Category Archives: Translations

Responding as a Christian to opponents

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

As I was having my devotions today and was working through the Book of Proverbs, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my ‘Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

This is what caught my attention.

Should we answer a fool?

After only being online for 12 hours, my article on God, evil and the Coronavirus had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments. Many of the people who comment don’t deal with the content of my articles but dump their presuppositions on the reader and use a Red Herring Logical Fallacy.

This is where the folks don’t deal with my topic but attempt to redirect the conversation to a direction in which they are more comfortable to address. It is similar to the ‘Avoiding the Issue Fallacy’. However, the red herring is an intentional attempt to seek to abandon my argument in the article. Many posters also throw in an Ad Hominem Fallacy. This abuses me or the God I write about.

This message hit me like a ton of bricks. As I was having my devotions, the Lord drew to my attention a portion from Proverbs 9. I’m working through Isaiah and Proverbs at this time of the year in my Two-year Bible reading plan‘.

Should we answer a fool?

After my article had been uploaded to On Line Opinion on 30 April 2020, within 12 hours it had attracted real hostility in some of the Comments.

The relevant Scripture the Lord prompted me with was:

“Criticize a person who is rude and shows no respect, and you will only get insults. Correct the wicked, and you will only get hurt. 8 Don’t correct such people, or they will hate you. But correct those who are wise, and they will love you. 9 Teach the wise, and they will become wiser. Instruct those who live right, and they will gain more knowledge.

“10 Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding. 11 Wisdom will help you live longer; she will add years to your life” (Prov 9:7-11 ERV),

I have wasted so much time on forums over the years trying to answer those who show no respect towards me and will insult my God. Here Wisdom (God) commands me not to correct the wicked, as that will lead to hatred of me. Instead correct the wise; they will love me, and gain more knowledge and wisdom.

Thank you Lord for teaching such a profound lesson after 50 years as a believer.

Some of you may not be familiar with the ERV, the Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible I have used. It originally was a translation for the deaf who were used to sign language.

Version Information

The Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) is an accurate translation of the Bible created by the translation team at Bible League International. New readers sometimes struggle with reading older standardized translations of Bible text because of their unfamiliarity with the Bible. The ERV uses simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences while maintaining the integrity of the original texts.

One of the basic ideas that guided the work was that good translation is good communication. In 2015, a major revision was completed in the English text. It uses broader vocabulary and it is revised to reflect new cultural perspectives. The ERV is now in the process of revision for the other language texts while continuing to stay true to the original Biblical texts. In this process of revision we are committed to keeping the text fresh and applicable to the global community of Bible readers.

The ERV uses the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1984) as its Old Testament text with some readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also, it follows the Septuagint when its readings are considered more accurate. For the New Testament, the ERV uses the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th revised edition, 1993) and Nestle-Aland Novum Testament Graece (27th edition, 1993).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:30 April 2020.

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Condemnation of modern Bible translations: He got it wrong

1 Samuel 24:3: ‘cover his feet’

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I met a person online who wanted to compare his first grade understanding of reading with Bible translations, especially with challenging the translation of one OT verse in the NIV.

This was his language:

When I was in the first grade, I learned with HORROR that the bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I didn’t like reading much to begin with, but this was just too much for me to withstand. Even at that young age, I saw no reason to believe the interpretations of someone else. I’m glad I stuck to that suspicion because I’ve found so many places where translators simply toss out the inspiration of the original authors in favor of their own dull translations.[1]

Then he gave an example of one of the translators’ ‘own dull translations’ in the New International Version (NIV) of the Old Testament:

Here’s a prime example. In the scene where David is hiding in a cave that Saul coincidently decides to use to relieve himself, the translators of the NIV present the situation devoid of anything one could view as inspired. Yet when we look at the originals, it is nothing less than divine. The NIV simply states that Saul “relieved himself”, but the original manuscripts depict Saul “covering his feet”. The wonderful thing about this euphemism is that it can still be employed today! It is criminal to take an author’s figurative language and discard it in favor of making the meaning more clear for the sake of the dullards among us. They could just as easily footnoted the passage and explained it in the footnote.[2]

He is so incompetent in the statement of his views that he didn’t bother to inform the readers of the exact verse to which he referred. It is 1 Samuel 24:3 (NIV).

1.  Study the meaning[3]

I replied: I do wish you would do your study to determine the meaning of this phrase, ‘cover his feet’. It doesn’t bring a meaning for this ‘dullard’ that you infer.

icons8-roundabout-48The NIV translates 1 Samuel 24:3 as ‘he came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave’.

icons8-roundabout-48The Easy-to-Read Version (1 Sam 24:3) translates as: ‘Saul came to some sheep pens beside the road. There was a cave near there, so Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were deep inside that same cave’.

This phrase is used also in Judges 3:24.

icons8-roundabout-48The more literal ESV translates 1 Sam 24:3 as: ‘And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to relieve himself.a]”>[a] Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave’.

As you suggested, the ESV uses the footnote for ‘relieve himself’ as ‘cover his feet’.

icons8-roundabout-48The NASB gives an identical translation and footnote to the ESV: ‘He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to [a]relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave’ (1 Sam 24:3).

  • The point is: What does ‘cover his feet’ mean in the Hebrew context? Leading OT commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, made this comment on ‘cover his feet’: It ‘is a euphemism, according to most of the ancient versions, as in Judg 3:24, for performing the necessities of nature, as it is a custom in the East to cover the feet’ (Commentary on the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 24).

