Equal Weights and Measures
Changing the Bible's Words to Support Your Own Doctrines
Comments on this article may be sent to
Christianity likes to point a finger at groups such as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses, claiming they have a false view of the Messiah and His teachings, going as far as deliberately mistranslating Bible texts -- even adding words to the Scriptures in order to support their doctrines. This may be true, but is the pot calling the kettle black?
A popular TV Christian television program in the 1990s has been the John Ankerberg Show. It's not available in my part of the country any more, but I did once enjoy watching the discussions and debates this program featured, highlighting the "evangelical Christian response" to; Mormons, Jehovah Witnesseses, Masons, Christian Science, the Catholic Church and other groups. I even ordered a set of booklets from the show years ago, a series called, The Facts On ..., written by John Ankerberg and John Weldon.
Before proceeding, I want to make it clear that I'm not singling out Ankerberg's ministry as being worse than any other Christian group. In fact I would say most Christians would agree with most of the positions this ministry holds regarding issues of faith.
I will start by referring to one of these booklets called, The Facts on Jehovah's Witnesses.
Beginning on page 22 of this booklet, the accusation is made that Jehovah Witnesses have wilfully mistranslated certain Scripture verses in their New World Translation (NWT) of the New Testament in order to support their theology, calling them "biased, dishonest and wrong." They compare the NWT to a "correct" translation, in this case, the New International Version (NIV).
|Example #1 is from Titus 2:13:
NWT: "While we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of (the) Savior of us, Christ Jesus."
(Jehovah's Witnesses have added the word "the" and put it in parentheses in front of the word Savior.) ...
By adding the word "the" in parentheses, the New World translators obscured the fact that in this verse Paul clearly called Jesus "our God and Savior."
Example #2 is from Colossians 1:17:
NWT: "Also, he is before all (other) things and by means of him all (other) things were made to exist."
(The Jehovah's Witnesses have dishonestly inserted the word "other" twice and placed it in parentheses when this word does not appear at all in the Greek text.) ...
The Watchtower claims that inserting "other" is justified five times because the context implies it. But the only thing that implies it is their own bias against Christ's deity.
The The Facts on Jehovah's Witnesses presents other examples as well. The booklet makes it quite clear that adding even the smallest word can alter the meaning of a text, and that this is a "dishonest" thing to do.
Well said, and no argument. But there's a fly in the ointment.
Let's move over to the current "debate" between Christianity and the Torah-observant faith in Yeshua that has reemerged in recent years (after an "absence" of over 1800 years). Unfortunately, the many Christians I've spoken with don't understand what Torah-observant faith in Yeshua means, holding an erroneous view that it's some type of "works based" religion, or an attempt to "put Christians under the Law" -- (Whatever that's supposed to mean.) To make it clear -- Torah-observant faith in Yeshua says you are saved by faith and that anyone ever saved has been saved by faith. The argument is not about salvation, it's about how you live after you are "saved."
Evangelical Christians often state that "we're not under the law," or,
"we now follow the 'law of love' or 'law of Christ,'" or, "the Holy Spirit
shows us how to live," or, "we live according to grace or Christian
Liberty," etc. Torah-observant faith in Yeshua says that all that is true, however,
God's Torah is the "How To book" for the believer's lifestyle -- not something
so undefined as what Christianity tells people. For a more detailed discussion on this
subject, see the article Not Subject to the Law of God?
Example #1 - Colossians 2:16-17
Let's examine a passage in the New Testament, one often used by Christians to show "we are no longer under the Law," which is Colossians 2:16-17. First the translation from the Revised Standard Version:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Here is the same verse from the Good News Bible in Today's English Version:
So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ.
And finally, from the New American Standard Version:
Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Most will agree that in this passage, "food and drink" mean the kosher laws, "festivals" means God's appointed times, and sabbaths means the Friday to Saturday evening Sabbath, all of which can be found in the Tenakh, particularly in the book of Leviticus. I would suggest that a concern of much of the letter to the Colossians is one of warning against following false teachings (Col. 2:4-8).
If we were to take verse 2:16-17 and read them apart from any context, they could very well sound as if Paul were saying to people something like this; "Don't let anyone tell you that you're suppose to do these (Jewish) things -- they aren't what's important as they are only a shadow of what is really important."
Let's take another look at the same verse, only this time we will do two things different.
First, we will delete a single word, the word "only," (or in the other case, the phrase "a mere.")
Second, we will read these verses with two facts in mind:
a) Paul is writing to gentile believers coming from an anti-Semitic pagan background. Of these new believers, there are some that don't have any respect, or see any need for the "Jewish part" of their faith. This group may be pressuring those who are holding on to their Jewish roots.
b) Paul, as a trained rabbi and Pharisee, and as a believer in Yeshua, believes that the things written about in the Tenakh (Old Testament) are there for a reason, and in fact present a picture of what is to come one day. (i.e., the earthly temple looks ahead to heavenly one, the weekly Sabbath points to a Sabbath rest in the Millennium, Moses as mediator of the first Covenant, points to Messiah, mediator of the renewed Covenant, etc.)
With all this in mind, we read again:
So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon, or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
If you remove the word "only" (or "a mere" ) and read it in the suggested context, you get a totally different message. What Paul's message now says is, "Don't let anyone judge you new gentile believers about the fact that you now keep the (Jewish) Sabbath, festivals and eat kosher, as these are indeed a picture of the wonderful things to come."
By changing one word and considering some pertinent background information, you get an interpretation that is completely the opposite of what Christian Bibles and commentaries portray.
