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XXIV. TEXTUAL MISSUNDERSTANDINGS

 

The Old Cannon was faithfully preserved: The Hebrew scholars had great respect for the Old Testament scriptures since they considered it to be the word of God through his prophets. Because God had explicitly told them not to add or subtract a word from it, they created a whole system of checks to make sure the scriptures were transmitted faithfully from generation to generation. Scribes were forbidden to copy Scripture without a text in front of them, even if they knew the whole Bible by heart, in order to secure precision in copying. They even counted the number of letters written in a text. Despites all the mistakes of the ancient Jews, their scribes were faithful keepers of the ancient writings. The preservation of the texts basically intact, was confirmed by the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea scrolls agreed with the Hebrew text in about 95 percent accuracy with the other 5 percent being mostly misspellings of names. As an example the town of Salim is written as Salim, Saleim, Salem, Salom, Schiloh, Zaleim and some more. Scribal practices and approaches reflected in the texts found in the Judean desert (2009) by Professor Emanuel Tov.

 

The writings of the Apostles: When the early Christian church begun they used the Old Cannon as their scriptures, but soon the apostles begun to write about Jesus and also give instructions to the church about their faith. Unfortunately the writings of the Apostles were not as carefully preserved as the Old Cannon. The main reason is that although at the beginning the church was composed mostly of Jews yet in a few years the church mission expanded to the gentiles who had no tradition, experience or training in the preservation of sacred texts, like the Jews had. The writings of the Apostles were loved and used for teaching but they were not initially considered on a par with the Old Testament Canon. The Epistles of the Apostles were copied usually by amateur gentile copyists and passed around but there was no supervision over the copying process to verify that they had been faithfully copied. The earliest Christian scriptoriums came up sometime late in the second century. The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (2006) by Larry W. Hurtado, New Testament scholar.

 

Incorrect interpretation of the Texts: I am often quite amazed at the many misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the Bible by those who are ignorant or unlearned in the Bible. In order to properly undersand and interpret the scriptures we must take the following factors into account.

 

The language: Neither Jesus nor his apostles spoke Greek, they spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. We do not have the actual words of Jesus, what we have are translations in Greek of what he spoke.

The culture: The culture of the times was totally different that in a modern nation. Unless we their customs into account we will misunderstand a huge number of texts.

The conditions: The rules, laws, traditions and knowledge of those times were totally different than our own; we cannot judge those by the standards of our times.

The totality:  This is the concept that you must take the total texts of the scriptures regarding any doctrine, and then from all the total scriptures you are to create a doctrine.

The agreement: This is the concept that all scriptures are in agreement and there are no contradictions, any apparent contradictions must be reconciled together into a single doctrine.

 

Only by studying can we get an understanding of the world the early Christians lived in and be able to grasp fully the message in the Bible.

 

The importance of the name: Those who willfully reject the name of Jesus in baptism because they consider it some kind of technicality or do not place much importance on the value of a name do not understand that they are not only rejecting the name but also everything that it represents. When God created Adam, he gave Adam the privilege of naming all the animals and later on we see that Adam gave a name to his wife Eve. In the Bible a name was not just a name, but it is of great importance because it represents the person, that is why Moses asked God for his name.

Down the centuries we see the importance of a name, when God changed the name of Abram to Abraham and the name of Sarai to Sarah, and later Jacob to Israel. A name is not something just given to identify a thing or a person, but it is much more. A name is supposed to embody all that that person is or will be, that is why there are so many stories in the Old Testament regarding the issue of names. That is why God changed people’s names in the Old and even in the New Testament, we have Saul changed to Paul and some others who got a different name.

Someone who is new to the Bible will soon be befuddled by all the duplicate names that appear, this Mary, that Mary and that other Mary. Then there is this Judas, that Judas and that other Judas. The first name of the Apostle Thomas was Judas. Then there are the many names that people were known by like Matthew was also known as Levi, Peter was known as Simon, Paul was known as Saul and so forth. Jesus is called sometimes, Lord at other times he is called Christ and so forth. Understanding who we are talking about and who we are referring to because of the name can get quite confusing to those who are new to the Bible.

