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Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VII

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Question #1:

Hello Dr. Luginbill. I continue to pray for you, your ministry and all dedicated to the truth of God.

It seems like this last day is well in effect! I was doing much research and It lead me to some questions about king James the man and all translation of the Holy Scriptures before the kjv, Geneva and bishop bible back to the time John finished the revelation Jesus gave him. What was his motive for the kjv translation when the Geneva and bishop bibles were already in circulation?

Response #1:

Something to do with politics as I recall, but, again, English history is not a strong point for me. You might have a look at the link: "Who Wrote the King James Version?"

Question #2:

Why were documents like the dead sea scrolls hidden in caves? Is this an indication of a time where it was dangerous to have copies of Holy scripture?

Response #2:

The Qumran texts were in caves because that is where this monastic community lived. The Essenes are a shadowy bunch and not well-understood. There are many theories about just who they were and why they did what they did, but opinions vary widely. The texts themselves are also greatly overrated in my view (see the link). What they do prove is that there existed "popular" papyrus reproductions of the more formally (and more carefully) reproduced synagogue scrolls (usually on velum). The Dead Sea scrolls prove that our version of the OT Hebrew is quite good and for all intents and purposes nearly identical to the original manuscripts of the biblical books.

Question #3:

By the time the Bible as we know was completed, why were there so many gaps in history leading to belief of lost strictures and mistranslation?

Response #3:

I'm not aware of any gaps at all. The Bible is the best documented text coming down to us from antiquity, and we have a very good notion of the origin of all of its books. In fact, our ability through the abundance of evidence to sniff out false interpolations is very good as well (see the link). Eventually, these issues will be dealt with in part 7 of Bible Basics, but that is a long way off at present. You might see the link:  "The Bible and the Canon: The Inspired Word of God".

Question #4:

Are you currently working on any new series for the future? The Satanic rebellion was very helpful and informative.

Thanks as always.

Response #4:

Coming Tribulation is finished, but I have not yet completed the Bible Basics series (although BB 2B: Eschatology has just been posted), although the incomplete parts have been largely dealt with in great if not comprehensive detail in many of the email postings. I am (when time permits) working towards completing that series, and also the "Peter series" (along with some other things – questions on Luke to complement the Mark and Matthew postings in particular [see the link]). Thanks for asking!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Good day Dr. Luginbill,

It has certainly been a while since we last communicated but I am glad I have another question for you today and I hope that you would be able to help me understand both the sides of the coin.

Recently, we have been having the common discussion pertaining to the gifts of prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, etc. I remember reading some of your posts which states that the these gifts are presently in abeyance and for a moment I did agree with you until I came across the below excerpt. I request you to please read it so that you may understand what I am trying to ask.

My question would be: What does Paul mean when he says "when completeness/perfect comes"? Is it the compilation of Scripture or is it the coming of Christ? If it is the former, then what can we understand from 1 Corinthians 13:12

1 Corinthians 13: 8-12: Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

Excerpt: 1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." Now this is really helpful in making our decision! Here in verse 12 Paul is describing what verse 10 refers to, namely, "when the perfect comes." I want to make sure that you see this. Notice the contrast in verses 9 and 10 between "our knowledge is imperfect" (v. 9) and "when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away" (v. 10). Then drop down to verse 12 and notice the same contrast in the second part of the verse: "Now I know in part" contrasts with "then I shall understand fully." So verse 12 is clearly describing the coming of "the perfect" referred to in verse 10. Now does the description of the coming of the perfect in verse 12 fit with the second coming or with the completing of the New Testament? Let's take the two halves of the verse one at a time. First it says, "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face." Is it more likely that Paul is saying, "Now before the New Testament is written, we see in a mirror dimly; but then when the New Testament is written, we shall see face to face"? Or is it more likely that he is saying, "Now in this age we see in a mirror dimly; but then when the Lord returns, we shall see face to face"? In the Old Testament there are half a dozen references to seeing God "face to face." Revelation 22:4 says that in heaven we shall see God's face. 1 John 3:2 says that when Jesus appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. My conclusion is that the contrast between seeing fuzzily in an old mirror made out of metal and seeing face to face is not a contrast between first century spiritual knowledge and the knowledge we have from the New Testament today, but rather it's a contrast between the imperfect knowledge we have today in this age and the awesome personal knowledge of God we will have when the Lord returns. "Then I Shall Understand Fully": The second half of verse 12 points in the same direction. It says, "Now I know in part [the very same words used at the beginning of verse 9]; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." Now is this a contrast between before and after the New Testament or before and after the second coming? It's hard for me to imagine Paul or any of us saying that after the New Testament was written, we now in this age understand fully, even as we have been fully understood. This surely refers to knowing in some sense the way God knows us—not omniscience; it doesn't say we will know everything. But we will "be freed from the misconceptions and inabilities to understand (especially to understand God and his work) which are part of this present life . . . [Our knowledge] will contain no false impressions and will not be limited to what is able to be perceived in this age."

Conclusion: So my conclusion on this question is this: Paul is saying that prophecies will pass away not when the New Testament is completed but when this age is completed at the second coming of the Lord from heaven. That's when "the perfect comes" (v. 10). That's when all speaking and thinking and reasoning like a child will be put away (v. 11). That's when we will see "face to face" (v. 12a). That's when we will "know fully even as we have been fully known" (v. 12b).

I appreciate your time and effort in responding to my email.

May God continue to bless you.

Response #5:

Good to hear from you. I have been keeping you in my prayers.

As to your latest question (?) / conclusion, let me start with what you have here at the end: "Paul is saying that prophecies will pass away not when the New Testament is completed but when this age is completed at the second coming of the Lord from heaven". In fact, it is and was crystal clear to anyone familiar with the Old Testament prophets that the Millennium will be a time of the resumption of some of these gifts (see the link: "The Millennial Pouring out of the Spirit"):

(28) "It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (29) Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
Joel 2:28-29 NASB

This is not a small point because the solution proposed above, being clearly incorrect, cannot then inform or support the exegesis of the verse (as it clearly does).

Secondly, the fact that Paul is talking about the near future cessation of the overtly miraculous spiritual gifts does not mean that a little further on he cannot shift even further to the end of all things – not to the second advent (as we have now made clear) but to eternity: that is where all who belong to Him will "know even as we are known". Not that we, in resurrection, will not be experiencing this foretaste of eternal (since our bodies and statuses will be eternal from the beginning of our resurrection) – for we will; but the complete fulfillment of this prophecy for all will not occur before the coming of New Jerusalem, the advent of the Father and our fellowship with Him, and the end of this present world. All this is clearly contemplated in Paul's phraseology here because it speaks of ultimates and ends. This is really not conflation per se; the Spirit, it seems, has no problem when talking of future things in considering them all in that same future category. Paul is given to do this sort of thing all the time (for a famous example in this same book see 1Cor.15:51-55), and for the well-known Old Testament version, passim in the prophets, see the link: "The Day of the Lord Paradigm". The long and short of all this is that just because both things are future is not sufficient grounds to consider that they happen at the same future time (e.g., we know that there are three phases of the resurrection of the righteous: Christ, the Church, and then the millennial believers [1Cor15:23-24]; but Daniel is given to wrap the resurrection up into one ball, so to speak, so that based on Dan.12:2-3 alone one might easily be mislead if this principle of interpretation is not properly understood).

Third, the actual Greek text is important to consider here as well. The phrase "the perfect" has some characteristics in Greek which are critical for figuring out what is really meant. It is neuter, and Greek often uses the neuter gender with the definite article as here to provide a concrete conceptualization: "the perfect thing" is what is really said, and a Greek reader has the definite expectation that this "thing" is something concrete and tangible, rather than a wispy idea or circumstance. That concreteness applies to the Bible, certainly, but it doesn't really apply to something like "knowledge" which is much more amorphous.

