The Two Lies
By Daryl R. Coats
Since Satan first asked Eve, "Yea, hath God said?", hundreds of lies have been told about the Bible. Most "fundamentalists" have enough discernment to recognize most of these lies; the two biggest lies about the Bible, however - the two lies that ultimately form the basis of all other lies - are not only unrecognized by most Laodicean "conservatives" and "fundamentalists" but actually are promoted by their colleges and seminaries and churches. Both lies concern the Bible's inspiration and attempt to undermine it. The first claims that the Bible "is" inspired only in "the original manuscripts"; the second maintains that the Bible is inspired only in "the original languages." These two lies share one thing in common with every lie ever told about the Bible since Genesis 1:1: they simply cover up the natural man's desire to undermine God's authority.
Supposedly the translators of "The New King James Version" are "Bible-believing" conservatives because each one signed a statement that he believed in the inspiration of "the original autographs"; what a shame, though that they weren't translating the original autographs! "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written, and is therefore inerrant in the original writings," says the doctrinal statement of a Christian organization which sponsors archaeological digs and which publishes a monthly newsletter. Apparently no one in that organization has noticed that the words "in the original writ ings" makes the statement logically fallacious. Nor apparently has anyone in that organization noticed that "inerrant in the original writings" does not mean "inerrant now." As one liberal theologian pointed out in his review of Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible, the only real difference between the con servative and liberal positions on the Bible is that the conser vatives say the Bible used to be inspired and inerrant, whereas the liberal says it was never inspired or inerrant. Both posi tions agree that the Bible is not now inspired or inerrant.
The fundamentalist and conservative position on the Bible's inspiration is identical not only to the liberal position but to the charismatic and "neo-evangelical" positions, and exactly how this similarity is maintained in a state of "separation" from the world is never explained! "WE BELIEVE that the Holy Bible as originally written was inspired and the product of Spirit- controlled men, and therefore has truth without any admixture of error for its matter," says the first article in the statement of faith of a "prophetic ministry" in California. Left to the read er's imagination is just how past-tense inspiration ("was in spired") is proof for present-tense inerrancy ("therefore has truth"). "We believe that the Bible is the written Word of God, without error in the original manuscripts, and of infallible divine authority in matters of faith and life," says an adver tisement for a Presbyterian church in Oxford, Mississippi. Imme diately following those words in the ad comes the revelation of the real issue here: final authority. "Our only other doctrinal standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger o73 and Shorter Catechism."
In other words, since the Bible no longer is inerrant, it is necessary for this church to have two "doctrinal standards" in addition to the Bible. Such is always the case. Since the origi nal manuscripts no longer exist, some other authority must be substituted for them, whether that other authority is a revela tion, a Book of Mormon, a Nicene Creed, or a college education. Modern "Bible scholars" realize this only too clearly, and that is why they spend so much times talking and writing about non- existent "originals." Since the "inspired originals" no longer exist, the scholars and their conjectures replace the Bible and become themselves "the final authority."
Like the "missing link," the original manuscripts have never been seen by Laodicean Christians. How, then, can someone believe they are inspired? Suppose that locked in my office is a book which no one has ever seen, and that there is absolutely no way you could ever see it. Would you be willing to risk your eternal salvation on whether the contents of that book were inspired? I hope not. Most reasonable people would wait until they had seen an object in question before they made a judgment on it. But modern Christians are more than willing to judge something no one has seen for two thousand or more years. Whether any scholar or "layman" admits it, present-day copies of the "inspired origi nals" are the only evidence available to support the inspiration of those originals, and unless those copies are also inspired, there is no evidence that the originals were inspired. In fact, if the present day copies are not inspired, then neither were the originals, because inspiration can no more produce non- inspiration than a fig tree can produce berries (see James 3:12; cf. Gen. 1:21, 24, 25: "after his kind").
If the Bible were inspired only in the original manuscripts, no one in the entire history of the world has ever had an in spired Bible. The original autographs of Job and the books of Moses had disappeared more than a thousand years before the first book of the New Testament was written, so no one has ever owned a complete Bible made up of the "divine originals." Nor has anyone ever owned a complete New Testament made up of "inspired origi nals" because the originals were distributed among more than a dozen individuals and local churches.