 

The greatest of all names is the name of God. To do justice to the subject of the name of God, would take at least a very large book. How important is the name of God, well it is so important that a commandment was given by God about not using his name in vain. In the hierarchy of commandments using the name of God in vain is placed much higher than even murder. One person who cursed his name was stoned for blaspheming the name of God.

 

Some people think that it does not matter in what name a person is baptized, whether in the trinity or in the name of Yeshua, they consider it as not important. However from the importance in the scriptures given to the name of Yeshua we understand that it is an important name. Demons were cast out in the name of Yeshua, they were not cast out in the name of Paul or Peter or any of the other Apostles. Miracles were done in the name of Yeshua, no other name was used to perform miracles. That was precisely the argument that Paul gave to the Corinthians, that they were not baptized in the name of any of the Apostles, but in the name of Jesus.

We must understand that the name of Yeshua was so important, that it was given by divine decree, God sometimes gave or changed names when the name represented something that was to be memorable. So yes it is important in what name we are baptized, it is not just a theological concept. The name of Yeshua is a holy name, perhaps that is why God has allowed so many people into taking another name rather than the name of Yeshua, for God does not want an unholy people to take the holy name of Yeshua.

Please understand that the name given to the son of God was not just a name picked out of a hat or because it sounded good; no it was a specially chosen name, which was to represent God. Yeshua is the name above every name that has ever existed; there is no higher name in the entire universe. A name in the Bible is much more than a linguistic denominator that identifies a person, but it also represents the authority or power of the person. So yes it definitely does matters in what name a person is baptized.

            The gist of the matter is that baptism has to be done in the right name, and the only real name the Bible has told us can get us salvation is the name of Jesus. Even the name Jesus has the word “salvation” in it. The word or meaning “salvation” is not in the name Father nor in the name Son nor in the name Holy Spirit. None of them contain anything that means “salvation”. When Peter tells us that there is no other name under heaven wherein is salvation, he is using a play on words on the name Yeshua.

 

The inerrancy, inspiration, conservation issues: Some people, who really have not studied well, teach the strange doctrine that God inspired the apostles to write every single word in the scriptures; then God miraculously kept every single word intact and later even supervised carefully the translation of every single word into English. They teach the doctrine of full inerrancy in which God bypassed human fallibility and miraculously preserved every word and even guided the English translation of each word; some go so far as to claim that the King James Version is the Only word of God.

The advocates of the KJV Only position take any questioning or criticism of their doctrinal position as an attack on the word of God. Every bible version is subject to questioning and criticism why should the KJV be an exception? There is nothing wrong with biblical scholars examining a bible translation, but the KJV Only advocates reject any examination of their version.

That is why these people refuse to reject 1 John 5:7 as an interpolation, despite the fact that just about every credible scholar now rejects it. They also hold on with great tenacity to the traditional text of Matthew 28:19, despite the fact that none of the Apostles ever used it. What is the point of having a baptismal text that nobody in the early church even mentions?

 

Right of the bat their argument flies out the window, if the KJV of 1611 is the Only real word of God, then that means that there was no real word of God before 1611. So if the people did not have the real word of God then how were they getting saved for 16 centuries before the KJV came into existence? And why should God favor only the English version, so how are the millions of Christians all over the world who do not speak English getting saved? And what about those variants between the KJV and the bibles in most other languages, why should the English version be taken as the one with the correct text, and all other languages as not quite correct, is God an Englishman?

 

The second reason that the “KJV Only” position falls flat in its face is the fact that when the KJV itself was created out of 6 or 7 different texts put together. This is something that no one can deny. So which of those 6 or 7 texts was the real word of God? The KJV itself is a combination of texts that are different, so their argument is totally without foundation. There are many more arguments against the “KJV Only” belief and many able Bible scholars are able to give many more of them.