Fourthly, please note that Paul actually enumerates a number of spiritual gifts, even though he does not mention all the spiritual gifts. This singling out of specific gifts can hardly be an accident, and that is even more so the case when one considers that all of the gifts singled out are the overtly miraculous ones which draw such attention from readers in the first part of the book of Acts. If our inherent, eternal knowledge of everything were the primary contrast, doesn't it seem odd that Paul doesn't mention the gift of teaching, for example, or the gifts of knowledge or wisdom? I don't imagine we are going to be sitting in Bible class in eternity, not if the implication I believe you correctly draw from 1st Corinthians 13:12 is correct.

In fact, of course, all of the gifts mentioned as being on the point of ceasing did in fact cease long ago. There is no evidence of these overtly miraculous gifts continuing to the end of the apostolic age, and there is some evidence that they did not (even though for some reading the book of Acts which, in terms of time-frame, is concentrated on the beginning of that period and which ends long before that period is over, may for that reason give a wrong impression). Beyond all argument, however, the gifts mentioned have not been in noticeable operation since those earliest days of the Church. Many groups do claim to have such special powers today, but where were these a hundred years ago? I find no evidence of a general distribution of, for example, the gift of tongues. In Acts, when tongues are in evidence it is, apart from the unique occurrence of Pentecost, always at the point of a group of individuals putting their faith in Christ. The absence of tongues generally for some several thousand years would seem to argue that either no one was really born again until, roughly, the 1960's, or that tongues did in fact "cease", regardless of what some may wish to find happening today in 2015. The Bible is our sole source of truth, but we are also told repeatedly to be discerning in our walk through this world. If someone told us that because the apostles' deaths are not recorded they are still alive, we might not be able to quote a scripture for, say, the death of John, but are justified in applying other biblical truths so as to consider the tradition on this point correct. Ceased gifts present an even stronger case in my view since we do have this chapter in the Bible which does say that they – and they uniquely – "will cease".

The analogy used by Paul at the end of the chapter goes like this: "You like these special gifts; but these gifts will cease; they are for the childhood of the Church, but that childhood will end; when we were kids, we acted like kids; now that we are adults, we have put away the things of childhood; even so these gifts will be put away when the Church attains her maturity, when that "perfect thing" comes into being (the completed Word of God); we are all in the dark now to some degree, and need an aid to see that truth; the Word is the mirror which reflects God and shows us His truth; but even that will be superseded when we know Him on that Day even as He knows us".

If you have followed this, I think you will see that your analysis is not so much faulty as it is incomplete, having missed the middle steps (which are most apropos of this particular argument). It's not a small point because the effect of such an interpretation is to reverse the point of Paul's argument: special gifts are ceasing; seek instead the "greater gifts" which lead to understanding the truth of the Word, the real power in the Christian life, and the only "mirror" of eternity we have in this life before we are brought safe home to the next.

I have written some things on this which you may find helpful. Please also have a look at the following links:

When the perfect comes

Tongues and "the perfect"

1st Corinthians thirteen

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Bob,

I sincerely thank you for your detailed explanation. I now understand what Paul meant by "the perfect thing", which is the Word of God.

So as I understand, we do not need the gift of prophecy or the gift of tongues anymore since we have the written Word of God; but, is it possible that God may allow it in certain circumstances? Let's take the gift of tongues for example. Now, I believe (when in existence) that tongues are an actual language and not just some random repetitive mumblings. So say for the sake for the Gospel to be preached to a man in some random island whose language is unknown, God may allow for the gift of tongues to operate? You think that is still a possibility? Or do you believe that since Paul said it has ceased, they are completely wiped out?

Thank you once again for your time and effort. May God bless you abundantly and keep blessing others through you.

Yours in Christ,

Response #6:

You're very welcome, and thank you for your spirit – I think you have it figured out just right. As to the present question, of course the Lord is free to do whatever He wants and to make whatever exceptions He wants whenever He wants. He is free to do any miracle at any time. I am sure that most believers (if not all believers) have experienced the miraculous provision of God at one point or another – even if the world would attribute what we know to be His intervention to "other factors". The same is true with anything that would otherwise fall into the category of the operation of spiritual gifts. After all, the Lord opened the mouth of Balaam's donkey. That is not the gift of tongues; that is a miracle. I would not rule out the power of God to do anything at any time. My point at these junctures is just to note that because God can do something is not proof that He is doing something.

In our age, God has deliberately, it seems clear, worked uniquely and exclusively through the invisible yet dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit's presence was visible in the overt miracles, signs and gifts He gave and empowered in the very early days of the Church, since that time the employment of His power has been even more dynamic, but also generally only visible with the eyes of faith. To me, doing miracles in this way requires more power and more faith. After all, " we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2Cor.4:18 NASB).

So when I see Christians chasing after visible things, "exciting" things, overtly miraculous things, it occurs to me that they are making a bad bet, both because these things, even if they could attain them, are of less moment than the "still, small voice" of the Spirit within them teaching them the truth and leading them forward with it, and also because if they get tired of running after these things they may just start "making them up". The latter is a terrible business but one which has become widespread in the Church visible. If our faith rests upon what we see as opposed to what we know by faith regardless of sight, then our faith is not very strong – and if we are building upon a rotten edifice based on things that are really only so many lies because they are not, in fact, happening the way we wish they were happening but are only "made up", then such "faith" built thereon is likely to collapse in spectacular fashion when pressure is applied (Matt.7:26-27). We are approaching the time of extreme pressure; better to be setting our foundations deep and solid on what is really true and not on what merely titillates – and may not even be true.

For we walk by faith, not by sight—
2nd Corinthians 5:7 NASB

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

So very true. I totally support what you have said. We were discussing the very same thing in our family. There are such a fine lines in certain aspects of Christianity such as love, faith, etc. and people seldom ever realize that they are not on the right side of that fine line. They've gone way past it and still continue to consider that as true Christianity. I fear for the people and I pray that the Lord would have mercy over their state and reveal to them the real truth. And I truly praise and thank my Lord for having put in you, me, my family, that reverential fear that enables us to understand more of Him and His Kingdom day by day. What a wonderful and faithful God we serve. All glory to Jesus.

And I truly thank you for your detailed broken down explanations which make it simpler for us to understand, always. May God bless you and your household abundantly.

Yours in Christ,

Response #7:

You are most welcome.

Indeed, the truth is worth fighting for . . . and worth getting right.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I just discovered your site and am impressed by the knowledge represented there, and your sweet spirit. So I thought I'd ask you a question that's had me thinking for a long time. I don't want to challenge the authority of Scripture. I believe 100% that it contains everything God wants me to know to form me into Christ's image, and that it's always, always right. But it bothers me that Christians use "Bible" and "Word of God" as synonyms. I heard a preacher talk about packing the Word of God in his suitcase. You can pack a Bible in your suitcase, but I don't believe you can pack the Word of God in your suitcase. Also, I know God's Word always accomplishes the thing for which he sends it, yet some of those German theologians spent their whole lives studying the Bible – in the original languages no less – and never arrived at a knowledge of the truth. In what sense, then, can we say that the Bible is the Word of God? I would appreciate any of your thoughts on this matter. I know there's a wealth of information on your site and perhaps you only need to direct me to the correct links. Also I should let you know that I will be traveling the next 3 weeks and should you need a response from me on something, it might be delayed in coming.

Thanks for all you do.

Your sincere brother in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #8:

Good to make your acquaintance – and apologies in advance if this didn't make it to you before you had to leave town.