The Two Lies - Part 2
If the Bible were inspired only in the original manuscripts, no one today really knows for sure what is in "the Bible" because no one today has ever seen the original manuscripts. Not surprisingly, this is the attitude behind every English "bible" published since 1611. "We can only follow the best judgment of competent scholars as to the most probable reconstruction of the original text," says the preface to the RSV, too deceitful to define just what a "competent scholar" is and to cut through the double-talk and admit, "This is what we think the Bible might be." "Scholararly uncertainty" is more clearly evident in the third edition of the UBS "Greek New Testament," the introduction to which states, "The letter A [next to a passage] signifies that the text is virtually certain, while B indicates there is some o73 degree of doubt. The letter C means that there is a considerable degree of doubt whether the text or the apparatus contains the superior reading [note: "the superior reading" is not the same as "the correct reading"!], while D shows there is a very high degree of doubt concerning the reading selected for the text." Apparently the scholars change their mind from year to year as to which "readings" are genuine; how else do we explain the "more than five hundred changes" between the second and third editions of the UBS "Greek New Testament"?
If the Bible were inspired only in the original manuscripts, no one today has an inspired Bible. If that is true, what makes your religion any different from that of the Buddhist, or Hindu, or Moslem, or Mormon? If the Bible you read from, study from, memorize from, and preach from is not inspired, what makes it any different from the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and the Upanishads, none of which is inspired, either?
If the Bible were inspired only in the original manuscripts, God certainly went to a lot of trouble for nothing. Only Moses ever saw the original of "the two tables of testimony" (Exod. 31, 32). The "original manuscripts" of Exodus, then, did not contain the "original autograph" of the ten commandments. Nor did the "original autograph" of Deuteronomy. Were Exodus 20 and Deuteron omy 5 somehow not inspired even in those books' "original auto graphs"?
Baruch and Jehudi (and possibly Jeremiah) were the only people who ever read the "divine original" of portions of Jeremi ah (Jer. 36). Less than a dozen local churches and even fewer individuals ever owned an inspired copy of a New Testament book. What was so special about Philemon and Gaius that God would give them inspired copies of New Testament epistles but not give them to all Christian believers? What was so special about the carnal church at Corinth that God gave it two inspired epistles? And how did God decide which of the seven churches in Asia Minor would receive the "divine original" of Revelation and which six would have to settle for "uninspired" copies of the original.
If the Bible is no longer inspired, who removed its inspira tion? Who gave it in the first place? God gives a man his breath, and only God can take it away (Gen. 2:7, Dan. 5:23). If God gave the Bible its inspiration (and He did - 2 Tim. 3:16), then only God could have taken it away. If He did, then He violated His own commandment: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it," He tells us in Deuter onomy 4:2, indicating that through His use of the word "ought" He is referring to more than just letters or words. If He did, then He lied when He said in Psalm 89:34 that He would not "alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." According to the Bible rejectors, then, God is guilty of the same sin that they are.
Fortunately, the Bible says nothing about its inspiration being limited to "original autographs" or even "original lan guages." Of course, many men teach that it does say such a thing, and each of them quotes 2 Timothy 3:16 to prove his point. But is that what the verse really says? Looking at the verse in the context in which it appears (2 Tim. 3:14-17), you will notice that Paul admonished Timothy to continue (v.14) in those same scriptures that he had studied as a child (v.15), because those o73 scriptures are inspired (v.16) and are able to "throughly" fur nish" the man of God. Did Timothy somehow own the original manu scripts of the Old Testament books? Of course not. Yet the scrip tures which he owned were inspired!
Even taken out of context, 2 Timothy 3:16 cannot be used as a proof-text for limited inspiration. Look at it closely. Nowhere in the verse do the words "in the original manuscripts" occur. For that matter, nowhere in the verse will you find a verb in the past tense. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," not "was given." The inspiration of the Bible is present tense - NOW. It is alive and still breathing, and you had better be glad it is. God inspired the Bible for only one reason: "that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17). If the Bible were inspired only in the original manuscripts you would have no chance of living and working for God the way He wants you to!
