Category Archives: Theology

The Better Question

When looking for answers to our problems, many times we ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”

A better question might be, “What did Jesus do?”

“But we preach Christ crucified…” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

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“By” or “Through”: That’s the Question (An Examination of John 1:3)

This morning I was having coffee with a brother in Christ, and now I’m going to do some visiting. So, I typed in “coffee” to search older posts of mine and this one popped up. Interesting.

So, have a great Tuesday afternoon!


Introduction

Tuesday morning, after a cup of coffee with some great, godly men in our community, I was standing out in the parking lot of a local restaurant discussing the morning’s plans. It was during this short conversation that the subject matter briefly switched to that of Bible translations.

There we were, standing by the cab of a pickup truck when one of these men – a great friend to our family and church – said something akin to the following:

“The reason I will only use the King James Bible can be illustrated by the change in one word, and that word is found in the first chapter of John. There, the King James Version says, ‘all things were made by Jesus,’ but every other version – every single one – changes that word ‘by’ to ‘through.’ I have a problem with that. As I see it, there’s a big difference between ‘by’ and ‘through.’ Either everything was made by Jesus, or it wasn’t.” (Again, this was not an exact quote, but close.)

Therefore, it might take more than the average 500-word blog post to unpack, but I want to address this apparent conflict between “by” and “through” as found in John 1:3.

Doing the Research

You know, the last thing one should do when confronted with an unknown is say to the one making the assertion, “Nuh uh!” Right after my friend said what he did about every other translation of the Bible changing “by” to “through,” I pulled out my iPhone and pulled up BlueLetterBible.com.

Seeing what I was doing, the gentleman goaded me a little and said with a slight chuckle, “You gotta look that one up, don’t ya?” I grinned as I nodded…the subject changed back to hardware for about 30 seconds…then we went our separate ways.

But I did look it up. It wasn’t difficult to do, either. The Bible-study tools we have access to in an instant, even on our smartphones, are literally mind-blowing. At no other time in history have we had so much knowledge available so quickly right in the palms of our hands. Therefore, it didn’t take more than a few seconds to learn that my friend’s assertions were spot on… The KJV was actually the only one to render John 1:3 with a “by,” not a “through.”

For example:

  • John 1:3 (KJV) – All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • (NKJV) – All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
  • (NIV) – Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
  • (ESV) – All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • (CSB) – All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.

Yes, I did my research, and what I found was that my friend’s assertion was true: every other translation of the Bible changed the word “by” to “through.” However, my research wasn’t complete; it was time to consult the original languages.

It’s All Greek

Like I said above, the study tools we have these days are amazing, and there’s really no good excuse for any Bible student to claim ignorance. For example, if all one had was access to one online tool such as BlueLetterBible.com, then what used to take hours of study could be done in mere moments. Then if you add to that all the other free websites available, including what’s available from online libraries, and then throw in some relatively inexpensive (but voluminous) programs like Logos, oh… my… goodness! It’s hard to comprehend how blessed we are!

So, when it became obvious that “by” had been replaced by “through,” I decided to take the next logical step and look up the source of the translations in question: the original Greek word, διά (dē-ä’).

It may sound unbelievable to you, but there are still people out there who think Jesus spoke Elizabethan English. However, the Bible was not originally written in the language of Shakespeare. In actuality, John 1:3 was written in Greek, so “by” and “through” are only translations of the Greek word διά (Strong’s G1223).

The next question should then be: “What does dia mean?”

Grab Your Concordance

Well, every Bible student should have a Strong’s Concordance in his personal library, even if his library only consisted of a Bible and one other book. Therefore, let’s take a look at Strong’s and see what we find.

G1223: διά diá, dee-ah’; a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through (in very wide applications, local, causal, or occasional):—after, always, among, at, to avoid, because of (that), briefly, by, for (cause) … fore, from, in, by occasion of, of, by reason of, for sake, that, thereby, therefore, × though, through(-out), to, wherefore, with (-in).

According to Strong’s Concordance, dia is a word that denotes “the channel of an act; through…” Therefore, is it really an act of theological sabotage to translate John 1:3 with through instead of by?

Is it possible that Jesus was the One through whom God the Father made all things?

You see, it is not heresy to say that the Father made all that is through Jesus, the Word of God. No, it is actually MORE theologically sound and true to Jesus’ own words to say that He was the agency or “channel” of creation, rather than the one acting unilaterally in creation. Why do I say this? Consider the actual words of Jesus as recorded by John…

  • John 4:34 (KJV) – Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
  • John 5:19 (KJV) – Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
  • John 6:38 (KJV) – For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

If Jesus had acted alone and created all things by Himself, then His own words would expose a critical inconsistency. The fact seems to be that even though Jesus was and is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, He still had to act in accordance with the will of the Father, and therefore saying “all things were created through Him” is more theologically consistent with the nature of the Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead.

