“Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once…and He volunteered.”
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
I hate it when I sin.
Some people hate to get caught, but I wasn’t caught. No one saw or heard or anything – only God.
I hate it when I sin because of the feeling it leaves, the drain on emotions, and the sense of powerlessness that leads to feelings of failure, defeat.
I hate it when I sin because I knew better! I knew better! It’s not like I didn’t know the consequences. It wasn’t like this was something I’d never before encountered. I just walked right into the sin and just committed it, just like it was the natural thing to do.
Oh, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? Nature. That battle between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the spirit and the flesh. How I look forward to the day when this tent in which I dwell is redeemed, also!
I hate it when I sin!
But you may be asking, “Aren’t you a pastor? Aren’t you supposed to be a spiritual and religious leader? How can you be talking about ‘sin’ like this? Won’t it hurt your reputation?”
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8
The Truth is in me. I’m not perfect, just forgiven.
And that’s really why I hate it when I sin; it’s because I know I’m forgiven! Yes, I’m already forgiven! I’ve been saved, justified, reborn, adopted, and have received the righteousness of Christ…and I know a little about what it took for that to happen…
It took the Cross! It took Calvary! It took Jesus bearing my griefs…carrying my sorrows…being stricken and smitten of God…being afflicted…being wounded for MY transgressions…being bruised for MY iniquities…accepting MY chastisement…and taking MY stripes so that I could walk away free (see Isaiah 53:4-5).
He – Jesus – did all that for me…all because of my sin…because He loves me (Romans 5:8).
But you may ask: “If you know you are already forgiven, then what keeps you from going out and sinning all you want?”
Two reasons. First, my “want to” has been changed. Second, it’s like the Apostle Paul said it: the love of Christ constraineth me (2 Corinthians 5:14). The thought of His love for me…what it took to redeem me from sin…to purchase my salvation…what He endured on that cross…the scourging He willingly accepted…it’s like ropes wrapped around me, binding me, “constraining” me.
Nevertheless, there are times when I sin. And I hate it. Romans 7:15-25 just about sums it up.
I thank God that where my sin did abound, grace…OH! What a word!…did much more abound (Romans 5:20)!
Then you may ask: “Well, if there’s more grace than there is sin to forgive, why not just keep sinning so that grace may ‘abound’ even more?”
Read Romans 6, is all I can say.
If you sin just because you can…there’s probably something major you’ve missed along the way. Maybe there’s nothing “constraining” you.
I hate it when I sin.
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. – Psalm 51:10-13 CSB
In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
William MacDonald wrote the following comment in his commentary:
“This question must precede every genuine case of conversion. A man must know he is lost before he can be saved. It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, I truly deserve to go to hell…Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe. However, when a sinner realizes he is lost, helpless, hopeless, hell-bound, and when he is told to believe on Christ as Lord and Savior, he knows exactly what it means. It is the only thing left that he can do!” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)
Do you have hope without Jesus? Then you’re without hope. Simply hopeless.
And that breaks my heart.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” – Acts 16:31
If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.
Walmart lines can be insanely long, as many of you know well. Therefore, as I am standing in one with my wife, I decided to pull out my phone and watch something on YouTube. She is looking at something in a magazine, probably about how Queen Elizabeth ordered Meghan to boot camp…or that she’s actually an alien.
Anyway, I came across the following video featuring a favorite of mine, Ravi Zacharias. No doubt, the modern church is becoming less and less equipped to handle threats against our faith, and much of the problem lies in the desire to have one’s ears tickled.
Do you know the difference between Christianity and Islam? I hope you do.
“There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: … The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks” – Proverbs 30:24, 36
The conies are second in the list “four (little) things” that are exceedingly wise. But what is a coney? Is it a hot dog found on Long Island, New York? Possibly, but only if a legless wiener is capable of wisdom. These conies in this proverb seem to have a defense against being eaten with mustard – they hide in the rocks.