From rereading your email it seems to me that the distinction you are focused on is really that of people not accepting the truth written in the Bible and of not understanding it. Even if God spoke directly to, say, one of these unsaved German theologians you mentioned, it would not mean that they would necessarily believe Him. The Holy Spirit is the One who converts the written/spoken truth into understandable form, and then that truth becomes "epignosis", "full knowledge" in the person's heart when they believe it – but not unless it is believed. Even the Neo-Platonists of antiquity understood that as material beings all "knowledge" received in a purely physical way has to have a large element of subjectivity to it (because of the source, the medium, and the recipient all being imperfect and complicated in physical terms). But God's system short-circuits all such problems: the Holy Spirit uses the evangelist or the teacher . . . or the Bible . . . and makes the truth contained in the words received understandable in the heart of the recipient who has put him/herself in a position to receive them. But complete spiritual understanding – the Word becoming epignosis rather than mere knowledge or gnosis which any unbeliever may have – only occurs when that truth communicated through the Holy Spirit is believed. So the Bible is indeed the Word of God, but like all of God's words, however, they have been given over time (see Heb.1:1-2), and can only be truly and fully accessed as His Word when it is believed.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe [it].
1st Thessalonians 2:13 NIV

The Holy Spirit always does His job in making the gospel understandable to the unbeliever who is willing to receive it and all of God's truth understandable to the believer who is willing to receive . . . but it has to be believed to do either one the least good. Here are a couple of links on this:

The Integrity of the Word of God

Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.

Faith Epistemology (in BB 4B)

Spiritual Growth Epistemology (in BB 5)

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Question #9:

Dear brother Bob Luginbill,

Thanks so much for your very quick response, and my apologies for my tardy one. I got your email the day I left for Indonesia, and I've just gotten back. Your explanation was great and I was able to think it over quite a bit during the time I was away. Your distinction between epignosis and gnosis was very helpful. I was thinking along these lines, that until someone's heart had been changed that they really hadn't received God's Word. Taking the example I used, the unconverted German theologian had never really heard the Word of God; otherwise, he would have become a Christian. I understand now that my thinking was flawed. God's Word remains His Word whether any one receives it or not. The work of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Word of God are not synonymous.

I found those links you provided helpful; that is, the information I found following them was very good. Reading what you write has actually helped me think more clearly about a few things. I plan on being a regular visitor to your blog.

I was only visiting friends in Indonesia but things are very exciting there. The church is really growing and making many converts from among the Muslim majority. It's complicated getting a permit to build a church, so evangelicals are renting space in shopping malls. It's been an aid to the church, because friendly Muslims who would never attend a church don't mind stopping by a meeting in a shopping mall. Everything Satan intends to harm the body of Christ, eventually turns to its good. Hallelujah!

Yours in the love of the only Saviour, Jesus Christ

Response #9:

You're most welcome. I'm glad to be of some help. Best wishes for all your good work for our Lord Jesus and His Church!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Since I'm not trained or anything, how should I go studying scripture when it comes to translations? Sometimes I omit or place in words when I'm studying to help me understand scripture, but because many people who try to twist scripture are capable of doing the same thing (The KJV, for example) I'm wondering am I making it say something it shouldn't.

For example I translated Romans 7 NIV like this to help me understand dying to the Mosaic Law:

4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the [Mosaic] law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another [person] (Paul was using marriage as an example so he's going back to that analogy to make his point--the Mosaic Law is and never was a literal person, but it pointed to one, the one who would become a flesh being), to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for [eternal] death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us (the Mosaic Law), we have been released from the [Mosaic] law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit (spiritual life), and not in the old way of the written code (spiritual death).

But I tend to get self-conscious due to the scriptures talking about people who don't understand scripture twisting Paul's writings because he writes in a way that's hard to understand.

Response #10:

I think you have done a remarkably good job with this. It's very difficult to get to a complete and solid (and correct) understanding of many passages in the Bible (especially in the New Testament epistles) without a knowledge of the original languages et al. Blessedly there are teachers in the Church placed there by the Holy Spirit to assist in the edification of the Body of Christ through explaining and illuminating the scriptures. Here is how I translate these verses (with some explanatory phrases added as well):

So then, my brothers, you also (i.e., like a woman free to remarry on account of her husband's death) have been put to death in respect to the Law through the body of Christ in order to belong to Another, even to One who has been raised from the dead, so that you may bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh (i.e., spiritually dead and subject to the sin nature), the passions of those sins [awakened] through the Law were at work in our [bodily] members, so that we were [ever] bearing fruit to death. But now we have been freed from the Law by having died to that ["first husband"] by which were being constrained, so that we may [now] serve [the Lord] in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written [code] (i.e., the Law).
Romans 7:4-6

My advice: keep reading your Bible; keep searching for the truth; keep making the truth your number one priority, and keep on accessing good Bible teaching to make these things clear. If you persevere, the Lord will answer all of your questions in due time.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law that we might live our lives for Him in newness of life.

Bob L.

Question #11:

Given that the Bible has translation errors what does inerrant and infallible mean? Does it mean that the original manuscripts are without error?

Response #11:

That is correct. The English Bible, any English Bible, is a translation by definition since the actual "Bible" is written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and you are correct that only the original manuscripts were inspired, not the copies and certainly not later translations. Any translator can make a mistake – there is no such thing as an inspired translation of the Bible. There are many reasons why translating from one language to another is problematic – for any literature. For example, Hesse's novel Steppenwolf is the same story in German or in an English translation, but it is "different" in English, even though there are no problems of complex theology to understand and thus problematic to correctly render. For the Bible, a translator would have to fully understand not only the language per se (and these are complex ancient languages without any living native speakers) but also the complete meaning of every passage, in order to even be in a position to approach perfection, even if said person were a master of communicating in the English language (and this leaves out other issues of textual problems and cultural differences).

Obviously, translators are not necessarily more spiritually prepared than others, and in some cases very much less so. We can't guarantee that all the translators of the KJV, for example, were even saved. Further, translators are given a text to work with and are not generally allowed to depart from that text, even if they are aware (from prior study or otherwise) that the text they have been given has problems or "issues" in some places. For example, if I were to agree to translate the gospel of John for some new English Bible project, I am pretty sure that the text would include John 7:53 - 8:11. Knowing what I know, I would refuse to translate this passage as part of the Bible because it is not part of the Bible – but in that case the project manager would just get someone else.

While all this may seem discouraging at first glance – and it is very important information for all serious Christians to know – I can tell you that 99% of any reputable English Bible translation (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, RSV, NIV, etc.) will not only be "correct" in the sense of translating the correct text of the original, but can also be counted on to have done so in a generally reputable way. That does not mean that the exact or full sense of the original has been brought out. That is impossible, even if a person completely understands the theology behind every passage they are rendering and has a complete mastery of the Greek or Hebrew. You will notice that when I translate passages of scripture I very often make use of square brackets (to expand the translation so the full meaning can be better understood) and also curved brackets (to add explanations for the same reason). Also, I often translate in ways that are not very pleasing to the ear, sacrificing readability for clarity. Were I to be translating the entire NT, for example, I don't think that approach would work very well since it would make it too hard for people to get through. That issue also explains why English translations are generalized in ways that make understanding the complexities less possible, that is, sacrificing precision for readability.

As a reader of the Bible, you can be sure that you are reading "the Bible" in 99% of cases. But you also have to keep in mind that the depth you can reach on your own by reading the English Bible is limited necessarily because you are not reading the actual text – and there is always something there which the English does not bring out or which it misunderstands or at least which it does not properly emphasize (for all the reasons discussed above).

This is all to the good, because it means that believers who are not teachers can get great benefit from reading scripture for themselves (and certainly come to know enough so as not to be easily fooled by false or unprepared "teachers), and yet will still need to benefit from good, sound, solid, orthodox, in-depth Bible teaching (in fact there is no way to grow spiritually beyond a certain rudimentary level without it). So God has perfectly mixed things in the Church for us: we can do much on our own and have the blessings of scripture to encourage us whenever we wish, but we also have much to learn and have to accept the authority of some reputable teaching ministry in order to fulfill God's plan for our lives. In this way, the Body builds itself up, with each member needing the help and support of every other member.