A Dose of Commentary

I learned a long time ago that commentaries can be very useful if used properly; I go to them after I have already read the Scripture and done all the exegesis I can do with the study tools at hand. Therefore, it was only after I did the above study that I consulted several scholarly commentaries. For the benefit of this discussion and for your edification, allow me to share the following directly from the sources.

The New American Commentary: John 1-11

The preposition dia (“through”), used in connection with creation here, should not be taken to mean that the Logos is essentially inferior to God, as the Arians argued. But the early Christians, in attempting to discuss simultaneously the work of both the Father and the Son in creation, sometimes tried to hold both together through the use of two prepositions. The Father’s activity was linked with the preposition ek, which carries the sense of “origin,” and the Son’s activity was linked with the preposition dia, which carries the sense of “mediation” (e.g., the early Christian creedal statement in 1 Cor 8:6; also see Heb 1:2 for the use of dia).

The Pulpit Commentary: St. John (Vol. 1)

In asserting that the Logos is he or that through whom all things were made, the writer does not lower the dignity of the Logos by regarding him merely as the οργανον of the Father, because the same preposition is used of the relation of the Father to the world or to his servants (Rom. 11:36; Gal. 1:1; Heb. 2:10). Elsewhere St. Paul powerfully affirms the same application of διά (1 Cor. 8:6) to Christ’s part in the Creation, reserving for the One God, the Father, the preposition ἐκ. From God and by or through God are all things, still “all things” derive their existence “through” the activity, the will, the thought, of the Logos.

Word Studies in the New Testament (Marvin R. Vincent)

By Him (διʼ αὐτοῦ). Lit., through him. The preposition dia is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, through the prophet (Matt. 1:22, on which see note).* It is the preposition by which the relation of Christ to creation is usually expressed (see 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), though it is occasionally used of the Father (Heb. 2:10; Rom. 11:36, and Gal. 1:1, where it is used of both). Hence, as Godet remarks, it “does not lower the Word to the rank of a simple instrument,” but merely implies a different relation to creation on the part of the Father and the Son.

Again, it would seem to me that it is more theologically sound to translate John 1:3 the way all the other translations do it as opposed to the KJV.

Right or Wrong?

But after all that has been said, was the King James Version’s translators wrong in their use of the word by instead of through? Actually, no.

You see, the whole reason we have newer translations of the Bible is because the English language changes over time. Some words have different meanings today than they used to, and that is why we rarely speak of wearing our “gay clothing” to church, or “fetch[ing] a compass” as we travel (Num. 34:5).

At the time the KJV translators did their work, the meaning of “by” was probably more nuanced than today and would have been understood by the reader of the day to have the same depth of meaning as “through.” However, for the modern reader, by implies more of a literal meaning. For example, if my daughter made a wooden elephant figurine, and if you asked who made it, I could answer, “It was made BY Haley.” If we applied the same meaning to the “by” in John 1:3, then we would literally be on the road to heresy, for Jesus did not act unilaterally (own His own), but by the will of the Father (John 5:19).

So, by may have been the best word for the verse in the 17th-19th centuries, but through better conveys the Truth to those in the 21st.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the translators of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible were men of superior capability. I dare say that finding modern scholars and intellects with similar credentials would be exceedingly difficult. Therefore, because they did such a great work, it would be wise to consider their words when debating the heart of this discussion.

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place … Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue (the modern, common way of speaking), the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) [John 4:11] without a bucket or something to draw with…”

“For is the kingdom of God become words or syllables? why should we be in bondage to them if we may be free…?”

 – from: “The Translators to the Reader,” a prefix attached to the original 1611 edition.

It really boils down to this: What does the Bible really say? Sometimes we have to set aside our preconceived notions in order to honestly exegete Scripture. The last thing we want to do is let a literary bias lend support to a faulty theology, even if our intentions are noble.

Ultimately, though, Jesus is the Door “through” whom we must enter; there is no other Way to the Father. If a translation can’t make that clear, then we have a problem.

So, let me say “Thanks” to my friend. Without his comment, I’d never walked down this rabbit trail 😉 

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We’re All Sinners. Selah.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” – Psalm 4:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for a moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse, we are told to “commune” with our own hearts upon our beds. What about? Let’s think about it.