 

The style of the four Gospels: The Gospels were written for different audiences. The simple proof of that is that every one of the gospels tells the story of Christ using different words. They all tell the crucifixion and the resurrection in their own individual words, not one parrots the other. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, his style is totally Hebraic. Mark wrote to a Roman audience, his short abrupt staccato sentences fits perfectly. Luke wrote in a Greek oratorical style with much poetry and songs in his gospel clearly indicating he wrote for a Greek audience. John wrote in a mystical style for his was a spiritual Gospel geared toward the believers, his long discourses of Jesus are meant as a teaching to the church. The great commission itself is given differently by each one, does it mean that Jesus gave four great commissions or he just gave one?

 

Defining Inerrancy: There are different ways to define the issue of inerrancy, inerrancy does not mean that the Apostles were simple recording machines that faithfully recorded every single word and wrote it down exactly as it was spoken. No the Apostles were inspired to write the gospels for they felt a need to tell the story of Jesus, but each of them wrote the Gospel according to their individual personality, remembrance, knowledge and style. God chose to work thru human beings and it is through human beings that his word is passed down throughout generations.

A human being can have a defect or be missing a part, yet that person is still a human being. The word of God may have minor errors done by human beings in the process of transmission or translation, yet it still is the word of God. The word of God is a sword powerful enough to withstand the abuse of human beings and able to work through it to bring salvation. Just imagen if a warrior refused to fight in a battle when his sword got a dent or two, and was not perfectly sharp. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) (2013) by Professor of Christian Theology R. Albert Mohler, Professor of Theology Kevin J. Vanhoozer, New Testament Scholar Michael F. Bird, Biblical scholar and theologian Peter E. Enns, and Professor of Missional Theology John R. Franke. These five doctors give each their own views on inerrancy.

 

After many years of studying and researching the New Testament, I am convinced that we have about a 99% accuracy in the New Testament with only about 1% corrupted texts, with Matthew 28:19 being part of that 1%. This certainty of the Biblical text is far more than any antiquity text and we do not see people fretting or worrying because those ancient texts are not 100% certain.

 

The idea that we must have a 100% certainty in the Biblical texts is simply ridiculous, we just need adequate certainty, and 99% is way more than adequate. We do not ask a 100% certainty in any other area of our lives, yet we go on living our lives despite lacking a 100% certainty in anything else in this life. It is silly to lose faith in the New Testament or God because you cannot have a 100% certainty in his word, if you need that 100% certainty then where is your faith? Do you have no faith that God will lead you into all truth? Lost in transmission? (2007) by Professor of Biblical Studies Nicholas Perrin

 

The war over versions is basically meaningless for people can read the latest version of the NIV, the NWT or whatever version there is and read about five baptisms done in the name of Jesus, yet reject that evidence and decide to go with baptism in the traditional manner. The problem is not with which version a person chooses, but with the blindness of people who see, but are spiritually blinded.

Should we be worried about the accuracy of the New Testament, because it might contain a few errors? Not really we already have about a 99% accuracy in the text and besides the word of God is self-correcting. It has an amazing built in mechanism that if allowed to work is able to restore the text to its original form, the problem is that human beings have interfered in that process and obstruct it. I do expect that for a long time people will obstruct our efforts to restore a small corrupted text of the Bible to its original text, but I strongly believe that our restoration effort will eventually win the day.

The best example is that despite the text of Matthew 28:19 being in the scriptures for centuries, many people along those same centuries still got baptized in the name of Jesus by following the books of Acts examples. The baptism in the name of Jesus was there available for all to see, yet only a few were able to see it.

 

The seemingly contradictions in the gospels stem from the failure to understand that these were human writers with their own human limitations. One simple point, the chronology of the gospels sometimes is different, well where in any of the gospel is anyone of the writers saying that they wrote everything in perfect chronological order? Obviously Matthew did not write a chronological gospel, that was not his goal. So for some modern historian to hold Matthew to a strict chronological narrative and then fault him for not keeping it is simply ludicrous.