2.  Poo and Pee

The NIV, ESV, NASB and ERV provide perfectly legitimate translations for ‘cover his feet’ and its meaning for contemporary English.

Or, would you prefer, ‘Saul went into that place, removed his cloak to around his feet so he could do a poo and a pee’?

That’s what the phrase means and the NIV has given us a jolly good dynamic equivalence (meaning for meaning) translation of the phrase, ‘to relieve himself’.

3.  Support from other commentaries

  • Ellicott’s Commentary explains ‘cover his feet’: ‘It is an Eastern euphemism taken from spreading out the garments while relieving the needs of nature’.
  • Matthew Poole’s Commentary (Judg 3:24), ‘It is commonly understood in both places, of easing nature; because the men not then wearing breeches, as we do, but long coats, they did in that act cover their feet, as women do: but a late judicious interpreter expounds it of composing himself to take a little sleep or rest, as was very usual to do in the day-time in those hot countries;
  • Gill’s Exposition (Judg 3:24), ‘he covereth his feet in his summer chamber; that is, was easing nature; and, as the eastern people wore long and loose garments, when they sat down on such an occasion, their feet were covered with them; or they purposely gathered them about their feet to cover them, and so this became a modest expression for this work of nature’.

So the NIV translators did not ‘simply toss out the inspiration of the original authors in favor of their own dull translations’. Instead, they accurately translated the meaning of ‘covered his feet’ with ‘relieved himself’.

The fact is that the NIV got it right and you got it wrong.

4.  Notes

[1] Christianity Board 2019. The Hebrew New Testament (online), shnarkle#26, 23 August. Available at: (Accessed 23 August 2019).

[2] Ibid.

[3] I responded as OzSpen#28.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2019.

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Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

By Spencer D Gear

Bible Open To Psalm 118

If you want to get into an animated discussion in some churches, raise the possibility that Mark 16:9-20 is not in the earliest manuscripts and should not be included in the Bible. I encountered this when a person complained to me about the verses that had been left out of the New International Version (NIV), so he will not read the NIV.  I said that it was probably the other way around: Those verses excluded from the NIV were those that had been added to the KJV. Now that did get the theological juices boiling for both of us. Let’s take a read of theses verses in the KJV:

Mark 16:9-20 (King James Version)

9Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

20And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

Those who support the King James Version of the Bible tend to prefer the long ending of Mark 16 because it is located in that translation. They include vv. 9-20 in Scripture, but most modern translations indicate somehow that there are doubts that these verses should by in Scripture. For example, the English Standard Version places Mark 16:9-20 in double square brackets with the note at the end of v. 8, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’. The New International Version (2011 edition) has this note before v. 9, ’The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20’.

Here are some statements by supporters of the long ending of Mark 16:

  • ‘Does not Mark end funny in the texts you’re relying on[ending with 16:8]? Is it not apparent that something is missing?’ (Christian Forums #204).
  • ‘Would you care to show us how the ending of mark is a corruption from mankind? Please use scripture [this is from a supporter of the longer ending]’ (Christian Forums #217).
  • ‘Is there anything in any passage here [Mark 16:9-20] that is false, that can be proven to be false by the body of scripture we have? If so, point it out’ (Christian Forums #230).
  • ‘The case of Mark 16:9-20 allows us the opportunity to demonstrate first-hand the spuriousness of the Westcott-Hortian paradigm as it is applied to textual criticism. Based upon the evidence of a small, corrupted handful of Greek manuscripts and little else, modern textual critics remove the verse even despite the overwhelming amount of evidence in its favour’ (Why Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible).
  • ‘Do verses 9-20 belong in Mark 16? I don’t see how anyone could reasonably say they don’t. The rest of the Scripture supports them. The words of Jesus clearly support them. I think it’s clear that they belong there. Beware of those who try to tell you otherwise ‘ (‘Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in the Bible?’ Scott Morris).

Some of the issues

Let’s examine some of the matters relating to whether Mark 16:9-20 should in the Bible or have been added.

I could go into further detail as to why I reject vv. 9-20 as part of the New Testament. However, I consider that Kelly Iverson has summarised the material extremely well and to my exegetical and textual satisfaction in the article, “Irony in the end: A textual and literary analysis of Mark 16:8“. Iverson presents this material in footnote 6, based on the internal evidence that includes this examination of the long ending of Mark 16 (I have transliterated the Greek characters in the article to make it more accessible for the general reader):

The longer ending (vv 9-20) is clearly the most attested reading. It is validated by almost all of the extant Greek manuscripts, a significant number of minuscules, numerous versions, and scores of church Fathers. Geographically it is represented by the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Western text types. However, one should be careful not to reduce textual criticism into an exercise of manuscript counting. Though the longer ending is widely attested, the vast bulk of manuscripts are from the generally inferior, Byzantine text type dating from the 8th to the 13th centuries (except Codex A which is a 5th century document). Due to the solidarity of the Byzantine text type we may assume that this represents at least a fourth century reading (Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd ed. [New York: Oxford University, 1992], 293).

The abrupt ending (1) is found in the two oldest Greek manuscripts. These Alexandrian uncials a B, both 4th century manuscripts, are supported by the Sinaitic Syriac manuscripts, approximately one hundred Armenian texts and two Georgian manuscripts from the 9th and 10th centuries, and several church Fathers including Clement of Alexandria and Origen. That this reading was more prominent is supported by Eusebius and Jerome who claimed that vv 9-20 were absent from almost all known manuscripts (ibid., 226). It is also significant that Codex Bobiensis (k) omits the longer ending as this is deemed the “most important witness to the Old African Latin” Bible (ibid., 73). The genealogical solidarity of the two primary Alexandrian witnesses suggest that this reading can be dated to the 2nd century (Metzger, Text of the New Testament, 215-216).