The animal described here is the hyrax, or rock badger (no relation to the kind that can chew off your arm). Found in Africa and the Middle East, these cute little critters, weighing an average of 8 lbs., are scavengers which live in groups of 8 to 10 and find refuge in the cracks and crevices of rocky terrain. Though scientists say the hyrax is a close relative to the elephant (it even has tiny little tusks – how cute!), this furry little animal is practically defenseless…at least on its own.
Even though hyraxes are small, weak, and incapable of fighting off a predator, they are not on the endangered species list. Why is that? The answer lies in where they make their homes – in the rocks – and how they look out for each other.
Being small and rather slow, the hyraxes in Africa are preyed upon by other animals such as wild dogs, leopards, and Egyptian cobras. However, it seems that the conies in Israel, like the ones of which Solomon spoke, have learned how to use the rocks to their advantage, along with a “system of sentries.”
“In Israel, the rock hyrax is reportedly rarely preyed upon by terrestrial predators, as their system of sentries and their reliable refuges provide considerable protection. Hyrax remains are almost absent from the droppings of wolves in the Judean Desert.” (Wickipedia)
Is it any wonder why Solomon called the conies (hyraxes) “exceeding wise?” Knowing the danger posed by wolves and the like, the defenseless animals band together, watch over each other, and run to the rocks any time there is a threat.
One would have to be blind to miss the parallels here. Why do so many fools fall victim to the ravenous wolves of the world? Their bones are found scattered across the sands of time because they ventured out alone, without the watchful eyes of others, and without the defense available in the true Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ.
Why won’t more people heed the wisdom of Proverbs? Why do so many of us continue to be eaten alive by the enemy when there is a Rock in which to run and hide?
“OH! Rock of Ages, hide thou me!”
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11
Part of the Christmas story can be found in the book of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament. There, in chapter two, we read of several wise men, Magi, who followed the star till it rested over the place where the young Jesus was living.
But what most people fail to notice is that only the shepherds came to visit Jesus while he was still a baby in a manger. The Magi came later, once they were living “in the house” and Jesus was a “young child.” And, based on Herod’s decree that all male children 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matt. 2:16), Jesus could have been a toddler up and walking.
Simply put, generally, every manger scene protested against by atheists is not a faithful representation of the Christmas story. How ironic is that? But I digress…
When the Magi came to Bethlehem in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), they brought with them three very rare and valuable gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not random gifts, but ones with specific political, spiritual, and practical importance; they were meant to recognize a literal, earthly, but also heavenly King.
Gold was a universally recognized precious metal, symbolic of all wealth. Frankincense was a substance primarily used as incense, but also mixed with other substances to create the holy anointing oil placed on high priests and kings. Myrrh was a substance used for things ranging all the way from cosmetics and antiseptics, to perfuming the living and embalming the dead.
According to Matthew 2:11, the Magi fell down before Jesus, which would have been an appropriate response when in the presence of royalty (and these men knew the difference). But the wise men did more than fall prostrate before royalty, they “worshiped him.” This young king was more than just “King of the Jews,” but the long-promised Messiah, and they offered their gift to the Son of God.
As long as I can remember there have been sermons preached during and before Christmas entitled, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” The sermons focus primarily on the seeking leading up to Christmas, but rarely, if ever, on the gifts given after the celebration is over. But today is different.
Today, I am going to ask you to consider three gifts we should give, now that the birthday celebration is over.
For several days after Christmas people will stand in line to return and/or exchange unwanted gifts. Many will trade what others gave them for something they want more. Others will just ask for a refund or in-store credit.
Rest assured that when you give your gifts to Jesus, he will not return them, exchange them, or re-gift them next year. But will you, once you realize what you’ve given, want to take something back?
Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution. Now that Christmas is over, be like the Magi and leave everything at Jesus’ feet, then “depart…another way.” Once you give Jesus those three gifts, you’ll never be the same.