Another point is the details of the gospels, is it really a mistake that one gospel writer mentions one donkey and another mentions two donkeys? Were they supposed to count each donkey they saw, what if one ignored the other donkey and just wrote about the one donkey that Jesus rode. Most of the supposed contradictions in the gospels and in other writings of the Bible are in tiny details that most people would not care to notice. Omitting a detail does not mean a contradiction it simply means the detail was omitted. Telling the story differently does not mean a gospel writer is lying, for each reported what each remembered and are writing using their own individual words and style; so none was lying. Could a critic of the gospels tell exactly what happened 20 or 30 years ago without omitting a single detail and quote every single word exactly as it was spoken? Well that is exactly what the gospel writers did, they wrote about events that happened over 20 years before.

 

The gospels were summaries: One thing that often escapes some Christians is that the gospels are summaries, they do not tell the whole story. The ministry of Jesus was three and a half years yet if we count the days in the gospels we only have 3 months of his ministry. It is only that which was outstanding that was written by the gospel writers. Quite often details are not given when an event or dialogue is being described, only the major points are included in the text. 

 

Mark wrote "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."

Matthew wrote "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home."

Luke wrote “no prophet is accepted in his hometown."

 

Luke also shortened the Lord’s Prayer and the sermon in the mount.

 

In the book of Acts Luke tells us the history of the church for the first few years in just a few chapters, he often mentions Paul ministry in a city in a single sentence. If Luke thought it was important to tell us most of the time in what name the people were baptized then it is because it was an important detail. Sometimes Luke does not tell us in what name a baptism was done, but he has already told us before in what name such an apostle had baptized, we should be able to fill in the details from the prior given examples, we should not be so mentally dense that we cannot understand that if Paul often did something in a certain way, then he must have done it the same way most of the time. If Paul baptized in the name of Jesus a few times, then it is obvious that he also did it even when it is not mentioned.

 

Lost (or perhaps added) in translation: Most people who do not understand translation believe that there is only one way to translate a passage but that is not true. The translation process is often misunderstood, because many fail to see that there is no such thing as word for equivalent word translation of one language to another, because every language has its own rules and syntax. A document given to ten different translators will at the end of the translation have many similarities, yet not two of them will be exactly the same. I myself have done professional translations and I do understand that sometimes it can be quite complex. There were times I had to stop and research the proper words to translate some phrase and I had to use approximations of the actual meaning instead of translating word for word because translating word for word would be meaningless.

 

The KJV was a translation done by a group of translators, all of which were Trinitarians. The heavy Trinitarian bias is clear in some of the texts translated. The best way to avoid bias in Bible translation is to have a group with different theological beliefs create and review the translation. Yes it will take longer to reach a consensus, but the final result will be a Bible with text that has less of any particular bias. For a more exhaustive understating of bias in translation see, Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament (2003) by Professor at Northern Arizona University Jason David BeDuhn. The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation (2011, Second Edition) by semitologian and linguist Emeritus Professor Rolf J. Furuli at University of Oslo and the Norwegian Institute of Paleography and Historical Philology.

We must keep in mind that many words that appear in our English Bibles (including the KJV) are simply not part of the original Greek text; they are not there; they are added to provide clarity, continuity and sense to the translation. The early translators placed punctuation, connecting words and pluralizing words according to their doctrinal views into our Bibles. The words used in translation do make a difference and affect the meaning of the text; the resulted was a Bible with a heavy bent toward certain doctrines. While doing translation work for the government, I had to make sure that my translation was impartial, for I fully understand that by choosing certain words or phrases a translator can influence the outcome or slant the meaning of a text, to say something different than what the original writer intended.

There are some words and some characteristics to a language that are unique to it, The Hebrew has abundant poetry, puns and idioms that are totally dependent upon the language itself, and there really is no way to translate word plays from one language to another, at best it can be approximately translated with much loss in the process. In Matthew 3:9 when John tells the Pharisees “do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” There is a play on words here, that is lost in translation, for John is using similar sounding words in Hebrew בָנִים  bānîm (children), אֲבָנִם  ’abānîm (stones).  In Genesis 6:8 it says: “And Noah (נח) found grace (חן) in the eyes of the Jehovah.” (YLT) The word “Noah” backwards is “grace” which is another type of word play. Much of the power and beatuty of the Hebrew language relies on poetry, puns and idioms that are lost in the translation. Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach (2008) by Doctor W. Randolph Tate.

