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  • pastorjimduncan

Cliques and Divisions

An unbeliever examining Christianity from a distance would immediately discover one horrible truth: As Christians, we are not a united people. There are numerous divisions among us. Even among people of the same denominational background. And truthfully, the term “denomination,” itself speaks of division.

This division isn’t new. In chapter one of the first letter to the Corinthian Church, God, through the pen of Paul, addresses the divisions within their body. “Some of you say, ‘I am of Paul,’ others say, I am of Cephas,’ ‘I am of Apollos,’ and others, ‘I am of Christ!’” He then asks, “Is Christ divided?” The obvious answer is “Of course not!” But we Christians always have been!

Some of the divisions are of natural origin. As the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” Some people prefer a strong liturgical style of worship, while others desire more fluidity, and spontaneity in their worship. As long as both “styles” cling to Christ as Lord and hold to the truth of the Bible alone, there is nothing wrong with different styles.

But, God isn’t addressing “Styles” in first Corinthians. He’s addressing divisional hierarchy. That is, an “I am better than you” mindset, which unfortunately permeates the division of Christianity I am part of, and I am certain every other denomination as well. I am just more aware of it within my sphere.

Here is one “for instance.” I am a King James Version user because from my personal study of the development of the modern versions, and the preservation of Scripture through the centuries, I believe the KJV is the most accurate English translation of the Greek New Testament. It’s New Testament adheres to the Textus Receptus, which is the Latin name for the Greek text based on the Majority Text, which was passed down through the centuries. The Latin words even translate as “Received Text.” However, I am not “King James only,” meaning, for me, there can never be another accurate, or better English translation of the Bible. There can be! We simply DO NOT SPEAK KING JAMES ENGLISH (And there is much debate over whether or not the average English-speaking person of 1611 did either!). Seriously, who uses the phrase, “superfluity of naughtiness,” anymore? If someone said to a nonbeliever, “Suffer the little children,” do we really believe their first thought would be to ALLOW the little children? And who in the world are “lewd fellows of the baser sort?” Not to mention all the “thee’s and thou’s, and every other verb ending in ‘est.’” All my life I have suffered with a speech impediment that makes it extremely hard to say “est.” Early in my ministry, I began to use the NIV because of that reason alone.

Several years ago, we were looking to hold revival services and I had met a young man who was full of the Spirit, and could really preach, so I invited him to come see our church, and talk with me about holding a revival. Now, I had been preaching on the radio for years and was pretty well known in the area. After going through all the niceties, he asked, “What Bible do you use?”

I replied, “The Holy Bible.”

To which He replied, I mean what version?”

Knowing what he was getting at, I explained I was using the NIV because of the issue with my speech impediment. He said, “Well, I’ve heard a lot of reasons for not using the King James, but that one’s a first!” He then said, “I’m asking because I think I’ve heard about you. We had a fellow say he listens to this real good preacher on the radio every Sunday night and it sounded like you. He said, ‘The only problem with him is he uses the wrong Bible!’” Just so you know, I use the right one now!

If you have read this far, I hope you understand I am in no way criticizing those who use the KJV alone. Everyone is welcome to make their own choice. But decisions we base our core arguments on (I did not say values. There is a great difference in what we value and what we will argue for.), should be made after we have examined as many avenues as we can regarding a particular topic. I use and hold to the KJV, not because of the clique I belong to but because I have determined it to be what I initially stated. But I do use modern translations in my study because sometimes the way the Greek and Hebrew is translated in the older English is not as clear to me as I would like it to be. In the opinion of many of my fundamentalist peers, that makes me a heretic and someone they must not only separate from but publicly refute! That can be very painful.

I am not fluent in Greek at all, but with the proper helps, I can work my way through it. I know VERY LITTLE about Hebrew except I failed it in seminary, and believed then, as I do today, the only reason they made us take Hebrew to get our Master of Divinity, was to give people who didn’t have a life outside the academic world of Hebrew studies, a reason to look down on the average pastor who did not need to grasp the complexities of Hebrew. What he really needed was to know how to handle the crisis of everyday ministry, which many seminary graduates are woefully unprepared for. But, hey, they passed Hebrew!

Pastors’ do need to understand that language translation is a complex issue. Having studied Spanish, Greek and flunked out of Hebrew, I did see one thread that was true about translating any language from one to another. You can’t just take it word-for-word from one language and expect it to make sense in another. For instance, Ezekiel 1:10 reads in the KJV “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” The Hebrew LITERALLY says, “And as for the likeness of their faces had the face of a man and the face of a lion on the right side had the four and the face of an ox on the left side had the four and the face of an eagle had the four.” Why did the translators not just give it to us word-for-word? The reason is clear when we just look at the side-by-side comparison. AND, if we really want to see an English equivalent of what the Hebrew looked like, from which Ezekiel 1:10 was translated, we must remove all the vowels from our English and run the letters together, like so “NDSFRTHLKNSSFTHRFCSHDTHFCFMNNDTHFCFLNNTHRGHTSD HD THFRNDTHFCFNXNTHLFTSDHDTHFRNDTHFCFNGLHDTHFR.” Yep, Hebrew is written in all caps, has no vowels and no spacing.

Translating anything from Hebrew is a tough business. However, it was made easier by the introduction of vowel points by a Hebrew scholar about six hundred years before Christ. If you do not know what vowel points are, Jesus referenced them when He said in Matthew 5:18, " For verily I say unto you, Till. heaven and earth pass, one jot or one. tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The "tittle" He referred to are the vowel points below the Hebrew letters.