How Long?

Before, in the previous selah in Psalm 4:2, David was asking the question “How long?” How long would those whom he had once trusted betray him? How long would his former friends treat him like an enemy? How long would they promote lies over truth, and turn his “glory into shame?”

You and I may not be kings in exile, or have former commanders in our personal guard out for our head. However, there may be people who lie about you; spread untruths about you at work; misrepresent you to your children, or withhold that little bit of evidence just to win their case against you. How long will they get away with it?

You observe the culture. You watch the news and see the movies. You shake your head with disgust as you witness sin and shame, practically every deviancy known to man, promoted like it was the new gospel. You narrow your eyes and grit your teeth and whisper under your breath, “They should be glad I’m not God.” How long will God let them get away with it?

Awful Angry

Stand in awe, and sin not…” The Septuagint renders it “Be ye angry, and sin not…” The same is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:26 when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” So why awe in one and angry in the other?

The word translated both as “awe” and “angry” is an interesting one. Consider Strong’s treatment of it:

רָגַז râgaz, raw-gaz’; a primitive root; to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear):—be afraid, stand in awe, disquiet, fall out, fret, move, provoke, quake, rage, shake, tremble, trouble, be wroth.

So, when David is telling us to stand in “awe,” he is not telling us to do something like look up to the stars and go, “WOW!” No, David is giving us permission, as Paul did, to be angry; angry to the point of violently shaking, full of emotion and rage.

Just without sin.

Go to Bed?

So, just to make it clear, it’s OK to get angry, just as long as it’s a righteous anger (the last thing we want to be found guilty of is a lack of emotion when confronted with perversion and injustice; apathy is its own sin).  But in an apparent contrast with the later writing of Paul, what does King David suggest we do?

Go to bed and think about it? He said, “…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

But wait! I thought the Apostle Paul said we shouldn’t go to bed angry? What’s the difference?

The difference is GRACE, pure and simple. And hallelujah for that!

Humble Communion

Go ahead, get angry at the sin of the world. Go ahead, tremble with indignant anger at the way the glory of God is impugned on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, quiver and shake with anger over the way people have been treating you – you have that right. But there’s something else you need to do: Remember the grace of God.

No, David is not telling us to go to bed angry and stew on it; he is encouraging us to remember that we are sinners, also.

To “commune with your own heart” means to reflect on yourself and your own condition. And when we add to that the words “be still” (דָּמַם [dā·mǎm]), which according to some* carries with it the idea of wailing and lamenting, along with being silent, what we have is the suggestion to be angry, but to remember we are sinners, too.

When David was treated horribly, he got angry, but he also remembered that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy he would suffer the same fate as the wicked. So, although we should get angry, at times, it is important for us to remember that although God is righteous, He is also gracious and good.

Thank Him for His mercy as you commune with your soul, and let Him handle those other people. Selah.

 


 

*William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 72.

*James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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Give Attention to Your Doctrine

Every once in a while I feel the need to do a little teaching. Keep in mind, many who read this blog do not go to a church, never hear a real pastor preach, nor even read a Bible. This might be the only path through which they choose to accept Biblical truth.

I just finished recording the audio for an upcoming radio broadcast. The text from which I preached was primarily the following:

Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. … Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. – 1Ti 4:13, 16 KJV

One of the greatest challenges for the preacher is to make sure his doctrine is biblical, not based on human desires, such as the desire to only hear what we want to hear. I am reminded of the what Paul told Timothy in his second letter…

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2Ti 4:3-4 KJV

How many people have literally “heaped to themselves” stacks of books, CD’s, cassette tapes, magazines, study guides, and DVD’s from televangelists, conference speakers, and popular authors who preach what scratches the itching ear? People want to hear what makes them feel good, more encouraged, and can lead to a more prosperous, fulfilled life. Therefore, hearing the Word of God is irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t scratch the itch

The challenge, then, is for the sincere man of God to give priority to what is true doctrine, not the doctrine of men. This takes serious study, a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit, and an understanding that what is of the Lord might not be popular, or desired.

That’s when it’s important to be “instant in season and out of season.” God knows what we need to be spiritually healthy, so “taking heed” to our doctrine must also include the commitment to serve what what’s needed, not simply what we crave.

 

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Pricey Tongue, Worthless Heart

Let’s take a look at the following verse from the tenth chapter of Proverbs.

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. – Proverbs 10:20

Contrast

When we look at this verse, it is important for us to remember that there is a comparison/contrast being made. An “opposite parallelism” is being used to make a point that one thing is valuable, while another is worthless.