To say the least, the evidence is conflicting. One should be careful not to make a firm decision one way or the other regarding Mark’s ending based on the external data alone. Though the majority of New Testament scholars believe that vv 9-20 are not original, virtually none come to this conclusion based purely on the external evidence. Even Farmer must confess that, “while a study of the external evidence is rewarding in itself and can be very illuminating in many ways . . . it does not produce the evidential grounds for a definitive solution to the problem. A study of the history of the text, by itself, has not proven sufficient, since the evidence is divided” (Farmer, Last Twelve Verses of Mark, 74).

Most text-critics appeal to the internal evidence in order to demonstrate that vv 9-20 are non-Marcan. One is immediately struck with the awkward transition between vv 8 and 9. In v 8, the subject, “they” referring to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (16:1) is implicit within the third, plural verb, ephobounto. But in v 9 the subject changes to “He” (from the third, singular verb ephan?). The transition is striking because the subject is unexpressed. Furthermore, in v 9 Mary Magdalene is introduced as though she were a new character even though her presence has already been established in the immediate context (15:47; 16:1) while Mary the mother of James and Salome disappear from the entire narrative. This awkward transition coupled with numerous words and phrases that are foreign to Mark, suggest the decidedly inauthentic nature of this ending.

Several examples should prove the point. In 16:9 we find the only occurrence of the verb phainw in the New Testament with respect to the resurrection (though the same verb is used in Luke 9:8 to describe Elijah’s re-appearance). Equally as unusual is the construction par hes ekbeblekei , which is a grammatical hapax. In v 10, the verb poreuvomai which is found 29 times in Matthew and 51 times in Luke is not found in Mark 1:1-16:8, but repeatedly in the longer ending (vv 10, 12, 15). In v 11, The verb theaomai which occurs in Matthew (6:1; 11:7; 22:11; 23:5) and Luke (7:24; 23:55) finds no parallel in Mark except for its multiple occurrence in the longer ending (16:11, 14). In v 12, the expression meta tauta which occurs frequently in Luke (1:24; 5:27; 10:1; 12:4; 17:8; 18:4) and John (2:12; 3:22; 5:1, 14; 6:1; 7:1; 11:7, 11; 13:7; 19:28, 38; 21:1) has no precedence in Mark. phanerow which neither Matthew or Luke use to describe resurrection appearances is found in vv 12 and 14 (J. K. Elliott, “The Text and Language of the endings of Mark’s Gospel,” TZ 27 [1971]: 258). The phrase heteros morph? is also unique to Marcan vocabulary. Neither heteros nor morph? occur elsewhere in Mark and morph? only appears in Paul’s description of the kenosis (Phil 2:6, 7). In v 14, husteros, although used by the other evangelists, is a decidedly non-Marcan term having no precedence in 1:1-16:8. Mark seems to prefer eschatos over husteros as evidenced by several parallel passages in which Mark opts for the former over the later term found in Matthew (cf. Matt 21:37Mark 12:6; Matt 22:27Mark 12:22). In v 18, aside from other lexical and syntactical phenomenon one is struck by the unusual exegetical hapax. No other text in Scripture provides a promise for the handling of snakes and imbibing deadly poison without adverse repercussions. In v 19, though Mark sparingly uses the conjunction ?u, the phrase men ou is not found in 1:1-16:8. The longer ending concludes in v 20 with a litany of non-Marcan vocabulary: sunergeww is not found in Mark or the Gospels and appears to be a Pauline term (Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 16:16; 2 Cor 6:1) but it is never used with Jesus as the subject, and bebaiow along with epakolouthew are also foreign to the Synoptic Gospels.

As is somewhat evident, the internal evidence raises significant problems with Mark 16:9-20. The awkward transition between vv 8 and 9 and the non-Marcan vocabulary has led the vast majority of New Testament scholars to conclude that the longer ending is inauthentic. In fact, even Farmer (Last Twelve Verses of Mark, 103), the leading proponent for the authenticity of the last twelve verses, must confess that some of the evidence warrants this conclusion.

Iverson’s article provides an overall analysis of some of the major issues in the short vs. long ending of Mark 16. I highly recommend it.

Yes, there is false teaching in this ‘Scripture’

Is there any teaching within Mark 16:9-20 that would be questionable when compared with the rest of Scripture? There most certainly is teaching in this passage that is false when judged by other Scriptures. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Take Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”. This promotes the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration that a person needs to be baptised to be saved. What does the rest of the Bible teach?

  • ‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12 ESV).
  • “’And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” ‘(Acts 16:31).
  • ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph 2:8-9).
  • ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 5:1).
  • ‘and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith’ (Phil 3:9).

These Scriptures are very clear that no works (e.g. baptism) are required to become children of God and obtain salvation. It is all by grace through faith. Therefore, to teach that “Whoever believes AND is baptized” is saved, is teaching false doctrine. Baptism is not a means to salvation. Baptismal regeneration, as taught in Mark 16:16, is contrary to Scripture. See John Piper’s article, ‘What is baptism and does it save?’ See also, ‘Twisting Acts 2:38 – The question of baptism by water for salvation’ by Watchman Fellowship; and Robin Brace, ‘Baptismal regeneration refuted’.

