Monthly Archives: July 2012

The fanciful teaching of Tobit in the Apocrypha

By Spencer D Gear

(image public domain)

I encountered a Roman Catholic and promoter of the deutero-canonical books (the Apocrypha). She wrote:  ‘Again, these are the Deutero-Canonical Books (NOT the Apocrypha as some like to call it)’.[1]

  • ‘The following is a list proving that there are connections between the Deuterocanonical books (which are the Word of God) and the New Testament. That is, these books which are Divinely Inspired by God the Holy Spirit.’.[2]
  • ‘As I have shown there is much more than “a couple” of quotes from the Deutero-Canonicals in the NT. This just lends all the more credibility of the Holy Catholic Church which maintains that the Apostles and the Early Church read them and used them as Sacred Writing (as the Holy Bible)’.[3]
  • ‘Men may have their quote/unquote “reasons” but the Church together with the Holy Spirit have spoken on the matter. These DeuteroCanonicals are indeed the Word of God. The doctrines of Purgatory and praying for the dead are part of the Teaching of Christ and as such they do not contradict the New Testament…. To call these books Apocryphal is to deny the Word of God. [4]

That’s a sampling from an avid Roman Catholic and promoter of the deutero-canonical books, known to Protestants as the Apocrypha.

I asked this person:[5]

Are you telling us that this makes sense and this is Scripture?

In Tobit 6:2-8, 16-17 (RSV), it states:

[2] Then the young man went down to wash himself. A fish leaped up from the river and would have swallowed the young man;
[3] and the angel said to him, “Catch the fish.” So the young man seized the fish and threw it up on the land.
[4] Then the angel said to him, “Cut open the fish and take the heart and liver and gall and put them away safely.”
[5] So the young man did as the angel told him; and they roasted and ate the fish.

And they both continued on their way until they came near to Ecbatana.

[6] Then the young man said to the angel, “Brother Azarias, of what use is the liver and heart and gall of the fish?”
[7] He replied, “As for the heart and liver, if a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the man or woman, and that person will never be troubled again.
[8] And as for the gall, anoint with it a man who has white films in his eyes, and he will be cured.”

[16] When you enter the bridal chamber, you shall take live ashes of incense and lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish so as to make a smoke.
[17] Then the demon will smell it and flee away, and will never again return. And when you approach her, rise up, both of you, and cry out to the merciful God, and he will save you and have mercy on you. Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity. You will save her, and she will go with you, and I suppose that you will have children by her.” When Tobias heard these things, he fell in love with her and yearned deeply for her.

This is fanciful stuff, but this person wants to call it the Word of God.

HERE  (in this link) you will find some further reasons why the Apocrypha should be rejected from the canon of Scripture.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘Cross-references between the deutero-canonicals (NOT apocryphal)’, AHJE #1, available at: (Accessed 27 July 2012).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., #7, emphasis in the original.

[4] Ibid, #22.

[5] OzSpen, ibid #25.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 May 2016.

Should the Apocrypha be in the Bible?

(image public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

The term, Apocrypha, has been used to refer to these deutero-canonical books since the fifth century. See ‘Biblical Apocrypha’ (Wikipedia). The Catholic Encyclopedia has an article (online) on The Apocrypha and rightly notes that Roman Catholics call these inter-testamental books, deutero-canonical, and Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

Renowned theologian and early church father, Athanasius (ca. AD 298-373) made a clear distinction between the books of the canon and those not included in the canon with these words:

But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple (Select Works & Letters of Athanasius, Letter 39, in A.D. 367, Available from:

So, we have it that Athanasius included only the words of the Hebrew Bible, except Esther, no Apocrypha, and the entire NT as of today. So Athanasius names some of the deutero-canonical/Apocryphal writings as an invention of heretics. These are not my words, but those of an eminent theologian of the early church.

Therefore, it is just as correct to call these books The Apocrypha as Deutero-Canonical.The Roman Catholic Church wants to call it Deutero-Canonical. But Apocrypha is just as legitimate because many Protestants do not regard those books as a second canon of books but as ‘hidden’ books that do not belong in the canon of Scripture.

There are a significant number of reasons for accepting the Palestinian canon of the OT (without the Deutero-Canonical). Here are a three:

  1. Some of the Deutero-Canonical books have teachings that contradict the NT. Two of these teachings that were raised at the time of the Reformation are promoted in the Apocrypha but denied in the NT. The Apocrypha promotes praying for the dead (2 Macc 12:45-46) and salvation by works (Tobit 12:9). The Bible is against praying for the dead. See 2 Sam. 12:19; Luke 16:25; Heb. 9:27. The Bible is strongly opposed to salvation by works (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5; Gal 3:11) [Geisler and Nix 1986:270].
  2. Some of the deutero-canonical narratives promote non-biblical, fanciful stories. Take a read of Bel and the Dragon, Tobit, and Judith (Geisler & Nix 1986:270).
  3. Philo, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher, who lived from about 20 BC – AD 40, quotes extensively from the OT and even recognised the three-fold classification of the OT books, but not once did he quote from the Deutero-Canonical as containing inspired books (Geisler and Nix 1986:272).

