that each time period, each administration has different sets of rules.  But righteous living is living godly in every time period.  This set of laws span the different administrations.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mat 22:37-40 WEB)

Loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds along with loving our neighbors as ourselves is right living, righteousness, no matter what the administration is.

Let’s look at more examples of things written to certain people in the Scripture. Who are the Corinthian letters to? Just the Corinthians?  Let’s read.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

There is a salutation in this letter. It says it is written to the assembly of the saints of God at Corinth, right?  But, is that all it says? No, it says that it also is written to “all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place”.  Whoa, that means that it is written not just to Corinth, it is written to all of us.  Look at some other salutations.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Eph 1:1 WEB)

Paul specifies Ephesus here, but adds “the faithful in Christ Jesus”.

Of all the writings in the Scriptures, the church epistles are the ones that are actually written to us. Not only that but we are commanded to follow the traditions of the apostles, as contained in their letters, also called epistles.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

The above verse emphasizes the importance of the apostles’ letters as the church is charged to follow what they say.  And here we see the same thing.

Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. (1Co 11:2 WEB)

The salutation in 1 Corinthians affirms that these words are written to all of us.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place are charged to follow the apostles’ traditions, the beliefs and practices they set up. They will give us the greatest insight into our life here and now as it pertains to life and godliness.

The point of emphasis here is that not everything in the Scriptures is written to every person. That’s an important part of understanding how to interpret the word of God. It’s also important in explaining what looks like at first glance as contradictions.  Does God forbid people from eating pork? Jews were not allowed to eat pork, Christians are. Are men supposed to be circumcised?  Circumcision was a sign of agreement to the Old Covenant. So, Jews had to be circumcised, but Christians don’t, these are examples of different administrations.

Circumcision is a classic example of to whom it is addressed is important.  Only the children of Israel were told to circumcise.

This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. (Gen 17:10 WEB)

The new believers in the church were not to be circumcised.

Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. (Gal 5:2 WEB)

Another example is dietary restrictions

Leviticus chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions.

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat. “‘Nevertheless these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who part the hoof: the camel, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The cony, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The hare, because she chews the cud but doesn’t part the hoof, she is unclean to you. The pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you. Of their meat you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you. “‘These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, that you may eat. All that don’t have fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination to you, and you shall detest them. You shall not eat of their meat, and you shall detest their carcasses. Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that is an abomination to you. “‘These you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the vulture, and the black vulture, and the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, and the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. “‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are an abomination to you. Yet you may eat these: of all winged creeping things that go on all fours, which have legs above their feet, with which to hop on the earth. Even of these you may eat: any kind of locust, any kind of katydid, any kind of cricket, and any kind of grasshopper. (Lev 11:2-22 WEB)

There is more but you get the point.  Compare that to:

Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven. (Act 10:9-16 WEB)

So, we see that under the Law males were circumcised but that was done away after Pentecost.  Likewise, under the Law, there were many strict dietary laws that were done away within the church of Grace.

When we read scripture, we need to ask to whom the verses are addressed, and if not to us, what can we learn from them. And, before we say the Scriptures contradict themselves, we need to ascertain whether we have correctly interpreted the scriptures including this principle of to whom the scripture is addressed understanding that part of the word of God is that different people were given different directions individually at times and also as groups in the different administrations.

[1] An Eye for an Eye: Proportionality as a Moral Principle of Punishment, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 2008), pp. 57-71, https://www.jstor.org/stable/20185360

Last revised 2/3/2022

February 2nd, 2022 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments

T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father

Previous posts have declared that Unitarianism was the belief in Original Christianity including the last post, T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today. We have looked at references that admit that Unitarianism predated Trinitarianisn.  We looked at quotes that cite that unlike the apostles in scripture theologians after the apostles say philosophy is essential. And we looked at the reasons why. For example, look at this:

“Much contemporary Christianity is in essence adoptionistic. Early in the 19th century Frederick Schleiermacher conceived of Jesus as the man with the most sublime God consciousness, while Albrecht Ritschl saw him as endowed with the most perfect sense of duty. For the 20th century Anglican John A. T. Robinson, Jesus was “the man for others,” perfectly transparent to God. Adoptionistic ideas always arrive arise wherever Christians are reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy [emphasis added] to grapple with the apparent conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ.[1]

I have underlined “reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy”. This is talking about using world philosophy tools such as a priori claims and inductive logic. The need for philosophy is given again here.  Without philosophy, the conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ is too great. Brown says that without these worldly philosophical tools the natural result is adoptionism, which is a form of Unitarianism. When you just let the scriptures speak you get Unitarianism, God as a single entity.  With the Trinity, God as three persons,  you have to make a priori assumptions, add terms not found in scripture, and change the meanings of verses from the way they naturally should be interpreted. And even then, Trinitarianism remains uncomprehensible whereas Unitarianism is not.

I have known some people that seemed to accept Unitarianism easily.  The Trinity was always so confusing to them. Unitarianism is easier by far and all of it is scriptural.  But, if you are like me at all, you may take a lot to be convinced on so important a topic.   I don’t change my mind that easily, some things can take years for me to be persuaded otherwise.  So, I don’t blame you if you are still unsure or skeptical.  What I will say is to keep at it.  Really consider what is said.  Have you really tried to prove the Trinity?  Or, are you like me, I heard it mentioned as the truth so often for so many years that it was like second nature to accept it.  And this was in spite of the fact that when confronted I had to admit that I had never seen a proof of the Trinity. All I had heard were verses here and there that were used to support the Trinitarian argument. Even though it was confusing it was just so widespread and generally accepted for so long that I had a hard time believing that there was a chance that it might not be right.  But when I really looked at it, I said, oh my Lord, how could that have happened?  And likewise for many people throughout the millennia. And I came to the conclusion like so many before me; the Trinity is a man-made doctrine; only God the Father is God of all.  Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings, but he is subject to God and not equal to him.

Today we’re going to look at more points of emphasis in the Trinitarian argument. The first is that Jesus is called God in places in scripture.  The second is the Trinitarian argument that says that Jesus admitted he was God.

I mean, after all, if the Bible clearly calls Jesus God and he also admits it, doesn’t that make the case for both the deity of Jesus and the Trinity?

It may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called God in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

What adds to the confusion is when Bible translators capitalize God.  Capitalizing God is the custom in English when it is God the creator, the supreme being.  The Trinitarian tradition that includes the Son and Holy Spirit as part of God almighty adds to this confusion.  The theology of the translator is clearly evident here.