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

Here are a few Ichthys links which may help on this issue:

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading I

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Him who is the living Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Yell Robert, are you familiar with the historical-grammatical interpretation of the bible?

Response #12:

Most Christians who are trained in Greek and Hebrew, ancient history, and theology, would of course want to know as much about the grammar of the passages being studied and the historical background of the time and place of writing and reception. However, this term you have encountered is misleading because it is generally used for the application of some modern critical theories to the Bible – which often have the effect of ignoring the grammar and the actual historical background. For by "historical background" they usually mean the secular constructs of, for example, ancient Israel – which theoretical constructs are very different from what we find in scripture. So to posit sources for the Pentateuch and deny Mosaic authorship, and then develop theories about how some of these different "documents" (which never existed) were later conflated is par for the course with this school of interpretation (e.g., "JEPD"; see the link: Cyrus and Chronicles for discussion and links). As for grammar, these types tend to want to correct the text as well even when there is no philological justification for it (you see, they "know better" than the written word what the original authors really meant and probably really wrote – based upon secular theorizing that assumes that God was not involved in the process at all).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Thanks Dr. I do have all those resources you recommended for study, and I do read through them when I am reading that book of the bible but I guess wanted some additional study tools. See attached and let me know what you think of it. You don't have to rush. You can skim and let me know if it is of use.


Response #13:

When clever and highly erudite unbelievers decide on careers in theology, they often produce books such as this. If I had a copy of this book, I suppose it might be a valuable source of scrap paper to start a fire in my fireplace, but that would be the extent of it. This book you link to is a classic example of the application of source criticism to the Old Testament. The book, like all others in its genre, begins with the assumption that in the case of the Old Testament we are dealing with a patchwork of complicated and divergent materials that were stitched together sometime late in the post-exilic period. In other words, there really is (according to this theory) no actual Jeremiah, but rather a series of writers and editors who worked and reworked this material until it took its final form – the last such editor only who might be called "Jeremiah" for convenience' sake.

It's very important to emphasize that all such "source criticism", in both Old and New Testaments, is not actually based upon any evidence. There is no trace whatsoever of any pre-textual documents, nor any historical references to any such materials, nor any indication from history or archaeology that any such individuals as these presupposed "editors" ever existed, nor any indication from anything that has survived as to what the process of these non-existent individuals might have been or where or when they might have labored. Everything from start to finish is pure speculation. The JEPD "documentary hypothesis" theory of the origin of the Pentateuch originated in German scholarship of the nineteenth century. Classics flirted with these ideas as well, but ultimately rejected them for the most part. The Bible, however, being truly God's book, is a natural target for satanic opposition and slander, so the evil one supports many such attempts to undermine its validity and inspired nature. While there is undoubtedly a certain intellectual appeal to these sorts of materials, reading a book like this cannot possibly do a believer any spiritual good whatsoever (but might do some harm if any of it is taken for valid). Moreover, any man planning on a seminary education at a non-evangelical seminary (e.g., Harvard Divinity, Yale or Princeton) will have to steel himself against this sort of thing with which modern biblical "scholarship" in the secular world is replete.

Here are a couple of links at Ichthys where related issues are discussed:

Chronicles and the Documentary Hypothesis

The Relationship between the Books of Kings and Chronicles.

The so-called Documentary Hypothesis.

More on the Documentary Hypothesis.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Thank you and I appreciate your "passionate" response. That is why I come to you. I read the bible 100% of the time but sometimes I want deeper historical narratives that might need be available in bible dictionaries. But that will do if that means that I can be misled.

Thank you very much and God bless you

Response #14:

You're very welcome. We'd all like more info on this outside of the Bible but it doesn't exist; anything else that's out there is going to be along the lines of the link you sent, that is, entirely speculative (and usually for bad purposes).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you are doing well sir. If you have some time to spare may I ask a couple questions related to some different issues?

1) In the past I may have mentioned that I own several dozen English Bible translations, all of which have proven useful at different times. Anyway, one translation that I personally like to read is the King James Version. Now, let me just say, I am not a "KJV only" advocate, I believe that position is nonsense, only the original autographs are "perfect", and I understand that some of the text of the New Testament is not as well preserved in the Greek text underlying the KJV. Suffice it to say, I also don't agree with those who say that the KJV is a bad translation, and now should not even be used since we have modern versions. I believe the KJV is a good version, God has used it to spread the Gospel all around the world. Therefore, may I ask you, as a scholar yourself, does my observation of the KJV sound correct? May I ask your personal opinion of the KJV Bible?

2) Secondly, may I ask, are you familiar with the "Englishman's Concordance" for the OT and NT? This two volume work, keyed to the KJV catalogs how many times a particular word in the original languages is found in Scripture, allowing the reader to see the different ways of translating of the word within different contexts.

God be with you Mr. Luginbill.

Response #15:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I am keeping you in my prayers day by day. As to your questions, first, I do enjoy the KJV (I have it on tape and listen to it commuting into work). No translation is perfect because all translations are of necessity interpretive (since we are saying in a different language what we believe to be the meaning in the original). As translations go, the KJV is pretty good, but not perfect. It suffers from two main problems: 1) the English language has changed since the 17th century, and 2) the KJV was based upon manuscripts which are not as good as the evidence for the text which surfaced later (most of the really good mss. in the 19th century). That said, it does "sing", and it did of course have a great influence on the way biblical diction is perceived in English. So it would be a disadvantage for any believer who wants to get deep in the scriptures to have no knowledge of that wonderful version. Canonizing it is, as you understand, a huge mistake however. Not only are some passages translated wrong because of the fact that the working text it was based on had errors, but the translators were not perfect and did make mistakes, mistakes which will not be found out if perfection or "inspiration" is assumed. Here are some links:

Who Wrote the King James Version?

Inspiration and the KJV

Canonizing the KJV?

KJV "Onlyists"

As to the Englishman's Concordances, I did have these at one time. They were the best concordances available in their day, but better ones have been published since. For the English Bible in general, especially if you are a KJV user, Strong's can be used to back-fill; for Greek, A Concordance to the Greek Testament by Moulton and Geden is by far the best I've seen; in Hebrew, I have a number of them, but The Mandelkern Biblical Concordance has proven over the years to be the best by far. Both of these assume facility with Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic respectively. I'm not entirely sure because it has been some years since I've seen them, but it does seem to me that the "Englishman's" are somewhat easier to use if a person using them is just getting started in the languages. How to use a concordance is a different issue. It's important to point out that neither a concordance nor a lexicon is a "menu of possibilities"; rather these tools provide data which must be properly interpreted. A word "means what it means" in any given context, and cannot be taken to mean something else just because it may mean something else in a different context. Context determines the limitations of the word use and also gives us guidance to the meaning; then, as translators, we attempt to find the best English "fit" that keeps the same tone and communicates the true meaning of the passage effectively and also, one hopes, in a pleasing way. There is plenty about all of these issues at the site. Please have a look at the links:

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading.

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II.

Bible Study Tools and Methods

Read your Bible!

New Bible Translations: Part of a Conspiracy?

Tools and Techniques for Bible Translation

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:


You write in one of your articles "Biblical Chronology of the End Times", that "... the LXX is a much later and non-inspired translation." Can you explain that statement, and are other translations from the original Hebrew and Greek "inspired"?

Also, isn’t the oldest copy of the Masoretic text in the Bible from around 800AD and the LXX dates ca 200BC? Are you saying something is wrong with the LXX, if so why?


