Accuracy in Translation

If a person were to study the subject of wine from most any English translation of the Bible, that person might come away with an idea that the Bible condones a moderate use of alcohol.  The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness (Lk. 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3).  Yet, certain passages sound like they approve of the consumption of intoxicating beverages (Deut. 14:26; Prov. 31:6; Hos. 4:11; Lk. 5:37-39; 7:33-35; Jn. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:21-22; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; 5:23) while other passages condemn the very use of intoxicating wine (Lev. 10:8-11; Judg. 13:3-4; Prov. 31:4-5; 23:31; 20:1; 1 Tim. 3:2-3).  It appears that the use of alcoholic beverages are not clearly condemned or clearly condoned consistently throughout the Bible.

This problem can be traced back to the earliest English translations of the Bible.  Accuracy in translation was often sacrificed for more palatable words.  The King James translators; in particular, were more interested in producing a version that everyone would accept than producing a version that was consistent.  They purposely published a version that would not appear biased toward any particular doctrine.

The most blatant example of this is the creation of the English word “baptism.”   The Greek word means immersion.  However, the earliest English translation of the New Testament was produced by a Catholic priest named John Wycliffe.  Wycliffe along with the Catholic Church practiced sprinkling rather than immersion.  The transliterated Greek word for “baptisma” became a new English word that had no definition except what was consequently created.  Hence, the English word baptism includes in its definition dipping, sprinkling, pouring or washing.

The English word “wine” serves as another example of inconsistent translation.  There are at least 13 different Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated into the single English word “wine.”  Surely, the English language is not so limited that the translators couldn’t differentiate 13 different words.  This discrepancy is not acceptable especially when we consider how the King James Version of the Bible avoided uniformity in the translation.

Concerning the translation of the King James Version of the Bible: “They said they did not think it right to honor some words by giving them a place forever in the Bible, while they virtually said to other equally good words: Get ye hence and be banished forever.  They quote a “certain great philosopher” who said that those logs were happy which became images and were worshipped, while, other logs as good as they were laid behind the fire to be burned.  So they sought to use as many English words, familiar in speech and commonly understood, as they might, lest they should impoverish the language, and so lose out of use good words.” (McAfee, “The Making of the King James Version; Its Characteristics,” www.bible-researcher.com)

A lack of consistency in favor of diversity in word choice suggests an ill intent when we find, in fact, a lack of diversity in word choice in favor of inconsistency when it comes to the word “wine.”  The intentional inconsistencies in translation of our English Bibles have produced versions that are not truly accurate.  We must be wise to the misleading way many words were used because the translators were purposely trying to prevent disagreements and controversies. In essence, they willingly used “politically correct” terms when the subject matter was in question.

Great care must be taken to insure a proper understanding of the words that were chosen to represent the original text.  For example, the English word “sober” is used to represent two different Greek words in the Bible.  We understand “sober” has three definitions when it is applied to the subject of intoxicating beverages.  It could mean not intoxicated, someone less than drunk or someone who is thinking clearly.  However, only one definition was actually in the mind of the author when he wrote it.  Could the word “sober” ever be defined as less than drunk in any passage of the Bible (Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 5:13; 1 Thes.  5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:2, 12; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8)?

Christians are commanded to be sober (1 Thes. 5:6, 8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).  Sobriety occurs in both mind and body.  Someone who is sober in body (not intoxicated) is also sober in mind.  Impaired thinking would not be considered sober even if the impairment did not reach the civil definition of drunk. Obviously, any amount of alcohol impairs a person’s sobriety.

It should also be noted that King James was a heavy drinker, the head of the Church of England and the one who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible.  Was there any motivation to treat the subject of wine delicately by the translators?

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Why is it so Hard to Study the Bible?

By Mitch Erickson

Why is it necessary to study the bible?  Why is it so hard to study the Bible?  It may seem like a silly question to some of us, but if you think about it, it must be difficult because so few, even within the church attempt it. Steve has preached numerous lessons on the need for personal study.  In 2 Timothy 2 Paul said, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:14-18).

How can we rightly divide the word of truth if we don’t know it?  A lack of study has caused divisions, dissensions, heresies and an assortment of other heartaches through the years.  There was a time when common folks had an excuse not to study; there was no bible that could be studied. The Catholic Church kept it in Latin and forbid the laity to own a copy.  Punishment was severe if you were caught.  Look at early translators.  John Tyndale in 1526 translated the New Testament from Greek into English and sent copies back to England.  A man named Tunstall, with the backing of the Vatican, starting buying all the copies Tyndale sent and burned them.  Tyndale continued to translate and send copies, eventually being imprisoned by the Vatican for 16 months before being executed by John Philips and burned at the stake.  Another early translator, Michael Servetus, was not so lucky.  John Calvin had him slowly burned alive.  It is said he suffered for 5 hours before he died.  John Calvin reasoned that since Servetus was predestined for hell, the extra time in the fire would get him prepared for what was to come.

But we don’t have the excuse of not having access to a bible today.  It has been translated into every conceivable language including Klingon if you can believe it.  So why is it so hard to study?  For many, I think they try to read it through a 21st century lens disregarding the cultural reality of the day.  We need to remember the Bible was written over a period of almost 4000 years by many authors.  The New Testament is almost 2000 years old in itself.  We need to remember studying is different than reading.  Study involves rereading, using a concordance, comparing Greek and Aramaic words to their English counterparts, and often putting ourselves into 1st century Judea.  Some, just don’t care.  They have better things to do with their time; tv, video games, hobbies, after all, the preacher will tell them everything they need to know to get to heaven. Right, just ask a catholic.