In numerous posts, we have looked at varied verses that are used in support of the Trinity, and in each case shown that those verses did not prove the Trinity.  As stated in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? scholars admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity.  What they say is that the “elements” are there to construct the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here’s the New Bible Dictionary on the subject:

“As already indicated, Scripture does not give us a fully formulated doctrine of the Trinity, but it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.”[2]

I think that is being generous but at least they admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity. It’s true that many elements of the trinity are taken from scripture. This definition fails to add that there are also elements not in scripture that required for the Trinity to work such as the word homousias (of the same substance) and the doctrine that Jesus had two wills when there is no scripture to support it.

So, let’s look at where Jesus is called God in scripture.  For clarification, elohim is one of the Hebrew words translated God, and theos is the Greek word translated God. God the Father’s name is Yahweh.

The biggest lesson here is that just because something says “God” it does not necessarily refer to God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.

Now, the overwhelming majority of times God is referred to in scripture it is talking about God the Father, but there are times when the text says God, but it is not God the Father. It is true that Jesus is called god, but so are the divine council, judges, prophets (Moses especially), kings, and even the devil.  And God the Father is over all of them.

Here’s the first. Moses is called Elohim, God.

Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. (Exo 7:1 WEB)

Moses is certainly not God. But he was called God, Elohim, because he represented God and the power of God flowed through him. Notice the capitalization. Because he represented the Supreme Being it is correct.

In the New Testament, the Greek word theos corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim.  This word is used of our adversary, the devil.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. (2Co 4:4 WEB)

The adversary is clearly called god (theos) here. And no one disputes that he is not God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the father in heaven.  The lack of capitalization is correct.

The same goes for false gods like Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines.

The lords of the Philistines gathered them together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, “Our god has delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” (Jdg 16:23 WEB)

The Hebrew word for god here is, guess what, elohimElohim just means god.  The name of the elohim here is Dagon. The lower case g is correct.

(Of note, too, is that elohim is a plural noun but Dagon is a single god.  This is proof that the use of elohim does not automatically indicate a plurality. In other words, elohim refers to a single person or god. Just like Dagon is not a trinity, the use of elohim does not mean a trinity when it refers to Yahweh, God the Father.)

Likewise, the commandment not to worship false gods is the Hebrew word elohim.

“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 WEB)

Look at this one:

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  (1Sa 28:13 WEB)

This is Saul with the medium of Endor.  Saul had inquired of Yahweh but Yahweh had stopped talking with Saul.  Saul made a major mistake and consulted a medium.  She said she saw a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth. That spirit was elohim.

The lack of capitalization in the last two verses is correct.

Next, we are going to see a place where the translators understood that elohim could refer to even men. In this next verse that we are going to look at the text says Elohim (God), but it really means judges.

then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. (Exo 21:6 WEB)

This verse is talking about a slave that decides he wants to remain a slave because of how good the human master is, and so there’s a procedure for that. The slave goes before the judges, but in the text, it’s the word Elohim, and on earth the judges represent Elohim, God the Father. The capitalization is correct.

This is a case where people, in this case, judges, are called God because of representation. We use representation to refer to people all the time. Here’s an example, a couple of weeks ago my wife called me and asked me if Amazon had delivered her package. I told her, yes, I got it and put it by her desk. Now, Amazon is a huge global company. It did not take the huge global enterprise with all of its many thousands of employees to deliver that package. One sole driver drove it to our house. But what my wife said in my conversation with her was not incorrect. Amazon had delivered the package. The driver is Amazon’s representative just like the judge in Exodus 21 is God’s representative.

Next, look at a section where the king is referred to as god (elohim). These verses are important because later in the New Testament we will see that they are used in reference to Christ.

My heart overflows with a noble theme. I recite my verses for the king. My tongue is like the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most excellent of the sons of men. Grace has anointed your lips, therefore God has blessed you forever. Strap your sword on your thigh, mighty one: your splendor and your majesty. In your majesty ride on victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness. Let your right hand display awesome deeds. Your arrows are sharp. The nations fall under you, with arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies. Your throne, God, is forever and ever. A scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. (Psa 45:1-7 WEB)

It is very important to realize that the subject of these verses is the king as it says in verse one, “I recite my verses for the king”. Look at the pronouns. “You are the most excellent of the sons of men” starts a list of things talking about this king. Now, surprise!  In verse six, this king is called God (Elohim)! God is capitalized here but it shouldn’t be because it’s not talking about God the Father. But this god in verse five is under God the Father as it says in verse seven where it says “therefore God, your God, has anointed you…”.  In Psalm 45 the king is referred to as god because kings were appointed by divine right. Kings were God’s representative on earth. We are going to take a look at this quote again when we come to discussing our Lord, Jesus Christ.

So, we have clearly established that just because the text reads elohim or theos, it does not mean God the Father.

By the way, I haven’t discovered that elohim and theos don’t always refer to God Almight on my own, in fact, this is pretty well known. It’s listed in dictionaries.[3]  And it is well understood by many bible students, whether they are Unitarian or Trinitarian

Next, we are going to look at a verse with our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a verse that is used to supposedly support the Trinitarian doctrine that includes that Jesus is God. In this text, Jesus is accused of claiming he is God.

Therefore, Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We don’t stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy: because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken), do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” They sought again to seize him, and he went out of their hand. (Joh 10:31-39 WEB)

Yes, these Jews accused Jesus of claiming that he was God the Father. I have sat in a pew and heard it taught that Jesus was claiming to be God here! That is twisting the Scripture. Instead of acknowledging that he did say he was God, on the contrary, Jesus refutes their argument. You see, Jesus had just said, “I and my Father are one”. And he also made the connection to the divine council where God the Father called subordinate rulers gods.  But he also has said that he did his mighty works in the Father’s name. He has also said that the Father was greater than all, and “all” includes him even though he is the Christ. Jesus here does make the claim that he is the son of God. But he is the son of God because God is his Father. That doesn’t make him God like God the Father. It just makes him the son of God. Jesus is actually teaching here that it is a mistake to equate saying that you are the son of God is the same as saying that you are God like the Father.

Just because someone is accused of saying something does not mean that they said it.  It may be that someone’s words are being twisted to say that someone is saying something that they did not say.  That is what is being done here. Jesus says as much.  The Jews took “I and my Father are one (in purpose)” and twisted it to “I and my Father are the same (in substance)”!