Let’s get it clear with the teaching of Acts 2:38. Those who teach baptismal regeneration love to use this verse for support.

Acts 2:38 in the ESV reads, ‘And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”’.

This verse has been used regularly by those who support baptismal regeneration (i.e. baptism is necessary for salvation) as they indicate from this verse ‘baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’.

The Greek grammar helps us to understand that this is not supporting baptism for the remission of sins. The command to repent is to ‘you’ plural, second person. The command to be baptised is given in singular number and third person. Therefore, it is not correct to identify ‘forgiveness of your sins’ with baptism otherwise it would mean that each person was baptised for the forgiveness of sins of all those who were present.

If we were to take baptism as that which is linked to (causes) the forgiveness of sins, the text would say something like this: ‘Let him be baptised for the remission of all your sins’, and “let him (another) be baptised for the forgiveness of all your sins’, and “let him (yet another person) be baptised for the forgiveness of all your sins’, and on and on for each person in the group.

Therefore, each person would be baptised for the forgiveness of the sins of all the people in the group.

This is not what the verse teaches. Baptism is not linked to the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38.

Simon J. Kistemaker in his commentary on the Book of Acts (Baker Academic 1990, p. 105) confirms this position that Acts 2:38 does not teach baptismal regeneration:

In Greek, the imperative verb repent is in the plural; Peter addresses all the people whose consciences drive them to repentance. But the verb, be baptized, is in the singular to stress the individual nature of baptism. A Christian should be baptized to be a follower of Jesus Christ, for baptism is the sign indicating that a person belongs to the company of God’s people.

Craig A Evans, an evangelical historical Jesus’ scholar, states:

The last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark (Mk 16:9-20) are not the original ending; they were added at least two centuries after Mark first began to circulate. These passages – one from Mark, one from Luke, one from John – represent the only major textual problems in the Gospels, no important teaching hangs on any one of them (unless you belong to a snake-handling cult; see Mk 16:18 (2007. Fabricating Jesus. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, p. 30).

This is a sample of Bruce Metzger’s assessment of the long vs. short ending of Mark 16:

Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 122-126.

Mark 16:9-20   The Ending(s) of Mark.

Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph[1] and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (it k), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8. Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document.

(2) Several witnesses, including four uncial Greek manuscripts of the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries (L Psi[2] 099 0112), as well as Old Latin k, the margin of the Harelean Syriac, several Sahidic and Bohairic manuscripts, and not a few Ethiopic manuscripts, continue after verse 8 as follows (with trifling variations): “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” All of these witnesses except it k also continue with verses 9-20.

(3) The traditional ending of Mark, so familiar through the AV and other translations of the Textus Receptus, is present in the vast number of witnesses, including A C D K W X Delta Thi Pi Psi[3] 099 0112 f13 28 33 al. The earliest patristic witnesses to part or all of the long ending are Irenaeus and the Diatessaron. It is not certain whether Justin Martyr was acquainted with the passage; in his Apology (i.45) he includes five words that occur, in a different sequence, in ver. 20. (tou logou tou ischurou hon apo Ierousalem hoi apostoloi autou exelthontes pantachou ekeruxan).[4]

(4) In the fourth century the traditional ending also circulated, according to testimony preserved by Jerome, in an expanded form, preserved today in one Greek manuscript. Codex Washingtonianus includes the following after ver. 14: “And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now — thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.’ ”

How should the evidence of each of these endings be evaluated? It is obvious that the expanded form of the long ending (4) has no claim to be original. Not only is the external evidence extremely limited, but the expansion contains several non-Markan words and expressions (including ho aiwn houtos, hamartanw, apologew, alethinos, hapostrephw[5]) as well as several that occur nowhere else in the New Testament (deinos, apos, proslegw[6]). The whole expansion has about it an unmistakable apocryphal flavor. It probably is the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14.

The longer ending (3), though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non-Markan. (e.g. apistew, blaptw, bebaiow, epakolouthew, theaomai, meta tauta, poreuomai, sunergew, usteron[7] are found nowhere else in Mark; and thanasimon[8] and tois met autou genomenois[9], as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver. 8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver. 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver. 9; in ver. 9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before (15.47 and 16.1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of anastas de[10] and the position of prwton[11] are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver. 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities[12] between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to fill up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century.

The internal evidence for the shorter ending (2) is decidedly against its being genuine. Besides containing a high percentage of non-Markan words, its rhetorical tone differs totally from the simple style of Mark’s Gospel.

Finally it should be observed that the external evidence for the shorter ending (2) resolves itself into additional testimony supporting the omission of verses 9-20. No one who had available as the conclusion of the Second Gospel the twelve verses 9-20, so rich in interesting material, would have deliberately replaced them with four lines of a colorless and generalized summary. Therefore, the documentary evidence supporting (2) should be added to that supporting (1). Thus, on the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16.8. At the same time, however out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within double square brackets to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.

Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270:

… we may find it instructive to consider the attitude of Church Fathers toward variant readings in the text of the New Testament. On the one hand, as far as certain readings involve sensitive points of doctrine, the Fathers customarily alleged that heretics had tampered with the accuracy of the text. On the other hand, however, the question of the canonicity of a document apparently did not arise in connection with discussion of such variant readings, even though they might involve quite considerable sections of text. Today we know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark (xvi. 9-20) are absent from the oldest Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian manuscripts, and that in other manuscripts asterisks or obeli mark the verses as doubtful or spurious. Eusebius and Jerome, well aware of such variation in the witnesses, discussed which form of text was to be preferred. It is noteworthy, however, that neither Father suggested that one form was canonical and the other was not. Furthermore, the perception that the canon was basically closed did not lead to a slavish fixing of the text of the canonical books. Thus, the category of ‘canonical’ appears to have been broad enough to include all variant readings (as well as variant renderings in early versions) that emerged during the course of the transmission of the New Testament documents while apostolic tradition was still a living entity, with an intermingling of written and oral forms of that tradition. Already in the second century, for example, the so-called long ending of Mark was known to Justin Martyr and to Tatian, who incorporated it into his Diatesseron. There seems to be good reason, therefore, to conclude that, though external and internal evidence is conclusive against the authenticity of the last twelve verses as coming from the same pen as the rest of the Gospel, the passage ought to be accepted as part of the canonical text of Mark.


See, ‘the ending of Mark’ in Bible Research. Overall, the problems raised above suggest that Mark 16:9-20 is an addition to the biblical text. In Craig Evans’ view, the longer ending was not added until 2 centuries after the Gospel of Mark was written.

However, taking this view should not separate us from Christian fellowship with those who accept the longer view of Mark 16.


[1] The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used and I have transliterated the letter.

[2] Capital Greek letter was used.

[3] Greek characters were used for these Greek capital letters.

[4] Bruce Metzger’s commentary used the Greek characters but my homepage will not accept Greek characters so I have transliterated the Greek.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ‘Inconcinnity’ means ‘lack of proportion and congruity; inelegance’ [, available at: (Accessed 11 January 2012)].

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date:  30 July 2019.

Image result for clipart horizontal line

Noses out of joint over Bible translations

Cross Bible Globe

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to get a picture of how Christians can disagree over various Bible translations, I recommend a visit to one of the Internet Christian forums. I participate in a rather large one.[1]

Part of what one person wrote was:

The Bible needs to be translated every 100 years or so, or else it would be lost in understanding to the next generation. If you educate people on how to translate KJV but make no translations one day all you are left with is a few people who truly understand it, and that is not preaching God’s word throughout the world.[2]

Narrow thinking on English Bible translations

I think we are thinking too narrowly.[3] I suggest that we consider the rest of the world before investing one more cent in another English translation.

The task of Bible translation is an enormous one and here we are arguing over the KJV vs ESV, NLT, NIV, etc. These are some of the language and translation challenges in our world.

The British Council provides this information about English speakers:

How many people speak English? clip_image001

clip_image003 ‘English has official or special status in at least seventy five countries with a total population of over two billion’;
clip_image003[1] ‘English is spoken as a first language by around 375 million and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world’;
clip_image003[2] ‘speakers of English as a second language probably outnumber those who speak it as a first language’;
clip_image003[3] ‘around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language’;
clip_image003[4] ‘one out of four of the world’s population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing’.

English as first language

However, of the 375 million people who use English as their first language, what percentage is that of the world’s population? The world population clock, which I checked online as I was writing this article, says that the world’s population is 7.222 billion people (29 March 2014).
Therefore, 5.357% of the people of the world speak English as their first language. And here we are arguing about an archaic vs contemporary English translations.

Languages still needing to be put into writing

According to Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) of Wycliffe Bible Translators, ‘Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 875 million illiterate people are women’ (SIL);


According to Wycliffe Bible Translators,

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation (2013) was:

clip_image0056,900+ … the number of languages spoken in the world today.
clip_image005[1]1,999+ …the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin.
clip_image005[2]2,167 …the total number of current translation programs around the world, on behalf of 1.9 billion people.

The detailed statistics  from Wycliffe were:

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation (2013)
6,900+ …the number of languages spoken in the world today.
1,900+ …the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin.
2,167 …the total number of current translation programs around the world*, on behalf of 1.9 billion people.
1,707 …the number of those current translation programs that are being facilitated by Wycliffe, SIL, or other partner organizations.
1,294 …the number of language groups that have access to the New Testament in their heart language, representing 598 million people.
513 …the number of language groups that have access to the entire Bible in the language they understand best.
1,010 …the number of languages that have some portions of Scripture available in their language (one or more books)
Over 7 billion
…the population of the world.
180 million …the number of people who speak the more than 1,900 languages where translation projects have not yet begun.

Although Bible translation is progressing at a more rapid rate today than ever before, an overwhelming amount of work is yet to be done.


So there are still 1900+ languages in the world today that don’t have any Bible translation available. And of the 7 billion people in the world there are 875 million who are illiterate. This means that when Wycliffe and associate organisations develop a language in print and translate the Bible, they have to teach the people to read and write. This is a massive task.


[1] Here the topic was, ‘Understanding the KJV’, Christian Forums, Baptists, available at: (Accessed 29 March 2014).

[2] Ibid., Bluelion #12, available at: (Accessed 29 March 2014).

[3] This is my post at as OzSpen #40 at ibid., (Accessed 29 March 2014).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible

Closed Bible by Anonymous - Clipart of a closed Bible by Aaron Johnson

By Spencer D Gear

There are any number of reasons (or excuses) people make for promoting the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible and rejecting modern translations. Here is one that I recently came across:

I just looked at all the missing verses in the NIV bible! I am shocked, they even removed part of Psalms 12:6-7 where God said he would preserve his word!
I think I’ll stick with the KJV and NKJV now![1]

How does one respond to such a view? The following is my first and brief response: ‘Why are you not saying that the KJV and NKJV added these words?
You seem to be making the NIV an ogre of Bible translations’.[2]

How would the KJV promoter respond?