My stance of rejecting the Apocrypha is in agreement with Roman Catholic authority, Jerome (A.D. 340-420), who, in his preface to the Vulgate version of the Apocrypha’s “Book of Solomon,” stated that the church reads the apocryphal books “for example and instruction of manners” but not to “apply them to establish doctrine.” In fact, Jerome rejected Augustine’s unjustified acceptance of the Apocrypha.

The Jewish scholars who met at Jamnia, ca. A.D. 90, did not accept the Apocrypha in the inspired Jewish canon of Scripture. The Apocrypha was not contained in the Hebrew Bible and Jerome knew it. In his preface to the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible, Jerome rejected the apocryphal additions to Daniel, i.e. Bel and the Dragon, and Susanna. Jerome wrote:

“The stories of Susanna and of Bel and the Dragon are not contained in the Hebrew. . . . For this same reason when I was translating Daniel many years ago, I noted these visions with a critical symbol, showing that they were not included in the Hebrew. . . . After all, both Origen, Eusebius and Appolinarius, and other outstanding churchmen and teachers of Greece acknowledge that, as I have said, these visions are not found amongst the Hebrews, and therefore they are not obliged to answer to Porphyry for these portions which exhibit no authority as Holy Scripture ” (in Norman Geisler 2002, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, Bethany House, p. 527, emphasis added).

The Protestant canon of 39 OT books, excluding the Apocrypha, coincides with the Hebrew 22 books of the OT.

There are many other reasons for rejecting the Apocrypha. Any reasonable person who reads Tobit, and Bel and the Dragon, knows how fanciful they become when compared with the God-breathed Scripture.

Here are “Some reasons why the Deutero-Canonical material does not belong in the Bible“. Here are examples of theological and historical “Errors in the Deutero-Canonical“. It was Jerome who introduced the change from calling these books the Apocrypha to Deutero-Canonical.

The teachings on purgatory and praying for the dead come from the Apocrypha.

The NRSV Apocrypha can be read online HERE.


Geisler, N L and Nix, W E 1986. A General Introduction to the Bible (rev & exp). Chicago: Moody Press.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 May 2016.


Religious marriage with a different twist: My response to Spencer Howson

Marriage is from God


By Spencer D Gear

bmag is a Brisbane freebie newspaper-magazine style publication delivered to Brisbane households once a month. It can be accessed online HERE.

Spencer Howson is a breakfast presenter on radio, ABC 612 Brisbane. He used to write a regular column for bmag. Since my email letter of 11 July 2012 to Spencer Howson, a bmag contributor, was not published on 24 July 2012, p. 16, ‘Your say on marriage’, here I publish what I wrote to him on 11 July 2012 (his email was, [email protected]):

Your ‘Marriage shake-up‘ article (bmag, 10 July 2012) was your secular, religious, relativistic, politically correct (PC) promotion to accommodate the homosexual community. Yours is as religious a perspective as any in Australia. There is no philosophy, religion or worldview that is not devoted to some divinity – the object of its highest desire and deepest commitment. You may not call it ‘divinity’ but this pinnacle of desire and depth of commitment is the essence of the ‘divine’ (even though you define it differently).

Your use of projection triggers gives away your presuppositions (bold emphasis ahead). These projection triggers included,

(1) ‘I’ve never considered our marriage has anything to do with God’.

(2) Your marriage to Nikki was ‘a religion-free declaration of love and commitment’.

(3) ‘Nikki and I would have chosen a Civil Marriage’.

(4) ‘What do you think of my idea of having Church Marriage and Civil Marriage?’

Yours is a religion of autonomous reason – but it is as religious as any Christian’s view in Australia. [Here I add dot points that I did not include in the letter.] His presuppositions include:

  • Marriage has nothing to do with God.
  • A God-less marriage is religion-free.
  • Marriage is a declaration of love and commitment with no reference to God.
  • A Civil Marriage is preferred if you want it to be religion-free.

This is a pluralistic, relativistic religion that has considerable negative ramifications. How come? When the polyamory, polyandry, polygamy and marriage to children PC groups come along promoting their views, you have no rational basis to reject such religious perspectives. Yours is a slippery slope argument, Spencer, and you are standing at its pinnacle.

You are conning yourself by claiming yours is a non-religious perspective and your PC view should be considered or promoted. Having Church Marriage and Civil Marriage – your religious perspective – is a BIG compromise of the integrity of marriage.

By the way, your view of the church as ‘membership of a club – and that’s what church is’, is a country mile from the reality of the church being and functioning as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27). If your knowledge of marriage is as far-off as your understanding of the church, our society is in deep trouble if it pursues your religious views.

Why is the church so adamant about marriage being between a man and a woman? In spite of your alternate religious values, from the beginning of time the Judeo-Christian Almighty God has declared that this is the foundation of marriage: ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). The foundation of a stable and just society is marriage of a man and a woman. [The following was not in my email to Spencer Howson.]