To see that this oneness is in purpose compare “I and my Father are one” to “…that they may be one, even as we are one” later in John 17:22.

So, this verse does not say Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, he is explaining his unique relationship with the Father.   But this scripture has been used to make the claim that Jesus said he was God.

Jesus, in John 10 above, makes the point of saying scripture calls some gods (small g) as we are talking about in this article.  Look at Psalms 82 here:

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?” Selah. “Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” They don’t know, neither do they understand. They walk back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” Arise, God, judge the earth, for you inherit all of the nations. (Psa 82:1-8 WEB)

Psalm 82 refers to what some call a divine council, a group of subordinates (angels, men?) to God where all of the subordinates are called gods (elohim). The job of these subordinate gods is to defend the weak, the poor, and the needy.  It is to maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.  It’s to deliver these from the wicked. They were put in charge to do things but they weren’t getting results.  They aren’t doing so well, and they are told they will die like men!  Yet they are elohim!

Now, let’s look in the book of Hebrews at another place where some have said Jesus is called god, and in this case, rightfully so.  But is it saying that he is God like God the Father? No.

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, who, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. For to which of the angels did he say at any time, “You are my Son. Today I have become your father?” and again, “I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?” When he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Of the angels he says, “Who makes his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom. (Heb 1:1-8 WEB)

First, the “through” in “through whom he also made the worlds” is the Greek word en (Strongs G1223)En can mean the channel or cause that something is done, but it can also mean the reason something is done.  The translation “through” would be better translated “on account of” or “because of”.  This shows the Trinitarian theology of the translator.

Jesus is called God here (although it should be “god” instead of “God”). This verse in Hebrews is a quotation from Psalm 45 that we looked at earlier. However, this time it’s not talking about the current king. It is talking about Jesus Christ. However, the same thing that applied to the king in Psalm 45 applies the Jesus here. Just like the King was called “God” in Psalms, Jesus is called “God” in Hebrews. But then, we see the verse, following “therefore God, your God…  So, just like the king was subject to God the Father so Jesus Christ is subject to God the Father.  Again, the capitalization is misleading in the translations.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is referred to as god but he is still subordinate to God the Father.

I want to look at more verses that call Jesus God. Remember that when we are reading these verses in English they are just translations of mainly Greek texts. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I look at how translation is often not a simple, straightforward process. It can get complicated, and produce misleading results.

Here are some things involved in translating from Koine Greek to English. In translation the order of words in Greek sentences is different than that of English sentences. In English a noun is made plural usually by adding an “s”.  In Greek to make a noun plural you have to know both its gender and the letters in which it ends in order to attach the right ending to the noun. In Greek, nouns are masculine, feminine, and neuter. But that does not mean that the item that the noun represents is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Whether or not a noun has an article attached can change its meaning. For example, hos theos, is “God” (theos) with the article, “the”, hos.  That combination is the one that can indicate the supreme Deity, God the Father.  By itself, theos without the article means less, like god (small g), magistrate, or even godly.

And there is no punctuation! The words just run together.  There are other issues as well. Here’s a picture of a manuscript in Greek that shows no punctuation and words just running on and on.

How do you divide those Greek letters above into words that form sentences and whole thoughts? In the article mentioned above, I talk about Acts 21:14 where a problem like that was explored. Here are the text and translated words.

The use of a comma here dramatically changes the meaning of this verse.  A lot of translators translate this, “We stopped,  saying the will of the Lord be done.”  But without the comma, it is, “we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” A single comma there makes a difference as to whether or not something was even said. And it certainly dramatically changes the meaning. That’s how important the translator is. And it shows how impactful his theology (and the theology of his “school”) is in translation.

An example of that ambiguity is found in some verses that call Jesus “God”, and maybe not just god, but appear to at least imply God over all.

looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 WEB)

Once again, the Greek text does have these words; God, and, Savior, Jesus Christ. To see the difference that punctuation makes look at the same verse in Webster’s version.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 Webster)

Do you see the difference? The WEB version says “our great God and Savior” as if it’s one and the same person. The Webster version says “great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, recognizing two different beings.

Let’s compare how these two versions translate second Peter 1:1 which is another example of the same thing.

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 WEB)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 Webster)

This one is a little less conspicuous, but is still there. The WEB version says “God and Savior, Jesus Christ”, making Jesus both God and Savior. In contrast, Webster’s version says “God and our Savior Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t put the comma after Savior thereby lumping God and Savior as the descriptor for Jesus Christ. And, you can see here, hopefully, that the translators could have just as easily written, “God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, clearly distinguishing between God, and Savior as two different entities.

The lesson here is that Trinitarian doctrine has influenced the translation as there is absolutely nothing in the Greek text that requires “God and Savior”.  And “God and Savior” contradicts verses like Eph 4:4-6 and 1 Cor 15 below. With the ambiguity these verses have they certainly don’t prove the  Trinity.

Compare the above two verses above with:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. (Eph 4:4-6 WEB)

Lord and God are both in this verse but they are not next to each other. The separation alone between “Lord”, and “one God and Father of all” indicates that they are not the same entity. Also, it is itemized here that the “one God and Father” is of all, over all, through all, and in us all. God alone is over all. It is clear here that Jesus Christ is the Lord while God the Father is the one who is over all.

We have discussed this next one in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?.

Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 WEB)

How can “God was revealed in the flesh” not prove the Incarnation and thus the Trinity? It must, right? The truth is that there is a problem with the word God there. Instead of Theos in Greek, the Greek word used in texts other than the Alexandrian family is hos which simply means which or who. The verse actually talks about the mystery of godliness which was manifest in the flesh.  Every being with the holy spirit, which includes all true Christians, manifests godliness whenever they walk in the spirit. Every time someone speaks in tongues or hears from God or heals someone, they are manifesting godliness. This verse is talking about the mystery of godliness and how that works.  It is not a declaration of Jesus as part of a trinity.  No, this verse does not prove the Trinity.

Here is a translation that says “which” instead of God.

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 DRB)

This next verse is talking about Jesus Christ as the greatest example of godliness on earth. That is something we are charged to seek

For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. (1Ti 4:8 WEB)

So we see that despite having a number of verses that look like what the Trinitarians say are clearly teaching both that Jesus Christ is God, and even God the father, it is not that simple.

Who, again is Jesus in relation to the Father? Remember Jesus’ words as he talked about who he was in relation to God:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Again, these are Jesus’ words! He calls God the Father the only true God!  Jesus says the only God (with a Capital G) is God the Father.  Jesus tells us that he is the one sent by the Father.

