Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

“The Pure Words of God” and the Sabbath

Every once in a while I hear something that boggles my mind, something so far from reality that I just sit amazed.

I just heard a person say that they don’t need Greek because “we have the pure words of God in the King James Bible.”

This is not much of a Greek blog today, but I thought it would be a good reminder about how much mis-information there is out there.

I am not debating the point about how good or poor the King James translation is, or how good or poor the Greek manuscripts behind it are. Another topic.

But I don’t understand how someone could think that a language that wasn’t created until the second millennium could somehow be God’s pure words.

I don’t understand how a translation can be considered better than the original.

I don’t understand the ethno-centricity of thinking that God’s pure words are in my language. Why not Malayalam?

I guess the only tact this person can take is to say that the King James translators were inspired more so than the gospel writers who wrote Jesus’ words, more so than Paul who wrote much of the New Testament, and more so than the OT prophets who proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord.” And by the way, the prophets heard Hebrew.

But on another note, I did hear a good example of semantic range that is a good example when trying to illustrate the concept to someone. James 2:2 says, “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly (συναγωγήν), and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in ….”

The conclusion drawn was that the Christians James was addressing were in a synagogue, and more conclusions were drawn from that. The problem, of course, is that συναγωγή can mean a synagogue, the people of the synagogue, or a general meeting place. You can’t assume that every time συναγωγή is used it refers to a synagogue.

A safeguard for this type of mistake is to check several translations. When every major one uses something like “assembly” or “meeting,” safety and humility require that you don’t disagree with them. There must be a reason why the more common “synagogue” wasn’t used.

I have no doubt that the early Christians continued to meet in the synagogues, but it is doubtful James was addressing that situation since he is talking about a Christian ethic.