So now what?
Let's start with this word - only (or "a mere" ) - as it definitely sways how one would view how the words before it -- let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon, or sabbaths -- with the words that come after it -- a shadow of things to come.
Does anyone have the right to add or delete such a critical word that can alter the meaning of a text so substantially? Of course not! But here's the rub (as Shakespeare would say) -- the word "only" (or "a mere" ) is NOT in the Greek text. It has been added by Christian translators to those translations.
Why? To make the verse "fit" into Christian doctrine developed over the past 1900 years. Words are added to make the verse sound as if Paul were opposed to new (gentile) believers following Torah after their conversion. And though not all Christian Bibles add these words to the text, Christian Bible commentaries teach that Paul is opposed to the Colossian believers following Torah as a lifestyle after they are saved. This is not, however, a position that can be maintained without altering this and other texts and ignoring much else of what Paul said and who he is.
This raises some important questions. Who exactly is Paul? Did his conversion
experience make him forget everything he was ever taught? Was everything he learned prior
to that all wrong? What message is he trying to get across in this and his other letters?
Do his various epistles in fact have very different messages for very different
situations? What are the different problems he addresses in these letters and what is his
foundation for how to deal with them?
Example #2 - Romans 10:1-8
Returning to the idea of improper translations, we come to Romans 10:1-8. There are two problems in this section, verse 4 and verse 6. Here is a somewhat typical translation:
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for all who believe. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, 'Do not say in your heart 'Who will ascend into heaven?'' (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.' (that is the word of faith which we preach) ..."
Christians often use Romans 10:4 to show that the idea of a believer following the Torah as a lifestyle is incorrect, after all it "clearly" says: "Christ is the end of the law for all who believe." (Almost all translations read this way.)
So they argue, "See, Paul says Christ is the end of the Law and that the righteousness of faith in Jesus is different and better than that of Moses and the Law. How much clearer can you be than that?"
"Plenty," as that is NOT what the text says.
I defer to a classic Protestant work, VINES Expository of Old and New Testament Words . The word we are concerned with in Romans 10:4 is "end." What does "end" mean? The Greek word here is "telos." Vines shows that the word telos can have various meanings, of which are "goal" and "result" -- and in the case of Romans 10:4, Vines says the correct translation is indeed "goal" and NOT "termination." (i.e., as in the common phrase "the end justifies the means," where the end is the goal of what you're trying to do, not something you terminate. Or in the word "teloscope," a device we use to view stars and planets -- not blow them up!) The context, in fact the whole point of that section of the book of Romans, is to show Yeshua as being what the Torah points to. (What do you know -- context actually matters!)
A correct translation should read: "Christ is the goal of the law for all who believe." or (better yet), "Yeshua is the goal of the Torah for all who believe," as the word "law" is word with its own set of "problems." See the article Not Subject to the Law of God?
Christian Bibles incorrectly translate the word "telos" as "end" and an erroneous doctrine is preached around this verse (and others) to show that "Christ ended the Law," substituting a Torah-based way of living for something else.
A similar mistranslation occurs with the word "but" at the beginning of verse 6. The Greek word here is "de" and in this context, should be translated as "and" or "moreover." This is clearly the case as verses 6-8 explain verse 5, not contrast to it. Paul is showing that the righeousness which is of the Law/Torah is the SAME as the righteousness of faith in these verses by using the same words that described Torah (the WORD of God) to Yeshua (the WORD of God). Paul uses the verse of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 to show that the Torah requires faith first. If Paul wanted to draw a contrast he would have used the word "alla," meaning "on the contrary."
Christian Bibles, translated through almost two millennia of the anti-semitic theological foundations of the church fathers, mistranslate both telos and de to falsely show some type of contrast between Moses/Torah and Yeshua/Grace. The truth is that Paul proves a similarity and continuation, as God has not changed.
A correct translation of Romans 10:1-8 would be as follows:
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be
saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to
knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their
own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the GOAL
of the Torah. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man
who does those things shall live by them. Moreover, the righteousness of faith speaks in
this way, 'Do not say in your heart 'Who will ascend into heaven?'' (that is, to bring
Christ down from above) or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ
up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your
heart.' (that is the word of faith which we preach) ..."
Example #3 - Romans 3:9
The next example is Romans 3:9. Here Paul is speaking of the "advantage of the Jew," where he uses the word "we" to include himself as a Jew. Many Christian Bibles have the verse beginning as this:
"What then, are we better off than they (the gentiles)? Not at all ..."
Once again, we have a deliberate mistranslation where you see the words "Not at all." The Greek words here are "ou pantos" which means "not entirely" and does not mean "not at all." In the context of what Paul is writing about there is a world of difference in meaning between "not at all" and "not entirely."
In fact the translators themselves did a sloppy job at mistranslating, as these same Bibles have earlier verses, 3:1-2a, translated:
"What advantage then has the Jew, or what profit the circumcision? Much in every way! ..."
Apparently, they forgot to alter that one.
Why are these verses (and others) translated incorrectly? Why do Christians turn a blind eye to their own Bibles being altered to suit their theology, while accusing others of doing this (Matthew 7:1-5)? What separates Christianity, with its altered Bible text and anti-Torah theologies, more "correct" than religions they themselves condemn?
To understand fully, you need to know what happened in history -- the history of Christianity not taught in churches. The YashaNet library has many articles dealing with how the 100 percent Jewish faith of Yeshua, Paul and the early believers, was changed to what became Gentile Christianity.
RETURN TO THE YASHANET LIBRARY