Jesus tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And next, in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

God, whether from elohim in Hebrew or theos in Greek, may refer to God the Father, Jesus, prophets, angels, priests, judges, kings, the adversary, devil spirits, and false gods. But it is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.  Part of the Trinity doctrine is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal.  But these verses above as well as other verses mentioned all put Jesus as not co-equal, but subject to the Father.  Jesus is not an equal partner in a trinity, Jesus is an underling.  Albeit, he is the Lord, he is the savior, he is second in command, he is still an underling who carries out what the Father directs.

That is Unitarianism.  God is one. There are other entities called god in scripture, angels, devils, judges, prophets, kings, even Jesus, but there is only one God who is over all, and through all, and in us all, and that is the Father.

Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Trinity, at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/ (Completely from a purely philosophical point of view – shows the debate about the philosophical merits and flaws in Trinitarian arguments)

Further Reading Pro – Trinitarian Sources including Philosophy, and Heresies

The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, Reprinted 1974, p. 1298-1300

The Trinity, Evidence & Issues, Dr. Robert A Morey, Xulon Press, 1996

The Trinity, The Classic Study of Biblical Unitarianism, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Kregal, Grand Rapids

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Leonard Hodgson, Nisbit, Digswell Place, Seventh Printing  1964

Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2012

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,1994, p. 226-261

Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C Theissen, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, revised 1979, P. 89-99

Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Paul Tillich, the University of Chicago press, Chicago 1950 1P. 289-294

Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96, see index

Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L Geisler and Paul D Feinberg, Baker books, Grand Rapids, 1980, P. 75, 174-177

The Blessed Trinity, New Advent (a Catholic organization)  at  https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm

Early Christian Doctrines, J N D Kelly, Harper Collins, 1978

A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Seventh Printing, 2008, p. 651-657

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 18th Printing 2007, sections 232-260, see Index

The Code of Canon Law, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Published 1983

________________________________________________________

[1] Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96

[2] New Bible Dictionary, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, P. 1299

[3] For ex., Strong’s definition is: el-o-heem’, Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: – angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty. In Strong’s definition, see how Elohim is defined as the supreme God or just gods, also magistrates, angels judges, or even godly or mighty.  Clearly, Elohim doesn’t just mean God the Father. Thayer says that besides God,  theos can also mean God’s representative or viceregent,  including magistrates and judges

last edited 1/5/2022

November 8th, 2021 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Tradition | no comments

John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions

This is a rewrite of an article published a dozen or so years ago with more insight hopefully to make clearer what the beginning of the Gospel of John actually says.  As John 1:1-14 is not literal the original article focused on how languages are imprecise and could be misleading if someone tried to take the section literally,  In this rewrite, I have added more on the actual meaning of John chapter one, and that is where I want to start.

As always on this website, our goal is to discover what the original Christians believed in order to see how we got from what the scriptures actually say to the myriad denominations and traditions that disagree on so many things today, no matter how different it may be from what we think right now.

First, thinking that the first chapter of John is the first place that the concept of the logos, the word of God, in operation and as part of creation is discussed in the manner it is presented is a mistake. More likely it is God’s response to a topic already prevalent in the culture. As we will see later the concept of logos had developed in the culture at that time to take on a meaning that was very similar to and integrated with how wisdom was presented in Old Testament scripture.  This concept is recognized by writers from different denominational backgrounds today. I found an interesting article explaining just this by a Catholic priest.[1]

Part of the problem in this topic is that many people today don’t understand the concept of personification, Or, if they do, they don’t recognize it at times, like we are going to be looking at in scripture.  Look at these examples:

Let the sea roar with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell therein. Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the mountains sing for joy together. Let them sing before Yahweh, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psa 98:7-9 WEB)

These verses say that there are rivers that clap their hands and mountains that sing. What vivid imagery! What a powerful way to communicate. These nonhuman things, rivers, and mountains are talked about as people. That’s personification.

The waters saw you, God. The waters saw you, and they writhed. The depths also convulsed. (Psa 77:16 WEB)

Here’s another example. People writhe and convulse, waters really don’t. That’s personification. But what powerful imagery.

Yahweh said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground. (Gen 4:10 WEB)

Or how about this one? Blood may be part of a human, but it’s not a person. Yet this blood is “crying from the ground”. What a powerful impact these words make. That’s personification.

Look at how wisdom is personified in places in the Old Testament

Doesn’t wisdom cry out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice? On the top of high places by the way, where the paths meet, she stands. Beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entry doors, she cries aloud: “To you men, I call! I send my voice to the sons of mankind…Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When there were no depths, I was born, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was born; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the beginning of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was the craftsman by his side. I was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, rejoicing in his whole world. My delight was with the sons of men.  (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 WEB) [bolded emphasis added]

In the very first verse above wisdom and understanding are described as a person. “Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?” “She stands.”  “She cries out.” These are all sentences talking about a nonhuman thing as if it were a person. Personification is the figure of speech used here.

Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things.[2]

In the above verses from Proverbs, we see that one of the ways that Jews thought about wisdom was to describe it as a wondrous lady. This wondrous lady, wisdom, was there from the beginning before the earth existed. She is described as the craftsman by Yahweh’s side. She’s described as of delight of the Lord. But wisdom is not a person. Wisdom is a quality that is extremely valuable. Wisdom is the capacity to understand and act accordingly. Wisdom is such an awesome thing, but it is not a person. Yet the Old Testament talks about it as if it were, this is one of the ways that the Jews thought about things.

Next, in verses 24 and 25 of Proverbs 8, it says this “I was born.”  Since wisdom was born, it is a created thing, it had a beginning.

Solomon is credited as the author of Proverbs. One source lists Solomon’s life as from 989 to 931 BC.[3] When Solomon wrote proverbs the Logos was not the concept that it would become later. Proverbs’ discussion of wisdom predates the promotion of the concept of the Logos especially the Stoic philosophy that was influential in the world at the time of the Apostles and which started around the fourth century BC.  The Stoics believed in the Logos as the animating, intelligent principle of the universe. The Stoics promoted seeking God’s wisdom in people’s lives by tapping into God’s powerful intelligence, i.e., the Logos.

“The Stoics believed that to achieve freedom, happiness, and meaning one should attune one’s life to the wisdom of God’s will, manifest in the second distinction (above) of Logos.”[4]

In the above statement we have a correlation between wisdom and the Logos that was part of contemporary thinking at the time of the apostles.