The title page's central text is:"THE HOLY BIBLE,Conteyning the Old Testament,AND THE NEW:Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall Comandement.Appointed to be read in Churches.Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Majestie.ANNO DOM. 1611 ."At bottom is:"C. Boel fecit in Richmont.".


This was his rejoinder:

The KJV did not add these words, even the NWT has these words:
6 The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings,+
As silver refined in a smelting furnace* of earth, clarified seven times.
7 You yourself, O Jehovah, will guard them;+
You will preserve each one from this generation to time indefinite.(NWT)
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[a] refined seven times.
7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,(NIV)[3]

How should I, a supporter of modern translations, reply? [4]

Slimline Center Column Reference Bible NLT, TuTone
Tyndale House Publishers

It beats me that this person would be using the NWT of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to compare with any committee translation of the Bible. Is he a supporter of the JWs?

These are some different renditions of Psalm 12:6-7. Why are the KJV and NKJV correct and the others wrong?

Psalm 12:6-7

King James Version (KJV)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.


Psalm 12:6-7

New King James Version (NKJV)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
7 You shall keep them, O Lord,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.


Psalm 12:6-7

New International Version (NIV)

6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
like silver purified in a crucible,
like gold[a] refined seven times.

7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
and will protect us forever from the wicked,


  1. Psalm 12:6 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text earth


Psalm 12:6-7

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

6 The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us[a] from this generation for ever.


  1. Psalm 12:7 Or guard him


Psalm 12:6-7

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

6 The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

7 You, O Lord, will protect us;
you will guard us from this generation for ever.


Evangelical commentator on the book of Psalms, H C Leupold, in Exposition of Psalms  wrote of Psalm 12:6-7,

    6. David reassures himself that this will take place by recalling the general nature of God’s words as he and all of God’s saints know them: they are “pure words,” which expression removes the alloy of undependability. Many may often intend to do well and may promise help but may fall short of keeping his promise because of human frailty. Not so God. Therefore His promises may be likened to “silver defined in a smelter in the ground, purified seven times,” the very purest of the precious metal.
7. Since God may rightly be described in reference to His words as just indicated, the psalmist draws proper conclusions with regard to the situation in which he and other godly men like him find themselves. Addressing God in prayer, he expresses the confidence that God will keep His watchful eye on those that have suffered oppression (“Thou wilt regard”) and will go farther in that He will keep His protecting hand over them. The psalm here takes on a note of the more personal feelings in that the writer includes himself (“Thou wilt guard us“). This protection is offered in the face of this wicked class of oppressors above described (in this sense the word “generation” is here used), and this protection of God will be exercised for all times to come (Leupold 1959:132-133, emphasis in original).

Here we have Leupold writing his commentary in 1959, long before the translations of the NIV, ESV and NRSV, but his understanding of the Hebrew text is the same as from these translations and not the KJV and NKJV.


Another supporter of the KJV

This KJV promoter wrote:

What Bible did the Pilgrams (sic) bring over on the Mayflower?
What Bible has historically been used by Baptists since before America was a country?
The KJV has proven itself reliable for over 400 years.
Sure the language is antiquated, sure its out of date, sure it uses words like “ye” and “thy” but is that so hard to understand that it needs serious updating?
I wonder what people would say if William Shakespere’s (sic) works were updated into todays (sic) English?
From Romeo and Juliet:
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
Shakesphere (sic), Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
Would be changed to:
“Romeo, Yo! Where you be!”[5]

I provided these responses:

Do you mean to say that you know the KJV meaning of ‘superfluity of naughtiness’ (James 1:21) without consulting a commentary or another translation?…

That’s using a straw man logical fallacy as we are talking about a translation (the KJV) and not the original languages (Hebrew & Greek).[6]

A trend among these KJV supporters:

To justify support for an archaic English translation of the Bible, these promoters used these tactics:

clip_image002 The modern translations are the culprits. They delete verses from the KJV. It’s not that the original languages (earliest editions) have less words and the KJV has added to the originals.

clip_image002[1] Even a cult Bible, the New World Translation of the JWs, has the KJV verses, so the KJV verses are the accurate ones.

clip_image002[2] The KJV translation of Psalm 12:7 is the accurate translation and the modern versions (e.g. NIV) are to blame for changing the KJV.

clip_image002[3] The false claim that the Pilgrim Fathers took the KJV with them from England to the New World when it was the Geneva Bible that they used.

clip_image002[4] The false claim that translating Shakespeare’s works would be parallel to what has been done by the NIV translators to the KJV translation.

clip_image002[5] The superiority of a 1611/1769 KJV translation, based on late Greek New Testament manuscripts (the Textus Receptus), rather than modern translations that are based on, say, the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament that uses manuscripts that are much older and closer to the original manuscripts.

clip_image002[6] The KJV supporters seem to have a presuppositional bias towards the KJV, without examining the manuscript evidence for the newer translations.


Leupold, H C 1959. Exposition of Psalms. London: Evangelical Press 1959 – reprinted by Baker Book House in 1969.


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘I’ve started to become attached to the KJV, is there any proof that its’, yogosans14#13, 25 April 2013, available at: (Accessed 25 April 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#14.

[3] Ibid., yogosans14#15.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#21.

[5] Ibid., DeaconDean#10.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#22.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 June 2018.


What’s wrong with the NRSV translation of John 3:16?

Courtesy NRSV

By Spencer D Gear

This verse in the New Revised Standard Version states, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (John 3:16 NRSV).