Response #16:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, all translations of scripture are by definition "non-inspired". Only the original manuscripts in the original languages are inspired. Copies of the manuscripts (and that is of course what we have in both the OT and NT) are not inspired themselves, but we do have more than enough evidence to be able to say with assurance in the vast majority of cases what the inspired text is. I suppose "non inspired translation" is a bit pleonastic, but it seems necessary to say inasmuch as there are many out there who think that the Septuagint, or the Vulgate . . . or even in some cases the KJV (!) are "inspired". That is clearly not the case. A translation is at its best an honest attempt to interpret a text as faithfully as possible into another language. I say "interpret" because all translations of necessity are approximations of what has been said in another language. Sometimes these are very good, but in my experience all translations have strengths and weaknesses; most get it mostly "right enough" most of the time, but none get it precisely right all of the time, and the difference between these two things can be profound.

The originals were penned under the influence of the Holy Spirit so that the precise message God desired came through precisely. With the help of the voluminous evidence we possess and the art and science of textual criticism those with the skill, experience, and (very importantly) necessary theological knowledge can almost always determine the correct text in those very small number of cases where there is a question (far less than one percent where there is any great substantive difference). What the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic text means, however, is another story, and any translation, to be faithful, would have to fully understand a passage that's being translated to avoid missing the mark.

The LXX is an important witness to the text of the Hebrew Old Testament, but there are many places where its producers clearly didn't understand what they were translating (and that is true of all of the other alternative Greek versions which are usually lumped into the category "Septuagint", including the fragments of the so-called Trifaria Varietas of Aquila, Symachus, and Theodotion). Incidentally, the MT is very good (as the Qumran texts have confirmed), so while there are some issues one does not encounter in the New Testament, it is usually not very profitable to go to the LXX as a means of criticizing the Masoretic Text, if only because perceived differences are often the result of misunderstanding rather than "reading a different original text" (there are exceptions, of course).

My point in saying what I said which you reference is that there is a cottage industry out there in "Bible scholar land" which wants to elevate the LXX far beyond anything that would be warranted if the basic standards of text-criticism that apply to other ancient texts (Greek and Latin) were applied to it.

So there is nothing "wrong" with the LXX. It is what it is, namely, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, one of uneven quality which may occasionally be of some help to scholars trying to understand the Hebrew or even in a few cases in helping to establish the correct text, but it is not to be compared to the original Hebrew text, of which the MT is so close to being an exemplar it should be everyone's "default text".

For more on these issues please see the following links:

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #17:

Shalom Mr. Luginbill,

I hope you are well sir. If you have some time to spare, may I ask your thoughts on a couple of matters? I apologize for the lengthiness, please forgive me my brother.

1) Over the course of my studies I have read various views about the necessity of learning the biblical languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. On the one hand many scholars seem to imply that in order to really get at the heart of Scripture; one must learn the biblical languages in order to "mine" out the deepest treasures. However, on the other hand, there are scholars that will lean in the other direction, implying that since we have excellent technology, and so many different scholarly tools including: Commentaries, Concordance's, Lexicons, Interlinear Bibles, and many very good English Bible versions, that nowadays, to learn the languages is not necessary, except for example, if one seeks to teach in a University, and that one's time would probably be better spent learning to properly use the various tools, read good study books, and make use of so many good study aids. May I ask your thoughts on the issue?

2) Unfortunately when I was in school, I didn't pay much attention to learning proper English grammar (even the basics). Based upon my studies thus far, I have heard scholars suggest that if one desires to learn foreign languages, for studying/teaching Scripture or just for pleasure, then they would do well to understand the workings of their own language first. I bring up this question because, believe it or not, no long ago I had a Seminary professor to whom I had written, just trying to develop a new friendship, who responded to one of my questions about English by telling me, that the grammar in my letter was very bad, and that I should not even think about learning a foreign language, until I understand modern English well enough. Needless to say that never blossomed into a good friendship. Suffice to say, any thoughts are welcomed. By the way, I just want to say thank you very much for your kindness Mr. Luginbill, and for even continuing to correspond with me, I really appreciate it. Grace, Mercy, and Peace be upon you and your family in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and King!

Your brother in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #17:

Very good to hear back from you, my friend. As to your questions, they are closely related in fact. I don't know who the professor was who wrote you what he wrote, but it strikes me as very rude. I for one am very grateful for any student, formal or informal, who wants to learn Greek, Hebrew or Latin on any level.

In fact, professor So-Rude got it exactly wrong. I teach students every day who have had twelve years of English before they came to college and in many cases multiple English classes once they arrived at university – and few of them really understand English. It's not really their fault. To paraphrase Goethe, no one can understand their own language until they study another one. Indeed, it is only since "the war" that it has been possible to graduate from high school in this country without having at least two years of Latin. Latin was the way people used to learn English grammar – and there is no better way. It forces a person to deal with tenses, cases, moods, word order et al. not instinctively (which is how most English speakers navigate our language today), but analytically and precisely. In fact the only other way to master English is to learn something like Greek or Hebrew (both significantly harder than Latin). Learning Greek (or Hebrew or Latin – or preferably all three) will only make one's English better, and not just for coming to understand grammar. Greek in particular requires our language-learning/language processing part of the brain to grow – it's like mental push-ups – with the result that we will be better at and better informed in all of our composition choices in English going forward. In short, not only is there nothing wrong with learning these languages sooner rather than later: learning them will begin to pay dividends of many sorts (including general mental and intellectual development) right from the start – and especially in developing one's facility with English.

To get now to your first question, in my humble opinion there is simply nothing more important for a prospective Bible teacher than to learn the original languages. Period. Are other things also important? Of course. Knowing systematic theology well, having a good handle on ancient history and church history, and having some familiarity with archaeology are also very important considerations. And knowing the English Bible inside and out is also a sine qua non. But the most important thing is getting to the point of having the ability to actually read and interact with the Greek and Hebrew (and, ideally, biblical Aramaic too). There are many reasons for this (and I will give you some links below), but one of the most obvious is verification. No one who has spent any time dealing with biblical question, reading commentaries, or has been involved in theological discourse can have any illusions about the fact that everything always comes back to what the Bible actually says – and precisely what it says it says in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, not English. How is a teacher to know for sure whether or not commentator X or translator Y got it right – apart from knowing the languages himself?

An English version may be close to the full meaning of the original and may even capture some of the spirit and color of the original . . . but it is NOT the original. And the differences in meaning which all translations possess vis-a-vis the original (of any literature from any language to any other language) are not insignificant, even when the original is absolutely correctly understood. But with the Bible, we face the further complication that what it "means" has in fact often NOT been completely and properly understood. This is a problem for all believers in that for these and other related reasons in order to grow spiritually a good, solid orthodox Bible-teaching ministry must be found, one worthy of near-complete trust (and such are very few and far between). But it is an especially prickly problem for all would-be Bible teachers. That is because if a teacher does not really "know" what the text "really" means, then he will always be relying on someone else' opinion in all matters which are not entirely straight-forward (and will never be able to fully verify that the translator or commentator is in fact correct). That is a handicap which is incredibly limiting. Yes, there are ways to mitigate the problem (you list a few of them), but will said teacher ever have real confidence that he understands a sentence in Hebrew just because he has looked up some words in a concordance or lexicon? Not if he has an iota of true humility. Much about language is "between the lines" and can only be accessed by understanding the language itself (the really important things are rarely capable of being discerned from tools alone by those ignorant of the languages themselves).

In the USMC we had simple test: if it seems way too hard, it's probably exactly the right thing to do. Such it is with learning Greek and Hebrew. There are of course plenty of people who were too lazy to do it (it takes gobs of time and consistent effort and hard work over many years to do it well), and these people will be only too happy to tell you it's not really necessary, but does this even pass the "sniff test"? Would you really want to rely on their interpretations on something about which you had some important and soul-searching questions? I think not. Then there is also this: a tree is known by its fruit. There may be a goodly number of erstwhile teachers who really do/did know the languages well whose teaching was for all that not impressive; but I do know that this ministry – and the ministries of every person whose Bible teaching I have ever personally found helpful – would not and could not have been what they are and were without a deep understanding of the actual words of truth as they were written in the original languages.