Having explained all this I make this claim, trying to take John 1:1-14 literally and mathematically analyze the wording to equate God, Jesus, and the Logos in the prologue of John’s gospel is a mistake and doesn’t reflect the meaning of the concept of Logos at all.  John 1:1-14 is not literal.  Just as wisdom is presented with the figure of speech personification, so is the Logos in John chapter one.

Just as today there are topics that are discussed around the world like evolution, Islamic Jihadism, communism, and so forth, there were concepts that were just as heavily discussed 2000 years ago.  We have already discussed the Stoic emphasis on the Logos but they were not alone in discussing the Logos in their writings.  Philosophers, religious writers, and others, one after another, identified the Logos in their scheme of reasoning as a divine principle in the grand scheme of life. Before the Stoics began incorporating the idea of the Logos there was Heraclitus centuries before them. And not only was the Logos part of Greek philosophical discussion it was in Indian, Egyptian, and Persian thinking, in their discussions of both philosophy and theology.[5]

In the previous article on stoicism, we discussed the stoic view of God, whom they defined as the Logos:

“… the universe is a single ordered whole, a perfect organism that unites within itself all that exists in the world. It is ruled by a supreme cosmic power, a fiery substance that the Stoics called Logos, Divine Reason, or God.  The Logos is the organizing, integrating, and energizing principle of the whole universe.  As a perfect entity, the universe combines within itself the Logos or Divine Reason, which is its soul, and matter, which serves as its body. Since everything is derived from God, everything is a part of God, but not separated or cut from the whole.  Each individual soul is a fragment of the universal Logos or God.”[6]

An individual who lived around the time of the writer of the gospel of John was the Jewish philosopher Philo. Philo wrote about the Logos.  Philo was familiar with the stoic interpretation of the Logos, but attempted to bring it closer to his understanding of the Old Testament.

“For the Stoics, logos was equally reason (individual and universal), nature, and God, while for Philo, logos is not ultimate reality but merely what we can see and understand of God, who is Himself very far from human comprehension. In Stoicism, logos is God; in Philo it corresponds to his specific doctrine of the dunameis, the powers of God who created the world and governs it.”[7]

These explanations of stoic and Philo’s interpretation of the Logos illustrate that the Logos was a concept people were talking about at the time that the gospel of John was written.  They also illustrate that there was debate about what it was.

Philo’s concept of the Logos as the dunameis, the power of God in action, is much closer to the explanation given in the prologue of the Gospel of John than any kind of quick mathematical analysis perfectly equating the Logos to both God and his Son.

More closely to the language of the times the prologue of John says that the Word of God is the powerful energized plan of God. It is God’s wisdom with dunamis power, This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

We see that energy in the Word of God (Logos) in Isaiah 55.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11 KJV)

While man’s word may be powerless, as we see in the verse above, there is power in the word (the Logos) of God.

In reality, as tiny, short-lived, finite beings we can only understand that part of God that he reveals to us. This Word of God, this plan of redemption that God set in motion, revealed through the law and the prophets, and experienced through our spiritual connection with him is God to us.  But also in reality, the little bit of God that has been revealed to us cannot in any way fully express to our tiny minds who God is.  We will see more of this when we look at the translation of John 1:1 especially.

Now, onto the topic of trying to apply mathematical precision to language expressions because that is what a lot of people studying the Bible attempt to do with John chapter one. In a previous article, Grammar and Logic – Boring But Invaluable, I wrote “Another mistake is to substitute the logic of one discipline for another. An area where I have seen this kind of mistake is in the fields of mathematics and languages. For example, some people read the word “is” and ascribe to that word the mathematical definition of “equals”.”

One comment on the previous article was that a common-sense reading of John 1 is that the Word is someone and that someone is Jesus. This comment is taking the verses literally instead of recognizing that personification is being used here. That comment is saying that the Logos, the Word, is a person.  Then that person is equated to Jesus Christ.  That is taking the section literally and analyzing it mathematically.  The problem is that languages aren’t that precise, especially here which we shall see when we look at the Greek.

Greek, grammar, syntax, and mathematical notation are all boring, but they are the only way to know what something means. So, if you want to understand why it is important, you need to get through this more tedious part of the article

First of all, there is a mathematical language in the world that is used because it allows mathematicians to say things precisely.  There may be some English or other spoken language in Math but mainly it uses precise mathematical symbols.  For example, the following allows someone to express something precisely, in this case, part of Taylor’s Theorem:

I know, it looks like gibberish to a lot of people.  But, it’s not important what the above math says. What’s important is that this statement is free from the ambiguity of English and other languages.  It’s precise.

On the other hand, you can’t just apply mathematical precision to English or other language expressions. For example, in mathematics, we have the axiom that two things that are both equal to a third thing are equal to each other. Or, as it is written mathematically, if a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c. You can use this axiom ad infinitum. If c equals d also, then a would equal d, and so forth.

It is written like this:

If a = b and b = c, then a = c.

The difference is that the “=” symbol means equals. The word “is” may or may not mean “equals”.

This applies universally to expressions people use to communicate. Still, the temptation is to say that anywhere someone uses the word “is”, you can substitute the word “equals” and that is a slippery slope.

First, sometimes the logic does work, and here is an example:

Minerals are inanimate.  Quartz is a mineral.  Therefore, Quartz is inanimate.

The above is a syllogism, a concept introduced by Aristotle.

However, there are numerous examples where the word “is” doesn’t mean “equals”.  For example, US President Barack Obama (A) is a man (B). Nelson Mandela (C) is a man (B). Would anybody try to apply the above mathematical logic and say that Nelson Mandela is the U.S. president? Or that Nelson Mandela is Barack Obama?

Barack Obama (A) = a man (B) = Nelson Mandela (C)
Therefore Barack Obama (A) = Nelson Mandela (C).

That obviously doesn’t make sense! Nelson Mandela was at one time the President of South Africa and was a terrific world leader. Whether or not you agree with his politics Barack Obama held the power of the U.S. presidency, a position of great honor and power. Yet, trying to substitute “equals” for “is” equates Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama as the same man. These two both are men, but they do not equal each other; in fact, they are very different men. And in fact, there are no examples where one man would “equal” another. John McCain, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Peyton Manning, and James Earl Jones are all men. But we all agree John McCain is NOT Kobe Bryant who is NOT Lebron James who is NOT Peyton Manning who is NOT James Earl Jones.