I trust God to preserve His Word. I trust God to make sure we have ALL His word. I don't trust men to always do what God says in translating His word, even though He is very clear. I believe the KJV is the most accurate of any other translation, so that, again, is why I use it. Still, I do not believe the KJV translators were perfect nor do I think they could not have translated some passages better. Here's an example

In I Timothy 6:10, we read the KJV say, "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." Most people who debate that verse, argue over a misreading of it, where some will say, "Money is the root of all evil." They will be then corrected by those who affirm, "It doesn't say MONEY is the root of all evil, but the LOVE of money is the root of all evil."

Let's ask ourselves: Is the love of money truly the root of ALL evil? Here's where many weak Christians, especially KJB (Not KJV) people, are going to get upset, but, NO, the love of money is NOT THE ROOT of ALL evil! Was Satan tempted by the love of money, when he said, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north..." Was that not evil? Was it the love of money that caused Eve to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Scripture says, "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate." Were her actions not evil? Do we not trace the sinful actions of all mankind back to that one event? "For by one man sin entered into the world..."A better translation of I Timothy 6:10 would read, "For the love of money is a root of all types of evil." Every modern translation, including the New King James, have translated that verse with those words or similar words, added.

According to the weak Christian brothers in my denomination, I am now a heretic. Even though the love of money is not the root of all evil, because the KJV has translated that passage to say so, there can be no argument. For, according to their argument, if the KJB is not right there, we can't trust any of it! How foolish! God has preserved His Word. When the writers penned the lines on the sheepskins, or parchments, it was given perfectly! There were no mistakes or contradictions. The Jewish scribes were notoriously meticulous in their copying of God's Word. One day, study just how the Bible was preserved and it will confirm in your heart the power of God and the Truth of His Word. His Word has been and always will be preserved for His people. But translators are not God, and sometimes even they work to insert their own views into passages of Scripture. Sometimes they manage to do so. Sometimes they just do not choose the best translation.

If you are stuck on, "If this is not the best translation, if it isn't without any error in translation, how can I trust any of it," then you really need to grow up and realize some things. The Old Testament Jesus used in the synagogues was written in Hebrew; however, there was a Greek translation He would have been very familiar with called the Septuagint, which roughly translates as "The seventy." There are many instances where the Septuagint varies notably from the Hebrew text. Many of the New Testament apostles quoted from it, the Septuagint, not the Hebrew, when they wrote the Gospels and the epistles in Greek. By Jesus' day, few Jews spoke Hebrew; they spoke Greek or Aramaic. They would have wanted a Bible in their language. And when we say Bible, remember, it was not in the completed form we have today. Yet, Jesus STILL says in Matthew 5:17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." I believe Jesus' statement with all my heart. The translational "errors," aren't necessarily errors in translation - that is the passages CAN BE TRANSLATED THAT WAY - they are simply not the BEST translation of a passage. These are few and they usually revolve around numbers or failure to include a word, such as I Timothy 6:10.

John R. Rice understood perfectly what I am saying. He wrote a pamphlet on this topic and even preached a message which I believe was titled, "A Salvation Message from a Catholic Bible." Bob Jones Sr., another independent icon, used other translations. But there was also another man who is as respected in my denomination as any: Tom Malone. Pastor Malone was a brilliant, studied, man. He had memorized entire books of the Bible and could quote them easily. Once we were at a conference, I want to say it was a Sword of the Lord conference, and it was Pastor Malone's time to preach. He Began quoting passage after passage, he quoted poems and songs, he referenced a verse here and a verse there, and closed by allowing Scripture itself to outline, and preach the point he wanted to make. He merely summarized it all toward the end. It was one of the best, most uplifting, encouraging messages I had ever heard (And you don't often get those at Sword conferences.)! But, when he was quoting one verse, my ears perked up, because every other passage he quoted was from the King James, but this verse wasn't! I cannot remember the verse, but to this day, I can remember my reaction, when it seemed NO ONE in that KJB group noticed what he had done! They were all shouting and praising God, and it must have just slipped past them, but he quoted a verse from a modern translation and I believe it was because being the studied man he was, he knew it was a better translation.

If after reading all this, you are indignant; you think I'm a heretic; you are terrified that "We can't trust the Bible, we really don't have the Word of God like I thought, you have undermined my faith!" I hate to say it, but your faith was placed in the wrong thing: a translation. Put your faith in the One Who spoke the Word, the Word Who became flesh. Just because a place or two in the KJV could be tweaked to make it say more accurately what the original said, that doesn't mean it can't be trusted. I trust it, use it, preach from it, study it, but when there are times I need some clarification I look to my Greek text with helps and compare what a few of the modern translations say. Believe it are not, the Gospel message is found in all of them, with the exception of those that are seeking to incorporate gender identity, homosexuality, etc. And believe me, those will fade and vanish sooner than later, but God's Word will remain!

We are a divided people. Some of those divisions will always be. But may we be sure of the truth of any of the positions we take before we separate ourselves from our brothers in Christ; before we practice the divisional hierarchy they were practicing in I Corinthians; before we criticize or destroy a brother with whom we disagree; and, truthfully, may we never destroy anyone, but may we, as Paul wrote, "Seek peace with all men." And remember what Jesus said in Mark 9:39 40, when His disciples told Him they had stopped a man who was casting out devils in Jesus' name because He did not follow them, "But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." Please note closely Jesus' words. "He that is not against us, is on our part." Personally, I am not against anyone who loves and serves Christ Jesus. May none of us be.

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