 

The Septuagint example: When translating from one language to another sometimes there are certain changes that are made for the purpose of clarity. When the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek (The Septuagint) came upon certain phrases they had to make some adaptations. The Hebrew phrase “The hand of God” was translated as “The Power of God” to avoid the impression that the divine was like a human being. Sometimes I find it amusing when people misunderstand the phrase “at the right hand of God” to mean that Jesus is sitting right next to the father. They simply do not seem to understand that this is a Hebrew idiom to mean that Jesus has “The power of God”, Jesus said “All power is given unto me” (Matthew 28:18). There are many other phrases which people tend to misunderstand because the KJV is actually a second hand translation. The first translation was from the Aramaic spoken words of Jesus (For he obviously spoke Aramaic and also Hebrew, for even as a young child Jesus in the temple, he engaged in discussions with the temple scholars and they always held their theological arguments in Hebrew, the scholars were well learned in the Hebrew language) into the Greek written word. The second translation was from the Greek into the English. Whose Bible is it? (2005) by Doctor Jaroslov Pelikan.

 

Some variants of the Gospel of Matthew: There are over 5,800 Greek manuscripts containing all or part of the New Testament so how can anyone seriously say that God did not preserve his word. Well of course no two manuscripts are identical, so how are the bibles done? Well usually by choosing the majority text. Scholars look at the texts and choose the variant that appears in most texts as the correct one, the majority rule is usually followed, although some scholars dispute this method of choosing biblical texts. Those scholars propose that the oldest texts should be taken as the most reliable. The Last Word: Beyond Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture (2005) by Nicholas Thomas Wright, New Testament scholar.

 

Here is a sample of some Greek variants in Matthew (of course rendered into English)

 

Mat 1:16…to whom, being betrothed, a virgin Maria bore Jesus

Mat 1:16…Joseph, to whom was betrothed a virgin Maria, begat Jesus

Mat 1:16…the husband of Mary, to whom was betrothed a virgin Maria, who bore Jesus.

 

Mat 1:18 The birth of Christ thus was…

Mat 1:18 The birth of the Messiah took place as follows…

Mat 1:18 The birth of Jesus the Messiah…

 

Mat 1:25…until she bare her first-born

Mat 1:25…until she gave birth to her firstborn

Mat 1:25…until she brought forth her firstborn son

 

Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:

Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized an immense light flashed round from the water, so that all who had come were fearful.

 

Mat 6:8...before ye ask him.

Mat 6:8…before you open your mouth.

 

Some will say that they basically say the same thing, which is right, but the point of full inerrancy is that there should not be any variant at all. Just one single variation in a single letter renders the doctrine of full inerrancy invalid

 

Dr. Bernhard Weiss (1827-1918) in Textkritik der Evangelien (A Textual Criticism of the Gospels) (1899) Professor Weiss analyzed many of the variants that he had collected. Professor Wieland Willker, (The University of Bremen, Germany) since 2002 has been collecting and discussing variants in the Greek Mss of the Gospels. He currently has in file about 1,500 variants filling 2,600 pages. (A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels, Ed. of 2015, in 4 Vols.). Professor Willker has the following in his collection of variants in Matthew 28:19. He proposed that to the apparatus in standard Greek text of NT (Nestle-Aland 25th ed.) be inserted the Eusebian reading: EN TW ONOMATI MOU (“in my Name”)

Greek scholars have long debated which of the many known variants are the original ones. Perhaps we may never get to the point of having a 100% original New Testament, unless someday we find a hidden throve of early parchments; containing all the books of the New Testament, but we can get pretty close to the original text, and that is what we should strive to achieve. Let us look it at it this way, we already have about 99% of the correct text; should we not concentrate in obeying what we do have and worry less on what we do not have. This is like a billionaire spending his life worrying about a few dollars not adding up in his bank account, quite ridiculous. Anyone doubting the word of God or having a faith crisis because about 1% of the Bible is uncertain is being a pretty silly person. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography (1981) by Bruce M. Metzger, New Testament scholar. Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (2012) by Professor of Apologetics and Theology Norman L. Geisler and Ph.D. candidate William C. Roach.

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