Category Archives: Bible Misinterpretations

Questions about Bible Misinterpretations: John 1:1—Is Jesus God or just a god?

 

Misinterpretation: The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation renders this verse, “The Word [Christ] was a god” (insert added). The Watchtower magazine states that “because there is no definite article ‘the’ (ho) it means Christ is only a god, not the God” (The Watchtower, 7 December 1995, 4). They in fact believe that Jesus is only a created being, Michael the Archangel (The Watchtower, 15 May 1969, 307). The Greek of John 1:1 “is not saying that the Word (Jesus) was the same as the God with whom he was but, rather, that the Word was godlike, divine, a god” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, 212).

Correcting the Misinterpretation: It is not proper to translate this verse “The Word was a god” so as to deny the deity of Christ. The full deity of Christ is supported by other references in John (e.g., 8:58; 10:30; 20:28) as well as the rest of the New Testament (e.g., Col. 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8). Further, it is not necessary to translate Greek nouns that have no definite article with an indefinite article (there is no indefinite article in Greek). In other words, theos (“God”) without the definite article ho (“the”) does not need to be translated as “a God” as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done in reference to Christ. It is significant that theos without the definite article ho is used of Jehovah God in the New Testament. Because the lack of the definite article in Luke 20:38 in reference to Jehovah does not mean he is a lesser God, neither does the lack of the definite article in John 1:1 in reference to Jesus mean he is a lesser God. The fact is, the presence or absence of the definite article does not alter the fundamental meaning of theos. If John had intended an adjectival sense (the Word was godlike or divinea god) he had an adjective (theios) ready at hand that he could have used. Instead, John says the Word is God (theos).

Contrary to the claims of the Watchtower Society, some New Testament texts do use the definite article and speak of Christ as “the God” (ho theos). One example of this is John 20:28 where Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” The verse reads literally from the Greek: “The Lord of me and the God [ho theos] of me” (see also Matt. 1:23 and Heb. 1:8). So it does not matter whether John did or did not use the definite article in John 1:1—the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God, not just a god.

Greek scholars have thoroughly refuted the Watchtower translation. Dr. Julius Mantey says of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation of John 1:1, “Ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Mantey, 3:3, 5).

That Jesus is Jehovah (Yahweh) is clear from the fact that the New Testament consistently applies to Jesus passages and attributes which in the Old Testament apply only to Jehovah (compare Exod. 3:14 with John 8:58; Isa. 6:1–5 with John 12:41; Isa. 44:24 with Col. 1:16; Ezek. 43:2 with Rev. 1:15; Zech. 12:10 with Rev. 1:7).[1]

 

 

[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: a popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (pp. 159–160). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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Questions about cultic misinterpretations: Romans 1:19–20—Are those who have never heard the gospel lost?

 

Misinterpretation: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, No one comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6 niv). Also, Acts 4:12 says of Christ, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (nasb). Will someone who has never heard the gospel of Christ be eternally lost? Paul seems to answer this in the affirmative. But is it fair to condemn people who have never even heard about Christ? Some New Agers point to this problem in support of the idea that all the world religions are paths to God (see Fox, 1989, 288).

Correcting the Misinterpretation: Paul’s answer is clear. He said the heathen are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) because “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (1:19–20 niv). So, the heathen are justly condemned.

Romans 2:12 states, “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law” (nkjv). This passage teaches that the Jew is judged by the law (the Hebrew Scriptures), but the Gentile is condemned by “the law written in their hearts” (v. 15). “For when Gentiles who do not have the law by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the Law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Rom. 2:14, 15 nkjv, emphasis added).

The question of God’s fairness in judging the heathen assumes innocence on the part of the unsaved who haven’t heard the gospel. But the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In addition, Romans 1:18–20 says that God clearly reveals himself through natural revelation “so that they are without excuse.” Human beings are not innocent regarding God’s natural revelation.

If a person who has not heard the gospel and lives to the best of his or her ability, that person is simply doing works in an attempt to achieve salvation. But salvation is by grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8 nkjv). No one can do anything to gain access into heaven. If there was such a way, then the work of Christ on the Cross was a futile act.

The Bible says in essence, “seek and you will find.” That is, those who seek the light they have through nature, which is not sufficient for salvation, will get the light they need for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Acts 10:35 adds, “But in every nation whoever fears God and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (nkjv). God has many ways to get the truth about salvation through Christ to those who seek him. He can send a missionary (Acts 10), a radio broadcast, or a Bible (Ps. 119:130). Theoretically God could send a vision (Dan. 2, 7) or an angel (Rev. 14) though he no longer gives new revelation. But those who turn their back on the light they have (through nature) and find themselves lost in darkness have no one to blame but themselves. For “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19 nkjv).[1]

 

 

[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: a popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (pp. 208–209). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Questions about Bible Misinterpretations: 3 John 2—Does this verse indicate that God desires us to be financially prosperous, as Word-Faith teachers argue?

 

Misinterpretation: Third John 2 says, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (nasb). Word-Faith teachers cite this verse in support of the prosperity gospel.

Correcting the Misinterpretation: The Greek word for “prosper” in this verse does not refer to financial prosperity but simply means “to go well with someone.” In fact, the niv translation correctly reflects this idea in its rendering of the verse: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” In biblical times the wish for “things to go well,” along with the wish for “good health,” was a standard form of greeting. Financial prosperity is completely foreign to both this ancient greeting and 3 John 2.[1]

 

 

[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: a popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (p. 303). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Questions about Bible Misinterpretations: Romans 1:7—Does this verse prove that Jesus is God the Father, as Oneness Pentecostals believe?

 

Misinterpretation: In Romans 1:7 we read the salutation, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (nasb). Oneness Pentecostals argue that the word “and” (Greek kai) in the phrase “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” should be translated “even.” It should thus read, “God our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ.” Translated this way, Jesus and the Father are seen to be one and the same person (Graves, 1977, 50–51; cf. Bernard, 1983, 207–11). This means Jesus is the Father.

Correcting the Misinterpretation: While it is true that the Greek word kai can be translated “even” in certain verses, context determines the appropriate translation. Even Oneness Pentecostal scholar Brent Graves admits this (Graves, 52). The fact is, Greek scholars universally agree that in context, kai in Romans 1:7 should be translated “and.” Most occurrences of kai in the New Testament are translated “and,” not “even.” This means that the burden of proof is on Oneness Pentecostals to demonstrate that the word must be translated with its secondary meaning (“even”) and not its primary meaning (“and”) in Romans 1:7.

However kai is translated, the verses immediately prior to and immediately after Romans 1:7 show personal distinction between the Father and Jesus Christ. For example, Jesus is called God’s “Son” in verse 3, and in verse 8 Paul thanks “God through Jesus Christ” for the Roman Christians. It is the uniform testimony of Scripture that Jesus and the Father are distinct persons (within the unity of the one God). See the discussion of Matthew 28:19.[1]


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Rhodes, R. (1997). When cultists ask: a popular handbook on cultic misinterpretations (pp. 207–208). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.