Here are those links:

Greek at Seminary

Learning Hebrew and Greek

The necessity of learning Greek

How necessary is education for a pastor?

Why was the New Testament written in Greek?

Should I go to Seminary or not?

Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

First, thank you for responding to my previous letter with your helpful thoughts, I appreciate it. If you have some to spare, may I ask your thoughts on another matter related to languages, and grammar? Growing up I was not a very good student, in fact I do not exaggerate when I say that, it is an absolute miracle that I finished High School, as a matter of fact, you may remember from my short biography, that I actually ended up having to get my GED, otherwise I might not have finished. I state this because, I would like to maybe try to learn Latin, since you mentioned how Latin is one of the easier languages to learn while also increasing grammatical knowledge. However, at this point in time, going to a Seminary, or a University is pretty much out of the question. I will actually be moving soon, and once I get to my destination, a decent chunk of my money with be spent on living expenses, and likewise, a decent portion of my time will be spent working. I just can't handle school loans, payments, etc., at this time. Suffice to say, I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how I might go about trying to learn Latin on my own, and actually learning correctly? Just as a reminder, I am pretty much starting from "ground zero." Any thoughts are greatly appreciated, as is your friendship.

Response #18:

You're very welcome – feel free to write any time. I do understand that everyone of us has limitations of all sorts. Life has a tendency to "pile on", and for almost every believer who aspires to teaching the Bible there will be sacrifices that have to be made – and not everyone can do everything that they would like to do or would do in a perfect world with unlimited time and resources. This is not a perfect world and there are no perfect people in it so we do the best we can and fight this fight day by day, trying to fight it well and better every day for the sake of our Lord and His Church.

In my first year Latin classes I use Wheelock's Latin (see the link). I find it to be a very useful and user-friendly text, and it has many self-help exercises, some with answer keys. Also, since it has been around for some time, older editions are often available "used" for a very reasonable price (Latin has been the same for thousands of years so no need to spend more for the newest edition if one is not part of a formal class where everyone has to be on the same page literally). However, there are very many pedagogical Latin texts available and many online resources these days as well. Here is a link to a resources page I produced many years ago (the university now doesn't allow professors easy access to its web-pages, so I haven't been able to update it for a long time, but most of the links are still live – this will give you a start at any rate).

Once you decide on a text and a method of approach, I can give you more suggestions and feedback. It's not easy learning a language on one's own, but it can be done. Latin is a great place to start for anyone with scholarly ambitions of any sort. Mastering Latin really does help with learning Greek and Hebrew, for example. Moreover, since it was the language of scholarship for thousands of years, all of the really good Greek and Hebrew resources assume you know it.

This is a reliable saying: "If anyone desires the office of overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher), he is seeking [to do] an honorable work".
1st Timothy 3:1

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Dr Bob,

Can you recommend a NT Greek hard copy bible and any hard copy materials you have used to learn? Thank you much and God bless you

Response #19:

Hope you are being given guidance on the job issue (I've been praying for you about that). On GNT, best bet is:

Greek New Testament, ed. K. Aland (any edition is OK, the one linked has a dictionary in the back which is sometimes useful).

On written materials to help with reading the GNT, best bet is:

A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Maximilian Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Translator) ISBN: 978-8876535888.

The above both assume you already know "first year Greek". Learning those basics on your own is a pretty difficult task. I was greatly benefitted by having classroom instruction at university, though I have since come to know a few individuals who have done pretty well on their own. If you are starting from scratch, getting either of the above would be a bit premature. I bought a lot of NT Greek books before I had learned Greek, and they basically sat on my self until I got out of the USMC and got to college where I could learn the basics (and beyond). Best two books for self-study if you do want to try are in my opinion:

Allen's First Year of Greek (free at link)

Reading Greek (Cambridge); for this one you'll need both the Reader and the Grammar (link is to Amazon).

Feel free to write me back, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Thank you Robert for the quick response. I appreciate it much. Will look into these. I guess you will be my guide when it comes to learning Greek. I hope that you are up to the task. I will be leaning a lot on you. As far as work, thanks for your prayers. I just don't know what to do. This current job has allowed me to really get closer to Christ and helped me grow spiritually because it doesn't demand too much of my time and I can study at leisure. Hence, my ability to finish all your series.

So I will wait patiently and let Him decide. Sometime the best action is to wait even through tough financial straits. I appreciate your prayers and will follow-up with some additional questions from a Hebrew studies I am listening to.

Thanks for all you do for the kingdom of Christ.

Response #20:

You're welcome,

I'm happy to help with Greek (and also your questions on Hebrews).

Waiting on the Lord is always a good idea. It's also important to realize those instances when He has opened a door and be willing to enter in if it is the right thing. Only spiritual growth and a close walk with Christ will help in choosing between the two when the choice is a tough one to make.

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

Whenever there is a shorter reading in the New Testament, it is the Alexandrian manuscripts that have the shorter reading, although there are a few readings in the Western text-type that are shorter than the Alexandrian manuscripts. Do you think it is possible that the Western text-type, in these cases, preserved the original reading?


Response #21:

Having dealt with this issue for decades, I have to say that I have serious doubts if not about the existence of these two categories certainly about the significance of the distinctions. Aleph and C, for example, are called Alexandrian but don't have an Alexandrian provenance (most likely); and the "western mss." are of dubious provenance (certainly in terms of any connection other than supposed textual similarities). The bottom line is that this assumed distinction, even if it were valid, would have zero practical benefit. That is because the only benefit would be as an aid to interpretation; but interpretation has to take place one passage at a time, and when it comes to actually struggling with one particular passage I can't ever remember any sort of unity between all the western mss. on the one hand and all the so-called Alexandrian mss. on the other. Every ms. is its own unique "animal" with the result that every passage presents a situation which is unique and defies the supposed "principle" behind the generalization proposed. What we learn over time in dealing with these issues is the relative value of individual mss., not of supposed textual traditions which in these two cases are certainly non-existent in terms direct descent; all proponents claim is some level of similarity in readings, and since that level cannot really even be quantified, let alone qualified, well, it all makes for interesting scholarly games, but it would be, in my considered opinion, a serious mistake ever to base a textual decision on this theory.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

Here's a classics question: when hellenoglots would coin compound words with three or more roots (such as ε κονοκλάστης), how would they determine which declension it belonged to? Which gender?

Response #22:

I'm not much on math, as you know, but if I'm counting right your example has two roots – and that is much more common than three. In any case, it is the ending that determines the declension and often also the gender. For example, in the case of this word the -TES ending is an agent suffix; it is always first declension but even so denotes masculine nouns (unless the specific agent[s] in question is a female). To take another example, the -MA suffix which means "the result of doing whatever the verbal idea in the root is" is a neuter noun-former and belongs to a third declension pattern. This is one of the reasons why Greek vocab is possible to learn even though it is massive (bigger than any other language other than English and even then only since about the middle of the last century): by knowing roots, suffixes and prefixes, you can often figure out the meaning of words you are seeing for the first time. As in your example of "iconoclast", this is "a person who" (-tes) "breaks/shatters" (klas) "images" (eikon). The "o" is the standard connecting vowel used to put together two roots.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you are doing well my dear friend. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts concerning two different documents that I was able to acquire, which provide a listing of Textual Variants in the Greek New Testament Manuscripts? I found these lists on the well known online encyclopedia Wikipedia.com, however, I didn't know if they were legitimate? I wondered if you could take a look at them and let me know whether they are trustworthy as tools for studying the variations in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament? I have attached the documents for you convenience. Thank you sir, for your friendship, and continued prayers.