In this case, it is easy to notice that Solomon is contrasting “the tongue of the just” with “the heart of the wicked.” The tongue of the just person (the words that he speaks) is something beautiful and of great value, while the wicked man’s heart is just the opposite. But if we were to look a little deeper, there is more than meets the eye, or first impressions.

The Heart

What is really being contrasted are the hearts of both the wicked and the just. You see, what comes out of a person’s mouth is directly related to what’s in his heart. Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” In the book of James (3:11) we read, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

Essentially, you can tell what is in a person’s heart by what comes out of his mouth. Jesus said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11 (NLT)

Do you like to tell dirty jokes? Then there must be lust in your heart. Do you always talk hateful? Then there is hatred (and maybe murder – see Matthew 5:21-22) in your heart.

Do you ever talk about God? About Jesus? About your love for Him? If not, maybe He’s not in there.

On Display

Do you realize that your heart is on display? No, I don’t mean that your chest cavity is transparent, nor do I mean that everyone can see your bloody, beating heart muscle. That’s sick!

What I do mean to say is that there is no hiding what is in your heart; because your words, the words from your mouth, tell the whole story.

Maybe we should listen to ourselves. Maybe we should ask others to tell us what they hear. Maybe we should be like King David and pray this prayer…

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”– Psalm 19:14

 


The above commentary was first published in my other blog, Proverbial Thought. It can also be found in Proverbial Thought: Your Daily Word of Wisdom from Proverbs (Parson’s Porch, 2014).

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There Is a Robust Response to Calvinism (IF You’ll Listen)

Many of you are Calvinists. I’m not.

Unfortunately, many think that there are no good arguments supporting a traditionalist view. Honestly, even many in my own denomination (SBC) have belittled and mocked the intelligence of those like myself for having not yet been enlightened by the “doctrines of grace.”

Let me put it this way, I know pastors who are more Calvinistic than John Calvin’s signature. These guys can get borderline contentious if you even suggest that Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 might not mean what they think it means (“inconceivable!”). To disagree with their interpretations is akin to attacking their tulip garden with a weed eater – they don’t like it.

However, I have attached video which offers a robust and biblical argument against the doctrine of reprobation as argued from Romans 9.  I am not posting this to start a debate or argument. My purpose is to offer you another perspective of which you may not have heard.

Believe it or not, there are intelligent Bible scholars out there whose names don’t end with Piper, Keller, or Dever 😉 The only thing is that you must be willing to listen.

Just food for thought.

For further reading, below is a link to the article by Dr. Eric Hankins that is the subject of this video. It was originally published in the Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry

https://soteriology101.com/2018/04/09/romans-9-and-the-calvinist-doctrine-of-reprobation/

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It’s Not That Saturday In the ‘30’s!

It’s Saturday.

That’s probably not a shock to most of you, I bet. If you can log on to a computer, check your email, or read a text, then you are most likely capable of knowing what day of the week it is.

It’s Saturday…just Saturday.

But at least it’s not like that Saturday back in the 30’s – the 0030’s, that is! Back then there were some men and women waking up to a Saturday morning like no other. Their teacher, mentor, leader, and Master had suffered a most horrific death, and now he was in a tomb. This was not the kind of day they expected.

It was Saturday, the Sabbath, and all their hopes and dreams lay cold and lifeless in a sealed grave.

What were they feeling?

How does it feel to go from the top of the world with every expectation of glory, to utter despair and the expectation that at any moment the ones who ripped your leader to shreds could soon find you and do the same?

With despair comes shame, anger, blame, and fear. On what was supposed to be a “day of rest,” hearts must have been restless, tumultuous, and breaking, crumbling to dust.

It must have been a long day, that Saturday.

Have you ever lost someone close, like a parent, a spouse, or a child? Have you ever left the hospital or the morgue, gone home in shock, only to be jolted by the piercing pain of reality when you see your loved one’s possessions?

The day after my father died my mother and sister experienced a moment like that (I wasn’t there, for I wouldn’t go home that night). My dad’s watch had an alarm set – it was the time he was supposed to get up – there was no getting up this time.

How did Jesus’ disciples feel that Saturday night? Their hopes seemed hopeless…their dreams had become a nightmare…the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” now seemed like nothing more than a dead-end road, a lie, and death.

It was Saturday…

But Sunday was coming.

It won’t be long before we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus (April 21).

But what if today we’d take a moment to thank God this Saturday doesn’t have to be like that one back in the 30’s?

Sunday is coming! Rejoice! You don’t have to wait till Easter.

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