Jesus Christ supported the Genesis 2:24 passage when he was teaching about divorce:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:4-6 ESV)

I add Karl Barth’s comment:

There is no man who does not have his own god or gods as the object of his highest desire and trust, or as the basis of his deepest loyalty and commitment. There is no one who is not to this extent also a theologian. There is, moreover, no religion, no philosophy, no world view that is not dedicated to some such divinity. Every world view … presupposes a divinity interpreted in one way or another and worshiped to some degree, whether wholeheartedly or superficially. There is no philosophy that is not to some extent also theology. Not only does this fact apply to philosophers who desire to affirm—or who, at least, are ready to admit—that divinity, in a positive sense, is the essence of truth and power of some kind of highest principle; but the same truth is valid even for thinkers denying such a divinity, for such a denial would in practice merely consist in transferring an identical dignity and function to another object. Such an alternative object might be “nature,” creativity, or an unconscious and amorphous will to life. It might be “reason,” progress, or even a redeeming nothingness into which man would be destined to disappear. Even such apparently “godless” ideologies are theologies (Barth 1963:3-4).


Barth, K 1963.  Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


John 3:16 and ‘only begotten’

Ticket to Heaven


By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual for those who support the KJV translation of the Bible to oppose some of the more modern translations. I encountered this in an objection to the NIV, “one and only Son” instead of “only begotten Son” in John 3:16. In a post of Christian Forums, there was this comment:

Oh, and look at the famous John 3:16 verse from the NIV Version: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. NIV removed the word “begotten”….[1]

Begotten is used because it implies Jesus Christ is fully man as well as fully God. He is the literal only begotten of God.

As far as these other irrelevant arguments involving original greek, that’s useless. If you are an average Bible reader, you will not have original script to compare translations. That is essentially the Bible’s printer’s job. An average Bible reader should have a completely fufilling Bible without need for a study guide or accompanying texts. The King James Version of the Bible being the best translation.[2]

[3]The issue in John 3:16 is over the translation of the Greek word, monogenes,[4] which the KJV translates as “only begotten” and the NIV translates as “one and only”. What is the meaning of this Greek word? It is derived from ginomai (I come to be, become, originate – Arndt & Gingrich) and NOT gennaw (I beget – Arndt & Gingrich). So, monogenes is not connected with begetting.

The Greek word means nothing more than “only” or “unique”. It is used of the widow of Nain’s “only” son (Luke 7:12, cf. Luke 9:38); Jairus’s “only” daughter (Luke 8:42). What is particularly instructive is that the word is used in referring to Isaac (Heb. 11:17), because Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, but he was “unique”. He was God’s promised son to Abraham.

So when monogenes is used in John 3:16, it is indicating that Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way. There is no other son who can be God’s Son like Jesus is in this unique way. There is a unique relationship between the Father and the Son, which is one of the special themes of John’s Gospel.

Therefore, the song and dance that has been made in this thread about “only begotten” of the KJV being “one and only” in the NIV is a non-issue. Because the word monogenes is NOT derived from begetting but is referring to the only, unique Son. Therefore, the NIV translation is a good one. In fact, when one understands the etymology of monogenes, the KJV translation gives a meaning that is not based on the origin of the word, monogenes. The etymology of a word is important.

So whether in Cantonese, Mandarin, English, German or Icelandic, the issue in translating monogenes is: How do we best translate it to mean only or unique?

Somebody came back to me with this response:

Monogenes is a two part word in which mono means ‘only’ or ‘one’ and genes means ‘begotten’, ‘born’, ‘come forth’.
Buchsel, in his definitive treastise on the meaning of the word ‘monogenes‘ said:
It means only-begotten (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. iv, p. 739).[5]

[6]It is too bad that you didn’t read on further to p. 741 of Buchsel’s Greek exposition of monogenes in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4 (Eerdmans 1967) where Buchsel’s word study is not as assured as you are making it out to be. He wrote:

“It is not wholly clear whether monogenes in John denotes also the birth or begetting from God; it probably does, John calls Jesus ho gennetheis ek tou theou [the one born of God], 1 John 5:18. Though many will not accept this, he here understands the concept of sonship in terms of begetting. For him to be the Son of God is not just to be the recipient of God’s love. It is to be begotten of God. This is true both of believers and also of Jesus.[7] For this reason monogenes probably includes also begetting of God (p. 741).

In his footnote at this point, he states,

One should not refer the monogenes to the virgin birth of Jesus…, for the pre-existent as well as the historical Jesus is the son of God (p. 741, n 20).

While Buchel does prefer the translation of monogenes as referring to the begetting from God, he tempers it with, “It is not wholly clear”.

Arndt & Gingrich in their Greek lexicon also are not as sure as you want it to be. They state that the meaning of monogenes is of an only son or daughter (Heb 11:17; Luke 8:42) – also unique in kind.

“In the Johannine literature monogenes is used only of Jesus. The meanings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here…. But some … prefer to regard monogenes as somewhat heightened in meaning in John and 1 John to only-begotten or begotten of the Only One, in view of the emphasis on gennasthai ek theou [born of God] (John 1:13 etc)” (p. 529).

On the basis of the study of these Greek exegetes, it is not definitive that monogenes should be translated as “only begotten” and for someone to say that the NIV’s translation of “one and only” Son in John 3:16 is wrong, does not line up with what the exegetes are concluding.

If Buchel can conclude that it is “not wholly clear” and Arndt & Gingrich say that in the Johannine writings, the meanings of “only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here”, but “some prefer” the “somewhat heightened” meaning in John’s writings of “only-begotten or begotten of the Only One”, indicate that those intensely involved in Greek exegesis are not absolutely convinced that the one and only meaning of monogenes in John 3:16 is “only begotten”.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Communities, Baptists, ‘The New International Version (NIV) Bible completely removes the word Godhead’, Proverb2717 #1, available at: (Accessed 8 July 2012).