Second Timothy 3:16 also does not say anything about the Bible being inspired only in the "original languages" (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Nor will you find a reference to "original languages" anywhere else in the Bible. Yet "scholars" and brain washed non-scholars alike continue to teach that the Bible's inspiration is somehow limited to "the original languages."
The Two Lies - Part 3
If the Bible is inspired only in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, less than two percent of the people who have ever lived have ever been able to read or understand the Bible (or portions of it) in its "inspired form." Again, the question arises, why would God have bothered to inspire the Bible if only a handful of people would ever be able to benefit from its "inspired form"? When it comes to making the gospel available to all people who want to receive it, is not God "no respecter of persons"? Didn't He prove this when He sent the Latin-speaking Roman Cornelius the same word that he had originally sent the Hebrew speaking chil dren to Israel in the Old Testament (Acts 10:34-37)? Regardless of his language or nationality, if a person fears God and "work eth righteousness," God will give him (and allow him to know) the same word "which God sent unto the children of Israel." The same God who can understand a prayer in any language can also communi cate in any language.
Stewart Custer, in his deceitfully titled pamphlet, The Truth About the King James Version Controversy, claims that "to say . . . that the King James Bible is the inerrant Word of God is to say that God favors the English-speaking people of the world" (p.13). To the contrary, to say such a thing is to admit that God favors all people when it comes to making the Bible available to them. Custer's claim is logically fallacious if not downright hypocritical. Doesn't he realize that to say that the Bible is inspired only in the "original languages" is to say that God somehow favors Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek-speaking peoples, most of whom have been dead more than a thousand years?
If the Bible is inspired only in the "original languages," it is a dead book, because Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek are dead languages. The Bible, however, claims to be alive o73 ("quick," Heb. 4:12). "Being born again . . . by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23). "The words that I speak unto you . . . they are life" (John 6:63). Because it is alive, the Bible can see and discern and produce life, an impos sibility if it were dead.
If the Bible is inspired only in the "original languages," it is barbaric. "Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me," wrote Paul to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 14:11). God required that the Corinthians translate their "unknown tongue" so that the entire church could be edified (1 Cor. 14:5). In light of that, since God inspired the Bible to equip Christians for His service, wouldn't it be unbiblical for Him to limit the inspiration of His word to He brew, Aramaic, and Greek ("unknown tongues" to ninety-percent of the people who have ever lived)? Wouldn't it be unbiblical for God not to translate His word? It certainly would, and that is why, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:5, 19, and 27-28, God "interprets" from the "original languages" in the text of the Bible itself.
"To interpret" literally means "to translate" (which, inter estingly, sheds some new light on Peter's statement that the Bible is not of any "private interpretation," 2 Pet. 1:20; a preacher or professor or scholar who makes up his own translation from a Greek or Hebrew Bible is making a "private interpretation"!) At my church, "signers" translate ("interpret") sermons and testimonies and songs for the sake of the deaf. When I worked in Africa, "interpreters" translated my messages and presentations from English into Swahili. Joseph hides his identi ty from his brothers by speaking to them through an interpreter who translates from Egyptian to Hebrew (Gen. 42:7, 23). Several times in the Greek New Testament, God throws in some Hebrew or Aramaic and then "interprets" it into Greek so it won't be bar baric (Matt. 1:23, 27:33, Mark 5:41, 15:22, 34, John 1:41-42, 9:7, John 19:17, Acts 9:36, 4:36, 13:8, Heb. 7:1-2.) God also translates Hebrew words that appear in the Aramaic portion of Daniel (Dan. 5:25-28).
A study of the "interpretation" found in Daniel 5 sheds much light on the "Bible issue." When Daniel and the other Hebrew youths were brought into Babylon, they were trained in the use of "the tongue of the Chaldeans" (Dan. 1:4). Even though every Jew in Belshazzar's court was completely fluent in his native Hebrew and his adopted Aramaic, only Daniel could "interpret" the Hebrew written on the wall; in the same way, years of study of "Biblical languages" do not of themselves qualify a man to "interpret" the Bible, because "interpretations belong to God" (Gen. 40:8). God will provide the translation that He wants, wrought at the hands of a man or men whom He has proven, and any other translation is a "private interpretation." In addition, notice that for clarity, God's translation adds words not found in "the original" (e.g., the italicized words in the AV 1611) and that God withholds His judgment until Belshazzar had heard the word in his own language!