Your friend, and brother, in Christ Jesus,

Response #23:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

I had a look at these two files. They are not of any particular use – to anyone, as far as I can tell. The one dealing with Greek variants is essentially a simplified critical apparatus, but so simplified it is not of much use. Also, in this list-format it requires much more work for much less reward to find out things than anyone with a Greek Bible can get just by looking at the critical apparatus at the bottom of the page of the verse in question. The English list seems promising, I suppose, but I checked it out and found that while it includes many non-important variants, it omits some very important ones – so that anyone relying on this would be making a big mistake. For example, both lists omit any mention of the interpolation at Revelation 20:5 ("The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended"), and that is damning, in my view – because on the one hand there are relatively few ancient witnesses to Revelation (so a variation here is significant by definition), and on the other hand the best one, Sinaiticus, omits this portion of the verse (because it is not part of scripture); that is "important" to know (since seeing these words as scripture has befuddled many people's theology of the resurrection) – and yet they leave it out.

Textual criticism is both a science and an art, but it takes both facility in the language in which the text is written and also experience in the matters related to ancient book production and likely textual errors and the reasons for them to practice it with any sort of confidence and precision.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi--I am curious--have you read or at least heard of the following books:

The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart Ehrman. Oxford: University Press, 2011. 401 pages.

Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence, ed. Daniel Wallace. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011. 284 pages.


You once told me that there were too many NT Greek copies of the manuscripts that agreed too much, and that the early church wasn't powerful enough or organized enough to have taken some things out of the NT scriptures, in order to "skew" its meaning, esp. since there are literally thousands of NT Greek manuscript copies, whole or in part, out there, written by hundreds of different people over several hundreds of years. How could there be collusion with such a large amount of scriptural evidence?

Anyway, I haven't read the book either, of course, but was wondering if you had heard of it and if so, have you read it and if so, what do you think of it? Thanks.

Response #24:

I stand by my earlier comments. For example, Sinaiticus (Aleph) was produced in the third cent. A.D., and we have many papyrus fragments which are even earlier. The text is the same (there are differences but they are not radically different). These documents date to a time before or just at the point where the church-visible was becoming a religio licta under Constantine. Before that time, how could believers with no central authority, having instead metropolitan bishoprics all over the Mediterranean world, cook up a conspiracy that managed to sanitize scraps of papyrus and un-cataloged mss. all over the known world of that time? And why in the world would they want to? Furthermore, we also have many versions in other languages (notably Coptic, Syriac and Armenian) which, while of dubious value for textual criticism (since we have so much in the original Greek), nevertheless go back to their own mss. traditions – and they are all clearly based on the same essential text. These sorts of conspiracy theories would be more persuasive if we were given a list of passages where serious major differences would change our doctrinal perspective on some issue. But inevitably we are usually only arguing about a few readings in the KJV vs. the older mss. So this is all much ado about nothing in any case. I have not read the whole book but we have had discussions about Mr. Wallace before. Here are some links to files where those old discussions were posted to Ichthys:

The personality of the Holy Spirit.

The Lives of the Apostles and the Writing of the New Testament

Biblical Grammar Questions. - Ichthys

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II.

Legalism, Past and Present - Ichthys

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hello Professor,

Just one more question on resources - it is possible that I will soon be able to make some purchases for the Bible application I've been using at reduced prices - is there anything you'd recommend getting? I've just got the Oxford Bible atlas and the Cambridge book came also, but a New Testament edition with Critical Apparatus caught my eye - is it something worth considering, or is it too early for me for such a resource? Since it might be an opportunity to get something at a lower price, I thought I'd ask you.

In our Lord,

Response #25:

Congratulations on your new acquisitions!

I read from the Greek New Testament every day, and both of the ones I use for the purpose have an apparatus criticus. However, what one of Classics professor called this back in my undergraduate days, namely, "the junk pile", is quite appropriate. No "app crit" is anywhere near perfect. That is true even for the NT where they are generally more extensive than is the case in Classics texts. The problem with NT "app crits" is that they are so full sometimes that they may give the impression of actually providing every important alternative reading. As one finds out (or should) whenever a particular verse is studied in detail, that is frequently not the case. Still, an "app crit" is good to start with to get an idea of where there are "issues", and which witnesses support which alternatives.

By the way, it's been a long time since I've even seen a Greek NT without some sort of "app crit", so may I ask you what you are reading? If it's on the computer, that would explain it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hello Professor,

Ok, I understand. Could you spare a moment to take a look at what they've got (I wanted a Greek New Testament and if you say I may get an idea of the issues with readings, then I would go for a version with critical apparatus):


I'm reading the New Testament in Greek on Blueletterbible website. Perhaps I should have asked you first whether that was the right thing to do.

In our Lord,

Response #26:

The Greek at Blue Letter is taken almost wholesale from the Nestle-Aland 27th edition. I use the 26th ed. and also the 3rd ed. of the UBS GNT (which is also based on Nestle-Aland 26th ed.). I don't believe there are many substantive differences between 26 and 27 (I use BLB Greek for quick access all the time and have yet to notice any significant differences in the two texts, though no doubt there are some). The advantage of an "ap. crit." is, as I say, to make one aware of the fact that editors have decided which reading is more likely in a number of places (some of these are very important, though most are not); and as I also remarked, often there is no mention of alternatives in the notes where in fact there are important differences (most notably in Revelation). The link you sent me is for the updated (27th ed. of N.A.) 4th ed. of the UBS GNT. This is a very good book (in the 3rd ed., anyway), so it would be fine to use. The only disadvantage of this book (which is easier to read and use than N.A. itself, because of the font, font size and other issues of presentation) is that the "ap.crit." is not as extensive as N.A. But as you are finding out, anytime one would want to research a particular verse, checking further than merely the "ap.crit." for textual variants would be pretty much automatic. For learning how to read and get familiar with the Greek text, this is ideal. It's just being "old school" I prefer books to phone and computer screens for this sort of work (personal preference only).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Hello Bob, how are you? It's been a while since my last e-mail. This time I bother you because I'm trying to write an article about the language/s in which the New Testament was written. Sadly, there are appearing groups saying that all the New Testament was written in Hebrew and are making their own "translations", forcing people to learn Hebrew and telling them that Hebrew is the only and right way to pray and praise.

Can you tell me any reliable sources to study about this? Also, have you written about this? I want to write this article giving the sources.

Hoping and praying that the Lord keeps blessing you.

In Jesus Christ

Response #27:

Good to hear from you, my friend!

As to your question, it is matter of absolute and indisputable fact that the NT was written in Greek. This is well-documented in all scholarship about the Bible, even at its most secular. So, first, any good treatment of the origin of the NT would give you plenty of ammunition as to the very early witnesses we have to the books of the NT, some of which is as early as the first century, a mere generation or so after the book was completed (Bruce Metzger's The Text of the New Testament is a good example of this). And while there are voluminous remnants and manuscripts in Greek, there is not a single shred of actual physical evidence which would suggest that ANY of the NT ever existed in another form other than its present Greek form, especially not in Hebrew. There is a quote preserved in Eusebius which has been taken as a sort of "evidence" that Matthew's gospel was written first in Hebrew, but this quote of a quote doesn't really mean what it is sometimes taken to mean – and there is no evidence for any such document in any case. I have written about this issue before. Here are a few links you might find helpful.

Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?

Christians Beware!

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend!

In Jesus Chris our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

Apparently it is common to partition the Gospel According to Matthew into five discourses, with the caesura of a new discourse being the phrase "when Jesus had finished' (cf. the usage of "these are the generations..." in the Book of Genesis). Do you think there is credence to the idea that Matthew sought to partition his gospel in this manner?


Response #28:

I don't even see it in Genesis. A good question to ask folks who are intent on this sort of textual analysis is "what difference do you think it makes to the interpretation of the book if what you say is true?" If the answer suggests something significant, one can be sure the person is intent on undermining the authority of the Word. Secular scholarship has been playing many such games with the gospels in particular for going on two centuries now. The nature of the games and their names varies (source criticism, redaction criticism, form criticism, etc.), but the fundamental effect is the same.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Hi Bob,

I was rather surprised when I discovered that most conservative evangelicals accept the Wiseman hypothesis.