Yet the application of mathematical precision to the word “is” as “equals” is exactly what many bible students do in the prologue of the gospel of John. The gospel of John says that the Logos is God.  It also says this same Logos was in the beginning with God.  A little further down the page, it says that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among men.  So, we have mathematically inclined students teaching that this is a mathematical expression. They say that the Logos equals God, that the Logos was in the beginning with God, and that the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us. So, to them. we have a mathematical proof that Jesus is God, the God-man.

More specifically, defining “is” as “equals” to John 1 gives us this series of equations:

The Word = God

The  Word = Jesus Christ

Using the transitive property of mathematical precision we get:

The Word = God = Jesus Christ.

However, if you are going to apply mathematical precision defining “is” as “equals” to this statement then you need to apply it fully to all elements. The principle says that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.  Why aren’t people saying that the Word is God and part of the Trinity?  There are three elements here all supposedly equal to each other, the Word, God (the Father), and Jesus (the word made flesh).  There is a trinity here, but there is no Holy Spirit.  The trinity here is God the Father, the Son, and the Word.  But no one is saying that the Word fully equates to God as part of the trinity (instead of the Son or Spirit), but if you apply their logic that would be a valid conclusion!

Here is more about how imprecise this language is. Take a look at John 1:1 in Greek. When the Greek refers to God the Father it uses the article “the”.  If it doesn’t include the article then it’s not referring to God the Father. Rather, it’s used to describe a “god” or even a magistrate, also used as a modifier like godly or godward.

Here’s is what Strong’s Greek Dictionary says about the word theos in Greek Texts:

Strong’s: 2316: theos: a deity, espec him. (with #3588, (the definite article “Ho”)): the supreme Divinity figuratively, a magistrate; by Heb. very:- exceeding, God, god [-ly, ward].

It is a little cryptic, but in Strong’s definition above, it says that the word theos with the definite article refers to the supreme Divinity. The supreme Divinity is God the Father. Otherwise, theos alone, without the definite article (ho), can refer to a god, or mean godly or godward.

Here’s the interlinear text:

Do you see how the Greek has “the God” the first place theos is used, but not the second? The first place theos is used it is literally referring to the God Almighty.  But, the second place doesn’t say “the God” which is the Greek that refers to God Almighty. So, the second usage of theos is descriptive rather than literal. Instead of saying the logos is God Almighty, it is saying that the logos is godly.  This is more accurate:

In this translation, I have used “godlike”.  As Strong’s says, I could have used godly.  When you don’t have the article, the meaning changes to “god” (small g) or becomes descriptive. In this verse “god” (small g) doesn’t work. So it is saying that the Logos is godlike.  The Logos is godly.  That phrase is absolutely not saying that the Logos is equal to “the God”.

The Greek text above does not support the translation, “the Word was God”.  In order to be accurately saying “the Word was God”, you really need an article before the word” God” in Greek.

However, most versions of the Bible have something like:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 WEB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 ASV)

Again, in order for this verse to be saying that the Logos is actually God, it needs an article before God in Greek. These translations are imprecise, and as such, are misleading without the proper understanding.

John 1:1-14 personifies the Logos just like Proverbs chapter 8. Remember personification is treating a thing as if it were a person.  Wisdom in Proverbs was treated like a person, the Logos referred to here is treated like a person.  But neither is actually a person.  Yet the pronouns of she, he, him, and her in these verses refer to these non-human things, wisdom, and Logos (word).  I have added [wisdom] and [Logos] to the verses to emphasize that.

The prologue of John says that the Word of God, the Logos is wisdom with dunamis (a Greek word for dynamic power). This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

The same was in the beginning with God. (Joh 1:2 WEB)

This Logos, this Wisdom with dunamis power was there with him in the beginning just like it says in Prov 8:22.

“Yahweh possessed me [wisdom] in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed.
(Pro 8:22-23 WEB)

Both Logos and wisdom were there when things were being made.

All things were made through him [Logos]. Without him [Logos] was not anything made that has been made. (Joh 1:3 WEB)

Compare this to Proverbs chapter 8.

When he established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I [wisdom] was the craftsman by his side. I [wisdom] was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, (Pro 8:27-30 WEB)

The Old Testament says wisdom, the Gospel of John says the Logos.  They are talking about the same thing, God’s power enabled wisdom, his energized plan.

In him [Logos] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (Joh 1:4-5 WEB)

Compare that to:

For whoever finds me [wisdom], finds life, and will obtain favor from Yahweh. But he who sins against me [wisdom] wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me [wisdom] love death.” (Pro 8:35-36 WEB)

John 1:4 says the Logos is life, Proverbs 8:35 says wisdom is life. They are talking about the same thing.  The “him” in John 1 and the “me” in Proverbs 8 are the Logos, the wisdom. Again, this is the figure of speech, personification, calling an inhuman thing human.

Next, we have,

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him [Logos]. He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. (Joh 1:5-8 WEB)

This is the first time a real man is mentioned, John the Baptist.  He is part of this Wisdom, this Logos, and was sent to bear witness to the Light.  John wasn’t the light, John wasn’t the Logos, but was sent that all might believe through him (the Logos spoken of as a person).

Next, look at:

The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He [Logos] was in the world, and the world was made through him [Logos], and the world didn’t recognize him [Logos]. He [Logos] came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him [logos]. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Word [Logos] became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his [Logos’] glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:9-14 WEB)

These verses have no parallel in Proverbs 8 because John is announcing that the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, this Logos, has generated a solution in the flesh.  The Word became flesh.  It wasn’t flesh before, but Wisdom, the Logos had been working toward it all along. Part of this plan was to produce a man that was capable of redeeming mankind.  Here’s how that happened.

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. (Luk 1:35 WEB)

This act allowed the Word of God, Wisdom in Proverbs 8, the Logos in John 1 to become flesh and enter the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This was God’s plan all along.  This was the seed promised to Eve. This was Savior promised by the prophets. This man was created to become the embodiment of this plan.  And as such, he was a man called to be the living Word of God. He was called to carry out God’s plan for redemption.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, is that human fulfillment of God’s energized wisdom, the logos. Just as the logos is God to us, but less than the total of all that God is, Jesus is that part of God’s plan that works to provide a human savior for mankind. As such, Jesus is the embodiment, the wisdom for that energized plan.  He is the living Word of God.  That is in no ways a small feat, but that does not make the living Logos equal to the creator

In original Christianity, the Logos, which is wisdom in Proverbs 8, had a beginning.  It was before the creation of the earth, but it was not co-eternal.  All of this is important because this first chapter in John in the third century was misconstrued to say that this Logos is co-eternal with God, a foundational piece of fourth-century theology.  However, this was not the belief of the original Apostles. To see that we read Justin Martyr who around 150 AD wrote that Jesus Christ existed, before his birth, but it was only in the mind of God.  Justin wrote of the Logos and the Son as subordinate to the Father.