Some argue that the Authorized Version of the Bible could not be inspired because if it were, then the King James transla tors would have been just as "inspired" as the "original o73 writers." The Bible, however, does not say that Peter, Paul, Moses, or any other Biblical writer was inspired. Instead, it says that the writers of the bible "were moved" (2 Pet. 1:21). Only the Bible itself is inspired. Belief that the writers were inspired is responsible for works as the Epistle to the Laodi ceans and two additional epistles to the church at Corinth. If Paul were inspired, then everything he wrote would be scripture; it isn't. If Solomon were inspired, all three thousand of his proverbs and one thousand and five of his songs would be scrip ture; they aren't.
Just as God can use saved sinners to record His word, so He can use saved sinners to translate His word. Rome, naturally, fully opposes this, especially when God translated His word into English. Like many Fundamentalists in the 1980's, Rome denounced the AV as it was being translated, claiming that God could speak only in the Biblical languages; the translators' response to such nonsense is as valid today as it was in 1611:
". . . we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the . . . translation of the Bible in English . . . containeth the word of God, nay is the word of God: As the king's speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the king's speech."
What America needs today is more Christians who will affirm and not deny that the AV 1611 is the word of God.
The Two Lies - Part 4
That the Bible in English is just as inspired as the Bible in its "original languages" is shown by several passages in the Bible. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached only one sermon; yet every person present heard that sermon in his own language. Just as there was only one sermon, there is only one word of God. Just as the sermon was not bound to Peter's "original" language, so "the word of God is not bound" to its original languages (2 Tim. 2:9). And just as each version of Peter's sermon was true to the "original," so the genuine versions of the Bible are true to the original, which is settled forever in heaven. Hundreds of counterfeit versions exist today, but they are not true to the original. The only authorized Version of the Bible in English, the only one which God is responsible for, is the King James Bible.
If the Bible is inspired only in the original languages, then every Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament is uninspired, because the New Testament translates them before it quotes them. If the Bible is inspired only in the original lan guages, part of the Old Testament must be an uninspired transla tion of Egyptian, because the scripture spoke to Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17), and I doubt very much that it spoke to him in Hebrew. If the Bible is inspired only in the original languages, you had better start learning those languages as quickly as you can. Jesus said man was to live by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." His words are to abide in us, and if He didn't give us any words in English, we had better pick up the original languages so we can stop living in disobedience.
According to Isaiah 55:11, one characteristic of the in o73 spired word is that it shall accomplish what God pleases. What does God desire? He desires that sinners repent of their sins and get saved (Isa. 55:7, Ezek. 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9, Luke 14:23), and the preaching of the inspired word accomplishes this (Isa. 55:11, Rom. 10:14-15, 2 Tim. 3:15). Does the AV 1611 accomplish what God desires? If it does, the AV 1611 must be inspired, because the word that accomplishes what God desires "goeth forth out of my mouth."
According to Hebrews 11:5, "Enoch was translated." The primary meaning of "to translate" is not "to turn one language into another" but rather "to convey, or remove from one person, place, or condition to another; to transfer, transport" (Oxford English Dictionary). Enoch was borne, conveyed and transported from one place (Earth) to another (Heaven), and as a translation into English, the AV 1611 has been borne, conveyed, and trans ported from one place (the original languages) to another (Eng lish). Did this translation process effect the inspiration of the Bible? Not in the least. Notice that Enoch was the same person after his translation as he was before it; if anything, he was actually better off after being translated. Even so, the King James Bible is just as inspired after its translation as it was before it. Only its locale and language changed; its nature remained the same.
Some will argue, however, that some things cannot be conveyed from one language to another; some things will be clouded except in "the original." I once heard a student offer this excuse for not reading the Bible: "Reading it in translation is bad, because there are some words in Greek and Hebrew which we don't know what they mean." Somehow he could not comprehend that if a word's meaning is unknown, being able to read it in its "original language" still will not help him to know what it means!
Loss of meaning as a result of translation might be true as far as ordinary literature is concerned, but the Bible is not just literature, nor is it ordinary. God can communicate in any language - clearly and precisely - because He is God. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33 - in the context of "inter preting"!), and a Bible that is unintelligible without a knowl edge of "original languages" is confusion at its worst. The "doctrine" that an idea which can be expressed in Hebrew or Greek somehow can't be expressed in English (even though a large por tion of Greek vocabulary has been absorbed into the English vocabulary, the largest of any language in history) is nothing but "scholarly" ethnocentricity.
The Two Lies - Part 5
The fact that the Bible in English is still the word of God has not stopped a vast number of preachers, teachers, and schol ars from saying otherwise: "What this means in the original Greek"; "a better translation would be"; "the Hebrew actually says . . . " I have yet to see an example of "going back to the Greek" that was not a waste of time for one or both of these reasons: (1) the passage in question was clear to begin with; or (2) the word(s) in question could be explained by a dictionary o73 instead of a lexicon.
"Going back to the Greek" is usually a good, "scholarly, acceptable" way of getting rid of distasteful doctrines and/or setting up scholarship as a final authority. For example, here is how most scholars and expositors explain what "inspired" means: "The phrase 'given by inspiration of God' is all one word in the Greek, theopneustos - literally, God breathed." Yet when I look up "theopneustos" in my lexicon, I find only this: "given by inspiration of God." Knowing Greek doesn't explain what the word literally means; to learn the literal meaning, a person must trace the etymology of the word.
First of all, any English speaker familiar with his own language should not need a Greek scholar to tell him the literal meaning of "theopneustos." Didn't "theos" (God) come into English in a number of forms, such as "theology" and "theism"? Didn't "pneustos" (breathed) come into English in a number of forms, including "pneuma," "pneumatic," and "pneumonia"? Secondly, even if a speaker is not familiar with his native tongue, if he's willing to research the etymology of "theopneustos," why shouldn't he, just for a change of pace, be willing to research the etymology of the English word "inspired"?
The English word "inspired" literally means "produced by blowing or breathing [into]," with the connotation that a deity is doing the breathing! This should be obvious to any American high schooler who had to memorize the opening lines of the "General Prologue" of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which speaks of Zephirus inspirating things with his sweet breath (lines 5-7).
"Given by inspiration of God" literally means "given by the breath of God". "In" obviously means "in" or "into"; "spire" comes from the Latin word for breath and is the source of our word "spirit" (see John 3:8 and 20:22). When your breath exits your body, you "expire." When it comes back (returns) into you, you "respire" (usually on a respirator). When you breathe through your skin, you "perspire." When you get close enough to someone else that you share his breath, you "conspire." When your breath travels, something has "transpired." Notice that all of this can be discovered simply by looking into a dictionary; a lexicon was not necessary.
The number of Biblical passages abused by "language scholars" is almost legion and includes John 21:15-17 (even though the Greek text of the New Testament uses "phileo" and "agape" inter changeably), Matthew 12:40 (Jonah's whale), and others literally too numerous to list here. The Satanic motive behind such abuse is simply to establish a final authority other than the Bible. The "historic Baptist position" has always been that the Bible is the final authority on all matters. When the "original languages" are emphasized, as they are today, then not the Bible but some thing else is the final authority. I once knew a woman whose husband was a student at a seminary. It became a chore for her to read (much less study) her Bible because exposure to the teach ings of the seminary and to her husband's new-found knowledge of Hebrew and Greek convinced her that all translations of the Bible were faulty and that the Bible, if it were inspired, was inspired only in the original languages. Since she did not know the origi nal languages, she ceased to study the Bible and instead took the o73 word of Greek and Hebrew "scholars" as to what was "really" in the Bible.
When the Bible is inspired only in the "original languages," only those who know (or who claim they know) the languages can read it, and then they become the final authority because ignorant "lay people" go to them instead of the Bible itself. Students of history will recognize that this is the same ruse used by the Catholic Church and its "inspired Latin Vulgate" for fifteen hundred years. No wonder, then, so many Baptists and Protestants are eager to embrace Catholicism through the ecumeni cal movement!
"The Two Lies" is a five part series that appeared in the Bible Believer's Bulletin from September, 1988 to January, 1989.