[2] Proverbs2717#7, ibid.

[3] This is my response as OzSpen, ibid., #77.

[4] Most of this information was gleaned from Leon Morris’s commentary: Leon Morris 1971. The Gospel according to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 105. Morris in his comments on John 3:16 (1971:230) referred back to this explanation of monogenes in John 1:14.

[5] Christian Forums, Limikin#84, ibid.

[6] The following is my, OzSpen, response at #85, ibid.

[7] My emphasis in bold.

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations


Alexandrian text-type (image courtesy Wikipedia) King James (Authorised) Version, (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

A fellow wrote on an Internet forum, ‘If your bible is not translated from the Textus Receptus, then you have only and imitation bible, not authentic’.[1] This was the response:

I’m not sure you know what the TR [Textus Receptus] even is.

The term “Textus Receptus” is mostly an anachronism. A term applied to a textual lineage that influenced the translations of the Reformation and post-Reformation period during the 16th and 17th centuries.

But there did not exist a “Textus Receptus” as a singular, uniform textual edition until later. Rather, the TR is a composite of numerous critical editions of the Greek New Testament that includes several editions from Erasmus alone, in addition to critical editions produced by Stephanus and Beza. None of these critical editions agreed entirely with one another, and even throughout Erasmus’ scholarly career his critical edition went through numerous edits and changes.

The Authorized Version of King James I of England was a translation from these many Greek texts, with the various scholars working and choosing which variants were preferable and in some cases lifting entire portions piecemeal from previous English translations such as Tyndale’s Version. Beyond these, the translators relied upon traditional readings taken from the Vulgate (such can be seen in the KJV translation of Isaiah 14:12 which retains the Vulgate’s “lucifer”). Even after the 1611 edition, it went through numerous re-edits until the situation with the Authorized Version had become a total mess, and a standardized text was put forth in 1769, which is the “King James Version” we all know today.

Why should we limit translations to an arbitrary set of competing and conflicting–and outdated–critical editions of the Greek text (i.e. the Textus Receptus) when we have a far larger library of textual manuscripts available, far superior critical editions at our disposal, and nearly five hundred years of adept scholarship at our collective fingertips in order to present far superior translations of Holy Scripture for our benefit and edification?[2]

Bruce Metzger’s assessment of Greek New Testaments

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

[3]I recommend one of the outstanding textual critics of the 20th century, the late Dr. Bruce Metzger. In The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (Metzger 1992), you will learn:

1. ‘In 1514 the first printed Greek New Testament came from the press, as part of the Polyglot Bible’ (1992:96);

2. ‘Though the Complutensian text was the first Greek New Testament to be printed, the first Greek New Testament to be published (that is, put on the market) was the edition prepared by the famous Dutch scholar and humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536). It cannot be determined exactly when Erasmus first decided to prepare an edition of the Greek Testament, but on a visit to Basle in August 1514 he discussed (probably not for the first time) the possibility of such a volume with the well-known publisher Johann Froben…. The printing began on 2 October 1515, and in a remarkably short time (1 March 1516) the entire edition was finished, a large folio volume of about 1,000 pages which, as Erasmus himself declared later, was “precipitated rather than edited” (praecipitatum verius quam editum). Owing to the haste in production, the volume contains hundreds of typographical errors; in fact, Scrivener once declared, “[It] is in that respect the most faulty book I know.’ (1992:98, 99).

3. ‘Here and there in Erasmus’ self-made Greek text are readings which have never been found in any known Greek manuscript–but which are still perpetuated today in printings of the so-called Textus Receptus of the Greek New Testament. Even in parts of the New Testament Erasmus occasionally introduced into his Greek text material taken from the Latin Vulgate. Thus in Acts ix. 6…. This … became part of the Textus Receptus, from which the King James version was made in 1611′ (1992:100).

4. ‘The second edition [of Erasmus’ Greek text] became the basis of Luther’s German translation…. It has often been debated how far Luther’s translation rests on the Greek text’ (1991:100; 100 n. 2).

5. ‘Subsequently Erasmus issued a fourth and definitive edition (1527), which contains the text of the New Testament in three parallel columns, the Greek, the Latin Vulgate, and Erasmus’ own Latin version’ (1992:102).

6. ‘Thus the text of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament rests upon a half dozen minuscule [i.e. running writing] manuscripts’ (1992:102).

7. ‘Subsequent editors, though making a number of alterations in Erasmus’ text, essentially reproduced this debased form of the Greek Testament. Having secured an undeserved pre-eminence, what came to be called the Textus Receptus of the New Testament resisted for 400 years all scholarly efforts to displace it in favour of an earlier and more accurate text’ (1992:103).

8. “The first edition of the whole Bible in Greek was published in three parts in February 1518 at Venice by the celebrated Aldine press. The New Testament, which is dedicated to Erasmus, follows the first edition of Erasmus so closely as to reproduce many typographical errors–even those which Erasmus had corrected in the list of errata’ (1992:103).

9. ‘Theodore de Beze (Beza, 1519-1605), a friend and successor of Calvin at Geneva and an eminent classical and Biblical scholar, published no fewer than nine editions of the Greek Testament between 1565 and 1604, and a tenth edition appeared posthumously in 1611….The importance of Beza’s work lies in the extent to which his editions tended to popularize and to stereotype the Textus Receptus. The King James translators of 1611 made large use of Beza’s editions of 1588-9 and 1698’ (1992:105).

10. ‘The next stage in the history of New Testament textual criticism is characterized by assiduous efforts to assemble variant readings from Greek manuscripts, versions, and Fathers. For almost two centuries scholars ransacked libraries and museums, in Europe as well as the Near East, for witnesses to the text of the New Testament. But almost all of the editors of the New Testament during this period were content to reprint the time-honoured but corrupt Textus Receptus, relegating the evidence for the earlier readings to the apparatus. An occasional brave soul who ventured to print a different form of Greek text was either condemned or ignored’ (1992:106).

Is the New Living Translation a paraphrase or dynamic equivalence?

A fellow on the Forum wrote: ‘the NLT is a paraphrase’.[4] I had stated that the NIV and NLT used dynamic equivalence. To check out which philosophy of translation the NLT uses, I looked up my hard copy of the NLT and the NLT website. This is what I found:

(image courtesy NLT)


Translation Philosophy and Methodology

English Bible translations tend to be governed by one of two general translation theories. The first theory has been called “formal-equivalence,” “literal,” or “word-for-word” translation. According to this theory, the translator attempts to render each word of the original language into English and seeks to preserve the original syntax and sentence structure as much as possible in translation. The second theory has been called “dynamic-equivalence,” “functional-equivalence,” or “thought-for-thought” translation. The goal of this translation theory is to produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original-language text, both in meaning and in style.

Both of these translation theories have their strengths. A formal-equivalence translation preserves aspects of the original text—including ancient idioms, term consistency, and original-language syntax—that are valuable for scholars and professional study. It allows a reader to trace formal elements of the original-language text through the English translation. A dynamic-equivalence translation, on the other hand, focuses on translating the message of the original-language text. It ensures that the meaning of the text is readily apparent to the contemporary reader. This allows the message to come through with immediacy, without requiring the reader to struggle with foreign idioms and awkward syntax. It also facilitates serious study of the text’s message and clarity in both devotional and public reading.

The pure application of either of these translation philosophies would create translations at opposite ends of the translation spectrum. But in reality, all translations contain a mixture of these two philosophies. A purely formal-equivalence translation would be unintelligible in English, and a purely dynamic-equivalence translation would risk being unfaithful to the original. That is why translations shaped by dynamic-equivalence theory are usually quite literal when the original text is relatively clear, and the translations shaped by formal-equivalence theory are sometimes quite dynamic when the original text is obscure.

The translators of the New Living Translation set out to render the message of the original texts of Scripture into clear, contemporary English. As they did so, they kept the concerns of both formal-equivalence and dynamic-equivalence in mind. On the one hand, they translated as simply and literally as possible when that approach yielded an accurate, clear, and natural English text. Many words and phrases were rendered literally and consistently into English, preserving essential literary and rhetorical devices, ancient metaphors, and word choices that give structure to the text and provide echoes of meaning from one passage to the next.

On the other hand, the translators rendered the message more dynamically when the literal rendering was hard to understand, was misleading, or yielded archaic or foreign wording. They clarified difficult metaphors and terms to aid in the reader’s understanding. The translators first struggled with the meaning of the words and phrases in the ancient context; then they rendered the message into clear, natural English. Their goal was to be both faithful to the ancient texts and eminently readable. The result is a translation that is both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.[5]

What is dynamic equivalence?

Wycliffe Bible Translators (and SIL) are experts in translating the Bible into languages for which there has been no Bible in print. These are their definitions of ‘formal equivalence’ and ‘dynamic equivalence’ for translations.

It was linguist, Dr. Eugene Nida, who introduced the concept of dynamic equivalence. Wycliffe Bible Translators website explains:

Throughout his travels as a consultant, Dr. Nida urged translators to learn the culture as well as the language of the people they served. He was also concerned that they understand the culture of the Bible so they could translate the meaning of the text from one culture to another, rather than attempt a literal word-for-word translation. This led him to write several landmark books on what is now termed “functional equivalence” or “dynamic equivalence.” While there is debate about “literal” versus “functional equivalence” translation methods, there is little doubt that Nida’s influence has allowed millions of people around the world to read the Word of God in a language that speaks to their hearts.[6]

Nida explained the meaning of ‘dynamic equivalence’:

In such a translation one is not so concerned with matching the receptor-language message with the source-language message, but with the dynamic relationship…, that the relationship between receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message.

A translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of expression, and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture; it does not insist that he understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message. (Nida 1964:159)

Stated as a kind of formula, we may say that for the type of message contained in the New Testament, we are concerned with a relationship such as can be expressed in the following equation:


That is to say, the receptor in the circle culture should be able, within his own culture, to respond to the message as given in his language, in substantially the same manner as the receptor in the triangle culture responded, within the context of his own culture, to the message as communicated to him in his own language. (Nida 1964:148-149)[7]

For an exposé on dynamic equivalence, see the article by Robert L. Thomas, ‘Dynamic equivalence: A method of translation or a system of hermeneutics’. See also D A Carson, ‘The limits of dynamic equivalence in Bible translation’.


The Erasmus Greek text that became the Textus Receptus and had so much influence on the text used for the translation of the KJV New Testament, but it is based on a ‘debased form of the Greek Testament’ (Metzger’s words).

Better Greek manuscripts are available in the twenty-first century and most of the new translations are based on these texts. The Greek text gathered by Erasmus that became the Textus Receptus is not the most reliable Greek text available for NT translation. The manuscripts found since the time of Erasmus and the eclectic Greek text of Nestle-Aland 26, which is used in the United Bible Societies Greek NT (edition 27 is now available), provide a more reliable Greek text from which to translate. The latter Greek text is used in such English Bible translations as the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, NIV, NASB and NLT.

However, there is no point in trying to convince a dogmatic KJV-only supporter of these details.

Works consulted

Metzger, B 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption and restoration. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nida, E A 1964. Toward a science of translating. Leiden: E J Brill.


[1] Christian 12#93, Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘King James Version why the best?’, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[2] Ibid, CryptoLutheran#106.

[3] I posted this in ibid., OzSpen#127.

[4] Ibid., Michaelrh1325#126. Part of my response to him was that he needed to know what he was talking about.

[5] New Living Translation website, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[6] ‘Eugene Nida’, Wycliffe, available at: (Accessed 21 July 2012).

[7] Glenn J. Kerr 2011. Dynamic equivalence and its daughters: Placing Bible translation theories in their historical context. Journal of Translation 7(1). SIL. Available at: (Accessed 1 June 2016).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 June 201, .


What makes Christianity true?



By Spencer D Gear

Stated briefly, Christianity is true because ….

  1. It matches reality like a hand in a glove.
  2. It’s description of human beings is a perfect fit, including the good, the bad and the ugly (fallen human beings in sin – Genesis 3).
  3. It’s explanation of how the universe began and the majesty of the universe are spot on (see Genesis 1-2; Psalm 19).
  4. It gives the only permanent solution I know for changing human beings – from the inside out – in salvation through Christ alone.
  5. It provides the absolutes for running nations (if nations would only obey them) – the 10 commandments (Exodus 20) and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Francis Schaeffer described this as the thesis vs antithesis dilemma that God fulfills.
  6. As for a world and life view, there is none to match it.
  7. That’s why I know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) .

Recently I was reading a book by Ravi Zacharias, Jesus among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message (Word Publishing 2000) in which he, a former Hindu was so disillusioned with life that he attempted suicide. In this book he writes,

I came to Him [Jesus] because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has three hundred and thirty million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all inclusive. Truth by definition excludes (p. 6).

I highly recommend this as an excellent lay-level book to help people work through the challenges of multitudes of religions and gods.

However, there are many theological liberals (modernist or postmodernist) who don’t want this to be true. They don’t trust the God revealed in Scriptures and they want to denigrate biblical content wherever possible. Many of these do not believe in the reality of prophecy or the miraculous because their presuppositions exclude a God who would do that. They hack into the integrity of the Bible.

As I’ve examined their claims and the claims of world religions, I conclude where I began: The Christian worldview matches reality perfectly.

See also my articles,


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


Whytehouse Graphics

Corn or grain? KJV or NIV in Matthew 12:1


       Corn or maize (Wikipedia)       Oats, barley & food products from cereal grains (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

In Matthew 12:1, the KJV states that Jesus and his disciples went “through the corn”. The NRSV and NJB use “cornfields”. The NIV translates as, “through the grainfields” on the Sabbath. The ESV, NET, NLT, and NASB agree with the NIV’s “grainfields”. Which is it? Corn or grain?

There was a discussion of this on Christian Forums. One poster came across this difference in translation between KJV and NIV:

I don’t think that the KJV is the best translation. I just came across this verse today.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred (sic), and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. (Matthew 12:1 King James Bible, Cambridge Edition)

Corn was discovered in the western hemisphere and brought back to the eastern hemisphere. Corn was not grown in Israel. Other translations say “grain” which is more accurate. The greek word is stachuas[1] and means “the heads of grain”.[2]

A KJV-only supporter responded,

Nope. Corn and grain are the same thing. Always have been just like wheat, barley, and oats are also grain.
Def; grain – A small, dry, one-seeded fruit of a cereal grass, having the fruit and the seed walls united: ( it even includes sugar according to the Free Dictionary definition). [3]

[4]When we seek a definition of a NT word, we do not go to for an English definition. We go to the Greek language. The word used for “the corn” (KJV) and “the grainfields” (NIV) is stopimos in the plural. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon tells us that:

  • The etymology of the word is “sown”, i.e. that which is sown;
  • The meaning is “standing grain, grain fields”.[5]

So the meaning is NOT corn, but the generic grain fields. Therefore, the NIV is the more correct translation. The word is also used in Mark 2:23.
In Mt. 12:1ff, the context tells us that when the journey by the disciples through the grain fiends was made, it happened during or shortly before harvest time as they “began to pick some ears of grain” (NIV). It is literally, “began to pick ears [of grain]”.


[1] This is the word for “head” and not “grain”.

[2] Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘King James Version why the best?’, Timothew #72, available at: (Accessed 11 July 2012).

[3] Martyrs44 #73, ibid.

[4] The following information is my response as OzSpen #78, ibid.

[5] Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[5] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), p. 770.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the Old Testament

Many Roads

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want to meet promoters of all sorts of unorthodox or strange doctrines, go to some of the Christian forums online.

I visited one where it was asked:

“I haven’t seen evidence of eternal torment in hell anywhere in the old testament. If you have, and if you are tireless enough, would you post at least one of them…. The question was: Does the OLD testament have any verses that describe eternal torment in hell?”[1]

He [2] is missing a fundamental dynamic of biblical interpretation – progressive revelation from OT to NT. He would not be asking these questions if he understood the meaning of progressive revelation. There are many things in the OT that are vague when compared with the clearer NT revelation, thanks to the Lord revealing more with the NT.

Therefore, it should not surprise us that when the OT prophets stated many things about Sheol – the place to which people departed at death – they did not expound in depth on it. That was given to the NT to explain further. Sadly, the KJV translates Sheol as “hell” (31 times); “grave” (31 times) and “pit” (3 times). Because of this kind of inconsistency, this has given opportunity to various groups (JWs, Armstrongism, SDAs, etc.) to teach, wrongly, that Sheol means the grave.

However, the following examples of the use of Sheol use figurative language to explain the conditions there. These include:

  1. Sheol has “gates” to enter and “bars” to keep one in (e.g. Job 17:16; Isa. 38:10). Thus, by use of this figurative language, Sheol is described as a realm from which there is no way to escape.
  2. Sheol is described as a shadowy place, a place of darkness (Job 10:21-22; Ps 143:3).
  3. Sheol is regarded as being “down”, “beneath the earth”, in “the lower parts of the earth” (Job 11:8; Isa 44:23; 57:9; Ezek 26:20; Amos 9:2). These figures of speech are designed to tell us that Sheol has another existence – it is not part of this world that we live in. But there is another existence that has a different dimension. It is not sending the dead into non-existence or to be annihilated.
  4. It is a place for reunion with ancestors, tribe or people (e.g. Gen 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Num 20:24, 28; 31:2; Deut 32:50; 34:5; 2 Sam 12:23). Sheol is the place where all human beings go at death. Jacob looked forward to his reuniting with Joseph in Sheol. These OT references confirm that death meant separation from the living, but reunion with the departed.
  5. There are indications that there could be different sections in Sheol with language such as “the lowest part” and “the highest part” (Deut 32:22).
  6. What are the conditions for a person who goes to Sheol? At death a person becomes a rephaim, i.e. a ghost, shade, disembodied spirit, according to the Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries of the OT (see Job 26:5; Ps 88:10; Prov 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19). Instead of saying that human beings pass into non-existence at death, the OT states that a person becomes a disembodied spirit. Keil & Delitzsch in their OT commentary define rephaim as “those who are bodiless in the state after death” (Vol 4 on Job, p. 52).
  7. Those in Sheol converse with each other and can even make moral judgments on the lifestyle of those who arrive (Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21). So, they are conscious beings when in Sheol.
  8. Those in Sheol do not have knowledge of what is happening for those who are still alive on earth (Ps 6:5; Eccles 9:10, etc.)
  9. Some of the spirits in Sheol experience the following:

a. God’s anger (Deut 32:22). Here, Moses states of the wicked that “a fire is kindled by my anger and it burns to the depths of Sheol” (ESV).
b. Distress and anguish (Ps 116:3);
c. There is writhing with pain; they are trembling (Job 26:5). Here the Hebrew word, chool, means to twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth to a child.

From the OT revelation, we know that the righteous and the wicked went to Sheol at death (Gen. 37:5), but the OT believers did not have a clear understanding of what to expect in Sheol. That was left for the progressive revelation of the NT to reveal more for us. Because of this principle of progressive revelation, the OT believers did not have the information that was needed to approach death with peace and joy (see Heb. 2:14-15).

Not once does Sheol in the OT mean non-existence or annihilation.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, The debate on eternal hell fire’, #578, 580, available at: (Accessed 10 July 2012). When I checked this URL on 14 April 2018, it was no longer available online.

[2] I am indebted to Dr. Robert A. Morey for the following information, from his excellent book, Death and the Afterlife (1984. Bethany House Publishers, pp.77-81). I posted this information as OzSpen at #582, Christian Forums op cit.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 May 2018.


The meaning of Revelation 22:18-19



By Spencer D Gear

It is a common ploy to make these two verses apply to the entire Bible. Here is an example that I met on Christian Forums:

All the newer bibles are garbage that have been changed by Satans children to subtlety change Gods messages , not unlike what Satan did in the garden of Eden when speaking with eve[1]…. I have only spoken the truth showing thru scripture what happens when one changes the word of God, I would think one would be able to make an informed view that the newer bibles are in direct conflict with Gods warning in revelation 22 [verse 19][2]…. He changed Gods word and for this his name was taken away from the bible just as God promised in revelation 22:19.[3]

Revelation 22:18-19 states:

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (ESV).

It speaks of “the book of this prophecy”. Which prophecy? The Book of Revelation.

We know this because the Book of Revelation was a prophecy given by “John to the seven churches that are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4). What was to be done with this prophetic Book of Revelation when it was first written?

“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Rev. 1:11 ESV).

So this Book of Revelation (not the entire NT) – only this one book – was sent to the 7 churches of Asia [we now know that these churches are in what we call Asia Minor]. So, what was written in Rev. 22:19, if it were to have any meaning to the people in the 7 churches of Asia Minor COULD NOT have been referring to the entire Bible as it is one book, the Book of Revelation, that was in “the words of the prophecy of this book” and “in a book” and this one book was sent. It would have been strange to have the warning of Revelation 22:18-19 to apply to the whole of the OT and the NT for the “seven churches” of Asia Minor when only one book was sent to them to hear.

Therefore, the only meaning of this warning is to the prophecy of the Book of Revelation. The seven churches of Asia would know that, but people in the twenty-first century want to change that to give it a meaning that was not possible for the churches of Asia Minor to have understood.

Why don’t these people understand the intent of the writing of this book that had only one meaning to the people who first read it in Asia Minor – they had only one book, the Book of Revelation, and the warning against adding to the prophecy of this book could have only one meaning to them? It referred ONLY to the one book they heard or read in Asia Minor– the Book of Revelation.


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘The New International Version (NIV) Bible completely removes the word ‘Godhead’, Azadok2day#22, 5 July 2012. Available at: (Accessed 7 July 2012).

[2] Ibid., #49, 6 July 2012.

[3] Ibid., #53, 6 July 2012.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.


Can we have a feeling for God?

Hands With Hearts

Hands With Hearts

By Spencer D Gear

Do we feel God in order to find him? That is the impression I got when I read this comment.

Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us [KJV]:
Speaks of feeling after him and finding him.[1]

[2]This is what happens when one tries to get a meaning from the English text as we understand the English. What did the Greek mean that was translated by the KJV as “might feel after”? The NIV translates Acts 17:27 as:

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us”.

So, what does the Greek verb, pselapeseian, mean? Does it mean “might feel” (KJV) or “reach out” (NIV). The ESV translates as “might feel their way”. Simon Kistemaker in his commentary on the Book of Acts 17:27 translates this sentence, “Perhaps they might grope for him and find him” and makes the comment that God “hopes that people, even though blinded by sin, may grope for God their maker”. [3]

One of the greatest Greek grammarians of the 20th century, Dr. A. T. Robertson, explained it this way. Pselapheseian is the first aorist active tense of the verb,

pselaphaw, old verb from psaw, to touch. So used by the Risen Jesus in his challenge to the disciples (Luke 24:39), by the Apostle John of his personal contact with Jesus (1 John 1:1), of the contact with Mount Sinai (Heb. 12:18). Here it pictures the blind groping of the darkened heathen mind after God to “find him”…. whom they had lost. One knows what it is in a darkened room to feel along the walls for the door (Deut. 28:29; Job 5:14; 12:25; Isa. 59:10). [The blind] Helen Keller, when told of God, said that she knew of him already, groping in the dark after him.[4]

So “might feel” is not a good translation if we understand it in the 2012 meaning of “feel”. “Reach out” is a better translation, but “might grope (as in the darkness)” conveys the meaning more accurately.
It is important that we don’t exegete the Scriptures from a 21st century understanding of the meaning of a word.

How do you think that Fireinfolding responded to what I have written above. This was the rejoinder, ‘Whatever word works best for you just do it’.[5] My reply was, ‘That is not how you do Greek exegesis. But that doesn’t seem to be of interest to you with interpretation of this verse’.[6]

This encounter on Christian Forums is an example of what Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart said that happens when trying to interpret the Bible:

The first reason one needs to learn how to interpret is that, whether one likes it or not, every reader is at the same time an interpreter. That is, most of us assume as we read that we also understand what we read. We also tend to think that our understanding is the same thing as the Holy Spirit’s or human author’s intent. However, we invariably bring to the text all that we are, with all of our experiences, culture, and prior understandings of words and ideas. Sometimes what we bring to the text, unintentionally to be sure, leads us astray, or else causes us to read all kinds of foreign ideas into the text.[7]


Courtesy Zondervan

So how do you think Fireinfolding responded to that last comment? Here it is, ‘No Im [sic] not interested, even secular dictionarys [sic] have grope under feel, who cares? Its [sic] not like you can do it after the flesh anyway (lol)’.[8] My response was,

It’s sad when you want to label my wanting to understand the Greek meaning of the test as “after the flesh”.

We would not have any English translations at all, unless somebody knew how to translate Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English.

I can assure you that I, an evangelical Christian believer, am not acting “after the flesh” because I want to exegete the Scriptures according to what the original language states.[9]


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘Did God stop dictating his Word after the book of Revelation?’ Fireinfolding #27, 4 July 2012. Available at: (Accessed 4 July 2012).

[2] The following is my response as OzSpen, #29, 4 July 2012, ibid.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker 1990. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, p. 635.

[4] A. T. Robertson 1930. Word Pictures in the New Testament: Acts of the Apostles, vol. 3. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, p. 288.

[5] Fireinfolding #30, available at: (Accessed 4 July 2012).

[6] OzSpen #31, available at: (Accessed 4 July 2012).

[7] Gordeon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart 1993. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, p. 14.

[8] Fireinfolding #32, available at: (Accessed 4 July 2012).

[9] OzSpen #33, available at: (Accessed 4 July 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.