Here are some examples of where this fallacy has led so many astray.  In particular Catholics who accept the notion that Peter was the first Pope, the cornerstone of the church.  In Isaiah 28 the prophet wrote: “Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily (Isa. 28:15-16).

Now if we cross reference that to the Gospels; in Matthews account chapter 21: “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:  ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:33-44).  The last 3 verses Jesus quotes Psalms 118, verse 22 and 23.  We can see and understand that these verses refer to Christ.

We add to these passages Matthew 16, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:13-19).

Catholics site this passage, saying because Jesus renamed Peter, Blessing him Simon Bar-Jonah, and renaming Peter, that set him apart, and he became the rock on which the church was built.  But that was not a new name.  Bar-Jonah was the Hebrew expression for son of Jonah or John, Peters father, and Peter was known by both Simon and Peter well before this verse.  Their notion ignores their first popes very own words, in Peter’s own words he writes, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Pet. 2:1-8). Peter isn’t talking about himself; he is very plain in telling his readers that Christ was the one rejected!  Verse 5 couldn’t make it plainer.  It seems obvious the rock referred to in Matthew 16 was Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ; that He is the foundation of the Church and that Jesus was and is the Messiah.

In Matthew 23 verse 9, Jesus tells his followers “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Does not the Catholic church call it’s priests “father?”   A lack of study and taking the traditions and words of their priests without question has lead them down the wrong path.

Others try to focus all their time on a single book; more often than not Revelation.  They try to apply the whole book to today, trying to find the answer to when is the last day.  When they don’t find it they give up. Billy Graham spent many years on such an endeavor.  Finally giving up, he admitted the answer was not there.  If Christ didn’t know when it was going to come (Matthew 24:36), why would the Spirit tell John and why would John tell us?  God knows that if we did know the day and time he was returning, we would all live in rebellion until those last few minutes, then try to set things right.  Every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening we have a time of group study.  We can share ideas, ask questions and get answers.  But individual study is just as important.  If in your individual study you come across something you don’t understand don’t skip over it, bring it up.  Get with someone who can help you understand it.  Jesus told us, “Seek and you shall find.” I know Steve has a good reference library.  There are plenty of resources on the web; some good, some bad.  Again, ask for help.  Have someone you trust look over a site and see if it is sound.  Get a good bible. There are many versions; some good, some bad, and some very bad (like the New World translation).  Get a concordance and cross reference verses like we did earlier.  Above all study! Don’t take my word, or Steve’s word as to what this book says.  Do as Paul told the Romans in chapter 12 verse 2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Bible Study Challenge

There are more Bibles in print than any other book.  Yet, most people do not know what it says or how it applies to their lives.  We want to challenge everyone to learn what the Bible says.  There is nothing to lose by studying the Bible and everything to gain.  Our own soul’s salvation is dependent upon our proper understanding and our obedience to God’s instructions.

The Bible is God’s inspired instructions to mankind.  II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,…”  Inspiration specifically means, “the drawing of air into the lungs” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary).  In other words, God breathed all scriptures in the Bible!  It is as though God wrote the Bible by his own hand.  The Bible is the revealed Word of God.  The Bible contains the knowledge of God for all mankind.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:2-4)

However, this knowledge of God does not come without some effort on our part.  II Timothy 2:15 states, “Study to show thyself approved unto God,…”  This phrase infers that a lack of knowledge of God’s Word is the same as our disapproval of God.  If we fail to study the Bible, we are telling God we object to His instructions.  Is there any chance of our obtaining salvation if we reject God?

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.  For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4)

We are foolish to neglect learning God’s will.  We know the Bible is from God.  We would never think of insulting our Lord by ignoring His instructions.  Yet, for various reasons, we allow ourselves to neglect our greatest personal responsibility.  It is our personal responsibility to seek and learn God’s will.  Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,…” (Matthew 6:33).  We must remove the dust from our Bibles that sit on the living room coffee table and read it.  No one can come to knowledge of God without it.

We would like to help anyone who desires to learn God’s will.  If you need a Bible, we will get you one.  If you need help studying the Bible, we can provide instruction.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

A Word of Caution

Brethren, if you are planning on buying a new NIV Bible, there is something you need to be aware of. Their first translation came out in 1973, and was followed by a revision in 1997. The ’97 version was a “gender inclusive” rendering, and died quickly. A gender inclusive version involves the elimination of masculine pronouns when they were intended to include both sexes.

The NIV publisher, Zondervan, has now brought out a newer attempt to appeal to those who find the masculine pronouns  objectionable. They will no longer produce the older NIV.

As an example of what they have done, note I John 4:16: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.” The NASV reads: “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The NIV not only does not follow the original pronouns, but it doesn’t even use good grammar, as it has a singular “whoever” and then a plural “them.” Furthermore, it changes the sense of a personal relationship with the Father to an abstract collective.

Revelation 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Poor grammar again, mixing singular and plural parts of the sentence.  The NASV reads: ” ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

I Timothy 2:12 tampers with the meaning. The NASV reads: “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” But the new NIV renders the passage to read that the woman is not to “assume authority over a man.” There is a big difference. The NIV could lead one to think that if the man “gave permission,” for the woman to preach, then she has not “assumed” the authority, but has been granted the right.

So…although the NIV has been quite popular, you need to be aware of the changes in the new editions.

By Jefferson David Tant