“Justin’s emphasis is on the divine Logos, subordinate to God the father , yet his Son,  His agent, and one with Him in some true, though rather indefinite, sense.”[8]

No matter what people believe now, this is documentation of what original Christianity believed.  In original Christianity, the Logos had a beginning,  Jesus Christ had a beginning.

It wasn’t until Kallistos in the middle of the third century that the logos Christology taught that Jesus Christ was coeternal with God. And after him, Novation started using the terminology that Jesus Christ shared a “communion of substance”.[9] But this is hundreds of years after Pentecost and perhaps a hundred and fifty years after the passing of the apostles.

So, what we see is that the Trinitarianism that has been dominant since the fourth century didn’t even exist in the time of the original apostles. With the advent of incorporating philosophy with the apologists, we see concepts such as the Logos changing over time. But the original apostles and other Christian believers believed that the Logos, the wisdom of God, had a beginning and understood that it was a personification of something that God created because that is part of how they communicated. Yes, these concepts changed over time, but as it says in Encyclopedia Britannica, even going into the third century, Unitarianism (God as one person) was the dominant belief of Christianity. The Logos as a creation of God was still dominant even though it was changing from its original meaning in the church as the church embraced philosophy.

“Even after the elimination of Gnosticism the church remained without any uniform Christology; the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continue to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.”[10]

As it says above, Unitarians still formed a large majority at the beginning of the third century, indicating the Original Christian church started out Unitarian.

I have to admit I was shocked the first time I saw this (and other reputable references pointing to the same outcome) in print.   I had read a lot of things about how the Trinity was developed over time and wasn’t in place originally but I had never read that while there was debate early on, it was Unitarianism that was in place originally, that it was still the dominant belief going into the third century. What an eye-opener!

So, not only is the wording insufficient to establish the Logos is actually God, we have the historical record that shows that the original Christians didn’t believe the Logos was God the Father but subordinate to the Father. They believed that God the Father alone is God. They believed that both the son and the Logos were inferior and subordinate to the Father.  The first chapter of John personifies the Logos as a person just as wisdom is personified in the Old Testament but neither makes Wisdom or the Logos actually God. They are god-like, they represent the best we can understand of who God is.

John chapter one is an insight both into Jewish thinking and an explanation of how God works. God knew what would happen before creation so part of creation is a plan to redeem man whom God knew would sin.  God made a plan and energized it.  Proverbs 8 calls that plan wisdom, John 1 calls that plan the Logos. Part of that plan was to make produce a seed of Eve that would step on the head of the adversary, and redeem us from sin. The Logos is still working and will work until the final victory.

[1] Logos as Fulfilment of Wisdom in Israel, https://www.faith.org.uk/article/september-october-2009-logos-as-fulfilment-of-wisdom-in-israel

[2] https://literarydevices.net/personification/

[3] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/event/solomon

[4] Logos, https://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/theogloss/logos-body.html

[5] Logos philosophy and theology, https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos

[6] The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster New York, 1961. p.51

[7] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philo/

[8] A History of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, p. 47

[9] A History of the Christian church, P. 70

[10]  The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963

last edited 1/18/2022

September 30th, 2021 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Grammar and Logic | no comments

The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies

I have many times heard a preacher or teacher substitute one word for another in a verse or set of verses.  For example

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved[emphasis added]. (Rom 10:9 ESV)

The teacher might say that instead of saying “saved” just use the word “changed”.  Is that okay?  Or they might say instead of reading “glory” in a verse use the word “beauty”.   It really happens a lot in sermons just like in day to day conversation it is common to offer a different word when someone sees someone struggling to understand what is said.

Translating words to more accurate terms is a good thing as long as the replacement term is more accurate.  I am going to say that in my experience sometimes the preacher’s choice of a replacement word is great, and other times, not so much.  I am confident the teacher is not intending to misrepresent God’s word and the Lord knows we all stumble with words at times.  But it is the word of God we are talking about.  Yes, use a synonym that translates something better but be accurate!  If you are not good with languages including biblical languages then you are not the one to be re-translating words.  Get some help.  Even if you think your spirit has received the true meaning test it.    I John says:

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  (1Jn 4:1 WEB)

What aren’t we supposed to just believe here?  The answer is words that we think are from the spirit of God.  That could be words that someone else has said came from the Spirit, or it could be words in our head that we think are from the Spirit of God.  Even on the fly when there isn’t time to check with someone you can run some checks in your head.  Does what you have heard line up with what you know from scripture.  If it is changing a word does it fit when substituted in other scriptures using the same word?

We read:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern.  (1Co 14:29 WEB)

When prophets speak, and that is anyone saying that they received something from the spirit that they are communicating, other prophets observing are supposed to evaluate if the message is genuine.  I see a lot of people saying that they believe the Spirit communicated this or that, but I don’t always see some checking.

So, research it in the lexicons and concordances, or find someone good with translations and languages to back up your re-translation

By now we should be well aware of the scriptural admonition in Deuteronomy:

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

In my previous article, T1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I show how Agabus’ prophecy that the Jews would “deliver” Paul into the hands of the Gentiles is the Greek word paradidomi, which means surrender or yield up and so “deliver” might be misleading.  In fact, in numerous articles, I do the same thing where I see the translation might be misleading. When there is a word that is possibly misleading or hard to understand, my pattern is to show the Greek word, as well as meaning in English as well as some alternative translations.

However, I have also heard preachers just use other words, that is, just translate on the fly, in order to talk in terms that they think that their audience will better understand than the word or words in scripture. When I hear that I wonder if it is the preacher just trying to make it more understandable for the believers or that he doesn’t understand the term well enough himself and just substitutes words that he feels more comfortable with.  Unfortunately, that becomes private interpretation, something we are warned not to do:

knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit.  (2Pe 1:20-21 WEB)

Private interpretation is literally one’s own explanation or interpretation.  The prophets were warned not to do that and neither should we.  The difference is between just saying what we think it means and what the words in the actual message are.  Anyone with kids knows scenarios like this.  The parent says the child can’t go out until their homework is done.  In frustration, the child says “you  never let me do anything.” It’s an extreme example but you get the point.  The child is interpreting what was said from “I can’t go out until my homework is done” to “I’m can’t do anything.”  It’s actually close to what the parent said, but it’s not what they said.