. . . sometimes called the tablet theory, is a theory of the authorship and composition of the Book of Genesis which suggests that Moses compiled Genesis from tablets handed down through Abraham and the other patriarchs. Originally advocated by P. J. Wiseman (1888–1948) . . . Wikipedia

When did you first encounter this idea?


Response #29:

It's "nuts" – that's for sure. I've only even heard of it recently. You have to be completely ignorant of the ancient world and the manner in which ancient texts were produced in order to even entertain this prima facie.

However, I doubt anyone has done a poll of "conservative evangelicals" to be able to make this statement of putative acceptance (I'm willing to bet most have never heard of it either).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Update: is it advantageous to read a chronological KJV Bible?

Response #30:

Hello again – I'm not sure what a "chronological KJV Bible" is or would be? I get this question a lot, but this is a vexing problem because there is a difference on the one hand between dating the books of the Bible in their likely order of writing (and here there is much overlap and also a good deal of guess work), and on the other hand of trying to pull out the pieces of different books to align those pieces in chronological order. People have done something like this with the gospels – whose events obviously took place within a relatively short period of time; these are called "Harmonies" (but there is plenty of guess work involved in that as well). If you have found such a Bible, would you mind giving me the citation specifics (editors, press, date, etc.)?

I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31:

On page 55 Thiessen writes:

On the basis of the famous statement in Papias that "Matthew composed the Logia in Hebrew (i.e., Aramaic) tongue," we must hold that it is most natural to suppose that when he left Palestine he left behind this Aramaic Gospel, about A.D 45, and that a little later he also wrote the Greek Gospel that has come down to us, for his new hearers, about A.D 50.

Do you agree that Matthew wrote his gospel in Aramaic first? I know from your website that it's a disputed issue.

Response #31:

Absolutely not. It's not even clear that this is what Papias actually said (he's quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.16) or even what Papias means. More than that, this one fragment is no basis for concluding that Matthew's gospel is not originally Greek or that there was ever a Hebrew gospel or an Aramaic one (depending upon how one wants to read Papias). Certainly, Papias statement, "So then Matthew wrote the oracles (?!) in the Hebrew (Aramaic?) language, and every one interpreted them as he was able", does not accord with what we do have in the gospel of Matthew – it's not just a collection of "sayings", rough notes to latter be made into something, but a well-thought out and complete work – in Greek.

Question #32:

Hi Dr., before I start embarking do you think I should learn ancient Greek vs Koine (Biblical Greek)? I believe I remember reading somewhere on your site or an email from me it is best to learn ancient Greek first. Just want to make sure before I start purchasing or downloading materials. Also, which Bible do you recommend? Looking for a parallel Bible hard copy vs internet. I love hard copies, especially for studying.

Response #32:

There is really no significant difference between Classical and so-called Koine Greek. English is different in Britain than it is in the states – but it's the same language (that's about the level of difference we are talking about here). All "Koine approaches" to learning Greek which I have seen are deeply flawed and ineffective because of necessary myopia. If a person wants to really understand the NT, there's no substitute for really learning real Greek – as opposed to pretending that the language of the NT is so different it should be studied in isolation. If you are looking for a Greek NT, any version of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament would be fine (new editions and those with a glossary in the back being preferable). Here's a link to a good one:  UBS GNT (at the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #33:

Hi Bob,

In all of the Pauline letters, whenever Paul quotes the Old Testament, he quotes from the MT. But in Hebrews, Paul only quotes from the LXX.

Doesn't this seem a little unusual?

Yet at the same time, the author of Hebrews refers to Timothy as his companion. So we have this strange situation where the author writes and cites scripture in a manner absolutely unlike Paul, but yet portrays himself as Paul. I really don't think that saying Hebrews is pseudepigraphia is a possible option for the Christian, so I would like to know how you explain the LXX citations.


Response #33:

It would take me a long time to go over every quote in Hebrews to see what is actually going on. Did you do so? If not, I'm wondering where you got the seemingly (to me) strange idea that "Paul only quotes the LXX in Hebrews". Whenever I have delved into this thorny issue of OT quotations in the NT (see the link), it has always presented a much more mixed picture than seems to be the case at first glance. That is to say, passages stated by commentators to be LXX are often not quite LXX or only partially LXX. I also think the statement that "Paul only quotes the MT" in his letters is also highly questionable – it would take a LONG time to run down every quote in all the other epistles. In addition, there is also the issue of allusions and paraphrases. In academia we have rules on how to cite things. Not so in the NT. As long as it was true and as long as the Spirit approved, paraphrases were OK, and sometimes it's tricky to tell the difference. I have found quotes not understood to be quotes and things considered quotes which really aren't. So I would be reluctant to accept either half of this dual proposition without evidence, and would prefer to tackle the passages one at a time. Everything always comes down to what a given passage of scripture actual does say, after all.

Even if we posit some difference in the way Hebrews quotes the OT from the way the other epistles do, Hebrews does have a unique purpose. After all, it's the only putatively anonymous epistle in the Pauline corpus for a reason.

Hope you are doing well my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #34:

The source is http://www.gotquestions.org/author-Hebrews.html by a conservative Evangelical group.

Response #34:

Just as I thought – people who don't have a clue what they're talking about. There is no citation in this blog of any sort, not even any scripture references. Sounds like something the author(s) heard (or misheard) in a sermon and reproduces here as if it were true.

1) Romans 8:36 (picked at random) quotes Psalm 44:22 precisely from the LXX; it is not a fresh translation from the MT.

2) On the other hand, right away in Hebrews chapter one, verse 10 has a different word order than the LXX; verse eleven has a different tense for "remain" (though this is just an accent difference); verse twelve adds "like a garment" a second time (not in the LXX), and also has a different word for the first verb form: "roll up" in Hebrews instead of "change" in the LXX. The difference in Hebrews suggests a deliberate attempt to bring out the metaphor of the heavens being vividly taken away as if a person were rolling up a cloak; the LXX on the other hand renders the MT rather slavishly and loses the metaphor, a metaphor, moreover, that is still accessible in the Hebrew because the semantic scope of the verb chalaph embraces both meanings (while the Greek allasso in the LXX does not). So Paul improves on the LXX in this passage in Hebrews, something he would not have been able to do without knowing the MT thoroughly (or having direct access to a copy). Certainly not comparing myself to Paul (!), but when I cite verses in email responses I frequently use the version the person I'm communicating with is comfortable with, but do make changes when it is important for the argument to bring out the original more precisely – and sometimes it's necessary to produce an entirely new translation for that purpose. That is precisely the sort of the thing I find throughout the NT and I would put that forward as the basis for all such inquiries, namely, that because the LXX was, essentially, their "KJV", most authors mostly quote it, but sometimes they make changes (big or small) within the confines of citing it more or less directly, and occasionally produce a completely new translation (when necessary). Since this is a situation-dependent practice for all the NT writers, we can't really say anything about authorship on this basis.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #35:

In Exodus 3:1 the Hebrew word 'achar is rendered as meaning "to the west" in NASB, but Lambdin takes it to mean "to the edge of". Which rendering is correct here?

Response #35:

The adverb 'achar can mean "to the west"; the root idea is "back", "behind" or "after", and in geographical terms this can apply to the cardinal orientation of the sunrise (so the "back" of that is the west); it might also mean "edge" here as a way to translate "beyond the desert" . . . since that would not be an understandable phrase in English. If "west" is not correct, then "deep into" the desert seems to be the idea. In any case, this phrase seems to me to be added to communicate the remoteness of the area to which Moses journeyed (the exact geography cannot be reconstructed and, in my view, is not meant to be).

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