Some other translations of the verse are:

arrow-smallRevised Standard Version: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16 RSV)

arrow-smallEnglish Standard Version: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16 ESV)

arrow-smallNew American Standard Bible: ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16 NASB).

arrow-smallNew International 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’ (John 3:16 NIV).

arrow-smallNew Living Translation: ‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16 NLT).

arrow-smallNET Bible: ‘For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NET).

Translation of the verbs makes the difference

Notice the contrast in translation of the verbs in these three translations: RSV, NRSV and ESV. The NRSV and ESV are based on the RSV, but notice the differences in verbal translations in the second half of the verse:

RSV: ‘whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’;

ESV: ‘whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’;

NRSV: ‘everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’;

What are the meanings of the NT Greek verbs in John 3:16b?

The Elements of New Testament Greek

Cambridge University Press               Pearson

1. NRSV, ‘believes’ = Greek pisteuwn = masculine, nominative, singular, present participle of pisteuw. Because it is the present tense of the verb it is accurately translated as ‘believes’ or ‘continues to believe’. The latter translation emphasizes the continuous action of the present tense of the verb. So, all of the above translations, including the RSV, ESV and NRSV, are accurate in their translation of this verb as ‘believes’.

2. NRSV, ‘may not perish’ (me[1], meaning not, is the negative accompanying the verb). The Greek verb is apole[2]tai = third person, singular, 2nd aorist tense, subjunctive mood of the verb, apollumi = may not perish (with the negative) as this is the function of the subjunctive mood. This verb is contained in a purpose clause beginning with hina. The Greek aorist tense means point action; Then the negative, me, is used with the aorist subjunctive, it ‘generally denotes a command not to begin an action…. Commands and exhortations (whether expressed by Subjunctive or Imperative) have an element of doubt, since they refer to the future and they may or may not be followed’ (Wenham 1965:166, emphasis in original). In English, ‘the subjunctive expresses thought or wish rather than an actual fact’ (Wenham 1965:12). Therefore, the NRSV translation, ‘may not perish’ and the ESV and RSV translations of ‘should not perish’ are both acceptable as translations with the negative.

3. NRSV, ‘may have’ = Greek eche[3] = third person, singular, present, subjunctive verb, of echw. Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson, stated that the subjunctive mood ‘is the mood of doubt, of hesitation, of proposal, of prohibition, of anticipation, of expectation, of brooding hope, of imperious will’ (1934:928). However Robertson also admits, after his survey of Greek grammarians and their views of the subjunctive, that ‘the grammarians lead us [on] a merry dance with the subjunctive’ (1934:927). Here’s the problem with the NRSV’s translation of the present tense, subjunctive mood:

4. Machen (1923:128, 131), a Greek grammarian, has stated that while aorist and present are the only tenses used with the subjunctive mood, ‘the present subjunctive does not necessarily refer to present time…. [but] refers to it as continuing or as being repeated’. However, when associated with the conjunction, hina, meaning ‘in order that’ (as in John 3:16), ‘ordinarily it is impossible to bring out the difference in an English translation’ (Machen 1923:131). In John 3:16, the literal meaning would be ‘they may have eternal life’, but this is NOT a good translation as it is impossible to translate as such. Therefore, it seems strange that the NRSV has translated as ‘may have eternal life’ instead of the expected ‘have eternal life’. Any translator wanting to convey the continuous action of present tense, surely would not use ‘may have’ as a translation that accurately gives the understanding from the Greek.

5. The meaning of John 3:16 is conveyed later in that same chapter, in John 3:36, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (ESV). In 1 John 5:12, we have a parallel meaning by the same author, John: ‘Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (ESV).


The main difference in John 3:16b between the NRSV’s translation of the last verb and the other translations cited above, is that the NRSV does not accurately convey the present tense meaning of eche[4], the present subjunctive of the verb.

With the NRSV’s kind of translation, using the subjunctive mood, it indicates that eternal life is not being experienced in a continuous action. It is only potential with the NRSV translation.

This is a serious theological issue. Can Christians experience eternal life as a continuing reality when they experience it in the future? The common teaching of biblical Christianity is that the Christian life is experienced in the NOW and continues through death as it refers to eternal life that never ends (unless there is apostasy) – but that’s another topic. For discussion of that latter topic, see my article, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again: An exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8‘.

Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research

Logos Bible Software


Machen, J G 1923. New Testament Greek for beginners. Toronto, Ontario: The Macmillan Company.

Robertson, A T 1934. A grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of historical research. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Wenham, J W 1965. The elements of New Testament Greek. London: Cambridge University Press.


[1] This ‘e’ is the transliteration of the Greek letter of the alphabet, eta. Since this html page will not accept the usual transliteration of eta, I have resorted to the use of e, which is the normal transliteration of the Greek letter epsilon.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. However, eche has the iota subscript to go with the eta. Therefore the parsing is third person, singular, present subjunctive.

[4] Ibid.

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 November  2021.


An explanation of the ESV translation of 2 Corinthians 12:16

ESV Global Study Bible

(image courtesy Crossway Bibles)

By Spencer D Gear

Verses in the OT and NT cannot be translated in isolation from the context if we are to gain the correct meaning of a verse. After all, verse numbering came as later additions to the Scriptures. They were not there in the originals.

How is it possible to justify these words in the ESV translation of this verse, ‘I was crafty, you say’, when ‘you say’ does not appear in the original Greek?

I had some back and forth with a person on Christian Forums who did not like the ESV translation of 2 Cor. 12:16.