If we are going to satisfy the scriptural mandate not to add or subtract from scripture, and we want to deliver the meaning of the scripture, in our language instead of the original, then we need to teach the true meaning of the term in the original.  If we think the translation isn’t really accurate then we need to translate it ourselves more accurately. That means work.  That means nerdy stuff like researching.  One way is to do a word study, and see how the word is translated in other places as we did in Doing a Word Study To Determine a Word’s Meaning in the Original language.

While we are on this topic it should be obvious by now that since we are talking about translations that only the words in the original are the ones that matter.  I have seen people refer to an English translation and then use an English dictionary or thesaurus to define word(s) or substitute others.  If the original word is not translated accurately then this is just a compounding of one error on another. In the New Testament, we are dealing with primarily Greek texts.  That means we have to look at the meanings of the Greek words for possible synonyms,  and not just substitute English words for other English words based on their modern English meanings.
Once we have the real meaning of the word in the original language then it is up to the teacher, and even the preacher, to teach what that word really means.  Teaching a word study isn’t something that everyone in the pew is going to lap up; the teacher does it and shares enough in teachings to help people better understand without boring them to sleep.  I’ll grant you it’s not always an easy task.

For example, the word saved mentioned above, I have heard replaced with the word changed among other things.  How accurate is that?  A word study of the word saved shows that it appears 57 times in the KJV.  Looking at Strong’s Concordance we see that the Greek word for save(d), sozo, has been assigned the number G4982.  And a search of G4982 shows that it has been translated 103 times in the KJV meaning that it has been translated something other than saved 46 times.

Here are some verses where it was translated save(d):

She shall give birth to a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.”  (Mat 1:21 WEB)

They came to him, and woke him up, saying, “Save us, Lord! We are dying!”  (Mat 8:25 WEB)

For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.  (Mat 18:11 WEB)

that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Rom 10:9-10 WEB)

It will be that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Act 2:21 WEB)

These are familiar verses.  Please note that the word salvation has the same root word as saved, salvation being the state of being saved.

But “saved” isn’t really a term people commonly use outside of church that much.  So what is a better translation?  Let’s look at some of the other ways it has been translated as well as the context around those verses and see if those translations communicate better.

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.  (Mat 9:20-22 ESV)

Made well in the verses above is G4982.  That’s pretty understandable and looks correct in the context.  How about this one?

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.  (Mar 6:56 ESV)

Again, sozo has been translated as “made well”.  They were ill, now they are healthy.  Instead of “made well”, these verses are translated “made whole” in the KJV.  And look at this one in the MKJV:

And Jesus said to him, Go, your faith has healed you. And instantly he saw again, and he followed Jesus in the way. (Mar 10:52 MKJV)

The translators of the MKJV used the word “healed” for G4982, sozo.

Look at this verse.  Guess which word is sozo?

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me for his heavenly Kingdom; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (2Ti 4:18 WEB)

Did you guess deliver?  That is actually the Greek word rhuomai (G4506), which means rescue.  In the above verse “preserve” is sozo, and means kept healthy or kept whole.

So, by now, it is pretty obvious that translating sozo as “made whole” or healed makes a lot of sense in those verses.  In fact, made whole or made well is a pretty good replacement for saved in general.

A concordance is a listing of words in a text.  Strong’s is the one that we have been referring to, but there is another concordance that I have used for many years and that is Youngs Analytical Concordance of the Bible.  It doesn’t have its own numbering system.  But it does list all the words used in the bible, and it has something else, index-lexicons.  These tools list the Hebrew and Greek words with all the ways that they are translated in the KJV.  In the index-lexicons, it also cites Strong’s number for each word enabling you to use Young’s along with Strong’s to get a more complete picture.

Regarding the word sozo, Young’s tells us that it was translated

heal 3 (times)
make whole 9
preserve 1
save 92
Passive: be whole 2
do well 1
save one’s self 1
Participle: save one’s self 1

There is also a sense of rescue in saved and saved in modern terms can mean being rescued.  When someone is in danger, that is damaging to them.  They are put under stress.  Their life is negatively affected.  Saving them makes them whole or well so that their life is not negatively affected.  The people in the boat asked Jesus to make them whole by removing the danger to their lives.

So, do you see the word changed in any of those translations? No.  But, is “changed” a legitimate substitute for saved?

A legitimate substitute is a word that is a synonym, a word that can pretty much replace the original term without any loss of meaning.  Funny and humorous are synonyms.  You can use funny everywhere you use humorous and not lose anything.   Likewise for industrious and hard-working.  You can use hardworking everywhere for industrious and not make a mistake.

Saved and changed are not universally synonymous because while being saved is always being changed, being changed is not always being saved.  Being saved is always a good thing.  It is being healed, being made whole or well.  Changed can be a good thing or a bad thing.  A person can be saved and is now a healthy person.  A person can be changed and is dying. Changes can come in degrees.  Saved gives the connotation of a complete restoration.  A better word than changed would be restored.

By the way, I have heard the word “changed” substituted for saved in different groups so it may be a lesson that has made the rounds.  I will say this, one time I heard it the teacher explained why he was using the word changed.  He said he saw people coming to meetings and nothing appeared to be happening to them.  His point, he said, is that that if you get the Lord in your life there should be some good change to see, and if there isn’t, we need to look at what is really going on with this person.  That is a very valid point.  I agree that we can say that part of being saved is that a person is changed for the better, and there should be some evidence of that.  That is much closer to the definition of sozo.

So, is this nitpicking?  If it is, then Deut 4:2 is nitpicking.  Scripture is a book of words, all it has is words.  The scriptures we call the word of God are God’s words.  The law and the prophets are holy men of God speaking as they were moved by the holy spirit.  Who are we to idly change God’s words?  While certainly, part of the ministry of a teacher is to make sense of what is written, we are charged with being diligent in searching the scriptures to find what God meant and present that accurately.  The charge not to add or subtract is a necessary safeguard.

When we find that the current word seems hard to understand, we need to be worthy workmen and diligently search out the meaning:

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  (2Ti 2:15 MKJV)

Word studies are key disciplines in rightly dividing the word of truth and getting the words right.

last edited 1/18/2022

December 29th, 2020 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments