Reply by Mr. McKinsey, as contained in the August 1986 edition of “Biblical Errancy.” Sections correspond to the sections placed in the previous letter.
Dear JW. Like you, I have encountered the same arguments on numerous occasions and your “out-of-context” pleading is one of the most common. You alluded to point #18 in the May 1986 commentary and held that there was no contradiction between Jesus and Paul because the former adopted a new position after his death and resurrection. Oddly enough, we agree on one point. His posture did change. Before his death Jesus said, ”l am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt.l5:24) and “Go not into the way of the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:5), while afterwards he said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Matt.28:19). So which view represents the real Jesus? I’m not sure. Are we to assume God, i.e. Jesus, changed his mind and completely reversed a very important teaching. (sic) I assumed he did not, which accounts for the disagreement with Paul who said, “For there is no difference between Jew and Greek.” If you insist he altered his stance, then you have eliminated a contradiction between Jesus and Paul by creating one between Jesus and Jesus (which was discussed in Issue 28’s commentary- -#78). Jesus initially said one thing; afterwards he said another. One of his comments is false unless he originally came to save only a small group instead of all mankind. Is that what you are contending? If so, then you had better rewrite some Christian theology. Or, are you saying Jesus, i.e. God, the perfect being who changes not (Mal. 3:6), changed his mind and reversed his teaching merely because he died and was resurrected? Why would his death, burial and resurrection warrant such a major change or be of significance and weren’t those to whom he spoke before his death on the cross given false information? After all he knew he was sent to save more than just the Jews.
I realize that apologists, such as yourself, place great reliance on the “back to Greek and Hebrew” defense, JW. Some even like to think of it as their ace-in-the-hole. If there were unanimity among scholars and only one version available, their dreams would be plausible. But, unfortunately for them, anything but agreement reigns supreme and widely varying versions abound. Your own example shows this quite well. You said there was no difference between Matt. 19:18 (Thou shalt do no murder”) and Rom. 13:9 (Thou shalt not kill”) because both came from “ou phoneuseis” in Greek. That is in direct opposition to some of the most widely accepted versions on the market today. Since you questioned my knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, I’d like to pose some questions to you. How many years have you studied Greek and Hebrew? Have you ever taught it on a professional, full-time basis? Are you an expert, a recognized authority on these languages? With all due respect, I doubt it. Those who translated Greek and Hebrew into such versions as the King James, the Revised Standard, the New American Standard, the New American Bible etc. are such experts. indeed, many have devoted their lives to linguistics. And the consensus of several of these committees is opposed to your analysis of our example. The translators of the KJV say “murder” is the proper word in Matt. 19:18, while ”kill” is the best term to use in Rom.13:9. Are you saying they don’t know the difference, that they don’t know how to translate? Are you saying you know Greek and Hebrew better than those who assembled the KJV? They say there is a difference, while you say there isn’t. Before leaping to the common response that later research has corrected some errors in the KJV, you had better take note of the fact that several of the newest versions agree with the King James. The Modern Language says “murder” (Matt. 19:18) and “kill” (Rom. 13:9). the New American Bible says “kill” (Matt. 19:18) and “murder” (Rom. 13:9), and the New English Bible says “murder” (Matt. 19:18) and “kill” (Rom. 13:9). So clearly the experts on several committees say there is a difference where you deny one exists. This is typical of the problem that arises when you return to the “original” Greek and Hebrew to see what the text says. Even the experts clash. They often don’t agree on which text to use among the multitude available and they often don’t agree on what the text says even when agreement is reached on the text to use. The dispute as to whether “almah” in Isaiah 7:14 means “virgin” or a “young woman” has never been resolved. I could become one of the world’s greatest Hebrew/Greek scholars and still find many knowledgeable people who disagree with my interpretation. The example you gave demonstrates the problem clearly. Does “ou phoneuseis” mean “kill” or “murder.”(sic) Certainly there is a difference between killing and murdering. The KJ, and NAS, the Modern Language, and the NE versions contend one “ou phoneuseis” does not equal the other. So we have disagreement within these versions. We also have the problem of versions that are internally consistent but in opposition to one another. For example, the RSV says “kill” (Matt. 19:18) and “kill” (Rorn. 13:9) as does the Living Bible, the New American Standard and the New Jerusalem. The NIV, the NASB, the NWT, and the TEV, on the other hand, say “murder” (Matt. 19:18) and “murder” (Rom. 13:9). So who is right? Who knows Greek best? Which group of Greek scholars should we accept? And these men have devoted decades to these languages. That’s why BE does not become involved in linguistics and translations. It’s a never-ending struggle often decided more by political expediency than objective scholarship It’s the same kind of expediency that decided which books would enter the canon to begin with. BE only requires apologists to stay with one version or the other and relates problems primarily from the KJV because it’s accepted by the largest number of people. Relating every disagreement within and between all versions is out of the question.
Your reconciliation of the disagreement between 1 Tim. 6:16 (“Jesus only hath immortality”) and John 3:16 (“whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”) doesn’t fare much better, JW. You say the word in 1 Tim. 6:16 is athanasian which Webster defines as “immortal (Greek: a-without + thanatos-death) and view that as different from the “eternal life” in John 3:16. How “immortality” differs from “eternal life” is a distinction only theologians can visualize. I’d say we are comparing apples to apples. Like many apologetic theologians you are trying to create a distinction where none exists.
Your attempt to solve the “only Jesus has immortality” problem is muddled at best. You said, “the word translating ‘hath’ in the KJV is a participle in the original, echon. The continuous action without relationship to time expressed by this participle is significant to the meaning of the passage.” How it is significant and what “continuous action” has to do with the issue, one can only surmise. Either Jesus is or is not the only immortal being.
You implied that only those fluent in Greek and Hebrew are qualified to critique the Bible. But, that goes two ways. Are you sufficiently fluent in these languages to defend the Book? And, even more importantly, are you more fluent than recognized experts on translation committees such that you can tell them their understanding of a passage is in error? You need to realize that some of your points exhibit disagreement more with them than with me, JW. You say there is no difference between the “ou phoneuseis” of Matt. 19:18 and the “ou phoneuseis” of Roman 13:9; whereas, the translators of the KJ the NAB, the ML, and the NE versions say there is. With all due respect, I’m more inclined to believe them than you. And since BE can only focus on one version at a time we have stressed problems within the KJ.
In all honesty, JW, I fail to see the humor in #31. Seems like a clear-cut inconsistency to me! Your comment with respect to #33 does, however, have some merit. As long as you are willing to admit that the statement attributed to Jesus by Paul does not exist in Scripture, I am willing to admit there could be an extra-biblical comment to that effect. But don’t give people the impressions, as is often done, that such a statement by Jesus can be found in the Bible. As far as #34 is concerned, some of that “in-depth theology” on the Trinity was covered in Issues 15, 18, 36. and 38 which you don’t appear to have read. Instead of answering the trinitarian dilemma posed, you merely belittled my understanding and asked an innocuous rhetorical question about gender which has little relevance and less impact. I’ve debated the Trinity on numerous occasions and seriously doubt you could add anything new. But I’m willing to listen.
Do you honestly expect me to believe that you “do not blindly accept anything”, JW. (sic) You condemned BE before hearing my responses, without reading prior issues, without addressing many other points that were made; without giving clear, unmuddled responses to the problems you chose to discuss, and without acknowledging your own limitations with respect to Greek and Hebrew. You have not examined my “facts” hut only examined some facts, very few, in fact. Moreover, confounding the “Word of God” is not the purpose of this publication, JW. We only ask that you examine all the evidence before accepting the Bible as the “Word of God.” But you have acted in precisely the opposite manner. You accepted it as the Word of God long ago and have been judging all evidence accordingly. That which corroborates your belief has been retained; that which doesn’t has been discarded.
And finally, since you are rather generous with gratuitous advice let me respond with some of my own. Never talk as if you have the final word on what the text says when even the experts don’t agree and, remember, Greek and Hebrew are no different from other languages. They are constantly changing and often open to varying interpretations.