This person stated, ‘I do not accept Paul nor his writings’.[1] Part of my response to him was, ‘How come you are able to excise Paul’s writings from the NT? What gives you that authority? How do you know about justification by faith without Paul’s teaching in his epistles?’[2] Part of his response was, ‘I don’t believe that we are justified by faith alone. Brother, have you considered that the rest of Scripture points to justification by trust, repentance, and obedience, and not simply faith alone?’[3]

My response was:

We do not have the responsibility to test what is in the Scriptures. By the way, Deut 13:1-5 applied to the theocratic nation of Israel as v. 5 makes clear: ‘…. your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery’ (ESV).

And what was the penalty for a false prophet for Israel? Deut. 13:5 says that prophet “shall be put to death”. Are you advocating that false prophets in this NT era should be put to death?

By the way, what makes Paul a false prophet so that you cut out his writings from the NT?

With respect, you have stated that we are justified by trust, repentance and obedience. I note that you gave me not one reference so that I could check you out. By the way, trust is associated with faith.[4]

As the conversation progressed, he stated:

I cannot follow a man who admitted that he engaged in deception in his ministry:
2 Cor 12:16 Greek text – But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with dolos/deception/guile. (cf 1Cor 9:19-23)[5]

Part of my response was:

Why do you twist what 2 Cor 12:16 in context states:

14 Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not bound to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? (2 Cor. 12:14-16 ESV)

Literally, it says, ‘being crafty with guile you’. The Corinthians were saying Paul was crafty and with guile. That was not Paul speaking.[6]

His challenge to this understanding was:

Sorry, but actually the ESV is twisting that verse here. There is absolutely no “you say” found in the Greek. The ESV translators added that, perhaps to save Paul.[7]

Is this person correct? Is the ESV twisting the meaning of 2 Corinthians 12:16? The following is an attempted explanation

Three English translations & the Greek version of 2 Cor. 12:16

blue-satin-arrow-small The English Standard Version, using formal equivalence translation methodology, reads, ‘But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit’ (2 Cor. 12:16 ESV).

blue-satin-arrow-small The New Living Translation, using dynamic equivalence as a translation methodology, reads, ‘Some of you admit I was not a burden to you. But others still think I was sneaky and took advantage of you by trickery’ (2 Cor. 12:16 NLT).

blue-satin-arrow-small The New International Version, using dynamic equivalence, reads: ‘Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!’ (2 Cor. 12:16 NIV).

blue-satin-arrow-smallHow is it possible to justify any of these translations from the Greek of 2 Cor. 12:16 (Westcott & Hort Greek text)?

To obtain an understanding of how the

  • ESV translates as, ‘I was crafty, you say’;
  • NLT translates as, ‘But others still think I was sneaky’;
  • NIV translation, ‘Yet, crafty fellow that I am’,

we turn to Simon Kistemaker’s explanation of the context.

Simon J. Kistemaker’s commentary on 2 Cor. 12:16[8]

2 Corinthians

Courtesy Best Commentaries

e.  Scurrilous Slander (12:16-18)

‘We surmise that Paul has received an oral report from a person who has recently come from Corinth and has informed the apostle about comments made by his adversaries in the church. Paul has now come to the point of directing a few remarks to the people who are slandering him in his absence.

16. Very well! [You say] that I have not been a burden to you. But [you say] I, as a crafty fellow, took you in by deceit.

‘Gentleness has now changed to candor. The apostle must address slander that can be counteracted only by confrontation. He alludes to the words spoken by his opponents and which are believed by some members of the church. He realizes that slander can change the relationship between him and the Corinthian church. Therefore, he must deal forthrightly with this evil and eradicate it.

‘Paul knows that an unwholesome sentiment exists in the church. He himself has received no money at all from the Corinthians, and they admit that he has not been a financial burden to them. And that is to his credit. Thus he writes the first words, “Very well!”

‘The next comment, introduced by the adversative but, exposes the sting of slander. The saying that Paul cannot be trusted has been circulating openly in Corinth. The background is that Paul, who refused to accept money for his services, has sent Titus to them with a request for a collection. The slanderers spread the rumor that under the guise of helping the poverty-stricken saints in Jerusalem, Paul and Titus are working to fill their own pockets. These doubters suspect that the money will not go to the poor but will remain with the apostle.

‘Paul uses the Greek term panourgos, which I have translated “crafty fellow.” It conveys the idea of a person who is “ready to do anything” to achieve his purpose.[9] This odious expression originates not with Paul but with his opponents. They use a word that is a cognate of the one the apostle writes to describe the “craftiness” of the serpent deceiving Eve (11:3). Further, they accuse Paul of deceitfully taking in Corinthians who have put their trust in him.

17. Did I take advantage of you through any of the men I sent to you?…’


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, Bibliology & Hermeneutics, ‘Anyone else here reads from the American Standard Version?’, netzarim (non-Pauline Messianic) #7, available at: (Accessed 7 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #8.

[3] Ibid., netzarim #9.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #10.

[5] Ibid., netzarim #36.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen #37.

[7] Ibid., netzarim #38.

[8] Simon J Kistemaker 1997. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, pp. 430-431.

[9] The footnote at this point was Bauer, p. 608 (Kistemaker 1997:431, n. 64). This is a reference to the Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek lexicon. In my edition of BAG, it is on p. 613 [William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House)]. Arndt & Gingrich’s actual words for the translation of panourgos were ‘in our lit. never without an unfavorable connotation clever, crafty, sly lit. “ready to do anything” (1957:613).


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



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, .


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.